The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

There’s nothing wrong with a big pot of–if you’ll pardon the pun–garden variety black-eyed peas, or Hoppin’ John, for that matter.  Tried and true.

But if you’re looking for something a little different to do with your blackeyed peas, making them into more of a meal, try this trifecta of flavor from The Blooming Platter, all of which elevate the humble pea to a glorious meal.

First up is a whimsical vegan take on crabcakes and tartar sauce from my Blooming Platter Cookbook, generously published by One Green Planet.  It hardly gets more festive or tasty than this.  Look at all of that red and green yumminess!:  Vegan Black-eyed Pea and Spinach Cakes with Sun Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce.


Next up is a little kicked up southern comfort and colorful whole grain extravaganza including good luck and good-for-you greens: Vegan Blackeyed Pea Pilaf Over Collards with Green Tomato Salsa and Roasted Pecans.


Finally is another “southern” dish–southern Indian!  The title is a mouthful, so to speak, but I wanted to reference all of the ingredients that make this dish addicting:  Vegan “Southern” Indian Cilantro-Scented Cardamom-Coconut Cream Blackeyed Peas, Peppers & Spinach.






Happy New Year!

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Corn Maque-ChouxHaving stayed in the New Orleans French Quarter with my family over Thanksgiving, I returned home with Corn Maque-Choux on my mind.  None of the versions that tempted me on menus there were vegan, so I was obsessed with giving it a try in my own kitchen.

Though corn is quite the summer vegetable, I was craving this Cajun mainstay, so I used frozen corn, and it was delish.  Many versions of this recipe abound so, after consulting several, I just started cooking from memory.

I rather like my take on this standard: slightly spicy from dried pepper flakes and a hint of smoked paprika, in addition to the requisite fresh thyme.  Plus, with it’s flecks of red bell pepper and green onion, it looks very festive for the holidays.

Plannig to make it a while ago–but becoming sidetracked–and having already purchased the produce, I realized I still had it on hand, yet I am heading out of town on Monday.  So, I had to use it up and, in a flash, realized that the Maque-Choux packaged in small glass canning jars that I happened to have would make a very festive food gift for guests at a luncheon I was privileged to attend at noon.  (Stay tuned for recipes from close friend Trish Pfeifer’s inspired meal.)  So, I went into high gear, also making a Vegan Fresh Fennel and Cranberry Chutney and bird ornaments from recycled Kleenex boxes–tucking all three with alittle tissue inside holiday gift bags–before going to yoga at 9:30 (okay, I was late: 9:40!).  Thank goodness Minnie wakes me up early!

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 bell peppers, diced (I used a red and an orange, but both red or 1 red and 1 green is nice too)

Sea salt

4 celery hearts, diced

6 green onions, sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2-12 ounce packages frozen corn (about 5 1/3 cups)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plain coconut creamer

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bell peppers and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occastionally, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add celery, and do the same.  Stir in green onions and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, for another minute or two.  Add corn and cook, still stirring occasionally, until defrosted and heated through.  Sprinkle with pepper, smoked paprika, dried pepper flakes and flour, and stir to combine.  Drizzle creamer and soymilk over the top and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until flour no longer tastes raw and mixture is thickened.  Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve or spoon into an airtight container(s) and refrigerate.

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Fresh Fennel and Cranberry RelishToday, I woke up and suddenly realized that–having been preocupied for the last week–I had a little leftover fresh produce in the fridge, but I’m headed out of town for a week, and it would spoil before I returned.

Invited to a Christmas luncheon at noon, I decided to whip together a couple of things to give as gifts to the other guests.  Fortunately, I had a set of 4 ounce canning jars that were perfect filled with the chutney, tucked into small gift bags with an additional jar of Vegan Corn Maque-Choux, a little tissue, and simple little bird ornaments that I also whipped together using recycled Kleenex boxes with beautiful patterns.

It was a busy morning, as I still got to yoga at 9:30 (well, 9:40!), and to the lovely luncheon at the home of close friend, Trish Pfeifer!  (Stay tuned for some of her delcious recipes!)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 cups diced fresh fennel (1 bulb + a little bit of the stalks)

Sea Salt

2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)

In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion, fennel, and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 5 mintues or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Add cranberriesa and sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Add water and vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until most of moisture is evaporated, or about 10 minutes, lowering heat if necessary.  Stir in wine, and let simmer, still stirring frequently, for anoter 10 minutes or until thick and pulpy.  Adjust salt, sugar or vinegar if desired.  Remove from heat, let cool, place into an airtight containers(s), and tie with ribbon and a star anise, if desired.

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Cranberry TartsMy dear artist friend, Sheila Giolitti’s, cranberry tarts were delicious at an intimate Christmas luncheon I was privileged to attend yesterday. Try these festive two-bite desserts at home: the filling was basically homemade cranberry sauce–just use the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries–with orange zest and spices–use ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves or whatever you liked–spooned into purchased and baked phyllo shells (buy them frozen; most brands are vegan, but check the ingredients). Flaked coconut was the perfect snowy topping.

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Bird OrnamentYesterday, I made “tweet,” I mean sweet little recycled bird ornaments for some friends who would be at a Xmas luncheon, and wanted to share my so-simple-it-is-embarrassing approach with you.  You still have time before Christmas and they would make great gift tags too.

