Cauliflower Nacho Hack (vegan, plant-based, lite, and quick)

Yield: 1 serving (easily multiplies)

Every so often in a restaurant, I will gaze longingly at a big laden pile of nachos, but the truth is that, even when faced with a big platter of the vegan variety, I really don’t want to eat all that business. So I devoted this pretty and healthful take. This quick version feels decadent and tastes delicious, but won’t weigh you down.

1-1.5 ounce bag Rhythm brand Crisp Cauliflower Bites (I buy them at Kroger)

1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (I like a mozz, but cheddar is great too)

2 tablespoons Pico de Gallo

2 tablespoons vegan sour cream or creamy dressing (I use Walton Farms Chipotle Ranch with 0 calories)

Garnish: fresh sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion (you could also add or sub sliced black olives and sliced green onion)

Pour crispy Cauliflower Bites onto plate, top with cheese, microwave 45 seconds–Bites will not become soggy or chewy–top with pico and sour cream or dressing, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

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Almost Oil-Free Pie, Tart, & Pastry Dough + Savory Galette (vegan & plant-based)

I am incredibly proud of this simple, tender, tasty dough. I wanted to make a savory galette, but I didn’t want a jillion calories from the dough. The flour is not the problem; it’s the oil or shortening in most pastry.

Press-in doughs can get away with less oil–and I make a delicious one that is shared here on The Blooming Platter–but I wanted to make a galette which meant that the dough had to be pliable enough to fold over itself without cracking. My solution was to add to 1/2 cup all purpose flour the following:1 tablespoon flaxseed meal mixed with 2 tablespoons water–to make a vegan “egg” for structure–and only one tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon nondairy milk. That’s it…easy as pie. 😀

Almost Oil-Free Pastry Dough

Yield: 1 serving (easily multiplies)

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal whisked together in a small cup with 2 tablespoons water and set aside for a couple minutes

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon nondairy milk (I use soymilk)

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Knead a few times until dough comes together in a ball. Press or roll out into a circle using the smallest amount of additional flour on pastry board and rolling pin as possible.

To make the gallette dough in the photo, I simply oiled a baking stone and pressed the dough out to the desired thickness in a rough circle, filled it, and folded the edges over the filling,, pleating them as I went.

The galette filling in the photo, if interested, is just 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced, and 2 to 3 big handfuls baby spinach sauteed in 2 tablespoons water with a little sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Greek seasoning. Into that, I melted 1 tablespoon vegan cream cheese. After filling and shaping the galette, I topped it with roasted strips of bell peppers and baked at 450゚ for about 12 to 13 minutes. When I removed it from the oven, I sprinkled with Everything Bagel seasoning before serving.

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Best, Lightest Cauliflower Gnocchi (vegan & plant-based)

Yield: 2 servings

I think I have perfected the lightest, tastiest, and most lovely textured gnocchi with only 1/4 cup flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. All the rest is pureed cauli and spices.

Gnocchi Dough:

8 ounces riced, cooked cauliflower, pureed in food processor, and chilled until cold (I steam in bag in microwave), about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional: 1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan filled with salted water to a simmer. Meanwhile, blend all ingredients together with a fork in medium bowl. On cutting board, roll one-fourth of dough at a time into a rope, 3/4-inch in diameter. Slice into 1-inch pieces for a total of 12 to 14. Add to simmering water and cook until gnocchi float. While gnocchi cook, heat olive oil or nonstick spray in skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon to skillet and cook a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Serve as desired, 6 to 7 per person. I like to place the gnocchi over a bed of lightly sauteed baby spinach with dabs of fruit chutney, foraged blackberries, pistachios or pine nuts, and a few grates of vegan mozzarella, or with sauteed fresh green peas, diced shallot, sliced garlic, white wine, and lemon zest.

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Sichuan-Inspired Noodles in Hot Chili Oil with Spinach

Yield: 1 to 2 Servings

This lightening quick, nutritious, delicious, and colorful meal is satisfying on every level. Plus, if you care about such things, the entire enormous bowl is only 300 calories.

Simply heat together 2 handfuls fresh baby greens and an 8 ounce package shirataki noodles. Drain, place in a large bowl, and toss with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon soy sauce, just shy of 2 tablespoons hot chilli oil, fried chilies in oil, or hot chili crisp–available on the International Isle at the grocery store–and an optional dash crushed Sichuan peppercorns to tastw. Heap into a bowl and garnish with a smidge of the hot chili oil or crisp and a few roasted and lightly salted peanuts.

Dinner is served!

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Fresh Peach Curd Tarts (gf, vegan & plant-based)

Yield: 4 servings

A gift of fresh peaches–the first of the season–inspired these beautiful ready-in-a-flash tarts with their delightfully textured raw vegan crusts and creamy sweet-tart filling. The garnishes I chose were barely sweetened vegan sour cream, blackberries I picked on a walk in the woods, shredded coconut leftover from our wedding cake, sliced almonds, and lemon balm I grow in a pot outdoors.

Welcome, Summer!

