Appetizer

Fabulous Tomato Bruschetta Without Oil

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These bruschetta originated in New Jersey, where the local summer tomatoes are the tastiest imaginable. Most bruschetta recipes called for chopped tomatoes, but this one uses slices of tomatoes. If you have homegrown or local tomatoes, using tomato slabs will make a divine difference. In Oregon we don’t have the bonanza of tomatoes like Jersey, but I can find excellent large cherry tomatoes throughout the summer and occasionally some large tomatoes. The original approach for these called for pan-frying the bread in oil. I’ve found you can get the same effect with a mixture of tahini and water. Tahini also plays a crucial role in the drizzle. No oil here, but no sacrifice either.

Makes 10 bruschetta—can be adjusted up or down

First, on a cookie sheet, make the “loaded” tomato slices. 

Lay out the tomato slices on the cookie sheet.

  • 10 large tomato slices, about 1/2” thick

Season each tomato slice with 

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Spread garlic and shallots on each tomato slice.

  • Very finely chopped garlic and shallots mixed together (1 large clove garlic and about the equivalent amount of shallot)

Then, on top of the garlic and shallots, spoon on

  • Very finely chopped basil and parsley (about 3/8 cup of leaves each, then chop them)

Finally, drizzle this quick dressing on top right before serving. (Whisk them or shake them together in a small bowl or jar.)

  • 3 Tablespoons water

  • 1 Tablespoon tahini

  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (use the expensive stuff if you have it)

Toast the bread and finish the bruschetta. 

Instead of using oil, mix or whisk tahini and water together in a small bowl to create a thin sauce.

  • 1.5 Tablespoons water

  • 1 Tablespoon tahini

Preheat a large non-stick skillet and/or a griddle. Brush bread on both side with the tahini-water mixture. 

  • 10 slices of great bread. Breads called “battards” work well. French bread too. (Italian and ciabatta loaves tend to have too many air holes.) 

Pan-fry the slices on the first side. When they are just brown, flip them over. While the bottom browns, put a loaded tomato slice onto each one and let that warm a little bit. 

Timing: Under 30 minutes. Once you start toasting the bread in the pan, these will take about 10 minutes. 

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free bread

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Sweet and Tangy Edamame

By the Gracious Vegan

These are a fancy version of the edamame pods we often get in Asian restaurants as an appetizer. Here I add a no-oil glaze that takes the whole experience up a notch.

Makes 4 cups of edamame pods

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Cook the edamame by adding the frozen pods to a large pot of boiling water. When they float to the surface, they’re done (either drain them or scoop them out). (Do not pressure cook.)

  • 4 cups frozen edamame in shell

In a large saucepan (so you can stir in the edamame later), water-sauté the following ingredients in a Tablespoon or two of water until they start to get tender. 

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Add in the following ingredients and cook at a low boil for 3-5 minutes, to reach the desired glaze consistency. 

  • 3 Tablespoons water

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 3 Tablespoons date paste or 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1.5 Tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame paste (or sesame oil)

  • 1/8 teaspoon or more crushed red pepper flakes

Add in the cooked edamame and toss to cover all the pods. Pour any leftover glaze into a small dipping bowl to serve it with. Garnish if desired with:

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Timing: About 20 minutes

Gluten-free

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Hummus Variations: Beet and Spinach

By the Gracious Vegan

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I used to buy red pepper hummus from the store, so once I started making my own hummus at home, I wondered about adding other things to it. These two variations are the most colorful I found: beet and spinach. In addition to being tasty, the vegetables significantly lower the calorie count of the hummus.

Beet Hummus

Process 1 cup of Better-Than-Store-Bought Hummus with one can of sliced beets (well drained) and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Yield will be about 1.75 cups.

Spinach Hummus

Process 1 cup of Better-Than-Store-Bought Hummus with one 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and very well squeezed dry) and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Yield will be about 1.75 cups. 

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Timing: about 20 minutes

Gluten-free

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Better-Than-Store-Bought Hummus

By the Gracious Vegan

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This recipe comes at the end of many years of experimentation with hummus recipes. I was searching for the type of hummus you get at Middle Eastern restaurants, but with a method that wouldn’t take 24 hours of soaking the chickpeas. This recipe works really well. The final ah-ha moment came when I figure out to process the chickpeas with the water and lemon juice before adding the tahini. That helps get the mixture as smooth as possible.

Makes about 4 cups of hummus

Place chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. 

  • Two (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Add the following ingredients and process for several minutes until the paste is very smooth. (It may be a little thin at this point – don’t worry.)

  • 3/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 3/8 cup water 

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add tahini and salt and continue processing until smooth again. 

  • 1 cup tahini

  • 1.5 teaspoons salt

Add more water as needed (a Tablespoon at a time) to get the right creamy consistency.

  • Up to 1/4 cup additional water

If not using hummus immediately, refrigerate up to four days. You may need to stir in more water after it’s chilled. 

Nutrition: whole food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Timing: about 15 minutes

Gluten-free

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Spiced Pita Crisps

By the Gracious Vegan

This is a great way to use up leftover pita bread. I’ve also used leftover rolls (I slice them into 1/4” pieces.) These crisps are very popular when served with a bowl of soup. 

Makes as many as you like

Preheat heat oven to 375°. Use sheet pans or cookie sheets. You can line them with parchment paper or not. 

Cut pitas into 6 or 8 wedges and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet(s). 

