The Blooming Platter’s Betsy DiJulio Invited to Give Cooking Demo at PETA’s Leadership Weekend
(and a ringing endorsement for my Tofu Egg Salad)

Food(For the Recipes, scroll down about half way to the links.)

Not many things would make me grocery shop and cook for four hours on a Friday night with a fever, congestion in every passage from my neck up, and a cough that would cause mothers to gather their children to their skirts.

But a cooking demonstration for PETA donors was one of them.

I am fortunate to live basically in the back yard of PETA’s East Coast headquarters, located in Norfolk, VA.  A resident of the neighboring city of VA Beach, I am even more fortunate to have been asked to give a cooking demonstration for 45 of their major US donors on Saturday, May 14.

Those individuals in the group who don’t reside in our area flew themselves to Norfolk to join local donors where they were treated to a weekend of information sessions from upper level PETA executives, wonderful vegan meals, comfy lodging, my cooking demonstration, and more.Betsy Squeezing a Lemon
I cannot say enough positive things about both the PETA’s East and West Coast staff, how they welcomed me, and how they worked together seamlessly to run a tight ship.

Arriving a bit early to their sunny office building moored along the riverfront, I was met by the loveliest, professional, but relaxed and helpful women and men who made my job easy.  We loaded a cart, efficiently developed a serving plan, and everyone slid right into their roles.  The most challenging aspect of the whole presentation was finding somewhere to attach the lavalier mic on my rather skimpy dress, discreetly covered by a sweater, I should hastily add.

Betsy Food ProcessingThe demo took place on a stage in a meeting room, supported by a cracker jack AV team, for the hour just before lunch, so I didn’t want to prepare anything sweet or that would conflict with their tasty vegan bento boxes from Kotobuki on Colley Avenue in Norfolk.  The PETA staff members, who have plenty of these demos under their belts, steered me away from hummus–it’s so ubiquitous as to have become the Pasta Primavera of vegan hors d’oeuvres–and anything with the misunderstood mushroom.  So they enthusiastically agreed on the most popular recipe on my entire website: Tofu Egg Salad with its “dark secret” (of Indian black salt that tastes and smells exactly like boiled eggs) on thin slices of rye party rye bread and my very springy dill-scented Smoky Grilled Asparagus and White Bean Spread on rice crackers.  Both, I am humbled to report, were big hits, especially the egg salad.

Betsy SmilingI am similarly gratified that my demo was so well-received.  One of the staff members shared that they have presented many of these and that they are often “dry,” but that mine wasn’t.  I have to admit that I was a bit relieved, as I had come down with a fever after school on Thursday, worked Friday still with a fever because progress report grades were due, rallied to grocery shop and prepare ingredients Friday night (missing my beloved candlelight yoga class) and half a day Saturday.  Afterwards,  I drove straight home, climbed into bed and stayed there until Monday when my fever finally broke.

But the show had to go on and it was completely worth it.

A big thank you to PETA and to my contact, Megan Eding.

Fun Note:  A couple of weeks after the demo, I received this lovely email from Barry M. from Baltimore who were in attendance:

Hi Betsy,

We attended the PETA Leadership weekend in Norfolk and were at the cooking demonstration you gave.  I was so excited about the tofu egg salad recipe because I used to love egg salad and had given up eggs years and years ago.  I couldn’t wait to get home, order the black salt, and try out your recipe. I got the black salt on Amazon.com, whipped up a batch using Hampton Creek mayo and the result was spectacular.  Even my spouse Tom loved it, and he is a picky eater when it comes to vegan eating.  This recipe will now be a permanent addition to our cook book binder and we can’t wait to share it with our non-vegan friends and fool them – they won’t know the difference and I’m sure will enjoy it as much as we do.

Thanks so much to giving that demonstration and sharing this wonderful recipe.  Looking forward to checking out more recipes on your web site and trying them out.

Sincerely,

barry m

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Day 13: Vegan Curried Couscous AND Vegan Pear, Walnut and “Blue Cheese” Sandwiches–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Pear, Walnut & Blue Cheese Sandwiches

(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: the “F” on Kim’s photo is the grade she gave herself for her adlibbed cheese layer of the sandwiches, NOT for the recipe.]

