The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Recipes for 'Vegan Spreads'

Ham Salad in Celery 2Yield: approximately 3 to 4 cups

This super-easy salad was a pre-vegan childhood favorite.  I remember consuming way too much of it when I was home sick from school one day.  The mere thought of it brings back feelings of nurturing and nostalgia…even more so now that I’ve replaced the ham with extra-firm tofu and finely chopped smoked almonds.  To recreate the total flavor profile that I longed for, I added a few additional spices like fennel, sage, thyme, etc., and then stirred in the requisite vegan mayo, pickle relish and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

This recipe goes together in a flash, so when the craving strikes, satisfaction is only minutes away!  Enjoy for breakfast on a toasted bagel half, in a sandwich or wrap for a brown bag or even company-ready lunch, or spread on crackers or raw veggie slices as an accompaniment to a bowl of soup for a light–and lightening fast–supper.

14 ounces extra-firm tofu (not Silken), lightly pressed and blotted with paper towels

1 cup smoked almonds, finely chopped (I use a food processor)

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (lightly crush with a mortar and pestle if desired, but not necessary)

1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I think it is nice)

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

5 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1/2 of a large vegetable bouillon cube

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

2 teaspoons Braggs Liquid Aminos

Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I am quite generous with it in this recipe)

Crumble tofu into a medium bowl.  Add almonds, fennel, sage, nutritional yeast, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder, and toss with fingers to combine well.  Mash bouillon cube with fingers and whisk into mayo.  Add mayo to tofu-almond mixture along with remaining ingredients.  Stir together gently until completely combined.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.  Delicious stuffed in celery sticks, mounded onto cucumber slices, or crackers, piled onto a sandwich, rolled in wrap, or heaped on a toasted bagel.

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Beet Spread--Bird's Eye ViewYield:  approximately 2 cups

The Beet Muhummara spread in my Blooming Platter Cookbook is a rave with beet lovers and haters.  I know this both from experience and from others’ enthusiastic reports.

However, it contains bread crumbs, which is not a problem for most people, but I teach with someone who has Celiac Disease and it is a BIG problem for her.  With a birthday next week while we’re away on Spring Break, I wanted to send her home with a treat she could eat, so I created this version that is not simply Beet Muhummara sans bread crumbs, but it’s own delicious spread.

It was inspired by a really zippy dipping sauce my husband and I were served with some kicked-up tempura (baby beets, baby bok choy, Brussels sprouts, wax beans ,etc.) at a recent cooking demonstration.  The vegan batter contained just a few chili flakes and the beautiful green sauce was made with lots of cilantro, lime juice, cardamom pods, etc.

I started with beets, adding what I had on hand: cilantro from a cooking class I had taught (but not too much, as people either love it or hate it), smoked almonds because I always keep them at the ready to snack on, lemon juice, and some spices.  After tasting the spread, I decided that I really liked the flavor of the lemon, but that it also needed some lime, so I purchased one and added it.  The result was tamer in the citrus department than my inspiration because, if there is anything I would have changed about the latter, it would have been to make it slightly less tangy.  The resulting balance of flavors in my Cilantro-Coriander Beet Spread is perfect for my palate, but always feel free to adjust for yours!

4-2 to 3 ounce fresh beets (trimmed weight), peeled and quartered

1 cup, firmly packed, fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)

1/3 cup smoked almonds 2 large garlic cloves,  halved

1 tablespoon coriander seeds (whole) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (whole)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (ground)

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 large lemon

Juice of 1 medium-large lime

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes or to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

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Roasted Pecan and Dried Apricot No-Chicken Salad 2Yield: 4 servings

I actually created this throw-it-all-in-the-food-processor-simple no-chicken salad recipe from ingredients I had in the house while I was “snowed in.”

But, now that the snow is melting and folks in many states will be headed back to school and work tomorrow, I wanted to post it as a delicious lunchbox option.  Also, though, with the Super Bowl tonight, it’s a delicious and nutritious spread for crackers and, as you can see in the photo, it dresses up nicely for a “fancier” cocktail party.

