Vegan Carrot Fries
with Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce

Yield: 4 servings (8 carrot sticks each)

True confession: Far from vegan, Bob’s diet leaves much to be desired.  So, in an attempt to help him make somewhat better choices, I have encouraged fish, even fried fish.  (Sorry.)  I don’t partake BUT I do make a kick@$$ batter, if I do say so, and it is delicious on, as I discovered for lunch today, carrot sticks to make “Carrot Fries.”

My presentation is cute as can be don’t you think?  And the Lemon-Basil dipping sauce so summery and lick-your-fingers delish.

Vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-12 ounce (vegan) beer, alcholohic or non-alcoholic ( you won’t need quite all of it)

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard (I use pommery)

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Sriracha)

32 carrot sticks about 3 1/2 inches long (I purchase them already in sticks, but if you prefer, trip and scrape slim carrots, cut them into 3 1/2-inch lengths, and then cut each into quarters lengthwise)

Sea salt

Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches in a large skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees over medium or medium-high heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Gradually whisk in beer until mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.  Whisk in mustard and hot sauce.  (You can taste it, but it will likely not taste especially appealing, though it is delicious after frying.)   Dip carrot sticks into batter, one at a time, to completely coat and immediately transfer to oil.  Fry about 10 to 11 at a time or until golden brown on one side, flip with tongs, and fry on the other side until evenly golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to prepared baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with sea salt, and continue with remaining carrot sticks and batter.  Serve in a martini glass with Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce at the bottom.


Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain vegan yogurt (most of it is too sweet for my palate, so I prefer vegan sour cream)

Zest of 1/2 large lemon (use the whole lemon if you prefer a more pronounced lemon flavor)

1 teaspoon fresh minced basil, or to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.


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Vegan (Practically) Raw Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 6 cookies

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup coconut flour
12 juicy dates
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs or chocolate chips (chips are not not raw)
1/4 cup broken pecans

In a food processor, process the cashews until a flour-like texture.  Add remaining ingredients except cocoa nibs or chocolate chips and pecans. Process until the texture of a nice dough, but not a nut butter.   Transfer the dough to a medium-size bowl and fold in the cocoa nibs or chocolate chips and pecans.

Shape the cookies by flattening six scoops of dough onto a foil-, wax paper-, or parchment paper- lined cookie sheet.  Freeze for 20 minutes and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.

Note: though these cookies are packed with wholesome ingredients, they are also packed with about 330 calories each. Make them half this size for a dozen cookies with a calorie count that may be easier to swallow.







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Vegan Cauliflower Nachos with Best Vegan Queso

­Yield: 2 servings

To make these addicting vegan roasted cauliflower nachos, you will need part of a recipe of my amazing Vegan Queso.

I studied a number of recipes, omitting and adding ingredients to suit my palate.  I arrived at something so delicious that I think you might use it to replace whatever your current favorite vegan cheese sauce is.

I know that’s a bold statement, and I know everyones’ palates are different, but even my picky omnivorous guy liked it. And him liking it is equivalent to someone else loving it.

Vegetable cooking spray

One head of cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets

Sea salt to taste

Ground cumin to taste

Smoked paprika to taste

About 1/2 cup my Vegan Queso

2 tablespoons can of chopped green chilies, drained

Assorted toppings: black beans, drained, pico de gallo, sliced green onions, sliced black olives, vegan sour cream, fresh cilantro sprigs, or whatever you love piled on nachos

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a metal baking sheet with vegetable spray and spread cauliflower out on it in one even layer. Spray cauliflower with vegetable spray and sprinkle lightly with sea salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 2 tablespoons chopped green chilies into 1/2 cup vegan queso, or to taste.  Remove cauliflower from oven, divide between serving dishes, top with queso, return to oven for two to five minutes, carefully remove, place serving dishes on a plate, and top as desired before presenting.


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Vegan Indian Channa Masala Chickpea Salad

Yield:  Serves 6 to 8

This favorite Indian chickpea dish just got chilled out.  Packed with layers of irresistible flavor and nutrition, it is my new summer crush.

