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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Shortcuts

You don't have to bake from scratch to be a star at the holiday cookie exchange.

These silver & blue hued beauties consist of Betty Crocker Shortbread Cookie Mix, Earth Balance "Butter" sticks for the dough, blueberry jam imported from Italy via the 99 Cents Only Store for the filling, powdered sugar with almond milk and limoncello for the icing, and silver and blue sprinkles for the big finish.

And you don't have to cook from scratch to create a savory standout for the potluck party.  There were a 1/2 dozen recipe requests for my Pesto Antipasto Appetizer (sorry, no picture) that is a simple assemblage of delicious prepared products from Melissa's:

Melissa's Steamed Artichoke Hearts (chopped)
Melissa's Steamed Fava Beans (rinsed)
Melissa's Roasted Red Bell Peppers (chopped)
Melissa's Pine Nuts (lightly toasted)
Melissa's Basil Pesto (or make your own)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Arianna Trading Co.)
Preserved Lemon or lemon juice
Fresh or Dried Basil and Oregano
Salt and Pepper

Use about equal amounts of each of the first 5 items, to end up with the quantity you need based on the number of people you're serving.  Add the olive oil, lemon, and pesto to coat, then season to taste with the herbs, salt and pepper.  Put the mixture in a serving bowl and surround with roasted garlic bagel chips, crackers, chips, and/or any crostini base you like.

So channel a little Sandra Lee, use great products from Melissa's, mix in a dash of your own creativity and flavor preferences, and do something dazzling in your kitchen!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pimento Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches + Mosaic Garden Art

Pimento-Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches (Dairy-Free Version)
(photo by Judy Lyness)

Our recent Los Angeles Food Bloggers' potluck theme was "picnic", and I turned to a recipe that I wrote for Melissa's The Great Pepper Book for inspiration.  Actually more like imitation, because I pretty much recreated it ingredient for ingredient, with one slight variation.  I took the dairy ingredients and replaced them with non-dairy, plant-based  equivalents, and not that I make a habit of fooling people, but the bloggers were smacking their lips, totally surprised, when I came clean.

So whether you need to go dairy-free for health reasons, or want to try dairy-free out of culinary curiosity, you'll find that with a little creativity, ingenuity, experimentation, and all those other reasons why you like to cook in the first place, there isn't anything you can't recreate.  I'm not saying that the new version will taste exactly like the old version, but I will say that it will taste good, very good.
Buy This Book!

Here's the original recipe from Melissa's The Great Pepper Book, with substitutions in parentheses.  These little one-handed sandwiches would be perfect on paper plates at any picnic, or on a silver platter at your next potluck.

Pimento-Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches
1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough (dairy-free biscuit dough)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened - about 1 cup (Tofutti cream-cheese)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese - about 2 ounces (Follow Your Heart Vegan Shredded Cheddar)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Follow Your Heart Vegenaise)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 fresh cherry bell chile peppers, stems and seeds removed, finely diced - about 1/3 cup (or sub red Fresno chiles)
1 large shallot, finely diced - about 2 tablespoons
3/4 cup watercress or arugula (I used arugula)
Fresh cherry bell chile peppers, thinly sliced (optional)
Smoked paprika to taste (new ingredient)

1.  Bake biscuits according to package directions; cool to room temperature.
2.  Place cheeses and next 5 ingredients, through shallots, in a food processor or blender; pulse to combine.
3.  Add smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, pulse to combine, and add more if desired.
4.  Cut biscuits in half.  Top biscuit bottoms evenly with cheese mixture and watercress or arugula, and sliced chiles, if desired.  Top with biscuit tops.  Serve on a silver platter or paper plate - whatever.

                                                        GARDEN ART   

On an arts & crafts note, I've been making garden mosaics using cement pavers
with broken china and tiles.  Here's the latest one, plus a few others from my succulent growing front yard.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Little Free Library, Melissa's and More

Melissa's Sugar Cane Swizzle Stix Giveway at Camp Blogaway

I'm baaaaaaaack!  Yes, another lost-my-will-to-blog episode has come to an end.  Thanks Camp Blogaway and all my fellow bloggers for inspiring me to write on.

Lemongrass-Ginger Cooler and Vegetarian Bahn Mi
While I still plan to write about food on this blog, I'm happy to announce that I am going to be a featured blogger on Melissa's website.  As you know I've been a member of the culinary team at Melissa's for several years and now I'm going to be able to reach so many more people with my plant-based eating message.  Please check out this month's feature at Plant-Based 411, including 2 great recipes from Melissa's "The Great Pepper Cookbook".  If you already have the book - thanks so much!  If you don't, please buy one asap.

Sweet as HONEY!

