Oatmeal Caramel Chocolate Bars

By the Gracious Vegan

Oatmeal Caramel Chocolate Bars.jpg

These decadent bars won the very competitive family cookie contest last year. I dipped them in chocolate for the contest, but I don't recommend that unless you need a huge win. They are plenty rich without an extra coat of chocolate. The caramel sauce makes the difference between these cookies and other oatmeal chocolate bars. It adds a depth of cooked-sugar goodness that you can't get any other way. Vegan caramel sauces are difficult to find in stores or even online. If you find a reliable source, please add to the comments below. I have tried many recipes for vegan caramel sauce and have decided I like the Vegan Caramel Sauce recipe from food.com. Date-based caramel sauces unfortunately do not work well. And caramel sauce recipes that use a "dry" technique (heating the sugar without any liquids) work best with refined sugar, the kind filtered through animal bone char, which I won't use. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or spray a 9" x 13" inch pan. Lining the bottom with parchment is optional if you need an absolutely smooth removal of bars.

Combine the following. The mixture will be very crumbly. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 cups quick cooking oats
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup (1.5 sticks) melted vegan butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.  Let the crust cool slightly (about 10 minutes) then sprinkle the chocolate chips and chopped nuts over the crust. Mix them together before sprinkling over the crust. 

  • 1.5 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix the following together and then drizzle over the chocolate chips.

  • 1 cup vegan caramel sauce
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture. You will need to break it into small pieces to cover.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes (until golden). Let the bars cool before cutting.

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Gracious Vegan Shepherd's Pie

By the Gracious Vegan

Gracious Vegan Shepherd's Pie.jpg

I wanted to find a recipe for shepherd's pie that wasn't too much like pot pie and that didn't use meat substitutes. If you like vegan "beef crumbles," there are a number of recipes out there for vegan shepherd's pie that you might like. But I find that omnivores can be suspicious of substitutes, so I kept adapting my recipe until I found shepherd's vegetable nirvana. 

Start the lentils – you’ll need one cup of cooked lentils. You can cook more and freeze the leftovers for another purpose. If you’re just making enough for this recipe, start with 1/3 cup lentils. Put them in a saucepan, cover with water by 2”, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes until they are soft but not mushy.

  • Dry lentils, 1/3 cup or more

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

For the filling: put these in a microwave-safe bowl, add 2-3 Tablespoons water, and cook in the microwave until the vegetables are just soft. (That's probably around 5-6 minutes for a weak microwave; about half that for a strong microwave.)

  • 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 medium stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced or diced

Put the above vegetables in a Dutch oven on the stove top, add these and stir well, and cook for a minute or two.

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground fresh pepper to taste

Add the liquid, stir, turn the heat to medium, and heat until the mixture is bubbly and thick, about 3-5 minutes.

  • ¾ cup dry red wine
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth

Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into a deep dish 9-10” pie dish.

For the potato topping: Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until just tender. Remove from heat and drain.

  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks.

Put the potatoes in your mixer’s bowl. With the regular paddle, mix the potatoes by themselves for 1 minute at Speed 2.

Add the following ingredients and mix for 30 seconds at Speed 4, then 1 minute at Speed 6.

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • ½ cup soy/nut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment and whip on Speed 10 for 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top of the veggies in the pie dish, and smooth so that it is evenly spread. (You can also drag a fork over it in fun patterns.)

Bake the pie for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees, uncovered.

Allow to cool for five minutes before cutting and serving.

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Gracious Vegan Easy Gravy

I adapted this from Angela Liddon's All-Purpose Gravy recipe. I like some mushroom flavor in my gravy, so I added that, and I don't like as much onion flavor as in her original. I also added some tricks about whisking flour into broth and using an immersion blender (one of the most useful tools for any cook). Otherwise this works really well -- especially perfect for Thanksgiving. 

