My Inconvenient Truth: ELT (Eggplant, Tomato & Lettuce)

Egglant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich

I think about the cost of convenience every day. Whether it’s preparing a healthy plant-based meal at home or eating at a vegan restaurant, the cost of convenience is apparent. I could use frozen vegetables to make meal preparation easier and less expensive, but I prefer to use fresh vegetables because they have a better taste and texture. While going out to eat is convenient, there is a price to pay in the form of limited choices and the presence of added oil and salt. I was reminded of this “inconvenient truth” last weekend as Bruce and I had lunch at a  “destination” vegan restaurant. (I use the term “destination” when we plan an entire outing around a restaurant.) Since we traveled about an hour to get there I wanted to make the most of our trip and decided to sample a few things on the menu. We ordered jackfruit stuffed mushrooms and oyster mushrooms in scampi sauce for appetizers. I had a French dip portobello mushroom sandwich and Bruce had an ELT (eggplant, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Each stuffed mushroom had a healthy dollop of vegan tartar sauce which I could tell contained oil. The scampi sauce was made with oil and/or vegan butter. The French dip had melted vegan mozzarella (oil), the ELT had fried eggplant and vegan mayo (more oil) and both sandwiches were served with a side of fries. The truth is we don’t eat oil anymore, and when we do it doesn’t sit right with us. I guess that’s the price we pay for the convenience of eating out. Anyway, the ELT was quite tasty and I was impelled to come up with an oil-free version at home. I made the eggplant by dipping the slices in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas), coating them with bread crumbs, then baking in the oven. Instead of vegan mayonnaise I mashed up an avocado with some lemon juice and a pinch of black salt. Wanting to keep it as close to a traditional BLT, I built the sandwich by spreading a layer of avocado “mayo” on toasted white bread then loading it up with the breaded eggplant, juicy tomato slices and crisp lettuce. The crispy coating on the eggplant gives the sandwich a crunchy mouth-feel that’s similar to bacon and the avocado lends a mayo-like creaminess — without the use of oil. (A few days later I re-crisped the left over eggplant in an air fryer which gave them more of a bacon mouth feel.) Well worth the effort. The truth is that, at times, it may be inconvenient to follow a plant-based diet, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for tasty food that’s wholesome and healthy. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

ELT (Eggplant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches)


1 small eggplant (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/4 inch slices
½ cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste
½ cup or more of aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, paprika, brown sugar, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip eggplant slices in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

To make eggplant in an air fryer:

Place about 8 slices of eggplant in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the slices and continue cooking until browned.
For the Avocado “Mayo”:

1 ripe avocado
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of black salt (or regular table salt)

For the Sandwiches:

Your favorite sandwich bread
Sliced tomatoes

Toast two slices of bread. Spread some avocado “mayo” on one slice, then arrange four slices of eggplant, two or three slices of tomatoes and some lettuce.

23 May 2017

Impulse Buying: Air-Fried Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Sticks

I know I have a problem when it comes to kitchen equipment, so I really try to avoid “impulse purchases”. I consider how much I will use it, how much space it will take up and if it will just end up on the Island of Misfit Toys (i.e. my basement). Once I decide to add another appliance to my arsenal, I usually read as many reviews and compare costs to make sure I’m getting the best one to suit my needs. I happened to be shopping for waste baskets at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought I’d just “check out” what they had in the way of air fryers. Right on the top shelf was one made by Phillips.What really made it stand out was the face of Gordon Ramsey plastered on the box. He usually wears a scowl, so I figured this must be a good piece of equipment if he’s smiling about it. The air fryer already had a hefty markdown, and combined with my 20% coupon and Chef Ramsey’s endorsement I decided to bring this baby home. I’m happy I did. So far, I’ve made French fries, sweet potato fries, glazed tofu and these Breaded Zucchini Sticks — all without one drop of oil. The air fryer is so easy to use and clean. Just load up whatever you’re “frying” into the basket then set the temperature and timer. The only other thing you need to do is shake up the basket half way through. That’s it! For this recipe, I simply dipped the zucchini sticks in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chick peas) then coated them with seasoned bread crumbs. I “fryed” them at 350F for 25 minutes. To my surprise the coating did not fall off the surface and “fryed” up nice and crisp. If you don’t have or want to buy an air fryer, you can bake the zucchini in the oven. I served the zucchini sticks with some left-over red pepper sauce I had in the fridge, but I would probably just use some marinara sauce the next time I make these. The only impulse I have now is to create more recipes to make in my air fryer. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Breaded Zucchini Sticks

1 zucchini squash (about 1 lb.), cut into ½” thick sticks
½ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon oregano or other herb
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon tomato powder (optional)
Aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder and tomato powder in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip zucchini sticks in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place zucchini sticks in a single layer on baking sheet.

