almost fall

I do not allow myself to indulge anything fall- like until it is September 1,  despite the fact that we all know in the southeast that September 1 only marks the beginning of “third summer.”  I enjoy the change of season and sense of time created by traditions. A sense of time, something to look forward to and making time at home as special and magical as possible has been important to me, particularly during the pandemic when most of the time it’s made more sense to stay on our little mountain than to venture out into the world.
Each year I made the same handful of specific recipes, their special nature being highlighted by their frequent or seasonal appearance. This is a recipe round of some of my favorites:

The anticipation of the joy to come is almost as wonderful as the actual season itself. In no particular order here are some of the things I look forward to every year:

  • The new season of Saturday Night Live.
  • The first fire in the woodstove.
  • An excuse to make pie on a rainy day taking a walk and saying brightly colored leaves against
  • Harvesting chanterelle mushrooms along our trails.
  • Acorns and pumpkins of all colors.
  • Having a little outside fire down by the hazelnuts while we pluck them carefully from the bushes.Decorating the mantle and hearth with seasonal sweetness: big pumpkins, acorns and twinkling lights. I’m pretty sure this bunting is going to make an appearance…
  • Switching over to white to red wine – malbec is my fall and winter favorite.
  • Ordering matching jammies sets for the kids careful to be festive but not too specific so they can be worn through chilly spring night. Last year I ordered the wintry scene, moose, and red berry patterns. This year I am leaning toward these cuties:
  • The excitement of a new school year! We are a homeschool family and I delight in the anticipation of a new year.

Spicy Roasted Corn

It’s late summer, and our neighbors and garden gurus have recently harvested beautiful ears of sweet corn. Before banishing corn from the kitchen, one of my summer favorites involved roasting corn on the in the oven and slathering it with a mix of my favorite flavors.  While I won’t be making this any time soon, it’s too delicious (and simple) not to share.

Ingredients

  • 6 ears of sweet corn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or one clove minced)

Optional Toppings

  • Chopped cilantro and lemon juice
  • Fresh basil, garlic and lemon and slice cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped hot peppers of your choice, or pickled jalapenos! Turn up the heat with a few shakes of cayenne pepper or finish off with a little sriracha

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn
  • Generously rub the corn with softened / room temperature vegan butter
  • Sprinkle with spices
  • On a foiled lined baking sheet, situated the corn so the ears are not touching
  • Add a tablespoon or two of water to the bottom of the pan for a little steamy action
  • Baked for 15 minutes, flip the ears over and bake for another 15 minutes / until the ears kernels are tender
  • Add more butter and toppings of your choice before serving

butternut squash soup

It’s late summer and the butternut squash are in a familiar place – piled up in a box in the utility room waiting to be turned into my favorite fall recipes — like this one. I’m eyeing the forecast waiting for the first hint of fall in the air. When it arrives (soon I hope!) I will be bring the golden relaxed vibes to the dinner table with ginger butternut squash soup.

This is an elegant soup with a lovely texture, but don’t be fooled, it’s little more than chopping, sauteing and cooking it down. The garlic, ginger, and onion will immediately put a smile on your face. Note, in a hurry I have been known to saute the onion and garlic for about five minutes, throw in the rest of the ingredients and boil the hell out of it because I was in a hurry to put something warm on the table. While the texture suffers a bit and the flavors are less developed, but no one around the table seems to notice.

There are many ways to make a meal out of this soup – here are a few of my favorites:

  • Simple spinach salad on the side, toasted sourdough, with a swirl of olive oil and sprinkle of hot pepper
  • A plop of vegan butter and salt atop the soup, toasted with smashed avocado
  • Olive oil and swirl (or two) of sriracha for the soup, crusty bread pan fried with a little butter with either jammy tomatoes or a thick slice of fresh tomatoes. There are almost always some large Cherokee purple tomatoes on the vine when I make my first batch. If opting for a fresh tomato, a thin layer of vegan mayor and a little salt will brighten and deepen the flavor profile all at once.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash, scooped and chopped
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 spring fresh rosemary (off stem, chopped)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4-ish cups veggie broth (though, I have used water and extra herbs in a pinch)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  • In a large pot, saute yellow onion, apple and squash, olive oil and salt over medium heat until the onions are translucent,8-10 minutes.
  • Add garlic, ginger, and rosemary and stir for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Add a veggie broth and bring to a boil, then turn to simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
  • Uncover and let it cool slightly before pureeing – I prefer the immersion blender because it is one less thing to clean up!
  • Add small small amounts of vegetable broth to achieve the desired texture.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Vegan Pumpkin cinnamon rolls

It’s August and still very much a hot and humid summer, but I can’t pretend that I don’t notice everyone starting to pre-game for the fall. For me this means starting to make lists of my favorite fall recipes and trying to convince myself the yellow leaves on the tulip poplar are from the upcoming change in season, instead of the later summer stress the tree displays every year.

This recipe was originally published via The Kitchn, years and years ago. I only swapped out the butter for Earth Balance, and changed the cinnamon to Vietnamese cinnamon, it’s just my personal preference. I also use more cinnamon and more brown sugar, because life is short and I make these only two or three times a year. This is my tweaked vegan version. I’ve only added chopped walnuts or pecans once or twice over the years, and generally perfer this recipe with more sugar and no nuts. You can also check out the original here.

