Vegan Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell Peppers
(Delicious as a cracker topping or sandwich filling)

Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell PeppersYield: 2 main dish servings or 4 side servings

Summer is meant for grilling, right?  Yea, no.  At least not at my house.  I’ve never been an outdoor griller, but I do have a much beloved stovetop grill pan that I use year-round.

A craving for caramelized onions and peppers with a bit of protein from some plump little white beans was the inspiration for this salad.  But these ingredients needed something creamy to hold it all together.  A little while back, I had made a beet green pesto–though any flavored pesto, commercial or homemade would be delicious–and decided to fold it into “lite” vegan mayo (I like Vegenaise brand) in a 1:2 ratio for the dressing.  Yum!

The only drawback was aesthetic.  Despite the red bell pepper, the overall color of the salad was pretty brown. Not wanting to add a green vegetable, as its consistency and flavor was just right as it was, I simply chopped up a little cilantro–although other green herbs would work nicely as well–and sprinkled it over the top.

This salad is filling enough to eat on its own, perhaps atop a bed of greens, but I like it on cracker bread for crispy-crunch.  The salad also cries out to be tucked into a wrap or stuffed in a pita pocket.

Regardless, you’ll be crying for more.

Vegan Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell Peppers

1 can cannelini beans (white beans), rinsed and drained

1 onion, halved, sliced crosswise, grilled on both sides for a few minutes over medium-hi, and cut into pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, halved, sliced crosswise, grilled on both sides for a few minutes over medium-hi, and diced

2 tablespoons vegan pesto, any flavor (I used a homemade beet green pesto)

Approximately 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/4 teasoon garlic powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: finely chopped cilantro, chives, parsley, or other fresh green herb

In a medium bowl, gently combine beans, onion, and red bell pepper.  In a small bowl or cup, whisk together pesto, mayonnaise, and garlic powder.  Spoon over vegetables.  Fold together until completely combined, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over greens, on crackers or toast, or in a pita or wrap.

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Vegan Smoky Grilled Asparagus and Chickpea Salad
in Raddichio Cups

GrilledAsparagus and Chickpea Salad in Raddichio CupsYield: 4 to 6 servings

I am constantly seduced by produce and, once I return home, scramble to make sure it doesn’t meet a soggy end in the bottom of the hydrator drawer.

Most recently, it was big, bulbous, juicy bell peppers–a red, orange, and a yellow–and asparagus.  The can of cannelini beans I thought I had in the pantry turned out to be garbanzo peans (chickpeas), but that was just fine as a protein.  Being a fan of creamy beans combined with something juicy and crunchy, like cucumbers or bell peppers, I knew I would add one of the bell peppers.  But I wanted an earthy flavor to contrast with the neutral-flavored beans and the almost sweet snap of the bell pepper.  Grilled asparagus!

Then all my salad needed was a binder.  I happen to love mayonnaise, especially the low-fat variety of Vegenaise.  This creamy white base was perfect for me, but if you prefer an oil and vinegar-based dressing, by all means; you just won’t get the same bind unless you emulsify it really well in a food processor or blender.

To boost the fresh tasting flavors, I added a bit of basil chiffonade leftover from a Thai soup the night before.  And for a burst of brightness, the juice of half a lemon, though you could use the zest if you only wanted the lemony flavor without the astringency.  Finally, because I had chickpeas and not cannelini beans, I added a little hit of sumac, though if you don’t have it and can’t find it at an international or Middle Eastern market, it is not a deal breaker.  But it imparts a little more earthy lemon flavor and a hinit of red color.

To add a note of pleasing bitterness and to contain the salad without need of bread or a cracker, raddichio leaves proved to be the perfect little cups.  Plus, for both reasons of nutrition and aesthetics, I like to enjoy as many colors of vegetables as I can all at once, so the deep red-violet brought its beauty and healthful benefits to the party.  The perfect party hat?  A few chopped smoked almonds.

1 bunch slender asparagus, trimmed, grilled, and cut into 1-inch pieces (I trim about 1/3 of the bottom of the stalk, and grill in an indoor grill pan lightly sprayed with nonstick spray for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning every every few minutes, as I like it quite caramelized.)

I 15.5 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1/4 to 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

1/2 teaspoon sumac

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

About 2 tablespoons basil chiffonade (stack leaves, roll rightly, and cutinto very thin slices)

4 to 6 Raddichio leaves

Garnish:: about 4 to 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped smoked almonds

Combine all beans and vegetables in a medium bowl.   Make a well in the center, add remaining ingredients, except raddichio and smoked almonds, whisk together and then begin to incorporate into beans and vegetables until all are coated evenly.  Dividie and serve in raddichio leaves garnished with about 1 tablespoon of chopped smoked almonds.



