The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

MandolinOne of our many culinary wedding gifts was a mandolin made for home use, which I used early on, just about sliced my finger off, and promptly gave away.

It’s been many years since then and, with all of the cooking I’ve done, I’ve never felt I needed or wanted another mandolin.  But something I saw–probably on a cooking show–had me thinking about them again.  And, this winter, I abruptly decided I had to have one.  So I popped into our local kitchen shop, asked for their best recommendation, and emerged with the GSD Haushaltgerate 30 Mandolin for under $70 which you can purchase on ebay here if you are unable to find one in your area.

Love it!  It comes with few (illustrated) instructions because few are needed: it couldn’t be quicker or easier to operate.

Be sure to use the guard to protect your fingers well before you think you need it.  The little prongs pierce the food and hold it in place so that you end up with few remnants that aren’t perfectly sliced and diced.

As for cleaning, just rinse with warm water, as instructed, lest you wound yourself.

Stay calm and slice on!

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Peach pancakes

Yield: 4 servings

Las Vegas not the first place you think of when someone mentions gourmet vegan food?  Me either.

But that’s about to change thanks to the chefs at The Wynn Resort-Las Vegas teaming up with celebrity vegan chef and cookbook author, Tal Ronnen. Together, they created a vegan menu even a meat-craving–or carving–high roller would love.  (I am a longtime Ronnen fan and owner of his bestselling cookbook, The Conscious Cook.)

To help introduce their vegan menu to a broader public–so that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas(!)–The Wynn invited vegan bloggers like me to adapt one of the dishes Ronnen created for their menu and share both the recipe and rationale.  Such an invitation gave me pause because the last thing any of his dishes need is adapted.  They all look gorgeous and sound delicious.

But, since our area of coastal Virginia has been bitten hard by the craft beer craze and since peaches grow so beautifully here in the south–never mind that ginger and basil are such a perfect pairing with peaches–I decided to combine them to create my own version of Peach Pancakes.  The Wynn’s are served with peach compote and honey butter so, mind you, mine are not an improvement on theirs; rather just a twist…or a flip, as it were.

Usually I beg off when my husband books a trip to Vegas, but the next time he decides to head out there for a UFC event, I may just have to tag along to enjoy dining at The Wynn!

Las Vegan anyone?


Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney

2 medium peaches, seeded and medium-finely diced (I leave the skin on for more color and nutrition)
1 cup “ale” (use your favorite craft beer or ale)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8 large basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and very thinly sliced to make chiffonade
2 tablespoon demerara sugar (or substitute an additional tablespoon of maple syrup)
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Stir together all ingredients in a small or medium saucepan and simmer over medium-high, uncovered, while you make the pancakes or until the juice has reduced and chutney has thickened.

Vegan Ginger-Ale Pancakes

½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons natural or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or to taste (or about 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh grated ginger)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup “ale” (the remainder of the 12 ounce bottle used in the chutney, above)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (plain or vanilla, lite or regular, would also be good)
Vegan butter and/or vegetable oil for frying
Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney
Sprigs of fresh basil

Preheat oven to warm. In a medium mixing bowl, place first 6 dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in beer and soymilk. Whisk together until well combined. In a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan butter, oil or a combination. (I like a combination: the oil reduces chances of burning while the butter contributes flavor.) Using a scant 1/4 cup measure, make pancakes, two at a time. Cook two-three minutes on the first side until you get a nice rise, a few bubbles appear, and the edges appear set. Gently flip and cook another couple of minutes on the reverse. Add butter and/or oil to keep skillet greased as needed. If pancakes are cooking too quickly, lower heat to medium, especially for second side. When cooked through, remove pancakes to plates or a serving platter, keep warm, and repeat with remaining butter or oil and pancake batter. Serve each short stack with Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney spooned over the top and a sprig of fresh basil.

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Asparagus, Leek and Fennel Spring StewYield:  2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings

This simple “stew” is much lighter–in color and heft–than a winter stew and really just refers to the fact that the lovely spring vegetables are married in a creamy, white wine-kissed sauce.  In both texture and flavor, it is addicting.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1 small-medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced + 2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds

Sea salt

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 bunch asparagus (the thinest and most tender that you can find), *trimmed, and cut into about 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add leeks, fennel bulb (not fronds), and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, for a about 3 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften and turn translucent.  Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute, stirring, followed by asparagus for another 2 to 3 minutes or until tender, but still bright green.  Cooking time will depend on diameter of spears.  Stir in cream, white wine, fennel fronds, and lemon zest, and heat though, continuing to stir frequently.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and additional sea salt.  Serve immediately.

*Trimming asparagus: though this may seem wasteful, grasp one asparagus spear at each end between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.  Pull fingers down to bend the spear until it snaps.  The point at which it snaps is the point at which all spears should be trimmed for the tenderest spears.