I have created many versions of no-chicken salad, some here on my blog and some in my cookbook.  This one is made with wholesome tempeh, roasted pecans, and dried apricots, and is delicious served as you would any chicken(less) salad: in a sandwich, on crackers, or on my low-calorie, highly nutritious preference: sliced cucumber.

1/2 cup pecan pieces

4 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup dried apricots, halved

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

8 ounces tempeh (any kind), coarsely crumbled

4-5-inch stems fresh dill, leaves stripped

4-5-inch stems fresh tarragon, leaves stripped

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

Accompaniments: bread for sandwiches, crackers or sliced cucumber

Optional garnish: fresh dill sprigs and/or pecan halves or pieces

Roast pecans for a few minutes with a pinch of salt in a dry skillet over medium-high heat; transfer to bowl of food processor.  Add celery, apricots, garlic and onion powder, and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.  Add tempeh to skillet in which pecans were roasted and roast, stirring frequently, just until it begins to turn golden brown in spots; transfer to bowl of food processor.  Add dill and tarragon, and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped.  Add mayonnaise and pulse a few more times until mixture comes together.  Serve in a sandwich, spread on crackers, or as canapes perched atop slices of fresh cucumber.

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I am super-excited to share this recipe with you!  Excited because I found NOTHING like it online when I got the initial brainstorm AND excited because the good folks at Tofutti wanted to publish it.  Plus, my carnivorous husband and friends love it!

So, Savory Vegan Layered Hummus and Kale Cheesecake.  Sound weird?  It’s not!  It is utterly delicious, really easy, and beautiful to boot.  It is even quite festive.

A generous gift of way too much homemade hummus to consume while it was still fresh led to a brainstorming session about how to use up a good portion of it.  A pumpkin cheesecake came to mind, as the hummus is about the same texture.   And this particular variety–garlic-red pepper–was about the same color.  “So what about a savory hummus cheesecake?” I wondered.  As I mentioned, a little online research revealed no such thing, so I set out on my own, using my go-to cheesecake recipe as a starting point.

But a whole hummus cheesecake, while scrumptious-sounding, also sounded like perhaps too much of a good thing.  So, a huge bag of chopped kale, also needing used while still fresh, inspired the idea of layers: a kale and hummus batter on the bottom with just a hummus batter on the top.

Since pita chips are so tasty with hummus, I made a pita chip crumb crust, though a bagel chip–or even cracker–crumb crust would be equally as tasty.  I simply mixed finely processed crumbs with a little melted vegan butter and pressed the mixture into an 8-inch spring form pan.  Once baked and cooled, I “frosted” the whole thing with vegan sour cream and garnished it with sliced cucumbers and red bell pepper strips to echo the green and red color scheme of the cheesecake for a lovely presentation.  However, by all means, you should feel free to let your imagination be your guide.

Note that you can use any flavor of hummus you prefer, though one with a reddish hue contrasts handsomely with the kale layer.

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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 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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What would I do without my indoor grill pan?

This recipe is just one more reason why I love that pan so much.  It is so basic: just a cast iron square grill pan by Lodge. But it transforms humble ingredients like early fall eggplant into magic.

Smoked paprika in the dish and sprinkled on top plays off of the char grilled caramelization of the veggies just perfectly.  And the golden colors of the spread personify autumn to me, while the bed of fresh chives are the perfect fresh green counterpoint.

Speaking of colors…can anyone find the back of our beautiful brindle Great Dane, Minnie, in the photo?  Whenever there is food around, that girl is never far away!

Find the easy recipe HERE at One Green Planet.

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Last week, as you may have read in an earlier post, I had the distinct honor of being a featured guest on Laura Theodore’s Jazzy Vegetarian radio show.  Too fun!

During our email correspondence following the lively interview–Laura has energy to burn!–she asked if she could post the recipe I shared on air on her blog.  I didn’t even have to think about that…the answer was, of course, “Are you kidding?  Absolutely!”  You can find my easy and beautiful spring recipe for Fresh Pea and Tarragon Hummus from The Blooming Platter Cookbook right HERE.