Craving Indian food in the 95 degree recent heat wave, I wondered if I could get all of the flavor without the cooking process by stirring a prepared dry spice mix, meant to be simmered, into vegan mayo and using it as the dressing for a chickpea salad.

The answer is a resounding yes!

I chose Jaswant’s Kitchen brand from Whole Foods. It is tasty, vegan, gluten-free and, though rated only two chili peppers, it is still quite spicy.

In fact, that is how my chickpea salad came to include other ingredients and serve so many: I wanted to tame the spice.  In the end, it is perfectly balanced and all the better for the addition of spiralized veggies and raw cashews.

Note that most spice blends contain plenty of salt, so you won’t want to add any. And you will want to use raw unsalted cashews.

3/4 to1 cup vegan mayo
About 1 1/2 ounces Channa Masala seasoning or your favorite prepared Indian spice mix (be sure it is vegan; I use Jaswant’s Kitchen brand from Whole Foods, but use another flavor or brand if you prefer)
Optional: Juice of 1/2 large lime
2 cups roasted spiralized vegetables, cooled (I use a combination of butternut squash and turnip)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups raw cashew halves and pieces
6 celery hearts, finely diced
2 large green onions, thinly sliced (both white and green parts)
1 to 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped if desired
Garnishes: cherry tomatoes, shaved coconut, and/or cilantro sprigs

In a small bowl whisk together 3/4 cup mayo and seasoning mix. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients, add mayo mixture, and stir gently to combine. Incorporate remaining 1/4 cup mao if needed. Serve garnished as desired.

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Betsy’s Best Vegan Queso

I used to never be without a crock of my homemade vegan cheese spread in the refrigerator; it was a staple. But then a Whole Foods market opened in our area and I began exploring their prepared cheeses which was a whole new delicious world.

Recently, however, I’ve been interested in making my own vegan queso for nachos, probably over cauliflower chips, but stay tuned for that.

So, as usual, I did some research but really didn’t find what I wanted. There was one promising recipe, but it included potato which sounded starchy and not the right flavor or consistency for a cheese sauce, though folks online seemed enthused.

However, the recipe also called for carrots, and I did include them, but I combined them with cashews, a key ingredient in my cheese spreads. That was the base to which I added pimentos, which I found in another recipe, nutritional yeast, and beer which I consider one of my greatest contributions to the vegan homemade cheese world. Feel free to use non-alcoholic beer if you don’t imbibe.

There are just a few other goodies, as you will see below, so it goes together simply and quickly. It is a beautiful color and an outstanding flavor and consistency.  I would suggest that you make it as is the first time, as I worked diligently to achieve just what my palate craved.  HOWEVER, food is nothing of not personal (and political), so alter as you see fit if it doesn’t quite suit you.

I’m not going to eat it tonight because I’m not hungry enough to fully enjoy it, but I plan to have nachos one night this week and will certainly share. In the meantime, the darn stuff is quite delicious off the tip of a spoon.

Note: To create a spicy queso for the outrageous Vegan Cauliflower Nachos depicted, simply stir canned chopped green chilies into the queso in whatever ratio you prefer and gently heat.

4 cups water
2 cups raw carrot pieces
2 cups raw cashew piece
3 ounces diced pimentos, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup vegan beer or non-alcoholic beer
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 teaspoons Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine water, carrots, and cashew pieces. Bring to a simmer, losely covered, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off, cover tightly, and leave sitting for several hours. Then blend carrot mixture in a food processor with all remaining ingredients, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Heat gently in a saucepan or in the microwave before serving.

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Best Vegan Quick-and-Easy Pad Thai Lite
with Spiralized Veggie Noodles

Yield: 2 servings (easily multiplies)

I love Pad Thai–heck, I adore all Thai food–but I rarely let myself make or order it because it packs a wallop in the calorie department.

