Tag Archives: holiday

All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Every trip to the grocery store is an adventure for me. Even when I have a list in hand, I enjoy perusing the produce aisle looking for something unusual that I’ve never eaten or a seasonal favorite that I’ve waited an entire year to get my hands on once again. Sometimes, when I spot a standard item that looks super fresh I just go overboard and buy more than I need. This was the case when I picked up a three pound box of extra large snow white mushrooms at a mushroom outlet in Pennsylvania. They were beautiful and perfect . . . and I was happy! Since a lot of my thinking is done in the car, I pondered how I was going to prepare those beauties the entire ride home. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I thought about a family favorite — stuffed mushrooms. And then I thought about the turkey stuffing we used to make with mushrooms, celery, onions and sage. Why stop there? Why not place dollops of mashed white and sweet potatoes on top? And while I’m at it, I might as well make it festive with creamy mushroom gravy. This is a complicated recipe, but one that is achievable with some planning. First, I placed the sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them until soft. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I boiled the white potatoes on the stove top. I made the stock using onions and the mushroom stems. Next, I made the bread stuffing using one cup of the stock. You can make the gravy at this point or wait until after the stacks are assembled. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t despair. Any or all of these elements can be done ahead of time depending on your time constraints and patience. You can use your own recipe for mashed potatoes. You can even use instant mashed potatoes; just use less liquid to achieve a stiffer consistency. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you prefer. You can simply place dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the stacks instead of using a pastry bag and decorators tip. You can even assemble the mushroom stacks ahead of time and bake the next day. These Stuffed Mushroom Stacks require some thought and planning but they are worth the effort. It’s like an all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner in every bite! You can serve them as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. You can plate them with green beans or shaved Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce to serve as an elegant entree. Any leftovers can be served on a slider bun and rewarmed gravy the next day. On Thanksgiving and on every other day, I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

3 lbs. large white mushrooms, stems removed and set aside

Mushroom Stock & Gravy

½ onion, thinly sliced
Reserved mushroom stems
2 Tablespoons red wine
4 cups of vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon No Chicken)
2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or corn starch
Black pepper

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until starting to soften and turn brown. Add red wine and cook until evaporated. Add vegetable broth (I use 1 teaspoon bouillon base to 4 cups of water for lower sodium). Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve one cup of the liquid to use in the stuffing. Remove from heat and let cool. When ready to thicken, add arrowroot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool. You can puree the gravy in a blender and return to the saucepan until ready to serve. You can alternately use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the gravy right in the saucepan.


1 large onion (thinly slice ½ for gravy and mince ½ for stuffing)
2 celery stalks, minced
8 slices of sliced bread, toasted
1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock
Dried sage, oregano, marjoram to taste
Black pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to skillet then add the onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and golden.
Cut or tear the toasted bread into small pieces, almost as if it’s shredded. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mushroom stock and seasonings. Toss until combined.

Mashed Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons (or more) soy yogurt or non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain well. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in enough yogurt or milk to make the potatoes stiff enough to pipe onto the mushrooms. I don’t recommend using an immersion blender to remove lumps as this can make the potatoes gluey. Set aside.

Sweet Potatoes

1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
¼ to ½ cup oat flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Remove the skin from the baked sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. If you want a stiffer consistency, add the oat flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if you like sweeter add the brown sugar. You can use an immersion blender to remove lumps. Set aside.


Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Press the stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps, then pipe on either the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree. Lightly coat the tops with non-stick spray. Place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Bake until mushrooms are tender and browned and potatoes are browned, about 45 minutes. You can turn on the broiler during the last few minutes to brown the tops. You can assemble the mushrooms ahead of time, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


