Appetizer

Cold Sesame Noodles, Without Oil

By the Gracious Vegan

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I finally discovered the secret to “real” cold sesame noodles: it’s the Chinese sesame paste. There isn’t a good substitution. If you have access to an Asian grocery store, that’s your best bet, but you can find it online as well. I owe this find to Sam Sifton of the New York Times and his recipe for Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles. I adapted and tweaked his recipe to remove the oil. I added options for whole wheat noodles and dates instead of sugar. The flavors are recall the best sesame noodles from Chinese restaurants, without the greasiness you can sometimes get.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. (If you choose whole wheat noodles, it may take longer.) Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and pat dry with a paper towel.

  • 9 ounces dried chow mein noodles (or other noodles that don’t contain eggs)

In a medium bowl, blender, or food processor, whisk together the remaining ingredients.

  • 5 Tablespoons soy sauce

  • 4.5 Tablespoons Chinese (roasted) sesame paste

  • 1.5 Tablespoons water

  • 3 Tablespoons smooth peanut butter

  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (or 3 Tablespoons date paste)

  • 1.5 Tablespoon Chinese rice vinegar

  • 1.5 Tablespoon finely grated ginger

  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (3 medium cloves)

  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste, or to taste

Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with

  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks

  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Timing: less than 30 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed if you use whole wheat noodles and dates

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free noodles

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Gracious Vegan Potato and Pea Samosas

Potato and Pea Samosa.jpg

By the Gracious Vegan

Getting the spicing right for these samosas took many experiments, but we’re finally there. Samosas in Indian restaurants are deep fried. These are baked, with no-fat egg roll or wonton wrappers (the vegan kind) and a little spray oil. So these are quite healthy, but with all the warmth and goodness and none of the greasiness of restaurant samosas.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with spray-oil. 

Microwave the following ingredients together in a microwave-safe dish for 8-11 minutes (depending on your microwave). Stir once or twice. 

  • 1 pound of potatoes (any kind), peeled, cut into 1/2” dice

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Gently stir these ingredients into the potato mixture.

  • 1 cup thawed peas

  • 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala

  • 1/8 or smaller teaspoon ground cayenne

Set out an egg roll or wonton wrapper, spoon a small amount of the samosa mixture onto it, and roll or fold in any way you like. Repeat with remaining wrappers until the wrappers or the filling runs out.

  • One package vegan egg roll or wonton wrappers (I use Twin Dragon brand)

Spray the tops of the samosas with spray-oil, then put into the oven. 

Bake for 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until golden. 

Serve with Mint-Cilantro Chutney or other chutney.

Timing: about 45 minutes

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food (wonton wrappers use processed flour)

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Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Crisps

By the Gracious Vegan

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These tortilla crisps are great on so many levels. First, they're a great way to use up leftover flour tortillas. Second, they taste fantastic. They are just as delicious as, say, tortilla chips, but have much less fat. You can add spices (cumin, paprika, you name it) if you want more zing than just a bit of salt. You can also choose your shape--triangles, rectangles, whatever you're feeling like. 

Heat oven to 400° F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil or parchment paper. Cut tortillas into quarters or eighths and lay them on the paper or foil in a single layer. If desired, spray tortillas with spray-oil on the top and sprinkle a little salt on them. 

  • Four 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas (or whatever quantity you want)

Bake them, switching the sheets halfway through, until crisp (but not burnt), for a total of 5-7 minutes. 

Nutrition: Manufactured whole wheat flour tortillas are made with some fat, so these are not 100% unprocessed. 

Timing: about 10 minutes

I have not tried this with gluten-free tortillas.

 

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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.

Timing: Very fast -- 10-15 minutes

Nutrition: Mostly unprocessed (oil is a processed food)

Gluten-free

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Almond Feta Cheese with Herb Oil

By Vegetarian Times

Link to Almond Feta Cheese with Herb Oil recipe.

GV comments: I've tried dozens of vegan cheeses from the store and a number of "cheese" recipes from cookbooks and websites. Either I'm really picky or there is still work to be done to cull out the bad products and recipes. This recipe rocks, though. You soak some almonds, blend with a few other ingredients, drain in a cheesecloth (or nut bag), then bake at a very low temperature to get some of the moisture out of it. The flavor is divine--somewhere between feta and goat cheese, with a similar texture as well. It can be eaten on its own or in recipes. 

Timing: Actually takes a couple of days if you follow the recipe exactly: 24 hours for the almonds to soak; 12 hours for the cheese to drain; then 40 minutes to bake. In my opinion, 24 hours for soaking is overkill (6 should be fine). 

