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 peperoncinis 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 pot with water and 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 sphagetti 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.

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 melt downs 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 recipes 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

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! 

 

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 (8oz) packages tempeh (soybean variety)
1 (10oz) 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. The 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

New Year’s Stew

 
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The new year is just a few days a way people! That means it is time for all 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 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 close up 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 the 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 over night. 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 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 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 them or pour boiling water on then rinse them 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 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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Rosemary Mushroom Risotto

 
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Ahh, risotto. Creamy, luxurious, and incredibly satisfying, this dish is a quintessential classic. There are many different variations out there and one of the more popular combinations is with mushrooms and peas. Sounds good to me! In my vegan rendition, since we are not adding any dairy cheese or cream, I like to create a strong depth of flavor with mustard and miso (a trick I learned while working as a server in a restaurant in NYC). The tang from the mustard and cheesiness from the miso works wonders for the creamy rice known as 'Arborio'. My other secret weapon is rosemary. This powerful herb offers a very strong savory flavor that is earthy and robust. It works beautifully with rice and mushrooms. In regards to risotto, I think people are intimidated, but I am here to prove to all of you that it's really not that bad! Matter of fact, it's quite simple. The most important ingredient is time. Instead of cooking the grains in one large amount of water all at the same time, you slowly add it, little by little. The rice slowly absorbs the liquid and the result is a luxuriously creamy dish. The key here is to only add a warm liquid so that it cooks perfectly. That’s why you heat up the vegetable broth before cooking. As for the veggies, I like to add asparagus and blanched fava beans for a nice crunch and variation in texture, but you could add whatever vegetables you like. Frozen peas work beautifully! When making this dish, I recommend serving it immediately as that’s when it’s best. A crusty piece of bread works as the perfect vehicle to help scrape the sides of bowl- just sayin’.

Rosemary Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4 to 6, gluten free

8 cups vegetable broth (low- or no-sodium)
3 tablespoons vegan butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms caps, packed
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 ½ cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ tablespoon mellow white miso
Vegan parmesan, shredded, to taste
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Vegetable Options:

1 to 2 cups frozen peas
1 cup Fava beans, blanched and peeled
1 to 2 cups asparagus tips, raw

1. Add broth to a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

2. Melt butter over medium heat then add olive oil, mushrooms, onions, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft. Add garlic, rosemary, nutritional yeast and arborio rice. Stirring often, cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until garlic is soft and rice is toasted. Add the wine, mustard, and miso and mix well. Cook for a few more minutes until the wine has evaporated, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t burn.

3. Once the wine is evaporated, add 1 cup of warm broth to the rice mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the broth is absorbed. Repeat this step, adding the broth in 1 cup increments, until risotto becomes thick and creamy. This should take about 20-30 minutes. If the risotto seems done, give it a taste and you will now. The rice should be chewy, firm, yet tender. You may not use all of the broth and that’s ok. Don’t have a melt down.

4. At this point, you can fold in whatever vegetables you are using along with the shredded vegan parm. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is tender and the peas are bright green. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Tip

To garnish, I like to fry up some additional sliced mushrooms to place on top, as well as some blanched vegetables (especially peas!). That’s because I’m a food stylist and I want it to look extra pretty. You totally don’t have to do this! But if you’d like to impress someone, I suggest that you do. ;)

Cookbook Clarifications & faqs

 
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Dear Readers,

Now that my cookbook is out, I have had some frequently asked clarifications and questions come up in regards to a few of the recipes. I decided to create this very blog post so that all of my answers can be organized in one place for efficiency.

Since the book’s release, a few errors have been brought to my attention. These will be updated for the 2nd edition printing. That said, I wanted to inform all of you that even though every recipe was tested, some of the updates and feedback slipped through the cracks, which I address below. I sincerely apologize for this!

I truly hope that this page helps all of you and allows for your cooking experience to be informed and fun. If you have any other questions or concerns, please submit them to me here and I will add them to this page. Feel free to leave a comment below, as well!

Thank you!

Timothy Pakron


clarifications & Corrections

Scalloped Root Casserole (page 221)

The roots should be sliced 1/16th of an inch, not 1/4th of an inch. I’ve had people tell me it still works at 1/4th of an inch but it takes longer to cook.

Gumbo z’Fungi (page 151)

For this gumbo, I call for a homemade mushroom stock. The printed recipe calls for 12 ounces of dried shiitake mushrooms when it should be 2 ounces. Yikes! That would be an insane amount of mushrooms. I also forgot to mention when to incorporate the chopped mushrooms into the recipe. They should be added in step 7 when you add the broth and bay leaves.

Sweet Onion Soup (page 130)

Again, the mushroom stock should be made with 2 ounces of dried mushrooms, not 12.

My Father’s Hash Browns (page 51)

In the headnote I mention using shallots but they are not listed in the ingredients. They are optional and if you’d like to use them, add ‘1 small shallot, chopped’ to the onion mixture and cook accordingly.

Creole Spice Blend (page 250)

I’ve had some readers ask how much of the ‘Creole Spice Blend’ to use in the gumbo recipes. You use the whole batch on page 250 for each gumbo recipe.

Mama’s Pralines (page 243)

In the headnote, I mention using vegan butter while recreating the traditional recipe. After testing it, my Mama and I decided that because vegan butter has water, this made the pralines too liquidity. Because the coconut cream is so rich, we decided that the recipe didn’t even need the butter! Therefore, the recipe is correct as is with no vegan butter.


FAQs

How many recipes are gluten-free (out of 125 recipes)?

Totally Gluten Free: 82

Gluten-Free Friendly : 20
By subbing gluten free bread for the sandwiches or croutons, crust for desserts, sorghum flour for gumbo roux.

I can’t find any okra for the gumbo recipe? Can I still make it? What could I replace it with?

Yes, you can make the gumbo without okra. If you cannot find fresh okra, try looking in the freezer section of any grocery store. Frozen okra isn’t the best to use, but it will work in a pinch. You might be surprised to find it! If you still can’t find any or you simply don’t like okra, try subbing chopped zucchini and squash with a few handfuls of spinach. The soft spinach will help thicken the stew while the zucchini and squash will bulk it up. It should still be absolutely delicious!