In a medium-large saucepan or small Dutch oven, sauté the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the oil until the onion softens, about 4 to 5 minutes.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 medium white button mushrooms, chopped

Separately, whisk about a ½ cup of the broth with the flour until smooth. Then slowly pour and whisk the rest of the broth in.

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pour the broth/flour mixture and the following ingredients into the onions. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the gravy starts to thicken (will take just a few minutes). Reduce heat if necessary if the gravy starts to stick to the pot.

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari, soy sauce, or amino liquids
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Once the gravy has thickened, remove it from the heat. Use an immersion blender to create a smooth gravy. Add in the salt and vinegar (if using).

  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (optional - adds brightness)

Keep simmering over low to medium heat until the gravy thickens to your liking. If the gravy is still too thin, whisk together 1 tablespoon of flour with 1 tablespoon of broth in a small bowl and then whisk this into the broth. If it's too thick, thin the gravy with a touch of broth. The gravy thickens a bit as it cools.

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Gracious Vegan Creamy Oil-Free Tomato Rice Soup

I adapted this from the Dairy Goodness site (hah! Take that, Big Dairy! I deleted the butter and substituted non-dairy milk for the cow's milk). The non-dairy milk makes this soup super-comforting, with the rice providing added body and a nice textural surprise. This could become your favorite rainy-day soup!

Start cooking your rice or grains if you need to. 

Microwave garlic, onion, and seasonings in a covered bowl (with air holes) for about 3.5 minutes, until the onion is soft.

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoon dried basil, oregano or Italian seasoning (your choice)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt and large pinch of pepper

Combine this onion mixture, tomatoes and broth in a soup pot; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, covered, for 10 minutes or until tomatoes are very soft. Remove from heat.

  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Using an immersion blender in the pot or transfer the soup in batches to an upright blender, purée soup until smooth, and return to pot.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk about 1/4 cup of the milk into the flour, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk. Pour the flour-milk mixture into pot while whisking constantly.

  • 2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsweetened, non-vanilla non-dairy milk 

Stir in rice; cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened and steaming.

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or mixed grains

Season to taste with sugar (if desired), pepper and salt.

  • More salt and pepper if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)

The soup is ready to serve.



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Vegan Meatballs

Vegan Meatballs.jpg

By the Gracious Vegan

I found this on the internet a couple years ago but am unable to find it again. I've tweaked it a bit. There are lots of plant-based meatball recipes out there. The beauty of this one is the texture: with rice, lentils, and vital wheat gluten, the meatballs are sturdy rather than soggy, but they stay moist as well, and they cohere. The vegetables and spices combine for a complex flavor. These work very well for spaghetti and meatballs. Pair them with your favorite marinara sauce. 

Makes 16 medium-size meatballs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start by sauteing the green and red peppers and onions in skillet until onions are transparent. Then set aside.

  • 1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil

In a food processor place the rest of the meatball ingredients and pulse a few times until well combined. Pour into a mixing bowl and place the cooked onions and peppers in this mixture and mix it together with your hands for a few minutes. This helps work the gluten.

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup cooked, drained lentils
  • 3 Tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon unprepared Ener-g Egg Replacer
  • 1/2 Tablespoon black strap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/8 teaspoon all spice

Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or oil. Measure out each meatball (makes about 16) and roll with wet hands. Place on cookie sheet, place in oven and cook, covered loosely with aluminum foil, for 12 minutes.

Turn them over and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes with the foil still covering them. They are done when they are sturdy to the touch and browned. 

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General Tso Goes Vegan

By the Gracious Vegan

General Tso Goes Vegan.JPG

My husband adored General Tso's Chicken when he ate meat. (He is now vegan-at-home, so technically he might have it again...) I worked very hard to come up with this plant-based version, and he likes it a lot. The sauce is key, as are the nuggets. This version is significantly healthier than the meat version, because the nuggets in a meat-centered dish are deep-fried, which leads to high calories and can create cancer-causing compounds, and chicken is a leading source of cholesterol.  