12 Nov 2017

Oh, My Darlings: Pistachio-Date Nests

Pistachio-Date Nest

I wanted to come up with a dessert recipe to go along with a Mediterranean-inspired Valentine’s Day dinner and the first thing that came to mind was Baklava. Baklava is made by layering phyllo leaves, brushing the layers with butter, sprinkling them with walnuts (Greek style) or pistachios (Turkish style) and pouring honey over everything when it comes out of the oven. I didn’t think a vegan version would do this iconic dessert much justice, so I incorporated some beneficial ingredients (pistachios and dates), left out the “taboo” ones (butter and honey), added some chocolate (hey, it’s Valentine’s Day) and named them “Pistachio-Date Nests.” I used Athen’s Mini Fillo Shells because they’re ready to fill and are very cute. The filling is made by processing dates, pistachios and lemon or orange zest into a paste. A thin layer of dark chocolate adorns the top. They’re crispy, chewy, chocolately . . .  and cute. Be a darling and share some Pistachio-Date Nests with someone you love. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pistachio Date Nests

15 mini phyllo cups (Athens fully baked, fill & serve)
½ cup raw, shelled pistachios
½ cup dates, chopped
Zest of one lemon or ½ orange
2 oz. melted dark chocolate (non-dairy)
15 pistachios for decorating

Place pistachios and dates in mini chopper and process until a chunky paste is formed. Fold in lemon zest. Lightly press the filling into the phyllo cups. Spread the melted chocolate on surface of filling and place one pistachio on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

11 Feb 2017

Celebrations of Life: Savory Butternut Squash Cheese Tart

Butternut Squash Cheese Tart

New Year’s Eve is not what it used to be. Those days of lavish dinners, endless cocktail parties, drinking and dancing to the wee hours of the morning are just fond and fun memories now. We’re at a point in our lives where we like quiet celebrations at home. The older I get, the more I realize that it’s more important to have little celebrations of life throughout the year and not wait for December 31st for one, big blow-out. I came up with this recipe a few weeks ago with New Year’s Eve in mind because, after all, some of you may be looking for something unique to make for your guests or to bring to a party. I had just experimented with butternut squash stuffed shells which were kind of a flop. I liked the filling, but coming up with a complementary sauce was a problem. That’s when I came up with the idea of a savory cheese tart. The filling is made with roasted butternut squash, non-dairy ricotta and raw cashews. You can make the butternut squash for dinner the night before and save two cups to make the tart the following day. The raw cashews create a cream cheese-like creaminess and the non-dairy ricotta lends a light texture to the tart. (I used the almond milk ricotta from the Nuts About Almond cookbook, but you could also use this recipe.)  I added summer savory, but you can use whatever dried herb you have on hand. I made the crust by grinding Breton’s multi-grain crackers in a food processor. Baking the tarts in a bain Marie creates a steamy environment to prevent them from cracking. The tart makes a nice appetizer to serve before a main course or as an addition to a cocktail party. We’ll be kicking back with an assortment of nut cheeses and this savory tart on New Year’s Eve and on many other eves throughout the years to come. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Savory Butternut Squash Cheese Tart
Makes two 6” tarts

1 cup cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons coconut oil or almond butter

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic gloves, chopped

8 oz. non-dairy ricotta
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 4 hours
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Savory or other herb, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and place the squash, onions and garlic on top. (You can toss the vegetables with a little olive oil if you like.) Set the sheet pan into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is lightly caramelized and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Reduce oven to 350F. Wrap the bottoms of two 6” spring form pans with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place cracker crumbs and coconut oil in bowl of food processor and process until crumbs are finely ground and the oil is evenly distributed. Press into the bottom of the two spring form pans. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.

Prepare a bain marie by pouring hot water into a baking pan large enough to hold the two spring form pans.

Measure 2 cups of roasted squash and place with the remaining ingredients into container of a high speed blender or food processor. Process on high until super smooth. Divide the mixture between the two spring form pans. Place the pans in the bain marie. Bake at 350F until firm, about 45 minutes. Let cool in oven with the oven door cracked a few inches, then remove and place in refrigerator to cool overnight.

