Posts Tagged ‘Vegan’

Soft Pretzels

I’ve had this post in draft form for more than a week, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I have come up with nothing profound to say about these soft, chewy, salty knots of pleasure, except they are delicious, remarkably easy, and were a huge hit at Morgan’s class Halloween party.  That’s all I got.  Hope you’ll try them.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Alton Brown


1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 Tbsp. melted butter*


Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water*
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed (or just use a spoon) to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with Pam or other cooking spray, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large wide saucepan or skillet.  In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for large pretzels, or 16 pieces for smaller pretzels (perfect for kids).  I found that the large pretzels weighed about 4 oz. each, the small ones, half of that. Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope (12 inches for the small ones).  Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer, drain well before returning to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash (if using) and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

* I made these pretzels in vegan form, due to some extreme allergies among Morgan’s classmates.  I substituted Earth Balance vegan spread for butter, and omitted the egg wash.  The results were very good, and the vegan dairy-free version was nearly as delicious and beautiful as the original recipe.

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It’s hot.

The last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen, or eat a big plate of steaming food.

At times like this, I know the perfect food — gazpacho! It’s cool and delicious and absolutely positively guilt-free.

Like anything, it’s best made with fresh-from-the-garden produce and herbs, but I often am in the mood for it before it’s harvest time for tomatoes and cucumbers here in Colorado. So, I will let you in on a little secret. You can make this any time of year, and it’s still really good. Not quite as amazing as it is when tomatoes are ripe and luscious, but how long does that last, anyway? You can enjoy gazpacho tonight!


Janet’s Pretty Good Gazpacho


46 oz. tomato juice

2 lbs. or one large can crushed tomatoes

3 stalks celery, diced fine

1 1/2 bell pepper, diced fine

2 cucumbers, seeded and diced fine

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Fresh basil and/or tarragon, chopped, to taste

1/4 cup minced red onion

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Dash of ground cumin

Dash of cayenne or tabasco, if you like a little heat


Combine all ingredients in very large bowl. Combine thoroughly. Ladle some of the soup into a blender and puree. How much? You decide. You can puree it all, if you want a smooth soup, but I prefer chunks of vegetables suspended in a soup with some body, so I puree about a third to a half of the soup. You could leave it unblended, if you like the dark red color and lots of chunks.

Chill thoroughly and serve.

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I recently had really good food on an airplane.


Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans


3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top


Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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Long before the movie, I was a big fan of Ratatouille. This French country stew manages to be both sophisticated and comforting at the same time. It has classic mediterranean flavors, is chock full of nutritious and delicious vegetables, and is incredibly versatile. I often enjoy it as a main course with soft polenta, and then serve the leftovers as a side dish with roasted chicken later in the week. A big bowl of hot ratatouille with crumbled goat cheese on top and a little baguette on the side makes a fabulous healthy lunch, without the price tag of a Parisian bistro.  Bon appétit!

Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook


2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 bell peppers, diced

2 zucchini, diced

1 medium eggplant, cubed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. basil, dried (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)

1 tsp. marjoram, dried (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)

1/2 tsp. oregano, dried (or 1 tsp. fresh)

pinch of rosemary

1/4 cup red wine of your choice

2 tsp. salt

black pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat olive oil in a large, heavy cooking pot. Add onions, and bay leaf. Salt lightly. Sauté over medium high heat until onions begin to turn transparent. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add eggplant, wine, tomatoes and herbs. Stir to mix well, then cover and simmer 15 minutes or until eggplant is fork tender. Add zucchini and peppers. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Continue to stew until all vegetables are tender and the stew seems to meld together. Add fresh parsley and serve.

Garnish with grated parmesan or crumbled goat cheese, if desired.

Serve over polenta or noodles, or alongside fresh crusty baguette.

Serves 6, generously.

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Apple Pear Crisp

These days, every cook needs to have a few versatile, adaptable recipes in their repertoire for guests who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions.  I want everyone who eats at my table to feel welcome and relaxed, and enjoy a terrific meal.  No one should have to worry about whether this or that will make them sick or later regret accepting my invitation.

This old-fashioned, comforting dessert will satisfy everyone.  It’s easily made vegan and/or gluten-free, and can be made even more virtuous with whole grains and organic fruit.  Best of all, it’s easy to assemble before dinner, and have it baking away while you and your guests eat.   Served warm, with a scoop of ice cream (or whatever non-dairy frozen confection of your choosing), no one will feel deprived.


5 apples, peeled and diced

5 pears, peeled and diced

¼ cup sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 cup oats

1 cup flour (can use gluten-free)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

grated nutmeg to taste

12 Tbsp. butter (or Earth Balance vegan spread), cut into chunks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 13×9 pan

Toss fruit with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar and toss gently to mix.  Spread fruit evenly in pan.

Combine remaining ingredients in bowl, mixing gently until crumbly, but not uniform.

Spread topping over fruit.  Bake until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown, about one hour.

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Recently, I served this stew to some friends who were transitioning to a vegan diet. Talk about “a healthy abundance!”  This dish is a delicious, filling and flavorful main course, and no one missed the meat.  One of my guests (Greg, you know who you are) proclaimed it “one of the best things I’ve eaten all year!”

Most of us could benefit from eating less meat, and the planet would be better off, too. Some studies say that, globally, meat production dumps more carbon into the atmosphere than transportation!  Turns out that switching to a vegan diet could do more to reduce your carbon footprint than switching from an SUV to a Prius.  Lucky for us, saving our own health and the health of our planet can be a tasty undertaking.

adapted from Epicurious.com

Serves 6, generously


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onions

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups orange juice

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed, drained

2 poblano chilies, seeded, chopped (Roasted, if you have them)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes

1/4 cup (or more, if you really like it) fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)


Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, chili powder and cumin and stir 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, orange juice and garlic and bring to boil. (Add water if needed to cover potatoes.)  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until sweet potatoes are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir beans, poblano chilies and bell pepper (and tomatoes, if using)  into sweet potato mixture. Cover and simmer until chilies are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Add cilantro, if using.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before continuing, stirring occasionally.)

Top with sour cream, diced avocado and orange segments, if desired.  Garnish with more cilantro.

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