Sauce recipe adapted from Appetite for China, and nugget recipe adapted from PETA.

Serves 4

Make your rice. I prefer brown rice – follow rice package directions for 4 servings.

Get your vegetable ready.  I prefer broccoli but feel free to experiment. Cut the crowns into florets. You’ll add these to boiling water and cook for 4 minutes right before serving.

  • Two crowns of broccoli

Make the chicken-like nuggets (or use store-bought vegan chicken nuggets or strips). This recipe makes 16 or more nuggets, plenty for 4 servings.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, pour water over TVP. Cover and wait 5 minutes.

  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Either pulse the chickpeas in a food processor or mash with a potato masher or pastry blender until there are no whole beans left.

  • 15 oz. chickpeas, drained and rinsed

In a medium-size bowl, combine the chickpeas and rehydrated TVP with these and mix with a spoon.

  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash thyme
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Turn the mixture out onto a clean surface and knead for a minute or so, eliminating any excess bubbles and making sure that gluten strands (little stringy threads) form. Mold the mixture into a ball. Break off small, nugget-size portions and flatten a bit in the palm of your hand. Lay the nuggets on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping after the first 10 minutes.

Make the sauce. In a small bowl, combine these.  Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set aside.

  • 3/8 cup water
  • 2¼ Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1½ Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1½ Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • .5 teaspoon chili paste (or more to taste)

Bringing it all together 5-10 minutes before serving.  Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilis and garlic to the wok and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds.

  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (or more to taste)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the vegan chicken nuggets and and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the balls to a serving dish. Garnish with white sesame seeds and scallions, if desired.

  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 3 scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

Serve with brown rice and broccoli.

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Gracious Vegan Easy Apple Tart

By the Gracious Vegan

Gracious Vegan Easy Apple Tart.jpg

I kept adapting this recipe from an old (non-vegan) original. Finally it is right. There are many ways to make apple pies and tarts, but this one remains a favorite because it's so easy. Everything is mixed with a food processor. You don't have to roll out the crust--you just press it into the spring form pan with your fingers. It's easy to tell when it's done by the color of the crust. The taste of the vegan cream cheese (not my favorite food) is masked by what you mix in with it. And, best of all, everyone likes it, vegans and non-vegans alike.

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Crust: Cream together in food processor:

  • ½ cup vegan butter (room temperature)
  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Add and process until just smooth:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Press this dough with your fingers (floured, if they stick) into the bottom and up the side (2”) of an 8” or 8.5” spring form pan. Make sure to repair cracks so that there are no holes.

Filling: Process in the food processor until smooth:

  • One 8-ounce package vegan cream cheese
  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar

Add and process until smooth:

  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • ½ Tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Pour this mixture into the pastry-lined pan.

Apple Topping: Combine these in a medium bowl:

  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Add apples and toss with the sugar mixture (or stir with a spatula)

  • About 3 cups peeled, thinly sliced or chopped apples (2 large or 3 small-medium apples) (I like Golden Delicious, but Braeburn and Granny Smith work well too; avoid McIntosh)

If you chopped the apples, spoon them evenly over the cream layer. If you sliced them, arrange them in a circular pattern.

Almonds: Sprinkle almonds on top:

  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then reduce to 400° and continue baking about 25 minutes more, until the cream cheese layer doesn’t jiggle. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooking rack.

After at least 30 minutes of cooling, remove the rim and bottom of the pan. For an extra-special touch, after the tart has cooled, warm up a few tablespoons apple jelly and gently brush them over the top, avoiding the almonds.

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Gracious Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie

By the Gracious Vegan


Prepare the crust and let it rest in the fridge while you do the rest. I use Carole Walters' recipe for flaky pie pastry. I decrease the sugar to 3/4 teaspoon, since her recipe is for sweet pies. Her recipe makes two crusts, which means you can freeze one for your next pot pie (same with the white sauce below -- you'll only need half for one pie). I use vegan butter and organic shortening, and they work very well. 