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Day 17: Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada(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’s recipe is the Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada. Spoiler alert: I will tell you now that this recipe got a rating of 4 in my book which is the highest rating possible.

To explain, my husband and I started this rating system during winery visits where we would write a number of 1-4 beside each wine we tasted. (The winery owners would get very excited thinking we were buying that many bottles!) Anyway this dish was so good I even packed up the leftovers to go on a trip so we could enjoy it again.

I always start by reading through the recipe and making sure I have everything. Check. Then I got started on the olivada so it would be ready when needed. I had purchased two tiny cans of olives thinking they were 6 ounce cans but no, they were 1.5 ounces. I have never been very good at estimating weights and measures clearly. So I used both cans but had to cut the other ingredients in half.

I went to my newly reorganized spice cabinet so proud that now I would be able to find everything I needed – but there was no oregano. How is that possible? I always have oregano. I tore through the cabinet from A to Z but there was none to be found. (Now I need to reorganize again.) No problem – I grow oregano in my herb garden. I have cultivated the same plant for 10 years and it has grown to be one of the largest plants I have. The leaves are dry now in winter but I can still use them. I grabbed my scissors and went out and…no oregano plant! Instead there was a huge hole! The dog had dug up my oregano plant and -ugh!!!!- replaced it with a gross toy! Are you kidding me?!! Things are going from bad to worse and I refuse to go to the grocery store for oregano. I finally decided to use a Greek seasoning I had on hand.

Once the olivada was done I took a taste and wow! I got some crackers out and started snacking while I started on the squash. The rest of the preparation was easy until I saw that I was supposed to have roasted the garlic. Too late – we are all hungry. So I just minced it and put it in the pan. One day I will try and roast a garlic but not today.

Arranging as instructed was like designing a work of art. It was beautiful when complete. I even used a cookie scoop to place the beans on the center of the fan of squash. Perfection!! Of course I got joked by the guys for taking the time to arrange a side dish, but one bite and they quickly stopped making fun of me. It goes without saying that this dish will be repeated many times in our household and I will definitely be making the olivada for parties.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Vegan Coconut Dal (Yellow or Red Lentils) with Spinach–So Quick, Easy, and Tasty

Coconut Dal with SpinachYield: 6 servings

I have made other versions of this Indian staple, so rich, colorful, and satisfying without being heavy, but this may be the easiest and most straight forward, not to mention tastiest.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder (I used a fairly mild variety from Spice Ace in San Francisco, but use your favorite)

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound yellow or red lentils (I purchased red which was all Kroger carried), but they cooked up yellow, which is what I wanted), rinsed and drained

6 cups vegetable stock

1-15.5 ounce can coconut milk (I used the “lite” version, but you get SO much more flavor with the regular)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 lightly packed cups fresh baby spinach

Garnish: quartered red grape tomatoes and, if desired (recommended), toasted coconut

In a large pot (e.g. 4-quart), heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and saute, stirring, about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.  Stir in spices, add lentils, stock, coconut milk, salt and pepper and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency is reached, adding more stock, if desired.  Just before serving, wilt in spinach, 2 cups at a time.  Serve garnished with tomatoes and optional toasted coconut.

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Vegan Smoky Pumpkin, Black Bean, Chorizo and Kale Bisque

Soup 2Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This rich, smoky and healthy bisque is perfect for a day like today in Eastern, Virginia: cool, rainy, and a bit dreary.  This soup will warm you from the inside out and brighten the darkest of days and nights which come so early this time of year.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

7 ounces vegan chorizo (I use a half a package of Trader Joe’s brand)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (adds richness and depth of flavor)

1 tablespoon adobo sauce froma can of chilies in adobo

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

12 ounces flavorful vegan beer (check out Barnivore for an A-Z list of vegan beer, wine and liquor)

1-15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, drained

3 to 4 cups fresh baby kale

2 cups vegetable stock or broth

Juice of 1/2 medium lime

Opttional: 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese or your favorite nut cream

Toppings: fresh cilantro leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds, sliced avocado, halved grape tomatoes, vegan sour cream or more nut cream, etc.


In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes.  Add chorizo and garlic and continue sauteeing and stirring for another couple of minutes.  Lower heat if the onion or garlic starts to scorch.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, except lime juice, until well combined and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Stir in lime juice and serve warm topped as desired.


