Moroccan Stew

 
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This blog post is sponsored by California Prunes. All opinions are my own.

It is officially fall and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s time for roasting pumpkin seeds (after carving, of course), baking apples, and making hearty stews that warm your soul. That’s precisely why I created this recipe to share with all of you. My very own version of Moroccan Stew. This savory dish is layered with a multitude of complex flavors like cinnamon, allspice, star anise, nutmeg, ginger and cumin. Of course, there are loads of classic vegetables like carrots, celery, and kale, but there are also some unique ingredients like green olives and shiitake mushrooms. But what’s the secret weapon you ask? California Prunes.

Yes, I said it: Prunes! With their beautifully sweet, savory and tangy flavor profile they provide a lovely depth of flavor to a hearty stew as such. By adding in just half a cup of chopped prunes, the dried fruit pieces melt away in the broth, providing a subtle sweetness. This creates an overall balanced flavor, making one exceptional stew.

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The idea to use prunes in this recipe was inspired by my recent trip to California, where I was able to explore the cities of Sacramento, Sonoma and Winters. I was lucky enough to be invited by the California Prune Board to come visit and learn all about this amazing fruit. I also had the pleasure of visiting a prune orchard where I was able to taste fresh plums, right off the tree. Can we talk about sweet? That they were!

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What I found most interesting about these plums is that they are a specific variety known as ‘Prune Plums,’ an improved French variety. They are intentionally grown for their ‘Brix’ value, a term that farmers use to measure the sweetness of their fruit. Because these plums are sun ripened on the tree and harvested at the perfect stage, the results are incredibly delicious prunes that California is known for. And while they boast nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamin K, I quickly realized that prunes are an accessible, affordable, and delicious superfood.

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Once I saw all of these California prunes in action, I started thinking about what kind of recipe I wanted to make. Long known for aiding with digestive issues, in my mind, I was used to simply enjoying prunes on their own. They happen to be the perfect travel companion as they provide fiber, nutrients, and calories in a convenient vessel form. On the trip, we were able to try energy balls, using dried coconut, nuts and seeds, cocoa powder, and California prunes. They were fantastic.

But, of course, whenever I think of food, my mind goes straight to savory. That’s just the kind of guy I am. After much investigation, I realized that prunes have actually been used in savory cooking for ages! My wheels started spinning and I thought to myself: what about a hearty stew? Not to my surprise, I came to learn that this was an age-old trick used in cooking for centuries. All of a sudden I was ready to cook: let me show you.

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First up, for the foundation backbone of the soup we are starting off with a power-house combination of spices. Here we have star anise, cinnamon, ground turmeric, ground ginger, cumin, coriander, clove, allspice, and nutmeg. Talk about flavor people- this is the ticket! Now to wake up all of these dried ingredients, we are first going to fry a chopped onion in some oil. Once the onion is caramelized as all get out, we throw in the spices and toast them. That’s when you’ll roll your eyes in the back of your head and scream, “Delicious!”

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Now for some texture: large chunks of carrots and celery, cooked cannellini beans, and shiitake mushrooms. This array of ingredients bulks up the stew, making it hearty and filling. For even more flavor, we’re adding bay leaves and… the California prunes!

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To balance the acid in the stew, creating a rounded flavor, we’re adding chopped tomatoes. Red wine deglazes the pan (while also providing more acid), releasing all those gorgeous tidbits at the bottom of the pan. With a large pour of vegetable stock and crank of the heat, you will be left with a gorgeous pot of bubbling stew on your very own stovetop.

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Right before serving, I like to add large pieces of freshly torn kale. This will only take a few minutes to cook and their substantial texture pairs perfectly with the stew. A sprinkling of couscous or quinoa with freshly chopped parsley on top seals the deal and everyone’s happy. Big thanks to California Prunes for teaming up with me on this recipe and adventure. Enjoy!

Moroccan stew

serves 6, gluten-free option

Spice Blend

½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon ground allspice 
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 whole star anise pods
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper for extra spice, optional 

Stew

1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some more
3 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary 
3 whole bay leaves (fresh is best!)
3 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup dry red wine
2-3 large carrots, cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, cut into chunks
1 cup green olives, chopped
½ cup California prunes, chopped
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans
7 cups water + 1 tablespoon bouillon broth paste (or 7 cups veggie broth)
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups torn kale
2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa (season with salt, vinegar, and one bay leaf)
Fresh parsley, to garnish

  1. Add all of the spice blend ingredients into a bowl and set aside.

  2. In a large pot, drizzle in olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a good 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden, stirring every so often with a wooden spatula.

  3. Once the onions are cooked, add spice blend and mix well. Add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and continue to mix frequently, toasting the spices until fragrant. Throw in the rosemary, bay leaves, and garlic. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Pour in wine, to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up all of the tidbits. Lower the heat to medium low.

  4. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, olives, California prunes and beans. Gently mix, to avoid crushing the beans, and cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes to sweat the vegetables.

  5. Add broth, tamari, and tomato paste. Mix well. Place a cracked lid on top and bring to a simmer. Once at a simmer, stir well and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every so often, until stew reduces and becomes thick. Taste and season with salt to your liking. 

  6. Before serving, remove bay leaves and star anise. Add torn kale, mix, and cook for a few minutes, until tender. Garnish with couscous (or quinoa) and parsley.

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Tips, tricks, and other tidbits

When making the couscous, I like to add bay leaves, olive oil, and rice vinegar for extra flavor. If you would like to keep this recipe grain free, you could simply remove or swap out for cauliflower rice.

Feel free to use whatever vegetables and beans that you desire! For instance, you could add chunks of pumpkin or butternut squash. If you need to adjust the cooking time until tender, simply continue to cook on low heat. Or swap out the cannellini beans for chickpeas.

For recipe ideas (like this lovely salad) and more information about prunes, check out California Prunes website.



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One-Pot Dirty Rice

 
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This post is sponsored by Muir Glen and Kroger. All opinions are my own.

I grew up eating dirty rice at family gatherings when I was a little kid. I remember seeing a very dark brown rice dish that, to be completely honest, didn’t look that appetizing. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I remember trying dirty rice and it really stuck with me. You know when you try a dish and your eyes widen and your mouth tingles and you know deep down that you have to make it again for yourself? That’s what happened to me. Interestingly enough, that was before I was vegan. I can still remember it to this day: piping hot, fluffy rice that was bursting with savoriness and spice with a deep flavor of green bell peppers, onion, and celery.

A few years later, after going vegan, I remembered the dish and decided to take a whack at it. The first time, it was good- more like a fried rice if you ask me. It didn’t have that dark brown look and the flavor wasn’t quite as pungent as what I remembered but hey, if you put a bowl of rice in front of me I’m going to eat it. Over the years, I kept making the recipe and each time if became better and better.

Now that I’ve been vegan for over 10 years, I’ve learned a thing or two. Ok, I’ve learned a lot more than that! Most importantly, I’ve learned how to recreate depth of flavor in traditional recipes that use animal products by using amazing plant-based ingredients. (I actually wrote a whole cookbook about it.) Sometimes in vegan cooking, it takes a little bit more seasonings than you would think and sometimes it takes a few extra secret ingredients to work in a collective way to make a successful dish. This recipe is the perfect example of that.

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In traditional dirty rice, the dark color comes from browning chicken liver or gizzards. I’m going to take a collective vote here and say let’s not use those two items. Instead, why not say, tofu? Go ahead and roll your eyes but if you were to simply google what ‘gizzards’ are, I think you might reconsider. Anyways, I’m not trying to get political here, I’m just saying extra-firm, high protein tofu crumbles and browns beautifully. Especially when you add amazing ingredients like tamari, thyme, sage, oregano, vegan Worcestershire, onions, garlic, celery, green bell peppers, and some good ole’ red wine. You will be left with a dark brown and fantastically flavorful vegan base for dirty rice.

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But there’s a trick to making this dish EXTRA flavorful. A trick that makes this dirty rice stand on its own two feet in comparison to the traditional dish at any ‘hole in the wall’ southern restaurant. First up, after all of the seasonings and spices are warmed up with the onions, bell pepper and celery, the rice will be toasted. Next, we are going to BLEND some bay leaves, green onion, fresh garlic, water, and, the secret ingredient, Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes together in a blender creating a flavorful and delicious liquid. In my humble opinion, the acidity and smokiness from the fire roasted tomatoes gives this dish the backbone that it needs. While cooking in the oven, all of the flavor in the liquid and the spices will infuse into each grain of rice. I’m excited just thinking about it.

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To finish the dish, after thoroughly cooked, you simply fluff the rice, let sit for 5 minutes and you are ready to serve. I like to garnish with freshly chopped parsley and sliced green onions. I suggest you do the same! If you’re feeling sassy, add some diced red onion for a pop of color but that’s totally optional. Keep scrolling to see a fun way to plate this dish and to read some more about tips and tricks.

Before I share the recipe, let me just take a moment to point out how much I absolutely love Muir Glen’s canned tomatoes. When they reached out to see if I would like to team up with them, I squealed. You see, I have been using their fire roasted tomatoes (diced and crushed) for as long as I can remember. The concentrated flavor of their organic tomatoes with a nice char creates the perfect ingredient for any cook, especially a vegan trying to recreate southern dishes. I use their fire roasted tomatoes in all of my gumbos, most of my soups and stews, and now this dirty rice. As a native Mississippian and Southern boy, I grew up shopping at Kroger as well, which always stocks Muir Glen’s canned tomatoes. I invite you to shop at your local location and to make this recipe immediately. Enjoy!

One-Pot Dirty Rice 

serves 6, gluten-free

¼ cup vegetable oil (i.e. sunflower or avocado)
1 (16 oz) block extra-firm, high protein tofu
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 cup green bell pepper + ½ cup (to add later), chopped
1 cup yellow onion, chopped (about half an onion)
1 cup celery + ½ cup (to add later), chopped 
¼ cup fresh jalapeño, chopped (deseeded for less spicy)
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika 
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
½ cup dry red wine
2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed thoroughly 
2 cups filtered water 
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¾ cup Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (diced or crushed variety)
1 stalk green onion, chopped + ½ cup sliced to garnish
3 fresh bay leaves (dried is ok but fresh is best!)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons vegan butter
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

  2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Using your hands in a colander, drain and crumble the tofu into small crumbly bits. Add to the hot vegetable oil. Sprinkle the salt and nutritional yeast over the tofu. Stir until incorporated. Every so often, scrape the bottom of the pan. The tofu will start to turn a crispy brown after about 10 minutes.

  3. Add the bell pepper, yellow onion, jalapeño, and celery to the browned tofu. Cook the vegetables down for a good 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add in the tamari and the Worcestershire. Stir and combine. Cook down for 5 minutes, stirring often. Lower heat to medium-low. Add in your sage, oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke. Stir and toast your spices until fragrant, stirring often. Add in the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the bottom tidbits from the bottom of the pot.

  4. Rinse rice under warm water until water runs clear. Add to the pot. Stir to combine and toast the rice for 5 minutes. In a high-speed blender, add water, garlic, green onion, bay leaves, salt and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. (Yes, the bay leaves will blend up!) and add the second round of bell pepper and celery mixture to the rice. 

  5. Pour in blended liquid. Place in the center rack of the oven and cook for 40 minutes, with the lid tightly on. Remove from oven, remove lid, fluff with a fork, place lid back on and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the vegan butter and mix. Season with more salt if desired. Serve and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and sliced green onions.

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tips, tricks and other tidbits

If you don’t have a high speed blender and you are concerned that the bay leaves will not blend effectively, you can simply add them separately before cooking in the oven and remove them when ready to serve.

If you want to be fancy and serve this rice in a more sophisticated way than straight out of the pot, try pressing a good amount into a medium sized bowl using a spoon. Then, using the back of the spoon, press the rice into the bowl firmly. Place the plate on top of the bowl, press everything together securely, and flip. Remove the bowl and there you go! A beautiful mound of dirty rice.

To make this a more complete meal, I suggest serving it with any of these suggestions: BBQ tempeh or slow roasted mushrooms, sautéed collard greens or kale, cornbread muffins, grilled asparagus, cole slaw, roasted cauliflower, a simple side salad with a light dressing.


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Corn Ramen

 
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Corn is in season right now and I am absolutely here for it! I love, love, love this juicy sweet vegetable. Or is it a grain? (Quick google search: it’s actually both.) Whether it be eaten off the cob, grilled, or, my favorite, used in a brothy soup of some kind, I simply adore it. Which brings me to the recipe I am about to share with all of you: my corn ramen.

This ramen is bursting with flavor that is layered and complex. Using a powerhouse combination of herbs and spices, dried shiitake mushrooms (umami bombs!) and a delightful mix of textures, you are left with big results. Of course, if you’d like, you could easily remove the ramen noodles from this to make the dish more vegetable heavy. But I tell you what, slurping up a big squiggly cluster of these noodles drenched in broth with tender pieces of roasted eggplant, plump corn kernels, and savory shiitake mushroom slices- it’s pretty fantastic.

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First up, fresh corn! I’m talking unshucked and whole. You can usually find this at the grocery store but I beg of you to find it at your local farmers market. It will have been picked more recently and therefore more fresh and more sweet. I love this bi-colored variation you see here. If you can only find pre-shucked corn, that’s ok. Sadly, you cannot use frozen, as you will need the cobs for the stalk.