To cook in an air fryer:

Place zucchini sticks in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the zucchini sticks and continue cooking.

To bake in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

08 May 2017

Oh, What Fun: Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel, or Yule Log Cake, is a traditional dessert served at holiday time. The traditional recipe consists of a thin sponge cake that’s filled with raspberry jam, rolled up and decorated with chocolate icing to resemble a log. Through the years, other variations have been created that include chocolate cake, ganache and icings flavored with liqueurs. Since the Buche de Noel has turned into an “anything goes” recipe, I thought I might try my hand at a healthy, plant-based version. I used whipped aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas) to achieve a sponge-like consistency in the cake. The filling is made with silken tofu, non-dairy dark chocolate and dates. I wanted to use toasted hazelnuts and Frangelico liqueur for the cake, but I ended up using almonds and almond extract because that’s what I had on hand. If you prefer desserts that are not too sweet, you can omit the dates from the frosting. I dusted the top with some confectioner’s sugar. If you want to stick with tradition and decorate the outside to look like a yule log, you will have to double the frosting recipe. What I love about this recipe is that you can make different versions by using fruit filling, grated orange rind, different liqueurs or nuts or adding crushed candy to the frosting. Oh what fun you’ll have making and eating this beautiful Buche de Noel. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Buche de Noel

6 tablespoons aquafaba
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin

½ cup (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry)
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Line an 11×15” rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) with parchment and lightly grease the sides of the pan.

Place aquafaba and cream of tartar in mixing bowl. Using hand-held mixer, beat until soft peaks form. Add xanthan gum and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Whisk together the sugar and pumpkin in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry and mix well. Gently fold in the whipped aquafaba.

Spread evenly into prepared baking pan and sprinkle nuts on surface. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted into center of cake. Remove and let cool a few minutes. (The cake needs to be warm in order to get it to roll up.) Place a clean baking towel on an un-rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Carefully invert cake on top of towel, then roll up. Let cool completely before filling.

Chocolate-Date Frosting

½ cup dates
12 oz. extra firm silken tofu
4 oz. non-dairy dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour boiling water over dates and let soak about one hour to soften. Place dates and remaining ingredients in container of a high-powered blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled.

Buche de Noel

17 Dec 2016

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

When I started Vegi-curious almost three years ago, my intention was to share my journey and help others transition to a plant-based diet. I still refer to it as a “transition” because it’s always changing. What started out more as a vegan diet, progressed into a low-fat vegan diet and is moving towards low-salt, whole food, plant based diet. One of the biggest challenges has been to find restaurants that offer any vegan or vegetarian options, and it’s even more difficult to find one that has anything on the menu without salt or oil. This makes it almost impossible to go to dinner with our omnivore family and friends. Sure, we can just order salad and a baked potato, but I can’t help feeling that our comrades feel sorry for us. The last thing I want to do is make others feel uncomfortable so I’m always on the lookout for a restaurant where there’s truly something for everyone. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we went to Woody’s Crab House in Northeast, Maryland. It used to be one of our favorite seafood restaurants. They serve mostly seafood items with a little bit of chicken, steak and ribs on the menu.  While we don’t order their crab cakes any more we can get a steamed vegetable sack that is healthy, satisfying and something to talk about. The “sack” is cotton netting that’s stuffed with broccoli, red potatoes, onions, carrots, celery and spinach, then steamed. It weighs about 3 pounds. And if that’s not enough, it’s served with corn on the cob on the side. I guess they couldn’t fit that into the sack. We upgraded from coleslaw to a green salad. They offer butter on the side, but I just seasoned my sack with Old Bay. (Why can’t more restaurants do this?) By now you’re wondering what this story has to do with Hush Puppies. Well, I’ll get to that now. Mom had the crab cakes and ordered Hush Puppies as one of the sides. Hush Puppies are fried batter that’s made with cornmeal, flour, onions and eggs. I equate them to a savory doughnut. As I sampled one of these tasty little puppies I wondered if I could make a baked, plant-based version. I searched the web and most of the recipes had the same ingredients that are in corn muffins, just different amounts. The baked versions were made in muffin tins, but I opted to drop mine right onto a cookie sheet. I coated them with crushed corn flakes to replicate the crunchy exterior of fried Hush Puppies. I omitted the salt so everyone in the family could enjoy them. And while they came out pretty tasty and crispy, if you’re not sodium-sensitive I’d keep the salt in the mix. You could drop a few Hush Puppies into a bowl of chili, serve them as a side to succotash (recipe coming soon) or just snack on them with your favorite fruit preserve. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Baked Hush Puppies