  • As many pitas as you wish (for pocket pitas, I recommend fully separating the two sides and cutting them both into wedges)

Spray the pita wedges with a light coat of oil (optional)

  • Spray-oil or olive oil in a mister

Sprinkle your choice of spices onto the pita wedges. I like these:

  • Cumin

  • Paprika

  • Salt

Bake. If you have thin pita bread, check after 10 minutes. Thicker bread may take 15 minutes or so. 

Timing: about 20 minutes

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO (without the spray oil)

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free pitas

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Stuffed Potato Skins

By the Gracious Vegan

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This one’s for all of us who love the skin on oven-roasted baked potatoes. These stuffed potato skins make for great appetizers or can be served as an entrée for an informal meal. They’re so versatile, the foundation for many different kinds of fillings.

Makes as many as you want

Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly pierce each potato in 5-10 places with a fork. Place them directly on the oven rack or in a metal or glass pan (potatoes not touching each other) and bake until tender when pierced with a knife or cake tester, about 40 minutes. (The microwave will result in less crispy potato skins.)

  • Small or medium russet potatoes, well washed and dried

Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Cut each potato in half* lengthwise, and use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop out insides, leaving about 1/4-inch shell all around. Reserve insides for another use. Place the halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spray the bottoms and tops with cooking spray or olive oil from a mister. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Cooking spray

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Bake until crisp and edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Stuff the halves with one or more of the following toppings, or make up your own. 

Stuffing ideas

*  If the potatoes are large, you could cut the skins in half again, but note that you won’t be able to stuff them with fillings that could drip or fall out (like chili or diced vegetables).  

Nutrition: depends on stuffings

Timing: Hands-on time 10 minutes, total time about an hour (timing does not include stuffings)

Gluten-free

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Almond Goat Cheese 

By the Gracious Vegan

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Creamy, salty, sharp, soft white cheese on crackers or in sandwiches or salads is delicious. There are so many ways to enjoy this goat-cheese-like almond cheese. The preparation is a bit fussy, but all the steps are necessary — I’ve provided ways to speed up the process so it doesn’t have to take overnight, unless you want it to.

Makes one 6-inch round

Place almonds in a medium bowl, and cover with 3 inches cold water. Let soak at least 6 hours. Or pour boiling water over the almonds, cover, and let soak for an hour. Drain soaking liquid, rinse almonds under cold running water.

  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds (I used blanched slivered almond to speed up the soaking)

Purée soaked almonds and the following ingredients in a blender or food processor (I find that the blender works best) until very smooth and creamy. It may take several minutes. 

  • 1/2 cup cold water

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

  • 2 Tablespoons tahini

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

The next step is to drain the mixture of liquid. You can do it two ways. 

Spoon the almond mixture into a handkerchief (used for kitchen purposes only!) or three layers of cheesecloth. Bring the corners together and twist the fabric around the cheese, forming into a ball and squeezing to help extract moisture. Secure with rubber band or kitchen twine. Place the ball in a colander, with a bowl underneath, and chill for 12 hours or so, then discard excess liquid.

Or you can work more quickly and press the wrapped ball with paper towels; once the paper towels are wet, replace them with new dry paper towels. With this second method, the drying out will take only about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat. Unwrap cheese (it will be soft), and transfer it to the lined pan. Flatten it to form a 6-inch round about 3/4-inch thick. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until top is slightly firm and very slightly browned. Cool, then chill for at least 2 hours.

Nutrition: whole-food unprocessed (WFPBNO)

Timing: About 2 hours using the quickest methods, plus 2 hours to chill after baking

Gluten-free

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Cowboy Caviar

By the Gracious Vegan

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There are many recipes for Cowboy Caviar, but this one has no oil, and I don’t taste much of a difference. You can mash the avocados a bit or keep them in dice form.

Stir all the ingredients together 

  • 2 medium/large or 3 small avocados, peeled and diced

  • 2-3 tomatoes, diced

  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1.5 cups cooked black-eyed peas (if using canned, one can rinsed and drained)

  • 1.5 cups cooked corn (if using canned, one can rinsed and drained)

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro

  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice, or more to taste

  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce (Tabasco, sriracha, or other)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Serve with Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Crisps.

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed, WFPBNO

Timing: About 15 minutes

Gluten-free

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Gracious Vegan Potato and Pea Samosas

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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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Olive Tapenade

By The Gracious Vegan

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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. If you want it sharper, add 1-2 Tablespoons drained capers.

Makes about 1.5 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 + 1/3 cup (5 ounces) pitted black Greek olives

  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) pitted California black olives

  • 1/2 Tablespoon tahini

  • 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.

This tapenade is great for sandwiches and as an appetizer with bread slices. It's also a wonderful substitute for red sauce on a pizza -- add some artichoke hearts (or other topping) and vegan cheese, and voila! Refrigerate any leftovers.

Timing: Very fast -- 5-10 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Gluten-free

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Gracious Vegan Refried Bean Dip

By the Gracious Vegan

Appetizer idea for using Refried Bean Dip

Appetizer idea for using Refried Bean Dip

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. 

Makes about 2 cups

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

  • 1 can (16 oz.) refried beans (or 1.5 cups pinto beans, drained, mashed)

  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies

  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I use Kim Campbell’s Tofu Cashew Mayonnaise, which contains no oil)

  • 2-3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

  • ¼ teaspoon 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: Whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

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. A bit less if you use jarred peppers (but the walnuts still need to be toasted in the oven or on the stovetop—just be careful not to burn them).

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

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

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