Vegan Figgy Pudding Smoothie

Figgy Pudding SmoothieYield: 1 smoothie

As you have probably guessed by now, I am mad about figs. And so many generous friends and neighbors have brought me baskets and jars of them following Joe’s passing.

Tonight is our 7th annual Julia Child Birthday Bash–stay tuned for fabulous recipes and photos in the next few posts!–and I am making my Five-Minute Curried Figs Brulee, but I still have more than we will be able to enjoy this evening.

So, I made a fig smoothie today to drink on the way to yoga. Perfection!

Here’s the simple recipe:

1 cup ice

1 cup unsweetened soymilk (or your favorite plain or unsweetened non-dairy milk)

12 small fresh figs, stemmed

1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate (organic preferred)

Optional: sweetener of your choice to taste (I think it is sweet enough without adding additional sweetener)

Place all ingredients in a blender or, my preference, Nutri Bullet, and blend until very smooth.  Serve immediately.

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Vegan 5-Minute Curried Figs Brulee (with or without Pesto/Chimichurri)–Fresh Figs with a Sweet and Salty Curried Crust

Curried Figs Brulee with PestoYield: 8 bruleed fig halves

As everyone probably knows now, when the rhythm of my life changed on July 30, so did my approach to cooking and eating.

For a week after my husband passsed away, I ate almost nothing.  But I have now segued to slightly more than nothing or what I call mini-meals.  They are gorgeous and nutritious, but they are tiny and, for folks eating normally, are perfect sides.  (These figs were today’s lunch with a peanut butter rice cake.)

Whereas, in days of old, communities rallied round those who had lost loved ones with heavy comfort foods.  In contrast, my tribe surrounded me, as I may have mentioned, with a bounty of fruits–figs and more figs–vegetables, salads, prepared vegan dishes, and vegan bakery treats that went into goodie bags for out-of-towners booked at the Westin for Joe’s (amazing) Celebration of Life.

My artist friend, Sheila Gioliti brought the biggest and the firmest figs which inspired this glorius oh-so-simple recipe.

4 large slightly firm fresh figs, stemmed and halved

2 teaspoons granualted or brown sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/8 teaspoon curry powder (mild or “warm”)

1/8th teaspoon smoked paprika

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon vegan pesto or chimichurri (or more to suit your taste)

Garnish: fresh basil or cilantro and pine nuts, roasted or not

Prheat broiler.  Arrange figs, cut side up, on a baking sheet.  In a small cup, whisk together sugar, salt, and curry powder.  Sprinkle on figs, dividing evenly among them.  Broil for 3 minutes or until surface of figs is slightly caramelized, but figs still hold their shape.  Top, if desired, with pesto or chimichurri and serve with fresh sprigs of basil or cilantro, and pine nuts.

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Five-Ingredient Vegan Chicken Salad (a la Yorgo’s Bageldashery in Norfolk, VA)

Yorgo's Chicken SaladOur schools just started last week and it’s going to be a super year!

As a teacher, my culinary mind has turned to healthy, tasty, quick treats I can pack for satisfying mini-meals throughout the day.

I live in VA Beach, next door to Norfolk, VA, where you can regularly find me “Jonesin” for Yorgo’s Bageldashery’s vegan chicken salad (Yorgo’s has a VERY vegan friendly menu).  I try to pick up a carton when I “cross the border” for some other reason, but the deli closes at 2 p.m., so I can only make it on the weekends during the school year.  And I have been known to drive to Norfok just for the chicken salad.  I know, it’s a shameless waste of gas.  But I drive a Prius…does that make it almost okay?

At any rate, I have tried–unsuccessfully–in the past to duplicate their vegan chicken salad.  But, I tried again and I do believe I got it!

In addition to the taste, the texture is divine.  It’s almost a spread, but not quite.  It’s more like a very fine mince bound together with a creamy vegan mayo.  Pulsing the ingredients in the food processor a few times after each addition did the trick.   But, from past experiments, I knew that using all mayo overpowered the other flavors, so keep reading to learn my secret.  And, finally, I also realized that I was trying to add too many additional flavors.  Keeping it VERY simple was the key.

3 celery hearts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

3 green onions, white and green part, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1-8 ounce package Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chick’n Strips (or 1/2 pound purchased or homemade chicken-flavored seitan, cut into thin strips or chunks)

3 tablespoons vegan sour cream

1 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise, purchased or homemade (I like a neutral tasting mayo like Vegenaise for this)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: for a Vegan Dill Chicken Salad, add 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill weed or, in the summer, 1 tablespoon of fresh minced dill and stir to evenly distribute.

Place celery in food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped.  Add green onions, and process until very finely chopped.  Add vegan Chick’n Strips or seitan, and process until chicken is finely chopped.  (Other ingredients will be minced at this point.)  Add mayo and  pulse a very few times, just until combined.  Throughout the process, scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary for uniform chopping.  Transfer to a serving bowl or storage carton and stir in salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in dill weed or fresh dill if desired. Serve as you would any other chicken salad or cover and refrigerate until serving time.  Because of both its taste and texture, this chicken salad is especially well-suited to spreading on a cracker, a toasted “everything” bagel or rolled in fresh spinach leaves to create healthy little wraps.

