Vegan Roasted Za’atar Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If, like me, you find yourself in need of quick, no-fuss holiday gifts from your kitchen, you and your recipients will love my twist on a classic. The Middle Eastern flavor of za’atar curls up next to a hint of smoked paprika, garlic, and tamarind syrup for an intoxicating savory and slightly sweet flavor combination that is tantalizingly exotic, but not odd.

Za’atar is an aromatic Middle Eastern herb blend of earthy-lemony sumac, oregano, thyme, savory, and sesame seeds.

Package these seeds in pretty canisters or jars…or enjoy them warm right off the baking sheet.

Note: adjust spices if necessary to suit your palate.

4 cups raw pumpkin seeds (I purchased sprouted seeds at Whole Foods)

Non-stick spray

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons za’tar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamarind syrup (sold at Middle Eastern markets)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (so that less oil is needed).  Spread seeds out in an even layer. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients except tamarind syrup, and roast for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven, drizzle with tamarind syrup, stir well to distribute evenly, cool on wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

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Vegan Baked Buffalo Dip
Betsy’s Best!

So sorry I’ve been away for so long…

The start of school–especially a year like this with great kids but a punishing schedule–always creates a bit of a hiatus from The Blooming Platter.  Add to that either food poisoning or a stomach virus the last two days of the first week of school, and food was of little interest to me for quite a while.

However, the first thing I wanted to eat after 2 days of being flat on my back in bed too weak to even feed the dogs–I had to call Bob home from work the first day when I couldn’t rouse myself by about 9 a.m.–was a vegan Buffalo “Chicken” pizza slice from Whole Foods.  It proved to be a bit too much of a good thing and I couldn’t finish it.  But, something about those hot-n-tangy Buffalo flavors still sounded good.  So, the next weekend when I made my regular Whole Foods stop after weekend yoga classes, I plopped some vegan Buffalo seitan bites atop some kale messaged with tahini dressing, and it was a revelation.

Then, yesterday, our generous administration and counseling office at school hosted a “social” during lunch–a lunch teachers can never take–and because they specifically told me they had vegan leftovers, I went down after my last class and enjoyed some veggies, fruit and crackers.  But there on the buffet table was a baked Buffalo dip and I knew I had to recreate it my way.  And soon.

So that’s what I did today after researching some recipes, making some mental changes, stopping at Whole Foods, and testing it out for lunch. Wow!  It is so delicious that I was afraid I might devour half a recipe.  But it is so rich and satisfying that, honestly, just a small serving is perfect. Even Bob had to admit that it was “not bad,” a glowing endorsement from his omnivorous self.

The main recipe I decided to veganize was quite  basic: cream cheese, ranch dressing, grated cheese, hot sauce, and canned chicken.  Another recipe I consulted also called for ranch dressing which I found puzzling since blue cheese dressing is the typical accompaniment to Buffalo wings.  So, I was elated when I found Daiya brand blue cheese dressing and decided to substitute it.

For my version, I also used vegan cream cheese, Daiya shredded jack and cheddar blend, Pete’s hot sauce (I didn’t have Frank’s on-hand), and chickpeas in place of the chicken.  However, I feel sure that the original protein must add a depth of flavor, so I used about 3/4 teaspoon vegan no-chicken base. It does up the salt level, so if you are hyper-sensitive to salt, you might want to omit. The rich and creamy mixture was plenty tangy without additional vinegar, but I felt it did need a hint of butter used in standard Buffalo sauce recipes, so I added 1 tablespoon.  Also, I think everything savory is better with garlic and onion–an opinion Bob and I share–so I added minced garlic and, because he doesn’t care for cooked onion, I used finely sliced green onion both in the dip and over the top when its lusciousness emerged from the oven.

Again, I pronounce the end result perfection scooped up with celery sticks; Bob a “not bad” scooped up with Fritos; and that, friends, means that it is a winner for you and your carnivorous pals.

Vegan Baked Buffalo Dip

8 ounces vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup Pete’s or Frank’s hot sauce (plus a tablespoon more if you really crave that flavor and heat as I do)

1/2 cup vegan Blue “Cheese” or Ranch Dressing (I used Daiya brand, but you might try Just brand Ranch if you can’t find Daiya Blue “Cheese”)

1 cup shredded vegan cheddar or jack cheese or a combination (I used a Daiya brand combo)

3/4 teaspoon vegan no-chicken base

2 large cloves garlic minced

2-15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Accompaniment: fresh celery sticks and/or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil or spray a small baking or au gratin dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Place all ingredients except chickpeas and green onions in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Stir frequently until cheeses melt and the mixture is thick and creamy.  Stir in chickpeas and all but about 1/4 of the green onion.  Spoon into prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with reserved green onion, and serve immediately with fresh celery sticks and/or chips.