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Lemony Agean Artichoke and Chickpea SpreadLast week, I was in Mississippi, aka the ‘Sip, visiting my family when we suddenly realized that we had three guests joining us for happy hour and nothing to serve them.  My parents–children of the depression, the canned food-centric ’50s and ’60s, and survivors of Hurricane Katrina–always have a well-stocked pantry with overflow in two remote locations that I know of.

So, I quickly surveyed the shelves, selected a can of chickpeas and of artichoke hearts, and moments later–thanks to a food processor and a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper–this crowd-pleasing appetizer was born.

Though each is a little different, commercial preparations of Greek seasoning–at least the two the I have taste-tested–are perfectly compatible with the other ingredients.  But feel free to flavor it with your favorite herbs and spices, fresh or dried.  In particular, I am eager to try this recipe with beau monde seasoning.

1-15 ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained

1-15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 large cloves garlic

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 rounded teaspoon Greek seasoning

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional garnish: fresh lemon slices/wedges and sprigs of fresh herbs

Accompaniments: crackers, crostini, toasted bagels/mini bagels

Place all ingredients, except sea salt, in a food processor and pulse until a creamy, but textured, consistency is reached, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as necessary.  Check for salt, season accordingly, and pulse again, just to combine. Chill, covered, and bring to room temperature before serving, or serve immediately with crackers, crostini, or toasted bagels, garnished as desired with fresh lemon slices/wedges and fresh herbs.  (In the photo, I used thyme.)

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Vegan PeepsI am SO sorry for being neglectful of my blog!  The spring at most high schools, including in art departments, is especially busy.  Plus, last weekend, I was honored to serve as a Council Chaperone for a favorite student (one of many, many) at our school’s amazing Leadership Workshop at Triple-R Ranch from Friday to Sunday.  This week was the last of the quarter, so grades had to be posted by 2:30 p.m. yesterday, but we taught all day instead of having a “Teacher Records Day” because of our district’s Snow Day Make-Up plan.  And I leave shortly to visit my family for a week.  Whew!

But, I did want to post this recipe for Vegan Peeps for Easter–I hope it’s not too late–before I “hop” on a plane.  With the few ingredients on hand, they go together quickly and would be fun to do with kids or a group of friends.

These birds travel nicely nested in a bowl, as I took them to some friends’ house for an Easter dinner last year.

We joke about them looking like Easter Toucans. :)

Happy Spring!

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Butternut Squash OrecchiettiYield: 4 servings

I know it’s the first day of spring, but if you’ll allow me one more fleeting cold weather recipe, I think you’ll be glad you did!

This is my final taste test and recipe inspired by a bountiful box of vegan cheeses sent to me by the good folks at GO Veggie!  If, like me, you thought all of their products were vegetarian, but not vegan, we were wrong.  Just look for the purple label and consult their store locator on their website.

I had used the GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping in my luscious Vegan Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms, and Water Chestnuts, but there it was mixed with other cheeses.  Here, it is the only cheese, so its flavor had to be exactly right and it was!

A very few other recipe notes:

1)  Use any kind of pasta you choose for this recipe.  I love orecchiette  because each little ear-shaped piece of pasta is like a miniature cup to hold the scrumptious sauce.  But if you have other pasta on hand, you needn’t purchase more.

2)  Butternut squash is creamy, delicious, and helathful, but a whole fresh one can be a bit unweildy to prepare.  I find that a serrated knife can sometimes be more effective than a chef’s knife for removing both ends because the “teeth” really bite in.  And the skin is most efficiently removed with a vegetable peeler rather than a knife.  I cut off the neck of the squash and deal with the neck and bulbous base separately.  For this recipe I used only the neck flesh.  I seeded the bulbous base with a spoon, cut it into wedges, stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and roasted it a few days later for a delectable Coconut-Red Curry with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tofu.

3)  Finally, just remember to save some of the pasta water when you drain the pasta, as that starchy water is the magic sauce thickener/silkener.


8 ounces orecchiette  (I usually cook the whole 12 ounce box and remove one-third of the cooked pasta for pasta salad)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

Sea salt

1/2 large bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

2 large cloves garlic

1-14 to 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice

1 to 2 ladlesful pasta water

1/4 cup plain nondairy creamer (soy or coconut milk)

2 tablespoons dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)

2 cups firmly packed baby kale leaves

1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping plus extra for topping if desired

Freshly ground black pepper

4 sprigs fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high.  Add pasta, stir, partially cover, return water to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook pasta according to package directions, usually 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove 2 ladlesful (about 1 cup) of pasta water into a heatproof bowl and set aside.  Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add butternut squash and a pinch of salt, toss to coat, and then spread into a single layer.  Cook approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape and starts to develop a little caramelization, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add bell pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and heat through.  Stir in 1 ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of pasta water and heat mixture until simmering.  Stir in creamer and white wine, heating through.  Thin sauce, if desired, at any point with remaining ladleful of water.  Sprinkle kale on top of mixture and allow it to start to wilt.  Then gently fold it into the sauce along with 1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping and the drained pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately topped, if desired, with additional parmesan cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.

