On the 4th Day of Christmas…Vegan Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Onions, Greens, Cranberries and Curried Croutons

Complex in flavor but not to prepare, a mound of golden and creamy, but healthy(!), spaghetti squash is crowned with the colors and flavors of the season in the form of dried cranberries and kale in this uniquely tasty recipe.

You could stop there, but why would you want to when you could spend just a tiny bit more time and push it right over the top with a sprinkling of crusty croutons!

In this recipe, the croutons are curried, but if those flavor notes seem discordant with you meal, by all means, choose another spice, but don’t deprive your friends and family of this mound of sweet-n-savory deliciousness.

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Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day #1: Apple, Pear and Dried Apricot Crisp with Chai-Scented Streusel

Apple-Pear-and-Dried-Apricot-Crisp-with-Chai-Scented-Streusel-ToppingSomehow it happened yet again this year: Thanksgiving is only one day away!

I saved the sweetest for last: this simple crisp with a twist in the form of the Chai spices in the streusel.

It goes together in a snap and disappears even faster.


Happy Thanksgiving!

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Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day #2: Vegan Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage Pesto (Delicious with Any Pumpkin or Squash)

Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage PestoWho knew that those pumpkins and squash at the farmers market–with their fanciful forms and all of their beautiful color, strips and spots–were not just for decoration?  Many, if not most, are seriously good eats.

What better to top my roasted version with than my Pepita-Sage Pesto?  I make a lot of pestos out of all kinds of ingredients, but this glistening version  is an all-time favorite!

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Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day #6: Vegan Butternut Squash Lasagna with Smokey Marinara Sauce and “Ricotta” with Kale Pesto

Butternut-Squash-Lasagna-1-800x600For my first two “Countdown” posts–Day 7 and, now, Day 6–I decided to address the Thanksgiving main dish, as it can be the trickiest for vegans, it seems.  Nothing against “Tofurky” necessarily, but it has never been what I craved to grace the center of our Thanksgiving buffet.

This dish, on the other hand, is, to me, Thanksgiving personified.  A rich and creamy–but healthy!–layered amalgamation of many of my favorite flavors of fall, this lasagna is THE BEST I have ever eaten, much less created.  Wait, I think it’s the only lasagna I have ever created.  I guess I figured I just couldn’t do any better!

This link will take you to my original post which includes a hyperlink to One Green Planet who generously published the recipe.  Your soon-to-be favorite lasagna is just two clicks away!

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Virtual Vegan Potluck Appetizer Contribution: Vegan Beet Muhummara

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWelcome to the Virtual Vegan Potluck, an international “progressive” potluck meal, and you are one of our special guests!

To begin at the first “house,” visit Lidia at Vegan Bloggers Unite!

I volunteered to bring an appetizer, and I chose one of everyone’s favorites: Beet Muhummara (backstory and recipe follows).

But there are lots of other appetizers being served.  Be sure to visit the “houses” on either side of mine and from there, link by link, you can “progress” right on through all of the courses in one of the tastiest and varied meals ever served.

SENSUAL APPEAL is sure to bring something to the feast to delight your senses.  And VEGAN SPARKLES will, no doubt, prove that all that glitters is not gold!

So come on along, dinner is served!…

Do you walk right past the beets in your fall market?  If so, my advice is to throw it in reverse and back-up!  If you think you are a beet-hater, think again!

This jewel-tone beauty–a favorite in my cookbook–is inspired by muhummara, a Turkish roasted red pepper and walnut spread.  And it has single-handedly converted many a beet-haters into a beet lover right before my eyes.

Perfect for festive occasions because of its shimmering color–but simple enough for any day of the week (you can “beet” the clock with this one!)–Beet Muhummara is lovely with warmed pita triangles and olives or rolled up in lettuce leaves for “skinny” beet burritos. 

Yield: 4 cups

  • 3 large fresh raw beets, peeled and quartered (do not use canned beets)
  • 1 1/3 cups toasted walnut pieces (plus more for garnish, optional)
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or mild molasses, not blackstrap
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine the beets, walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, molasses, and lemon juice and pulse to a textured paste.

With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until fairly smooth, but still textured. Scrape the mixture into a serving bowl, garnish with walnuts, if using, and serve.

From The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio. Copyright © 2011. Vegan Heritage Press.Used by permission.

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Vegan Maple-Sage Tempeh “Sausage” and Grilled Apple Quesadillas (Also a Great Pizza Topping) + Recipe for Quick Vegan Cashew Cream

DSCN2028Yield: 8 quesadillas

Different, but not bizarre, this quesadilla celebrates the cozy flavors of fall.

2 large apples, halved, cored and cut into 12 wedges each

Sea salt

Olive oil

8 ounces tempeh (I use Trader Joe’s “3 Grain” variety)

2 teaspoons soy sauce (I use a lite variety with less sodium)

1 teaspoon dry rubbed sage or a tablespoon minced fresh sage

Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 cup Quick Vegan Cashew Cream (Recipe Follows)

1/2 cup water

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 6-inch wheat tortillas

Optional: 1/2 cup caramelized onions

Garnish: dollops of vegan sour cream or additional Quick Vegan Cashew Cream, fresh sage or rosemary sprigs, roasted pepitas

Grill lightly salted apple wedges in well-oiled grill pan over medium high heat until tender and nice grill marks develop, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet.  Crumble tempeh into the skillet, add a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until golden brown in some places, adding about a teaspoon of olive oil if it appears to be drying out.  Add soy sauce, sage and optional rosemary, and continue sauteing until golden throughout.  Stir in balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Cashew Cream, and water, and heat, stirring, until mixture comes together.  Remove from heat and add additional salt, if necessary, and black pepper to taste.  Transfer filling to a bowl or carton and wipe out skillet.

