Garden Inspirations

These two recipes were inspired in a burst of creativity after harvesting veggies from our garden. We’ve been harvesting handfuls of beans everyday and the lettuce has been crisp and green. When our neighbor gave us a white radish to try, I figured a salad was definitely in order!

Vegan Caesar Salad

  • several bunches of lettuce leaves
  • 1 white radish
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon pepper marinade (or juice of 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (omit if using lemon juice)
  • 3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. croutons (I used some old frozen breadsticks, cut into pieces, tossed in olive oil, and baked at 350°F for 10 minutes)

Tear lettuce and place in a bowl. Cut radish into small slices and toss with lettuce. In a blender, pulse almonds until well processed. Add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Pulse to combine. Stream in olive oil, scrapping the sides of the blender to make sure everything gets incorporated. Toss with salad and add croutons.

Caesar Salad

Green Beans with Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 lb. green beans, halved
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • slat and pepper

Steam green beans for 15-20 minutes. They should be fairly soft but still have a bit of a bite to them. Add mustard, vinegar, oil, and salt & pepper to a bowl and whisk to combine. Toss with green beans. **This would definitely be good with some toasted, slivered almonds … I just didn’t think of it at the time!

Garden Fresh Beans


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A Vegan Twist on a Classic Childhood Meal

One of my favorite meal memories as a kid is chili night. It’s a little ironic because the chili I liked as a kid is the complete opposite to what I eat now. Back then I didn’t like beans, so my mom would make me a special “beanless” chili that was mostly just ground beef, tomatoes, and spices. Now, of course, I load up on the beans and leave the beef out. Go figure. Anyway, what really sticks in my memory is not the chili – it’s the cinnamon rolls. Gooey, slightly spicy cinnamon rolls. We usually got our cinnamon rolls from an Amish bakery outside of my hometown and they were delicious.  We had this meal at school a lot, too (anyone know who came up with chili & cinnamon roll combo?) and my twin sister would always con people out of their cinnamon rolls by offering to give them her chili. We liked our sweets 🙂

My version of chili is full of beans and veggies and as hearty as any meat-based chili you might find. But, as in childhood, the cinnamon rolls are the star of this meal. They take some time to prepare, because they contain yeast, but they are absolutely worth the extra time. The recipe poster claims they rival Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and I’m in agreement. These are a big hit at work parties, too!

Chili & Cinnamon Rolls

Hearty Veggie Chili

  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 small carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato puree (diced tomatoes are also good)
  • 1 packet chili seasoning, or your favorite combo of spices

Heat olive oil in dutch oven or other sturdy pan. Add veggies and saute until soft. Add beans and chili seasoning, stirring to make sure all ingredients are coated with the seasoning. Add tomato puree and stir well. Cook on medium heat 10-20 minutes. The longer you leave it on the stove top, the more the flavors meld together. Serve with vegan sour cream, crackers, or Fritos chips and corn on the cob. And cinnamon rolls, of course!

Veggie Chili

The cinnamon roll recipe can be found here. I use Quick Rise yeast and the flax egg replacer and the result is huge, fluffy, and gooey cinnamon rolls. A note on the frosting – more powdered sugar equals a thicker frosting. If you want more of a glaze, just use a cup or so of powdered sugar.

Better-then-Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls


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Sundried Tomato Pasta

This is a great summertime dish and a nice alternative to the traditional “green” pesto comprised of basil, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. As soon as the cherry tomatoes in my garden ripen I plan on making my own oven-dried tomatoes, but in this case I used the kind you find in the jar, packed in oil. I served this with a side of steamed green beans dressed only in Kosher sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Sundried Tomato Pasta

Sundried Tomato Pasta

  • 8 oz. fettuccine or linguine pasta (or your favorite shape!)
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 oz. sundried tomatoes in oil
  • handful of nutritional yeast (opt.)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 5-6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • Handful of fresh basil, torn

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add pine nuts, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and nutritional yeast to a blender and pulse until combined. Turn blender back on and drizzle in olive oil. Pulse until well combined. Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in a bit of margarine or olive oil until fragrant. Once cooked, drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add sundried tomato pesto to the hot pasta, tossing to coat. Add reserved pasta water a little at a time until the sauce is a little creamy (you may not use the whole up). Add fresh basil and sauteed mushrooms and combine.


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Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

The Northeast Heat Wave of ’10 (it’s not really called that – but I like naming weather phenomena) has been great for our garden! We’ve harvested bags of green beans, lots of fresh herbs, and the sweetest sugar snap peas I’ve ever tasted.

Garden veggies

I just love having a backyard garden – especially when you can run outside and find everything you need for dinner! That isn’t exactly the case with this recipe, but the pretty little lettuce leaves in the garden definitely provided inspiration for dinner. Forgive my non-measurements for the sauce – just add a little at a time and adjust to taste. I’d say the majority of sauce was based on soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. A little sesame oil goes a long way.

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

  • 1/2 lb. seitan or extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 handfuls of green beans, but into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • For the sauce: sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, chili sauce (like Sriracha), brown sugar
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • About 5-6 lettuce leaves, depending on size

Whisk sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Fry the seitan or tofu in 1 Tbsp. oil until browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Fry green beans, onion, and garlic in remaining oil until softened but still fairly crisp. Add seitan or tofu back to the pan with the veggies. Turn heat up to med-high and add sauce. Stir fry for a few minutes until sauce has been mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve on freshly washed lettuce leaves.

