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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Best Vegan Salted Maple Brandy (or Bourbon) Pecan Pie
(Classic Texture)

 

If a traditional pecan pie–with even more pecans–is what you crave, this pie is perfection and as easy as, well, you know.

Most recipes call for 2 cups–or even just 1 1/2 cups–pecans. Why?  Mine calls for 3 for the best filling-nut ratio. This is no time to skimp.

A week ago, I published my other favorite pecan pie, though that one has a more custardy texture, as it is made from a tofu and cornstarch-based custard. Bob the omni liked that one but he much prefers this one, which he eats with his chocolate ice cream that is always in the freezer. He did admit that another flavor of ice cream would be optimal.

So serve either pie with vegan vanilla ice cream and/or vegan whipped cream–perhaps a little drizzle of brandy or bourbon–enjoy, and then let us know what you you think. Happy Holidays!

Note: If you eschew booze, just replace it with 3 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, as Veganegg has a somewhat pronounced, slightly savory, flavor that needs countered with the assertive flavor of alcohol or with an acid.

1 prepared vegan pie crust, homemade or purchased

1 1/2 cups pecan pieces

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Non-stick spray

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons Veganegg

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup brandy or bourbon

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup demerrera sugar

3 tablespoons melted vegan butter

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Topping: vegan vanilla ice cream, vegan whipped cream like So Delicious Cocowhip

Set out pie crust if frozen. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet, spray with nonstick spray, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and toast for 3 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together Veganegg with water and brandy or bourbon. Whisk in all remaining ingredients. Set aside 32 pecan halves and spread all the rest into pie crust. Sprikle with sea salt remaining on baking sheet.  Place pie pan on baking sheet, pour filling evenly over the top. Decorate the top with concentric rings of pecan halves and bake for one hour. Pie will seem quite “loose” but will firm up as it cools.  Because of this, you may need to gently reposition some of your decorative pecan halves.

Cool completely, cover, and chill for a couple of hours.  Serve topped as desired.

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Best Vegan Salted Maple Brandy (or Bourbon) Pecan Pie
(Custardy Texture)

I got inspired AFTER Thanksgiving to experiment with pecan pie. The one at our repast was not vegan, so I couldn’t partake.

On a recent trip to Duck, NC, Bob had a scrumptious pecan tart with bourbon ice cream and salted caramel sauce which I had to taste for research purposes. I felt the caramel sauce was overkill. And I knew I wasn’t going to make ice cream just due to time, so I added the booze to the pie and served the slices with purchased vegan vanilla ice cream. Yes, please.

The question for vegan pecan pie bakers is silken tofu or no?  I say yes, as I was never a fan of syrupy pecan pie. So, I like the slightly more custardy texture of this one, which slices beautifully.  I hope you do too.

As I mentioned, this pie is addicting served with softened vegan vanilla ice cream. And while I deemed the caramel sauce too much of a good thing, everyone will look the other way if you drizzle a hint more brandy or bourbon over the top.

  • 1 prepared vegan crust
  • 3 cups whole pecans
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 cup demerrera sugar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons brandy or bourbon
  • Juice of half a medium-large lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup soft silken tofu
  • Optional: a few vegan chocolate chips
  • Flaky or coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If pie crust is frozen, remove from freezer.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, spread pecans in a single layer on sheet, sprinkle very lightly with sea salt, and roast in oven for 3 minutes.  Set aside, but leave oven on.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vegan butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, corn starch, flour, and sea salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in brandy or bourbon, vanilla, and almond extract.
In a food processor, process the silken tofu until smooth. Add the maple syrup mixture and pulse again well combined. Reserve 28 of the pecan halves, add half of the remaining pecan halves, and break up the temaining ones as you add. Use a spatula to gently swirl them into the filling. Transfer filling to pie shell. Arrange the reserved pecans on top of the pie in two concentric circles. Dot with chocolate chips if desired.
Place pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for about one hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the edges of the pie are set. The center might still be a very slightly jiggly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with just a hint of flaky sea salt like Maldon or just a nice coarse variety and allow to cool completely before serving.
Serve with softened vegan vanilla ice cream (I like So Delicious No Sugar Added) or vegan whipped cream.
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Vegan Cajun Red Bean, Spiralized Squash, & Spicy Peanut Slaw
A July 4 Explosion of Flavor

Lately, I will spiralize most anything that isn’t quicker than me.