Today I was super ambitious and decided to take on two recipes.

The first one, Curried Couscous, was the easiest one I have made to date. My biggest challenge was the fact that I had no idea what couscous was. My family has never eaten it. So of course I’m standing in the rice aisle at the grocery store searching up and down. I suppose I looked lost because two of the store managers who were in a deep discussion behind me stopped and walked over to see if I needed help. I said I was looking for couscous explaining that I had never used it before and one pointed it out to me and then proceeded to show me all the different kinds. The other manager told him to stop confusing me and just handed me a box of the plain. They were both so kind that I took two and was on my way.

Putting this recipe together was totally uneventful, thus a real confidence builder for me. I’m totally getting the hang of this vegan cooking… until I took on the Pear Walnut and “Blue Cheese” Sandwiches.

Ok I had already decided that my “blue cheese” wasn’t going to have quotation marks around it. I was buzzing on a total confidence high from the couscous. Pears, bread, mustard, and brown sugar? I got this! The assortment of flavors sounded a little strange, but one thing I have learned from cooking The Blooming Platter is to just go with it and it all comes together in the end.

So I now have the sandwiches under the broiler and go to the fridge for my cheater blue cheese dressing and once again…I can’t find any. It’s gone. So now what? The sandwiches are now out of the oven and sitting on top of the stove not looking so appetizing to me (I was really looking forward to the blue cheese). I searched the fridge again hoping it would magically appear. It did not. So I started reading the recipe for the “blue cheese” and I have none of those ingredients. Time to get creative I guess.

I chose pepper jack cheese and cream cheese – I know, don’t judge me – and I layered it on the sandwiches and put them back under the broiler. Then I remembered I forgot to put the walnuts on it so I quickly took it back out and buried them under the cheese. It came out a little burnt around the edges so I cut the crust off and I honestly did eat it for lunch. I have to say it wasn’t bad!

I did not make this for my family because they really don’t like pears for one, and two, they would definitely object to using fruits with mustard and cheese; and my husband hates walnuts as well. I can definitely say I will be making both of these again. The couscous tasted really good! We served it right out of the pot so fast that I did not get a photo of it but it was beautiful. However I regret to say that I did get a photo of the “sandwich” even though I am sure it looks nothing like a pear, walnut and blue cheese sandwich. I promise to do it by the (cook)book next time!

~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Day 11: Vegan Broiled Tofu Sandwiches with Broccoli Pesto–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Broiled Tofu Sandwiches with Broccoli Pesto

(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.)

Today is a big day in my challenge. I feel it is time to face my fears and choose a recipe with …. tofu.

Now the truth is I have no opinion on it and no valid reason to dislike it because I don’t even know what it is. So I’m going into this with an open mind! I chose the Broiled Tofu Sandwiches with Broccoli Pesto. I was lucky enough to have seen tofu in the produce section the week before so I knew right where to get it and thankfully the recipe told me what type to get. So that was easy.

My biggest challenge in the grocery store was trying to locate pine nuts. After 20 minutes of searching I gave up and went home….and that’s exactly where I found pine nuts! I forgot they were in my pantry all along. So shopping is out of the way.

I started by slicing the tofu and preparing it as directed for the broiler. Next step was to break out the food processor. Again. Quite honestly, wrestling with that heap of plastic was the hardest part of this recipe.

I have to admit that when the instructions said season to taste, I threw in a clove of garlic. I do love putting garlic in almost everything. That was my only deviation I swear. I even used the nutritional yeast. We put the sandwiches together and we were ready to try them. I chose an evening when my husband would not be home because I knew I would have to provide other options if he were there.

My youngest son was as curious as me so we sat down to dinner hoping the other one would take the first bite. We discussed what tofu was while we studied it. He reported that it was plant protein but seriously, that doesn’t tell me anything. What plant? How it it made? I have a lot of googling to do obviously. Bored with all my questions, he finally took the first bite and said “Not bad!” That was enough for me.