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Vegan Parmesan Crisps
Yes!

Yield: 4 crisps (recipe easily multiplies, but they are rich)

Yesterday, I purchased a new carton of Follow Your Heart brand vegan parmesan for a dinner party last night. But about 3 tablespoons remained in the previous carton. Wanting to save room in the fridge, I was about to combine them when the Parmesan Crisp idea struck.

I was afraid of a failed gooey or frizzled up failure, but 3 tablespoons wasn’t a huge gamble.  Wow!  I needn’t have been concerned. The results were company-worthy.

I squirted a little Just brand vegan Ceasar dressing on top and garnished with a sliver of marinated red pepper and a sprig of rosemary, as these are perfectly firm enough to pick up, sturdy enough for a topping, and both crispy and chewy.

They are delightful and deeply satisfying.

Vegan Parmesan Crisps

3/4 cup Follow Your Heart brand Non-Dairy Parmesan Cheese (it is sold shredded)

Toppings and garnishes of choice

Lightly spray a skillet with nonstick spray and place over medium heat. Using 3 tablespoons each of the parmesan cheese, make 4 mounds and then carefully  press them out with your fingers or a fork into a fairly flat pancake shape. Cook a couple of minutes or until cheese melts, holds together in a disk, becomes crispy around edges, and is lightly browned on underside. Flip with a spatula and cook just another 20 or 30 seconds. They should flip very easily. *Adjust temperature as necessary.  You may want to make one test crisp to determine correct time and temo on your range before making a batch.  Top as desired or offer options and let guests top their own.

*Note: I have a very powerful new range and what used to require medium-high heat, now takes medium or even low heat.

 

 

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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 Mini-Tater Tot Waffles
with Savory or Sweet Tot Toppings

Yield: 4 mini-waffles (recipe easily multplies)

[At bottom, I include instructions for one large waffle.]

Last week, eyes wide, a colleague brought down to my classroom a culinary magazine featuring a San Francisco restaurant specializing in Tater Tot Waffles.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Basially, anything is better atop a Tot it seems, so while this chef’s toppers tended to be fish-and meat-centric, I figured a crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potato base would be irresistable with anything–or nothing–on top.  And I was right.

I looked up a recipe pretty sure that Tater Tot Waffles are a thing–and they are–and followed it to the letter using Alexia’s Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper.  I have nothing against good ‘ole Ore-Ida, but I found myself at Whole Foods, and Alexia’s the brand they stock.  But it took almost one bag–or 5ish servings–to make one waffle, which Bob and I split 3/4 to 1/4, and that’s a bit too much of a good thing.

So, tonight, with him out to dinner with his brother and me craving more of this crisp-and-slightly-greasy goodness, but not very hungry, I wondered if I could make Mini-Tater Tot Waffles.  Indeed!  They cook up brilliantly, are easier to remove from the waffle iron, and lend themselves to party fare or to the tapas-style meals I prefer.  Plus, just last night I had sent out invitations to the Starlight Supper Club gathering that Bob and I are hosting on March 4 and included Mini-Thai Tater Tots, so I figured I better make certain the concept actually worked.

Boy does it!  Having gone out for Ethiopian food on Saturday night and brought home leftovers, I decided to top mine with a tiny spoonful of the collard greens and a little piece of cooked tomato with a dab of vegan mayo for color and creamy contrast.  Wow!  But top them with anything you choose, savory or sweet..

Mini-Tater Tot Waffles

16 tater tots (I used Alexia brand Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper)

Nonstick cooking spray

Savory or sweet toppings of choice (vegan greens, cheeses, spreads, salsas, tapenades, syrups, citrus curds, nuts, etc.)

Spray electric waffle iron with nonstick spray and preheat.  Meanwhile, place tater tots in a bowl and place in microwave on full power for a minute to two to thaw.  Place 4 tater tots, 2 sides of each one touching, in 1 layer of each quadrant of the waffle maker.  Close lid, gently press, and cook for about 5 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Carefully remove each waffle to a serving platter or plates, top as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: to make one large waffle, follow directions above except thaw about 4 to 5 servings of Tater Tots and use them to completely cover the surface of the waffle iron.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes.  You can check after about 5 minutes and fill in any holes with additional thawed tater tots if desired.

