Day 16: Sweet & Savory Nut Brittle–“‘Cooking the Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle(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: 360 degrees on an accurate thermometer is the correct temperature to which the sugar syrup should be brought.  However, use your eyes and nose too in case your thermometer, like Kim’s, is not properly calibrated.  You want it dark and deep amber, but obviously, not scorched.]

As I write about the events of tonight’s recipe and describe my most epic fail so far, I am sitting beside an open screen door in 40 degree weather trying to air out my kitchen – my eyes watering from the smoke and the smell of burnt sugar.

I chose Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle. I was so excited about this one because I love brittle anything. Everything started out great. I oiled the pans and measured the ingredients. I dug my candy thermometer out of the drawer and brought the sugar mixture to a boil. I was standing there holding the thermometer up for about two or three minutes before I realized it had a clip on the back – how handy!!

Now I have never in my life brought a candy past the hard ball stage so this was new for me. It seemed like a very long way to go to get to 360 degrees but I was patient. Apparently, however, 360 on my thermometer is the just-before-the-smoke-alarms-go -off-and-it-bursts-into-flames degrees. (I vaguely remember now that something went wrong with the thermometer last time I used it.)

Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle RuinedThe sugar mixture was now black but I thought “Well maybe this is how brittle is done or maybe it’s the balsamic vinegar – that’s black.” So I poured in the nuts and chili powder, stirred it and poured it on the baking sheet. I waited a little bit then pressed in the salt and then broke off a tiny piece to try. The burnt flavor was overwhelming, but being the optimistic person I am, I thought that maybe that goes away when it cools a little more. So I waited.

When it was cool enough to break, I got out the hammer and whacked it. It broke like glass and flew in different directions all over my kitchen. As I was picking it up, I tried a bigger piece and it was like scooping up a bite of ash out of my fireplace – awful!! I couldn’t eat it. I wouldn’t let my dog eat this fiasco. No literally! My dog was excitedly all over this one and I turned around and dug a piece of it out of her mouth. I was afraid of the potential carcinogens not to mention the sharp glass like shards cutting her mouth.

I was so disappointed (as was the dog!). I really think I should leave the candy making to someone with more experience in this field. I am positive this recipe tastes amazing when made by someone other than myself.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Best Vegan Nicely Spicy Holiday Nuts

Nicely Spicy Holiday NutsYield: approximately 2 pounds of nuts

These addicting nuts are perfect for New Year’s Day football watching or any time a protein-packed and exquisite snack is in order.

For years Ina Garten’s recipe for Rosemary Cashews was my go-to for snacking and gift-giving.  But I found myself craving something with a little more complex flavor and a little less sweet.  So I began experimenting and this was my favorite delicious result. You may substitute pecan halves if you like, but they will likely require less cooking time.

This recipe easily doubles or triples.  I triple it and use a large roasting pan.

For gift-giving, I like to package the nuts inside a resealable plastic sandwich bag inside a tin to prevent the tin’s interior from becoming messy.

 

28 to 32 ounces roasted and lightly salted or salted cashews (the cans I purchase at Bed, Bath, and Beyond come as 28 ounces)

1/3 cup vegan butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon adobo (from a can of chiles in adobo)

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional but delish)

1/2 teaspoon natural sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all ingredients in a 9 x 13″ baking pan, and taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently until fragrant and lightly golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight containers.

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Vegan Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Nutritional Yeast, Dried Orange Zest, and Seaweed–a subtle flavor combination that will change your life!

Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Nutritional Yeast, Dried Orange Zest and SeaweedYield: 2 pounds nuts

This flavor combination is a nod to by my beloved Hurricane Popcorn, which was inspired by the Hawaiian mainstay.

 

1/4 cup vegan butter (you can subsitute olive oil, but the flavor won’t be as rich)

2 pounds raw pumpkin seeds (I purchase two 1 pound bags from Trader Joe’s)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon Nori powder or dulce flakes (to make Nori powder, break up and process a Nori sheet in a spice grinder)

1 teaspoon onion powder (or garlic powder for a slightly different, but equally delicious, flavor)

1 teaspoon dried minced orange zest (I purchase it prepared on the spice aisle)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in oven in 9 x 13″ roasting pan.  Remove from oven and add all ingredients, sprinkling dry ingredients over the whole surface, and stirring to evenly coat seeds with butter and other ingredients.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven, cool in pan on a wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

These nuts will make a tasty and highly sought after holiday gift from your kitchen…if you don’t eat them all first!

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Vegan Smokey BBQ Chex Mix (Never fear, this addicting mix does NOT taste like BBQ potato chips!)

Smokey BBQ Chex MixAfter creating my Vegan Asian Chex Mix (read: culinary cocaine–sorry!), I was on a roll!