I made the ‘Skillet Cornbread’ on page 63 and it was delicious but crumbly. Is this how it’s supposed to be?

Yes! Since there already is a more fluffy cornbread containing wheat flour in the book, I wanted to have a more dense and solely cornmeal based cornbread for a more classic and gluten free option. This inevitably makes for a more crumbly cornbread. Do remember not to over mix the batter, as this will make it even more crumbly. I also recommend serving hot and straight out of the skillet.

Your gumbo is amazing but it makes a lot! Can I halve the recipe?

Yes, I know it does! LOL. And honestly, it’s just the way my Mom taught me how to make it. Of course you can halve the recipe, but I think if you are going to go to all the effort to make this recipe you should just make the full batch. It keeps well in the fridge for leftovers and it freezes beautifully. It’s also a lovely gift to give to someone!

Can I use the ‘Hummingbird Cake’ batter on page 239 to make cupcakes?

Yes! The batter works perfectly for a 12 well cupcake pan. You can also use the batter to make round cake layers (I’ve seen this done on Instagram) and also mini-cupcakes (I personally love doing this)!

For the ‘Salisbury Steak’ recipe on page 190, there are no mushrooms listed under the ‘Mushroom Onion Gravy’- are they missing?

No sweetheart, they are used earlier in the recipe when the steaks are cooking. You make the gravy with them after the steaks are removed from the skillet and they are browned and delicious along with the onions. Look on page 192 and you’ll see 1/2 pound of sliced cremini mushrooms listed.

Should I cover the slow cooked red beans on page 169 when they are cooking?

I actually don’t cover my red beans. That way, the brothy liquid evaporates and cooks down. More water is added if needed to achieve a thick gravy texture.

For the sweet potato casserole (page 214), the marshmallows ballooned up without browning. Any tips for making the marshmallows brown for the sweet potato casserole?

Make sure to only cover the sweet potato mash with the marshmallows and not to stuff too many in the dish. This will make them overflow while baking! If they are ballooning too much without browning, simply remove from the oven and let them deflate a bit. Crank up the heat to 400 degrees F and pop back in for a few minutes to brown. Although risky, you could pop the casserole under the broiler but please watch very carefully!

My biscuits/cornbread didn’t rise and become fluffy! What went wrong?

I’ve had this happen to two readers now. Upon further investigation, each reader came to realize that their baking powder was expired! To avoid this, I recommend buying baking powder in small amounts so that it is replaced often. If you’d like to test your baking powder, simply add a teaspoon to a cup and pour over 1/3rd a cup of hot water. If it bubbles, you are good. If nothing happens, it’s old!

When you make biscuits, do you use soft wheat flour? Or do you get same results with other kinds of all purpose flour?

I’ve used both a standard AP flour and also a soft wheat flour for my biscuits and I would say that the results are great for either. But I would say that when using White Lily Flour, which is a soft winter wheat, the biscuits are a bit fluffier and softer. That’s my preferred flour for biscuits, cakes, and cookies. For bread recipes like bagels or focaccia, I prefer to use King Arthur’s bread flour.

You call for red wine in your gumbo recipes, what kind do you recommend?

I like to use a bold and dark red wine, like a Malbec, but you could also use Merlot or a Cabernet.

How long will the shiitake bacon last in the fridge?

Honestly, because most of the moisture is cooked out of the mushrooms and there is so much salt, it should last for a good while- I’d say a week max (probably longer but just to be safe). One other trick is lay it back out on a sheet pan and pop into a preheated oven (350 degrees F) to crispy it back up! Not to long though, only a few minutes. My question for you is how do you have any left over? Mine doesn’t last more than a few hours!


One-Pot Pasta Bolognese

 
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This one-pot pasta bolognese is incredibly delicious and satisfying. Bolognese is a traditional Italian meat sauce cooked with wine and some heavy cream. The results are a rich and flavorful sauce which can be served with any kind of pasta you desire. I love using thick spaghetti noodles, as featured in the picture above, but I also recommend using fettuccini or regular spaghetti for this rendition. I particularly love this recipe because I have streamlined it all into ONE pot. That’s right! You simply throw the noodles in once the sauce is loaded with tons of seasonings and spices and they cook perfectly, absorbing all of the flavors while still becoming delightfully squooshy. To start, vegan sausage is crumbled and browned with onions, carrots, and celery. Once that all gets happy- garlic, fresh herbs, and crushed fire roasted tomatoes are added to the pot. I also like adding cherry tomatoes and tomato paste for extra flavor and added texture. To make the sauce creamy, I like adding in pea milk, which is available at most grocery stores these days. Feel free to use whatever unsweetened plant-based milk you prefer. Once to a simmer, you throw in the noodles and cook. The only catch is you have to stir the mixture often so that the bottom doesn’t burn. Because the noodles are cooking in a thick sauce, movement is key. I like to use a large wooden spatula to make sure the bottom is scraped and moved thoroughly. Once the noodles are al dente, you remove from heat, add some vegan cheese, and cover with a lid. Let it sit for a good 10 minutes allowing the noodles to finish cooking and you’re done! A hefty shredding of vegan parmesan cheese on top with some fresh basil and cherry tomatoes completes this beautiful dish. Serve with a simple side salad and some crusty garlic bread for an epic meal, with wine of course!

One-Pot Pasta Bolognese

serves 6 - you can halve the recipe

14 ounces beyond sausage, crumbled*
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup fresh chopped basil, plus some to garnish
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ cup red wine
3 cups crushed fire roasted tomatoes (one 28 ounce can)
¾ cup tomato paste (one 6 ounce can)
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
2 cups pea milk, plus some if needed*
2 cups filtered water
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 lb pasta noodles
¼ cup shredded vegan parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish


1. In a large pot or large dutch oven, add the sausage, onions, carrots, celery and olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper and stir with a large wooden spatula. Cook for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, stirring often. Use the spatula to break up the sausage into a crumbly texture.