Nutrition: 3 Tablespoons oil in the cheese (plus more if you use oil to serve, which I don't) is the only processed ingredient

Gluten-free

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Zucchini Bruschetta

By Martha Stewart

Link to Zucchini Bruschetta recipe. 

GV comments: This is a great addition to a bruschetta platter. Alternate these with my Chris's Jersey Tomato Bruschetta, and the compliments will come raining down! I use vegan butter instead of dairy butter, and I cut the amount in half. Otherwise I love that this is easy and so tasty. To create the toasts, I like to brush the baguette slices with oil and then fry them on a griddle or in a skillet. They come out better than toasting, in my opinion.

Timing: Around 30 minutes, including zucchini standing time.

Nutrition: the zucchini are whole-food, but the butter and refined flour are not. If you use a whole-grain baguette and eliminate the butter (a hit to the taste, unfortunately), these would be whole-food, unprocessed.

Gluten-free, if made with a gluten-free bread

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Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

By Alton Brown (Food Network)

Link to Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings recipe. 

GV comments:  I have adapted this one significantly, but I wanted to link to the original because of his video and the detail of his method. (His steamer solution is brilliant!) The mix of aromatics and liquids (soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil) is divine, so I don't change that part of the recipe. Here are the changes I make, for you to consider. 

  • No egg: I don't use the egg in the filling. It works well; the filling doesn't go all over the place without it.
  • Less salt: I decrease the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. 
  • No tofu: I don't use much tofu, because my husband doesn't like it. I use an additional cup of vegetables (like finely chopped broccoli slaw, finely chopped celery, chopped bean sprouts, etc). 
  • Vegan wrappers: My grocery store carries a vegan brand of won ton wrappers: Twin Dragon brand.
  • I make spring rolls out of this recipe (fold or roll the filling in your preferred manner or according to package directions) then bake them: I brush or spray the rolls with oil and place them on a sheet pan (with or without parchment paper). I bake them at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, then flip them over and bake another 7 or 8 minutes until golden.

Timing: Around an hour, but some of that is cooking time 

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food unprocessed. The wrappers use refined flour, and the sesame oil and hoisin sauce are not whole-food. Otherwise there are a lot of nutritious ingredients here.

 

 

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Chili Wonton Cups

By One Green Planet

Link to Chili Wonton Cups recipe.

GV comments: I haven't made the chili part of this, but the wonton cups are a revelation! They're super-easy to make. I like using mini-muffin pans instead of the standard muffin size. They are obviously perfect for appetizers, but they can also work as part of a meal. For example, you can fill them with vegetable spring roll filling and serve them with a stir-fry. For appetizers, besides chili, you could fill them with bruschetta-type fillings, Greek Lentil Salad, beans/guacamole/salsa, Mushroom Ragout or mushrooms with sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions with sauteed greens, Indian chaat-style filling, etc.

Timing (wonton cups only): about 20 minutes start to finish

Nutrition: Significant processed ingredients (refined flour)

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Spinach and White Bean Dip

By Real Simple

Link to Spinach and White Bean Dip recipe.

GV comments:  This is a light, flavorful dip that goes really well with cut-up raw vegetables. The fresh dill provides a welcome accent against the garlic and lemon juice -- this is not bland. If you cut down on the oil in this recipe (or completely eliminate it -- also an option), it's low calorie and super healthy (beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, with greens right up there, too). You could even use more spinach, at least a cup more, in my experience. 

Timing: Fast -- under 30 minutes

Nutrition: If you eliminate the oil, then it's whole-food unprocessed; if you use all the oil, then it's mostly unprocessed

Gluten-free

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Chris's Jersey Tomato Bruschetta

By the Gracious Vegan

I owe this preparation to Chris J. from New Jersey. The big lesson here is "less is more," something I usually don't practice enough in my cooking. This recipe works best (or exclusively) during peak tomato season, because you're using thick tomato slices, not chopped tomatoes. If the tomatoes are "real" and "ripe," there's nothing like this in the world. 

Slice the tomato(es) into thick (1/2") slices to match shape of bread slices.

  • Ripe Jersey tomatoes (each makes 4-5 bruschetta)

Chop these finely in equal amounts. Sprinkle them over the tomato slices.