26 Dec 2016

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

Navigating Noel: Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

The holiday season can present it’s own set of challenges when either hosting or being invited to a holiday dinner or party. What to serve, what to bring. Who likes what, who’s allergic to this, that or the other thing. It’s enough to make you want to go away for the holidays. I’ve hosted some pretty big dinners in the past, so I understand the amount of preparation that goes into cooking for a crowd. Here’s how I navigate Noel festivities. Whether or not a host offers to make something special for me and Bruce, I happily volunteer to prepare a dish for everyone to enjoy. Bruce and I get to eat the food that makes us feel good and it’s a nice way to show others that a plant-based diet can be sumptuous and scrumptious. We were invited to my cousin’s home for Thanksgiving and I wanted to make a dish that met certain conditions.The dish should be in keeping with tradition, so it had to be made with autumnal ingredients. Since we were traveling to New Jersey, the dish had to be portable and able to fit in the car with three humans, one dog and a dog crate. Lastly, it had to make a hearty meal for me and Bruce, yet suitable as a side dish for others to enjoy. I decided to combine a few of my favorite recipes into one scaled-down feast — Sauteed Mushrooms, Shaved Brussel Sprouts, and Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Chickpeas served over farro and adorned with a Porcini-Cashew Cream. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not any more difficult than making three side dishes for a holiday dinner. You can always opt to roast the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts with the broccoli and cauliflower. Or you could saute the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts and simply steam the other vegetables. If you have leftover porcini-cashew cream, you can use it as a condiment for bean burgers or grilled vegetable sandwiches.What’s especially nice about this recipe is that everything can be prepared ahead of time and re-warmed either in the microwave or oven just before everyone’s ready to sit down for dinner. Less time fussing over food means more time making merry with family and friends. Have a joyful holiday season and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Porcini Cashew Cream (recipe follows)

1 cup farro
Vegetable broth
Fresh or dried herbs to taste (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc.)

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 lb. mushrooms, sliced

4 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Brussel sprouts, shaved

1 can chickpeas, drained
Smoked paprika

¼ cup toasted pignoli nuts

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

Cook the farro according to package directions, using vegetable broth instead of water and adding your choice of herbs.

Place cauliflower and broccoli in steamer basket and steam until they start to get tender. Remove and place on prepared baking sheet. Place on lowest rack and roast until the florets brown on the edges. Remove from oven and place in a large oven-proof serving bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 200F and place bowl in oven to keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add to broccoli and cauliflower and return bowl to oven.

Add shallots to skillet and saute until softened and browned, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add Brussel sprouts and continue to cook, tossing frequently. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables and return to oven.

If necessary, wipe out skillet to remove any burned vegetables. Heat skillet on medium-high and add chickpeas. Cook until chickpeas start to brown. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

To serve: spoon farro onto a plate, then add roasted vegetables on top. Drizzle porcini-cashew cream on top of farro and vegetables.

Porcini Cashew Cream

½ oz. dried Porcini mushrooms
½ cup cashews, soaked and drained
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove (preferably roasted)
Ground sage, black pepper and salt to taste

Pour ½ cup of boiling water over porcini mushrooms and let sit about 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving water, and place in container of high-powered blender. Add remaining ingredients and process on high, adding reserved porcini liquid as needed to thin out.

12 Dec 2016

A Votre Sante: Holiday Nog

Holiday Nog

Holiday Nog

I’ve been of legal drinking age for almost 40 years and I’ve yet to have eggnog. While the thought of consuming raw eggs never appealed to me (the taste, the viscosity, the salmonella), a creamy drink to celebrate the season does sound like a nice idea. A typical eggnog recipe contains eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar and bourbon or rum. Italians toast to one’s health with “salute” or “cin-cin”; the French say “a votre sante”. When I think about it, it seems a bit ironic to toast to good health with a drink that is anything but good for you. Anyway, the other day I made a pretty plain smoothie for Mom and sprinkled a little cinnamon on top. I poured whatever didn’t fit in her tumbler into an old-fashioned glass and had a taste. Hmmmm. I wondered if this is what the “eggnog experience” is all about. With that in mind, I added some holiday spirit, (in this case, rum) to my glass. Mmmmm. This certainly will make my season sparkle. I can’t call this drink “eggnog” because there are no eggs in it, so I’ll just call it “Holiday Nog”. The combination of almond milk, bananas, dates, almond butter, flax meal and rum whipped up nice and creamy with a subtle sweetness. A flurry of nutmeg added a delicate spiciness to my nog. This nog is so luscious you can serve it at a tree-trimming or holiday cocktail party, yet healthy enough to celebrate every day of the season. So, from the bottom of my heart (and with a clear conscience) I toast to your good health. Have a Vegi-curious day.