2. Throw in the garlic and cook for a few minutes (2 to 3), until softened. Add the parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, and nutritional yeast. Cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the canned tomatoes and continue to scrape so that there is nothing stuck to the bottom.

3. Next, add the tomato paste, cherry tomatoes, pea milk, filtered water, sea salt, black pepper, and noodles. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Towards the 15 minute mark, test a noodle. (If using a thinner noodle, maybe check around 13 minutes as they will cook quicker). Once the noodles are al dente (cooked yet slightly hard), remove from heat, mix in the cheese, and cover with a lid. Let sit for 10 minutes to let the noodles finish cooking.

4. After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the lid and give it a stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like to loosen it up, add a few more splashes of milk and mix. Serve in bowls and garnish with freshly shaven vegan parmesan and basil leaves. You could also throw on some halved cherry tomatoes because it’s pretty!

Tips

I highly recommend using the Hot Italian Beyond Sausage (or any of their flavors if you can’t find this one). You could use another brand of vegan sausage (or a homemade recipe), but this has the perfect texture, flavoring, and fat content for this dish in particular.

You can make this a day ahead and keep in the fridge. It will thicken up considerably once chilled, so when you are ready to heat it back up, I recommend adding some more milk and baking it in the oven, covered. I would advise against heating it up on the stovetop as it could burn easily (because it is much thicker when cold). If you are heating up a small amount, you could use the stove top, just make sure to keep it moving!

I personally love the Ripple brand of unsweetened pea milk for this recipe. I find that it has just the right creamy texture.

The dish featured above is 4 quarts, which would be perfect if you halved the recipe. If you are going to make the full recipe, I recommend using a large pot or large dutch oven so you have plenty of wiggle room. It’s not fun to cook a sauce that’s all the way up to the brim, it can be quite stressful!

Holiday Pizza

 
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This holiday pizza is the perfect crowd pleaser. I love that it uses leftover scraps of holiday ingredients like hazelnuts, brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. The best part is the recipe starts with a delicious Amy’s frozen pizza as the base, which makes it super fast and super easy. (I always have 1 or 2 as a backup in the freezer!) It’s the perfect solution for serving to family or guests when people are hungry and you need something quick. Feel me? The brussels sprouts are tenderized and infused with flavor before placing on top of the pizza from a splash of vinegar, sprinkling of nutritional yeast, orange zest and orange juice. This really elevates their flavor which pairs beautifully with toasted hazelnuts and cranberry sauce. I like to add dollops of any store-bought vegan nut cheese, but you could totally skip that. This recipe is all about using what you have and being super easy. After the pizza is baked in the oven, I love adding fresh oregano for a pop of color and fresh flavor. Do note that I’ve made this pizza multiple times now and I can honestly say that I love it and I think you will to.


Holiday Pizza

Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup hazelnuts, peeled
1 ½ cups quartered brussels sprouts (white bottoms removed)
½ cup filtered water
1 teaspoon vinegar (plain, rice, or cider)
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza
2 to 3 tablespoons desired vegan nut cheese (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
Fresh oregano, to garnish


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


2. Spread the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly toasted. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.* Once cooled, using the side of your knife, gently press down on them until they break in half or into smaller pieces. Set aside.

3. Add the brussels sprouts to a skillet, along with the water, vinegar, nutritional yeast, orange zest, orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bring to medium heat, stirring every so often. Cook until liquid has evaporated and the brussels sprouts are tender to fork. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Using the same parchment-lined baking sheet as the hazelnuts, remove the Amy’s frozen from the box and place in the middle of the pan. Artfully add the brussels sprouts. Then add ½ teaspoon dollops of the cranberry sauce scattered across the top (to make sure each slice gets some). If using cheese, repeat this step, scattering small dollops across the top. Bake in the oven for 14 minutes.

5. Once baked, remove from oven and sprinkle on the hazelnuts. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves, slice, and serve.


Tips

If you cannot find hazelnuts already peeled, you can do so at home. After they are roasted carefully transfer them to a paper towel and wrap up the edges. Rub them around until the peels flake off. It’s ok if they are not completely peeled. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

You can use whatever store-bought vegan nut cheese you desire: almond ricotta, cashew herb, etc.

This pizza is delicious cold! I tried some the next day and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

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Autumnal Stew

 
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Autumnal Stew

This recipe is quintessential fall. It’s loaded with curried root vegetables like beets, radishes, turnips, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. The broth is infused with loads of earthy and spicy curry powder which is the perfect warming up spice for the cool weather that’s coming in, albeit slowly here in New Orleans! Nonetheless, fall is fall and I was ready for some stew. So that’s precisely why this recipe came to fruition. I’m keeping things super simple by throwing most of the ingredients in at once in the beginning. No need to fuss. Once things are nice and tender, I introduce some garlic, ginger, vinegar, sweet mirin (a cooking wine), nutritional yeast, and tamari. All of these combined results in a super flavorful, savory, and delicious broth that becomes infused in the tender and succulent root vegetables. To be resourceful and fun, I like to throw in some of the green tops from the beets and turnips. They provide a nice body to the stew and they’re delicious! The only thing that could make this recipe any better is a fluffy grain to go on top with some toasted nuts. I chose quinoa and pecans because that screams fall to me, but do what you will with what you want. I’m not here to tell you what to do (well, kinda). Make the stew, have fun, and share it with friends.

Autumnal Stew

Serves 6 to 8

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ cups chopped sweet potatoes
1 ½ cups chopped beets, reserve some of the tops
1 ½ cups chopped butternut squash, peeled
1 ½ cups chopped red kuri or kabocha squash, peeled
1 ½ cups chopped (or baby) turnips
4 to 5 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup chopped fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (duh)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons mirin*
6 cups filtered or spring water
3 tablespoons tamari or coconut aminos
1 ½ cup chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 to 3 bay leaves
Beet greens (about 1 cup), shredded
Turnip greens (about 1 cup), shredded
Toasted Pecans, chopped (about 2 cups)
Fluffy Quinoa, a few cups
Fresh herbs, like thyme, basil, or parsley, to garnish
1 lemon, cut into slices

1. In a large pot, add olive oil, onion, sweet potatoes, beets, butternut squash, red kuri squash, and turnips. Bring to medium heat, stirring often, and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and the vegetables begin to brown.

