Vegan Smoked Cheese Grits
(with the topping of your choice)

cheese-gritsYield: approximately 4 modest servings

The last couple of months finds me joyfully experimenting with vegan dishes my new partner, Bob–a meatatarian–and I can share. There are some dishes, like these grits, with which we enjoy tinkering together; and they were a hit, though Bob topped his with something we will not mention on this site. 😉

Bob is very into balanced flavors and it was his idea to drizzle the dish with the maple syrup even though this is a savory dish. His suggestion was genius.

As for cheese, use any you prefer for a total of 8 to 9 ounces.  I love the smoky flavor, but it’s not necessary for a delectable finished dish.

Vegan Cheesy Grits (with the topping of your choice)

4 cups water
1 cup stone ground yellow grits
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
*2 ounces grated vegan Parmesan
*3 ounces vegan cheddar
*4 ounces vegan smoked gouda
1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos
2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Accompaniment: Sauteed vegetables of your choice (I sauteed shredded zucchini and yellow squash and a little kale in olive oil with minced garlic)

Garnishes: maple syrup and roasted and lightly salted nuts or seeds, e.g. pumpkin seeds

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring lightly salted water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir in grits and garlic. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. During the last 5 minutes or so, stir in remaining ingredients except sauteed veggies and garnishes. Serve topped with those veggies and the optional drizzle of maple syrup plus a sprinkle of roasted nuts or seeds.

Note: I purchase the cheeses at Whole Foods.

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Day 5: Vegan Grits and Greens with Mushroom Gravy–Cooking the ‘Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style

Grits amd Greem with Mushroom Gravy(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.)

[Betsy’s note: this is the only time you will see “dead animals,” aka the shrimp, on this blog…that is, unless I “kill” one of my mischievious new pups for, oh, say, removing the other arm of my $1,200 vintage sofa…]

I took a huge risk today giving my grocery list for tonight’s recipe to my husband to include in his errands.  I chose Grits and Greens with Mushroom Gravy.  First thing out of his mouth was “Kale?!  Why?”  Ok I had to come up with something fast because in our house kale is strictly turtle food for our Russian Tortoise, Desiree.

“Well, first I feel like I need to give it a second chance (I hate it); everyone else seems to love it and it’s super cheap.”  I felt like that last point would seal the deal.  I waited.  “Why not collards?” he counters.   I pointed out how badly they stink up the house… and we’re done!  He’s getting the kale.  I thought we were in the clear until he asked what vegetable stock was.  Oh no!!  Thank God I didn’t add the nutritional yeast to his list.  I don’t even know what that’s for!  I’ll look that up later.

When he brings the kale in, we both just stand there staring at it.  I’m seriously having second thoughts.  He starts talking about how bitter it is but when I push, he admits that he has never really tried it.  So we both take a tiny bite of a leaf.  “Well it’s not bitter”, I say.  “True”, he says, “ but  it tastes very…. vegetable-y.”  So we decide, reluctantly, that we will share Desiree’s food for tonight’s dinner.

To be totally honest, I told my family we were having Shrimp and Grits with Greens and Gravy.  You mention Shrimp and Grits in my house and everyone is on board.  Since I don’t cook seafood well, I delegated that to my husband.

First step…grits!  LOVE!!!  I got those started because they take an hour.  Admittedly I have never put milk in grits but I’m following the recipe tonight…sort of.  So I used real milk instead of soy… guilty.   I just didn’t think coconut almond milk would taste good and I had no more room in the fridge for a third type of milk.  Oh, and since I didn’t get the nutritional yeast, I used Parmesan cheese.

Next step was mushroom gravy.  Easy enough until I saw that I had to get the dreaded food processor out…ugh! But I had no choice here.  It’s the only thing that will make white beans look like gravy.  I must confess that I had to lie and deceive a bit during this step.  There were two ingredients, rosemary and sherry, that, if my family knew I was using them, would probably head off to Taco Bell instead of show up to dinner.  So, when no one was looking, I quickly ran out and snipped a few sprigs of frozen rosemary from my garden.  (I only keep rosemary because it’s pretty).  Then I dusted off  the bottle of sherry and set it on the counter beside the twigs of rosemary.