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Vegan Pumpkin, Kale, and Cannelini Bean Bisque

Pumpkin, Kale, and Cannelini Bean BisqueYield: 4 to 6 servings

Contrary to my best intentions, I am not posting as much as I’d hoped since my husband passed away–suddenly and unexpectedly–on July 30…

…but I hope when I do, the recipes are worth waiting for.

As those of you who have experienced a loss such as this know, it’s a game-changer.  And, while we basically understand the rules of the game, we don’t know–and can’t necessarily anticipate–how they will play out, both in positive and negative ways.

I knew I would be busy with schoo, once it started on September 8, and my freelance work.  But, add to the mix a pair of 8 1/2 month old puppies (my dear, dear Minnie passed away less than a month after Joe); the administration of Joe’s estate; and a fuller, more diverse, and less predictable social life than I was accustomed to (I’m “trending,” don’t you know–ha!), and time has a way of ticking past, albeit in very meaningful ways, though sometimes with a steep learning curve.

However, I deeply value this blog and the opportunity to, not only share recipes with all of you but to connect with you arouond food, so I hope you will forgive me the infrequency of posts as I figure out how to achieve balance.

Speaking of that less predictable social life…last night, I served this impromptu soup–inspired by a recipe in my latest Southern Living Magazine (worth the subscription just to read Rick Bragg’s “Southern Journal” essay in the back of each issue)–to two girlfriends, one of whom brought her guitar, played a mini-concert in my breakfast room, and spent the night.  What a beautiful, beautiful gift.  This woman’s spirit is infused with magic.

The soup was a hit.  So, as the weather begins to turn colder, nourish body, mind, and soul with a cup of this nutritious deliciousness.  On the side, I like to serve a rice cake topped with one of my vegan cheese spreads (search this website for lots of tastt options) and a dab of my friend Rich’s chimichurri.  It’s the perfect mini-meal and, remember, I have proclaimed this the Year of the Mini-Meal.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1/8th teaspoon salt + more to taste

2 large gloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I love its sweetness)

1/2 teaspoon coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1-15 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth or stock (I use one called a “no-chicken” broth that tastes richer to me) OR 4 1/4 cups vegetable broth and 1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 to 3 cups chopped fresh kale

1-15.5 ounce can rinsed and drained cannelini beans

Optional garnish: dollops of vegan sour cream or crema

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high.  Add onion and salt and saute, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until softened and beginning to show color around the edges.  Add garlic and sugar and saute, stirring, until nicely caramelized.  (This only takes a few minutes because of sugar.)  Stir in spices, followed by pumpkin, and slowly stir in liquid and nutritional yeast.  Add kale, a handful at a time, and let it begin to wilt before adding the next handful.  Stir in beans and heat through, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasoning, as you might choose to add more salt–since pumpkin is naturally sweet–cumin, and smoked paprika.  Serve topped with vegan sour cream or crema.






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Vegan BLT Chickpea Salad

BLT Chickpea SaladYield: 4 servings

Back in the day, I loved a BLT.  But, these days, I love cruelty-free BLTs even better.  I mix up all the traditional ingredients using my favorite bacon subsititute and serve a mound atop a rice cake–this is the self-proclaimed Year of the Mini-Meal after all–with a garnish of homegrown basil for freshness.

1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas

4 slices cooked vegan bacon (choose your favorite brand or make your own from tempeh)

6 Romaine heart leaves, stacked and cut into 1/2″ slices

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 rice cakes

4 sprigs fresh basil

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except rice cakes.  Drizzle some of the dressing that will collect at the bottom over the cakes to slightly soften.  Then, mound one-fourth of mixture atop each cake and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.  Serve immediately with a sharp knife and fork.

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Vegan Tri-Pepper Chickpea Salad Stack (with Sunflower Seeds, Tomato, and Chimichurri) and Farewell to Miss Minnie

Chickpea SaladYield: 4 servings

Once again, I must apologize for my second hiatus of the summer…

As most of you know, my life-force of a husband of 25 years (our anniversary is 9/15) suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on July 30 from acute cardiac arrest.  With more  love and support from our intersecting circles than anyone has a right to expect–a veritable wellspring of grace and goodness and a true embarrassment of riches–I was beginning the next phase of my journey and trying to imagine a new normal with my beloved Minnie the Great Dane.  Both of us were now without our mates as her Huffie passed away on December 13.

Then, on August 24, my beautiful girl was claimed by the sudden enslaught of a take-no-prisoners auto-immune disease in which the body destroys its own red blood cells as fast as they can be transfused, causing extreme anemia and then a seizure accompanied by nystagmus, from which she wasn’t going to recover.  I was shattered for many reasons, including that Minnie and I were going to make it through this first year together. My friend, Mary Beth, held me as I held Minnie telling her how much I love her, what a good dog she was, and how much I would miss her until well after she was gone.