Actually, that’s not true.  A friend did give me a Spiralizer that I have yet to break out of the box.  But, so far, I have purchased a variety of colorful vegetables already cut into those long, luscious threads.

I’m not a “raw vegan,” but I do find that these thin, spiraling threads do not need cooked, not even the sweet potato, though you could certainly blanch them if you prefer.  I favor the flavor, texture, and color “as is.”

This slaw was inspired by my beloved NOLA.  It combines super heart-healthy dark red kidney beans with spicy peanuts, cajun seasoning, and a few other key ingredients with a blend of spiralized zucchini and yellow squash for a refreshing, luscious, and lovely–especially when served in a martini glass–heck of a zippy slaw.

Rice would be the more natural choice, i.e. red-beans-and-rice, but I just can’t find much to recommend calorie dense, carb rich, and nutrionally lacking white rice.  Hence the light colored spiralized squash which is such fun to eat.

It appears that Bob and I are going to a restaurant for July 4 with his family, as the family matriarch is recovering from a back injury and prefers not to entertain; but if we weren’t, I would certainly be taking this dish as my potluck contribution.

Note: the number of cups listed on the back of spiralized vegetable packages is usually less than my measurements as I very loosely pack it, while it appears that they must compress it a bit more.  This is, I always end up with significantly more than the package indicates.

3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (or to taste)

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

1 tablespoon cajun seasoning (I used one with lots of spices, but none of them with a lot of heat)

2 cups spiralized zucchini (loosely packed)

2 cups spiralized yellow squash (loosely packed)

1 cup diced celery (about 4 celery hearts, sliced lengthwise and then thinly sliced crosswise)

2 green onions, thinly sliced, both the white and green parts (about 1/2 cup)

1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsied and drained

1 cup spicy peanuts

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: thin lemon slices with a cut from outer edge to center

In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon juice, and cajun seasoning.  Add remaining ingredients and gently toss to evenly distribute dressing.  Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve in glasses with a slice of lemon “hung” on the rim.

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Day 16: Sweet & Savory Nut Brittle–“‘Cooking the Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle(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.)

[Betsy’s note: 360 degrees on an accurate thermometer is the correct temperature to which the sugar syrup should be brought.  However, use your eyes and nose too in case your thermometer, like Kim’s, is not properly calibrated.  You want it dark and deep amber, but obviously, not scorched.]

As I write about the events of tonight’s recipe and describe my most epic fail so far, I am sitting beside an open screen door in 40 degree weather trying to air out my kitchen – my eyes watering from the smoke and the smell of burnt sugar.

I chose Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle. I was so excited about this one because I love brittle anything. Everything started out great. I oiled the pans and measured the ingredients. I dug my candy thermometer out of the drawer and brought the sugar mixture to a boil. I was standing there holding the thermometer up for about two or three minutes before I realized it had a clip on the back – how handy!!

Now I have never in my life brought a candy past the hard ball stage so this was new for me. It seemed like a very long way to go to get to 360 degrees but I was patient. Apparently, however, 360 on my thermometer is the just-before-the-smoke-alarms-go -off-and-it-bursts-into-flames degrees. (I vaguely remember now that something went wrong with the thermometer last time I used it.)

Sweet and Savory Nut Brittle RuinedThe sugar mixture was now black but I thought “Well maybe this is how brittle is done or maybe it’s the balsamic vinegar – that’s black.” So I poured in the nuts and chili powder, stirred it and poured it on the baking sheet. I waited a little bit then pressed in the salt and then broke off a tiny piece to try. The burnt flavor was overwhelming, but being the optimistic person I am, I thought that maybe that goes away when it cools a little more. So I waited.