If you’re interested in how this amalgamation came about, keep reading.  If not, just skip straight to the addicting recipe below.

Scanning my spices for one that would be delicious but that I hadn’t seen used in a Chex Mix–which is not to say that it hasn’t been–I lit upon smoked paprika, an all-time favorite.

That led me in a BBQ direction (but not like BBQ potato chips of which I’m not fond).  Not wanting the flavor profile to scream BBQ, I chose not to add any BBQ sauce to the melted butter, but I thought that maybe an ingredient used in BBQ sauce might be the ticket, deciding upon mustard as a nice substitute for the tanginess of Worcestershire Sauce, which is not vegna but is one of the traditional ingredients in the vintage Chex Mix recipes.

And that, in turn, led to Corn Chex because corn cakes are so delicious with all things BBQ. But I combined the Corn Chex with Rice Chex because, I don’t know, it sounded southern?  Ditto the pecans.  As for the Cheerios, I added them because they are a traditional part of the mix, so to speak, and a nice shape and flavor contrast.

And, finally, I decided to provide a little contrast to all of the tangy, salty deliciousness with just a hint of maple syrup because BBQ sauce often has a hint of sweetness for balance, and maple syrup is so delectable with corn cakes.

In my mind and mouth, it all ties together beautifully.  See what you think…I ended up having to package it and give it as some belated New Year’s gifts today lest I founder myself.  See this post for a pretty packaging idea.

 

6 ups Corn Chex

6 cups Rice Chex

2 cups Cheerios (not the whole grain variety which are fairly highly sweetened)

1 cup smoked almonds

1 cup lightly roasted and salted peanuts

1 1/2 cups lightly roasted and salted chashews

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1 cup vegan butter, melted

2 tablespoons Liquid Aminos

1 teaspoon mustard (I used stone ground)

1 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s brand)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Optional: 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large roasting pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients except maple syrup (avoid adding it during the baking period, as it will cause the mixture to burn because of the sugars).  Drizzle evenly over dry mix and combine, using your hands, trying to coat every piece with the butter mixture.  Place pan in center of oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring really well from the sides and corners to the center, every 1o minutes.  Remove from oven, drizzle with maple syrup, and stir well to combine.  To cool, spread mixture out in a thin layer on kitchen counter or baking sheets lined with paper towels or brown paper grocery bags. Cool completely.  Store in airtight containers or in ziplock bags inside airtight containers for extra protection for about a week.

 

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Raw Vegan Ya Ya Bars (dried plums, nuts, coconut, and melted chocolate, oh my!)

Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone
Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone

Yield: 24 squares (they are rich and dense, so I cut them smaller than usual)

If you are in need of a healthy bite for graduation parties, these are your ticket!  They are non-vegan male teenager approved (and meatatarian husbands love them too)!

These bars were inspired by my inimitable yoga instructor, Angela Phillips’, scrumptious “La La Bars.”  (Her nickname is La La.)  I call mine Ya Ya Bars after the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

But “brothers” love them too, as noted above.  Having taken the bars to enjoy as soon as my AP Art students got their portfolios assembled on May 9, I suddenly remembered that I didn’t have any pictures of them, so Bryanna snapped this photo before they were all devoured.

When Angela gifted me with the bars, I didn’t ask for the recipe.  So, since I love a culinary challenge, so I just made mine up as I went along.

She uses dates in hers, but my grocery store was out.  So, I substituted pitted dried plums, as I have had great success with my Vegan Plum Delicious Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies and my Vegan Chocolate-Plum Butter Mousse.  Who knew those two flavors were so compatible?  While I have not tried my recipe with dates, feel free to give it a whirl.  My assumption is that they will taste more pecan pie-like and slightly less fruity than my dried plum variety.  Very good, just different.

However you decide to make them, you are sure to love them as much as everyone else.  And thank you, Angela, for the inspiration!

1 cup nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans)

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

18 ounces pitted dried plums (make sure they are very moist in a sealed cardboard canister or bag)

9 to 10 ounces vegan chocolate chips, melted

Pinch sea salt

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil.  In a food processor, finely chop nuts and coconut and transfer to a medium size bowl.  Add plums to processor and pulse until finely chopped.  They will tend to mash together but avoid making a puree.  Transfer to bowl with nuts and coconut.   Using fingers, combine well without compacting.  Pour melted chocolate over the mixture along with a healthy pinch of sea salt, and continue to combine with your fingers until all ingredients are completely incorporated.  Press evenly into prepared pan, cover, and refrigerate several hours or until cold.  Cut into squares and serve.  If you prefer, invert them onto a cutting board, remove foil, and then cut.