As for the eggplant, I like to use Thai eggplant, or any long and thin variety. This makes it easier to cut the eggplant into bite-size pieces and I quite like that every piece has some skin for pops of color in the final dish. You can also add fresh chunks of summer squash or zucchini if you’re in the mood.

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What I love most about corn cob broths is the buttery flavor that is achieved. The cobs have a milky liquid that is full of deliciousness and by boiling them, this flavor is extracted making for a very robust broth. This in combination with dried shiitakes provides another layer of savoriness and butteriness. I like to add a jalepeno for a kick. Because this recipe makes a large batch, I find the spice to be perfect for my taste (and everyone that tried it!). If you are not keen on spicy, you can simply leave it out. But I would at least add a small piece!

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While the broth is cooking, you can work on roasting the eggplant. The first time I had eggplant like this was at a Thai restaurant in Charleston, SC called Basil. I would order the green curry (which to this day is one of the best I have ever had) and they would serve it with chunks of eggplant that would melt in your mouth. Literally! I had to get to the bottom of it.

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To be honest, I think eggplant gets a bad rap because if it’s not cooked properly, it becomes spongy in texture and not desirable. Yet, it is still served this way at restaurants! Yikes. When I finally did ask Basil what the trick was with their eggplant, they said, “We fry it.” Well duh! Of course it’s good after you fry it! Luckily, you can achieve the same texture if you coat the pieces with a good amount of oil and roast them in the oven. Once caramelized, they turn golden brown and oh so succulent, with a sweet and earthy flavor- perfect for ramen.

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Next up, you’re going to lightly fry a ridiculous amount of fresh garlic and ginger until fragrant and golden, providing a gorgeous richness. Then you combine the fresh corn kernels and sliced shiitake mushrooms. Both of these will bulk up the ramen with color, flavor, and texture. Not to mention your house will smell outrageously good during this step.

Lastly, add the noodles and serve! Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro and sliced green onions and you are good to go! I definitely think it’s important to invest in some nice deep bowls and large soup spoons for dishes like this.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! Overall, it’s a very simple recipe from start to finish with a fair amount of prep work. Luckily, the soup stores well in the fridge for leftovers so you could make this on the weekend and have some for the week. If you do make this recipe, please leave a review at the bottom of the page and tag me on Instagram… I wanna see!

-Timothy

Corn Ramen

Serves 4 - 6

1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1 piece dried kombu 
4 fresh ears of corn, shucked and tassel removed
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 jalapeno, sliced in half (optional) 
4 - 5 Japanese eggplants (long magenta variety), cut into rounds or half moons (think bite-sized) 
¼ cup avocado oil or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon salt 
3 oz knob of ginger, peeled and minced (about ½ a cup) 
1 head of garlic, peeled and minced (about ¼ cup) 
2 tablespoons mirin (rice cooking wine)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt 
3 tablespoons tamari 
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 green onions, thinly sliced 
8 oz ramen noodles
Chili oil and fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish  

  1. Using a sharp knife cut corn kernels off the cob into a bowl or on a large cutting board (cut away from you!). Set corn kernels aside. 

  2. Place corn cobs along with the dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu into a large pot. Add 12 cups of water, onion, black peppercorns and jalapeno. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, crack lid and simmer for 35-45 minutes.

  3. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

  4. Toss eggplant rounds with avocado oil (or sunflower) and salt.  Lay out on parchment paper making sure half moon pieces are face down. Roast for 40 minutes until bottoms are caramelized. 

  5. Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl, set aside mushrooms and discard other ingredients. Add mirin, salt, tamari and rice vinegar to broth. Once mushrooms are cooled, slice into thin strips. 

  6. Wipe out the bottom of the pot, drizzle in a good bit of oil (2 tablespoons) and lightly fry minced garlic and ginger over medium high heat. Stir constantly so it doesn’t burn.  Once browned, add corn kernels and sliced mushrooms, season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Reduce to low heat and cover with lid until ready to serve.  

  7. Cook ramen noodles according to package. Drain and add to broth. Spoon into bowls, top with eggplant pieces, green onion and cilantro. Drizzle with chili oil, if desired.

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tip, tricks & other tidbits

Multi-tasking tips: While the broth is steeping, you can prep and roast eggplant. While eggplant is roasting, you can cut and prep garlic and ginger. 

Feel free to add other chopped vegetables like summer squash, sliced peppers or roasted butternut squash. Fresh Thai basil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice would also be fantastic in this!

Feel free to set aside some of the broth in the freezer! That way, you can make ramen at some other time with less work. It will last in the freezer for a couple of months.

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Blueberry Cheesecake

 
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I remember making cheesecake when I first went vegan. This was before blogs really existed and I found a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake recipe. (It actually was really good even though vegan cream cheese in those days tasted pretty awful!) I can’t seem to find that page anymore (this was early 2000s!) but I will always remember that recipe fondly. It wasn’t until about a month ago that one of my oldest friends, Maggie, texted me asking if I would make the cheesecake for her again, after all these years! I knew exactly what she was talking about and it lit a fire underneath me. Alas, this recipe was born.

I scoured through all of my cookbooks and watched dozens of YouTube videos to find the perfect vegan cheesecake. After a full day of research, this recipe, by Vegan as Fork, stood out to me like a sore thumb! You should watch it because when you see the results, you’ll understand exactly why I had to make it immediately. Not only does it have current-day vegan cream cheese (I like the almond-based kind), but there’s also rich and decadent coconut cream which I think takes this recipe to the next level.

Of course, I had to doctor it up because y’all know I can’t sit still. I added oats and vegan butter to the crust for extra flavor and texture. I doubled the batter for a more impressive thick result (think like a restaurant cheesecake). I also added blueberries to the mix because it’s summer and that’s what you do when you bake. Lastly, I cut back on the sugar from the original recipe because I don’t like things too sweet. Let’s talk some more about it because we’re both here:

If I had to pick one of my favorite desserts, I think cheesecake might just be #1… I know, it’s a tough decision and a bold statement, but I’m serious. And if I had to guess why, it would be for two reasons: 1) It has a crust. 2. It’s not that sweet. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know that I don’t come out with too many dessert recipes. That’s because I’m a salty, savory kinda guy. So if I’m going to share a dessert recipe with all of you- you know it has to be good.

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Full disclosure! Although this recipe is easy to make, it is quite finicky. There’s a few very important steps that need to happen for it to be successful. For instance, it must chill in the fridge overnight. You also have to let the cake cool in the oven, with the door cracked and the oven turned off. Drastic temperature changes cause cracking, so letting it cool very slowly prevents this from happening.

Lastly, this recipe is expensive. I’m not going to even try to deny it. I blame the almond-based cream cheese. Sure, you could use another type that’s made from soy and is cheaper, but I only use the best over here. That said, I do have some tricks for making it cheaper. Check out the tips section below.

Before diving in, I just want to say that even though this cheesecake might be pricey and finicky, it’s award winning. It may not be a weekly recipe, but it’s definitely a 2-3x a year kind of gig. Special occasions, holidays (swap out seasonal fruit for festivity!), or birthdays. What I need you to also understand is that I have served this cheesecake to multiple non-vegans and they all told me it was one of the best, if not the best, cheesecakes they have ever had. Vegan or not. So there you go- nothin’ but net.

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First, you are going to need to get your hands on some fresh blueberries. We’ll be blending them up in the cheesecake mixture. And I like to throw some on for garnish. A sprig of mint looks cute too but I quite like the monochromatic palette that you see below.

In regards to coconut cream, this can be tricky. I find that the best source is from the Whole Food’s brand, 365 Full Fat Coconut Milk. Once you place the can in the fridge for an hour or two, the cream rises to the top and hardens. Then you can scoop it off and drain the remaining liquid. That’s what you want to use for this cheesecake as it provides a thick, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Be forewarned, some brands of full-fat coconut milk do not set. I’ve also seen cans of actual coconut cream- some set beautifully while others do not, which is terribly annoying. The point I am trying to make is, if you cannot access coconut cream that is thick and scoopable, this recipe won’t work. First, I would make sure that you have coconut milk that is behaving correctly before making the recipe. (Also, if you watch the YouTube video from the original recipe, you’ll see the texture we’re looking for.)

As for the crust, that’s easy. Simply find some classic, old-school graham crackers. All of the organic brands have honey (at least, that’s what I noticed) but Nabisco’s crackers are vegan. Once again, I prefer the almond-based cream cheese, but do what you will. Lastly, please scan the recipe thoroughly before making so that you are ready to go.

Blueberry Cheesecake   

serves 8

1 package graham crackers
½ cup oats 
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted
2 cups raw cashews 
2 (8 oz) packages almond-based, vegan cream cheese (16 oz total), room temperature
2 cups of coconut cream (2 cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated, then liquid drained off)
1 cup organic sugar (or vanilla infused sugar)
1 lemon, zested and juiced 
2 tablespoons vanilla 
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 cup fresh blueberries


Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a 9” springform pan to prevent sticking.

  2. Pulse graham crackers and oats in a food processor until small crumbs, transfer to a bowl and mix with coconut oil and vegan butter. Press into the bottom of the springform pan and refrigerate for about an hour. No baking required!

  3. Put raw cashews, vegan cream cheese, coconut cream, vanilla sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, cornstarch, salt, and the blueberries together in a high-speed blender (if you only have a regular blender, soak the cashews in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and add). Blend until very smooth, making sure the cashews are broken down and creamy. Start on a slow speed and, once ingredients are well-blended, scrape down the sides and blend on high. 

  4. Remove crust from fridge, spray the sides and bottom of your springform pan with a neutral cooking oil spray, and pour in the filling. Drop gently, a few times, on the counter to release the air bubbles. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and the cake is firm. If you gently shake the cake, the center should jiggle. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, if needed.

  5. Once done, turn off oven, crack open door and let cheesecake cool inside the oven for about 45 minutes. This prevents the top from cracking as it cools. Then transfer to the counter until cooled completely. Finally, refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours).

  6. Run knife around outside of cake, if needed. Gently remove outside ring of springform pan, slice, and serve! To garnish, sprinkle with fresh blueberries.

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tips, tricks, & other tidbits

Coconut cream: I have worked with a straight-up coconut cream from Trader Joe’s. I find that the texture isn’t quite as smooth and creamy as the Whole Foods brand, but I think it would be ok to use. I’ve also had success with Thai Kitchen’s full-fat coconut milk, in the red can.

If you don’t have a Vitamix (or other powerful blender), you could soak the cashews first. Simply pour some boiling water over them and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain and use. When purchasing cashews, make sure they are raw.

To make this recipe cheaper, buy raw cashew pieces. They are cheaper than the whole variety and, since you are blending them up, it doesn’t matter.

Another trick to making this recipe more affordable is by halving the recipe. The cheesecake won’t be quite as thick and impressive, but it would still be great! If you decide to do this, you can make it in a smaller springform pan so it still looks thick like my pictures. I would also reduce cooking time to 45 minutes.

Tips to prevent cracks:

1. Avoid overmixing batter - it incorporates air bubbles. Similarly, make sure to drop it on the counter before baking to get rid of the air bubbles. I drop mine a good 5-6 times.

2. Let cool in oven that is turned off with door cracked. Rapid cooling creates cracks.

3. Don’t overbake it! It should be jiggly in the center with a slightly firm top. If you bake for too long, it will dry out and crack.

4. If you try all that and you still get cracks, simply cover them with berries and whip cream - it will still be amazing!

If you’d like to transfer the final cheesecake to a cake stand, you will have to flip the cake. Here’s how I do it: once the outside ring of the springform pan is removed, place a large ziplock bag or piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cheesecake. Gently flip the cheesecake onto your palm with fingers spread out and remove the bottom of the springform pan. Gently place the cake stand over surface of the bottom of the cheesecake and carefully flip it, setting everything upright on the counter. Here is a video of my favorite food stylist doing a similar motion to give you a visual. Best of luck! ; )

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Tofu Bacon

 
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The time has come for me to share my tofu bacon recipe with all of you! Now, I can just here some of you screaming, ‘YES!!’

I can also hear some of you saying, ‘Tofu bacon? Gross…’

Ok, look… I get it. I can see why you might be skeptical. I mean, tofu on its own is not that great (like if you eat it cold and out of the package- which would be oh so silly). But that’s not what we’re doing here so you need to relax and drop the attitude.

Here’s the T: bacon is mainly fat and salt, usually with a smoky flavor. Sometimes with a sweetness. Always with lots of umami (savoriness). So if we take a bland and juicy protein, like tofu, cut it into thin strips, season it correctly and add lots of fat, shouldn’t it cook and taste like bacon? The answer is YES. I even gave some to my next-door neighbor (who is very skeptical of tofu) and he told me he was very impressed. Success!

Regardless if you have a prejudice against tofu or you simply don’t think you would like this recipe, I dare you to try it. I truly think you will be surprised. The best part? This recipe is cheap, easy and quick to make.

Now if you’re smart like me, you will pick you up some juicy, summer tomatoes, a crisp head of iceberg lettuce, some fresh ciabatta rolls (or a killer sourdough loaf) and some vegan mayo. Having these on hand combined with the tofu bacon, will make you my favorite recipe of all time: a classic BLT. Now let’s get back to the bacon.