Of course this is the moment my husband comes in and announces that he will start the shrimp now. Are you kidding me!  It was pretty comical then.  I’m trying to stand in front of the two offensive ingredients to block them from his view and convince him that I just need 10 more minutes. I begin analyzing the minutes required to bring everything together at the end. Men understand and respond well to this type of reasoning.  Thankfully it worked!  He left and I got the white beans and all the ingredients processed together into a beautiful gravy. Oh, and one more confession…I only used 1/8 teaspoon of rosemary instead of the 2 tablespoons arguing that mine was not truly fresh but very dry looking. Plus I only cussed out the food processor twice.  That’s a record.

Now it’s time to get the kale started.  I heated the oil in the wok, threw the stemmed and cut kale leaves in, and stirred them around; but I admit I had no clue what I was doing.  They ended up really chewy so I don’t think I cooked them enough, but I was really struggling with the fine line between green and bright green to test the doneness.

The final product was beautiful!  The grits tasted amazing and my guys never knew that the “gravy” was made of beans.  We plated it as we were instructed in the recipe with the greens first then the grits and gravy.  However my kale was so bad that we were soon scraping the grits and gravy off the greens and moving it over to cover the shrimp.  My son was the only one to eat the kale and I thought he was just being polite until he got up for a second helping of it.  Bless his heart!  Overall, thumbs up for the best shrimp and grits we have ever had!

~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Vegan Southwestern Quinoa Confetti Salad (Perfect for a Father’s Day cookout!)

Southwestern Quinoa Confetti SaladThis delicious salad was inspired by one I enjoyed at Pompano in NYC.  I use more ingredients–including the kale, tomatoes, cucmbers, and optional black beans–because if the salad was scrumptious without them, it would be even better with.

Yield: 6 servings

1 cup uncooked quinoa (I used a mixed colored variety)

2 cups water

Sea salt

1-15 ounce can yellow hominy, rinsed and drained

Optional: 1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (not included in accompanying photograph)

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 cup coarsely chopped kale

2-6 inch cucumbers, diced

Approximately 12 grape tomatoes, quartered

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of 1/2 large lime

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, or to taste

Optional: 1 tablespoon nutrition yeast


In a 2-quart saucepan, combine quinoa, water and a teaspoon of sea salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed/evaporated, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, preheatoiled  grill pan over medium high.  Place onion slices in one half of pan and kale in the other, lightly salt, and grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until nice caramelized grill marks appear.  Combine quinoa, hominy grilled onion and kale, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes in a large non-reactive bowl.  In a small cup or bowl whisk together olive oil, lime juice, and all spices, seasoning to taste with additional sea salt.  Pour over salad, sprinkle with cilantro and optional nutritional yeast, and gently toss to coat completely.  Note: I like to enjoy a couple or three servings of the salad without the black beans and then add them to the leftovers to enjoy for a another few servings.

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New Year’s (Vegan) Blackeyed Peas Three Ways–A Trifecta of Flavor!

There’s nothing wrong with a big pot of–if you’ll pardon the pun–garden variety black-eyed peas, or Hoppin’ John, for that matter.  Tried and true.

But if you’re looking for something a little different to do with your blackeyed peas, making them into more of a meal, try this trifecta of flavor from The Blooming Platter, all of which elevate the humble pea to a glorious meal.

First up is a whimsical vegan take on crabcakes and tartar sauce from my Blooming Platter Cookbook, generously published by One Green Planet.  It hardly gets more festive or tasty than this.  Look at all of that red and green yumminess!:  Vegan Black-eyed Pea and Spinach Cakes with Sun Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce.


Next up is a little kicked up southern comfort and colorful whole grain extravaganza including good luck and good-for-you greens: Vegan Blackeyed Pea Pilaf Over Collards with Green Tomato Salsa and Roasted Pecans.