Check out the Jazzy Vegetarian blog, radio and TV shows, recipes and more.  Plus “JV” is also on FB…I hope everyone will “lick” it or “like” it…your choice!

Thanks again, Laura!

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View from our bedroom window, Casa Luna Bed & Breakfast, San Miguel Allende

When we were in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, recently for our friends’ art gallery opening over Spring Break (how lucky was that timing!) we stayed at the beautiful Casa Luna Bed & Breakfast.

Each morning, we were served the most delicious marmalades with our fruit, frijoles negro, bread, fresh squeezed oranged juice, coffee/tea, and Joe’s huevos.  Pineapple and Nopales (cactus) was a favorite, as was Tamarind Chipotle.  When I learned that the hotel sells them, in addition to a not-too-firey jalapeno marmalade, and a spicy homemade peanut butter–and were making them fresh while we were there–I thought that all four would make a delightful host gift, along with a copy of The Blooming Platter Cookbook.  And they did, delivered still warm from the canning process!  Mmm…

Wanting to replicate at least one of them, but not having a lot of time to slice mountains of jalapenos or engage in old-fashioned canning, I decided to try the peanut butter.  When an internet search turned up no recipes, I just winged it.  Casa Luna’s finished product had a rich flavor without a  biting heat, which I rightly or wrongly attributed to reconstituted dried chilies.  Though Casa Luna’s peanut butter didn’t have a smoky flavor, I love chipotles–smoked jalapenos–so I decided to use them, picking up a bag at a local tiende.

Carmen, at Casa Luna, had shared that the list of ingredients was really simple: peanuts, oil, chilies.  So I simply guessed at the proportions, starting with just one chili and adding additional ones, one at a time, until I was satisfied with the flavor and heat, deciding at the last minute to drizzle in a couple of teaspoons of the water in which the chilies were reconstituted for a little more smoky intensity.

It may seem a little odd to add both natural sugar and salt, so feel free to omit the sugar, but I felt that the two together achieved a nice balance.  The only other ingredient I toyed with adding is a hint of lime zest, but I haven’t yet decided, as the peanut butter is delicious as is.  And its beautiful earthy color is irresistable.

Enjoy as you would any peanut butter–only maybe not on your child’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich–or consider swirling some into both Mexican/Southwestern and Thai sauces.  I hope you’ll try it and share what you do with it!

4 dried chipotle chilies stems removed

Boiling water

12 ounces of roasted and lightly salted peanuts

1/4 cup canola oil (or peanut oil)

1 tablespoon natural sugar (optional)

2 teaspoons water that chilies were soaked in

Sea salt to taste

Slit chilies lengthwise and remove and discard seeds.  Place chilies in  a small non-reactive bowl and cover with boiling water.  (I don’t measure; I just boil whatever is left in our kettle.)  Allow chilies to soak for about 20 minutes or until softened somewhat.  Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process for several minutes or until smooth but still textured, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Adjust seasoning if necessary and process a few seconds.  Scrape peanut butter into an airtight container–I like to put it in a small crock–and refrigerate.

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Don’t panic…there is no rabbit in this recipe!

And that’s probably why One Green Planet dropped the reference to Benjamin Rabbit in my title when they graciously published this recipe for spring.

I was merely thinking of Benjamin and the carrots in Mr. McGregor’s garden from the beloved Peter Rabbit stories because, while this Pimento Cheese Spread is guaranteed rabbit-free, it is chock full of shredded carrots.  And they are the perfect lighter, healthier, and vegan alternative to orange shreds of cheddar.

So, while shredded carrots aren’t a cheese clone, the end result is nonetheless packed with cheesy flavor reminiscent of one of my favorite pre-vegan spreads.  Click here for the recipe of “secret” ingredients  just in time for a spring picnic.

Thanks for sharing with your readers, Team OGP!

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