Gracious Vegan Crema

By the Gracious Vegan

 Gracious Vegan Cream in a layered dip

Gracious Vegan Cream in a layered dip

This crema is the perfect substitute for both sour cream and cheese in many Mexican dishes like tacos, tostadas, nachos, and dips. Think of the calories saved! The complex flavor truly satisfies. The smoked paprika’s dark, edgy taste plays against the brightness of the lime or lemon juice. Sometimes I serve this in a squeeze bottle and let everyone apply their own.  

Makes 1.5 cups 

Soak cashews in cold water at least 2 hours, or pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak 20 minutes. (You can skip this step if you have a high-speed blender.) 

  • 1 cup raw cashews

Drain cashews and place them with remaining ingredients into a blender and process until creamy. 

  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

You can freeze the crema for up to several months. Just let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so to thaw it. 

Timing: 5-10 minutes if you have a high-speed blender; 25-30 if you need to soak the cashews

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed


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Gracious Vegan Ricotta Cheese 

By the Gracious Vegan

 Pizza with vegan ricotta cheese, spinach, roasted butternut squash,  Gracious Vegan Parmesan , and  White Garlic Sauce

Pizza with vegan ricotta cheese, spinach, roasted butternut squash, Gracious Vegan Parmesan, and White Garlic Sauce

This creamy concoction tastes excellent and a lot like ricotta cheese. Some of us might say better than dairy ricotta. It works well on pizzas, in calzones, in lasagna, and in many other recipes. 

Makes 2 cups

Soak cashews in cold water at least 2 hours, or pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak 20 minutes. (You can skip this step if you have a high-speed blender.) 

  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews

Drain cashews and place them with remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor, and process until creamy. You might have to stop and scrape down the sides once or more.

  • ½ cup water
  • 1.5 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Taste for flavors. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two, to stiffen the cheese.

Timing: 5-10 minutes if you have a high-speed blender; 25-30 if you need to soak the cashews

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed


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Mushroom-Ricotta Calzones

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By the Gracious Vegan

Mushrooms and ricotta cheese couldn’t be more complementary: earthy vs. sharp, chewy vs. creamy, brown vs. white. Throw in tomatoes and Italian spices, and you’ve got a delicious party going on inside the folded-over pizza crust.

Makes 2 calzones (4 servings)

If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven, preheat the oven to 500°, and let it heat 30 minutes after it hits 500°. If you do not have a pizza stone, preheat the oven to 475°.

The dough. You’ll need one pound of pizza dough, thawed. Most supermarkets sell one-pound slabs of dough. I have not found one that is oil-free. If you want to make your own, note that recipes with around 2 cups of flour make about a pound of dough. 

  • One pound of pizza dough (whole wheat dough works well)

The filling. Water-sauté these ingredients in a large skillet over low-medium heat until the liquid released by the mushrooms is evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown, 8-10 minutes.

  • One pound mushrooms of your choice, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, grated, or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the following ingredients.
  • Half of a 15-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegan ricotta cheese (Gracious Vegan Ricotta Cheese)
  • 1/3 cup vegan Parmesan cheese (Gracious Vegan Parmesan Cheese)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • (Optional) Thawed 10-ounce package of chopped spinach, with all the water squeezed out

Divide the pizza dough in half. Stretch out the first piece with your hands (or a rolling pin) into a ¼” thick round(10-12”).  Put half the filling in the center of the dough. Fold the round in half over the filling. Press or crimp the edges of the dough to seal the calzone. Repeat with the second piece of dough and remaining filling. Cut a few small vents in the top of the calzones to let steam escape.

Put the calzones directly on the pizza stone and bake for 12-15 minutes until browned. If you are not using a stone, put them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 475°for 16 to 18 minutes or more, until browned. Let them stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.

While the calzones bake, in the pan used to cook the mushrooms, combine the following and cook at low-medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Serve alongside the calzones for topping or dipping.

  • Remaining half of the petite diced tomatoes
  • One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Red pepper flakes as desired

Timing: Hands-on time 35 minutes, Total time: 45 minutes (the times assume you have the vegan ricotta and Parmesan cheese already made or bought)

Nutrition: Mostly unprocessed (there may be oil or refined flour in the crust)            

Nutritional information per serving (assuming whole wheat pizza dough): 

493 calories, 18g fat, 3g sat. fat, 68g carbs, 770mg sodium, 13g fiber19gprotein 

Gluten-free if gluten-free pizza dough is used

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Gracious Vegan Parmesan Cheese

By the Gracious Vegan

The difference between this recipe and most vegan Parmesan cheese recipes is the addition of a little miso paste. The miso adds a salty umami undertone that works well with the nutritional yeast to mimic Parmesan. Although this “cheese” does not melt, it can play many of the roles that dairy-based Parmesan can. 

