Appetizer

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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Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Crisps

By the Gracious Vegan

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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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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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; WFPBNO

Gluten-free if you use gluten-free noodles

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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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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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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: whole-food unprocessed if you use whole-grain bread and don’t use oil

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. 

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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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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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. 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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Gracious Vegan Guacamole

By the Gracious Vegan

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This is the result of many attempts to get the flavor "just right." It's simple, so that you can taste the avocado. 

Mash together with fork or pastry blender

  • 1 avocado

  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice

Stir in

  • ½ clove garlic, minced

  • 4 drops tabasco or sriracha sauce

  • Scant ¼ teaspoon salt

  • A few grinds of black pepper

Timing: About 15 minutes

Nutrition: Whole-food unprocessed; WFPBNO

Gluten-free

 

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