Makes about 28 hush puppies

1 cup non-dairy milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
6 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

½ cup minced onion

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon freeze-dried corn powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups of corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 425F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together liquid ingredients. Whisk or sift together dry ingredients (except corn flakes), then stir in onions. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir just to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop and drop batter into crushed corn flakes. Gently roll to coat and place on parchment paper. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.

30 May 2016

Svelte Santa: Glorious Morning Muffins

Glorious Morning MuffinsIt’s been a long, long time since I put out a midnight snack for Santa. It used to be the standard cookies and milk. With every believer putting out a treat to entice Santa down their chimney no wonder he was looking somewhat portly. Okay, so I don’t like a skinny Santa either, but if he lost just a few extra pounds he’d be able to shimmy down that chimney a little faster. (Faster trips down the chimney = more presents under the tree.) So I thought this year I’d put out a couple of healthy muffins and a glass of almond milk instead.” Bah Humbug” you might say; but one bite of these little gems you’ll be singing a different Christmas carol. These Glorious Morning Muffins are chock full of orange, dates, carrots and oatmeal. You could add in some chopped nuts or raisins for a little added goodness. If you’re expecting out-of-town guests for the holidays this year, why not bake up a few batches of muffins to have on hand for breakfast, brunch or just snacking? In addition to this recipe, I’m making Cracked Corn Muffins and Blueberry Muffins before my guests (and Santa) arrive. The Brits use the term “in good nick” that means to be in good health.  This Christmas Eve set out something healthy to keep St. Nick in good nick. Happy Holidays and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Glorious Morning Muffins

Makes 12 to 14 muffins

  • 1 navel orange (skin and flesh), cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp. finely ground flax seeds (mixed with 3 tablespoons aquafaba or water)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. apple butter
  • 3/4 cup plain non-dairy milk (soy, almond, cashew)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoons non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned whole oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • ¼ cup raisins, optional
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts,optional

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners for small muffins.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the orange segments, dates and almond butter until almost smooth. Add the flax, almond butter, maple syrup, apple butter and milk and process until well blended.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the oats and stir to combine.

Pour the contents of food processor over the dry mixture in the bowl and mix well.  Fold in carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin tins 2/3 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Cool about 10 minutes before removing to a rack.

15 Dec 2015

“We Are Our Choices”: Blueberry-Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

 Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins“We are our choices.”  This quote is attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre, a French existentialist and a leading figure in 20th century French philosophy. He declined the award of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age.”  While coming up with a title for today’s post, I was thinking along the lines of “Have It Your Way.” When one of America’s largest fast-food chains came up with this slogan over 40 years ago it was meant to make you feel as if you had choices. Even I bit into it that notion.  (They recently changed it to “Be Your Way”.  Sounds like poor English to me.  My friends at the English Language Institute are probably shaking their heads right about now.) Anyway, my aim is for you to realize that you have the power to adapt any of my recipes to suit your needs. I just couldn’t bring myself to use that worn-out saying since it represents an industry that does more harm than good. Since this post is about choices, I googled quotes about choices and was introduced to Jean-Paul Sartre. “We are our choices” is fitting on so many levels. It could be interpreted along the lines of “you are what you eat” to mean that whatever food we put into our bodies determines our health and well-being. So true. A deeper meaning lies in Sartre’s ideas that were filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth. This is a big part of what the plant-based and vegan movement is all about; freeing ourselves physically and ethically and searching for the truth about how food choices impact our community and our world.