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Rule #1! Remember, we are trying to recreate the experience of eating bacon. That makes me think of chewy, crispy, salty, and fatty- all at the same time. When looking for tofu, go with extra firm or high protein. You need strength so that the slices aren’t too delicate. When slicing the tofu, you want to make sure you aren’t slicing too thin. This will make the strips cook faster and they may become too crunchy or burnt. Now, these characteristics are actually quite good for bacon, but not for the whole strip. Basically, don’t worry about making them perfectly even. You want variation in thickness as this will create variation in the crunch and the chew.

Also, I suggest gently patting the tofu strips with a paper towel once cut. You don’t need to squeeze the whole block of tofu- just remove any excess water from the strips. This will help the marinade to stick better. Ok, next!

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To help this marinade become one thick mixture, I like to add a little drop of yellow mustard which helps emulsify everything. Slowly drizzling in the oil after the initial ingredients are mixed leaves you with a thick marinade full of flavor which will beautifully coat the tofu strips. If you make your marinade in advance, simply whisk vigorously before using.

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One important step to remember is to flip the tofu. This will encourage browning, crisping up each side perfectly. If you ended up adding a few smaller scrap pieces to the sheet pan, this would be a good time to gobble them up so they don’t burn. It’s also important to taste test your recipe as you go, right? Enjoy.

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See that bubbling? That’s what we want, people! We want those strips of tofu to FRY. I remember making bacon as a teenager and seeing those same bubbles- don’t you? It’s a glorious sign that your tofu is fatty enough to compare to its traditional counterpart. However, so much better because little squooshy piggies are not involved. :)

Tofu Bacon 

 serves 4-6, gluten-free

1 -14 ounce block extra firm tofu
¾ cup avocado or sunflower oil 
⅓ cup nutritional yeast 
½ cup tamari 
1 tablespoon Colgin liquid smoke (hickory*)
½ teaspoon yellow mustard 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and line one baking sheet with parchment paper. 

  2. Slice tofu into thin rectangles ⅛” thick (see pictures above). Combine half of the oil, nutritional yeast, tamari, liquid smoke and mustard in a small bowl and whisk well. Slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, whisking as you go.  Dip each strip of tofu into the marinade and transfer to the baking sheet. Pour remaining marinade over strips of tofu. 

  3. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove baking sheets from the oven and gently flip each strip with a fork. Rotate baking sheets in the oven (top to bottom) and bake for another 20 - 35 minutes depending on your oven and how crispy you like your bacon! Definitely check it at 20 minutes and if you think it’s done, it’s done. Or continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until it’s crunchy on the edges. This will also depend on how thin or thick you slice the tofu. The thinner crisps will cook faster. Feel free to transfer to one sheet towards the end as the strips shrink in size. At this point, you should be very careful. Don’t wander too far out of the kitchen. You want to push the bacon to the point where it is about to burn but it doesn’t.

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Tips, Tricks & Other Tidbits

For a BLT, I highly recommend using ciabatta rolls because they are soft and chewy. This allows you to hold everything in as you bite them. You can use ‘Vegenaise’ or ‘Just Mayo’ for this sandwich. I ONLY recommend iceberg lettuce. If you must, you can use romaine hearts. But whatever you do, don’t even think about using a soft lettuce like arugula or spinach. I will report you on Instagram. Of course, with a BLT, you can add avocado if you’d like. This would be called a BLAT. So, not as pretty as BLT but still damn good.

This Tofu Bacon is best served the day of. I have saved it for the next day, and it’s best to keep at room temperature when serving. I tried toasting it up and it became dried out and hard. So don’t do that, thanks.

Don’t crowd the sheet pan! By that, I mean don’t overlap the strips of tofu when you’re laying them out on the baking sheet. You want them to have plenty of room to be free and to express themselves. And by that, I mean become crispy.

Towards the end of the cooking time, feel free to check every five minutes, the visual cues you are looking for are edges starting to brown and curve. The goal is to have variations of crispy, crunchy and chewy.

I always recommend Colgin liquid smoke. I think the hickory would work best for this, but the mesquite or pecan flavor would be just fine! This brand is delicious and not bitter which some liquid smokes can be. (I’ve had some that are straight up bad.) If you must use another brand, make sure it is not bitter otherwise it can ruin the whole recipe. If it is in fact bitter, pull back the full tablespoon to 1.5 teaspoons.


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Chickpea Avocado Salad

 
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How epic does that sandwich look. Not trying to toot my own horn here but damn, that looks good. And instead of making you jelly cakes, I’d rather share this recipe with all of you so that you too can enjoy some deliciousness: Chickpea Avocado Salad.

What’s funny is I have been hearing about a ‘veganized’ tuna salad for ages now. The idea is to use chickpeas instead of canned tuna and then the same ingredients you would normally use. Think fresh dill, mayo, mustard, maybe some pickles? There are loads and loads of variations out there.

What happened on my end, though, is the salad took a very ‘foodie’ direction. Sure I could have stopped at just the basics, but my mind doesn’t do that most of the time. Instead, I couldn’t help but think ‘How can I push the recipe to its maximum potential?’.

For instance- buttery Castelvetrano olives. Yes. Ridiculously crunchy, roasted Marcona almonds? Please. And maybe a little bit more diced celery than others would use? OK. For the fresh herbs, just using dill would work just fine but wouldn’t the combination of both fresh dill, fresh parsley, AND freshly sliced green onions, be amazing? 100%. What really takes this salad over the top is chunks of ripe avocado. Drops mic.

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When it comes to garlic you can get two major flavor profiles: once cooked, garlic becomes toasty, earthy, rich and sweet while also being beautifully mild and pleasant. Raw garlic on the other hand can be super intense with a spicy kick. So what’s a girl to do when you want that intense hit without it being jarring? Smash it.

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That’s right, you heard me, smash it! By using the side of your knife (and a sprinkle of sea salt) you can mash, chop, mash, chop until you are left with a garlic paste. This potent mixture is pure gold as it will easily meld into the recipe. And because the recipe only calls for a little bit, we get that amazing intensity garlic has to offer, without it taking over the whole party. Yay, no meltdowns!

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Did I say this recipe only requires one bowl? It’s true. Basically, once you mash the chickpeas with your fork, you throw everything else in (except the avocado) and mix away. Once everything is coated with the dressing, gently fold in the avocado. I always reserve some fresh herbs for sprinkling on top because that’s what I do. You should, too. :*

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Shout out to Mrs. Judy, my old babysitter! We would always make tuna salad together. She taught me to add pickles and we would slather it on saltine crackers. Also, another big shout out to Westminster Academy, my elementary school. They would serve their tuna salad in a cup of lettuce like this. Looks pretty good to me! I guess you could say I’m old school.

Avocado Chickpea Salad

serves 2 to 3 people, gluten-free

One 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
1 clove large garlic, smashed and chopped into a paste 
½ cup diced celery
1 green onion stalk, chopped
2 tablespoon dill pickles, diced
3 tablespoons Castelvetrano olives, diced
¼ cup roasted salted Marcona almonds, roughly chopped 
1 tablespoon minced shallot
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley, fresh not dried 
¼ cup roughly chopped dill, fresh not dried 
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
¼ cup vegan mayo 
1 medium avocado, ripe and cut into chunks 

  1. Open, drain and rinse canned chickpeas. Add to a medium-size mixing bowl. Then add salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast and cayenne. Using a fork, mash half of the chickpeas, leaving the other half whole.

  2. Smash the garlic with the side of your kitchen knife. Sprinkle on some salt and continue to smash and chop until you are left with a paste. Transfer to bowl of chickpeas.

  3. To the same bowl, add celery, green onions, pickles, olives, almonds, shallot, parsley, dill, red wine vinegar, mustard and vegan mayo. Combine and mix well.

  4. Lastly, gently fold in the diced avocado. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve in lettuce cups for a refreshing salad, as a sandwich filling or in a wrap, or as a crostini for a party (see below).

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tips, tricks, and other tidbits

Try serving this salad as an hors d'oeuvres or appetizer for a party! Simply slice a good baguette into thin rounds (think 1 or 2 bites). Toast them just enough so that they are crisp but still chewy. Add on a small mound of the salad, a piece of sliced avocado, a few paper thin slices of tomatoes (Roma tomatoes work perfectly here!) and top with sea salt, pepper and fresh dill! Pretty fab, eh?

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Before draining the can of chickpeas, try using the water in an aquafaba recipe. I’ve actually never done this before, but I have seen some beautiful creations made using leftover chickpea water. Here’s a really cool recipe my friend made: Aquafaba Meringue Cookies.

If making a sandwich or wrap, I like to add fresh cucumber and tomato. The cucumbers add a delightful crunch while the tomatoes add a juiciness. In my opinion, all sandwiches should be juicy, so there you go.

For the beans, you can certainly make them from scratch! Whenever I do, I always place a little bit of kombu, a sea vegetable, in the water when boiling. This helps to season the beans ever so slightly while also helping to aid in digestion. If you look close enough, you’ll see that some of the organic canned beans have this listed in the ingredients which is great! Get those, for sure!

If you like this recipe, you would LOVE my ‘Picnic Pasta Salad’ or my ‘Creole Potato Salad’ in my cookbook, Mississippi Vegan, available here. There’s over 125 recipes and loads of pretty photos. :)

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Mushroom Onion Cheeseburger with Fries

 
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It’s summer y’all! Grills, pools and cold lemonade. That also means veggie burgers are on the menu.

Now when it comes to veggie burgers, I like all types and variations. This is one of my favorite combos: caramelized onions, mushrooms and melted white cheese. And of course, fries. Gotta have the fries. When I was thinking about this recipe, my goal was to streamline the process so that all you need is 2 large sheet pans and an oven. I think I nailed it! Here’s how it breaks down:

  1. Bake fries.

  2. While fries are baking, prep and bake onions, and mushrooms.

  3. When mushrooms and onions are done, use the same sheet pan to heat veggie burger patties, melt cheese and toast bread.

  4. Assemble + Eat!

Basically, no time is wasted here. Lots of multitasking with big results.

Now before I tell you all the deets, I will say that you need two LARGE sheet pans. The end results will make a total of 4 veggie burgers with fries- so this is a meal! If you only have small sheet pans (or a small oven) you might wanna cut this recipe in half. Also, big thanks to Amy’s Kitchen for sponsoring this post. They’ve been feeding me veggie burgers and frozen burritos since I was a teenager!

Now let’s get cooking!

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First up: crispy oven baked fries. My go-to potato is usually russet (I love their starchy texture!). For this recipe, the bigger the better. Like, find the 2 largest russet potatoes you can find. Large potatoes = larger fries = better world. Because we are baking these at a high-heat, I like to use avocado oil because it has a very high smoking point. It’s also gorgeous- I mean look at that color. Werk avocado oil (snaps fingers)!

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Look at that action shot. Those fries are being tossed with loads of salt, pepper and oil! Of course, I sprinkle nutritional yeast on mine because that’s what I do. Leave it off if you don’t like it. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like nutritional yeast, but we don’t have to get into it.

The key here is to space the fries apart so that they have room to breath. And by ‘breath’ I mean become golden and crispy. Flipping them also is a game changer. Don’t skip that step.

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Once you get the fries in the oven, you can start prepping the other ingredients. Hot tip! You can use the same bowl for tossing fries to toss the mushrooms which means less clean up. As for those stunning onions, they are drizzled with a balsamic glaze that I have, but you could just use balsamic vinegar as well. The tart acidic flavor of the vinegar along with the sweetness of the red onions caramelizes together in a very seductive way. (Too much?)

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Welp, now you can see for yourself what happens to all those toppings. And they are begging to be placed on a burger. Feel free to use this onion recipe on anything! Tacos, fajitas, sandwiches, salads- they’re delightful and they keep well in the fridge.

As for the mushrooms, they’d be good with anything as well. You’ll see.

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While the fries and other toppings are cooking, I like to make a big plate of my toppings. Think lettuce, tomatoes, pickles- the classics. I also like to have out vegan mayo, ketchup, mustard- and maybe an additional fun topping like sliced, creamy avocado or your favorite Sriracha? Get into it.

Sheet Pan Mushroom Onion Cheeseburger
makes 4 burgers + fries

Fries

1 extra large russet potato (approx. 1 pound)
1 ½  tablespoons avocado oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ - ½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Burgers + onions + mushrooms

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced ½ inch thick
2 tablespoons avocado oil plus more for onions
2 tablespoons tamari
Few dashes liquid smoke
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon ground sage
1 large red onion, sliced into ½ inch rounds (4 rounds total)
Drizzle of balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar
1 box of Amy’s Organic California Veggie Burger
4 ciabatta buns and vegan butter
4 vegan cheese slices, smoked provolone or mature cheddar
Vegan mayo, ketchup and mustard, if desired
Green leaf or iceberg lettuce, hand-torn into large pieces
1 large slicing tomato, sliced into large rounds
Dill or sweet pickles (your choice!)



1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potato clean under running water. Slice lengthwise into ½ inch pieces. Lay each piece flat to slice lengthwise again into approximately ½ inch pieces to create long thin fries.

2. In a large bowl, toss fries together with avocado oil, sea salt, black pepper and nutritional yeast (if desired) to coat all fries with a generous coating of oil and seasoning. Gently place each fry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Line the fries in rows allowing space between each fry. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and gently turn fries over one by one. Return to oven for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown on the underside and crispy. While the fries are cooking, prepare the other ingredients and start baking them as well.