Makes a little over 1 cup

Add to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved. 

  • 1 cup raw cashews (not soaked)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons yellow or white miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Timing: 5 minutes

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed


Gracious Vegan Parmesan.jpg
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Spinach-Mushroom No-Bake Enchiladas

By the Gracious Vegan

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Baking enchiladas has its drawbacks—they can dry out, merge together, and the tortillas can get too saturated. These verde enchiladas are easy and quick—they’re folded rather than rolled and then go right onto the plates. They keep their shape, look fantastic, and taste divine.

Makes 6 servings

Start the vegan crema if you choose to use it (Gracious Vegan Crema).

Sauté these ingredients in a large skillet with a Tablespoon or two of water, stirring frequently, until the liquid released by the mushrooms is almost evaporated and vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes.

  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced, grated, or finely chopped
  • ½ Tablespoon chili powder 
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ pounds button mushrooms, sliced or chopped

Add spinach and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until spinach is reduced and soft. 

  • 16-20 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • ½ teaspoon salt  

Drain mixture if there is excess liquid and cook a bit longer to make sure the mixture is dry. Then add the crema and stir it in. Set aside. Unless you have several large skillets, you may need to move the filling to a bowl and clean the large skillet for the final step. 

  • ¼ cup vegan crema, ¼ cup silken tofu (whisked in a bowl until smooth), vegan sour cream, cream cheese, or cashew cream

Heat 1.5 cups of the salsa in a small-medium skillet over low heat. Dredge both sides of each tortilla in the warm salsa using tongs, and stack the tortillas on a plate.

  • Twelve 6” corn tortillas
  • Two 16-ounce jars salsa verde (mild or hot) 

Place a large skillet on low heat and pour 2/3 cup of salsa into it. Spoon a twelfth of the mushroom filling onto one side of the first tortilla. Fold it in half and place it at the edge of the skillet on low heat. Repeat for the remaining tortillas, arranging them in an overlapping row, and make sure they all heat up to serving temperature. Serve and top with 

  • Additional salsa (you may not need all of the salsa from the two jars)
  • More crema (use a squeeze bottle for nice presentation), vegan sour cream, or vegan cheese

Timing: Hands-on time 35 minutes, total time 35 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving:             

219 calories, 3g fat, 0g sat. fat, 35g carbs, 1088mg sodium, 10g fiber8g protein 


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Mushroom and Pea Creamy Masala

By the Gracious Vegan

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This dish approaches the texture of a creamy korma. The spicing is simple, but the result is wonderful. The fenugreek spice is important to the flavor of this dish, so go online or to a local Asian market. 

Makes 5 servings

Soak cashews in cold water at least 2 hours, or pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak 20 minutes while you start the rest of the recipe.

  • ½ cups raw cashews

Water-sauté these ingredients in a Dutch oven until the liquid released by the mushrooms is evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown, 8-10 minutes.

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, grated, or finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced (or chopped, if you prefer)

Add the spices and stir 1-2 minutes.

  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seed powder
  • Cayenne pepper for spiciness (I used 1/8 teaspoon but some like it hotter)

Add the diced green chili pepper and cook 1-2 minutes. 

  • 1 green chili pepper (jalapeno with seeds removed, or a spicier variety if desired), finely chopped

Separately, drain the cashews and place them in a blender with water 1 cup water and process until absolutely smooth and creamy.

Then add tomato paste to the blender and blend it with the cashew cream.

  • ½ cup tomato paste

Add the cashew-tomato mixture to the Dutch oven along with the peas, salt, and additional water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add additional water to achieve a desired sauce consistency.

  • 1 ½ cup peas (thawed or frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water (or more)

Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice, other cooked grains, or with flatbread. 

  • Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Timing: Hands-on time 40 minutes, total time 40 minutes    

Nutrition: Whole-food, unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving (with ¾ cup cooked brown rice):                

321 calories, 6g fat, 1g sat. fat, 55g carbs, 263mg sodium, 8g fiber12gprotein 


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Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms

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By the Gracious Vegan

You can use any cooked grain or pasta for this dish. Sautéed mushrooms can also be used as the basis for quesadillas or as a topping for burgers, baked potatoes, or toast. 