2. Next, throw in the garlic, ginger, curry powder, nutritional yeast, and cinnamon. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often, to toast the seasonings and spices and soften the garlic.

3. Add the mirin, water, tamari, chopped tomatoes, sea salt, and bay leaves. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and succulent. Once they are done, throw in the shredded beet greens and turnip greens. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Cook for a few more minutes until the greens are tender.

4. To serve, remove the bay leaves and ladle the soup into pretty bowls. Add a scoop of fluffy quinoa in the middle and sprinkle on top some toasted pecans and whatever fresh herbs you desire. On the side, serve a small slice of lemon with each bowl to be squeezed on top right before consuming.

Tips

Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine that is sweet and pairs perfectly with tamari or soy sauce. It works beautifully in marinades, soups, and salad dressings. I recommend this brand.

For the quinoa, I like to add a splash of rice vinegar, a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, a few pinches of salt, a crack of pepper, and a drizzle of smoked olive oil or toasted sesame seed oil before cooking. You could also add a pinch of curry powder and cinnamon to echo the flavors in the soup.

You can totally eat the tops of beets and turnips. Just make sure to rinse them thoroughly as they can oftentimes be sandy. I don’t particularly like them raw, but once they are wilted in a hot broth, they become tender and delicious!

Jambalaya

 
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Here you have it: my jambalaya recipe. Jambalaya is a famous rice dish that was created in Louisiana with Spanish and French influences. What I love about this recipe is the cooking method. By cooking the rice with a flavorful base (instead of just using water) and adding partially browned vegetables and proteins, the rice is infused with flavor. Now, I know that the ingredient list looks long as hell, but hear me out- it’s totally worth it. I promise! All of the spices and herbs work synergistically to create an incredibly satisfying flavor, one that tickles your tastebuds and leaves you craving more and more with each bite. Traditionally, Jambalaya is served with some sort of protein so for this vegan translation I give you two options, but feel free to be creative. I particularly like using black eyed peas but chickpeas or red beans would be great too. If you are craving a more meaty texture, try using your favorite vegan sausage. As you probably already know, I am a mushroom fanatic so I love to use them for their chewy texture and earthy flavor. What I love most about this recipe is that it’s a one pot shop. Start by sautéing everything on the stove top, add your broth, bring to a sizzle, throw in the rice, and transfer it to the oven. By giving the rice that head start of sizzling broth, after 30 minutes you are left with fluffy grains of rice that have absorbed all of the deliciousness you see listed below. If you do make this, please let me know what you think in the comments below and, most importantly, enjoy.

Jambalaya

Serves 8 people (halve for 4)

⅓ cup vegan butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered  + pinch of salt
1 can black eyed peas or 2 to 3 cups sliced vegan sausage
1 ½ cups diced onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red or yellow bell pepper
1 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried sage
½  teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½  teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cup chopped tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegan worchestire
1 tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
1 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
½  teaspoons liquid smoke
1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes
2 ½ cups vegetable stock, plus more if desired
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
Sliced green onion, to garnish
Chopped parsley, to garnish
Cherry tomatoes, sliced to garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Bring a large dutch oven to medium heat and melt the butter.  Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until all sides are golden-brown, occasionally stirring gently, about 10 minutes.

  3. If using vegan sausage, add and sauté until golden-brown, occasionally stirring,  about 5 minutes.

  4. Add onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, sweet paprika, cayenne, cumin, dried sage, dried oregano, dried parsley, and black pepper. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes to toast the spices.

  6. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, vegan Worcestershire, rice or cider vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, liquid smoke, fire roasted tomatoes, vegetable stock, fresh thyme, and bay leaves. Stir together and bring to a simmer. (You can leave the thyme sprigs and bay leaves whole as you will remove them at the end.)

  7. Once at a simmer, stir in the rice and the peas (if using), mix well, and cover. Place in center of oven and bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and give it a taste. If the rice needs to cook longer or seems dry, drizzle some more vegetable stock on top and pop it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

  8. Once done, season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and serve in bowls. Sprinkle with desired garnishes.

Tips

This dish pairs perfectly with garlic bread and simple salad. And lots of wine. ;)

If you don’t have an oven safe lid for your pot, you can use foil. Just make sure it’s tightly wrapped so that the rice cooks effectively.

You can absolutely make this a day or two before hand. Simply keep it tightly wrapped in the fridge and warm it up when ready to serve. Just make sure to keep in covered and cook it at a lower heat, like 300 degrees F, so that it doesn’t dry out.

This dish works amazingly as a burrito filling! I can attest because I’ve done it. Simply load up a tortilla, close it up, and grill it till crispy. Yum!

Garden Herb Rolls

 
 
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Garden Herb Rolls! The main concept behind this recipe is to celebrate fragrant, fresh herbs straight from the garden. By chopping the herbs up with garlic and mixing them with a simple blend of seasonings and spices, you are left with a filling that's loaded with intense flavor. By rolling that up with dough and baking it in the oven, the flavor is deeply infused throughout the fluffy bread. The end result is truly magnificent! If you don't have an herb garden, don't fret! You can easily grab some herbs from your local grocery store or farmers market. You are looking for fresh and beautiful herbs- skip the shriveled up and dried out kind that looked left behind. Go for vibrant and brightly colored. In this recipe, the lemon juice and lemon zest accentuate the flavor of the herbs, bringing them to life just a bit more. The nutritional yeast and vegan parmesan shreds pair perfectly with the savory herbs and the dough, while the olive oil provides the perfect richness. A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and freshly cracked black pepper rounds out the flavor with a tickle of spice. 

Important Note: This recipe does take time. It's not a weeknight recipe for a busy mom. You must be patient and artful with the process. The dough needs to rise twice (once after kneaded and once after placing in the dish before baking). The herb blend needs to be made with a large amount of herbs with the woody stems picked out, which takes time. Attention to detail is a must when rolling, cutting, and transferring the rolls. If you don't have access to beautiful herbs, I do not recommend this recipe for you. Because it is rather labor intensive, you should only be using the best of the best ingredients. This will provide the results you are looking for.