My recipe for Blueberry-Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins is a good example of how you can adapt a recipe to make it fit into your lifestyle. You can choose to make the original recipe for basic blueberry muffins. If you plan on making a meal with chickpeas or white beans, you can save the cooking liquid and substitute the aquafaba for some of the milk. You can experiment with different types and proportions of flour. Sometimes I use all spelt flour; other times I use half spelt and half whole wheat pastry flour. Today I used 1 cup of spelt and 1 cup of all-purpose whole wheat flour. All good. You can make straight-up blueberry muffins or add the lemon juice and poppy seeds for something extra. If you want to reduce the amount of fat (or eliminate an extra task), you can use cupcake liners in lieu of greasing the muffin tins  Whatever options you choose, these muffins are great for breakfast, coffee break, afternoon tea or any other time of day. The choice is yours. I thank you for choosing Vegi-curious.

Blueberry Muffins
(with option for Lemon-Poppy Seed)

Wet Ingredients:
¼ cup almond butter
¼ cup granulated sugar (cane or coconut)
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons aquafaba – liquid from can of chickpeas (see notes)
3/4 cup unsweetened soy, cashew or almond milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour (see notes)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1-1/2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl cream together almond butter and sugar. Add the mashed banana, aquafaba, milk and maple syrup to the bowl.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix gently. Using a large ice cream scoop, fill muffins tins ¾ the way full. Bake at 350F for 23-27 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5-8 minutes and then transfer muffins to a cooling rack and cool for another 15 minutes.

1. If you don’t have the aquafaba, add 2 extra tablespoons of milk.
2. You can use any combination and proportions of flours. I’ve used spelt, all-purpose whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour, white flour.
3. If using frozen blueberries, be sure to leave them in the freezer (do not thaw) until just before you stir them into the batter. This helps prevent bleeding.
4. For Blueberry-Lemon-Poppy Seed muffins, add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons poppy seeds.

06 Nov 2015

Addicted: Crack Corn Muffins

crack corn muffin 001All roads lead somewhere and so it is with my recipes. A few months ago I ordered freeze-dried corn powder to use in a vegan mayonnaise recipe. I ran into this recipe on some obscure site (actually, I think it was PBS) during one of my internet searches. I started my quest for the corn powder and found that it was a key ingredient in a recipe aptly called “Crack Pie” for it’s addictive qualities. So I got my first bag of “crack”. Well the mayonnaise didn’t turn out to my liking, so I put the bag of “crack” in the pantry. But I never forgot about it.

Freeze Dried corn 001Now it’s a few months later and Mom and I are getting ready for a trip to Kansas. I wish we could just put on our red shoes and click our heels, but it doesn’t work that way outside of Oz. Suffice it to say, the past few days have been pretty busy. Anyway, I usually slip a couple of muffins or other healthy snacks into Bruce’s lunch, so I wanted to make something before my trip to keep him on the straight and narrow. I decided to make my old faithful corn muffins because they don’t require a lot of prep or clean-up. I had some aquafaba in the fridge (left over from a chickpea blondie recipe that will be appearing soon), so I added that to the recipe. Then I got to thinking about how to get more corn flavor without adding more corn meal to my corn muffins. It’s been my experience that as I start to replace the flour in the recipe with more corn meal the muffins become dry and crumbly. And then I remembered that little bag of “crack” in my pantry. I bet that bag of gold dust would give these muffins the little something extra I was after. I added one tablespoon of the corn powder to the recipe. It was just enough to boost the corn flavor and still retain the moisture of the muffins. They’re like corn muffins on crack and I’m definitely hooked. Get yourself a bag of freeze-dried corn powder and get hooked yourself. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Crack Corn Muffins

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup non-dairy milk, room temperature (replace 3 tablespoons of milk with aquafaba)
¼ cup Earth Balance, melted

Dry Ingredients:

½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup corn meal
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon freeze-dried corn powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Whisk together milk and Earth balance. Whisk or sift together dry ingredients, then blend in liquid ingredients.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way and bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack, let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy while still warm.

Makes about 12 muffins.

03 Nov 2015

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