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On the First Day of Christmas…Vegan Kale, Toasted Hazelnut and Orange Pesto Topped with Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Merry Christmas a day early everyone! 

This recipe is a three-fer and may require a quick nip into the grocery store, so I wanted you to have a time to procure the ingredients before Christmas arrives because this little nosh packs big flavor and is exactly how my family prefers to eat on Christmas Day.  Or you might even want to serve it tonight for Christmas Eve with your favorite beverage or imbibement.

Back in the day, my family loved a big feast.  Now we nosh.  But, regardless, this tri-level treat will be lovely alongside whatever else you serve.

My special Toasted Pumpkin Seeds don’t absolutely have to go on top, but I love nuts and seeds, so if a (wal)nut plus a (hazel) nut is good, a nut plus a seed is even better.  Therefore, you can just put out a bowl of the seeds for nibbling, then stand back and watch them disappear.

Along those lines, any one of the three parts of this stacked appetizer has a multitude of uses, so let your imagination and the rest of your menu be your guide.

May you have exactly the kind of holiday you need!

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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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Vegan Smoked Almond and Spinach Spread (or Pesto)–Great Made with Farm Stand Swiss Chard and Kale Too!

Vegan Spinach and Smoked Almond Spread

Yesterday, at the farm stand, gazing lovingly at the fresh greens grown right on the property, I suddenly remembered that I had never posted this recipe. I made it with spinach, but it would be just as good with Swiss Chard or kale.

Fondly dubbed by one guest as “the green thing” at my friend, Jo Grice Barrows’, potluck appetizer birthday party, this dip was a hit!  And it was by NO means a vegan crowd!

I came home from school on a Friday after a busy week near the end of the academic year, the day of the party, and it started pouring.  I thought to myself, “I REALLY don’t want to get out; I wonder if we have ANYTHING on hand from which I could make an appetizer?”

A scan of the pantry and fridge yielded smoked almonds and fresh baby spinach.  Voila!  Vegan Smoked Almond and Spinach Spread was born.  And its consistency makes it also perfect for a pesto.

This crowd-pleasing appetizer could not go together more more easily or more quickly.  I whipped it up and still had time to walk both dogs their typical mile each once the rain stopped.  When I told my husband I created the spread from what we had in the house, he said with mock incredulity, “You made it out of dog food and Pill Pockets?”  Funny guy.

You will love this spread even if you have LOTS more ingredients on hand.

2 cups smoked almonds

4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

2 tablespoons water

2 large cloves garlic, halved

2 teaspoons fresh fresh lime  juice (lemon is tasty too)

1 teaspoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon natural sugar

Optional pinch sea salt

Accompaniments: crackers, toasts, bagel chips, fresh vegetable “dippers,” etc.

Place smoked almonds  in a food processor, and pulse until nuts are finely chopped.  Add spinach, and pulse a few more times until spinach is finely chopped and mixture just begins to hold together like a paste.  Add remaining ingredients and continue pulsing until all ingredients are incorporated and mixture reaches a thick, slightly textured, spreadable consistency.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.  Serve in a bowl surrounded by the accompaniments of your choice.  I tucked a little yellow parasol on the side since the weather was warm, but you can garnish however you please.

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Vegan Indian Cashew Swiss Chard, Kale or Spinach–A Rich Luscious Feast of a Dish

Indian Cashew SpinachYield: 4 to 6 servings

[If you want to skip the back story, simply click HERE for the recipe on One Green Planet.]

Somehow, my planning hadn’t been very good, as we were about to leave town for five days and I had two bunches of hardy Red Russian Kale and 1 of beautiful rainbow Swiss Chard in our fridge.

Knowing it wouldn’t keep, I thought about making a pesto to freeze, but lately I have been Jonesin’ for Indian food big-time.  So, I decided that if I made a very thick  saag without anything that doesn’t freeze perfectly, like coconut milk, I could pop it in the freezer and enjoy when we returned home.

Not only did it freeze beautifully, but it tasted wonderful before and after freezing with a texture to match!

This amount of greens and onions sounds like a mountain, but it only makes 4 to 6 servings because I chop the greens so finely and it all cooks down significantly.

I served this Indian Cashew Spinach over grilled tempeh, but it would be good over cooked Basmati rice or with just about anything, including a spoon!

For the recipe, visit my pals at One Green Planet by clicking HERE.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: OGP has recently gone through a website redesign, are aware that advertisements sometimes prevent folks from accessing recipes and are working to remedy the situation.  PLEASE, if you experience this, let me know via comment or email and I will send you the recipe directly as well as let them know.  The last thing I want is to put this much effort into recipes only to find out that interested cooks can’t access them.  Thanks so much!)

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