Here is a video for you to look over to help you better understand the process. Thank you Patricia of @veganstars for the amazing pizza dough recipe. It's all I use now! Enjoy y'all.

Garden Herb Rolls
Makes 8 - 9 large rolls

Dough

1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon agave, maple syrup, or sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Filling

1 ½ cup freshly chopped basil (lemon, lime, blue spice, or sweet)
½ cup freshly chopped parsley, flat lead or curly, plus some to garnish
¼ cup freshly chopped thyme, plus some to garnish
¼ cup freshly chopped oregano
¼ cup freshly chopped dill or chives
1 cup Follow Your Heart vegan parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½  tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

2. Mix the yeast and desired sweeter in a small bowl. Slowly add the warm water, mixing with a fork as your pour. Set aside until it becomes bubbly and happy, around 5 to 10 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, add the flour, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and olive oil. Using the same fork from the yeast mixture, blend and fluff of the flour mixture. Once the yeast is bubbly, pour over the flour mixture and using the same fork, mix until the dough combines into one large ball. 

4. Rub a small amount of olive oil on desired cutting board/clean surface to knead the dough. Rub some olive oil on your hands and trasfer the dough. Knead for a good 5 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and springy. If it is sticking to the board or your hands, add more olive oil as needed. 

5. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl with some olive oil. Roll the dough so that it's lightly coated in the oil and cover with a cloth. Place the dough in a warm spot until it doubles in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

6. While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine all of the ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Mix well with a fork and set aside.

7. On a cutting board or clean surface, transfer the risen dough and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to create a rectangle, around 15" x 12". Spread the filling out on the dough in an even layer, leaving a small border of dough. Gently and tightly roll the dough up into a log. Using a very sharp knife, cut about a ½ inch off each end. (Bake these separately, they’re the duds but you can still eat 'em). Cut the roll into 8 or 9 pieces and delicately transfer them to a large cast iron skillet or baking sheet. Leave only a little amount of space in between them, as they rolls will help each other rise and form shape.

8. Cover and place in a warm spot for the second rise, an additional 40 minutes. Before popping in the oven, sprinkle the rolls with a little more cheese and a dusting of nutritional yeast. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the rolls have cooked thoroughly and they become springy and the tops are golden brown.

9. Let cool for about 10 minutes and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and thyme. Serve!

Lagniappe

You can use store-bought pizza dough if you'd like to take short cut. These would also be good with vegan puff pastry. Read the instructions on the package for baking temperature and time, but it should be close if not the same as this recipe. 

You need a total of 3 cups of freshly chopped herbs. You can play with the variations and amounts. I recommend using soft herbs for the base (basil, parsley, dill, and tarragon), as they are milder and tender, and small amounts of hard herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), as they are more concentrated in flavor and can be a bit astringent if too much is used. 

For the best texture and flavor, I highly recommend using Follow Your Heart parmesan shreds. You can, although, substitute another vegan cheese if need be.  

You can make these a day ahead. After the second rise, cover the rolls and place them in the fridge overnight. 

To check out more recipes by my friend Patricia, who created the pizza dough, check out her website.

Firecracker Green Beans

 
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Ooooh, these green beans are a kick in the mouth! That's because they are loaded with stimulating seasonings like coriander, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and curry powder. They are also coated with crunchy, buttery sesame seeds and spicy mustard seeds that provide a lovely pop. Savory and fantastically spicy, these beans are an explosion of flavor in the mouth. So I had to name them after firecrackers, right? Feel free to play with the spice combination. If you don't have one or two, simply take them out and add a little more of the other stuff. And if you don't like spicy, maybe hold back on the red pepper flakes and chili powder. They will still be good. The trick to this recipe is to toss the green beans thoroughly so that they are coated with all of the seasonings. The other trick is to make sure the oven is preheated and piping hot. Green beans love to shrivel up when it's hot like that, becoming succulent and tender, while still having a slight crunch. 

1 lb green beans, tough ends removed
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Rinse and dry the green beans thoroughly (if they are too wet, they won't hold the seasonings that well and you will look silly). Transfer the beans to a large cast iron skillet, baking dish, or baking sheet (use parchment paper if so). 

3. Throw on the coconut oil, tamari, red pepper flakes, black pepper, curry powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, and nutritional yeast. 

4. Place the skillet/dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Gobble up immediately!
 

Blueberry Cobbler

 
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There's nothing quite like picking fresh blueberries right off the bush, wouldn't you say? And there's no better way to enjoy the fruits of your labor than with a cobbler. I'm sure we can all agree with that one! Now when it comes to the world of cobblers, I've noticed that they are predominately created in 3 different ways. One way is with a crust, similar to a pie, that's flakey and dense, with a top and a bottom (yum!). Another way is with a more a biscuit-like topping (also fabulous). The final other way is more of a 'cakey' fluffy batter. For this recipe I decided to go the 'cakey' route, because 1) I have so many pie and biscuit recipes in my cookbook and 2) I was in the mood. Knowing me, it's still a recipe that's all my own with results that are unique compared to traditional recipes, although some might say this was pretty darn close to a 'Texas Style' blueberry cobbler. You see, if I had to give you the best description, this creation is best described like so: If a blueberry cobbler and a blueberry muffin had a baby, this would be it. On the bottom you have piping hot blueberries that have burst and melded with tangy lemon zest and lemon juice, creating their very own jelly-like sauce. On top, you have a fluffy, moist, and decadent topping (you can thank the coconut milk for that) with a thin crispy top. The recipe also happens to be incredibly easy with only 10 ingredients. C'mon people. Find your closest u-pick, grab your basket, and get into it.

Serve 4 to 6 

3 cups blueberries, plus some for sprinkling
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup vegan butter
1 cup granulated sugar, plus some for sprinkling
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Rinse the berries and drain them well. Transfer 3 cups to a 9" x 13" baking dish, or desired dish similar in size. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss to mix and spread into an even layer. Set aside. 