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Vegan Roasted Middle Eastern Tri-Color Carrot-Beet Spread (and a plug for Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine’s article about Whole Foods and John Mackey)

SideYield: approximately 1 cup

(for recipe, please scroll down)

Before my husband passed away in July, I never shopped at Whole Foods due to the expense, but it has become a little treat I give myself.

In some ways I find those activities and events that are exactly the same in his absence–like grocery shopping–more emotionally challenging even than the birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  Perhaps it’s because I steel myself for the latter, shaping them in a way that plays to my strengths and minimizes my vulnerabilities.

But a couple of parties in both November and December required trips to Whole Foods.  The first was Joe’s posthumous birthday party that his sisters and I hosted at Total Wine for which we supplied the food (and decided that tapenade layered over hummus was our favorite new obsession).  He had purchased a wine tasting at a silent auction, but we never used it, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  The second event was my my annual all-girls Christmas, Chanukah, Curry & Cakes Party & Swap.  Joe wasn’t a part of it, but he always put in an appearance to everyone’s delight.

With my dear friend Donna Reiss in town to help me–emotionally and logistically–prepare for the fete, we chose a vegan menu that required a trip to Whole Foods.  With fond and tender memories of our outing, I decided that grocery shopping was a bit more bearable in the more “curated” environs of a store like WF who embraces, at least to some degree, my values. (Somewhere my museum curator friends just felt a stab in their sides because they deplore the way the word “curated” has been conscripted for marketing everything from groceries to jewelry to housewares.)

Vegan Health & FitnessSpeaking of Whole Foods’ values, the June 2016 issue of Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine (which I purchase at Whole Foods), includes a really thorough, fair, and balanced article about John Mackey, Whole Foods’ co-founder and co-CEO, who is controversial to some because, though he is vegan, his store is not.  Still, both editor Brenda Carey’s “Letter” and the article (on p. 52) make a convincing case for why Mackey should be applauded rather than derided for the compassionate and conscious changes he is helping bring about in the food production chain.

Now, I go most Saturdays and sometimes during my planning block at school to stock up on lunch items.  Sometimes I go with a list; most often I just respond to the aesthetics of the produce and purchase what catches my eye, figuring out what to do with it later.  I usually create new recipes though, occasionally and shamefully, I let some of it go to waste and end up composting it.  I would claim that it is because I am not accustomed to shopping and cooking for one, but who am I kidding?  I didn’t shop or cook for Joe in recent years, as he was a committed and unapologetic carnivore who eschewed most vegetables for more meat.  It’s more the case that I don’t consume nearly as much food as I used to.

But this carrot-beet spread is perfect for a mini-meal, as is my preference these days: healthy, beautiful, tasty, and satisfying.  It is worth trying to find the pomegranate or tamarind syrup and the sumac at a Middle Eastern or international market or even online.  But if you can’t, I provide substitutions below.  Sumac bushes produce red berries that are dried and ground to a powder that is used in Middle Eastern cuisines.  The flavor is lemony, but mellow, rounded and a hint earthy.  Lemon zest is a fine substitute, but definitely with zingier flavor notes. Similarly, maple syrup or agave nectar will contribute the desired sweetness and texture to the spread, but not deliver quite the desired authentic flavor of the Middle East.

If you or those for whom you cook think they are beet-haters, this recipe, along with some others here on The Blooming Platter, may change their minds.  But, if not, just substitute another couple of carrots.

PatsyRoasted Middle Eastern Carrot-Beet Spread

6-6 to 7-inch carrots, any color (I use a tri-color bunch), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 small golden (or red) beets, about the size of a plum or a half-fist, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoon + 1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon pomegranate, tamarind, or maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (or lemon zest)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Garnish: 2 to 4 tablespoons of pistachios

Accompaniments: crackers, toasts, green and/or black olives, and finishing salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss carrots and beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous pinch of salt in a large baking pan.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender and caramelized to your liking.  Remove from oven, place in the bowl of a food processor with all other ingredients and process until as smooth as desired, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Taste and adjust all seasonings as desired.  Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Serve with crackers, toast, olives and finishing salt (I use a little salt cellar of coarse sea salt).

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Day 19: Kale & Sundried Tomato Pizza AND Sherried Mushroom Bruschetta–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Kale Pizza(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.

Today I have a lot to write about, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfy. Tuesday night, Betsy DiJulio, the author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook, came to my house to cook with me!! So excited!!