Gracious Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie.jpg

Béchamel (White) Sauce

You’ll need only half of this. Freeze the rest and use next time or for something else.

Put cashews in a bowl and cover them with water, to 2-3 inches above the level of the cashews, since they will absorb some of the water. Give them at least 2 hours to soak, if not 4 (or even overnight). 

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews

Once the cashews are soaked, drain and rinse them and put them in a blender, then add these ingredients and blend until very smooth. This takes a minute and a half at the highest speed in my KitchenAid blender. Be sure there is no grittiness to the liquid. If there is, keep blending. The raw cashews should essentially be dissolved into the liquid. 

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Separately, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

  • 6 tablespoons coconut or other vegan butter

Then add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, until the roux is bubbly and begins to brown.

  • 3/8 cup flour (can use barley flour or other gluten-free flour, or white flour)

Slowly whisk the cashew-cream mixture into the roux and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until thickened.

Vegetable Filling

Don’t use a food processor for chopping the ingredients. It chops them too fine.

Put these ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl, add a couple tablespoons of water, and microwave until soft (4-5 minutes in my microwave, but it is on the weak side). 

  • 1 medium onion, diced (do not dice in food processor)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced or diced
  • 2 cups other vegetables (carrots, red pepper, green beans, broccoli, asparagus), diced

Stir in these ingredients. 

  • ½ teaspoon paprika (not sweet)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Remove from heat and stir in peas and steamed potatoes. Set aside.

  • 1 cup peas (or half corn, half peas), thawed
  • 2.5 cups potatoes, 1/2-inch diced, steamed for 15 minutes (3 medium red potatoes or Yukon Gold recommended, but russets work well too) (one pound)

Assemble and bake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Gently stir half of the sauce into the cooked vegetables. Spoon the mixture into an ungreased deep-dish pie pan. Roll out half of the pie crust (freeze the other half for another time). Gently lay the pie crust on top of the vegetables. Crimp the sides of the crust. Cut slash marks into the crust to allow steam to escape. 

Bake at 375° for 40 minutes, until you can hear the filling bubbling and the top is golden brown. Increase the temp to 400 for 10 additional minutes to brown the top, if needed.

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Olive Tapenade

By The Gracious Vegan

Photo by fredo on flickr

This recipe is based on Jeanne Lemlin’s Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, an excellent vegetarian cookbook; some of the recipes are vegan, including this one. I like the way the California olives cut into the sharpness of the Greek olives--I've found that this mildness makes the spread more appealing to non-hard-core Greek olive lovers. You have to meet them where they are.... :-) Makes about 2 cups.

Use a food processor to mince the garlic

  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled

Add remaining ingredients and process until nearly smooth (or to your desired texture).

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) pitted black Greek olives
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) pitted California black olives
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Scrape mixture into a container. Let sit 20 minutes before using. It's great for sandwiches and as an appetizer with bread slices. It's also a wonderful "sauce" for pizza -- add some artichoke hearts (or other topping) and vegan cheese, and voila! Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Vegan Chili-Frito Slab Pie

By the Gracious Vegan

I saw a recipe in The Washington Post for a meaty "Tex Mex Frito Slab Pie." It had me at Fritos... I though it could be veganized easily, and I was right. My husband and I found this fun and filling. It also freezes surprisingly well. 

Makes 8-12 servings

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray.

Pour the corn muffin batter in the bottom of the pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly into the corners. 

  • One recipe of the batter for corn muffins, found with the above Meaty Beany Chili recipe, but use only two Tablespoons of sugar instead of 1/3 cup.

Scatter the chili filling evenly across the muffin batter.

  • One recipe of vegan chili (cooled a bit). My favorite is Meaty Beany Chili by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. 

 Sprinkle vegan cheese on top of the chili, if desired

  • 1 cup grated vegan cheddar or jalapeno cheese

Sprinkle Fritos on top of the cheese.