Lettuce Wraps

p.s. I didn’t add it this time, but I think slivered almonds would provide a really great crunch to the filling!

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A Mini Indian Feast

I’ve mentioned before how easy it is to find vegan-friendly food at Thai restaurants. Indian restaurants are the same, especially when they focus on southern Indian cuisine which is all vegetarian; they do cook with paneer (cheese). As a result of where I live, and the fact that eating out can get expensive, I have begun experimenting with make-at-home versions of our restaurant favorites. Traditionally when we’ve made Indian feasts, we go all out – several entrees, naan bread, fried veggie pakora, etc – the kind of cooking that’s definitely suited for the weekend. These recipes, however, are perfect for a work night. No time for baking bread on weeknights (unless you’re some kind of miracle worker) – so if you want bread (I’ll post a naan recipe someday soon), you’ll have to make it ahead of time or pick up some flatbread of some sort at the grocery store. I made two entrees and a side of basmati rice. The first entrée is Aloo Gobi, found here. In Indian cooking, “aloo” means potato and “gobi” means cauliflower. I used a regular sized bag of frozen cauliflower florets for this recipe and it worked perfectly. I just set it out on the counter while I prepared the other veggies to let it defrost a little. I also used about 2 tsp. chili powder in place of the green chilies. Garam masala can be found at Indian and other ethnic groceries, but if you want to make your own, just use a mixture of cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, coriander, ginger, & turmeric. Or, if that’s too much work, just leave it out 🙂 The second recipe I made was Red Lentil and Spinach Dhal, which can be found here. As with garam masala, red lentils can be somewhat hard to find; I usually buy them in bulk when I make it to the health food store. I am certain brown lentils, the kind you can find at any grocery store, would work just fine in this recipe. You may have to adjust the cooking time a bit. You know lentils are ready when the water has mostly been absorbed and they are fairly soft. Another note on this recipe – it calls for “brown” onions, which I am not familiar with. Yellow cooking onions worked just fine!

Aloo Gobi

Red Lentil & Spinach Dhal

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Easy Vegan Waffles

When I was in college, I worked at a law firm. Right before I left for grad school, some of my co-workers had a going away party for me. A lot of them gave me little mementos to remember them by but one that seemed to stand out was a waffle iron. At this point in my life, I wasn’t much into cooking (they recognized my voice when I called in for take-out at my favorite Thai restaurant) and I couldn’t think of any reason I’d need/want a waffle iron. It’s the thought that counts, though, so I stowed the waffle iron away in a “kitchen tools” box and it headed down to the bayou with us. At some point, the iron made it out of the box and onto my counter. And as it turns out, you really don’t need to be much of a cook to use a waffle iron 🙂 The unexpected little gadget has been helping me make delicious vegan brunches for years now. Here’s the recipe I use – it couldn’t be quicker and easier to remember ….

Easy Vegan Waffles

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. soymilk
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 Tbsp. syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder

Whisk all ingredients. Pour batter into waffle iron; indicator light tells when they are ready (approx. 3 minutes).

Couldn’t be easier, right? I usually double the recipe because these freeze really well. I’ll also spice things up by adding blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter. Serve with margarine and maple syrup.

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Backyard Picnic Favorites

Rather than focusing on main dishes associated with backyard cook-outs and picnics, I thought I would highlight one of my absolute favorite side dishes … and a dessert, of course. This potato salad is delicious but what really makes it shine is the Rosemary Vinaigrette dressing. This dressing should seriously be bottled, it’s that good. This particular potato salad is a hit at picnics and potlucks alike and makes for great leftovers. It’s even tastier when you use green beans from your own garden 🙂

Green Bean and New Potato Salad (I think it’s from Southern Living, but I could be wrong …)

  • 2 lb. new red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 qt. water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 lb. thin fresh green beans, trimmed
  • Rosemary Vinaigrette

Bring new potatoes, 1 tsp. salt, and water to cover in a large saucepan; cook 18-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool. Bring 2 qt. water and 2 Tbsp. salt to a boil in a large saucepan; add beans. Cook 6 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Combine green beans and potatoes in a large bowl. Pour Rosemary Vinaigrette over green bean mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Rosemary Vinaigrette (can be stored in an airtight container in fridge for up to 2 days)

  • 1/2 c. while balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 medium-size red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Process balsamic vinegar and next 7 ingredients in a blender or food processor 15-20 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides. With blender of processor running, gradually add olive oil in a slow, steady stream; process until smooth.

For dessert, you really can’t go wrong with cupcakes! For delicious Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes, you’ll need access to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Make the Lemony Vanilla Cupcakes variation on page 36 and the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting on page 142. Before frosting cupcakes, chop up about 1 cup worth of fresh strawberries. Coat the berries in cornstarch and then gently fold them into the frosting. Also add about 1 Tbsp. lemon zest to the frosting. And there you have it – a new take on a classic vegan cupcake!

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