Vegan Riced Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole
Quick-and-Easy

I think I have just invented legal crack!  I am a little late to the “riced” vegetable party, as I like my fried rice with, well, rice.  But, this casserole has made me a believer.

My Vegan Riced Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole has it all:

  • The entire casserole is vibrantly healthy and only 535 calories. That means you could eat the whole thing and still be under the typical number of calories for an entire meal.  Of course, you might have buzzard breath and a little abdominal gas, but that’s a small price to pay, no?
  • It goes together, stove top, in about 20 minutes plus 15 minutes of optional oven baking.
  • It is an ideal side for a host of main dishes, but you could also stuff an enchilada, spread it on toasted bread for crostini or on pizza, include it as a layer in lasagna, or serve it as a dip, just for starters.

Note: I purchased the broccoli and cauliflower already riced at Whole Foods, but you can make your own simply by pulsing chunks of both vegetables in a food processor until very finely minced.

1 tablespoons olive oil (125 calories)

4 green onions (both the white and green part), thinly sliced (20 calories)

2 large cloves garlic, minced (10 calories)

Pinch of sea salt and freshly grated black pepper

16 ounces (approximately 4 cups) riced broccoli-cauliflower combination (125 calories)

1 cup vegetable broth or stock (20 calories)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or a scant 1 teaspoon fresh, minced

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese, e.g. Tofutti brand (60 calories)

4 + 1 tablespoon vegan shredded Parmesan; e.g. Follow Your Heart brand (125 calories)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I like the flavor and health benefits; they don’t call it “nutritional” for nothing) (50 calories)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I love nutmeg in creamy savory dishes, but only the fresh)

Optional (but recommended): Zest of one-half medium lemon

(Note that my new Samsung gas range cooks with a lot of power.  What I used to cook at medium-high, I now cook at medium-low or low.  Seriously.  So, adjust accordingly.  I am going to recommend “medium” as a, well, happy medium.)

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Add green onions and garlic, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper, and saute, stirring, just until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add riced vegetables and saute, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Add broth and thyme.  Stir well to combine and simmer for 10 minutes or until moisture is released into cooking liquid and then almost entirely evaporated.  Stir in cream cheese, 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, optional nutritional yeast, and nutmeg, and heat until melted.  Stir in optional lemon zest.  At this point, you can either sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan and serve, or transfer mixture to a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray, sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan, and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Pre-Baked

 

Baked
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Vegan Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Cheese,
Maple Syrup & Sriracha
4 ingredient, quick & easy, super sexy appetizer

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t enjoy Brussels sprouts for breakfast. However, southeast Virginia, where I live, just experienced “Snowmageddon,” aka The Blizzard of 2018, and the light is absolutely breathtaking.

So I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot this morning to take advantage of the glorious glistening out the window.  And I certainly wasn’t going to allow these beauties to go to waste.

If you are in need of a quick, drop-dead gorgeous, and delicious appetizer–or breakfast (just kidding)–look no further.
Simply top crispy roasted Brussels sprouts halves with a dollop of softened vegan cream cheese or nut cheese, homemade or prepared like Treeline brand, a drizzle of maple syrup from a spoon going in one direction, and a drizzle of sriracha straight from the bottle going in the other direction–almost like handwriting–and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. (Note: I am impatient and like my Brussels sprouts practically charred, so I roast them at 500 degrees with just a hint of nonstick spray or olive oil and coarse sea salt, stir them a couple of times, and watch them carefully.)

Voila! You will impress your guests and satisfy both their eyes and their appetites.

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Vegan Cheesy Garlic and Herb Snack Crackers
quick and easy perfection

Every year of my life, until my mother passed away, I was in my parents home for Christmas. And every night before I was due to fly home, my mother would be up late–me often with her, though I tended to give out earlier than her even more intrepid and tenacious self–in the kitchen making a treat for me to take on the plane. It was either Chex Mix, which she called Texas Trash, or her famous almond butter toffee.

After Mama died, my father and sister were supposed to come to Virginia to celebrate Christmas with me, and both times there plans fell through. The first year, which was 2 years ago, they both got sick. This year, they got snowed in.

But, Tammy Wells, my best friend since 3rd grade, who was, like me, also recently widowed, came on Christmas Day to attend Bob’s and my open house for 35 beloved people in our lives, and spend the week. It has been a glorious will we end up hiking in the freezing cold, happy hours and tea with friends, dinner with Bob’s family, yoga, and more.

She is leaving at 6 this evening, flying back to Mississippi, so I had to uphold the tradition of my dear Mama, whom one of my friends dubbed the Genius of Christmas, and make Tammy  a treat for the plane.