To make quesadillas, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in skillet over medium high.  Place 1/8th of filling on half of each tortilla, top with 3 slices of grilled apple and optional 1/8th of caramelized onions.  Fold other half of tortilla up over the filling and toast, 2 quesadillas at a time, in skillet for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Keep warm.  Repeat with more oil as needed and remaining tortillas, filling and apples.  Serve garnished as desired.

Quick Vegan Cashew Cream:

2 cups raw cashews

2 cups simmering water (heated stovetop or in microwave)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Place cashews in a heat-safe bowl and pour simmering water over.  Let stand, covered, for a half hour.  Drain and reserve 1 1/4 cups of water.  Process cashews with sea salt and garlic powder until a thick past forms, about a minute or two.  Reheat water and, with motor running, stream in 1 1/4 cups or enough to reach desired consistency.  Serve as is, flavor as desired, or cover and refrigerate for use at a later date.

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Tempting Vegan Tempeh and Kale Taco & Quesadillas Filling

DSCN2075Yield:  2 healthy servings (easily doubles)

Sundays always have me thinking about school lunches for the work week ahead.  Wait.  Who am I kidding?  Sundays are hardly the only day I am thinking about nutritious and delicious school lunches that will fuel me throughout some long (but gratifying) days at the high school where I teach art, but not over-fill me.  Our new breathless schedule this year leaves no time for being sluggish!

Last year, we had alot (alot!) more planning time, so I was able to walk down to the cafeteria and purchase lunch on a daily basis: hummus, raw vegetables, cooked greens and baked sweet potatoes being some of my favorites.  But this year, due to district cost saving measures (larger and more classes taught by fewer teachers = less dollars), I had to figure out a different system because I literally don’t have time.  (The common refrain from teachers is that we never see each other anymore.)  So far, I have been packing my little “bento box” storage containers with a half a bagel spread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for my morning snack, some kind of vitamin-packed leftover for mid-day–sometimes two kinds–and an apple, and it is working out just fine.  Oh, and I start my day (at  5:30a.m.) with a glass of diet cranberry juice at home and a glass of unsweetened soymilk in a travel cup.  I also keep a carton in the fridge at school.

One week’s leftoves included this Tempeh and Kale Filling which was “tempting” hot in a taco and a quesadilla.  But I can also attest to it being quite scrumptious cold right out of the carton!  So I hope you might find uses for it in your busy week!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small or half of a large onion, diced

1 package tempeh (any flavor)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (Chipotle for a spicier flavor; Ancho for a milder one)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces kale, rinsed *thick stems removed, and torn into bite size pieces (I add it to the skillet slightly damp to provide more moisture to the mixture)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon light miso

1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup vegan sour cream

4 ounces Roma tomatoes, diced

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Crumble tempeh into the skillet, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, sea salt, and pepper, and saute, stirring almost continually, until tempeh is nicely browned in places.  Add kale and garlic and saute, stirring, until kale is slightly wilted, but still bright green.  In a small cup or bowl, whisk together light miso, Liquid Aminos, nutritional yeast, and vegan sour cream, and stir into tempeh mixture until completely incorporated.  Stir in tomato, remove from heat and use immediately as a filling in warm, soft taco shells or in a pan-griddled quesadilla.  Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.


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Vegan Grilled Pattypan Squash with Thai Basil Pesto–Included on WHRO’s “Let’s Eat”


I am THRILLED to be one of a dozen invited contributors to participate in “Let’s Eat,” a new initiative of Eastern Virginia’s public TV and radio station, WHRO!

I had no more created this recipe than I received the invitation.

Since it is sponsored by Whole Foods, VA Beach, and our local chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local, a recipe that featured local produce seemed in order.  At the time I submitted it, pattypan squash was in season, but the site was just launched and, alas, pattypan squash is no longer in season, at least not in Coastal Virginia.  But the pesto would be luscious on grilled pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and much more.  And my basil is still in full bloom!

Stay tuned for more tasty treats ready for their close-up.  I will be posting regularly on “Let’s Eat” and will direct you from here to there!

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Vegan Szechuan String Beans with Chinese Black Bean Sauce and Cashews

DSCN2025Yield: 2 servings (easily doubles)

This quick, vibrant colored and flavored dish becomes a meal with the addition of tofu or tempeh cubes added during the last two to three minutes of cooking.

It’s my homemade version of one of my favorite dishes in Chinese restaurants.  My secret ingredient?  Chinese Black Bean Sauce!

1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, lightly salted, and grilled over medium high in a grill pan for about 15 minute, turning periodically, or until lightly charred all over and very tender

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce (I use a “lite” variety for less sodium)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sake (or mirin)

2 tablespoons Chinese Black Bean Sauce (available on international aisle of most grocery stores)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashews (or halves and pieces) + a few more for garnish

While green beans are grilling, heat oil in a cast iron skillet (or wok) over medium-high.  Add ginger, and stir fry for about 1 medium, stirring continually, just to soften and turn slightly more golden.  Lower heat if cooking to fast.  Add garlic, and stir fry for 30 seconds, still stirring continually.  Add remaining ingredients except green beans and cashews and cook, stirring continually until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add green beans and cook another 2 to 3 minutes or until beans are well coated and have absorbed some of the sauce.  Avoid over-cooking or the sauce will become too syrupy and tar-like.  During the last minute, stir in 1/4 cup cashews.  Transfer to a platter or a shallow bowl and serve with additional cashews for garnish.  This dish is fun and quite easy to enjoy with chopsticks.

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