When it was cool enough to break, I got out the hammer and whacked it. It broke like glass and flew in different directions all over my kitchen. As I was picking it up, I tried a bigger piece and it was like scooping up a bite of ash out of my fireplace – awful!! I couldn’t eat it. I wouldn’t let my dog eat this fiasco. No literally! My dog was excitedly all over this one and I turned around and dug a piece of it out of her mouth. I was afraid of the potential carcinogens not to mention the sharp glass like shards cutting her mouth.

I was so disappointed (as was the dog!). I really think I should leave the candy making to someone with more experience in this field. I am positive this recipe tastes amazing when made by someone other than myself.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Best Vegan Nicely Spicy Holiday Nuts

Nicely Spicy Holiday NutsYield: approximately 2 pounds of nuts

These addicting nuts are perfect for New Year’s Day football watching or any time a protein-packed and exquisite snack is in order.

For years Ina Garten’s recipe for Rosemary Cashews was my go-to for snacking and gift-giving.  But I found myself craving something with a little more complex flavor and a little less sweet.  So I began experimenting and this was my favorite delicious result. You may substitute pecan halves if you like, but they will likely require less cooking time.

This recipe easily doubles or triples.  I triple it and use a large roasting pan.

For gift-giving, I like to package the nuts inside a resealable plastic sandwich bag inside a tin to prevent the tin’s interior from becoming messy.

 

28 to 32 ounces roasted and lightly salted or salted cashews (the cans I purchase at Bed, Bath, and Beyond come as 28 ounces)

1/3 cup vegan butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon adobo (from a can of chiles in adobo)

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional but delish)

1/2 teaspoon natural sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all ingredients in a 9 x 13″ baking pan, and taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently until fragrant and lightly golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight containers.

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Vegan Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Nutritional Yeast, Dried Orange Zest, and Seaweed–a subtle flavor combination that will change your life!

Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Nutritional Yeast, Dried Orange Zest and SeaweedYield: 2 pounds nuts

This flavor combination is a nod to by my beloved Hurricane Popcorn, which was inspired by the Hawaiian mainstay.

 

1/4 cup vegan butter (you can subsitute olive oil, but the flavor won’t be as rich)

2 pounds raw pumpkin seeds (I purchase two 1 pound bags from Trader Joe’s)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon Nori powder or dulce flakes (to make Nori powder, break up and process a Nori sheet in a spice grinder)

1 teaspoon onion powder (or garlic powder for a slightly different, but equally delicious, flavor)

1 teaspoon dried minced orange zest (I purchase it prepared on the spice aisle)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in oven in 9 x 13″ roasting pan.  Remove from oven and add all ingredients, sprinkling dry ingredients over the whole surface, and stirring to evenly coat seeds with butter and other ingredients.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven, cool in pan on a wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

These nuts will make a tasty and highly sought after holiday gift from your kitchen…if you don’t eat them all first!

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Vegan Smokey BBQ Chex Mix (Never fear, this addicting mix does NOT taste like BBQ potato chips!)

Smokey BBQ Chex MixAfter creating my Vegan Asian Chex Mix (read: culinary cocaine–sorry!), I was on a roll!

If you’re interested in how this amalgamation came about, keep reading.  If not, just skip straight to the addicting recipe below.

Scanning my spices for one that would be delicious but that I hadn’t seen used in a Chex Mix–which is not to say that it hasn’t been–I lit upon smoked paprika, an all-time favorite.

That led me in a BBQ direction (but not like BBQ potato chips of which I’m not fond).  Not wanting the flavor profile to scream BBQ, I chose not to add any BBQ sauce to the melted butter, but I thought that maybe an ingredient used in BBQ sauce might be the ticket, deciding upon mustard as a nice substitute for the tanginess of Worcestershire Sauce, which is not vegna but is one of the traditional ingredients in the vintage Chex Mix recipes.