  • Garlic and shallots (one clove garlic and one-half small shallot per 4-5 bruschetta)

Sprinkle these over the garlic and shallots

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper 

Optional, sprinkle a few drops on each bruschetta

  • Balsamic vinegar

Top each slice with equal amounts (actually, I prefer more parsley than basil)

  • Fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Italian parsley, finely chopped

Optional, drizzle a little oil on top of each slice

  • Olive oil

Cut the bread in straight slices or at an angle, about 1/2" - 3/4" thick.

  • French loaf (battard loaves work well; Italian or ciabatta loaves usually have too many air holes). whole grain or white

Brush bread slices on both sides with olive oil.

Fry the slices on a non-stick surface. When they just start to brown, turn them. Place each tomato stack on the bread, let it warm up a bit while the second side of the bread is toasting, then serve warm. 

Timing: Under 30 minutes

Nutrition: About equal processed/unprocessed (I have to admit that white bread is preferable here)

Can be made gluten-free if you can find good bread.

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Gracious Vegan Refried Bean Dip

By the Gracious Vegan

I have perfected this gem over time. I believe it was originally in an ad for mayonnaise, but I've tinkered with it several different ways since then, and now it is a pleasing dip that pleases a crowd. It can be served with chips or with vegetables. 

Stir all ingredients together until well mixed. Bake in small ovenproof dish, 350 ⁰ for 30 minutes until bubbly (or microwave for about 5 minutes). Makes about 2 cups.

  • 1/4 c. vegan mayonnaise 
  • 1 can (16 oz.) refried beans (or 1.5 c. pinto beans, drained, mashed)
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
  • ¼ t. or more Tabasco or sriracha sauce (or you can mince a chipotle chili and add adobo sauce if you prefer smoky-spicy)

Timing: about 15 minutes (if you microwave it -- about 45 minutes if you bake it)

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food

Gluten-free

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Indian-Spiced Cashews

By Leslie Beck

Link to recipe here

GV Comments:  I used these for holiday gifts one year, and people talked about them for weeks! They’re super easy, they’re not too spicy, and the combination of brown sugar, salt, curry, and cumin somehow creates a new taste that you must try. I used vegan margarine instead of butter, and I cut way down on the salt (and I usually am fine with salt). I’d recommend starting with ½ teaspoon and increasing from there to taste. 

Timing: Under 30 minutes

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food

Photo by KRebaud

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Red Pepper, Walnut, and Tahini Dip

By Real Simple

Link to recipe here.

GV comments: This dip is similar to my muhammara recipe. There are some differences, though. This dip uses tahini to thicken it, while the muhammara uses bread crumbs. This one doesn’t have garlic; the muhammara does. If I could only choose one, it would be the muhammara spread, but this is quite good, too, and some may prefer its mellower taste. It's been a hit whenever I've made it, and it's very easy to prepare. 

Timing: 25 minutes or so

Nutrition: Mostly whole-food 

Gluten-free

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Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip

By One Green Planet

Link to recipe here.

GV comments: After much searching and experimentation, I finally found a recipe that re-creates the creaminess and flavor combination of the cream cheese/sour cream/mayonnaise/Parmesan version of this dip that I used to love (extra charge for the artery stent afterwards!). This has none of the dairy and all of the flavor and texture. This recipe does not call for soaking the raw cashews beforehand, but I do that, which increases the end-to-end time. I am not 100% confident that my blender can get the raw cashews completely smooth. I also use a 15-ounce can of artichoke hearts (not marinated) instead of frozen. They seem to work just as well and are less expensive. 

Timing: Under 30 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed

Gluten-free

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Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread)

By the Gracious Vegan

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This Middle Eastern spread is outstanding! It's not spicy-hot unless you use a full 1/2 teaspoon or more of the red pepper flakes. About 1/4 teaspoon is plenty for me. The combination of flavors is extraordinary. My husband, who is suspicious of all new foods (except sweets) loved this from the first bite. I serve it on bread with a thick soup and a salad for dinner. I'm not sure where I found this recipe to begin with, and I can't locate it online now, so I'll reproduce it here with my many tweaks. It's a great one.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process to your desired level of smoothness.

  • 3 roasted red peppers (roasted at home or use an 8-ounce jar of roasted peppers, drained and rinsed)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into a few pieces
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 date, chopped into a few pieces (soaked ahead of time if not already soft), or 2 teaspoons date sugar, or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Taste, and add more spice or salt as necessary.

Timing: about 30 minutes if you roast the peppers from scratch (which I recommend). And you need to toast the walnuts. 

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed (if you use whole-grain bread crumbs) and dates

Gluten-free (if you use gluten-free bread crumbs)

Photo by Krista

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