But last weekend, I was in Whole Foods, and saw a beautiful rainbow of spiralized vegetables. I chose the butternut squash and the turnip and brought them home. I roasted them together in a 450-degree oven with a tiny bit of oil, but then I wasn’t sure what to do with them.

But when my friend shared her homemade Asian fusion birthday dinner with me via Facebook last night, I woke up with thoughts of Pad Thai on my mind. After some beautiful days in the 60s, it is suddenly in the 90s here and I didn’t want to be in the kitchen long. So I whipped up a quick version that I would eat again and again. See if you agree.

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (I used coconut sugar)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups bean sprouts

2 large green onions sliced, both white and green part

2 cups roasted or steamed spiralized vegetables (I used a combination of butternut squash and turnip)

1/2 large lime

2 tablespoons chopoed roasted and lightly salted peanuts

In a small bowl, whisk together first three ingredients. Pour oil into large skillet and heat over medium-high. Add bean sprouts and stir fry for a minute or two followed by green onions. Add spiralized vegetables and stir fry for another minute or two. Divided between two plates and sqeeze the juice of one quarter of the large lime over each. Top each with one quarter cup remaining bean sprouts and one tablespoon of chopped peanuts. Serve immediately with chopsticks.

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Blooming Best (Practically) Raw Vegan Coconut Cake
with Cream Cheese Frosting

Maybe it’s the warming weather, or maybe it is less patience with the steps required to bake properly and well: mixing, preparing the pan, cooking time, cooling in the pan, turning out of the pan, cooling on the rack, and so on.  Okay, or less patience with most things…

But, regardless, (practically) raw vegan food has been on my mind lately.  I conducted some online research and I bought a couple of (disappointing) cookbooks.  My take-away?  This niche of vegan “cooking” holds great promise, but there is room for fairly vast improvement. So I got to work.

My (Practically) Raw Vegan Carrot Cake was a vegan and omni triumph.  But one of my other favorite cakes is coconut. The challenge, it seemed to me, was how to keep the color of the cake light, like a baked coconut cake, and the favor pure:  no dates, apricots, etc.  

At Whole Foods yesterday, I decided to spin through the dried fruit in bulk.  Eureka!  Turkish dried figs are light in color, yet plump enough to add some moisture and earthy sweetness.  Sweetened coconut flakes and coconut flour–essentially coconut ground to a flour–were no-brainers–and I deemed oatmeal, which provides lots of structure, light enough and neutral enough in flavor to help build the “batter.”   Blanched slivered almonds (use raw if you prefer)–nicely pale in color and not too buttery in flavor–were the perfect nut to use.  One glimpse and I knew coconut sugar was too dark in color, so I bought some powdered sugar which I needed for the frosting, but the cake ended up being sweet enough with nothing more than a small amount of light amber maple syrup.  And a liquid sweetener is nice because of the amount of dry ingredients.

For moisture, I did end up using 1/2 cup applesauce–but it does not impart a noticeable apple flavor–and coconut milk.  A word about the latter:  So Delicious makes an astonishingly thick and velvety coconut milk that they call “Culinary Coconut Milk.”  It is high in calories, so you might consider the “lite” version.  Either way, I would combine a carton of it–about 1 1/3 cups–with canned coconut milk which is not quite so thick and helps achieve a nicer, less dense, batter or, really, for raw cakes, more like a “dough.”   

In short, I do believe I met the challenge.  And I think you will be absolutely swept away by the results.

This cake is so beautiful and beautifully textured and flavored that it would be lovely for a wedding cake…not that I’m planning a wedding or anything…

Note: if you want a raw vegan frosting, substitute something like a cashew buttercream.

Yield: 16 servings

8 Turkish figs, stemmed and quartered
2 cups old-fashioned oats
3 cups fairly thick coconut milk (or a combination of So Delicious Culinary Coconut Cream and soy or other non-dairy milk)
2 cups grated sweetened coconut
1 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Garnish: 1/2 cup coconut curls

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Pulse all ingredients in food processor, a couple of ingredients at a time, alternating with coconut milk, until a homogenized, but textured, dough-like consistency is achieved.  Press in pan, frost with cream cheese frosting, and garnish with coconut curls.  Cover with foil and keep refrigerated. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Note: you may have a little left over if you use the 2 cups of powdered sugar.)
8 ounces vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup coconut oil (solid at room temp)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 to 2 cups powdered sugar (depending on consistency desired)

Process until smooth.