Of course I did the usual when someone is coming over – vacuum up the dog hair, clean the bathroom (remember I have boys!) and clean my kitchen. But I wanted to impress so I chose an appetizer and a dessert from the book to make beforehand. I chose Orange-Espresso Chocolate Chip and Hazelnut Cookies. I followed the recipe exactly being super careful not to inadvertently put something non-vegan in them. Everything was going well until I went to get my coffee beans out to grind one teaspoon of espresso powder. I could not find them anywhere. I love those beans. I had bought them at a little coffee roasting shop on the way to Luray, VA – but they were nowhere. So I racked my brain to come up with an alternative. Finally I ripped open a little Keurig cup and ran it through my grinder to make it into powder. It worked! One teaspoon of “espresso” done!

Next step was the chocolate chips. That’s when I saw the word “vegan” before the words “chocolate chips”. Noooooo!! I had not even considered that my chips were not vegan. Since I didn’t have any idea where to start looking for vegan chips, I was not going to the store so I divided the dough in half. One half gets real chocolate chips and the other will be Orange “Coffee” Hazelnut Cookies. (Thankfully she brought an amazing dessert so we didn’t need them.) I did, however, bake a test batch before dinner and I must say that these cookies are incredible. I have a hard time believing that this dough does not have eggs. They bake up just like any other cookies. My son looked skeptical and politely declined them but later I found the half empty container on the counter so he must like them too.

Mushrooms with SherryThe appetizer I chose was Sherried Mushroom Bruschetta. I have been looking forward to trying this recipe for a while – it sounded so good! I loved putting this together with the obvious exception that I had to use my dumb food processor. Later in the evening I did learn that silken tofu is different than the refrigerated tofu I used but no matter – I think it came out great. [Betsy’s note: it was perfection!] I got a bit heavy handed with the red pepper flakes but no one seemed to mind. My son only had a problem with the gray color but once he tasted it, he was sold.

So now my preparations are done…until I sat down and read through the recipe we had chosen to make. The pizza dough for the Kale and Sundried Tomato Pizza takes two hours to rise! I decided if I didn’t take this part on by myself we would not be eating til 10 PM. Even though I have never made pizza dough, I put on the how-hard-can-it-be attitude and got busy. And it really wasn’t too hard. I did not cheat either. I really used wheat flour. I had bought this to make dog biscuits a while ago and it was sealed up in the back of my cabinet. Nothing flew out of it when I opened it so we were good to go.

As soon as I got the dough set up to rise, Betsy arrived. She came in with an amazing looking cake roll with salted caramel icing. OK we can skip dinner now! It turned out to be a girl’s night since my husband was out for the evening and my son left for his Krav Maga class. (Oh, before he left, he pulled out a container of pork BBQ leftovers from the fridge and starts eating it out of the container right there in the kitchen. I was cringing, hoping Betsy wouldn’t notice…but she did. She was so cool about though. And that’s my family!!).

Anyway we chose a wine and started cooking. She promised me I would love the kale but I was skeptical watching her cut it up. She insisted I try it raw. She ate hers, but mine ended up in the sink. Sorry! I couldn’t even pretend to like it raw. Not good! Next she started the “cheese.” This was not my area – you know how much I cheat with real cheese – so I stepped back and watched her make it. I loved it! Would I give up my cheese for it? No, but I really loved it.

Betsy Making Pizza CrustWhen the dough was done rising, she showed me how to press it out by hand into a circle. Then we prepared the pan to sauté the kale – I forgot to turn the burner on but that was the only glitch. We put the pizza together and got it into the oven. Then we got to just hang out, she met my turtle, Desiree, and we went outside to check out my herb garden. My dog Allie was already her best friend at this point. Before long the pizza was out of the oven and ready. We took some pictures (of course!) and then served it up.

My son was back from class at this point and joined us for dinner. We loved the pizza! Even with kale!! It was flavorful and salty and the kale was very tender. We agreed later it may have been too salty because I only had course sea salt and no grinder. [Betsy’s note: totally my fault; I cook with coarse sea salt and I just wasn’t careful–must have been the wine and the great conversation.]   My husband was quick to point out the saltiness too when he tried it later – this from a guy who snacks on bouillon cubes?! Really?

The time finally came when I could try the cake she brought. OMG! So good! As soon as she posts that recipe I will be lifting it right off her website.