I tried it and thought it was surprisingly good. I confess I had tried it just out of the oven and was not that impressed but together with the pesto and ciabatta…Wow!! In my son’s words – Not bad! He had to leave for work but when he got home later he took the leftovers out of the fridge and finished them off – that’s says a lot. So now the big question…

Will I give up my omnivorous ways? No, but I will definitely not be afraid to eat tofu again.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Vegan Ricecake Stack with Hummus, Pesto, Baby Greens, Fresh Figs, and Smoked Almonds

Ricecake with Hummus, Pesto, Baby Kale Salad and Fresh Figs

Yield: 4 servings

As many of you know, since July 30, I have not been cooking or eating much, though the urge is slowly coming back.

In terms of cooking, a bounty of vegan food gifts over the last two weeks made any food preparation I might do redundant.

And, in terms of eating, though I may not want much, when I do eat, I want my small meal to be beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and relatively quick and easy.  So, this simple stack gets a check in all of those boxes.

Granted, we all know, that ricecakes can be topped with darn near anything, but this is an especially good combination.  Very seasonal and satisfying.

4 ricecakes

1/2 cup hummus, homemade or prepared

1/4 cup vegan pesto, homemade or prepared

8 figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise

1/4 cup lightly dressed baby kale or spinach (I use a simple homemade vinaigrette)

4 smoked almonds

Sea salt

Spread each ricecake with 2 tablespoons hummus.  Top each with 1 tablespoon pesto and spread, leaving a border.  Divide greens among the ricecakes, and top eachwith 4 fig halves, 1 smoked almond, and a few grains of sea salt.  Serve immediately.

 

 

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Vegan “Tuna” Salad with Sunflower Seeds, Apple, Capers, and Dill

Nutty TunaYield: approximately 4 cups “tuna” salad

On Mother’s Day, my phenomenal weekend yoga instructor, Angela Philips, mentioned after our morning class that she had prepared her “Nutty Tuna,” made with sunflower seeeds, for her Mother’s Day brunch.  She had given me that recipe years ago and at the mere mention, I began craving it.

So I made a batch on Monday, but it wasn’t quite right.  I hadn’t consulted the recipe, choosing to make it from memory instead, and, among other things, I went overboard on my substitution of Nori powder for dulce flakes and used an inferior mayo I had on hand that had been given to me.  Honestly, it was kind of a dud.  I ate a fair amount of it during the week so as not to be wasteful, but it was off the mark, and I discarded the remainder today with little remorse.

But, this past Saturday, I purchased the ingredients I needed, tried it again yesterday afternoon, and I am happy to report that it is delicious.  This time, I consulted the recipe just to see if I needed to adhere more closely and decided that I didn’t because, for example, I didn’t want to include the parsley it called for and I knew I wanted mayonnaise to adhere all of the ingredients together, while the original recipe relies only on the moistness of the celery, onion, parsley, soaked sunflower seeds and a tiny bit of lemon juice.

From the original recipe, I did decide to use the capers called for instead of the pickle relish I had added last week.   When I was a pre-vegan kid, we always added pickle relish to our tuna salad, but it didn’t work so well with this vegan version.  And I added fresh dill, which Angela has started doing too.  Though I associate dill more with “chicken” salad, it is widely known to be compatible with seafood, and it is really nice in this recipe.  In addition, I included some dried apple, as we often chopped up fresh apple in our childhood tuna salad.  Since it is not apple season here and I had some moist and plump dried ones in the pantry, I opted for them and am so glad I did, as they lend just a hint of sweetness.

In the end, this recipe is a little down-home with all the mayo and a little upscale with the addition of capers.  As such, I think it is the best of both worlds and hope you agree.

Be sure to begin soaking sunflower seeds the day before you plan to serve the salad.

 

14 ounces roasted sunflower seeds (salted or not, but the salt will be drained away after soaking)

1 Nori sheet torn in pieces (or 1 teaspoon Nori powder or dulce flakes)

2 cups warm water

4 celery hearts, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons drained fresh capers

1 cup lightly packed fresh dill fronds, stemmed and broken in half

Optional but very good: 1/3 cup dried apple pieces (be sure they are moist and plump)

1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

8 to 10 tablespoons Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise (my favorite brand for this, but use the mayo of your choice)