  • Half of a 9.5-ounce bag of regular Fritos (crushed a bit, or more if you want them more crushed)

Bake on a middle rack for 22 minutes. The corn bread should be pulling away from the corners of the pan, and the Fritos should be golden brown. 

Garnish, if desired, with

  • Chopped cilantro, avocado slices, jalapeno slices, vegan Mexican crema, hot sauce
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Jill's Oil-Free Creamy Sunflower Dressing (or Sauce)

By Jill Schatz

Jill is a leader in Northwest Veg, the largest membership organization for vegans and vegetarians in Portland, OR. She brought this dressing with a green salad to a recent potluck, and my attraction to it was immediate. I was astounded to learn that the recipe called for a kumquat! Jill buys them at Asian markets when they're in season and freezes them for uses like this. The dressing is great without a kumquat, whew. The dressing can also be used a sauce for steamed or roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, or for whole-meal bowls with grains, cooked vegetables, protein (tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc.), and garnishes.

Pre-soak sunflower seeds for 20 minutes in the orange juice in a blender, unless using a VitaMix, in which case no soaking is needed.

  • 1/3 cup raw or roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup orange juice

Add remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth; add water if needed, to desired consistency.  It will thicken up as it sits, and may need more liquid added if kept more than a few hours.

  • 2 Tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice
  • 1 -2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (a really sweet, syrupy one like Napa Valley cherry wood aged, Grand Reserve)
  • 1 clove garlic (fresh or roasted)
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced onions or shallots
  • 1-2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 1-2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar (or salt to taste)
  • 1 kumquat (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
  • Water to pouring consistency, if needed

Use up within one week.

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Gracious Vegan No-Oil Caesar Dressing

By the Gracious Vegan

Photo by Sharon on flickr

I adapted this from The Plant Pure Kitchen, by Kim Campbell, with an inspiration (the ground almonds, capers, and caper brine) from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. There is no sacrifice on this one. You don't say, "Wow, this doesn't taste anything like a version with oil." Now, if you miss the anchovies, I can't help you there, but the capers and caper brine give this a lot of flavor. 

Makes just over 2 cups

Pulse in a blender until the mixture resembles parmesan cheese. Set aside

  • 1/3 c. slivered or sliced blanched almonds

Blend in a blender for several minutes until smooth

  • 2 Tablespoons raw cashews (pre-soaked for at least two hours, then drained)
  • 4 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Add these and pulse until blended
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons caper brine
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste)

Then add these and pulse to break them up but not completely pulverize them. 

  • 1 Tablespoon capers

Mix in the almonds by hand and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It will need some time (at least an hour) to firm up. 

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Eggplant, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry

I adapted this recipe from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking: More Than 500 Recipes from India's Greatest Culinary Tradition by Yamuna Devi. I decreased the required oil and arranged the format for easier tracking of the steps. Except for my husband, who hates cooked spinach, everyone who has tasted this adores it. It's layered with strong, distinctive flavors, the epitome of a great plant-based dish. 

Serves 4-6

Prepare rice. Get rice ready – start soaking the basmati rice 45 minutes before serving (soak for 30 minutes, cook for 11-13 minutes) or start cooking brown rice 45 minutes before serving. Or set up the rice cooker, if you have one.

Prepare eggplant. Peel eggplant and slice into ½” slices. Brush the slices with vegetable or olive oil on both sides and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet (lined with foil if you like; don’t use parchment paper, which can burn under the broiler).

  • 1 medium sized eggplant (1 - 1.25 pound)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

Heat the broiler to 500° or High and move the top-most oven shelf to within 3-4” of the broiler element. Broil the slices until they are brown but not charred (check after 5 minutes). Then flip the slices over and broil for 4 minutes until brown. Let them cool. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside. 

Heat oil and toss in the seeds. Heat a very large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven. When the pan is warm but not smoking, add the oil and seeds and stir until seeds are dark brown (1-2 minutes).