Another exciting announcement is much more personal.  I have a new BFF, her name is Honey, and she's sweet as honey.  It's been 4 years since I lost my Poochie, and I'm so glad I waited for Honey to come into my life.  I hope you all have sweet friends too.

Little Free Library Grand Opening
Last Saturday I was honored to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Little Free Library in my front yard.  Neighbors brought books and enjoyed cookies, extra crunchy peanut butter and guava marmalade sandwiches, and limeade.  For those of you who haven't heard about LFL's, they are smallish structures, often built from recycled materials, that house books for you and your neighbors to share on a take-a-book, leave-a-book honor system.

I built mine with a lot of help from Transition Mar Vista, plus a repurposed picture frame/glass door, old paint, broken china mosaic tiles, and a little hardware help from a couple of nice handymen.
LFL in process (those are cutting boards for shelves)

Camp Blogaway was about supporting your fellow bloggers .  Plant-Based 411 is about sharing recipes and tips on how to eat in a more healthy, endlessly creative, produce centric way.  A Little Free Library is about
reading, sharing, and feeling more "howdy neighbor" than a lot of us do.  And a new BFF, like my Honey, is all about compassion, companionship, cuddling, and making sweet memories to always remember.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Makin Fakin Bakin for Meatless Monday

It's Meatless Monday so I thought I'd offer up a recipe to magnificently mimic one of meat eater's most favorite meats - bacon.  Sometimes I invent recipes.  Other times I "borrow" and tweak.  This time I just pretty much took the recipe for Coconut Bacon from The Simple Veganista and made it as-is.  The only thing I really changed was cutting the recipe in half because I used Melissa's Coconut Chips which come in a 3 ounce package instead of the 7 ounces called for in the recipe.
Bakin' Before Bakin'

Be sure to take note of The Simple V's recipe suggestions at the bottom of her post - they all look amazing.  As you can see, my "bakin" came out like Julie's, and as soon as the avocados I just bought are ripe I'll be making a Cobb-ish salad, some split pea soup, and maybe some maple bakin cupcakes.  I hope you'll stay tuned  .....

Bakin' After Bakin'

Friday, February 14, 2014


Chocolate Crispy Hearts (vegan)

Whether it's love for one another, love for you-fill-in-the-blank with your favorite thing, love for animals and the less fortunate, and/or love for yourself, feeling it, sharing it, receiving it, and being grateful for it is what V-Day means to me.  You?

I'm also grateful for the growing (pun) interest in eating a plant-based diet.  Whether it's for the animals, for your health, for the environment, or for whatever reason, this movement is going in the righteous direction.

In order to feel part of today's love fest I had this idea to make something chocolaty that was also vegan and that was also something I haven't eaten in forever because conventional marshmallows are made using gelatin, and gelatin is derived from animal by-products.  So I'm sending out some love to Chicago Vegan Foods for creating Dandie's vegan and air-puffed marshmallows!

For your Valentine's Day plant-based eating pleasure I present my Vegan Chocolate Crispy Hearts.  Love, sweet love - it's the only thing that there's just too little of.

Chocolate Crispy Hearts (vegan)
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance buttery sticks
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Dandie's marshmallows
5 cups Three Sisters Cocoa-Snapz (or another chocolate crispy cereal)
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1 box Baker's semi-sweet baking chocolate squares, melted

Combine the cereal and pecans in a large bowl and set aside.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking oil.

In a large stock pot, melt the butter on low heat, add the marshmallows, and stir, stir, stir for about 4-5 minutes until the marshmallows are completely melted.  Add in the water and oil and stir, stir, stir until the mixture is creamy smooth.  Turn off the heat, pour the cereal/pecan mixture into the marshmallow cream a cup or so at a time and stir to incorporate.  Be sure to get everything well mixed or it won't hold together.

Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, spread out to about 1/2-3/4" thick, using a wooden spoon to press down.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make individual crispy hearts and set aside.  (Sorry, but you'll just have to scarf down the trimmings like I did.)

Melt the chocolate squares in the microwave according to package directions.   Spread melted chocolate over the top of each heart, and set aside to dry/harden.  When one side is completely dry, turn the hearts over, remelt the chocolate, and spread chocolate on side 2 and set aside until hardened.  If you need to store the hearts, carefully place between parchment paper in a sealed container.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chinese New Year Part 2

CNY Slaw

Our Food Bloggers Los Angeles group gathered last weekend to celebrate all things chocolate and champagne.  Since I'd heard through the bloggervine that there would be plenty of both, I decided to give another shout out to Chinese New Year 2014.

At the TechMunch blogger conference last week I met some people from the Beyond Meat Company, and since I'm way beyond meat I decided to incorporate one of their great items in a CNY Slaw.  