Finally is another “southern” dish–southern Indian!  The title is a mouthful, so to speak, but I wanted to reference all of the ingredients that make this dish addicting:  Vegan “Southern” Indian Cilantro-Scented Cardamom-Coconut Cream Blackeyed Peas, Peppers & Spinach.






Happy New Year!

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Vegan Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Shitake Mushrooms in Kale Pesto and White Wine Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Simple as it is, my Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Shitake Mushrooms in a Kale Pesto Cream Sauce is one of the tastiest and most satisfying dishes you will ever eat.  Perfect for a fall or winter dinner or brunch, it is both rustic and refined.  The smoked paprika in the grits and the smoked almonds in the pesto are a perfect pairing.  Add to that the smokey notes of Chardonnay, and you have a tasty trinity indeed.  Visually, it is also appealing with the warm, golden-toned grits setting off the creamy green-flecked mushrooms to delicious advantage.  I hope you’ll enjoy this dish many times this fall.  Note:  the pesto recipe makes far more than you will need for one recipe of the mushrooms.

Vegan Smokey Pumpkin Grits (click on the title to go to my recipe on One Green Planet)

While grits cook, prepare mushrooms:

Shitake Mushrooms in Kale Pesto and White Wine Cream Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 ounces Shitake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps cut into 1/3 inch slices (just somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/2-inch; feel free to substitute other mushrooms if desired, but Shitakes are particularly tasty and toothsome in this dish)

Pinch sea salt

1/4 cup coconut milk or soymilk creamer

1/4 cup Smokey Kale Pesto (recipe follows)

1/2 cup dry white wine (a Chardonnay is nice for its smokey notes, but use what you have)

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering.  Add mushrooms and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently and lowering the heat if necessary, for about 3 minutes or until mushrooms are softened.  Add cream and saute, stirring, for 3o seconds.  Then add the pesto and do the same.  Add white wine and cook, stirring, for a final minute or until sauce comes together and reduces down to the desired consistency.  Serve mushrooms immediately over hot grits (perhaps with a kale salad).  Garnish as desired.  (In the photo, I used fresh springs of rosemary, sage, and pineapple sage for its beautiful red colored blooms.)

Smokey Kale Pesto:

8 ounces trimmed kale (that’s one bunch with stems removed from our market)

1 cup smoked almonds

4 large garlic cloves

1 teaspoon powdered thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of a food processor, process kale in two batches until very finely chopped, returning all kale to the food processor before continuing.  Add remaining ingredients except olive oil and lemon juice and pulse until nuts are very finely chopped and ingredients are well combined.  Then, turn processor on, and slowly drizzle in olive oil and lemon juice until the mixture comes together.  Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Or, freeze in ice cube trays and then remove and store in zip-lock bags.

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Vegan Cous-Cous and Grilled Butternut Squash with Anise, Sage, Sumac & Sesame-Scented Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings as a side dish

I have to admit: I am quite proud of myself for the combination of spices in this dish!

I think I could eat foods seasoned with cumin and coriander; turmeric and smoked paprika; or sage and rosemary at every meal and be quite happy.

But I challenged myself to branch out, and this mixture, inspired by za’atar, seemed a fitting direction for the combination of cous-cous and butternut squash.  And it is!  Now it will be all I can do not to season every recipe with “Sass” (Sage, Anise, Sumac, and Sesame)!

Garnish this simple dish any way you choose, but since I used anise in the recipe, I thought that star anise would be a lovely, homespun, organic, yet festive nod to the winter holidays.


2 cups cooked cous-cous (To cook: bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, stir in 1 cup cous-cous, cover, and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.)

1/2 pound peeled and seeded butternut squash rings, about 1/3 inch thick, grilled,and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (To grill: rub lightly with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and grill over medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side or until nice grill marks appear and squash is tender.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/2 teaspoon dry rubbed sage

1 teaspoon anise seeds, ground to a powder in a spice or coffee grinder

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

*1 teaspoon sumac (available at Middle Eastern and some Indian markets)

Pinch garlic powder

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dried red pepper flakes to taste

Garnish: sage sprigs, chopped pistachios, toasted sesame seeds.