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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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Thai Pumpkin and Tofu in Coconut Red Curry Sauce--Restaurant Leftovers Redux

Yield: 2 servings

I LOVE Thai food but, let’s face it, those creamy coconut milk dishes–even vegan–are pretty indulgent in the calorie department.  So, recently, when we went out for Thai, I allowed myself part of my dinner of pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce–which was mostly velvety rich sauce–and brought the rest home.

Rather than just eat the leftovers “as is,” I decided I could make them more healthful and colorful while stretching them into two more meals with the addition of just a very few fresh ingredients.

So, that’s what I did, and it was outstanding!  Following is my easy recipe.  Because restaurant dishes will vary, just trust your instincts and taste buds when you set about doctoring up your leftovers.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Half of a medium yellow onion, slivered (or 1 small yellow onion)

Sea salt to taste

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced

Approximately 1 cup leftover vegan pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce with optional white rice (or something similar)

2 handfuls baby kale

2 to 4 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold at Asian markets as “vegetarian”)

Optional: approximately 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil, whole leaves or coarsely chopped + more for garnish if desired (sold in Asian markets)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashews

In a large cast iron skillet–or wok–over medium-high, heat oil.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to turn translucent.  Add bell pepper and continue sautéing and stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes or until bell pepper is softened.  Add leftover pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce or similar dish, including any rice, up to about 1/2 of the amount of curry, and heat through, stirring.  (Any more rice, and the finished product will be too thick and dry.)  Sprinkle kale over the top and gently fold in just until it wilts slightly.   Add remaining ingredients, except cashews, including more salt to taste.  Heat through, and serve immediately topped with cashews and optional garnish of additional Thai basil.  If mixture becomes too thick, think with a little coconut milk, vegetable stock, or even water.


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Refried Bean Burger--A Mexican Restaurant Redo

Yield: 2 burgers

My husband and I typically dine out three times a week: Date Night on Wednesday, and then Friday and Saturday.  Except for special occasions and opportunities, we stick to what we refer to as “The Rotation,” which is a handful of ethnic restaurants very near our home that we cycle through about every couple of weeks: Chinese (unbelievably good Chinese), Mexican, Italian, Thai, and Vietnamese.  There are actually three Mexican/Fresh-Mex restaurants on The Rotation, so I end up with more Mexican leftovers than any other.

Our area has absolutely no vegetarian or vegan restaurants.  The two I can think of that tried to make it over the years were vegan, one raw–really excellent ones–didn’t succeed.  So, especially in the Mexican restaurants which offer no dishes with tofu like the other restaurants–oh, how we wish we had a restaurant like San Francisco’s Gracias Madre here!–I try to get the tiniest bit creative with my order so that my only option isn’t a plate of rice and beans.  Because, as you know, even those dishes under the “vegetarian” section of the menu typically contain queso and crema.  Yes, they can be omitted, but then you’re back to rice and beans.

One of the Mexican restaurants on The Rotation at least offers spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms–it is practically unheard of in these parts for a Mexican restaurant to serve a green vegetable that isn’t a chili–so I order various combinations griddle grilled and served on top of my beans (the truth is that I’m not much of a rice eater: too many calories with too little nutrition).  Wednesday night, my order included onions, green bell pepper, spinach and tomatoes.  And I had about half of it leftover.

Restaurant portions are so huge that who doesn’t come home with leftover, right?  And they tend to be good eats simply heated, but, yet again, I wanted something different, something more interesting, for my lunch on Friday (we were home again for three Snow Days last week!).  Since the base of all of my burgers is mashed beans, I decided to make a burger.  To them, I add chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, some kind of chopped nut, vital wheat gluten, old fashioned oats, nutritional yeast, and spice–the magic formula for a burger that tastes sensational and that holds together beautifully with a crave-worthy mouth-feel.

In this case, since my beans included some grilled veggies, I omitted my typical trio and then proceeded as usual.  For 4 burgers, I start with a 15.5 ounce can of rinsed and drained beans, or about 1 1/2 cups before being processed with the vegetables, which reduces all of their volume.   So, since my leftovers measured about 3/4 cup including the grilled veggies, that sounded like about half the amount of bean-vegetable mixture I typically start with, so I used half the amount of everything else which was perfect.  I used some roasted pecans I had on hand as the nut–delish–and minimal spice, just some ground cumin, salt and pepper.   Half a toasted pretzel roll (not very Mexican, but what I had and fantastic), a little mayo, baby kale leaves, and the pico de gallo that I had also brought home from the restaurant was all this burger needed to become a fiesta on my plate!