3. Using the same bowl as the fries, toss the sliced mushrooms with avocado oil, tamari, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast and sage. Transfer to a parchment lined sheet pan along with the four onion rounds. Spread everything into a single layer with a little spacing and drizzle avocado oil over each onion. Use your finger to evenly spread oil over entire surface of onion. Then, drizzle balsamic glaze and a pinch of sea salt to each round. Bake for 25 minutes.

4. Remove onions and mushrooms from sheet pan and place frozen veggie burgers on the same pan. Bake for 5 minutes. While burgers are cooking, butter the ciabatta buns. After 5, remove sheet pan from oven, flip the burger patties, and add a slice of cheese to each one. Add the ciabatta buns buttered side down onto the pan. Return to oven for 5-6 more minutes to melt cheese and toast the buns.

5. Once the cheese is melted and burgers are heated through, begin to build your veggie burgers. Spread mayo on toasted ciabatta then add lettuce, burger with melted cheese, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, pickles and desired condiments. Of course, I don’t need to tell you how to build a burger so do what you want!

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Tips, Tricks, & Other Tidbits

If preparing this for a dinner party, I suggest cooking everything right before the guests arrive so that it’s warm and ready to eat. Make sure to have a nice platter of all of the toppings and condiments ready to go with plenty of napkins!

A great dessert to serve with this would be some juicy watermelon or a fruit based sorbet. Because burgers and fries can be quite heavy, a light and refreshing dessert works beautifully.

If you like this recipe, please check out my cookbook, Mississippi Vegan.

Big thanks to Amy’s for sponsoring this blog post and recipe. If you’d to check out more recipes using Amy’s products, sign up for their newsletter here!

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Vegan Lace Cookies

 
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The first time I ever had a lace cookie was because of my friend Linda Lomelino. I was actually living in Jackson, MS at the time, working on my cookbook, and she sent out an email with a new recipe she had created, which was a thin oat cookie dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. This old school Swedish recipe is also know as Havreflarn. You can check out her recipe here and make sure to peruse around her site as she is one of my absolute favorite food photographers and has inspired me greatly throughout the years.

After scanning through the recipe and realizing that I could easily veganize some of the ingredients and that I had everything on hand- I made them immediately. This rarely happens but when it does, nothing will stop me from making the recipe. The excitement takes over and I drop everything to make it. (Check out the instagram post from way back when I made her variation and posted about it!)

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After talking about these cookies and doing some research, I came to realize that here in America we have a similar cookie known as ‘Lace Cookies’ which implies that because the cookies are so thin, the texture looks like lace!

Fast forward to about a month ago, I decided to make them again but this time with almonds. Traditionally, these cookies are made around the holidays but this is my blog and I do what I want. I knew deep down in my heart that the texture of thinly sliced toasted almonds would take this recipe to the next level and so I added them in. Duh, it worked. Not to mention, because these cookies are so light and thin- they are perfect for the summer! Not too heavy- crispy, delightful, buttery, and crunchy.

I looked at quite a few recipes out there and this one stuck out to me from Add a Pinch blog. So that, in combination with Linda’s recipe, me veganizing a few things, and, of course, adding my own twist like nutmeg, almonds and almond extract- these cookies were born! Before moving on, let me address a few important notes.

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Because these cookies are going to spread out to be very thin, we need to encourage their shape to be round and even. By pressing the dough down with your fingers (like in the 2 images above) this will ensure that the cookies come out thin and pretty. Hot tip! Wet your fingers with a little water before pressing as this will prevent them from sticking. Do note, they surely don’t need to look perfect! If the shape is slightly odd it merely implies that it is homemade! Also, they spread out A LOT, so make sure to leave plenty of space in between the mounds.

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Now, this step is important so listen up! The cookies bake off best one sheet at a time. I tried cooking two at a time and the top sheet was perfect but the bottom sheet needed more time and I had to keep fiddling with them to finish baking. It’s much easier to bake off one sheet at a time. While one sheet is in the oven, you can start loading up the second one. Once the cooled cookies are removed from the first tray, simply load it back up with more dough and bake them off like before.

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Once removed from the oven, the cookies will need to hang out on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Then, using the thinnest spatula you can get your hands on, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool until the middle sets. You’ll know they are done once you can pick them up!

Full Disclosure: These cookies do not last long (especially in the summertime!). They are delicate. They don’t store well, as they become soft and super sticky. They should be consumed within the first 2 to 3 hours of baking but they are best enjoyed immediately. Check out more tips and ideas on how to transport below, after the recipe. This might have something to do with the fact that I live in the hottest, most humid city in America. If these were baked in the winter (which traditionally they are), they might last a bit longer (or if in a dry, desert environment like Las Vegas). Either way, for best results- eat immediately!

Vegan Lace Cookies 

makes about 20 cookies

1 tablespoon golden flaxseed meal 
1 tablespoon water
½ cup vegan butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup sliced almonds
1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon almond extract 
Maldon salt, to garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 375º F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal and water. Mix well and set aside.

2. In a small pot, add the butter and light brown sugar. Bring to medium-low heat, mixing every so often, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add oats, almonds, flour, sea salt, vanilla, nutmeg, almond extract and flaxseed mixture. Mix well. 

3. Drop one tablespoon of cookie batter onto lined baking sheets, leaving at least 5 inches between. These cookies will spread out! Next, wet your fingers with a little water and press down on each mound to flatten them, encouraging a circular shape. If desired, sprinkle on a small amount of Maldon salt.

4. Bake, one tray at a time, in the middle of your oven, for 7 minutes unless your oven is known for being too hot. Then cut it back to 6. You want the edges of the cookie to be golden brown. If you think they could bake a little bit longer, you can pop them back in for a minute. After the first sheet is done, repeat this step with the next sheet. Once the cookies are removed from the first sheet to cool, use the same lined baking sheet to bake off more cookie dough until all the cookies are baked.

5. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 to 7 minutes. Once the cookies have firmed up, using a thin spatula, transfer to a cooling rack. Once the middle sets and you can pick a cookie up- they’re ready! Gobble up!

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Tips, Tricks & Other Tidbits

Once the cookies are cooled, if you notice the middle has not set, you can add them back to the oven for another minute or two. This final push will set the center. The best tool to transfer these cookies with is a very thin spatula. I highly recommend it!

Traditionally, these cookies are much smaller. But I quite like them bigger because they have a chewy center and a crunchy outside so I like the fact that you get more bites out of it makes it much more satisfying. Feel free to make these cookies smaller- you’ll just need to reduce the cooking time to make sure they don’t burn.

These can be tricky to transport because they are sticky! The best way to move them around is to line an old pizza box or large serving platter with parchment paper. If you must stack them, make sure to use pieces of parchment paper to stack them.

If you’d like to make the dough in advance, you can store it in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge! I tried this out and they came out just fine.

If you like this recipe, please check out my cookbook, Mississippi Vegan.

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Double Decker Tacos

 
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Look at these tacos. Just look at ‘em! They are so ready to go it’s not even funny. Now I know that some of you might be like, “What’s going on here?” Let me explain.

A double decker taco is a soft flour tortilla that is spread with a thin layer of refried beans and than wrapped around a hard shell taco. The fillings are the usual suspects: meat, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, etc…

BRILLIANT!

Now to better understand my relationship with these tacos, let me tell you a little story. Obviously if you’re not interested you can just scroll down to the bottom of the page for the recipe (RUDE).

When I was in the 5th grade, I had braces. I was banished from eating anything that was a) crunchy b) that you had to bite into. Therefore, crunchy tacos was deemed one of the culprits. Also, my orthodontist was a very strict man and 100% instilled fear within me to not jeopardize my precious braces with anything hard and crunchy. At the tender age of 11- I was depressed.

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After wearing my braces for months, I remember eating in the school cafeteria. Everyone around me, munching and crunching on their delightful meals while I sunk my metal heavy teeth into a squooshy, soft sandwich with a cup of apple sauce. Somehow the topic of tacos came up, as topics of that nature do in an elementary school environment. I overheard my friend talking about Taco Bell’s double decker tacos. As she raved about them, my eyes began to tear up as I knew that I would not be able to have them because of my braces. I expressed my concern to my friend and she replied:

“Oh but because the refried beans are wrapped around the hardshell tacos, they become soft and not so crunchy so you should be able to have them.”

I raised my eyebrows and exclaimed with excitement, “Really!?”

She said, ‘Yeah!’

From that point on it was my mission to seek out and eat these double decker tacos. When that day arrived, I remember ordering them. I was nervous and excited. With the very first bite, I was hooked. The texture of biting into a warm, soft tortilla and a hard corn taco with a thin layer of refried beans in between them was undeniably satisfying. The best part? My friend was right- the hard shell taco was softened ever so slightly by the beans. It’s almost as if the soft flour tortilla and refried beans worked together to become the perfect blanket to soften the crunch of a hard shell taco. That’s called teamwork people.

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Fast forward to college, I began making these tacos for my friends at dinner parties. It was perfect. I created a large buffet of tortillas and taco shells, a savory vegan meat filling, shredded lettuce and tomatoes, loads of condiments like salsa, vegan sour cream, sliced avocado- you get it. Now, have you ever walked into a room with a situation like this set up? It’s very exciting.

As for the vegan sour cream game a decade ago- it was bad. Basically, the only option was a soy based product that tasted more like melted plastic. Eventually, I learned to realized that an almond based cream cheese mixed with fresh lime juice became a better option. That was until thick and creamy coconut yogurt hit the market. Mix that with some fresh lime juice and a pinch of sea salt and you have the very best vegan sour cream, perfect for baked potatoes, nachos, and, most importantly, double decker tacos.

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Thinly sliced or diced radishes add a nice peppery crunch. As I’ve mentioned before, soaking the slices in a plate of water allows them to crisp up nicely. You can then garnish them as is or cut into smaller pieces (think matchsticks!). I like to offer fresh jalapeño, sliced avocado and freshly squeezed lime juice to make these tacos really sing.

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To garnish you can use whatever you have lying around in the fridge. I always like to add tomatoes, cilantro, onions and shredded lettuce. My assistant Melissa suggested that we combine the cilantro and onion together as a garnish (she had learned this trick while living in southern California). This was an excellent idea.

As for the meat filling, I like to use Amy’s Kitchen Organic Black Bean Veggie Burger patties that are crumbled and browned with some onions, seasonings and spices. A hit of salsa moistens the mixture up while also adding depth of flavor. Once everything is laid out on a table you have yourself an epic double decker taco buffet. Enjoy!

Double Decker Tacos

Makes 10-12 tacos - Serves 4 to 6

1 box of hard corn taco shells (10 to 12)
1 pack of soft flour tortillas (10 to 12)

Taco Filling

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pack Amy’s black bean burgers, defrosted and chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
⅓ cup salsa
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup water

Refried Beans

1-15 ounce can Amy’s Traditional Refried Beans
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt

Toppings

2-3 radishes, thinly sliced/matchstick julienned
2 cups iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup red onion, chopped
½ jalapeño, diced
3 limes, quartered and halved, to squeeze
Avocado, sliced, if desired
Salsa, if desired
Hot sauce, if desired

Sour Cream

10 ounces coconut yogurt (thicker variety, if possible)
1 lime (approx. 2 tablespoons lime juice)
¼ teaspoon salt



  1. Bring a large skillet to medium heat and drizzle in some oil. Add onion and cook 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Add black bean burgers and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often to brown. Add red wine vinegar, nutritional yeast, tamari, cumin, chili powder, salsa, oregano, and liquid smoke. Mix well. Once patties and spices are browned, add a splash of water and scrape the bottom bits. Give the mixture a taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Set aside and cover.


  2. For the bean mixture, combine canned beans, paprika, salt and mix well. Heat in a small sauce pan on stovetop or in the microwave. Transfer to a bowl for serving.


  3. Prepare toppings for taco buffet: Mix together chopped cilantro and onion and place in a small bowl. Place thinly sliced radishes in a small bowl of water to enhance freshness and crispness. Once ready to serve, remove from water and place in a small serving bowl. For the sour cream, mix together coconut yogurt, lime juice and salt. Place halved tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeño, salsa and quartered limes into small serving bowls (or in one large serving bowl- be creative!)


  4. Toast hard shell tacos: pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the shells on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and add them to the buffet. For the tortillas, gently heat them over a gas stove or microwave. Add to the buffet as well.


  5. To assemble: Spread a heaping tablespoon of beans onto soft tortilla and wrap around a hard taco. Fill with taco filling, lettuce, radishes, and sour cream (this will act as a glue to hold the other toppings). Then add tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro onion mixture, salsa, avocado, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime juice.

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tips, tricks and other tidbits

Make sure the flour tortillas are the smallest you can find. If they are too large, they will consume the hard shell taco like a large blanket around a little dog. You will look silly and I don’t want that.

This recipe comes together quickly so there is no need to try and prep ahead of time. Please stop making things super complicated. Everything should come together in about 30 minutes. If you are making this for a dinner party, be creative with the set up and have fun. Wrap the warmed tortillas in a pretty cloth, place some fresh cilantro in a vase with water on the table, lay clusters of cherry tomatoes out, have some ice cold beer in a cooler… you get the drift.

You could easily make a pico de gallo and guacamole to streamline this recipe even more. The addition of fluffy rice is also quite nice. Add a pinch of turmeric and lime juice for tang and a bright yellow color.