Makes: 5 servings

Polenta: in the morning. Put these together in a medium saucepan and let sit all day.

  • 1 cup polenta (not instant)
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt 

In the evening. Put the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil, whisking about every minute. Once it boils, turn the heat to very low and let the polenta simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or so, stirring or whisking about every 5 minutes to smooth out any lumps, until the mixture is very thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in nutritional yeast and take the pan off the heat. The polenta is ready to serve.

  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

The mushrooms. While the polenta is cooking, sauté the following ingredients in broth, 5 minutes or more, until the shallots are transparent and soft.

  • Up to ½ cup vegetable broth, starting with 2 Tablespoons (see additional broth needed below)
  • 1 large or two small 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, grated, or finely chopped

Add the next group of ingredients and cook over medium-high heat 5-8 minutes. Mushrooms should have released their liquid and started the softening process.

  • 1 pound white button or cremini mushrooms, quartered or sliced 
  • 1 pound wild or other mushrooms, cut or torn into pieces or slices
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried 
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Add the flour, stir, and continue to cook, about 1 minute.
  • 2 teaspoons flour of your choice

Add the next ingredients and turn the heat up. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, and the surrounding broth is thick.

  • ½ cup dry white wine such as sauvignon blanc or dry vermouth (optional, or more broth)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons porcini mushroom powder (optional, but it adds a lot of flavor)

Remove from the heat, stir in some freshly ground pepper and the parsley, taste and adjust salt.

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Timing: Hands-on time 30 minutes, total time all-day soaking + 30 minutes  

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving:             

166 calories, 2g fat, 0g sat. fat, 30g carbs, 22mg sodium, 5g fiber7gprotein


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Creamy Mushroom Soup

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By the Gracious Vegan

If you don’t have porcini mushroom powder, use ½ ounce dried porcinis (soak them in boiling water, then chop them and add to the soup, along with the soaking liquid). With several different mushroom varieties used here, the flavor is beguiling, while the cashews take care of the creamy texture.

Makes 6 servings

Soak cashews in cold water at least 2 hours, or pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak 20 minutes. (You can skip this step if you have a high-speed blender.) 

  • 1 ¼ cups raw cashews 

Water-sauté the following in a soup pot or Dutch oven until the onion and celery are soft, 5 minutes or more.

  • ½ medium-large onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ¼ cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Add the following to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.

  • ½ pound cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms such as shiitakes, Portobellos, oysters, maitakes, chanterelles, or morels, and sliced
  • 1.5 – 2 Tablespoons porcini mushroom powder
  • 2.5 cups water
  • ½ Tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Use an immersion blender to puree the mushrooms to your desired level of chunkiness or smoothness. 

Separately, drain the water from the cashews (if you soaked them) and blend them in a blender with 1 ½ cups fresh water until absolutely smooth. 

Add the cashew cream to the soup, and stir it in. Blend the soup more, if desired. Season to taste with additional salt and vinegar or Braggs, starting with 1 teaspoon and tasting to see if you want more.

  • 1-2 teaspoons golden balsamic or sherry vinegar (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)

Garnish with additional minced parsley if desired.


Timing: Hands-on time 30 minutes, total time 45 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving:             

175 calories, 11g fat, 2g sat. fat, 16g carbs, 18mg sodium, 9g fiber6gprotein


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Breakfast Burritos

By the Gracious Vegan

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This scramble provides a hot meal bursting with flavors and nutrients. You can customize this in so many ways by choosing different vegetables, beans, and toppings. One recipe can last the whole work week. 

Makes 5 servings

Water-sauté the following vegetables in a Dutch oven or large skillet until the onion is transparent. (Or microwave with a microwave-safe dish and cover for 3-5 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.)

  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups diced/sliced vegetables of your choice (e.g., bell peppers, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms)

Add the tofu to the vegetables on the stove. (If you microwaved the vegetables, transfer them to a Dutch oven or large skillet.) Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until any liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

  • 1 pound firm or extra firm tofu, drained and lightly pressed, then well crumbled

Add the spices and beans and stir until everything is completely incorporated and heated.

  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed

Serve with two tortillas per serving. Top with salsa, cilantro, and any optional toppings.