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Place sunflower seeds and Nori sheet pieces in medium bowl and cover with warm water.  Cover and let stand 8 hours or over night.  Drain, pressing gently, to remove as much water as possible.  Place celery, green onions, capers, fresh dill, optional dried apple, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Add drained and pressed sunflower seeds and continue pulsing until sunflower seeds are also finely minced.  Add mayonnaise, submerge into mixture with a spatula, and pulse until well combined.  I prefer almost a spread consistency, but still with lots of texture.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and additional teaspoon of lemon juice, if desired.  Pulse just to distribute.  Serve immediately or chilled on a sandwich, toasted bagel, stuffed in a tomato, or on crackers.  Note: if you desire a more pronounced flavor of the sea and a darker color, use Nori powder or dulce flakes and add them to the mixture in the food processor rather than to the soaking water.

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Vegan St. Patrick’s Day: A Roasted Asparagus Sammie and a Grasshopper Pie!

It finally feels like spring though, don’t get me wrong, I adore winter with its bare bones and harsh beauty, but it is nice to step outsdie without my body tensing up.  Actually, it does in a kind of conditioned response, but then relaxes again immediately.

So, with spring veg like asparagus on my mind and St. Patty’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d re-post a Vegan Puff Pastry Sandwich Filled with Roasted Asparagus, Green Pea Hummus and Vegan Orange-Chipotle Mayonnaise that I created one year especially for the occasion, and a delish mint-chocolate Vegan Grasshopper Pie, kindly posted by Tofutti, that I created another year, also for this greenest of holidays.

Yes, with its layers, the sammie is a little more effort than the typical BUT it is worth it.  And you can whip up the humms and mayo in a flash while the asparagus roasts and the puff pastry bakes.

Get your leprechaun on!

 

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Vegan Waldorf Panini

Waldorf PaniniA favorite cold, creamy, and crunchy salad from childhood made into a warm, toasted, grown-up sandwich, popular with all ages.  
Why?  Yesterday was National Sandwich Day and Tofutti Brands requested a new sandwich recipe made with one of their tasty ingredients.  You can see my guest post HERE.  Note that I use the Tofutti products made without transfat; be sure to read the labels.
Waldorf Panini
Yield: 1 sandwich
3 tablespoons Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, softened
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (toast for even more flavor)
1 celery heart, sliced lengthwise into quarters, and finely chopped
1 date, finely chopped
Pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch no salt all-purpose seasoning
Optional: 1-2 teaspoons minced fennel fronds
1/4 apple, cored and sliced very thin
1 bagel or sandwich roll, halved, or 2 slices whole grain bread
Preheat panini grill.  In a small bowl, using a fork, combine all ingredients except apple and bread.  Spread on bottom slice of bagel, roll or bread.  Stack evenly with apple slices and top with remaining slice of bagel, roll, or bread.  Grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until toasted and golden brown.  Halve and serve immediately.  Note:  if you have no panini maker, just prepare as a grilled cheese sandwich in a cast iron skillet using  a little vegan butter or oil in the pan.
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Vegan “Go Bean” Burgers with Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping–A Tofutti Exclusive

Green-Go Bean Burger 3Yield: 4 burgers

I love developing recipes, like these “Go Bean” green-themed burgers, exclusively for Tofutti Brands, Inc! 

These simple, delicious and nutritious Mexican-spiced patties hold together beautifully and their pleasantly chewy texture is the perfect counterpoint to their spicy-tart Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping made with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.

Lima beans may sound odd for a bean burger–though you can use whatever bean you prefer–but I had some fresh ones on hand from our farmer’s market; and they are, in fact, what spawned the whole “green” approach: butter lettuce instead of a bun, a thick slice of green tomato, the Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping with lime zest, and a garnish of fresh lime.

And about that topping:  it’s delicious on these burgers, but it would be fabulous on an old shoe…it’s that good!  Your beef burger-eating friends will be green with envy!

Note that Tofutti makes two types of Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Sour Cream, one with transfat and one without, each in its own color carton.  So read the nutrition information to make sure you purchase the one you prefer. 