Holiday Nog

Makes about three servings

12 oz. soy or almond milk
1 large banana, cut into chunks (can be frozen)
6 dates
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon rum extract or 1 Tablespoon real rum
1 Tablespoon golden flax meal
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg plus more for serving

Place all ingredients into blender container and process until smooth. Pour into old-fashioned glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg.

08 Dec 2016

All the Trimmings: Black Friday Burger

Black Friday Burger

Black Friday Burger

The Thanksgiving dinner that I grew up with was always turkey and all of the trimmings, with the emphasis on the trimmings. With all of those yummy side dishes — stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce — it’s a wonder that I had room for even one slice of turkey. And we always looked forward to the left overs that would last until Sunday. My Mom would make a sandwich with all the trimmings by layering turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and hot  gravy on a hard roll. Since there seems to be an over abundance of recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to make something to gobble up in the days following. Maybe you’d like to take advantage of Black Friday sales. Perhaps family will be visiting for the long weekend. And what about all those football games? With all the comings and goings, you might want to have something easy for your guests to re-heat and assemble on their own. You know, “make yourself at home and help yourself” . . . to a Black Friday Burger.

So, I thought about all the foods I love about Thanksgiving and squeezed them all into one neat little burger. We always made our bread stuffing with celery, onions and mushrooms. Sometimes we’d add pork sausage to the stuffing, so I included fennel and sage to capture that flavor. The white beans are used for substance and the sweet potato keeps everything together. At the end of the meal we would break out the nutcrackers and a basket of nuts and chestnuts, so I added some ground walnuts. I might try some roasted chestnuts in the next batch. Be sure to save some Shaved Brussel Sprouts, cranberry sauce and gravy from Thanksgiving Day to use to dress up the burgers. If you don’t want to fuss with the gravy, you can just use the Dij-ayo spread at the end of the recipe. This burger has it all. The stuffing. The sweet potatoes. The mushrooms. The flavor. Take some Roasted Butternut Squash Soup out of the freezer or make a huge Powerhouse Salad to serve with the burgers. The only ones stuffed this year will be your friends and family. You can make the burgers ahead of time, cook them and place them in the freezer, leaving you free to cut down a Christmas tree, spend time with your guests or shop for those Black Friday deals. This Thanksgiving I give thanks for my health, my family and friends. And I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Black Friday Burgers

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked sweet potato
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon ground sage
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

whole wheat burger buns
left over shaved Brussel sprouts or fresh baby spinach
cranberry sauce
Dij-ayo spread (recipe follows)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and saute until golden. Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to saute until browned. Add fennel and sage and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and place into large mixing bowl.

Place beans into the bowl and mash the beans using a fork or potato masher. Add sweet potato and mash into beans.

Place the oats in a mini-chopper and pulse just enough to break them down but not processed into a flour. Add to mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and mix well with a fork. Adjust spices as desired.

Separate into five or six portions and form into patties. (I find that 1/3 cup is the perfect size for a standard burger bun.) Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F. Bake for 20 minutes, turning half-way through cooking. You can also cook in a non-stick skillet or on a non-stick electric griddle. You can enjoy them now or place them in the freezer for future use.

Serve on burger buns with shaved Brussel sprouts or fresh baby spinach and top with Dij-ayo and cranberry sauce.


½ cup raw cashews
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon tahini
Water as needed to thin out

Place all ingredients in high-speed blender and process until smooth.