CNY Slaw Assemblage

Basically it's shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, julienne cut red bell peppers, snow peas, celery, and green onion, raw almonds, chow mein noodles, and stir-fried Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken-Free Strips.  A dressing made up of equal amounts of sesame oil and  seasoned rice vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons each of teriyaki sauce and sweet chile sauce bring all the classic flavors together.  And instead of a recipe you can call it an assemblage.

Fantastic FBLA Spread with my little CNY slaw in the bottom left corner
Photo stolen from Shockingly Delicious' Dorothy Reinhold

Hopefully I haven't missed the boat on getting this post added to the "blog-hop" for the FBLA group event. (Here's where I could probably use some of that Chinese New Year good fortune.)

Click HERE for all the chocolate recipes and champagne recommendations from my great FBLA friends!  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This Bao's for You

Jackfruit Bao

The Chinese Lunar New Year begins Friday, January 31, honoring the Year of the Horse.  The 15-day holiday period includes parades, special meals, gifts to ensure future riches, and symbolic decor  based on both ancient Chinese culture and modern, regional traditions.  To honor my Jewish-Chinese-food-loving
ancestors and my vegan aspirations, I've produced these Jackfruit Bao to kick-off my plant-based CNY party.

Traditional, steamed, pillowy buns filled with bbq p--k are must-haves at dim sum lunches from San Gabriel to Singapore.  At 28+ years as a vegetarian (and going strong), I've discovered a fantastic vegan, even more delicious version.  This recipe is easier to make than I expected, extremely easy, and tast too,  not only suiting my personal eating style perfectly but for anyone else who wants to eat in a healthier way.

Canned Green Jackfruit in water (available at Asian and Indian markets) is the unbelievable replacement for the filling, not to mention that the jackfruit on its own is fat free and a whopping 120 calories for the entire can.   When cooked it produces a shredded meat-like texture and it's neutral flavor absorbs the sauces and seasonings in a beautiful, tasty way. The buns can be purchased already made at an Asian market, but they were really easy to make at home.

Whether you create a banquet, order take-out, see a parade, or exchange gifts for prosperity, I hope you'll find your own way to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Wishing you, your family, and friends a year filled with good fortune and great plant-based food!

I used this bao/steamed bun recipe:  Easy, great video, just cut the sugar in 1/2)

Jackfruit Filling
I used this filling recipe:, cutting it in half down the line, replacing brown sugar for the white sugar, and adapting the other ingredients based on what I had on hand.

Both recipes combine to make 16 Jackfruit Bao.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Game Day Nachos

Delicious dairy-free, meat-free, wheat-free nachos

The Super Bowl is coming up soon and while some of you really care about who's in it and who wins it, I'm on team Super Bowl Snacks, which win every time.  I'm a big fan of tortilla chips, and an even bigger fan of dousing said chips with tasty Mexican condiments.  Condiment doused tortilla chips a la nachos feature ooey gooey cheesy sauce, and since I'm trying to veganize recipes where I can, I've replaced the cheese with this healthier, tastier "Low-Fat Chipotle Nacho Sauce" from Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese.

My go-to chips are the white corn, all natural ones that you can find at the supermarket for $1-$2/bag.   Place a handful or two of these on a  dinner plate or platter.
Spoon some beans* over the chips.
Spoon some fresh cooked corn (off the cob + grapeseed oil, s&p) over the beans.
Sprinkle some diced, roasted fresh chiles (charred on the stovetop) over the beans, along with some salt and pepper.

Pour the hot, creamy nacho sauce over the beans and chips, like they do at your favorite restaurant.
Spoon fresh salsa (Roma tomatoes, scallions, garlic, lime juice, hot sauce, s&p) and diced avocado over the top of the sauce.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, unless you hate cilantro.
Grab your favorite big game beverage, lots of napkins, and start scooping. Score!!

*I used a mixture of black beans and blackeyed peas, cooked in water and fresh garlic.


Low-Fat Chipotle Nacho Cheese Sauce by Miyoko Schinner
Low-Fat Chipotle Nacho Cheese Sauce
(created by Miyoko Schinner)

1 cup cooked/mashed butternut squash (I used delicata)
3/4 cup plain, unsweetened (this is key) coconut or soy yogurt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown or white onion, quartered
5 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup raw cashews
3 Tbsp. tapioca flour
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, divided in 1/2
1 tsp. salt or 1 Tbsp. miso paste

Combine the squash, yogurt, water, onion, nutritional yeast flakes, cashews, tapioca flour, 1/2 the chipotle pepper, and salt in a blender, and process until smooth and creamy.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick and gooey.  Taste and add the remaining chipotle for more heat, and also additional salt if necessary.

Whisk until you get that great, thick but slightly runny, ooey, gooey nacho sauce consistency and then pour over the already assembled nacho ingredients.

(Note:  Leftover sauce made a delicious, quick mac 'n cheeze.)

Be sure to check out for lots of delicious, healthy, game day ideas!