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Vegan 5-Ingredient Quesadillas with Garlic Hummus and Cucumber-Blueberry Salsa

DSCN1822

To call this quick-fix meal a recipe is a bit, of an overstatement.  It is, perhaps better described as a “formula,” though that doesn’t sound awfully appetizing.

So, let’s just call it a terribly tasty “idea” that can be adapted in a multitude of ways in your kitchen.

I simply spread half of a sprouted grain tortilla with some homemade in-your-face garlic hummus that a friend of Joe’s sent home with him.  Rich is an unlikely cook by some estimations, but a gifted one just the same; and he shares my appreciation for bold flavors, though he is scarcely vegan!

Next, I folded the tortilla over the filling, grilled it in a non-stick pan, and then folded it over again, topping it with the world’s easiest salsa, a dab of vegan sour cream, and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

Here’s all you need for 1 fantastic Quesadilla (easily multiplies):

1-8 inch tortilla (I like Ezekial sprouted grain tortillas, available at health food stores and some grocery stores)

1/3 cup garlic hummus, homemade or prepared (or your favorite kind)

1/4 cup Cucumber-Blueberry Salsa (“recipe” follows)

Garnish: 1 tablespoon vegan sour  cream and a sprinkle of smoked paprika

Spread half of tortilla with about 1/3 cup hummus.  Fold tortilla over hummus and grill in a cast iron skillet sprayed with non-stick spray for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown on each side.  Fold over again, place on serving plate, top with Vegan Cucumber-Blueberry Salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and a spoonful of Cucumber-Blueberry Salsa.  Serve immediately.

Vegan Cucumber-Blueberry Salsa

Combine equal parts diced cucumber (I use the pickling variety, but use what you like) and fresh rinsed and dried blueberries.  Toss with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder to taste.  For best flavor, chill several hours or overnight before serving.

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Vegan Chocolate-Plum Butter Mousse–A Transcendent Flavor Combination with Just 4 Ingredients!

DSCN1677Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

Honestly?  You absolutely can’t believe how delicious the marriage of chocolate and the deep, fruity flavor of plums is in this quick and easy four-ingredient mousse (which can be served as a tart by spooning it into a pre-baked shell).

This is a four-seasons treat since it is made with plum butter instead of fresh plums.  (Incidentally, fruit butters are misnomers, as they contain no dairy.)  But, since it is mid-summer, you might garnish it with fresh plum slices along with the mint, whipped topping, and hazelnuts.

That is, if you don’t consume it all before it makes it into the glasses!

10 ounces vegan dark chocolate, melted (I used chocolate chips and melted them in two 1-minute increments in the microwave, whisking after each)

1/4 box extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1/2 cup vegan soy creamer (I used French Vanilla)

1/2 cup plum butter (I used Bauman’s  brand–which may be ordered online–made in small batches in Pennsylvania Dutch country from only plums, sugar or white grape juice, lemons, oranges and cinnamon)

Optional garnish: your favorite vegan whipped topping and/or chopped nuts (I like hazelnuts for this dessert) + mint sprigs

In a food processor, combine all ingredients, processing until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  After about a minute, the mousse will be light and fluffy.  After about another minute it will become somewhat denser and darker, yet still silken and fluffy.  Choose our preference.  Divide the mixture among 4 stemmed glasses or small ramekins and enjoy immediately or chill until serving time.

Note:  For individual baked crustless tarts, divide mixture among 4 ramekins coated lightly with non-stick spray and bake in the center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until set, but still glossy.  Check after 15 minutes, as tops should not be dry and starting to crack.  Allow to cool before serving, or cover and place in refrigerator until serving time.  Serve chilled.  Garnish if desired.

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Vegan Roasted Fresh Okra with Horseradish Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Bye-bye slime…hello sublime!

Do you know how some vegetables are utterly transformed by the cooking method, say, roasting broccoli or grilling radishes?   Well, this is one of those vegetables and methods.

As a southern gal, I love fried okra, though I don’t allow myself to have it much.  And, I used to love it in gumbo when I was a pescatarian.  However, I’ve never found a vegan gumbo recipe I like–including at a local top notch fine dining restaurant–so I rarely bought okra because I didn’t know what to do with it.

But now I do!

Recently at Stoney’s, one of my favorite local farmer’s markets who grows both red and green okra,  I was debating about what I wanted to purchase.  One of the employees shared this method of roasting okra and I was sold!

It will forever change the way you think about this fury little veggie.  For the best crunchy exterior–and creamy center–it must be enjoyed immediately after removing it from the oven.  Also, it is best not to layer the pieces of okra on top of each other to serve, as they will steam and, therefore, soften.

2 tablespoons olive oil

Approximately 2 cups of fresh okra, trimmed

Sea salt to taste

Vegan Horseradish Sauce or the sauce of your choice

Preheat oven to 45o degrees.  Pour olive oil into roasting pan.  I like to use a large cast iron skillet for this because it browns the okra so nicely.  Add okra and toss to coat.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and toss again.  Roast for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on one side (I like it fairly caramelized), then turn each piece of okra and roast 5-8 minutes on opposite side or until golden brown.  Serve immediately in one layer with Vegan Horsearadish Sauce or any sauce you desire.  The texture of this okra is vastly superior if served as soon as it is removed from the oven.  If you are unable to serve it immediately, it will soften, but still taste good.  So, I recommend reheating it in a skillet over medium-high until heated through, shaking occasionally, just before serving.