  • ½ Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cumin seeds

Add onion. Add onion and cook until it’s transparent (about 5 minutes). Add a little water as necessary to prevent burning.

  • ½ cup finely chopped white, yellow, or red onion

Add ginger and garlic. Add them and cook for 1-2 minutes.

  • 1.5 Tablespoon fresh ginger root, scraped and minced
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

Add ground spices. Add and stir for 1-2 minutes.

  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (regular, not sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon each cayenne and black pepper

Add fresh chilies. Add minced chilies and stir just to combine.

  • 2 hot green chilies stemmed, seeded and finely minced (jalapenos for milder spiciness or slender green chilies for hotter)

Add main-ingredient vegetables and liquids. Add the ingredients below, bring mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

  • The broiled eggplant pieces
  • One 14-oz. can diced or petite diced tomatoes
  • One 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Add the thickening agent. Add spinach and cook for 10 more minutes.

  • One 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and patted dry (or 1 pound fresh spinach, washed, trimmed, and chopped)

Before serving with rice, stir in final fresh vegetables and spices. Stir these in.

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
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Gracious Vegan Green or Red Thai Curry

By the Gracious Vegan

This recipe is based on Terry Hope Romero’s It’s Easy Being Green Curry. It's not always that I can recreate our favorite restaurant dishes at home, but, for my husband and me, this is as good. We often make some spring rolls for dipping in sweet chili sauce to go with the curry (see my adaptation notes on Alton Brown's Vegetarian Dumpling recipe). The kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and Thai thin soy sauce do make a difference in the flavor, so it's worth the effort to find them at a specialty Asian grocery store. You can make your own curry paste (see the recipe for green curry paste at the link above to Terry Romero's site) or buy your paste. I like Maesri brand of pastes (they are vegan). 

Serves 2-3

Prep: Spoon a few tablespoons of coconut cream from the top of the can of coconut milk into a Dutch oven or large skillet.

  • One 14 ounce can coconut milk, regular

Stir the rest of the coconut milk together with these in a bowl and set aside.

  • 1 1/2 cups mild vegetable broth or water
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or frozen, or the peel from 1 organic lime
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar (only 1 for red curry)
  • 1 tablespoon of Thai thin soy sauce or more to taste

Heat the coconut cream on medium. 

Sauté the curry paste, stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and stir-fry for 5 minutes.

  • 3-4 (or more) Tablespoons of your favorite green or red curry paste

Stir in the coconut milk mixture, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add vegetables, tofu, and other chunky ingredients and simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender but still have a little bit of firmness to them.

  • 8 ounces baked or fried tofu sliced into 1/4 inch thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
  • 2 small, slender zucchini, sliced into ½ inch wide strips
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced

Remove from heat, taste and season with more Thai thin soy sauce and lime juice if desired and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with hot rice.

  • Boiled jasmine rice, for serving
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Gracious Vegan Sopa de Fideo

By the Gracious Vegan

Photo by Dale Cruse on flickr

Photo by Dale Cruse on flickr

This soup is based on a non-vegan recipe found by my friend Teresa, found on Hispanic Kitchen's site. The soup is basically a comforting noodle soup, but the chile, cumin, and smoked paprika make this stand out against blander versions of noodle soup. I haven't had a cold since I went vegan, but if I ever do again, I'm going to make this soup. My hard-to-please husband also liked this soup a lot. 

Take your peas and carrots out of the freezer and let them defrost slightly while you prep your ingredients.

  • 3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots

In a Dutch oven or other large soup pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil to medium heat. Add the fideo and cook until the pasta starts to toast in some spots. Turn as needed.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ounces fideo pasta

After a few minutes, add the onions, garlic and serrano, stir well and cook for 2 minutes.

  • 1/2 cup onion white or red, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno chile

Add the remaining ingredients. Only add 2½ cups of broth to start, and reserve the other ½ cup.

  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons vegan bouillon powder (or two cubes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 3 cups water 

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until most of the broth is reduced.

