Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day #2: Vegan Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage Pesto (Delicious with Any Pumpkin or Squash)

Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage PestoWho knew that those pumpkins and squash at the farmers market–with their fanciful forms and all of their beautiful color, strips and spots–were not just for decoration?  Many, if not most, are seriously good eats.

What better to top my roasted version with than my Pepita-Sage Pesto?  I make a lot of pestos out of all kinds of ingredients, but this glistening version  is an all-time favorite!

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Vegan Crabcakes–A Crab-Friendly Chesapeake Bay Classic! (A Labor Day Menu Must!)


Note: Navitas Naturals no longer has this recipe available on their website and I contacted them to see if they had it in an archive, but they do not. My sincere apologies. I hope to recreate it but I neglected to keep a copy myself. Live and learn.

If you crave crabcakes but not the crab, and if, like me, you haven’t been able to enjoy that particular blend of deep sea flavor, creamy interior, and crispy exterior in far too long, then you have come to the right place!

Navitas Naturals Nori Powder and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) are my no-longer-secret ingredients for this new recipe for Vegan Crabcakes!  (Just click on the orange link to go directly to the Navitas Naturals website for the delicious recipe.)

So many of my recipes do not try to be anything they are not.  In other words, I was never such a meat/chicken/seafood devotee that, now, as a vegan, I seek to imitate those flavors on a regular basis.  BUT, there are some dishes that I like the notion of–most often because of the texture, a spice blend, or maybe a sauce–but like MUCH better veganized; think buffalo wings, seafood gumbo, chicken salad, egg salad, etc.  Crabcakes fall squarely–or roundly, as it were–into that category.

These crabcakes are held together by a faux mousseline.  Mousseline is a sauce traditionally made with whipped cream.  I snagged this tip from America’s Test Kitchen who recommends making a shrimp and cream mousseline to hold crabmeat together in a cake in order not to “deaden” the flavor through the use of mayonnaise or egg.  I make my mousseline out of TVP and soymilk (but feel free to use your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk.

The mixture bound together nicely, but was difficult to flip in a skillet, and required way too much oil, mess and calories.  So, I baked my second batch and found them perfect.  No flipping is involved, and they hold together beautifully when moved by spatula from pan to plate.  They also have a very appealing mouth-feel that is not unappetizing due to a texture that is too soft.

I hope you find my Vegan Crabcakes to be deeply satisfying in every way!

Many thanks to Navitas Naturals for publishing this recipe on their website…and for offering such a spectacular product!!

Note: you may substitute 2 Nori sheets for the 2 teaspoons Nori Powder in the stock if the powder is difficult for you to access, though it is sold online.  If using Nori sheets, let them steep for about an hour in the hot stock before straining out, returning the stock to a simmer, and proceeding with recipe.)

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Vegan Cheesy Yellow Squash Quesadillas Topped with Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa

DSCN1692Yield: 4 Quesadillas

I am still visiting my family in Mississippi, and was reminded that this is another recipe that I hadn’t shared before I left Virginia.  Reminded because it calls to mind one of my father’s signature sayings.

I have never been a particular fan of yellow squash.  It’s not that I don’t care for it; I just don’t “wake up screaming for it,” as my Papa would say.  But it is beautiful in the farmer’s markets right now–or perhaps in your own back yard!–and I wanted to take advantage of it.

I bought one, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it until I remembered my cheesy Zucchini, Onion and Yellow Squash Gratin dish and the Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa I had already made.  So, I decided to combine the two notions and take my yellow squash in both a southwestern and a cheesy direction (the latter inspired by, but different from, the Gratin).  Boy, am I glad I did, and I hope you will be too!

You won’t believe how creamy, cheesy, tasty and rich this yellow squash filling is!  Tucked into a toasty tortilla and topped with my Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa, it is the epitome of summer feasting, southwestern style!


1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

Sea salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2-8 inch yellow squash, trimmed and grated (I use the grater blade of my food processor for this task; it makes the most perfect firm strands)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat because that is what I keep on hand)

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk

2 tablespoons light miso (any vegan kind will do, though the darker the flavor, the deeper the flavor)

Freshly cracked black pepper

4-8 inch whole wheat or wheat tortillas (I used Ezekial sprouted grain tortillas, which I loved, but they had so much flavor on their own that I felt they competed just a little)

Topping: Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa (recipe follows)

Garnish: vegan sour cream and lime slices or wedges

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes until softened.  Stir in garlic powder and grated squash and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until squash is crisp-tender.  Stir in nutritional yeast until well combined, followed by flour.  Add soymilk and miso, and cook, stirring frequently, until miso is incorporated, and the mixture is thickened, heated through, and the flour no longer has a raw taste, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Remove filling to a bowl, wipe out skillet, and coat generously with non-stick cookng sprary.  Spread half of two tortillas with squash filling, fold tortillas over the filling and toast in skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Remove quesadillas to serving plates and repeat with remaining filling and tortillas.  Serve topped with salsa, vegan sour cream, and lime slices or wedges.


Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa

Yield: 2 cups (easily doubles)

Normally, I would add diced onion and some chopped cilantro to a salsa like this, but it didn’t seem to need it; in fact, I was afraid both the onion and cilantro would overpower the sweet char of the grilled green tomatoes and corn.

1 large green tomato, cut into 1/3-inch slices

2 ears fresh corn, stripped, and broken in half

Sea salt

12 cherry tomatoes (cut smaller if your tomatoes are larger than cherries)

1 banana pepper (mild) or jalapeno (half or whole, depending on your heat tolerance), stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped (consider wearing gloves to seed jalapeno and wash hands)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Oil a grill pan and heat over medium-high.  Lightly salt tomato slices and lay into pan, grilling for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until nice grill marks develop and tomato slices become crisp-tender.  Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool while you grill corn.  Lightly salt corn and grill about 3 minutes on 4 sides or until lightly charred all over.  Cool.  Dice tomatoes and place in a medium non-reactive bowl.  *Cut corn off cob and add to tomato along with remaining ingredients.  Toss to combine and chill, covered.  Delicious with chips–of course!–or as a topping over quesadillas, beans, a thick soup, etc.

*Note: the easiest way I have found to cut corn off the cob is to place a short sturdy glass or small bowl upside down in a larger bowl.  Working with one half-cob at a time, stand it up on its cut end and run your knife vertically down the cob, allowing the kernels to be captured in the bowl.  Voila!  Or should I say “Ole!”

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Vegan Eggplant Stack with White Beans in Beet Greens Pesto and Grilled Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa

DSCN1689I love teaching, but I also love summer when I can treat myself (and sometimes other teacher friends also on summer break) to lunches like this!

Don’t get me wrong: our cafeteria manager goes out of her way to make sure I have nutritious, fresh food to enjoy  every day (usually, hummus with lots of raw veggies, or creamy baked sweet potatoes and cooked greens).  But I’ve never seen anything like my Eggplant Stack in the lunchroom!

Born of ingredients from the farmer’s market, along with some white beans, this recipe is one that is scrumptious as is, but can be adapted a million different ways.  My baked breaded eggplant is the base for your own imagination to take flight.

The trick to uniformly golden brown breaded eggplant slices that require no egg wash and no frying is a light coat of vegan mayo in place of the wash (which also adds great flavor!), and breadcrumbs that are toasted stovetop before  being adhered to the eggplant.  This America’s Test Kitchen trick prevents the eggplant from getting done before the coating gets brown enough.

If you prepare it as pictured, the key to this dish is to have my Beet Green and Roasted Almond Pesto and my Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa (recipe follows) made athead so the dish goes together quickly.  Although, you have a half hour while the eggplant bakes to make the pesto and salsa if need be.

*2-8 inch  eggplants, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/3-inch slices (approximately 8 slices total, 2 to 3 per person)

3 to 4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (about 2 teaspoons per slice )

Approximately 2 cups Panko bread crumbs, toasted in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until golden brown, and transferred to a shallow bowl or cake pan

1/2 cup diced yellow or red onion

2-15.5 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained

Sea salt

1/4 cup Beet Green Pesto

Approximately 1 cup Zucchni-Rosemary Salsa (recipe follows)

Garnish: basil or rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  *Taste a little of the raw eggplant and, if bitter, lightly salt the both sides of the slices and arrange them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat the eggplant dry.  Also rinse and dry the baking sheet, and either line it with Silpat or coat it well with non-stick cookng spray.  Arrange the eggplant slices on the sheet, an inch or so apart.  Spread about 1 teaspoon of vegan mayo on tops of all eggplant slices, and then place each, mayo-side down, in bowl of crumbs, pressing crumbs gently to adhere, and patting on more crumbs if desired.  Place crumb-side down on baking sheet.  Repeat with more mayo and crumb son opposite sides.  Spray tops of eggplant lightly with non-stick spray and bake approximately 30 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil if they start to get too brown.

While eggplant cooks, heat olive oil in large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add beans, stir to combine well, and heat through.  Add Beet Green Pesto, and do the same.  To serve, place two to three eggplant slices on each serving plate, top with 1/4th of the beans, dividing between slices, and then with 1/4th of the Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa.  Delicious served warm or at room temperature.  Garnish with a sprig of basil or, to stay truest to the dish, rosemary.

Grilled Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa 

This quick and breezy Mediterranean-flavored salsa is the embodiment of summer and made entirely from a very few ingredients almost entirely gathered up at my go-to farm stand.