Make filling and set aside to cool:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 medium peaches including skin, pitted, and processed in food processor until smooth

Juice 1/2 large lemon

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Optional: 1 tablespoon peach liqueur

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a small saucepanover medium or medium-low heat, simmer together all ingredients except almond extract, whisking continually, until very thick. Whisk in almond extract. Set aside to cool. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

Make Raw Vegan Date, Nut, Coconut Crust:

1 cup slivered or sliced almonds or a combination pecans and almonds

1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

8 dates

Pinch sea salt

Process together in food processor until ingredients are minced and hold together when pinched. Divide into fourths and press evenly onto bottom and sides of four 5-inch tart pans. Divide filling evenly among shells, smoothing tops, and garnish as desired.

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Chewy Cowgirl Cookies (vegan & plant-based)

Yield: 1 dozen (easily multiplies)

The secret to the irresistible texture of these cookies is melting the vegan butter, but not the shortening and forming them using the double scoop method.

1/4 cup vegan butter (I like Miyoko’s), melted

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 tablespoons nondairy milk

1/4 cup each chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Cream together butter and shortening on high speed of electric mixer. Beat in both sugars until fluffy. On low speed, beat in extracts, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Then beat in flour and non-dairy milk, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Next add chips, coconut, and pecans. With a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, make 10 to 12 mounds of dough, 2 inches apart. Then repeat with a second scoop, only nestle the second ball of dough right on top of first one, pressing down firmly to create a kind of tophat form. Bake 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and store in airtight container.

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Sichuan Slaw over Stoneground Cheez Grits (vegan & plant-based)

A delicious deck dinner with our dear friend and Aint B to our dogs, Bonnie Mattiko, signals the cusp of summer:

Sichuan Slaw over Stoneground Cheez Grits

I sometimes like a slaw-salad mix that is part shredded cabbage/carrot and part mixed baby greens. The dressing was mayo, artisanal habenero pickle juice (though any sweet or dill juice would be tasty), and hot chili crisp to taste. I purchase the crisp in the Asian foods aisle at Kroger. It is piquant, but not too spicy.

If anyone cares about such things, I found a no- cal mayo that allows me all the delicious dressing I want. Called Walton Farms, I purchase it at Harris Teeter and, while I don’t care for it on its own, I really like it jazzed up with assertive flavors such as this.

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Sichuan Pizza (vegan & plant-based)

Homemade Sichuan Pizza!

My addiction to hot chili crisp (or oil) from the grocery store is no secret, and I am happy to share my “secret” pizza recipe, which is really more of a simple method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out your favorite pizza dough super thin and place on a baking stone or lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, top with very thinly sliced yellow onion and garlic and halved grape tomatoes. Sprinkle with vegan mozz–or not–and bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a slaw of shredded cabbage, carrot, mayo (I use Walton Farms no-calorie mayo), and hot chili crisp/oil to taste. Pile on top of freshly baked pizza, top with pickled veg if desired, drizzle with a little more hot chili crisp, sprinkle with lightly salted peanuts, and garnish with a basil leaf.

I hope you love it as much as I do; I enjoyed two nights in a row!

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Almond Joy Dates (vegan & plant-based)

Almond Joy Dates are super quick, easy, and luscious bite-size bundles of joy and healthful decadence made by a dear friend, Sharon Lee Clohessy, for my birthday.

Simply sweeten plant-based cream cheese with natural sugar and coconut, tuck inside dates, and top with chopped chocolate-covered almonds. That’s it!

Serve on a platter, if you don’t devour them first, with alternating whole dates garnished with a few of the whole chocolate-covered almonds.

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The Very Best Fudgy Black Bean Brownies with Chocolate Chips & Pecans (gf, vegan & plant-based)

Recipes for these abound, but I like mine best, she says modestly…perhaps it is the brandy!

The absolute strangest thing happened with this recipe. I created it, proudly posted photos and the recipe, and a friend made it and had drastically different results: way too soft and fudgy, even after refrigetation, if there is such a thing, haha.

So I made the recipe again myself and had the same results. Not satisfactory at all. I can’t imagine what I did and I will never know. But, I went back to the drawing board, adding 1/2 cup oatflour–but you could add any flour–2 tablespoons less water, though you might need to add it back in depending on how absorbent your flour is, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. I turned up the temperature to 350 instead of 325 and I cooked them for 33 minutes vs. 25.

The result is exactly what you see in the new photos and I can’t imagine a brownie as good with no refrigeration necessary…brownies should not be cold! I was devastated when this happened, but now I’m so glad it did because these are superior to the others and, frankly, to any brownies I have ever made or tasted!

1-15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed well

1/2 cup oatflour or your favorite flour, including all purpose if gluten is no problem

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal whisked with 1/4 cup water and set aside for 5 minutes to thicken; whisk again before using

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (can use decaf)

2 tablespoons brandy (or rum)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutched)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips, divided

1/2 cup pecan pieces, divided (optional, but recommended)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray, line bottom and up two sides with parchment paper, and spray again.

In a food processor, place all ingredients except chocolate chips and pecans. Process until very smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. If consistency is more cookie dough than thick brownie batter, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional water. Remove blade and gently stir in 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup pecan pieces. (In the photo, I just used 1/4 cup pecans on top for prettier slicing.)

Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle tmremaining chocolate chips and pecans evenly over surface.

Place brownies in center of preheated oven and bake about 33 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with just the slightest bit of moist chocolate coloring it (not really clinging to it). Cool pan on a wire rack. Serve or cover tightly until serving time.

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