Place cooked cous-cous and grilled butternut squash in a serving bowl.  Drizzle vinaigrette over the top and gently fold in until evenly distributed.  Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, chopped pistachios, and/or toasted sesame seeds and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: sumac, with its earthy and subtle lemony flavor, is worth searching for.  But if you can’t find it, a small amount of lemon zest could be substituted, though I wouldn’t know how much to suggestion.  Maybe 1/4 teaspoon?

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My Vegan Bangkok Black Rice Salad with Fresh Peach is Published by One Green Planet (This is NOT the rice salad of days gone by!)

Somewhere, there is a juicy summer peach out there just waiting for you to make this gloriously colorful and breathtakingly flavorful salad.

Find my surprisingly simple recipe at One Green Planet.

Don’t keep that peach waiting!


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Happy Cow Features a New Blooming Platter Recipe for Meatless Mondays: Vegan Southern Style Cashew Cheese Grits with Kicked-Up Kale

Yes, I know, it’s not Monday.  So sorry.  Eric Brent and the good folks at Happy Cow published my recipe for Vegan Southern Style Cashew Cheese Grits with Kicked-Up Kale  this past Monday, but we are dealing with dog drama, so I hope you’ll forgive my tardiness.

Our 14 year old Auzzie Shepherd broke her toe and, though it’s a long story, suffice it to say that our lives have been disrupted in the extreme.  We live in a sea of baby gates, a huge crate, new runners on our tile and hardwood floors so that she can stay upright, and an inflatable bed in front of our fireplace (the one up-side) so that I can sleep downstairs with her.  My poor back couldn’t take sleeping on the floor another night AND carrying her almost 60 pounds self up and down, 5 stairs to do her business (our house is on pilings and there is no way in or out without negotiating stairs).

But I digress.  I hope you’ll follow this link to access the recipe and that you’ll enjoy my cheese grits-and-greens any day of the week!

While you’re at the Happy Cow, I encourage you to spend some time; it’s a terrific site.

Thanks Happy Cow!

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Our Blooming Thanksgiving Platter–Third Up: Barley with Butterut Squash and Baby Bellas

For this addition to our five-star Thanksgiving feast, I turned to star chef, Emeril Legasse. 

In a recent culinary magazine, his recipe for a barley, mushroom, and squash risotto made in a slow cooker really appealed to me.  I gave my slow cooker away age ago–I just don’t enjoy cooking that way–but I loved his concept.  So I simply made some quick-cooking barley and folded in cubed and sauteed butternut squash and baby bellas whose flavor I deepened with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.  It was a hit and it made a ton, so I plan to add broth and make soup with the leftovers.  

Minced rosemary would be a nice addition, but I was flavoring the gravy with rosemary, so I didn’t include and it is still super tasty.   Similarly, since our dressing included sauteed onion, I didn’t add, but sauteed onion and garlic would be nice, though my stripped down version was delicious and satisfying.

Yield: 16 servings (when served with a couple of other side dishes and a main dish)

4 cups vegetable broth or stock

Pinch sea salt

2 cups quick cooking barley

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 butternut squash about 8 inches long, seeds, membrane, and peel removed; cut ino 1/2 inch pieces

Pinch of sea salt

1 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced about 1/4-inch thick (I purchased them pre-sliced from Trader Joe’s)

Approximately 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the broth or stock and a pinch of salt to a simmer.  Stir in the quick cooking barley, and simmer, loosely covered, about 12 minutes or until tender and water is evaporated.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add squash and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until tender and just beginning to develop some color.  Lower heat if necessary to prevent from sticking.  Add mushrooms and continue sauteeing and stirring for about 3 minutes or until tender.  Turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast.  Spoon cooked barley into a large bowl, add vegetables, and gently stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if desired.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.  If you make the dish well in advance of serving, spoon it into an oiled heat-proof serving dish, cool, cover, and refrigerate until about an hour and a half before serving time. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about an hour before serving.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat barley mixture, covered, for 20-30 minutes or until lheated through.  Serve immediately.

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