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Vegan Pea Burger in Paradise

Yield: 4 main dish burgers or 1 dozen appetizer size

I am not sure why I had a can of peas in my pantry. Frozen?  Sure.  Canned?  That is what I feed my food-obsessed dog, Urban, to bulk up his meals. Granted, I serve him the unsalted variety, but still, I can’t imagine how those peas ended up coming home with me.  But when life gives you peas…make Vegan Pea Burgers in Paradise.

Even for a meal, I love to make these as appetizer size burgers and serve them open-face atop 2 to 3 leaves of baby kale with a dollop of vegan sriracha-mayo and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Micro meals are perfect for me, but if a big dressed burger on a toasted bun is your jam, by all means.

I feel all of the ingredients are key for the best taste and texture but if, for instance, you are a gfluten-free kind of cook, then try replacing the vital wheat gluten with more oats. (But I think the vwg is irreplaceable for its “chew” factor.)

1-15 ounce can English peas, drained

1 very tightly packed cup baby kale

1/2 cup Old Fashioned oats

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/4 to 1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 1/4 medium lemon or lime

2 large cloves garlic, halved

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 toasted buns or 24 to 36 leaves baby kale

Vegan Sriracha Mayo (recipe follows)

Garnish: sprigs fresh rosemary

Pulse first 12 ingredients together until a textured dough forms. Spray skillet with non-stick spray.  Place over medium to medium-high. Shape 4 large or 12 small patties and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more spray if necesssry.  Serve regular burgers on toasted buns with baby kale, sriracha mayo and fresh rosemary sprigs or serve small burgers on 2 to 3 baby kale leaves topped with dollops of sriracha mayo and sprigs of rosemary.

Vegan Sriracha Mayo

1/4 cup vegan mayo

1 generous teaspoon sriracha

Whisk together until well combined.

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Blooming Best (Practically) Raw Vegan Carrot Cake
with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 1-8 inch cake

This, my first foray into (practically) raw vegan desserts, may be the best cake, baked or virtually raw, you have ever eaten. I hope that doesn’t sound boastful, but my omni friend said as she chewed, eyes squeezed shut, “This is like church.”  So, it is omni and vegan–and teen and adult- approved.

Note: if you want a raw vegan frosting, substitute something like a cashew buttercream.

11-12 ounces baby carrots or carrot pieces
8 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
8 plump dried apricots, quartered
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4-½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Garnish: 1/4 to 1/2 cup walnut halves or pieces

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Pulse all ingredients in food processor, a couple of ingredients at a time, until a homogenized, but textured, dough-like consistency is achieved.  Press in pan, frost with cream cheese frosting, and garnish with walnut halves or pieces.  Keep refrigerated.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup coconut oil (solid at room temp)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 cups powdered sugar (depending on consistency desired)

Process until smooth.

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Best Hot Vegan Crab Dip (baked)

How can healthy and quick taste and feel so decadent and delicious?

12 ounces silken tofu
4 ounces vegan cream cheese
Optional (but recommended): 2 teaspoons vegan fish sauce, sold as vegetarian fish sauce at Asian markets
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Optional (but recommended):1 teaspoon Dulce flakes
Zest and juice of one medium lemon
Optional: 1 to 2 drops hot sauce
1 can hearts of palm, drained, and coarsely chopped
1 bunch or about six to seven green onions, thinly sliced
Optional: 1/4 cup + 2 T. shredded vegan parmesan (I like Follow Your Heart brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a medium ceramic or glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Process first 9 ingredients until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in hearts of palm, green onions, and optional parmesan.  Transfer to baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan, if desired, and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with toast, crostini, crackers, or raw vegetables.

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