Besides topping the Eggplant Stack, I recommend it over pasta or simply served on crostini as a kind of bruschetta or with pita chips.

2-6 inch zucchini sliced lengthwise into quarters

Sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered (cut smaller if your tomatoes are larger than cherries)

1/3 cup finely diced yellow or red onion

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: pinch red pepper flakes

Oil a grill pan and heat over medium-high.  Lightly salt zucchini and lay in pan, grilling two to three minutes on each side or until nice grill marks develop and zucchini is crisp-tender.  Cool just until it is easily handled, and then dice.  Combine zucchini and all remaining ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, being sure to add garlic and fresh rosemary to the grilled zucchini while it is still warm, and toss gently to completely combine.  Serve immediately or chill, covered until serving time.

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Vegan Beet Green and Roasted Almond Pesto–A Tantalizing Twist on a Summer Standby

DSCN1710If Basil Pesto is a favorite summer standby, you will love this refreshing twist made with beet greens!

But don’t let the word “greens” fool you.  The color ends up quite appealingly dark with reddish undertones very much like an olive paste.  Why?  Here’s your art lesson for the day: a color (like green from the leaves) when combined with its complement  directly opposite on the color wheel (in this case, red from the stems), will produce a neutral.


You can, of course, use this zippy pesto tossed with pasta or spooned over polenta.  But it has an assertive pungent, and utterly delicious flavor that lends itself to small bites like bruschetta.  A little stirred into or spooned on top of mashed white beans or chick peas on grilled or toasted ciabatta bread would be divine.  It is also the perfect nosh spooned over hummus, prepared or homemade, and served with pita triangles or chips.

It is also a key ingredient in my Eggplant Stack with White Beans in Beet Green Pesto and Zucchini-Rosemary Salsa.DSCN1689

But that’s just for starters.  I would love to know how YOU enjoy it!

1 bunch beet greens (greens plus about 3 inches of the stems), rinsed and patted dry (I use the greens from a bunch of  7 to 8 beets about 2 to 3 inches in diameter

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

1 tablespoon tamarind syrup (sold in Middle Eastern Markets, but if you can’t find it, substitute pomegranate syrup or even maple syrup)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cut greens roughly into thirds (I use kitchen shears) and place in food processor with garlic.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add almonds and continue pulsing until very finely chopped.  Then, with motor running, stream in olive oil, lemon juice and tamarind syrup.  Turn motor off, check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste, pulsing a few more times just to combine.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

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Vegan Beet Bolognese–Mama-Mia!

DSCN1657Yield: 8 servings

I love beets!  Roasted, in salads, in my “famous” Beet Muhummara…you name it, I love me some beets!

And they have been beet-iful at the farmer’s market lately.  I bought a bunch recently–again–but wanted to do something new with them.  I’m not sure why it occurred to me, but I wondered about a pasta sauce, like a Bolognese.  So I searched online, and found a vegan version, but mine is substantially different and, after a little more research, seems more true to the original…without the meat, of course.

A little chopping is involved, but the recipe goes together quickly and easily and it is well worth it.  Most of the time is hands-free while the sauce simmers.

The optional miso, nutritional yeast, and Liquid Aminos, granted, are hardly traditional, but they add a depth of flavor.  Though they aren’t entirely necessary for a satisfying dish, if you have them on hand, I would definitely use them.

Two other tips:  be sure to cook the sauce the full 4o minutes, and avoid omitting the non-dairy milk at the end, as it lightens and mellows the sauce just perfectly.

Otherwise, enjoy over your favorite pasta, including the new Shiratake noodles–very low cal–or cooked zucchini ribbons!  The color is stunning, not to mention the flavor!

A foodie friend claimed that her husband “who never swoons over food” did…all while tasting it cold out of the carton standing over the sink!  But they really loved it heated over pasta as did my Italian friend–another foodie in her own right–who spooned hers over Orecchiette.  None of these folks, by the way, are vegan (though two are vegetarian)!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Sea salt

1 small carrot, peeled and diced

1 rib of celery, quartered lengthwise and diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf, halved

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 sprig fresh thyme, rinsed (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

8 ounces vegan ground beef substitute, thawed if frozen (I used Boca Veggie Crumbles; note: if your product is not already browned, brown in a little oil and remove from skillet before beginning recipe.  If you aren’t a fan of vegan meat substitutes, consider 8 ounces of cooked lentils, maybe some nice red ones.)