Big thanks to Amy’s for sponsoring this blog post and recipe. If you’d like to check out more recipes using Amy’s products, sign up for their newsletter here!

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One-Pot Vegan Hamburger Helper

 
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Hamburger helper… a distant memory from my youth with that adorable little cartoon character of a weird white glove holding a wooden spoon, just ready to get to cooking! Why was this little glove the face of the brand that was all about selling boxed pasta that you put crumbled hamburger meat into? I have no idea.

To be honest, I had completely forgotten about this classic American dish. It wasn’t until Eat Figs, Not Pigs was making their own version on Instagram Stories that it planted a little bug in my ear. Needless to say, I made it immediately.

The concept and execution of hamburger helper is very simple. In the box you have loads of seasonings and spices mixed with dried pasta. All you have to do is grab a pack of hamburger meat and sauté it in a pan. Then add the pasta and some water and ta da! You have a filling, quick, and delicious meal. Well, at least I thought so when I was a kid.

Now that I have slightly more sophisticated taste buds and a substantially different relationship with my food choices, I’ve realized that I could make a much better and more respectable interpretation of hamburger helper. No shade to you little glove man, but mine’s better.

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I used Cavatappi noodles because they remind me of the traditional boxed version of this recipe. But I also used large rotini noodles when I was testing this dish out (albeit drunk) and that worked great as well. I think macaroni shaped noodles would also look cute. I do not think long, thin noodles would be good for this. Just my opinion… don’t have a nervous breakdown.

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The key ingredients that make this recipe sing are: fire roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika and chipotle chili powder. If you don’t have these ingredients, go buy them. They are easy to find and they are amazing. If you want to sub them out for something else, then don’t tell me about it, because I won’t approve!

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Did I mention there are crispy onions on top? You know, the kind from the green bean casserole? Why they are only used for that one itty bitty dish beats me! I think they’re fantastic and they work so perfectly with a baked, cheesy pasta casserole situation like this. Trust.

As for the parmesan cheese on top, I like to use Follow Your Heart brand. I also really like the container the cheese comes in as you can reuse it for all kinds of storage. You could use your own homemade version of vegan parm or the Violife brand. Also, when serving, make sure that everyone gets some of the crispy cheesy onion top. It would be very mean to hog it all!

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The best part about this dish is that it’s done in ONE-POT. That’s right. Brown the onions, cook the meat, add the garlic and loads of spices and then add in everything else. While the dish cooks for 30 minutes in the oven, you can clean the kitchen, set the table, and have a glass of wine! Man, I’m good.

One-Pot Hamburger Helper

serves 6 to 8, use GF noodles, if desired

1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pack Beyond Meat Sausage (preferably Hot Italian), roughly chopped
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried oregano
28 ounces diced fire roasted tomatoes (one large can)
7 ounces vegan cheddar or American cheese (shreds or if using a block, diced)
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
One pound box of desired pasta noodles + water to cover
4 ounces crispy onions
¼ cup shredded vegan parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add oil and onions to a large dutch oven and bring to medium-high heat. Sauté for a good 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and slightly dark on the edges. (Think like grilled onions on a burger ;)

2. Reduce heat to medium and add the sausage and garlic. Cook, stirring often, to caramelize the garlic. Add the paprika, chipotle chili powder, pinch cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, thyme, sage, and oregano. Cook for a few more minutes to toast the herbs, stirring often.

3. At this point the mixture should smell outrageously good. Pour in the canned tomatoes, cheese, tamari, and sea salt. Mix well and continue to cook for about 7-8 minutes to bring the mixture to light simmer. Make sure to stir often so the bottom doesn’t burn. Once to a simmer, add the pasta noodles and enough water to just barely cover the pasta. Mix well and place the lid on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

4. Carefully remove from oven and take off the lid. Mix well. By now, all of the cheese should be melted and the pasta should be very close to being done! At this point you can taste a little bit and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Sprinkle on the crispy onions and some shredded vegan parmesan. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is crunchy and bubbly and the pasta noodles are thoroughly cooked. Remove from oven and let stand for a bit as it will be hot! Serve.

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tips, tricks and other tidbits

Because we are not cooking and draining the pasta first, we only need a few cups of water. This way, all of the flavor from the other ingredients soaks into the noodles when cooking! When adding the water, please just make sure to barely cover the noodles. If you put too much liquid they will overcook and become squooshy like me.

This dish would be just perfect served with a simple salad with a light vinaigrette and some garlic bread. Or, instead of a salad, you could roast some lemony asparagus or broccoli in the oven while the dish cooks for a nice veggie side.

You can totally use ‘Beyond Burger’ meat if you’d like. But I prefer the flavor of the ‘Hot Italian Sausage’. I think it works really well with this recipe. I find the burger meat to have a little too much grilled/smoke flavor. I think they are working on just a plain vegan beef to sell but we’re not there yet, so this is where I’m at.

If you have fresh herbs, then by all means use them! I just didn’t want to call for them and you have to buy a whole pack of fresh thyme and oregano to only use a small amount and then tell me this recipe is expensive, it’s not really but you like to give me a hard time. I do recommend throwing in some chopped fresh basil, oregano, thyme or sage if you have them. They should go in when you add the dried herbs.

You can make the whole batch of this and divide some up into ramekins and bake off for a dinner party at another time! It freezes beautifully.

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Sesame Noodle Salad

 
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Look at this salad GO! Those noodles are having so much fun. And all those colorful and crunchy vegetables? Uh! It’s just the perfect summer salad that doubles as a full meal, too. We’ve got loads of veggies, protein from the edamame and noodles, a zesty and tangy sesame-lime dressing, dramatic black sesame seeds and a good dose of fresh herbs for the final punch. Did I mention the succulent butternut squash? No? Well they were invited to the party too, providing the perfect balance of sweetness and color that this noodle salad needs.

As for the dressing, it’s not too complicated. The only two ingredients you might not be familiar with are ume plum vinegar and mirin, both of which you can find in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Ume plum vinegar is bright, tangy and salty. Mirin is a rice cooking wine with a buttery, savory flavor. I’d say you can swap these out with other ingredients but I wouldn’t really mean it. Sorry.

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This salad comes together beautifully. However, you gotta put in some solid veggie prep to get it going. Don’t worry though! Once you get the butternut squash in the oven you’ll have thirty solid minutes to do everything else. By the time the squash is roasted and golden, you’ll be ready to assemble (or at least close!).

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For the carrots, I use a Hand Held Julienne Vegetable Peeler. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools. I love how easy it is to create beautiful strands of carrots, cucumbers, or any large root vegetable.

I also love and use the Mandoline just about every day. That’s how you are going to get the radishes paper thin. You can try using a sharp knife but it would be very difficult to achieve the gorgeous thin slices we are looking for.

You will also notice that some of the veggies are cooked and some are not. Hear me out because there is a method to my madness. Snow peas and carrots are delicious when they are cooked just a bit. This makes them slightly tender yet still crunchy. It also makes their colors PoP! The trick here is to throw them into the boiling pasta water towards the end of the noodle cooking time. Once drained, you have perfectly blanched veggies with your noodles.

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While the pasta is cooking and the squash is roasting, you can easily whip up the dressing. Simply combine all of the ingredients into one bowl and whisk well. If you’d like, you can whisk the dressing in a larger bowl and then add the cooked noodles and veggies to the dressing once they’re done. This would make one less bowl to clean.

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Sesame Noodle Salad

serves 4 to 6, gluten free

Noodle Salad

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (or buy pre-cut)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 radishes, washed and de-stemmed
1 box (12 ounces) gluten-free spaghetti-sized noodles (or desired brand)
2 cups snow peas, ends pinched off
2-3 large carrots, julienned (about 2 cups)
6 ounces shelled edamame (half a 12 oz bag, defrosted)
1 cup cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced + some to garnish
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds + some to garnish
½ cup fresh Thai basil, chopped + some to garnish
½ teaspoon of salt, less if desired
Black pepper, to taste

Sesame Lime Dressing

½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice (3 to 4 limes)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons mirin
¼  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 . Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Toss butternut squash on sheet pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until the squash becomes fork tender and golden brown on the bottom.

2. Using a madoline, slice the radishes paper thin. Be careful! Transfer the radishes to a small plate and cover with water. This will allow them to become crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and boil. Once pasta has become al dente add the carrots and snow peas to the pot for last 2 minutes until pasta is fully cooked and vegetables have become slightly cooked and bright in color. Rinse the pasta and vegetables under cold water to stop the noodles from cooking and to set the color in the veggies. Once cooled, transfer to a large bowl.

4. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing.

5. Pour the dressing over the noodle vegetable mixture. Add the butternut squash, edamame, cucumber, green onions, sesame seeds and basil. Toss and mix well. Give it a taste and add the remaining salt and pepper as desired. Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour.

6. When ready to serve, mix the salad well and transfer to a gorgeous serving bowl. Drain off any excess liquid their might be at the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, chopped basil and crispy radish slices.



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tips, tricks, and other tidbits

I wanted this salad to feel light and refreshing, so I used gluten-free noodles which worked beautifully. The same texture and satisfaction is achieved but without feeling so heavy after eating. But you can use whatever kind of sphagetti style noodles you’d like!

If breaking down a butternut squash feels a bit intimidating, you can always look for the pre-chopped squash in the produce section of your market. Same goes for the snow peas- they’re usually prepped, washed, and ready to go as well.

Dirty secret, I actually didn’t use Thai basil. GASP! I used cinnamon basil and lime basil. But that’s only because I’m a fancy gardener! Thai basil would be amazing for this salad and I figured that’s more easy for you to access than the varieties I grow. Right?

I must say, letting this salad chill in the fridge for a few hours does wonders. It allows the noodles to soak up all of that delicious flavor from the dressing.

You can add the radishes earlier on but I noticed that they can get a little soggy which may not bother you. But if you are trying to impress some family or people at a dinner party, wait to garnish those until right before you serve.

To make the salad even more refreshing, try adding some thinly sliced romaine lettuce to bulk it up with some greens.

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Spring Potato Salad

 
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Springtime is in full throttle right now and I want all the fresh herbs and veggies! When my family and I decided to have a picnic I thought to myself, ‘What would be the perfect dish to bring?’ My go to for any picnic endeavor is potato salad with a creamy creole mustard dressing, lots of shiitake bacon, red onion, celery and some crunchy diced carrots (recipe is in my cookbook). Then came this recipe.

First, let’s talk potato salad, did you know that it is made across the globe? It’s true! There are many different countries that have their very own variation and they are all unique. When I was initially researching potato salad for my cookbook, I kind of assumed it was just an American southern thing. Turns out, that’s just not true. The more you know! ;)

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For my second variation of potato salad, I wanted something vibrant, refreshing, and bursting with spring flavor. I noticed that my tarragon plant in the garden was looking particularly fecund, bursting with green leaves. In the past I’ve made a German style potato salad with tarragon and I loved it so I thought to myself, why not try a creamy, tarragon dill potato salad. And I’m so glad I did.

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Traditional potato salad can be a little potato heavy, you know? Not that anything is wrong with that. You guys know how much I love potatoes. But because I wanted this salad to be refreshing, I decided to bulk it up with fresh peas, asparagus, and baby arugula. This makes it more like a potato salad salad rather than just a potato salad, ya feel? Of course, ripe avocado and loads of fresh dill and tarragon totally make the dish.

One trick you’ll notice is that I like to season the water for the potatoes with bay leaves, vinegar and salt. This helps out in the flavor department. When the potatoes are tender, I throw in the asparagus and then the peas. This cooks them briefly, as you want them to keep their crunch. Then everything is drained together. Easy peasy, literally.

I have some more tips and tricks below, so make sure to check those out. I truly hope that you love this salad and make it for your friends and family. If you make it, please let me know on Instagram and make sure to leave a review on the blog. Thanks in advance. Happy spring! Now… here’s the recipe. :)

Spring Potato Salad

serves 4 to 6, gluten-free

3 lbs new potatoes, rinsed and quartered
3 bay leaves
1 bunch asparagus, rinsed, bottoms removed, and cut into bite-size pieces
12 oz bag frozen peas
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup vegan mayo
¼ cup whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, plus ½ tablespoon for boiling water
1 large Meyer lemon, squeezed
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ cup good olive oil (cold pressed)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups baby arugula
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ cup fresh tarragon, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, combine potatoes and bay leaves. Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt and 1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar and cover with water. Cover and cook on medium high heat until the water comes to a boil. Remove lid and let boil for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

  2. Once the potatoes are fork tender, throw in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Once the asparagus becomes bright green, add in the bag of frozen peas. Cook for an additional minute and drain the mixture in a colander over the sink. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl. Let cool completely. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or preferably overnight).

  3. Make the dressing: drizzle a few glugs of olive oil in a skillet and bring to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring often, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions become tender and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

  4. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, mustard, sherry vinegar, Meyer lemon juice, black pepper, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and sea salt. Mix well. Once the onions and garlic are cool, combine them with the dressing and mix well. Use immediately or keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.

  5. Once the potato vegetable mixture is cool, add the dressing and gently toss. Throw in the avocado, arugula, dill and tarragon. Gently toss and again and give it a taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired. (If you have dill flowers from the garden, sprinkle them on top too!)

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tips, tricks, and other tidbits

If you are wondering if you can use dried dill or dried tarragon, the answer is no. They both must be fresh. Sorry!