  • 10 corn or flour tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Chopped cilantro to taste
  • Optional: avocado chunks, diced onion, vegan crema

Timing: 20-25 minutes

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving:   

273 calories, 5.6g fat, 0g sat. fat, 43g carbs, 453mg sodium, 11g fiber, 15g protein


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Overnight Chai-Flavored Hot Cereal

By the Gracious Vegan

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Warm and comforting on a cold morning, this cereal is also packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, and other important nutrients. If chai spices aren’t your thing, you can go without the spices or substitute your favorites. I tried using ground spices, but it didn’t work nearly as well—once you have cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, and ginger on hand, this is a snap.

Makes 4 servings

The night before (or at least 2 hours before). In a very large glass or ceramic bowl or casserole dish, combine these ingredients.

  • 1 cup whole grains (steel-cut oats, millet, barley, spelt, kamut, quinoa, or a combination)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Seeds from 6 cardamom pods (or ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom if you can’t find the pods)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5-10 grinds of fresh black pepper

Microwave the mixture on high, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then stir and microwave it again for 4 minutes. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.

In the morning. The cereal is ready. Just remove the cinnamon sticks, heat the mixture, and divide it among 4 bowls (or storage containers for serving later in the week). Serve with any or all of the toppings below.

  • Plant-based milk (almond, soy, cashew, oat, etc.)
  • 1-2 teaspoons hemp seeds per serving
  • Chopped almonds
  • Sweetener (date sugar, date paste, banana, sweetener with stevia brown sugar or other)
  • Fresh or dried fruit

Timing: hands-on time 15 minutes, total time overnight (or at least 2 hours) 

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed

Nutritional information per serving:   

Nutritional content of this dish depends on the combination chosen. I’ve used the following combination to calculate the amounts below: half-quinoa, half-steel cut oats with ½ cup of soymilk, 2 teaspoons hemp seeds, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and ½ Tablespoon chopped almonds

300 calories, 9.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 42g carbs, 55mg sodium, 3g fiber, 13.5g protein

Gluten-free if made with gluten-free grains

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Puree of Asparagus Soup

By the Gracious Vegan

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A little rice goes a long way… It’s the secret to why this soup is so creamy. The texture is silky smooth, making the soup perfect for an elegant dinner party, or for whenever you want to feel elegant.

Makes: 6 cups

Wash the asparagus. No need to snap off the hard ends.

  • 2 pounds asparagus

Garnishes. Cut the tops off 12 of the stalks to use as garnishes at the end. Either microwave these tops for 2-3 minutes with a little water, then cool quickly with cold water, or cook in water on the stove for about 3 minutes, then cool quickly with cold water. 

Broth. Cut the bottom third from each stalk and combine them with leek tops, broth, and bay leaf in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, discard the solids, and save the broth.

  • The bottom third of each asparagus stalk
  • The green tops (no need to chop or slice them) of 2 large leeks, which have been sliced lengthwise and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf

The soup. Return empty pot to the stove. Water-sauté with ¼ cup water the white parts of the leeks until they are transparent, about 5 minutes.

  • White parts of the 2 leeks, thinly sliced

Add the next ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

  • 1 cup of the broth
  • 3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, more as needed

Add next ingredients and simmer, covered, over low heat, until asparagus is completely tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

  • The remaining broth
  • The remaining asparagus, cut into 1-2” pieces

Purée the soup with an immersion blender to desired texture. Season with these.

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, more as desired

Serve with the asparagus tops as garnish.

Timing: Hands-on time 30 minutes, Total time 55 minutes

Nutrition: All whole-food unprocessed except the white rice

Nutritional information per serving (based on 4 servings):         

104 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat. fat, 22g carbs, 14mg sodium, 6g fiber, 6g protein


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Gracious Vegan Caramel Sauce

Date-based caramel sauces taste wonderful, especially in raw sweets and as dips (for example, my Caramel Walnut Dip for Fruit Slices). Unfortunately, date-based caramel sauces don't always work well in cooked baked goods like my Oatmeal Caramel Chocolate Bars. So I've had to look around for a solution. I've yet to find a vegan caramel sauce in a jar that I can buy, either in a store or online. I've tried many recipes and finally triangulated several to come up with my own. There are many caramel sauce recipes that use a "dry" technique (heating the sugar without any liquids), but those work best with refined sugar, the kind filtered through animal bone char, which I won't use. So this solution isn't as fancy as caramel sauces using that techniques, but it's delicious nonetheless.