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Vegan Kale, Toasted Hazelnut and Orange Pesto

Yield: approximately 2 cups

I almost don’t want to see winter end because its departure signals the end of the season of kale.  (And the truth is that I actually enjoy cold, gray days…just not every day.)  True, plenty of spring delicacies will sprout from the ground to replace kale, but it is undoubtedly my favorite leafy green.

Although,  I have to say, some genius brought collards to a girls’ night potluck recently that were to die for.  Thick ribbons about the width of pappardelle pasta were lightly sauteed in a little olive oil and salt just until barely tender.  I couldn’t stop nibbling on them.  And then my friend Brent, who had been on a trip to Nashville, told me about a sandwich that he’d enjoyed at The Hermitage.  I’d love to veganize and miniaturize it because it haunts me: fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and sauteed collard greens.  Are you kidding me?!

Anyway, before the last of the kale is gone, I can’t stop creating new ways to enjoy it, like this pesto which is ridiculously simple to make–like all pesto–and deliciously different.  It is a great recipe to keep in your culinary bag of tricks because it lends itself to the small bites that are one of my favorite ways to enjoy almost any food.  But it is also luscious thinned with a little pasta water or soy creamer, tossed with whole wheat pasta, and sprinkled with my Vegan Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.  On a recent Saturday night, our friends Pat and Ronn Ives joined us for dinner so, as you can see in the photo, I spread grilled baguette slices with a little of the pesto and then topped it with my Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney.

Don’t you agree that that color combination of rich, bright green and shimmering ruby red is hard to beat?

4 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh kale, thick stems removed

1 cup lightly toasted chopped hazelnuts, cooled to room temperature (I dry toast them in a large skillet over medium-high heat for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted

Zest of one medium naval orange

Approximately 3/4 cup olive oil (I love Trader Joe’s brand–it’s an outstanding value with balanced flavor and a pour spout)

Sea salt to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse kale until finely chopped.  Add hazelnuts and pulse until finely chopped.  Kale will be almost minced.   With motor running, drizzle in olive oil, adding more or less until the desired consistency is achieved.  Turn off motor, check for seasoning, and add a pinch of sea salt if necessary.  Then add the orange zest and pulse just a couple of times just to combine.  Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Vegan Smoky Nooch-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds–THE Best Snack with a Glass of Wine or to Give as a Holiday or Hostess Gift

It would be beyond selfish not to share my super-simple, absolutely addicting new snack with you asap!

You see, I LOVE popcorn–lightly buttered (with vegan Earth Balance)–and sprinkled with nutritional yeast (nooch).  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  You know nooch, yes?  It has a rich, cheesy flavor that can take on almost mushroomy notes in, say, a pot pie.  A favorite recipe I make starts with a roux made of toasted flour, nooch and vegetable oil, and its aroma while cooking…oh my-heavenly.  But I digress.

One day, craving a big healthy infusion of nooch, but not having any popcorn on hand, my eyes lit on Trader Joe’s roasted and lightly salted  pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in the pantry.  A mere 5 minutes later, I was munching on the most delicious snack to enjoy with a glass of white wine.  They are also delish sprinkled on a whole range of other dishes.  And poured up into little jars, they make very festive gifts.

Can I just tell you how many times I have burned my mouth on this snack because I simply couldn’t wait?  Sad, I know.  But I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, only with a little more self-control!

Yield: 1 cup

1 tablespoons vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

*1 cup roasted and lightly salted pepitas (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (Red Star brand contains B12)

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch sea salt

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pumpkin seeds and toast, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and smoked paprika, and toast, stirring constantly, for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until nutritional yeast coating is golden and lightly toasted.  The buttery yeast may smoke a little while toasting, so just watch the color and avoid overcooking.  Remove the pan from the heat, stir in just a pinch of salt, and pour into a small bowl to cool.

Note:  Feel free to try it with pumpkin seeds removed from a fresh pumpkin, but I love the green color and narrow size of the variety Trader Joe’s sells and have never seen them in any pumpkin I have ever purchased.  Since Trader’s brand is already roasted, you’ll probably need to toast tfresh dried pumpkin seeds longer than my recipe calls for.

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VegKitchen Adds Another Blooming Platter Recipe to their Collection

I was flattered today when I received a message from the “nava-lous” Nava Atlas of VegKitchen asking if she could print one of my recipes to “beef up” (not!) the grilling section of her website.

The answer was a resounding, “Are you kidding?  Of course!”  Heck, she doesn’t even need to ask, but it’s always great to hear from her, a fellow artist and foodie.

I loved the recipe she chose and, if you haven’t tried it, I think you will too.  You can, of course, find it here on The Blooming Platter, but I encourage you to visit Nava’s site, check out my recipe, and poke around a bit.

Thanks, Nava!

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