I love Chex Mix and almond butter toffee, but I needed something even quicker. So I devised this tecioe in my mind, whipped it up, and even Bob the Omni who, for the most part, does not care for my food, loved them.

I will be making this quick and easy treat over and I can throughout the holidays and beyond.  Feel free to experiment with different types of dry seasoning mixes and nuts.

Recipe

1 6-ounce box Earth Balance Cheddar Flavor Squares

1/4 chp roasted and sakted almonds

1/4 cup really good olive oil

.70 to .75 ounce package dried garlic and herb seasoning mix

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a 9 x 13 -nch metal baking pan, combine crackers and almonds. In a small cup or bowl, whisk together olive oil, seasoning mix, and paprika. Drizzle over crackers and almonds, stir gently to combine well, place in oven and bake for 7 minutes.  Stir and bake for 7 more minutes. Let cool and store in airtight containers.

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Vegan Nutella and Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

I can’t see Santa’s Forest for these adorable trees.

Apparently they are all the rage this year, but I was evidently a little late to the pastry tree party.  Make yours with pizza dough or puff pastry and spread with the sweet or savory filling you most crave. Just be sure to include a creamy base to adhere the layers together.

My version is sweet–but not too–uses only three ingredients and, after the pastry thaws, is ready to devour in under 30 minutes.  I left a Middle Eastern dinner and this tree last night for our dog sitters (yes, we are those dog owners) while we joined friends for their Christmas Eve Eve tradition: a salad and sip of wine followed by a Christmas light-lit walk over to the Naro, an independent film house, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The twins left some of the tabouli salad but not a crumb of the pastry. It was a huge hit with these 19 year olds.

My take on this new classic was inspired by its key ingredient: Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata Oraganic Dairy-Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread, generously sent to me for product review purposes. With a deeply nutty and chocolatey flavor–its richness undiluted by dairy–and a thick and creamy–but spreadable–texture, this product is tops in my pantry (it needs no refrigeration).  It is also gluten- and palm oil-free.

Recipe

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions

4.5 to 5 ounces vegan Hazelnut-Cocoa spread (1/2 jar Nocciolata)

1 to 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On baking stone or parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, stack the two pastry sheets.  With a sharp knife, cut into a triangular tree shape with a 1-inch or so wide trunk at the bottom. Remove top sheet, spread bottom sheet with hazelnut-cocoa spread, replace top sheet, lining up edges, and press down gently.

Cut 1 star from scraps and whatever other shapes you like fir nibbling or to serve as croutons on salads. Place pastry shapes on a separate stone or lined baking sheet.

Make 3/4-inch wide horizontal cuts from outer edges of triangle toward the center, stopping even with outer edges of trunk leaving a 1-inch or so wide trunk up the center. Twist each long cut strip twice and the shorter ones once, pressing tips firmly against baking stone or sheet.  Brush very lightly with non-dairy milk, press star onto top point, and brush star with a tiny bit more non-dairy milk.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, but remove shapes cut from scraps after 10 or 15 minutes or they will burn. Remove baking sheet with pastry tree from oven, cool slightly, and slide tree onto serving platter. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Best Vegan Quick-and-Easy Pad Thai Lite
with Spiralized Veggie Noodles

Yield: 2 servings (easily multiplies)

I love Pad Thai–heck, I adore all Thai food–but I rarely let myself make or order it because it packs a wallop in the calorie department.

But last weekend, I was in Whole Foods, and saw a beautiful rainbow of spiralized vegetables. I chose the butternut squash and the turnip and brought them home. I roasted them together in a 450-degree oven with a tiny bit of oil, but then I wasn’t sure what to do with them.

But when my friend shared her homemade Asian fusion birthday dinner with me via Facebook last night, I woke up with thoughts of Pad Thai on my mind. After some beautiful days in the 60s, it is suddenly in the 90s here and I didn’t want to be in the kitchen long. So I whipped up a quick version that I would eat again and again. See if you agree.

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (I used coconut sugar)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups bean sprouts

2 large green onions sliced, both white and green part

2 cups roasted or steamed spiralized vegetables (I used a combination of butternut squash and turnip)

1/2 large lime

2 tablespoons chopoed roasted and lightly salted peanuts

In a small bowl, whisk together first three ingredients. Pour oil into large skillet and heat over medium-high. Add bean sprouts and stir fry for a minute or two followed by green onions. Add spiralized vegetables and stir fry for another minute or two. Divided between two plates and sqeeze the juice of one quarter of the large lime over each. Top each with one quarter cup remaining bean sprouts and one tablespoon of chopped peanuts. Serve immediately with chopsticks.

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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 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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