Yesterday was my mother-in-law‘s birthday. She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, a city near and dear to my heart. We were supposed to go down for Mardi Gras in NOLA next month. But, because of Covid, we had to cancel our plans. So alas, if we can’t go to New Orleans, I thought it only appropriate to bring New Orleans to us. We started the evening with these delicious vegan crab cakes drizzled in a spicy Creole Ravigote! Our main was a Cornmeal Encrusted Tofu Po’ Boy with a Creamy Coleslaw! The key to this recipe is the hearts of palm! However, there is a lot of concern about the sustainability of hearts of palm, and for a good reason.
The problem with hearts of palm.
Harvesting the “heart of palm” kills most palms. So wild harvesting can very damaging if done on a widespread basis. The hearts of palm that I buy is the “Native Forest” brand. Here is a quote from their website—”Here we rely upon the Euterpe precatoria, or huasaí palm tree, which grows profusely throughout this vast Amazonian rainforest.
Long term leases secure approximately 240,000 acres of pristine native forest for the wild hearts of palm ecological project, thereby protecting the land from any rain forest-destructive development. In addition to preserving the region’s ecology, this project brings needed employment to those who live deep in the Amazon basin, providing them the opportunity to work closer to their families and their ancestral homes.”
But not all brands are as conscientious as Native Forest, and it’s best to check. The Environmental Working Group’s page is an excellent resource for checking everything from sustainability, to child labor, as well as products that contain pesticides, GMO’s etc,
So back to the recipe! The hearts of palm are a perfect replacement for crab meat. These little gems are crispy on the outside and flaky and moist on the inside. My mother in law (who is not vegan) was completely blown away! You can pan fry, air fry, or oven fry them, whatever your preference. Just be sure to heat your oven to the lowest setting and add them to the oven as you make them to keep them warm.
The holidays are a great way to showcase your artistic side! Making a great vegan charcuterie board such as this just a few years ago would have been much more complicated than it is now! There are so many great choices out there for vegan meats, cheeses, sauces, and even plant-based meats!
The key is knowing how to put it all together! To me, variety is the spice of life! So I like to find a variety of hard cheeses, soft cheeses, dips, and crackers. Daiya makes a great Farmhouse style block cheese, and of course, Miyoko Schinner, the original Queen of the Vegan Cheese, makes some pretty amazing cheeses that will blow your vegan minds! I like to slice the cheeses in different ways. Cubed, quartered, triangled, wavy, or ribboned, there is no wrong way to slice! In face the more the merrier!
Other accouterments might include olives (if you can find olive branches, they make a great garnish), pimentos, any variety of nuts, seasonal fruits, fresh figs, and don’t forget your garnishes! Sometimes, I will slice and use a toasted baguette! In the photo above, I made a sun-dried tomato cheesecake with rosemary. As a garnish, I used fresh sprigs of rosemary with some fresh cranberries for a festive look!
The other key to a good board is to have things spread out evenly. If you have a spread on one side, make sure you have one on the other side too! Balance is key! The best part is that it will allow you to showcase your artistic side and delight your guests! Don’t forget to add a few cheese knives and picks! I like the stainless steel picks because they can be reused! Whatever your style, have fun and enjoy!
Christmas is my favorite time of year! And this is one of my favorite appetizer recipes. I used to make a non-vegan version with eggs and dairy, so I was worried that I might lose some consistency; however, this cheesecake did not disappoint! It is so good and will be gone in a flash!
If you make your own cream cheese, you will definitely save a buck or two. But if you don’t, I would encourage you to spend the money on a good vegan cream cheese. I used Kite Hill Chives cream cheese and was delighted! Serve with crudités and crackers and few copies of the recipe!
1/2 cup julienne-cut, sun-dried tomatoes with herbs packed in oil, drained
1/3 cup cup toasted pine nuts
Assorted crackers and crudité
Fresh rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes small diced, micro-greens, fresh rosemary
For the crust: Pre-heat oven to 350°. Pulse together the walnuts, flour, and salt to a fine meal in a food processor. Pulse in the butter until it forms a crumbly dough. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 7-inch springform pan. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Beat cream cheese on medium speed with a mixer until fluffy. Blend in milk and next five ingredients, mixing on low speed. Fold in Parmesan cheese and rosemary; spoon over crust and spread to pan edges. Bake 45-50 minutes or until center is just set when jiggled. Remove from oven and gently run a paring knife between the cheesecake and pan. Cool 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.
Place cheesecake on a serving plate. Toss together sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts in a small bowl. Spoon mixture over cheesecake and garnish with micro-greens and fresh rosemary. Serve with crackers and crudité.
I am a sucker for French food and French wine. To this day, my favorite cookbook is still Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” A few years ago, I bought a vintage 20th edition copy released in 1971, the year I was born. The book has what looks to be wine stains across its pages, likely from the valiant efforts of another brave epicure hoping to recreate her world-famous bourguignon. I say valiant because if you’ve never seen Julia’s bourguignon recipe, let me just say it is a three-page lesson in patience. But alas, I digress.