We had so much fun cooking and laughing together but the time came when she did have to get back home to her puppies. I loved learning so many new ways of cooking healthier. I love that she is so non-judgmental about my family’s food choices and is supportive of how I am incorporating her amazing recipes into my way of life. She is one of the sweetest, most gracious people I know and I am glad I can call her my friend. It really was a great evening.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

 

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Day 17: Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Today’s recipe is the Grilled Butternut Squash with White Beans and Olivada. Spoiler alert: I will tell you now that this recipe got a rating of 4 in my book which is the highest rating possible.

To explain, my husband and I started this rating system during winery visits where we would write a number of 1-4 beside each wine we tasted. (The winery owners would get very excited thinking we were buying that many bottles!) Anyway this dish was so good I even packed up the leftovers to go on a trip so we could enjoy it again.

I always start by reading through the recipe and making sure I have everything. Check. Then I got started on the olivada so it would be ready when needed. I had purchased two tiny cans of olives thinking they were 6 ounce cans but no, they were 1.5 ounces. I have never been very good at estimating weights and measures clearly. So I used both cans but had to cut the other ingredients in half.

I went to my newly reorganized spice cabinet so proud that now I would be able to find everything I needed – but there was no oregano. How is that possible? I always have oregano. I tore through the cabinet from A to Z but there was none to be found. (Now I need to reorganize again.) No problem – I grow oregano in my herb garden. I have cultivated the same plant for 10 years and it has grown to be one of the largest plants I have. The leaves are dry now in winter but I can still use them. I grabbed my scissors and went out and…no oregano plant! Instead there was a huge hole! The dog had dug up my oregano plant and -ugh!!!!- replaced it with a gross toy! Are you kidding me?!! Things are going from bad to worse and I refuse to go to the grocery store for oregano. I finally decided to use a Greek seasoning I had on hand.

Once the olivada was done I took a taste and wow! I got some crackers out and started snacking while I started on the squash. The rest of the preparation was easy until I saw that I was supposed to have roasted the garlic. Too late – we are all hungry. So I just minced it and put it in the pan. One day I will try and roast a garlic but not today.

Arranging as instructed was like designing a work of art. It was beautiful when complete. I even used a cookie scoop to place the beans on the center of the fan of squash. Perfection!! Of course I got joked by the guys for taking the time to arrange a side dish, but one bite and they quickly stopped making fun of me. It goes without saying that this dish will be repeated many times in our household and I will definitely be making the olivada for parties.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Vegan Tropical Hummus–Hummus Just Got a Boost of Flavor AND Texture!

Tropical HummusYield:  approximately 2 cups

As most of you know, since my darling husband of 25 years passed away on July 30, 2015, my relationship to food has been profoundly impacted.  I no longer cook or eat as much as I did before.  And when I do, its meaning has been transformed.  You can read the long version here in an essay published by Alimentum, a literary and art journal devoted to food.  [Scroll down under “Throw Tradition to the Wind” (though you might enjoy it too) to “‘Til Death or Dinner Do Us Part.”

The short version is simply that, though I love and respect food–perhaps more than before–I now think of it as somewhat of a sacrament, as an outward sign of inward grace, more spiritual than it once was.

When this began to happen–which was, actually, almost immediately–I jokingly proclaimed this the year of the “mini meal.”  In that spirit, I offer this recipe, though it is really more of a formula, and a simple one at that.

It was inspired by a bite of something I tasted, coincidentally, at a Celebration of Life for a dear friend who passed away just before Christmas.  Called Tuscan Hummus, it was creamy, but with appealing chunks of tomato, basil, and ???  I have long been a fan of a layer of tapenade spread over hummus, but I found the idea of a “chunky” hummus ultra appealing.

Wanting to make this new creation quick and easy, I thought a salsa would be a fun twist and the tropical pineapple salsa at Whole Foods was their most enticing.  So, I stired a cup of it, drained, into a cup of their plain hummus and voila!  For extra crunch, I served it garnished with the little crispy bits and pieces at the bottom of the container of their vegan kale chips.  A brilliant lunch with a dab of lentil soup on the side.

Of course, you could make your own hummus and your own salsa.  But, after Christmas, I started teaching a 6th class and a 4th prep–AP Art History (a super-rewarding but time-consuming course)–so quick and easy without sacrificing flavor or nutrition earns an A+ in my book.

1 cup plain or garlic hummus, homemade or preapred

1 cup tropical pinapple salsa (or your favorite type), homemade or prepared, drained

Pinch sea salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Optional garnish: crispy kale chip bits

Accompaniment: cracker or pita chip of your choice

 

Stir together hummus, salsa, sea salt and pepper.  Serve on crackers or pita chips garnished, if desired, with crispy kale chip bits.

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