And that, in turn, led to Corn Chex because corn cakes are so delicious with all things BBQ. But I combined the Corn Chex with Rice Chex because, I don’t know, it sounded southern?  Ditto the pecans.  As for the Cheerios, I added them because they are a traditional part of the mix, so to speak, and a nice shape and flavor contrast.

And, finally, I decided to provide a little contrast to all of the tangy, salty deliciousness with just a hint of maple syrup because BBQ sauce often has a hint of sweetness for balance, and maple syrup is so delectable with corn cakes.

In my mind and mouth, it all ties together beautifully.  See what you think…I ended up having to package it and give it as some belated New Year’s gifts today lest I founder myself.  See this post for a pretty packaging idea.

 

6 ups Corn Chex

6 cups Rice Chex

2 cups Cheerios (not the whole grain variety which are fairly highly sweetened)

1 cup smoked almonds

1 cup lightly roasted and salted peanuts

1 1/2 cups lightly roasted and salted chashews

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

1 cup vegan butter, melted

2 tablespoons Liquid Aminos

1 teaspoon mustard (I used stone ground)

1 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s brand)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Optional: 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large roasting pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients except maple syrup (avoid adding it during the baking period, as it will cause the mixture to burn because of the sugars).  Drizzle evenly over dry mix and combine, using your hands, trying to coat every piece with the butter mixture.  Place pan in center of oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring really well from the sides and corners to the center, every 1o minutes.  Remove from oven, drizzle with maple syrup, and stir well to combine.  To cool, spread mixture out in a thin layer on kitchen counter or baking sheets lined with paper towels or brown paper grocery bags. Cool completely.  Store in airtight containers or in ziplock bags inside airtight containers for extra protection for about a week.

 

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Raw Vegan Ya Ya Bars (dried plums, nuts, coconut, and melted chocolate, oh my!)

Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone
Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone

Yield: 24 squares (they are rich and dense, so I cut them smaller than usual)

If you are in need of a healthy bite for graduation parties, these are your ticket!  They are non-vegan male teenager approved (and meatatarian husbands love them too)!

These bars were inspired by my inimitable yoga instructor, Angela Phillips’, scrumptious “La La Bars.”  (Her nickname is La La.)  I call mine Ya Ya Bars after the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

But “brothers” love them too, as noted above.  Having taken the bars to enjoy as soon as my AP Art students got their portfolios assembled on May 9, I suddenly remembered that I didn’t have any pictures of them, so Bryanna snapped this photo before they were all devoured.

When Angela gifted me with the bars, I didn’t ask for the recipe.  So, since I love a culinary challenge, so I just made mine up as I went along.

She uses dates in hers, but my grocery store was out.  So, I substituted pitted dried plums, as I have had great success with my Vegan Plum Delicious Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies and my Vegan Chocolate-Plum Butter Mousse.  Who knew those two flavors were so compatible?  While I have not tried my recipe with dates, feel free to give it a whirl.  My assumption is that they will taste more pecan pie-like and slightly less fruity than my dried plum variety.  Very good, just different.

However you decide to make them, you are sure to love them as much as everyone else.  And thank you, Angela, for the inspiration!

1 cup nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans)

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

18 ounces pitted dried plums (make sure they are very moist in a sealed cardboard canister or bag)

9 to 10 ounces vegan chocolate chips, melted

Pinch sea salt

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil.  In a food processor, finely chop nuts and coconut and transfer to a medium size bowl.  Add plums to processor and pulse until finely chopped.  They will tend to mash together but avoid making a puree.  Transfer to bowl with nuts and coconut.   Using fingers, combine well without compacting.  Pour melted chocolate over the mixture along with a healthy pinch of sea salt, and continue to combine with your fingers until all ingredients are completely incorporated.  Press evenly into prepared pan, cover, and refrigerate several hours or until cold.  Cut into squares and serve.  If you prefer, invert them onto a cutting board, remove foil, and then cut.

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