The very first vegan cooking class that I taught was Vegan France. This recipe, along with my mushroom bourguignon, were two of my favorite recipes I shared with the class. A traditional molded foie gras is made with goose liver. It is salty and savory, and let me just say when I was a meat-eater, one of my favorite indulgences.
This recipe is an adaptation of Rebecca Leffler’s recipe from her vegan French cookbook. This “faux” gras is made with mushrooms, french green lentils, rosemary, thyme, walnuts, cognac, and a beet puree added in for color. Sure to satisfy even the most die-hard fin gourmets, I like to serve it with nice French Bordeaux and a traditional Pain de Campagne. Bon appétit!
24 medium-sized (200g, about 2 cups) button mushrooms
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted
2 small onion peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
2 cups (800g) cooked green lentils
2 cups (280g) toasted walnuts or pecans
4 tablespoons liquid aminos or tamari
4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
4 tablespoons fresh sage or flat leaf parsley
4 teaspoons Cognac or brandy
2-teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3–4 tablespoons beetroot puree (recipe below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wipe the mushrooms clean. Remove stem end and slice them.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet or wide saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, sage, and Cognac/brandy and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and cooked through, another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a food processor, combine the cooked lentils, brown sugar, and cayenne. Scrape in the cooked mushroom mixture and process until completely smooth. Fold in beet puree. Taste. Add salt, pepper, additional cognac, soy sauce, or lemon juice, if it needs balancing.
Scrape the pâté into a small serving bowl, top with a thin layer of vegan butter if using, and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm. (If you’re making it on the fly, feel free to freeze it)
For Beetroot Puree:
½ pound roasted red beets
¼ cup Grapeseed oil
¾ tsp salt
1 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoons water
¾ teaspoons fresh cilantro leaves
¾ teaspoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of black pepper
Place beets, Grapeseed oil, shallots, 1 tablespoons water, cilantro, vinegar, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender, and process until blended, about 5 seconds. Add beets, and process until smooth, about 40 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Stir in black pepper.
Just because you give up dairy doesn’t mean you have to give up cheese! Many things can make milk! You just need milk with higher fat content to make good rich cheese. Hence, cashews! I keep this cheese on hand all the time. I use it as a sauce for macaroni and cheese, and as a base for my famous black bean dip! But one of my favorite things to use it for is the base for a broccoli potato soup! Sometimes, I just shamelessly stand over the bowl and eat it until I’m about to burst. Loaded with protein and spices, this cheese sauce it my absolute favorite.
To heat or reheat microwave, covered, in 30-second bursts, whisking at each interval and thinning with water as needed. Or re-warm on the stovetop, whisking occasionally and thinning with water as needed.
Easy Chili Cashew Queso
1 ½ C. raw cashews
1 cup hot water
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch chili powder (optional)
1 chipotle in adobo with a little sauce
To make the Queso, add all ingredients to a high -speed blender and blend until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides at least once.
Feel free to substitute salsa, roasted jalapenos, or your favorite hot sauce in place of the chipotle pepper. The sauce is also really delicious with no heat!
I love hummus, and my husband has crowned himself the king of hummus. He makes it all the time. And his hummus is forever changing. It’s usually a product of his current culinary whims. Sometimes he adds fresh dill from our garden. Sometimes he adds a nice smoked paprika that we found at our local Indian Grocer. But he is always upping the ante. For me, I like a simple traditional hummus. Its simplicity is what makes it good, and I feel like why mess with a good thing? But there are times when you HAVE to change it up. Like the time I was out of tahini. Or like the two months I decided to give up all cooking oils.
This recipe does it all. It is sesame free and oil free. The creaminess of this recipe comes from the aquafaba. What is aquafaba you ask? It is the water that you normally drain from the can of beans, and it’s amazing! We vegans use it all the time as a sub for eggs in vegan baking. The starchy liquid is a great binder directly from the can, but what really makes it magical is that it whips and creates foam. Aquafaba is therefore able to trap air; giving items structure at the same time it delivers a fluffy crumb and lift. You can even make meringues! In hummus, it adds a flavor and a creaminess that can’t be beat! It’s the perfect sub for both the oil and the tahini!
Feel free to add whatever spices, or beans you want! That’s the beauty of hummus, it can be as simple as whatever you have on hand, or as complex as you want it to be! You can use it as a dip for veggies, or thin it out with a little bit of water and use as a dressing. We love it on top of our Buddha bowls!
This is a keeper.
“Tahini Free Roasted Garlic Hummus”
2 15 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans, drained but save aquafaba)
2 cloves roasted garlic (buy it pre-roasted at Fresh Thyme)
¼ cup aquafaba from chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander
½ tsp of crushed red pepper
1 tbsp parsley (dried)
1 ½ tsp of salt
½ tsp pepper (or to taste)
Mix all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth. Add more aquafaba if you find that it’s too dry. Season to taste. Chill for a few hours, taste again, and adjust seasonings if necessary. You can use olive oil in place of the aquafaba, but it won’t be as creamy, and you’ll save yourself about 240 calories!