I highly recommend making the dressing and potato vegetable mixture the day before. That way, they have plenty of time to chill in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, simply combine those mixtures with the fresh herbs, arugula, and avocado. This way you can make sure the salad looks extra pretty before serving and it feels like less work, IMO.

Sherry vinegar is a little bit more subdued than say, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I find it to have a buttery flavor as well. I just love it! I highly recommend purchasing a bottle for this recipe and for you to use in the future. Once you try it, I think you’ll agree.

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Muffaletta Pasta Salad

 
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Have you ever had a muffaletta sandwich? It’s kind of ridiculous. Loaded with multiple layers of deli meats and cheeses, Sicilian olive salad, and a round loaf of sesame seed bread. This sandwich is totally decadent and over the top. It’s no wonder it originated in New Orleans! It was first created and sold at Central Grocery in the historic French Quarter and is still popular to this day.

Now, in my humble opinion, the best part about this sandwich is the briny and delightfully tangy olive salad which has carrots, peppers, and cauliflower in combination to the olives. That’s what really seals the deal for me. I also love the bread (which is vegan BTW) because it has sesame seeds on top. Who doesn’t love sesame seeds?

When I was walking around a local grocery store here in NOLA, right down the street from my house, I saw some pre-packaged pasta salad. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it was labeled ‘Muffaletta Pasta Salad.’ I gasped, as I frequently do throughout the day, and immediately called my mother asking her if she had ever heard of this. She said yes and I gasped again.

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From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to make a veganized version for all of you. So here you are! Now, I know what you might be thinking- there’s no meat? Yes. You are correct. There is no meat and it simply doesn’t matter. Mainly because I have upped all of the herbs and spices to the max so the overall flavor is still there. Instead of using a pre-made jar of olive salad (which is not accessible to all) I’ve used the whole variety from an olive bar and cut them into slices, along with some pickled cauliflower and carrots. Capers and pepperoncini elevate the whole blend to excellency.

For sweetness and color, I’ve also added some roasted red pepper. For a nice crunch, chopped celery and carrots. And for flavor, fresh dill, oregano, parsley, and red onion. I wanted the dressing to be bright and flavorful, so red wine vinegar it is, along with some tamari, garlic and nutritional yeast.

Instead of using bread, like in the traditional recipe, we’re going to use pasta noodles for a fun variation. For the cheese, we’re using vegan parmesan shreds and a smoked provolone. You could use whatever kind of vegan cheese you like, but a smoked variety works particularly nice with this salad. Of course, to finish this dish perfectly- a hefty sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Happy Mardi Gras!

-Timothy

muffaletta pasta salad

Serves 6 - gluten-free option by using desired pasta

16 ounces of pennoni or penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil

olive salad

½ cup sliced garlic stuffed green olives
½ cup sliced kalamata olives
½ cup sliced castlevetrano olives
⅓ cup chopped pickled carrots
⅓ cup chopped pickled cauliflower
⅓ cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
1 cup sliced celery hearts
½ cup chopped roasted red peppers
¼ cup Peruvian pickled cherry peppers, plus some to garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup chopped carrots
⅓ fresh chopped dill, plus some to garnish
⅓ cup fresh chopped parsley, plus some to garnish
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano, plus some to garnish
⅓ cup diced red onion
¼ cup shredded vegan parmesan cheese
4 ounces chopped vegan smoked provolone cheese

dressing

⅓ cup quality olive oil (Italian or Greek, cold pressed)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons tamari
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
⅓ cup sesame seeds, toasted

  1. Fill a large pasta pot with water, and add a healthy sprinkling of sea salt. Bring to a boil, add pasta noodles, and boil until al dente. Once done, drain and cool down with cold water. Return back to the pot and drizzle with a good amount of olive oil. Toss and set aside.

  2. Chop and prepare all of the olive salad ingredients and add them to the pot of cooked pasta as you go.

  3. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan/skillet over medium heat, moving them around so they don’t burn, until they smell fragrant and are just toasted. Add them to the pot of pasta and olive salad.

  4. Combine all of the dressing ingredients together into a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and pour over the pasta mixture. Stir everything until ingredients are well incorporated.

  5. To serve, divide pasta into bowls and garnish with reserved fresh herbs.

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tips, tricks, and other tidbits

For the pasta, I found some fancy noodles that look like oversize penne. You could use the normal penne pasta shape. Or the squiggly kind. Or even bow tie pasta- whatever you are feeling. Just don’t use spaghetti noodles, that would be weird. Think bite sized and stop making it so complicated…

For the olives and pickled vegetables you have two options: 1. Olive bar! 2. Pickled section of the grocery store. If you haven’t noticed, olive bars have a large assortment of ingredients other than just olives, so check them out. If you can find some Peruvian peppers, that makes for a great garnish.

For the cheese I recommend using smoked gouda or provolone variety. If you can’t find those, go with a regular provolone or sliced mozzarella, as long as they are vegan. If they aren’t vegan the recipe won’t work.

To make this salad extra pretty when serving, make sure to grab any tidbits from the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle them on top. Or set some of the chopped ingredients aside until ready to serve. Basically, you want to see all of the ingredients on top of the salad so each person knows exactly what they are eating and it also looks super appetizing. Also notice how I sprinkled on fresh herbs as well to make the dish pop. It’s called food styling people, get into it.

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Easy Vegan Quiche 2 Ways

 
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Omg, QUICHE. I love it so much. And because I have been vegan for over a decade, I haven’t really had an authentic quiche in a minute. The reason for this is because most vegan quiche is made from tofu. WHiCh iS FiNe! But it’s not quiche. It’s a tofu pie. Feel me?

Not anymore, y’all! The time has come for my quiche recipe to enter the world. One that is vegan and without tofu. A triumph! The answer? JUST Egg. It’s an incredible product made from mung beans. It scrambles just like eggs and it also makes an excellent quiche filling. Fluffy, yet firm, rich and satisfying- this plant-based egg works beautifully. To find it, check the section of your grocery store that sells refrigerated plant-based options.

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As for the crust, I used store bought and I am NOT ashamed to admit it. Most brands are actually vegan, just check for lard or milk. TBH, I wasn’t in the mood to make crust and I’m sure you won’t be either. Of course, feel free to use your own homemade crust. Either way, you’re going to have to par-bake. And even though it’s an extra few steps- it’s definitely the way to go. This creates a flaky bottom which makes the overall experience optimal while consuming quiche.

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Now, full disclosure, I’ve made this recipe without par-baking the crust and it came out just fine. The soft, squooshy bottom crust was still delicious and the overall effect of quiche was met. However, I did offer a sample to my family, explaining to them that I was perfecting the recipe for my blog. My aunt delicately, yet assertively, pointed out that the crust on the bottom was in fact raw and if the recipe were to be perfected it should be par-baked. I knew she was right and that I was just being lazy. So there. Do what you will!

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Oh yeah, did I mention there are TWO recipes? That’s right! I’m such a sweetheart. First up, I have a springy and bright quiche with fresh dill, baby greens, and cherry tomatoes. I’ve always loved dill in quiche. The fluffy egg mixture and buttery crust are the perfect blank canvas for such a pungent herb. A touch of nutmeg makes this one super special.

Next up, I have a combination that is inspired by ‘Quiche Lorraine’ with smoky, tempeh bacon, caramelized shallots, and a good amount of cheese. All the flavors in this version really hit the mark for me. Quiche realness, if you will. I like to add crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick. Give that a go for sure.

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I definitely recommend making both recipes because pre-made pie crust usually comes in a pack of two. So why not? Especially if you are cooking for a crowd. And just think, if you show up to a brunch with not one but two quiches, don’t you think you’ll be the most popular person in the world? (Tip: If you do make both, I recommend using a large baking sheet to place them on. This makes transferring them to and from the oven a hell of a lot easier. ;)

Ok, let’s get to cookin’!

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Spinach Dill Tomato Quiche

1 (9 inch, deep dish) vegan pre-shaped pie crust (or homemade crust if desired)
½ cup onion, chopped (half of one medium onion)
5 ounce box baby spinach or baby mixed greens, roughly chopped or hand torn
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground (use a microplane)
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup shredded vegan cheddar
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped + some to garnish
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 bottle of JUST Egg, cold and shaken well
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 tablespoons shredded vegan parmesan

  1. Par-bake the crust: preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover pie crust with parchment paper (or foil) and fill with baking beans (to keep bottom of crust from rising). Gently press down on the beans and wrap the parchment/foil around and under the crust. This will prevent the crust from burning. Bake 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Remove baking beans and parchment paper/foil, prick holes in bottom of pie crust with a fork and bake for an additional 8 minutes.

  2. Add chopped onion, greens, and nutmeg to the pan on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, stirring every so often, until the mixture has cooked down and most of the water has evaporated.

  3. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Add cooked onion and greens mixture. Top with chopped fresh dill, nutritional yeast, and crack of fresh black pepper. Shake the Just Egg bottle vigorously and evenly pour over quiche filling. Garnish with halved tomatoes and parmesan.

  4. Bake in 325 degree oven for 60 minutes, or until the center is set. Let cool 15-20 minutes and sprinkle with kala namak and fresh dill. Serve warm (or cold if you’d like!).

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Bacon Shallot Quiche

1 (9 inch, deep dish) vegan pre-shaped pie crust (or homemade crust if desired)
3 ounces tempeh bacon strips, chopped (half a package)
⅓ cup shallot, chopped + 1 small shallot (sliced lengthwise), to garnish on top
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese (or mozzarella)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried), plus some to garnish
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 bottle of JUST Egg, cold and shaken well
2-3 tablespoons shredded vegan parmesan
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, if desired for a kick

  1. Par-bake the crust: preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover pie crust with parchment paper (or foil) and fill with baking beans (to keep bottom of crust from rising). Gently press down on the beans and wrap the parchment/foil around and under the crust. This will prevent the crust from burning. Bake 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Remove baking beans and parchment paper/foil, prick holes in bottom of pie crust with a fork and bake for an additional 8 minutes.

  2. Add ⅓ cup chopped shallot and 3 ounces of chopped tempeh bacon to a pan on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stirring every so often. Cook for about 10 minutes until the tempeh has browned and the shallots are soft.

  3. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Add cooked shallot and tempeh bacon filling on top of cheese into pie crust. Top with fresh or dried thyme, nutritional yeast, and crack of fresh black pepper. Shake JUST Egg bottle vigorously and evenly pour over quiche filling. Garnish with sliced shallots, parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes.

  4. Bake in 325 degree oven for 60 minutes, or until the center is set. Let cool 15-20 minutes and sprinkle with kala namak, fresh thyme leaves, and crushed red pepper flakes. Serve warm (or cold if you’d like!).

tips, tricks, and other tidbits

Baking beans are just beans that are dedicated to this one purpose: baking on top of a crust to par-bake it. This keeps the crust from puffing up. You simply use the beans and place them back in a jar labeled ‘Baking Beans’. I wouldn’t suggest ever trying to consume them- just use ‘em for their weight! :D

For the spinach quiche, you can actually use whatever mix of baby greens you like. For example, baby kale and baby bok choy. Or arugula. You get the idea booger.

I like to sprinkle on kala namak at the end because it has sulfur which tastes very eggy. This is not required but I think it’s a nice touch.

Of course, warm quiche is ideal but you can certainly serve it cold from the fridge. I must admit, I don’t mind it this way. I’ve been snacking on it for days, grabbing a piece when I am running out the door and spilling crumbs everywhere as I go.

Lastly, about the crust. Obviously you can make your own homemade crust. Like, totally. I am just trying to make this recipe as easy as possible for everyone. If you’re a badass in the kitchen and know how to make the most amazing vegan crust ever- you go girl!

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Tofu Vegetable Biscuit Pot Pie

 
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This post is sponsored by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company. All opinions are my own.

Will you check this out? It’s a biscuit pot pie with a rich and creamy gravy, bright green peas, delightfully chewy cubes of roasted tofu, sweet carrots, savory shiitake mushrooms, and succulent chunks of russet potatoes. The best part? A golden brown biscuit top.

For this recipe, I wanted to streamline everything. Trust me, I know none of you want anything complicated or fussy. First off, all of the vegetables have different cooking times in a traditional pot pie. If you were to cook everything together- it wouldn’t work. The potatoes would be too hard and the peas would be too soft. I’m not into mush and you shouldn’t be either, booger.

To remedy this, I roast the tofu, carrots, and potatoes separately. That gives them a head start. Then I cook the onions a tad bit in the gravy which helps to soften them up. THEN I combine everything including the peas, carrots, mushrooms and celery…that way, after they bake, they stay plump and hold their shape. This provides a nice contrast of textures for the savory pie.

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Now for the topping, I wanted to cheat because I’m bad, and I know you probably are too. So, I used organic canned biscuits and chopped them up. That’s right, you heard me. I’m not ashamed. And if you knew how many batches of homemade biscuits I’ve made, you would understand. One less bowl to clean up, if you ask me! If you’d like to use either one of the biscuit recipes in my cookbook- knock yourself out! They both would work perfectly for this. I’m just not in the mood.

One other reason why I love this recipe is because while the tofu, potatoes, and carrots are roasting, you have time to put together the rest of the recipe. While it is baking in the oven, you have time to clean up. That way, once it’s done, you can fully enjoy the dish. You are very welcome!