3. For the batter, cream together the butter and sugar, mixing with a fork. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix until just combined and pour over the blueberries hanging out in the baking dish. Sprinkle with additional blueberries and desired amount of sugar on top.

4. Bake for 1 hour, depending on your oven until the top is golden and crispy. Serve immediately as is or with vanilla ice cream or coconut whipped cream.
 

Lagniappe

If you're into making your food look extra pretty like me, feel free to throw a few extra blueberries on top when there are 20 minutes left to cook. 

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Crispy Potato Tacos

 
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Ok, this has got to be one of my favorite cheap and easy meals. There is just something about this combination that's incredibly satisfying: fluffy, moist chunks of russet potatoes, tossed with a flavorful coating and baked until crispy, wrapped in a warm tortilla blanket with loads of refreshing goodness. Now, usually I like to give you guys some wiggle room with substitutions, but not for these three ingredients: russet potatoes, iceberg lettuce, soft tortillas. The combination of the starchy, fluffy russet potatoes, crispy iceberg lettuce, and the soft texture of a flour tortilla truly *makes* this recipe. As for the aioli, you can simply use any vegan mayo, or a flavored one at that. But the aioli below is not only creamy and rich, but tangy and bursting with flavor from the cilantro and lime juice, a perfect cool contrast to the spiced potatoes. I assure you, after trying this one time, it should become a new stand-by recipe for an easy weeknight dinner or a festive dinner party- buffet style. Promise.

Serves 4 to 6

Crispy Potatoes

2 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
Sprinkling of sea salt, to taste

Cilantro-Lime Aioli

¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup freshly chopped cilantro, packed
3 tablespoons minced jalapeño (optional)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 ½ cups vegan mayo

To Assemble:

Soft flour tortillas (one package), warmed
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Thinly shaved red onion
Thinly sliced jalapeño
Fresh cilantro, to garnish
 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. Cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, nutritional yeast, and flour. Toss and mix well. Pour in the tamari, vinegar, oil and continue to mix and toss until all the pieces are coated thoroughly.

3. Spread the poatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes. Remove and give one piece a taste. Season with sea salt as needed. Flip with a thin spatula and shake the potatos into an even layer. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, to get them crispy. 

4. While the potatoes are baking, whip up the aioli. First, blend the lime juice, cilantro, jalapeño (if using), sea salt, and nutritional yeast in a small blender. Blend for a minute or two until you are left with a bright green liquid. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add the mayo. Using a whisk, mix until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or tightly cover and keep in the fridge. 

5. Assemble the tacos by placing on some lettuce, potatoes, sliced red onion, sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro on a warm, soft tortilla. Drizzle with the aioli and enjoy. 

 

Tips

If you look in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, you might be pleasantly surprised to find 'raw' or uncooked soft tortillas! These are the best as you can simply cook them in a pan as needed. They are fresh, so delicious, and also do not have a long list of sketchy ingredients (like most soft tortillas do). Obviously, use whatever you can find but these are ideal. 

If you like spicy, go for the jalapeño option in the aioli. The heat from every pepper is different, so maybe give it a taste before deciding on how much to add. I used 3 tablespoons, but that's just me. I don't want any complaints if the aioli is too spicy just because you buggin'. 

 

Immune Boosting Soup

 

This immune boosting soup is the first thing that I crave when a sickness begins to creep on up. And let's face it- we all get sick. There's just no way around it. No matter how much you try to prevent that nasty crud that seems to always make its rounds during this time of the year, it's just inevitable. Now, instead of complaining about it- make this soup! It's so very good for you and delicious. Wholesome, brothy, full of spicy ginger and large chunks of vegetables floating in a golden turmeric broth, this soup is the definition of health (if you need some proper evidence supporting how amazing fresh ginger and turmeric are, go ahead and google their benefits. You'll be overwhelmed with the results). Now, instead of noodles, I prefer to add spiralized butternut squash which provides another punch of nutrition. They become tender and succulent while also providing that noodle texture we all know and love. Feel free to throw in whatever greens and fresh herbs you like (or none at all). Lastly, this soup is fantastic with rice or quinoa. Enjoy. 

Serves 4 to 6

3 cups celery (about 5 to 6 stalks)
2 cups carrots (4 to 5 carrots)
2 cups chopped leeks, only the white and light green parts* (2 stalks)
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (3.5 oz pack, de-stemmed)
3 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
¼ cup fresh ginger, microplaned or grated + minced
2 tablespoons turmeric, microplaned or grated + minced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (3 to 5 cloves)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or desired oil)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne, or desired amount
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
8 cups filtered water, plus more if desired
4 cups peeled and spiralized butternut squash (1 small squash)
A few handfuls of kale, if desired
2 to 3 heaping tablespoons chopped parsley, if desired
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup unpasteurized chickpea miso (or desired miso)

1. Add the celery, carrots, leeks, shiitakes, onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt (start with less if you are sensitive) in a large pot. Mix well and bring to medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to sweat, becoming soft and tender but while maintaining some crunch. 

2. Pour in the water and bring the heat up to high. Once to a boil, throw in the butternut squash noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the squash noodles are tender. Remove from heat and throw in the kale and parsley. Mix well. 

3. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, miso, and one ladle of broth until smooth. Pour the mixture into the soup and stir to incorporate. Give it a taste and add more sea salt and cayenne pepper if desired. I did. :)

Tips

For the leeks, you want to only use the white and baby green parts. The dark green leaves are fibrous and undesirable. One you remove the dark green leaves, slice the stalk in half and you notice loads of dirt. Make sure to rinse all that out thoroughly! I even rinse the leeks once more after cutting because no one likes sand in their soup. 

You can buy pasteurized miso if that's all you have access to, but the good stuff with all of the probiotics will be in the refrigerated section. Adding this to the soup at the very end will help keep them alive. Chickpea miso is a great option for people who try or need to avoid soy. 