If you need to, you can add the remaining ½ cup of broth at this time. Add the peas and carrots, cover, and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes. Serve. If you want this more like a risotto, remove from heat and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes; the broth will be absorbed as the pasta sits. 

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Creamy Broccoli and Rice

This dish is based on an indulgent broccoli and rice recipe that goes back to the 1960's, when lots of recipes called for 2 cups or more of grated cheddar cheese in addition to a block or two of cream cheese. I've settled for a single package of vegan cream cheese, which means this isn't a whole-foods recipe. But if you use brown rice, you're still getting good nutrition between the rice and the broccoli. This would go well with a main dish that is tomato- or red-pepper-based. (Serves 4-6, depending on appetites and role in the meal.)

Boil for 4-5 minutes, drain well.

1 large stalk broccoli, cut into medium florets, stems sliced or diced (about 3 cups)

Prepare according to package directions

1.25 cup raw brown or white rice

Blend and warm in a saucepan.

1 cup nondairy milk

1 8-oz. package vegan cream cheese (I like Trader Joe’s best)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Mix rice, broccoli, and sauce together, spoon into an ungreased 9"x9" pan (or equivalent size ceramic baking dish, or a 9- or 10-inch pie plate) and bake 375⁰ for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

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​ Creamy Chard and Mushroom Folded Enchiladas

By the Gracious Vegan

If you haven't tried folded enchiladas made in a skillet, you're missing out. The tortillas don't swell up with enchilada sauce the way baked enchiladas do. This dish is fast, too. Instead of rolling the enchiladas and then baking for 25 minutes, you simply fill the tortillas and fold them next to each other in a serving dish, then top with sauce and cheese and put under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Serves 4-6.

Sauté these together in a large non-stick skillet or Dutch oven for 10 minutes or until mushrooms are fully cooked and starting to brown, and their water has boiled away.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Two 8- or 10- ounce packages pre-sliced mushrooms

Add the next ingredients and cook for several minutes, until chard is soft and cooked down (but not breaking down).

  • 16-20 ounces Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Drain mixture if there is excess liquid. Remove from heat and stir in

  • ¼ cup vegan cream cheese, vegan sour cream, vegan (unsweetened) creamer, or thick cashew cream

Heat the salsa in a skillet.

  • 1 bottle green salsa or 1 28- or 32-ounce can green enchilada sauce

Dredge both sides of each tortilla in the heated salsa, using tongs, and stack them on a plate.

  • Twelve 6” corn tortillas

Spoon 1/12th of the filling into the center of the first tortilla and fold it in half. Set it in a 9” x 13” baking dish. Continue with the remaining tortillas and filling and arrange them in a row, overlapping slightly. Top with the remaining salsa, then with cheese (if desired)

  • 3-4 ounces grated vegan cheese (I like Follow Your Heart brand) (optional)

Put the dish under the broiler for a few minutes (check often) until the cheese melts. Serve.

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Pasta with Kale Pesto and Zucchini (or Potatoes)

By the Gracious Vegan

This is an easy dish that will get more rave reviews than the level of effort suggests it should. The secret is the lemony-briny flavors in the kale pesto. The pasta and zucchini serve as an excellent base, although you could go all-pasta, all-zucchini, pasta-and-potatoes, or other bases that I haven't thought of. Serves 4.

Photo by Jules on flickr

If using potatoes instead of zucchini, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring them to a boil. Simmer about 25 minutes or until just tender.

  • 4 Yukon Gold or other boiling potatoes (not russet) (about 1 pound)

Then drain, peel, and coarsely chop the potatoes and set aside.

Start the pasta water boiling.

Make kale pesto by placing garlic in a food processor and mincing it.

  • 3 large or 4 small cloves of garlic, peeled

Add these and pulse until all the ingredients are ground up into each other.

  • 4 cups chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons salt-brined capers, rinsed
  • 3/8 cup tablespoons blanched almonds (whole or slivered)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Then add the olive oil and pulse until you reach a good pesto consistency. Set aside.