Nowadays,  cardboard Kleenex boxes have the most beautiful patterns, so I purchase ones I love (even though they don’t show in the aluminum tissue box covers I put them in), and then save them once the last Kleenex is used.

Remembering I had some lovely ones in my paper drawer, I simply cut-out a bird template, traced it onto the inside (the non-patterned side) of the tissue boxes–flipping it over so that I had a front and a back–glued them together, weighted them to dry (next time I’ll try double-sided tape), trimmed any edges that didn’t match up, punched a hole near the neck, and knotted a piece of twine through the hole.  Done!  Everyone loved them, and they truly are charming.

The one depicted I gave to our host and hostess, Ken and Trish Pfeifer; Trish photographed it and sent it to me.  You’ll notice that it’s little beak is solid gray.  That was dumb luck!  That particular Kleenex box had a band of solid color around the edge and I just happened to lay the template on the backside so that it lined up perfectly.  But even if such things don’t happen, the results are still delightful.

Have a Happy DIY Holiday!



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Focaccia with Red Grapes, Acorn Squash, and Kale Pesto--SlicesYou can top this focaccia with anything, but I have to say that my combination of red grapes, roasted acorn squash and kale pesto is a keeper.  And it’s so pretty for Christmas.

The simple focaccia dough recipe is only slightly adpated from one in a culinary magazine that I cut out years ago, but failed to credit.  Sorry!  My only change was to add a little bit of olive oil and to correct the number of ounces in the yeast package.  The recipe calls for 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, but that is a 3/4 ounce package, not a 1/4 ounce package.  Details, details!


3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)

3/4 ounce (2 1/2 teaspoons) package fast-acting yeast (like Rapid Rise)

1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1 teaspoon sea salt + more for sprinkling

1 tablespoon olive oil + more for drizzling

Red grapes, halved (in amount you choose to space about 1 inch apart)

Roasted acorn squash, cut in thin slices (enough to alternate with grapes)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Kale pesto (use your favorite or one of mine)–amounts may vary– brought to room temperature

Lightly oil a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  In a large bowl, stir together water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy or about 5 minutes.  Gradually stir in 2 teaspoons olive oil followed by flour and salt to form a soft dough.  On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough with floured hands for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Shape into a ball, rub with remaining teaspoon of olive oil, and invert bowl over the top.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Then, roll out dough into a 13 x 9 inch rectangle and transfer to baking pan, pressing gently into corners.  Let dough rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange grape halves and acorn squash in an attractive design over the top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake in center of oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool focaccia in pan on a metal rack.  Dot with pesto, slice, and serve.

Focaccia with Red Grapes, Acorn Squash, and Kale Pesto

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I am so sorry not to have yet posted any Christmas Cheer but, alas, our beloved Great Dane, Huff (of Doritos Crash the Super Bowl fame) passed away on Saturday.  Joe and I are so sad and preoccupied.  My apologies.  I promise to share some good stuff for the holidays soon.

On the upside, his passing was a profound reminder of what is really important during this magical season and beyond:  living gratefully for all we have and all those we are privileged to love, whether human or animal.


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Starburst Silverware WreathFor the last three years–ever since my mother-in-law, sadly, passed away and we no longer receive an LL Bean wreath from her–I have made my own for my “DIY Décor” column in the “Home” section of the Virginian-Pilot.

The first year, I made it from a ceiling medallion I painted silver.  The second year, from paint stirrers, painted silver and dipped in apple green paint.

And this year from thrift store silverware glued (with E6000 adhesive) to a wooden clock face from the craft store painted green.

My projects are always simple, straightforward, stress-free, and pretty self-explanatory, mostly due to little time or desire to fuss around with things.  So, choose one–or adapt one–and make your own!

Happy Holidays!

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Hurricane Popcorn--CroppedI am obsessed with this popcorn!  479 Degree brand popcorn makes a Toasted Sesame and Seaweed variety to which I developed an addiction. Then, sadly, our Kroger quit carrying it.  I guess my addiction wasn’t very widespread.

So, I decided I would have to learn to make my own, but before beginning to experiment, I did a little internet research and learned that there is something very similar that hails from Hawaii called “Hurricane Popcorn.”  It is made with a Japanese spice blend called Furikake, which often contains fish and MSG in addition to seaweed, sesame, sugar and salt.  I quickly decided to make my own.

Following is my easy and addicting recipe that includes a little soy sauce, sesame oil, Sirachi, and dried orange peel.   I recommend making it as instructed, taste, and then alter any ingredient amounts according to your own palate.

I think it is perfect as is, having halved the amount of sesame seeds with which I starated, as I felt their flavor overwhelmed the other ingredients.  But you may want to tweak.  For instance, I love the bold taste of seaweed, but if you’d like just a hint of the sea, use only 1 sheet of nori.

It is best if the popcorn is just popped and warm when you season it up.  But it is darn good made with pre-popped popcorn in a bag and almost as good the next day if leftovers are stored in an airtight container.  Leftovers?…ha!

16 cups popped popcorn

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha

2 sheets nori (roasted seaweed as for making sushi), torn into pieces, and finely chopped in spice grinder (avoid making a powder)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (dry toasted in skillet over medium high about 2 minutes), finely chopped in spice grinder (avoid making a powder)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon tubinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic poswer

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

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Stack of Pumpkin Bars 1

These bars are the perfect amount of creamy vs. crunchy!

Find the easy recipe HERE at Tofutti!

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