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

 
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Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

These cookies remind me of that delectable part of the brownie that I love so very much. You know… when the edges become crispy and chewy? Like that. I've provided just a touch of peppermint extract to boost that seasonal flavor, while crushed peppermint candy canes add another pop of flavor, plus a beautiful crunch on top. I prefer a more chewy cookie, so I go for the longer baking time, but there is no right or wrong. Heck, the raw batter is scrumptious as is. The point being, you can push and pull this recipe in many ways, so have fun! Most importantly, these are a fantastic holiday cookie that anyone would be happy to sink their teeth into. Even the Grinch. 

makes about 24 cookies

¾ cup vegan butter, cold
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
½ cup plant-based milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
⅓ cup roughly crushed peppermint sticks
 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine the vegan butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and sea salt in a mixing bowl. Using a fork or a hand mixer, blend until light and fluffy (if using a fork, this could take a minute). Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, peppermint extract, ground flax meal, and milk. Mix well and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, coffee powder, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the dry to the wet and mix well until the batter is incorporated.

4. Scoop mounds (about 2 tablespoons in size) onto the baking sheets with a good amount of space in between each cookie (about 1 ½ inches at least). Next, spray the tops of the mounds with cooking spray and using your finger or the back of a spoon, gently press the cookie dough mounds flat, helping to shape them into beautiful cookies. You don't have to press them too much, so please take a chill pill. Sprinkle the tops with desired amounts of mini chocolate chips and pop them in the oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how soft/chewy you like your cookies.

5. Once done, remove from oven. IMMEDIATELY, sprinkle the crushed peppermint sticks on top and gently press in any large pieces of candy cane there may be. This will make sure everything sticks. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to let set, about 10 minutes.

Tips

If using smaller baking sheets, you might have to make more than two batches, as the cookies will spread and you'll need more surface area. Just keep the dough covered in the fridge if this is the case. 

For a softer, gooier cookie, go with 10 minutes of baking. For a more crispy on the edges and chewier cookie, go closer to 15 minutes. I prefer 15. ;) 

I found these to be delicious hot out of the oven, once completely cooled, and the next day. Each stage offers different characteristics of enjoyment, so try them all ways! Do note that after about 2 days, they will go soft and taste a bit stale.

In regards to the candy canes, I used a hippy-dippy organic brand from the health food store. This means the sugar is not refined (vegan) and the dyes are made from plants (not chemicals). You can, of course, use whatever kind of candy canes you like- I'm just letting you know what I used. 

The Best Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

 
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Macaroni and Cheese... that's vegan? Is it possible? Is it true?

Why, yes. Yes it is!

Now, don't get it twisted y'all. This didn't use to be the case. Vegan cheese has come a long, long way since I went vegan nearly 10 years ago. I've seen and tasted some pretty bad stuff out there, but I had to do it. You see, contrary to popular belief that vegans sit around all day trying to figure out how to deprive themselves of all things delicious in the world- we actually miss cheese. Like, we get it. We didn't stop eating it because it was delicious! We stopped eating it for many other reasons that I will not go into here. The point is that vegans are humans just like everyone else. We want cheese, too.We longingly watch the cooking shows where the celebrity chefs effortlessly plop sticks of butter into a saucepan while shredding blocks of beautiful artisanal cheeses, easily picked up from the local shop. Only a few years ago, us poor and desperate vegans would venture to make our very own version, only to become disappointed by finding grainy, mealy, and oddly colored vegan cheeses at the store. Some companies even make vegan cheese 'lookalikes' which contain animal by-products like whey and casein. These people are evil- evil I tell you!

Fortunately, the vegan cheese game is stronger than it's ever been. With products that are rich in flavor and creamy in texture- I am proud to say that vegan cheese is now a respectable ingredient to use at home. Don't believe me? Go check out the vegan cheese sections at Whole Foods or your local health food store for yourself. You'll be surprised to see an array of products ranging from your traditional slices, shreds, and spreads. There are even artisanal vegan cheese shops popping up all over the world! Ayyy!

But enough about that- let's get down to business: Macaroni and Cheese. The good stuff. The ultimate comfort food. The kind of dish that makes all your problems melt away while you stuff your face in a dark corner with ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness. Sadly, for vegans, this dish has become a distant memory. Instead of trying to use the disappointing vegan products we became accustomed to before the good ones hit the market, we had to take matters into our own hands by making a vegan version that, well, tasted vegan. You know the one... a ridiculous amount of nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and vegan butter tossed with whole wheat pasta. Of course, this concept was only a starting point for us 'foodie vegans'. Soon after, vegan mac n' cheese became one of the most intricate and complicated recipes in the world, with an ingredient list boasting dozens of ingredients. Things like: lemon juice, tamari, miso, acidophilus, citric acid, modified tapioca starch, potato starch, truffle oil- and the list goes on! Vegans everywhere were desperate to create a sophisticated vegan mac n' cheese that would impress not only fellow vegans but omnivores as well.

As it turns out, we never did. No matter how hard we tried- no matter how many boiled potatoes and carrots we added or bright yellow turmeric we scooped in, the common standard American diet consumer would take one bite and say, "It's good. But it's not Mac N' Cheese." As it turns out, we vegans have completely lost our way. We have forgotten what true macaroni and cheese tastes like. We've been overcomplicating it for so long that we've spiraled down into the abyss of vegan mac n' cheese- a lonely universe filled with empty containers of nutritional yeast and flashing images of omnivores rolling their eyes.

Well not anymore! And here's the recipe to prove it. But first, let's break down the traditional version so you can see where I am coming from. A traditional mac and cheese calls for butter, cream or milk, a variety of store bought cheeses, and few spices here and there with maybe some breadcrumbs and a roux. It calls for easy, accessible, and everyday ingredients that come together very quickly in a simple dish. Therefore, I have created this 'Vegan Translation', as Isa Chandra would call it. This recipe is the closest thing I have had to traditional style Macaroni and Cheese since going vegan. Think country style. Think holiday celebration. Think childhood. Do note that I've shown this to my non-vegan friends and they said they could have easily been fooled. Ayyyy!