17 Nov 2016

Simply Special: Grilled Vegetable Torte

Grilled Vegetable Torte

Grilled Vegetable Torte

Bruce and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary over the weekend. We tried, once again, (and unsuccessfully, again) to get a reservation at Vedge in Philadelphia. It’s the only restaurant with plant-based fare within an hour that is worthy of such a special occasion. So I wanted to make something special for our anniversary dinner. I recalled a layered vegetable and hummus cake on Facebook and used that concept for this Grilled Vegetable Torte. I wanted the torte to reflect my Italian heritage and went with grilled eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers and tomatoes. Instead of hummus, I made a “ricotta” using tofu, raw cashews and pesto. The “ricotta” acts like mortar to hold everything together. A whole wheat tortilla was placed on the bottom to make it easier to lift out the slices when it came time for serving. I baked the stem of the eggplant on top of the torte for a little drama. After 40 minutes in the oven, the torte came out perfectly cooked and picture perfect. It’s impressive enough for a special occasion yet easy enough to make for a weekend dinner. You could serve it as a first course for a holiday meal or enjoy it all week long sandwiched between some Italian bread. This simple vegetable torte can make any occasion a special one. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Vegetable Torte

16 oz. extra firm tofu
2 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 oz. spinach or Swiss chard, wilted and squeezed
A few tablespoons of pesto

2 red bell peppers
1 eggplant, ¼” sliced
1 zucchini, ¼” sliced
3 portobella mushroom caps, left whole

2 to 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

8” tortilla

Place tofu, cashews, lemon juice, spinach and pesto in food processor and process until combined. The mixture does not have to be smooth. Set aside. (You can make this the day before.)

Set outdoor grill to high. Place red peppers on grill and cook until charred on all sides, turning as one side is done. Place in brown paper bag to soften skins. When cool, remove skin, seeds and stem and slice into strips. Set aside.

Lower grill temperature to medium. Grill eggplants and zucchini until grill marks appear on both sides. Grill mushroom caps until tender with grill marks. Slice mushrooms thinly.


Preheat oven to 375F.

Wrap the bottom of an 8″ spring form pan with aluminum foil (in case of any leakage). Place an 8” tortilla in bottom of 8” spring form pan. Spread a thin layer of tofu-cashew mixture on top of tortilla, then layer as follows: eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes. Repeat from tofu-cashew mixture, ending with a top layer of tomatoes.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. If tomatoes do not brown, place under broiler for a few minutes. Let set until room temperature before removing sides of spring form pan. Serve at room temperature.

02 Aug 2016

Learning to Cook: Cauliflower & Macaroni in an Instant Pot

Cauliflower & Macaroni

Cauliflower & Macaroni

One of my grandmother’s favorite meals, especially during Lent, was Cauliflower and Macaroni. It was prepared the same way that she made broccoli and cavatelli. It was pretty amazing how she was able to prepare a variety of meals using the same basic approach. This was how I learned to cook. While I was testing out my Broccoli & Orecchiette recipe for the Instant Pot, I was already thinking about how I could apply what I was learning that afternoon to other recipes. And then I remembered that head of cauliflower in the fridge. Since cauliflower takes a bit longer to cook than broccoli, I had to think about floret size and cooking time as it relates to the pasta. I discovered that the sweet spot for al dente pasta in the pressure cooker is six minutes on low pressure, so everything else is based on that. My first go at the cauliflower & macaroni included large florets and a four-grain penne. The cauliflower was too hard, which didn’t allow it to absorb the garlic flavor and the four-grain pasta created a gummy coating on everything. (If you’re really big on gluten-free pasta and don’t mind the slight gumminess, then go for it.) For my next attempt, I cut the cauliflower into florets small enough to fit inside a coffee measuring scoop (remember size matters) and used a mezze rigatoni made from semolina. This was just the right combination. The cauliflower was tender and infused with a nice garlicky taste and the rigatoni was al dente. I sprinkled a portion with black truffle salt for a bit of “umami”, which can be translated from Japanese as a “pleasant savory taste”.  I also tried a portion with some black salt which simulates the flavor of hard-cooked eggs. These days I use black salt when adapting recipes that are traditionally made with eggs. Just a sprinkling on top of this dish reminded me of a pie that was made with bucatini pasta, eggs and ricotta and served on Easter Sunday, but that’s another story. Tomorrow happens to be a Friday during Lent; but even if you don’t observe Lenten traditions, it’s a good day for cauliflower and macaroni. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Cauliflower Floret