  • 3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook and drain the pasta as directed on package. Add zucchini to the pasta pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

  • 8 ounces dry pasta of your choice (chunky or long)
  • 3 small or 2 medium zucchini, diced

Toss pasta and zucchini (or the roughly chopped potatoes) with about half of the pesto at first; see if you need more. 

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Pasta with Creamy Beet Sauce

By the Gracious Vegan

When I was a vegetarian, I tasted a dairy-cream version of this at a friend's dinner party. What an epiphany! The dish is just fun--bowtie pasta with a vibrant pink sauce--and it tastes marvelous! Beets are super-nutritious, and using cashew cream instead of heavy cream moves this from the unhealthy to the healthy column. It takes a bit of courage to try this for the first time, but if you and your family or friends are adventurous eaters, go for it. 

Prepare the cashew cream.  Soak the cashews at least 2 hours, then drain

  • ½ cup raw cashew pieces

Once they are soaked, put the drained cashews in the blender and cover with water just until the water is at the same level as the top of the cashews. Blend for 2-4 minutes until the “cream” is entirely smooth – the cashews will essentially dissolve and become creamy.

In a large non-stick skillet, sauté the chopped onion in oil, vegan butter, or water

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter (Earth Balance) (it is fine to water-sauté if you are avoiding oil)
  • 1 small onion, chopped

Add wine and sauté another 3 minutes

  • ¾ cup white wine

Add beets and sauté another 5 minutes (add a little water and cover if they are not getting soft).

  • 3 medium beets, grated

To create the creamy sauce, process the onion/beet mixture in the blender or a food processor with the following

  • 1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • The cashew cream

Sauté this creamy sauce in the skillet for 3 minutes or so in

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or vegan butter

In the meantime, cook and drain the pasta

  • 12 oz. bowtie pasta

Serve by tossing the pasta and sauce together in a large pasta bowl, or serve the pasta and sauce in serving bowls on the table and let everyone serve themselves.

Have extra lemon slices for those who would like to squeeze more lemon juice on their dish.  

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Gracious Vegan Savory Quinoa Cakes

By the Gracious Vegan

This is the perfect vegan centerpiece for Thanksgiving. Forget Tofurky, forget the 4-hour, 10-bowl, 30-ingredient mushroom strudel. Keep it simple but savory and tasty. This is the one. With some Gracious Vegan Easy Gravy? Delish. Tested with my omnivore group, this recipe gets rave reviews. The original recipe came from the Vegetarian Resource Group’s Vegetarian Journal. They are a wonderful organization and have a lot of helpful information on their website

Boil the potato until soft. Rinse under cold water so it is cool enough to handle. Then peel it. Then roughly mash it in a large bowl. 

  • One medium russet, red, or Yukon gold potato

Toast the walnuts in a 350-degree oven until they just start to change color and you can smell the aroma. Start checking after 5 minutes to see if they're done. Remove and cool, then finely chop them in a food processor. 

  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Separately, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil, onions, and mushrooms and cook until they soften and all the liquid expressed by the mushrooms is evaporated. (For a fat-free alternative, water-sauté the onions and mushrooms or microwave them with a little water.)

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup diced onions (chopping them in the food processor is recommended, to get them small)
  • 4 large white mushrooms, chopped in the food processor (about 3/4 cup)

Add the contents of the skillet, the toasted chopped walnuts, plus these next ingredients into the mashed potato. Stir until combined. Do not mash or puree.

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup white flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Right before cooking time, combine the whipped tofu with the quinoa mixture.

  • ¾ cup silken tofu (fresh or vacuum-packed), whipped until smooth in the food processor

Shape the mixture into 12-16 cakes, not too thick. Coat a medium-hot non-stick skillet or flat griddle with a bit of oil or spray. Cook the cakes on the first side on medium-low heat until the bottom is slightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for 5 minutes.  

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