I teamed up with Follow Your Heart because they have some of the best cheese out there. I highly recommend using this brand to make this recipe. You can try subbing out other brands, but I can't guarantee that it will come out as good as this. You can usually find Follow Your Heart products at Whole Foods, co-ops, health food stores, and I've even seen it at regular grocery stores as well (this is the company responsible for Vegeniase). I would stick to the flavors of American, provolone, and smoked gouda as this combination works really perfectly. You can try subbing out the provolone for cheddar or pepper jack if you'd like. Instead of making a blonde roux, like traditional mac, I just added cornstarch which gives it a thicker and creamier texture, while also being gluten-free. Because I don't like most package plant-based milks (they always taste chemically and a bit stale to me), I just make my own in the blender with water and cashews. Instead of cooking the cheese sauce, I replaced this step by just adding the remaining ingredients to the blender with the milk and blending everything to form a thick, creamy cheese sauce. If you don't have a high-speed blender (and because the sauce is very thick) you may want to blend the cheese sauce in two batches and add them separately. If you are using a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, make sure to use the wand as much as needed to help it blend easily. I would say start slow and easy and then crank it up when it's ready. Ok, ENOUGH. Let's get to cookin'!

 

The Best Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6 to 8, takes less than 1 hour, gluten free option (you can halve this recipe if you'd like)

1 (16 oz) pack desired macaroni noodles, plus water + salt to boil

1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight if using a regular blender)

4 cups filtered water

¼ cup vegan butter

⅛  teaspoon nutmeg

¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pack American slices by Follow Your Heart, chopped

1 pack smoked gouda by Follow Your Heart, chopped

1 pack provolone slices by Follow Your Heart, chopped

Topping (totally optional and not necessary)

1 bag shredded pizza style shreds by Follow Your Heart

6 teaspoons vegan butter

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Fill a large pot with water and a healthy sprinkling of sea salt. Bring to a boil and add the macaroni 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 you need to calm down). Drain with a colander and transfer to a 9” x 13” baking dish (this recipe will just fit in that!) or desired baking vessel (bonus points for using a large cast iron). 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, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, and cornstarch. 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… it needs your help and sometimes it feels as though you think it’s invincible.) 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. Optional: sprinkle the shredded pizza style cheese on top. Then evenly dispersing the butter in small dollops on top.

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 and stir with a large spoon. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


Tips

If bringing this to a party, you can make it in advance. Just wrap it up tightly and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to go. Bake this at the location and serve immediately. If you would like to freeze this you should bake it for about 10 to 15 minutes longer because, well, it's frozen. 

An alternative to using a blender is by cooking the sauce on medium heat, stirring constantly, in a large saucepan or pot on the stovetop the sauce becomes smoother and creamy. If this is the case, you should mix the cornstarch with a little water before adding so it doesn't clump. If you can't make your own cashew milk, use a plain unflavored soy creamer or pea milk creamer. If you can't find creamers, use desired plant-based milk (the sauce will be slightly less creamy). 

If using a regular blender you might want to soak your cashews overnight or for at least a few hours to make it easier for them to be blended up smoothly. I have a high-speed blender because I'm fancy, so I don't have to fret about this.

Please chop up the cheese slices so that the blender has a fair chance at blending everything until smooth. If your blender cannot handle this, then you might have to melt everything in a saucepan first and pour that over the noodles. I didn't have a problem with this. And before you ask, you must blend the cheeses up so that it melts effectively. The traditional recipe usually melts the sauce on the stovetop before adding to the noodles. My goal was to skip that step as to not dirty another pot. Use your best judgment. 

If you do not serve this immediately, you will lose that velvety smooth texture and it will start to coagulate. This is totally ok and actually happens to regular macaroni and cheese. If you’d like to make it smooth again, you can add some more cashew cream or nondairy milk and heat it back up, mixing it well. But this is a pain. And it still won't look as good as it does when your first bake it. So just eat it immediately. You shouldn’t have a problem doing that. 

If you don’t want to make a big batch, simply halve this recipe. :)

Apple Peanut Butter Caramel Bars

 
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It's the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite vegan cookbooks: Veganomicon! To celebrate, I have decided to share with all of you this delicious recipe. This one, in particular, was created by my bestie Isa Chandra (she co-authored the book with Terry Romero). While we were flipping through the book, I stumbled upon this shot. When I mentioned it to her, she squealed and immediately told me I should try it. So I did. And boy was it good! 

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. It's the perfect time of year for it as well, so you have no excuses. 

Apple Peanut Butter Caramel Bars

Makes 12 bars, takes about 1 hour + 15 minutes, plus cooling time

Crust

3 cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened almond or coconut-based milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted

Apple Filling

3 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 6), cored and sliced thinly (peeling is optional)
1/3 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Peanut Butter Caramel

2/3 cup chunky peanut butter (the no-stir kind, not the kind that separates)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with coconut oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Prepare the crust: Place the graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the oil and mix until moistened. Add the milk and the vanilla and mix with your fingers; the crumbs should hold together if pinched. Press the crumbs firmly into the prepared baking pan to form the crust.

3. Prepare the topping: Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt in a mixing bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil into the flour and mix with your fingertips until crumbs start to form. Keep tossing the mixture with your fingers; you want the crumbs to be fairly large for crumbs. Add more oil, if necessary.

4. Prepare the apple filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl, coating all the apples.

5. Assemble the bars: Layer the apples onto the crust and sprinkle with the crumb topping. The topping won't solidly cover the entire pan; just sprinkle it randomly over the top so that the apples are peeking through in places. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

6. When the bars are almost done baking (at the 35-minute point), start preparing the peanut butter caramel: Mix all the caramel ingredients very well, with a fork, in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for about 3 minutes. The mixture should soften and slide off the fork in ribbons. 

7. When the bars are done baking, drizzle the caramel in ribbons all over the top. Let cool completely before serving; you can place the pan in the fridge to hasten the cooling process. Slice into bars and serve.

Tips

I used creamy peanut butter and put it in a squirt bottle to drizzle because I'm fancy. 

For the crumb mixture, I added everything directly to the baking dish instead of mixing in a bowl and then transferring. You don't have to do this but its one less bowl to clean! Ayyy!

I had a blast styling them too.