Makes about a cup

In a saucepan, combine these ingredients.

  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup organic cane (white) sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened nondairy milk

Cook over medium heat until sugars dissolve, then allow the mixture to continue to a boil. Let it boil about a minute, but no more. The whole cooking process will likely take somewhere from 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the vegan butter. Pour into a heat safe container and use immediately or let it cool. Store in refrigerator, where it will last about a week.

  • 2 Tablespoons vegan butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Timing: About 10 minutes

Nutrition: Not healthy


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Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Shallots, and Maple Syrup

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These potatoes are a great alternative to marshmallow-topped yams on Thanksgiving, but that shouldn't be the only time you have them. The sweet-and-savory surprise of the topping makes the dish irresistible, and the fresh thyme flavor creates another layer of mystery and satisfaction.

Makes 4 baked potatoes

Pecans.  Position a rack in the center of the oven. Start the oven pre-heating for the potatoes (set to 425°F). As the oven is pre-heating, toast the pecans 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. 

  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

The potatoes.  Lay the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Once the oven is at 425°F, put the potatoes in the oven and bake until the flesh is very tender when pierced with a fork, 50-60 minutes.

  • 4 small/medium sweet potatoes of similar size, unpeeled, scrubbed and patted dry

While the potatoes are baking, finish the topping.  Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until well browned and slightly crisp, about 6 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

  • 1 Tablespoon vegan butter 
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced crosswise

Stir these together in a small bowl and let the flavors blend while the potatoes finish baking.

  • The toasted pecans
  • The browned shallots
  • 3 Tablespoon vegan butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

To serve, make a cut along the top of each potato, push on the ends to pry it partially open, and fluff the flesh with a fork. Place a dollop of the maple-pecan-shallot topping inside each potato.

Timing: About an hour and 15 minutes, including oven preheating

Nutrition: The vegan butter and maple syrup are not whole-food ingredients, but everything else is.


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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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I recommend a serrated peeler for getting the tough skin off the butternut squash. Or buy pre-peeled and cubed squash at the store! The alluring taste of this soup will make your guests think you worked all day on it.

Makes 8 cups

Water-sauté the aromatics in ¼ cup water until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. (Add more water if you need to.)

  • 1½ cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

Add the next ingredients, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

  • 1½ pounds butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
  • 4 cups broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

Decrease the heat to low and stir in the coconut milk. Cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (regular makes the soup creamier, but light works well, too)

Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir these in. Remove from heat.

  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Use an immersion blender to create a very smooth soup, adding additional broth or water for a thinner consistency if you like. Or you can use a regular blender after the soup has cooled a bit. Cook over low heat just until heated through. 

Ideas for garnishes

  • Fresh chopped parsley, finely chopped red pepper, toasted bread slices or cubes, toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds, additional full-fat coconut milk for drizzle

Timing: Hands-on time 30 minutes, total time 45 minutes

Nutritional information per serving (based on 5 servings, using full-fat coconut milk):     

194 calories, 11g fat, 10g sat. fat, 21g carbs, 31mg sodium, 3g fiber3g protein


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Pesto Stuffed Shells with Pan Sauce

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I wanted to show people that vegan food could go upscale. This elegant presentation is matched by the scrumptious flavors. The pesto-based vegetable mixture inside the pasta shells offers a pleasant surprise if you don't know what's coming (and even if you do). The pan sauce adds a savory goodness with a hint of wine. This recipe can be easily multiplied to serve more people--I set up this recipe for a romantic dinner for two. Note in the picture that I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts. A lovely combination.  

2 servings

Preheat oven to 375°F and start the pasta water boiling.

When the oven is hot, toast the pine nuts for about 6 minutes (until just golden) and the breadcrumbs about 8 minutes, until golden. Leave the oven on after you take them out. 

  • 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
  • Half slice of bread processed into crumbs in food processor, then sprayed with spray-oil

Meanwhile, boil the pasta shells for about 10 minutes – until al dente, but not too firm. Drain. 

  • 8 jumbo pasta shells

Separately, cook the following vegetables in the microwave (or water-sauté on the stove) until the vegetables are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Drain off any extra water.

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables, finely chopped (I use chopped raw broccoli slaw and red peppers, but use anything you think tastes good with pesto)

To start the pesto, mince the garlic in a food processor.