It may be my best burger yet…but I think that about all of my burgers.  Go out to eat, bring home some leftovers, and enjoy even more the second time!

3/4 cup refried beans (very smooth), with grilled onions, peppers and spinach (mostly refried beans)

1/4 cup finely chopped roasted pecans

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

vegetable oil

1 toasted pretzel roll, top and bottom (or bread/roll/bun of your choice)

2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

approximately 10 baby kale leaves (or the fresh green/lettuce of your choice)

approximately 1/4 cup pico de gallo

In a medium bowl, combine first 8 ingredients with a fork and then your fingers to make a fairly stiff, moist mixture with almost a cookie dough-like consistency.  If sticky, add a bit more vital wheat gluten.  Shape into two 3/4- to 1-inch thick patties.  In a cast iron skillet over medium high, heat a thin layer of vegetable oil and cook burgers for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, slightly crusty on the exterior, and heated through. Spread half a tablespoon of mayo on each roll or bun, and then top with half the kale leaves, the burger patty, another half tablespoon of mayo, and half the pico de gallo. Serve immediately.   Note: all Restaurant refried bean mixtures will, of course, vary somewhat in moisture, consistency, and spice, so vary remaining ingredients accordingly.


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Yield:  3-6 x 3.5 loafs

Sharon's Vegan Fruitcake 2Forget everything you thought you knew about fruitcakes, the cake everyone loves to hate…

To say this is the best fruitcake I have ever eaten would not be saying much…you’ve heard the joke about there being only one fruitcake in the world and it is just passed around year after year?

However, this indescribably moist cake may be one of the Top 5 cakes I have ever eaten, period.  Okay, maybe 10 ’cause there are a lot of delectable cakes out there.  But this one is like no other.

My dear friend, Sharon Tanner, an excellent cook, and her brother, with professional cooking experience, decided one year that, surely, there had to be a way to make a fruitcake that people would actually wanted to eat.  I mean, come on, why should fruit, nuts, flour, sugar, etc. not taste delicious in combination?  So they began experimenting and arrived at a recipe so intensely delicious–it packs a wallop as she says–that they even considered selling them at one time.  I, for one, would line up to purchase.

Instead, though, she generously shared her recipe with me and gave me permission to share with you.  Originally, the cake was not vegan, but she asked me how I would veganize it so that she could make me and a couple of other friends mini-loaves.  I recommended that, for every egg, she substitute 1/4 cup moisture of some kind, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  She did, using her homemade apple butter (apple butter contains no “butter”) as the moisture, though it is readily available in grocery stores.  Butter was never an issue because, according to Sharon, “eliminating butter makes the cakes better, denser and they hold their shape and slice much better.”  When all is said and done, there is no way the non-vegan version could be any better than this vegan one.

What’s the secret?  There are a few.  One is that this cake contains NO candied or crystalized fruit nor maraschino cherries.  Nada.  But it is chock full of dried fruits, which points to another secret: a combination of various dried fruits for subtle flavor notes.  And the second is the amount of nuts and, again, the variety of types.  Sharon recommends “Cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates, prunes, pineapple, blueberries, apricots in any combination. I think it’s best heavy on the cherries and should include pineapple.  Mixed nuts can be heavy on walnuts, but can include pecans, almonds and Brazil nuts.”

So, with no further ado…ta-da, a fruitcake that will have ’em beggin’ for more!

3 cups dried (not candied!) fruit, finely chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups mixed nuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup flour
3/4 sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup apple butter with spices (prepared or homemade)
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons rum, divided
Note: fruit and nut pieces should be slightly smaller than a pencil eraser, according to SHaron.
Line 3-6 x 3.5″ loaf pans with greased parmchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine dried fruits and nuts.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Sprinkle over fruits and nuts, toss to combine, and then fold in apple butter and vanilla.  It will eventually all stick together, but you may sprinkle in a touch of water if needed to help all of the ingredients combine, as the batter is very forgiving.  Moisten hands with water and press 1/3 of the batter into each pan.  Bake 50 to 60 minutes; the cakes will puff a bit and then settle as they cool.  Once they have cooled enough to handle, remove them from the pans, and douse them with 2 tablespoons rum on all sides.   Wrap well in waxed paper, leave unrefrigerated, and in about 2 days, unwrap and douse them again with 2 more tablespoons of rum, making sure to soak the bottoms, as well.  If possible, 2 days later, unwrap and do a third and final dousing of rum, rewrap, and then serve the next day or shortly thereafter.  Delicious served at room temperature or slightly heated.  Note:  one of Sharon’s friend’s mother recommends using apple brandy instead of rum and keeping a slice of raw apple wrapped for a bit with each cake.
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