As a friend wrote, my home had been emptied of my Virginia Beach family in a mere 9 months.  When I realized that there was no one who cared if I got up in the morning or came home in the evening, the overwhelming emotion was of being untethered.  So, the next day–I think Minnie would understand–the first order of business was to adopt two new dogs:  Urban and Patsy.  They had just come from an ASPCA in TN to our VA Beach SPCA where my husband was on the board and had served as president, as well as current treasurer.  I believe their country music star names were part of their branding.  But, Joe and I went to graduate school, met, and married in Nashville, so the names stuck.

This pair of 8-month old dolls have been acclimating beautifully to their new home for the last 10 days, including healing from their spay and neuter surgeries with cones on their heads 24-7.  But we have been a No-Cone Zone for 5 days and life is good, full, and busy.  Now that we have become a pack, the second order of business is the return to this, my beloved blog.

I have half-jokingly proclaimed this the Year of the Mini-Meal because, for over a month now, food–at least not in the robust quantities I consumed it before–has not only not been my obsession, but has been largely rejected by my body in its adrenlaine-powered fight or flight mode.

But when I do eat, as I have mentioned previously, my food needs to be more beautiful, simple, and nutritious than ever before.   And if I can eat it on a rice cake, all the better. So, enjoy this tasty stack as a snack, first course, or as your own mini-meal.


1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup finely minced tri-color bell peppers (e.g. red, yellow, and green)

1/4 cup shredded carrot

2 tablespoons lightly salted and roasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 rice cakes

4 thick tomato slices

1/2 cup chimichurri or vegan pesto

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, peppers, carrot, seeds, mayo, and salt and pepper, lightly mashing chickpeas.  Spread each rice cake with 1 tablespoon of chimichurri or pesto.  Top each cake with one-fourth of the salad and a tomato slice.  Dollop one more tablespoon of chimichurri or pesto on top of each tomato slice and serve immediately with a sharp knife and fork.

July 2015


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Vegan White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho

White Bean-Fig GazpatchoYield: 2 servings

I deeply regret my 2 1/2 week hiatus from The Blooming Platter, and hope this is the beginning of the end of it.  As many of you know, my love, my husband of 25 years passed away from an acute coronoary on July 30 and life took on a new rhythm.

But, this past weekend, I already had a trip planned to meet my best friend from graduate school–we were both art history majors at Vanderbilt University–in Philadelphia for an “art tour.”  Joe was from Philly, so we had also planned a dinner at *Vedge (oh, wow–cannot recommend highly enough!) with his two sisters and our niece on Saturday night.  Knowing the trip would be “good medicine,” I didn’t change my plans, and I am thankful that I didn’t.

When I returned home, a friend picked me up at the airport and I invited another to stop by for dinner of chilled gazpatcho on her way home from the hospital where she had been with her mother.  Gifts of food are as much a part of death as flowers, and our friends had filled my refrigerator and freezer with a bounty of beautiful  fruit, vegetables, prepared vegan dishes and, okay, vegan cupcakes from My Vegan Sweet Tooth, a new vegan storefront bakery in town.

So, I swirled together cantaloupe, watermelon, fresh figs, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a half-pint of heirloom tomatoes, and some basil from my garden with cumin and smoked paprika to make the most beautiful of soups.  Then, as if to prove correct the “grieving” books and their gentle warnings of forgetfulness as part of the process, I left it on the counter in a sparkling crystal bowl in full reach of Minnie.  It got very quiet downstairs and then she came up with gazpatcho breath detectable from a foot away!

Not angry, just fearful, I first called our vet’s wife–on a Sunday–to make sure she’d survive.  And after learning that she would, I went looking for something else with which to make a cold soup.  And, though this combination of ingredients may sound a bit odd, my guest and I both thought the following combination of ingredients was delectable and I will be making it again and again.  Minne can’t say, as she didn’t get to taste this batch.

*V-Street, Vedge’s sister street food bar, specializing in flavor- and texture-forward small plates, is not to be missed either.  We ate three of our five meals at there, each one as delightful as the previous.

White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho

1 can white beans with juice

1 large tomato, cored and quartered

approximatley 8 to 10 fresh figs

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnishes: vegan sour cream, a few marinated veggies (onion, tomato and cucumber in a light vinaigrette), green or purple basil, and spiced pecans (I used rosemary-lime)

Place all ingredients except garnishes in food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached.  Serve chilled, garnished as desired.

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