  • 2 cloves garlic

Add the following and process into a paste.

  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 Tablespoons of the toasted pine nuts
  • ½ Tablespoon yellow or white miso
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Add tofu and process for a few seconds to mix it in.

  • 2 Tablespoons tofu (any kind)

Transfer pesto mixture to a bowl and stir in 

  • The cooked onions and vegetables 

Stuff the mixture into the 8 cooked shells. Transfer the shells to a baking dish, pour vegetable stock into the bottom of the dish, cover tightly with foil, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 

  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock (see additional stock needed below)

While the shells are baking, make a pan sauce. 

Sauté shallot in vegan butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the shallot is softened and starting to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. 

  • ½ Tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/8 cup)

Add vermouth or wine and boil rapidly until pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes.

  • ¼ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (sauvignon blanc recommended)

Add broth and boil rapidly, 4-5 minutes, until there is about ½ cup of liquid left.

  • ¾ cup vegetable broth

Pre-blend the cornstarch and the water, then whisk the following ingredients into the skillet and bring to a boil while whisking. The sauce should come together in about 30 seconds. 

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch whisked together with 1 Tablespoon cold water until no lumps remain
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened nondairy milk (I like soymilk)
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/3 teaspoon dried

If the sauce is too thick, add more broth, water, or nondairy milk.  

When you are ready to serve, ladle a bit of sauce onto each plate, place the shells on top, then spoon on more sauce and top with breadcrumbs.

  • Toasted breadcrumbs (you may not need all the breadcrumbs you made)
  • The remaining toasted pine nuts

Timing: Between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on how much you can multitask

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food (except for the vegan butter in the gravy, the 2 teaspoons oil in the pesto, and refined-flour pasta shells)

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta shells

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White Garlic Sauce for Pizza

White garlic sauce butternut squash spinach roasted garlic ricotta.jpg

I based this originally on Vegan Richa’s Buffalo Chickpea Pizza with White Garlic Sauce and Celery Ranch Dressing. This is a great alternative to red sauce on pizza. You can go with vegetable toppings (peppers, spinach, broccoli, red pepper, etc.) or add some novelties (sliced olives, roasted cashews, roasted butternut squash cubes). The possibilities are endless. 

In a blender, blend these together

  • 1 cup of white sauce (e.g., my No-Oil, No-Butter White Sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian herb blend
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Nutrition: except for some white flour to thicken the white sauce, this is whole-food unprocessed

Timing: if the white sauce is done, this takes about 10 minutes

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No-Oil, No-Butter White Sauce

By the Gracious Vegan

It took a while for me to let go of the traditional roux approach to making white sauces. But finally I was convinced to give it a try, and I must say the taste and texture are just fine. This is very versatile and can be used in pot pies, various kinds of casseroles, and as the basis for garlic pizza sauce as well. 

Makes about 4 cups

Soak cashews in cold water at least 2 hours, or pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak 20 minutes. (You can skip this step if you have a high-speed blender.)

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews

Put cashews in a blender, add these ingredients, then blend until cashews are completely smooth (1-4 minutes).

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup any kind of tofu
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • (optional if you want a cheesy flavor) 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Cook the mixture over the stove over medium heat, uncovered and stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Nutrition: except for the white flour to thicken the sauce, this is whole-food unprocessed.

Timing: if you don't have to soak the cashews, this takes about 15 minutes


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Have-It-Your-Way Smoothie

By the Gracious Vegan

High-Protein Have-It-Your-Way Smoothie.jpg

You don’t need yogurt or even tofu to make a great, healthy smoothie. Buckwheat groats and nuts deliver protein, healthy carbs, and almost half the recommended daily amount of fiber. This recipe encourages you to play with fruits and flavors to keep from getting bored. The optional super-foods add high levels of antioxidants and other helpful nutrients.

Makes 1 serving

Soak the groats and nuts overnight (they can be soaked together in the same bowl).

  • 3 Tablespoons raw buckwheat groats
  • 3 Tablespoons nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)

Drain and rinse the buckwheat and nuts. Put them in a blender, add the remaining ingredients, and blend on high until smooth.

  • ¾ cup water (or more if smoothie is too thick to blend) 
  • ½ frozen banana
  • Optional superfoods (highly recommended):
  • ½ Tablespoon flaxseed
  • ½ teaspoon amla powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • Sweetener (2 dates, ½-1 Tablespoon agave nectar, a spoonful or two of date sugar, brown sugar, 1 package sweetener with stevia, etc.)