1 3/4 cup fresh cooked lima beans (or 1-15.5 ounce can of your favorite bean, rinsed and drained)

1/3 cup walnuts (or your favorite nut)

1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

Optional: 1 tablespoon water

4 toasted hamburger buns or 4 butter lettuce leaves

4 slices green tomato

Green Chili-“Cream Cheese” Topping (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: lime zest and/or thin slices of lime

 

Place all ingredients, except tomato, topping, and bun–using only 1 of the tablespoons olive oil and optional water–in a food processor and pulse until mixture is well combined.  Then run motor for a few seconds until mixture holds together; avoid over processing.  Shape mixture into 4 patties about 3/4-inch thick.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add patties and cook 5 minutes or until golden brown, adding another tablespoon of oil and swirling around pan if needed halfway through.  Flip, add remaining tablespoon of oil, swirl, and cook another 5 minutes to brown remaining side.  Place each patty on a bun or lettuce leaf, top with a slice of tomato and 1/4 of the sauce, and serve immediately.  Garnish, if desired, with lime zest and/or thin slices of lime.

 

Green Chili-“Cream Cheese” Topping

8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

1 can chopped green chilies, drained

Zest of 1 small lime

In a small bowl, heat cream cheese for about a minute in the microwave or until very soft and stir-able.  Add green chilies, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

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Veganized!: Diane’s Dad’s Sandwich, a Winner in NPR’s “Taste of Summer” Contest (in Honor of August, National Sandwich Month)

Diane's Dad's Sandwich--stackedYield: 1 sandwich (easily mulitplies)

Visits to my family’s home in MS always involve food adventures.  Last week, one of them came in the form of a mere description of a sandwich by my good friend since childhood, Margaret Deavours, who had heard about it on, of all places, NPR.  This sandwich  has become her go-to and I now see why!

Called *Diane’s Dad’s Sandwich, it consists, in part, of summer garden favorites: thinly sliced vidalia or red onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  These fresh ingredients are “sandwiched” between a top layer of (vegan) cheese ( white cheddar is used in the original recipe) and, believe it or not, a bottom layer of crunchy peanut butter.  Stacked high between 2 slices of whole grain bread–untoasted for ease of eating–this sandwich is a winner in more ways than one!!  *Be sure to read all about the sandwich by following the link.  Recipes entered into the contest had to be accompanied by a story; it is NPR after all!

Margaret made the sandwich sound so intriguing that I created a special Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese just so I could partake because, apparently, the magic of this sandwich is attributed not only to it’s fresh and unusual combination of ingredients–unusual, at least, for a sandwich–but the precise order in which each and every one of them hits one’s palate.  That being the case, be sure not to flip the sandwich as you lift it from plate to face!

Margaret’s only addition is, to me, essential because I tried it with and without:  fresh basil or cilantro in keeping with the Thai flavor profile (not pictured below, as I added it later and LOVED it).   To stay even more true to that profile, I chose Thai basil with it’s hint of anise, and will never make it any other way–wowza!   Because fresh herbs are an add-on, I wasn’t sure where to place them in the all-important stacking order, but I chose the middle, between the cucumber and tomato.    Other than swapping out the cheese for my delicious vegan version and adding a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, the only other change I made to the directions was to soak the red onion in unsweetened soymilk for a few hours to temper some of that peppery bite and strong aroma.

Don’t be put off by the peanut butter!  Besides the synergistic effect of all the ingredients, it is probably the peanut butter that makes this simple sandwich so extra-special!

2 slices whole grain bread, untoasted

1-2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

1 thin slice of vidalia or red onion (to rtemper strong flavor and aroma, soak in soymilk for a few hours, covered in refrigerator)

4 thin slices cucumber

Several fresh Thai basil leaves (you may substitute Italian basil or cilantro)

2 thin slices tomato

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons Vegan Sharp Cheddar Spread (recipe follows)

Spread 1 piece of bread with peanut butter and then layer on ingredients in the order given.  A note to you sandwich flippers: be sure to eat the sandwich with the peanut butter on the bottom!

 

Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread

2 cups raw cashews, covered in 2 cups water and soaked overnight

1/2 cup white miso (which is actually golden; this amount is needed for that “sharpness” unique to cheddar)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon turmeric (for color; I decided to go for a yellow cheddar for more color)

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1/3 cup dry champagne, prosecco, white wine or beer (a non-alcoholic wine or beer may be substituted)

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process several minutes or until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Diane's Dad's Sandwich--open

 

 

 

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