This meal is hearty and satisfying. The tofu in combination with everything else provides a solid punch of protein and is deliciously nutritious. I think once you try this, it will become a new favorite for a busy weeknight dinner. So get on it!

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Tofu Vegetable Biscuit Pot Pie

Serves 4 to 6

1 (16 oz) package high protein, super firm tofu, cubed into bite-size chunks
2 cups russet potatoes, cubed into bite-size chunks (1 medium-sized potato)
2 cups carrots, cut into large chunks (3-4 medium carrots)*
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus some extra
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus some extra
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, plus some to garnish
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 oz bag frozen peas
2 cups chopped shiitake mushroom caps, cut into bite-size chunks (about 8 oz)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup vegan butter, plus some to brush on biscuits
4 cups unsweetened, plain oat or pea milk, plus some to brush on biscuits
2 cups frozen, white pearl onions (about 8 ounces)
1 cup diced celery, including leaves (2 large stalks)
1 lb. can vegan biscuits

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (use two small ones if needed).

2. Add tofu, potatoes, carrots to the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast, dried thyme, and olive oil. Gently toss with hands until thoroughly coated. Spread into an even layer with fingers, separating the pieces as much as possible. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Once done, set aside.

3. Combine the peas, mushrooms, parsley, and vinegar into a 9 x 13” baking dish. Season with ½ teaspoon sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper, about ¼ teaspoon unless you prefer less. Set aside.

4. Next, melt vegan butter in a skillet and add flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula until the mixture is lightly bubbling, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add pearled onions and celery and mix thoroughly. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to soften the onions, stirring often.

5. Add 2 cups milk and stir until well combined. Once smooth and thick, remove from heat and stir in an additional 2 cups of milk. Mix well and add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Pour over the baking dish of vegetables.

6. Transfer the roasted tofu, potatoes, and carrots into the baking dish and gently mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use back of spoon to evenly smooth top of mixture. Transfer the dish to the baking sheet (in case any filling bubbles over).

7. Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the biscuits from can and cut a cross into each one and all the way through, creating 4 triangle pieces per biscuit. Beautifully place the biscuit chunks on top of the mixture.

8. Combine 1 tablespoon of melted vegan butter and 2 tablespoons of plant-based milk in a small cup and gently brush over top of biscuits. Sprinkle with a dusting of sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper and a light dusting of nutritional yeast.

9. Bake for 35 minutes. To brown the tops, crank the heat up to 400 and cook for an additional 10 minutes (a total of 45 minutes). Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Season with salt, as needed, and serve.

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Tips, Tricks, and other Tidbits

For the larger pieces of carrots, slice in half lengthwise and then into half-moon rounds. You want the chunks to be all the same size (at least close) so that they cook evenly. Same goes for the potatoes. You know?

You could easily divide this up into small ramekins for individual servings, which would be super cute for a dinner party.

Yes, most canned biscuits are vegan. By accident? Probably. But they still are- so there. Of course, if you can find the organic variety, the ingredients will be a little less sketchy. If you are completely opposed to canned biscuits, then one batch of my drop biscuits or golden garlic biscuits will work perfectly for this recipe. Simply make the batter when ready and use an ice cream scoop or spoon to plop it on. Please note that the temperature will need to be higher for the homemade biscuits, so maybe reduce the total cooking time to work with the book recipe.

This dish would work beautifully with a cornbread topping as well. I haven’t tried it and I am just thinking out loud. However, that sounds really bomb, doesn’t it?

For a fun, colorful variation, swap out the russet potatoes for sweet potatoes and add a few cups of shredded kale. Yum.




White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

 
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The time has come my lovelies, my ‘White Truffle Macaroni & Cheese’ is finally here. Now, if you’ve been paying close attention, you will notice that I made this variation over Thanksgiving and I had quite a few of you ask me to share the recipe. Fast forward four months later, you can imagine how good it feels to finally share it with you; I took my time fine tuning it and now I can honestly say it’s perfect and ready to go.

This recipe is very similar to my traditional mac and cheese, which is actually the most popular recipe on my blog. The main difference is I cut back on the water and removed the cornstarch. The results are still thick and creamy, although I love what the cornstarch adds to the original texture, I also wanted to try a version without it and I think it is just as delicious. I also added a carefully selected group of powerhouse ingredients to elevate the flavor of the dish to be over the top and decadent.

The two most important ingredients to this newly revised recipe are: white truffle oil and roasted garlic. What I am about to say is very important, so listen up! You MUST invest in some REALLY good white truffle oil. This specialty oil is expensive and it should be. It is infused with an incredibly expensive, fragrant, and highly desirable mushroom that grows wild and underground. It is one of the most exquisite ingredients humans have to consume. I do not want any eye rolls when you see the prices for different bottles on the market.

First, truffle oil lasts a long time because you don’t need that much for big results. Think of it as a finishing oil. Second, it’s a treat. You shouldn’t be dousing everything you eat in truffle oil. Think of it as a nice bottle of wine or expensive candle. Be conservative. (Unless you’re rich and then I guess it doesn’t matter. Show off.)

My favorite white truffle oil is from the Filling Station in NYC. I have also used this one from Amazon and would recommend it as well. A good trick to finding the best white truffle oil is to smell it. When you open a bottle of good oil, it should hit your nose intensely and make your eyes roll into the back of your head. Smelling and consuming fragrant white truffle oil is a sensual experience. Do note that this oil is not intense like say, a spoonful of soy sauce or hot sauce. It doesn’t explode on your tongue like that. It is more of a deeply aromatic experience than anything. Take your time while eating and savor it.

If you think you can get away with using black truffle oil- think again! White truffles are more flavorful and aromatic. This makes them more expensive and thusly, the oil is more expensive. Don’t worry tough, this recipe only calls for 1 to 2 tablespoons, so even if the bottle is really nice, it should only be around five dollars worth.

As for roasting the garlic, it is so easy! Please trust me on this, no meltdowns if you’ve never done it before. There are literally a dozen ways to do it. The basic idea is to slice the tip of the garlic head off to reveal all of the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, wrap or cover with foil or baking vessel, and roast until the cloves are golden and caramelized. You can check out the many ways to do that here. Now let’s get to the recipe.

White Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 6 to 8 + gluten-free option

1 (16 ounce) pack small pasta shells or desired noodles, plus water + salt to boil
1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight if using a regular blender)
3 cups filtered water
1 pack vegan provolone slices (7 ounces)*
1 pack vegan mozzarella slices (7 ounces)*
1 pack vegan white aged cheddar slices (7 ounces)*
¼ cup vegan butter
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons chickpea miso
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 head roasted garlic
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 - 2 tablespoons white truffle oil

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1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and begin roasting head of garlic.

2. Fill a large pot with water and a healthy sprinkling of sea salt. Bring to a boil and add the noodles. Boil for about 5 minutes, until they are al dente (remembering it’s ok if they are slightly firm because they will cook more in the oven, so no need to worry). Drain with a colander and transfer to a 9” x 13” baking dish (this recipe will just fit in that!) or desired baking vessel. Set aside.

3. In a high-speed blender, add the cashews and water and blend until smooth and creamy. This should take a minute or two. Add the chopped cheeses, butter, dry mustard, nutmeg, miso, peeled roasted garlic head, and cayenne pepper. Start by blending on low and gradually turn up the speed, until you are left with a smooth and creamy sauce, scraping down the sides and moving everything around as needed (please work with your blender, help it out and don’t give it a brain aneurysm). If using a smaller blender, divide the cashew milk in half and try making the sauce in two separate batches.

4. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles in the baking dish. Mix well.

5. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden and the cheese is thoroughly melted. Remove from the oven, pour on truffle oil, and stir with a large spoon. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Tips, Tricks, and other Tidbits

Hot Tip! At the very end, turn the oven broiler on and place the baking dish on the top shelf. Watch it closely and it will begin to brown and look gorgeous (only a few minutes). Once desired color is achieved, remove and enjoy.

PLEASE STIR AND KEEP CALM. I know someone who made a recipe video of this mac and cheese (who I love) and she ate it right out of the skillet without mixing or letting it sit. She then mentioned it tasted better after it sat out for a while. HeLLo! That’s what the recipe says to do, booger! By mixing and letting the dish sit, it becomes thicker and creamier. And believe me you will be rewarded for your patience!

For the cheeses, I recommend using a mixture of Field Roast’s Creamy Original Chao Cheese, Follow Your Heart’s Mozzarella or Provolone, and Violife’s Mature Cheddar. The most important thing to remember is only choose pale yellow or white cheese to keep that beautiful color. If you can’t find all 3 varieties of cheese, simply double or triple up on what you can find. It will still be delicious and work beautifully. I recommend avoiding the smoked flavor ones as this will compete with the truffle oil’s delicate flavor.

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For this recipe, I chose to go with small shells with ridges. I feel as though this recipe is for a special occasion and because it uses such an expensive ingredient (i.e. truffle oil), the shape and feel should be fancy, too. You can use whatever noodles you like, but if you want to be cool like me- stick with the small shells.

When making the cheese sauce, please remember to blend the cashews and water FIRST. If you add everything at the same time, your blender will have a very hard time making everything velvety smooth. In fact, it might not even be able to blend up those cashews to the desired consistency. Follow the recipe as written and make the cream first. You will thank me later.

If you are allergic to nuts, you can use any desired plant-based milk (as long as it’s vegan or it won’t work). This may change the texture of this (making it not as thick) and I have not tested it but my gut tells me it should be just fine. I’ve used shelled hemp hearts before (instead of cashews) and it was okay. The flavor was sort of grassy from the hearts, which isn’t ideal, but for all you nut allergy people-you understand. Sorry, folks.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe, if you make it, please let me know in the comments and/or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing your creations. And most importantly, have fun and order white truffle oil today! Happy cooking!

-Timothy

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Pink Potato Soup

 
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This pink potato soup is the perfect Valentine’s Day recipe. And although the idea is a bit cheesy and I’m single as hell, I still thought it’d be cute to share. The secret weapon to that gorgeous color is raw beet. Just a few small chunks are all you need to create that pop of pink.

As for the base, it’s creamy, luxurious, and delightfully savory. A few other simple ingredients come together to make this soup rich, velvety and melt in your mouth delicious. Finish this bowl of pretty in pink with large chunks of buttery avocado, fresh dill and watermelon radishes. Not only do they add fun variations of color, the radish adds a peppery note. However, if you can’t find them-totally skip. Not a big deal.

The best part about this recipe is how easy it is! You simply add everything in a pot, blend, pour, garnish and serve. This recipe is a seriously impressive dish for not only that special someone, but any lunch or dinner guest. Here’s what you’ll need:

pink potato soup

makes 4-6 servings, gluten free

6 cups spring water
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 cups chopped russet potato, peeled
1 cup raw cashews
4 to 5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 large bay leaves
1 small beet, raw, peeled and cut into fourths
1 large ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 bunch fresh dill, to garnish
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
Sea salt + black pepper, to garnish

1. For the soup base combine the water, vinegar, potatoes, cashews, garlic, sea salt, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and bay leaves into a large pot and bring to a boil. Once this has come to a boil and the potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Let cool for about 20 minutes.

2. Once cooled, remove the bay leaves and add the mixture to a high-speed blender. Then add in one piece of raw beet. Blend until smooth. Continue this step, adding more beet, until desired color is reached.

3. At this point, you are ready to serve. Or return it to the stovetop until needed. Making this the perfect make ahead of time soup. Cover and simmer on low heat.

4. Garnish with 2 to 3 slices of watermelon radish, ripe avocado chunks, a few sprigs of chopped dill, a sprinkling of Maldon salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Enjoy!

-Timothy


TIPS, tricks, and other tidbits

Above is a video for you to watch exactly how to make it! Note that while blending, because the soup mixture will be hot, you want to keep the small feed hole open so steam can escape. Simply use a clean cloth to cover it up so it doesn’t splatter everywhere!

This soup base is a great go-to 'cream of potato soup'. Boiling the cashews with the potatoes makes them blend easily and provides the heavy cream we are looking for. And the possibilities are endless: add roasted shallots and mushrooms as garnishes (which I've done previously in my Instagram gallery- go look). You could add vegan shredded cheese, shiitake bacon, and green onions on top to make it fully loaded potato soup. Or, you could simply serve it with a drizzle of truffle oil and cracked black pepper. Now that sounds good! 

You want to make sure the potatoes are cut into chunks so that they cook faster. This makes the cooking time very short... around 15 minutes max.

Curried Variation

If you have been a fan of MV for a long time, you might notice that this is actually an older recipe that I’ve given a face lift to. It’s true! It originally was a curried potato soup with crispy chickpeas! I still love that variation and I recommend that you try it as well. The results will be a bright yellow soup instead of pink. Simply swap out the beets with one tablespoon of curry powder. To garnish, how about these crispy spiced chickpeas?

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crispy spiced chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons favorite spice blend
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together in a bowl the chickpeas, olive oil, spices, nutritional yeast, and sea salt. Mix well and toss onto a baking sheet. Spread evenly and bake for 30-40 minutes, removing and tossing halfway through to ensure even cooking. Once toasted to desired texture, remove and use to garnish soup or keep in an airtight container for a snack.