Your choice of:

Zesty Mango

  • ¾ cup frozen mango cubes
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Peachy Comfort

  • ¾ cup frozen peaches
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger powder

Gingery Blueberry

  • ¾ cup frozen blueberries
  • ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Mixed Berry Matcha

  • ¾ cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder

Total time: Overnight + 10 minutes (hands-on time 10 minutes)

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed


Nutritional information per serving:          

380 calories, 14g fat, 1g sat. fat, 63g carbs, 4.5mg sodium,12g fiber, 11.5 g protein

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Banh Mi Sandwich with Seitan

Seitan Banh Mi Sandwich.JPG

I developed this recipe for a recent "Tempeh and Seitan" demo for Northwest Veg here in Portland. You could switch out the seitan with tempeh or tofu. “Banh mi” is the Vietnamese term for “bread,” specifically a baguette-type roll that is a basic staple in Vietnam. There was a French presence in Vietnam for hundreds of years, leading to this fusion bread. The Vietnamese version has a thinner crust and contains rice flour as well as wheat. The well-known sandwich that you can get from food carts and take-out places gets its name from the bread it's built on.

Here are the layers, starting from the bottom:

  • 6-7” Banh mi bread roll (or a section of baguette or other roll), split lengthwise (but leave them connected)
  • A swipe of sriracha mayo on top and bottom sides of the roll (2 or 3 parts vegan mayo to 1 part sriracha)
  • Thinly-sliced jalapeño, optional
  • Fresh chopped cilantro leaves
  • Thin slices of English cucumber (made with a peeler, mandoline or knife)
  • A handful of pickled carrot and daikon radish (see recipe below)
  • A layer of Seitan for Banh Mi (see recipe below)
  • More sriracha on top, if desired

Pickled vegetables (enough for 4 sandwiches). These can be made up to several days ahead (in fact, that improves the flavor).

Pour the pickling ingredients into a glass or plastic container with a lid. Shake or stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.

  • 1.5 cups water­, warm enough to dissolve the salt and sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ Tablespoon salt

Add vegetables. Add more water if needed to cover them. Secure the lid. Refrigerate until ready to use. It's best to give them several hours, if not a couple of days, to pickle them. 

  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned/grated/thinly sliced
  • ½ daikon radish, peeled and julienned/grated/thinly sliced

Seitan for Banh Mi (enough for 4 sandwiches)In a shallow dish or a Ziplock gallon bag, mix the marinade ingredients together.

  • 2 Tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped (from frozen is fine)
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1.5 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame paste or tahini
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Add the slices of seitan and let them marinate for at least 20 minutes (preferably several hours).

  • 8 ounces seitan, sliced into thin slices

A few minutes before assembling your sandwiches, heat a large skillet on the stove. Pour the seitan and all the marinade into the skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the marinade is mostly absorbed, anywhere from, say, 3 to 10 minutes. 

Timing: About 2 hours, including soaking. Hands-on time is much less, about 30 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Not gluten-free unless you substitute tofu or tempeh for the seitan and use gluten-free bread

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Creamy Broccoli Soup

The Gracious Vegan

Creamy Broccoli Soup.jpg

Broccoli cheese soup is popular in restaurants for at least two reasons. Number one, it’s tasty. But it also lets you feel virtuous about eating your vegetables. This plant-based version uses nutritional yeast to get that cheesy flavor. Filling, delicious, and healthy, this soup hits the bulls-eye.

Quick-soak cashews. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and let them soak while you make the rest of the soup. They should soak for about 20 minutes.

  • ¾ cup raw cashews, pieces or halves

Water-sauté the onion and garlic in a soup pot or Dutch oven until the onion is transparent, around 5 minutes.

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Add the next ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. Cook about 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.

  • 4 cups chopped broccoli – stems and florets
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Now, make the cashew cream by draining the cashews and placing them in a blender with these ingredients.

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 Tablespoons yellow or white miso
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

Blend on high for 30 seconds to 5 minutes until very smooth, so smooth that you can no longer detect any bits of cashews—they’ve dissolved.

If your blender is large enough, add the vegetables and broth into the blender with the cashew mixture and puree the soup until only small chunks of broccoli and carrots are visible. Cook the soup on low heat, partially covered, for about 5 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Timing: About 35 minutes

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed


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