Cauliflower Floret








Cauliflower & Macaroni with Truffle Salt for the Instant Pot

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ¼ lb. mezze rigatoni pasta (or any cut pasta)
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon truffle salt (you can substitute sea or black salt)*
  • 12 oz. cauliflower, broken into pieces that would fit inside a coffee measuring scoop
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Set instant pot to saute and heat oil if using. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add in red pepper and stir for 30 seconds. Turn off saute setting. Add pasta, water and bouillon if using, then place cauliflower on top. Place cover on instant pot and set to low pressure and cook for 6 minutes. Use quick release to bring pressure down and when safe remove cover. Remove contents to a serving bowl immediately to prevent further cooking. If there is extra water in bottom, you can set the pot to saute to evaporate the excess liquid.

*Note: You can leave the salt out of the recipe while cooking and let everyone salt when served.





10 Mar 2016

T.G.I.F. Surviving the Storm: Orchard Grove Cocktails & Mulling Spice

Orchard Grove Sparkler

Orchard Grove Sparkler

Our Girl Caitie

Our Girl Caitie

T.G.I.F. Thank Goodness, It’s Flowing! Delaware is expecting the big first snow storm of the winter this weekend. Except for some snow plowing and shoveling, we’ll be spending a lot of time indoors. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; in other words, let’s make it a party. I’ll be getting some DVD’s from the library, stocking up on healthy snacks and making sure we have a nice selection of beverages to keep us warm and cheerful. And we’ll be spending a lot of time playing with our puppy, Caitie. Around the holidays I cut out a recipe from a local paper for a cocktail called the Sparkling Orchard Grove. It’s made with an apple cider-orange juice reduction amaretto liqueur, sparkling wine and a sprig of rosemary. (I thought the rosemary wouldn’t work, but it actually gives a pleasant aroma to the cocktail.) I bet you could make a nice non-alcoholic version by using sparkling cider. While I was squeezing the oranges for the reduction I decided to save the zest to make a batch of mulling spices for hot apple cider. The great thing about mulling spices is that you can tailor them to your palate. I like mine with orange zest, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice and star anise. (My tip for saving money on spices: look for spices in the ethnic aisle or Indian grocer as they’re less costly than McRipOff spices.) You can simmer the spices in red or white wine or cider then pour into a thermal carafe to keep warm.

Mulling Spices

Mulling Spices

Mulling Spice Jar

Mulling Spice Jar















So what happens if it doesn’t snow this weekend? Well, I guess we’ll stay at home and celebrate the fair weather. Pick up some apple cider, sparkling wine and mulling spices and make it a Vegi-curious weekend!

Orchard Grove Sparkler

makes 8 servings

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 oz. amaretto liqueur
  • 750 milliliter bottle of sparkling wine (dry Prosecco)
  • 8 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat combine the cider and orange juice. Simmer until reduced to ½ cup, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To prepare cocktail, pour ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) of the cider-juice reduction into a champagne flute. Add ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) of the Amaretto to the glass, then top off with sparkling wine. Lightly smack each rosemary sprig to release the oils, then place one sprig into each cocktail.


Mulled Wine or Apple Cider

  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 6 cinnamon sticks, chopped
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 2 tsp. whole allspice
  • 3 star anise, broken into pieces
  • Red and white wine
  • sugar (optional)

Using vegetable peeler, remove rind from orange trying to peel off just the orange part. You can dry this for a few days or use fresh. Combine with spices, place into jar and leave uncovered until rind dries out. When ready to use, place mulling spices into a tea infuser. Pour wine into sauce pot; add sugar to taste (1/4 to ½ cup). Simmer wine or cider with spices for about 15 minutes.

The amount of spices you use depends on your personal taste. This recipe will spice up about three bottles of wine or 1 gallon of cider. When making mulled wine, I like a mixture of blush and a red wine with sugar added to taste.


22 Jan 2016

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