You can also use just a mixture of your favorite seasonings for the chickpeas as well. If you don't have access to pre-made Indian spice blends, try mixing dry turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg and clove together. Since the chickpeas are already cooked, you can taste them before roasting to see if you like the way they taste. Just have fun with it!

In regards to the roasting time, I only roasted mine for 30 minutes and the texture was a bit soft- which I liked! The texture reminded me of roasted potatoes. Now, you can certainly roast them for an extra 10-15 minutes to make them crunchy. It just depends on your mood and what you want. Do be careful towards the end- you don't want them burning! 

 

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Apricot Glazed Tempeh

 

This post is sponsored by Archer Daniels Midland ( ADM ) Company. All opinions are my own.

This tempeh recipe is absolutely perfect! The glaze is sweet, tangy, and savory, with just a kick of spice. The texture of the tempeh is firm yet tender with a delightful crunch. The trick to making good tempeh is to steam it, which removes the bitter taste it can have straight out of the package.

With this technique, the marinade is poured over the tempeh and wrapped tightly in foil. While baking, it’s not only steamed, but all of the flavor from the marinade is infused throughout. To finish, remove the foil and continue baking in the oven. This thickens the glaze and the tempeh becomes nice and firm.

Soy protein is one of the few plant-based proteins that is comparable with animal protein, providing all the amino acid building blocks at levels and the availability needed by the body. This is why it works as a delightful protein source for many different meal variations一 serve it with steamed broccoli, asparagus, carrots, sugar snap peas, or green beans, and a fluffy grain like quinoa or rice. You can also try it with buckwheat or rice noodles, it works beautifully. Tempeh is super easy to slice, you can try cutting different shapes and sizes for fun variations.

By combining sweet apricot preserves with tangy whole grain mustard, savory tamari, onion, garlic, with a touch of vinegar, fresh bay leaves and crushed red pepper flakes, you are left with a marinade that is truly a party for your taste buds.

Apricot glazed Tempeh

2 (8 ounce) packages tempeh (soybean variety)
1 (10 ounce) jar apricot preserves
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup filtered or spring water
¼ cup tamari (or soy sauce)
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 to 4 bay leaves, depending on size

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For triangles, cut the blocks of tempeh in half, lengthwise (like slicing a thin loaf of bread in half for a sub). Then cut into squares and finally, triangles. For batons (small long rectangles), cut the block of tempeh in half, lengthwise. Then cut in half and into small batons (see picture above). Transfer to a 9’ x 13’ baking dish. Set aside.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, add the apricot preserves, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Mix until smooth. Then add the water, tamari, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and minced garlic. Mix well and give it a taste. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

4. Pour marinade over the tempeh and give the dish a nice jiggle, making sure some of the marinade goes under the tempeh. Place the bay leaves on top and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven once again, and using a pastry brush (or a spoon if don’t have one), brush/spoon over some of the remaining marinade over the tempeh to glaze the pieces. Pop back in the oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the tempeh is sticky. (If you halve this recipe, pull back on the final cooking time so the marinade doesn’t burn.)

5. Serve with freshly steamed or roasted vegetables, grain of your choice, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Feel free to spoon over some of the remaining glaze on top. :)

tips, tricks, and other tidbits

Did I mention that this tempeh works perfectly as a filling for spring rolls? The combinations and variations are endless. To start, instead of baking the tempeh into triangle shapes, you simply cut the tempeh into strips, like batons. This makes it easier to fit the tempeh into spring rolls.

For the filling, I recommend using any kind of lettuce you desire (spinach, shredded romaine, or arugula work great!). To make the spring rolls, hold a large piece of rice paper in the sink and run some water, just to wet it briefly. Transfer the sheet to a cutting board. Then, add 2 to 3 tempeh batons, some fresh herbs (like cilantro, Thai basil and mint).

For an added layer of texture, I add strips of roasted sweet potato that I simply steamed until soft. You could roast as well. You can also add some rice or mung bean noodles for fun, but they are not necessary. Julienned strips of carrots add a lovely crunch. And cucumbers also add a nice fresh flavor. I’ve created a little story on my Instagram for how to roll them. You can watch that video on my instagram page: it is saved under the highlight ‘Spring Rolls’.)

As for the dipping sauce, here is a delicious miso-tahini recipe that I absolutely adore! Did you know that miso is made from soybeans? Yep, it’s a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji and sometimes rice, barley, seaweed or other ingredients. You can use any leftovers as a salad dressing or as a dip with roasted veggies.

Miso Tahini Dressing

3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons mellow white miso
2 tablespoons filtered water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Serve immediately or keep in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for up to one week.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe! If you do make it, please leave a review on the blog and/or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing your creations. Most importantly, remember to have fun. Happy cooking!

-Timothy

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New Year’s Stew

 
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The new year is just a few days away people! That means it is time for all of you to plan on what you’ll be cooking. Now, if you own my cookbook you would know that I have a pretty killer Hoppin’ John Stew which is perfect for the occasion. However, because all of you don’t own my book (which makes me cry), I decided that I should have another perfect recipe for ringing in the new year. And this is it…My New Year’s Stew!

If you didn’t know, you’re supposed to eat black-eyed peas and greens for good luck in the new year. Think of it as an invitation for wealth and success to come into your life. Can’t hurt, right? Some say the greens represent money and the black-eyed peas represents pennies (wait a minute, pennies? Can’t we shoot higher than that!?). Others say to eat cornbread as it represents gold. I honestly don’t even need a reason to eat any of these things because I love them all! You ain’t gotta tell me twice to eat no damn peas with rice, tender greens, and cornbread! Please.

Aside from all of the luck and tradition, this dish was inspired from a recipe my mama would make for my father. It was basically braised cabbage with potatoes and sausage, a Polish classic. (If you didn’t know I am part Polish, now you do.) To veganize this dish, I used Beyond Sausage (not sponsored!) because the texture is incredible and the flavor is spot on. I like to add carrots for sweetness and tomatoes for some acidity. Green bell peppers and celery add freshness. Of course, by adding the black-eyed peas and collards, this becomes a New Year’s classic. So make sure to invite some friends over and enjoy this stew with fluffy white rice and large chunks of cornbread. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Stew

Serves 8 to 10 / Make half to serve 4 to 6

½ lb dried black-eyed peas or 2 cans, drained and rinsed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery, including leaves
1 cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups new potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 small head green cabbage, roughly chopped (8 to 9 cups, packed)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
3 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, less if desired
14 oz hot Italian plant-based sausage*
1 pint cherry tomatoes, whole
9 cups spring or filtered water
3 cups roughly chopped collard greens
Fluffy rice, to serve
Freshly chopped chives, to garnish

1. If you are using dried peas, you will need to soak and cook them. Hop on down to the closeup shot of the peas at the bottom of this post to learn how to do so. If you are using canned peas, simply open ‘em up and give them a good rinse. Set aside.

2. In a large pot (at least 7.25 quarts*), add onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots and a good drizzle of olive oil. Season with a few pinches of sea salt and pepper. Bring to medium heat and cook for about 7 minutes, until the vegetables become tender and juicy, stirring every so often.

3. Next add in the garlic, potatoes, cabbage, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, vinegar, tamari, sea salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Give it a good mix and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, stirring every so often, until the cabbage becomes soft and tender and it smells delicious.

4. Add the sausage, tomatoes, black-eyed peas and water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook at a low simmer with a cracked lid, stirring every so often, for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender to fork. Once done, throw in the collard greens and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until they become tender.

5. To serve, ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with fluffy white rice, freshly chopped chives, and a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper. Hot sauce is welcome!

tips, tricks, and other tidbits

As I said, this recipe makes A LOT. I used a large 7.25 quart dutch oven and the full amount fit perfectly. If you do not have a pot this large, I would cut this recipe in half and you should have no problems.

When making rice, I would think 2 cups of dried would make enough for this recipe. To garnish, I would scoop about 1/3 cup of cooked rice on top. The rice is more of a garnish so the ratio of rice to stew should be more stew, you feel me? When cooking rice, at a bare minimum, I always throw in some sea salt, olive oil, pepper, rice vinegar and a few bay leaves. You should do the same as this makes for flavorful rice.

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I grew up eating Camellia beans and black-eyed peas, so they are very nostalgic to me. Funny enough, the packaging hasn’t changed since I was a little boy. Feel free to buy your peas from the bulk section, if you’d like, and if purchasing canned peas, I try to buy organic and non-BPA lined cans.

For this recipe, I strayed away from using too many herbs. I really wanted the flavor of the cabbage to shine through. Not to mention, the sausage has loads of flavor, which helps to season the stew. If you don’t like plant-based sausages, you can totally omit this ingredient. In that case, you might want to add some more salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like to use another brand other than Beyond Sausage, you could. However, I think it works perfectly with this recipe so that wouldn’t be ideal. ;)

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I like this stew because it is so hearty. See those big chunks of cabbage? Don’t worry, they become tender and succulent. This is the perfect contrast to large chunks of boiled potatoes and dark green strips of collard greens. The black-eyed peas provide little plump pops of texture and flavor. Cute, right? When serving soups and stews, I always like to sprinkle on top some sea salt and pepper for an extra kick of flavor to enhance the dish.

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how to cook dried black eyed peas

If you ask me, cooking dried peas and beans can be quite therapeutic. Sorting, rinsing, soaking. I love it! Of course, they also taste better than canned and rightfully so. You showed them some extra TLC and any pea or bean will appreciate that. Some require more time to soak and take longer to cook, so these instructions may vary for other varieties. Right now, let’s just focus on black eyed peas, as they take less time to soak and cook than most and we’re using them in the recipe.

I like to soak my peas overnight. First, sort through them and remove any weird pieces or anything other than peas. Then cover the peas with a few inches of water. This allows the water to slowly absorb into the peas which allows them to cook evenly and more quickly. This also draws out some of the phytic acid, which can cause bloating. If you are strapped for time but would still like to do this, you can do a quick soak. Simply throw the beans in a medium sized pot and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cover with the lid and let the peas steep for 30 minutes. Drain the peas and rinse them well.

To cook, transfer the drained peas back to the pot and cover with fresh water. Throw in a piece of kombu (dried seaweed- for flavor and to help aid in digestion), a bay leaf or two, and bring to a boil. No salt as this will make them tough! (Sometimes I’ll add a splash of vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil, it really just depends on my mood.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the peas are tender. Done!

You can then drain the peas and add them to a recipe. Or you can store the peas in a jar with the cooking liquid for a few days. If using for a soup or a stew, feel free to use some of the cooking liquid as it has good flavor as well.

Black Bean Spread

 
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There’s nothing quite like a crowd pleasing appetizer to offer at a gathering or bring to a party. A quick and easy idea is to create a delicious spread with a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of spice. By placing the spread in the middle of a platter loaded with colorful vegetables, crunchy crostini and salty olives - it’s the perfect dish for a party. Everyone can grab exactly what they want, and there is no fuss! Not to mention, a spread like this can be made a few days in advance and can handle sitting out on the table for a few hours. For this variation, I am teaming up with Amy’s (whom I just love!) to bring you a black bean spread. Talk about an effective shortcut, I start this recipe off with their refried black beans, which are already loaded with flavor. Then I doctor them up with additions like caramelized garlic, fresh lime juice, cumin and smoked paprika. Yum! Feel free to push and pull this recipe to your liking: instead of using garlic, try minced shallots. Instead of using smoked paprika, try sweet paprika. A pinch of curry powder? Sure! Freshly chopped oregano or cilantro would be a lovely addition as well. Once the dip is surrounded by an array of delicious dipping options, you’ve got yourself a lovely holiday appetizer.

Black Bean Spread

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

2 cans Amy’s Refried Black Beans
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to drizzle
2 - 3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Add the beans to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Squeeze on the lime juice and add the onion powder and garlic powder. Mix well and set aside.

2. Add the olive oil and garlic to a skillet and bring to medium heat, stirring every so often with a spatula. Cook for a good 5 to 6 minutes until the garlic becomes soft and golden. Lower the heat just a tad and add the oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. Continue to stir and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. The mixture will look thick and bubbly. Once your kitchen smells outrageous and the garlic is fully caramelized, transfer to the bowl of beans and scrape every last drop out.

3. Mix everything together vigorously. Give it a taste and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to your liking. Transfer to a pretty bowl and garnish with a dusting of smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

To dip:

You can use any assortment of vegetables, such as carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans and bell peppers. If you are going to add a crunchy green vegetable, like green beans, asparagus or broccoli florets, I suggest that you lightly steam or pour boiling water on them and then rinse with cold water. This gets rid of that chalky raw taste and makes them more enjoyable.

A fun option as well are thinly sliced apples and crunchy crostini or any kind of cracker. I also love using olives and other pickled vegetables, from the olive bar, like artichoke hearts and baby peppers, for a variety of color and texture. Salted and roasted Marcona almonds also pair beautifully with this dip. If you’ve never made crostini, here’s a super simple recipe.

Crostini

1 good baguette
Olive oil
Sea salt
Nutritional yeast

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the baguette into ½ inch thick slices. Drizzle some olive oil onto a small plate. Press one side of a bread slice into the oil until coated.

2. Place the slice oil side up on the baking sheet and repeat this until all the slices are coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and nutritional yeast and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Tips

The whole point of a vegetable platter like this is to have fun and make it gorgeous! Think lots of color and enticing textures. I definitely recommend hitting up your local farmers market for unique produce and fresh herbs to garnish.

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