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 Indian Samosa Potato-Pea Salad on a Poppadom

This salad combines all of the ingredients that I love about Indian Samosas into a much lighter dish because I substitute poppadoms for the fat-and-flaky crust that encases all of the spicy potato and pea goodness.  I roast the potatoes for extra flavor and I stir the traditional cilantro and mint dipping chutneys and spices into the dressing, dolloping a mango or fruit-type chutney on the top.

Don’t you think the salad look enchanting served in its poppadom cup?  As you probably know, poppadoms are very low-calorie/low-fat Indian chickpea wafers with a high level of flavor.  They puff up magnificently in the microwave in a mere 45-60 seconds.  The shape into which they morph is not always predictable, so you might end up with something rippled but flatter and less cup-like, but no worries.  The dish will still look beautiful and taste divine even if presented as more of a tostado.

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups quartered new potatoes (mine were white-skinned)

1 1/2 cups fresh peas

2 pinches of sea salt

1/4 cup vegan mayo (the Blooming Platter Mayo in my new cookbook is quite special, if I do say so myself; but any kind will do)

1 teaspoon prepared Indian Cilantro Chutney (available at Indian markets and the International aisle of better-stocked grocery stores)

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon prepared Indian Mint Chutney (also available at Indian markets and the International aisle of better-stocked grocery stores)

4 poppadoms

4 teaspoons or a bit more Indian fruit chutney (prepared or homemade; I used my homemade Blackberry Chutney because I had some on hand)

Optional garnish: 4 petite slices of yellow, red or orange bell pepper or even Roma tomato + 4 sprigs of mint or cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place tablespoon of olive oil into a large roasting pan, add potatoes and a pinch of salt and toss lightly to coat.  Roast for about 30  minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes.  I like mind to develop a nice caramelization, but roast for less time if you don’t.  Just make sure they are very tender.  Remove potatoes to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

While potatoes roast, place peas into a 2 quart saucepan.  Add water to just barely cover and a pinch of salt.  Stir once , turn heat to medium-high, cover lightly, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Add to bowl with potatoes.

In a small bowl, stir together vegan mayo, the cilantro and mint chutneys, and the coriander, cumin and curry powder.  Pour the dressing over the potatoes and peas and stir gently to distribute evenly.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cook poppadoms, a couple at a time, for 45-60 seconds in the microwave.  Remove, place on salad plates, fill each with 1/4 of the salad mixture, dollop with about a teaspoon of the Indian fruit chutney, and garnish as desired.

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Vegan Red, White and Green Orzo (Quick and Easy!)

Yield: 4 servings

My fellow teacher friend, Betsy Morris, is married to a farmer in the Pungo area of Virginia Beach. At various times throughout the year, she will generously bring a basket full of fresh produce to school to share with our faculty and staff. This week, she gifted us with beautiful thin asparagus, my favorite kind. I whipped up this quick and tasty dinner when I returned home from seeing our school’s wonderful production of “Guys and Dolls.” I was ravenous, but it was late, so this light dinner did the trick. Basil would be delicious in this dish, but it’s not quite fresh basil season in our area.

3 cups generously salted water
1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, and cut into1-inch pieces
1 cup grape tomato halves
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds

In a medium-large pot, bring water to a boil. Stir in orzo, cover loosely, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for approximately 8 minutes or until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add asparagus and saute until lightly browned on some surfaces. Add tomatoes and just heat through. Add drained pasta, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and heat through. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl or individual serving bowls. Top with smoked almonds. (You might want to pass the smoked almonds separately for each person to sprinkle onto his or her serving which, in case there are leftovers, will prevent the almonds from becoming soft.)

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