1/2 pound beets, peeled and processed in a food processor until almost a paste

14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, including juice

1 cup red wine (I used a Bordeaux)

1 teaspoon natural sugar

Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Optional: 1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos

Optional:  1 tablespoon light miso

1/4 cup tightly-packed fresh basil leaves, washed

Optional garnishes: a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk (or other unsweetened non-dairy milk)
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the onion, and a pinch of sea salt.  Saute, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.  Repeat this procedure with the carrot followed by the celery.  Add the garlic and saute, stirring, 1 minute.  Season to taste with more salt and with some pepper. Stir in remaining ingredients except soymilk.  Simmer, lowering heat if necessary, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove and discard the thyme sprig and bay leaves, stir in the soymilk, heat through, and turn off heat to allow sauce to rest for a few minutes before serving over cooked pasta garnished as desired.

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Vegan Mushroom Misto Gravy (Perfect for a Veg Thanksgiving!)

Yield: approximately 6 cup of gravy

Vegans need their gravy too and this one is delectable even without–or maybe especially without–“drippings.”

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped

5 ounces mixed mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices (e.g. shitake, cremini, baby bellas, etc.; I purchase a pre-sliced blend at the grocery store)

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

4-2 inch sprigs fresh rosemary

4 cup vegetable stock

Optional: 2 vegetable bouillon cubes for a flavor boost

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I bake with white whole wheat flour, so that’s what I use)

6 tablespoons dry white wine

Sea salt to taste

Freshl ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil to shimmering in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add shallot and saute, stirring, for about a minute.  Then add mushrooms and saute until they are softened and have released most of their moisture, about 3 minutes.  Add sage and rosemary followed by vegetable broth and bouillon cubes if using.  Heat to simmering, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl flour and white wine.  Then temper the mixture with a ladle full (about a half cup) of some of the hot stock.  Transfer the mixture to the skillet, whisking vigorously.  Simmer, whisking, until flour is no longer raw, about 2 to 3 minutes, and desired consistency is reached.   Remove rosemary stems (the leaves will have fallen off into the gravy) and serve hot.  Note: if you want a really chunky gravy, you may add an additional 5 ounces of mushrooms with the first 5 ounces.

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Vegan Black Bean and Pecan Butter Sauce over Grilled Eggplant and Sauteed Spinach

Yield: 4 servings

How exciting to share this recipe with you via my good pals at One Green Planet!  Just click HERE for this unforgettable recipe!

I thought of this special recipe recently as our 22nd (!) anniversary approached and we were expecting dinner guests.  This sauce was the star component in the first meal on which Joe and I collaborated for dinner guests as a newly married couple.  And I can almost guarantee you have never had anything like it!

The sauce recipe came from a culinary magazine but, sadly, I don’t know which one, as I recopied the recipe and–shame on me–uncharacteristically did not credit the source.  But I did write “Out of this world!” at the top.  And it still is.

The only change I made to the original  recipe was to substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth and vegan butter for the dairy variety in addition to using about 30%(!)  less.  We have served it over a variety of things, but this brand new combination was so tasty and so pretty that I wanted to share it with all of you.

So be sure to head over to One Green Planet…you won’t want to miss this one!

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Vegan Roasted Fresh Okra with Horseradish Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Bye-bye slime…hello sublime!

Do you know how some vegetables are utterly transformed by the cooking method, say, roasting broccoli or grilling radishes?   Well, this is one of those vegetables and methods.

As a southern gal, I love fried okra, though I don’t allow myself to have it much.  And, I used to love it in gumbo when I was a pescatarian.  However, I’ve never found a vegan gumbo recipe I like–including at a local top notch fine dining restaurant–so I rarely bought okra because I didn’t know what to do with it.

But now I do!

Recently at Stoney’s, one of my favorite local farmer’s markets who grows both red and green okra,  I was debating about what I wanted to purchase.  One of the employees shared this method of roasting okra and I was sold!

It will forever change the way you think about this fury little veggie.  For the best crunchy exterior–and creamy center–it must be enjoyed immediately after removing it from the oven.  Also, it is best not to layer the pieces of okra on top of each other to serve, as they will steam and, therefore, soften.

2 tablespoons olive oil

Approximately 2 cups of fresh okra, trimmed

Sea salt to taste

Vegan Horseradish Sauce or the sauce of your choice

Preheat oven to 45o degrees.  Pour olive oil into roasting pan.  I like to use a large cast iron skillet for this because it browns the okra so nicely.  Add okra and toss to coat.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and toss again.  Roast for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on one side (I like it fairly caramelized), then turn each piece of okra and roast 5-8 minutes on opposite side or until golden brown.  Serve immediately in one layer with Vegan Horsearadish Sauce or any sauce you desire.  The texture of this okra is vastly superior if served as soon as it is removed from the oven.  If you are unable to serve it immediately, it will soften, but still taste good.  So, I recommend reheating it in a skillet over medium-high until heated through, shaking occasionally, just before serving.

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