I bake my cinnamon rolls in 9×13 inch USA pans, which are my absolute favorite bakeware. I generally fill the pan and use a USA Pan loaf pan for extra rolls.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup plant based milk (unsweetened soy works very well)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (I’ve had good luck with Earth Balance in this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can plain pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-pupose flour

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter (Earth Balance)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablepoon teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups pecans or walnuts – toasted, chopped, and divided in half (optional)

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup favorite plant based milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan on the stove top until the butter is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Let the milk mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch – NOT HOT. Then stir in the yeast and the pumpkin. Add the salt and five cups of the flour all at once, stirring until all the flour has been absorbed. Squish it between your hands if you’re having trouble incorporating the last of the flour. The dough will be sticky, but should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flour.
  4. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-3 hours. During this time, it should double in bulk.
  5. You can punch the dough down and refrigerate it overnight or continue shaping the rolls.
  6. To shape the rolls (either immediately or with the refrigerated dough), sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and dump the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle and then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a rectangular shape about a half an inch thick, longer than it is wide. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough’s surface and on your hands.
  7. Melt the butter in the microwave and drizzle over the rectangle of dough and the spread it evenly across the dough using the back of a metal spoon.
  8. Sprinkle the brown sugar and spices over the butter. Leave an inch of bare dough at the top. Sprinkle one cup of the toasted pecans over the dough, if using. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.
  9. Rub a tablespoon of soft butter into the bottom of two 9×13 baking dishes, two 9-inch cake pans, or a combination. Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick. Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little wiggle room on all sides to rise. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise until they fill the pan and look puffy, 30 minutes for already-warm dough and 1 hour for dough that’s been refrigerated.
  10. About 20 minutes before baking, begin heating the oven to 375°. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to look toasted around the edges. Rotate the pans halfway through cooking.
  11. While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Remove from heat and strain into a mixing bowl to remove any sugar clumps. Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.
  12. Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave.

Rosetta’s Kitchen

In the before times, no trip to Asheville felt complete if we didn’t stop by Rosetta’s Kitchen for some peanut butter tofu and a pint of kombucha. Like its vegan friendly soul food, the family friendly atmosphere was a source of comfort and relaxation, particularly in the early years of toting a toddler and an infant around town. Rosetta’s became was our go to restaurant because I could always count on my kids eating their food – and nothing makes me quite as irritated as ordering (or cooking!) a meal only to have a small child turn their nose up at it. With a menu full of vegan options, we never felt constrained. It was easy and I am definitely pro-easy right now.

It’s funny how a place can become part of your family narrative. Toward the end of my pregnancy with my son, I had non-stress tests twice each week. The name of these test is misleading, because I found it to be extremely stressful process. After these lengthy appointments I’d waddle my way to Rosetta’s and eat a plate of chili fries or tacos by myself before the lunch crowd arrived. The night before my son was born my husband picked up Family Favorite and late into the evening after our son was born the following day, he brought me The Mountain. We’ve celebrated birthdays, grabbed quick lunches while running errands, and gathered with family on the way to see the Nutcracker.

It’s not just the good food though – it’s also the people. Two staff members (Davey and Pixie – we miss you!) really captured their heart and imagination. They danced together, were surprised with birthday cookies, and had the privilege for feeding the seahorses in the Buchi Bar aquarium. They told my son and daughter they were their favorite regulars – and even though they probably said that to the parade of cute kids who came in every day – it really made mine feel special. As they got older, I could enjoy a few quite moments to myself, because they’d be sitting at the bar, sipping their kombucha and chatting with Davey. It was like a little mini-vacation, and I was so grateful for it. The business is respectful of it’s staff and honors the dignity in work and in the community with fair wages, reasonable work hours, and an every one eats program – really just being so awesome. I am happy to have supported these efforts one plate of vegan tacos at at time.

My two kittens, side by side at the Buchi Bar, living their best life during the “before times.”

As fall approaches, I know it’s about to be gravy season in our house. The best vegan gravy I’ve ever had, is at Rosetta’s. For years I made my own copycat recipe at home, but it wasn’t quite right (not enough water or flour). Then one day I found Rosetta’s published Granny’s Gravy recipe online. I’m sharing it with you so you too can put it on everything you make this fall and winter. I could pour this on an old shoe and my son would eat it, and everyone needs a trick like that for dinnertime. Sometimes I add a little celery seed, rosemary and/or thyme – but it’s totally unnecessary.

Granny’s Gravy published by Rosetta’s Kitchen (via Instagram on Christmas Day, 2019)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup soy sauce

Directions

  • Toast dry ingredients over medium heat in 4 quart pan unti fragrant – don’t burn them! (I can attest that skipping this step is a really bad idea)
  • Add olive oil and whisky together until bubbly
  • Slowly add in water and soy sauce
  • Whisk and simmer
  • Pour on everything (also, skipping this step is a bad idea)

Chickpea of the Sea

The summer heat is breaking this week with a full week of pleasant temperatures ahead, and I intend to spend at least one early afternoon sitting outside eating a chickpea of the sea salad. This recipe is an excellent example of how switching to a vegan diet can easily be accomplished with a simple substitution to an old favorite. (Just an aside, “chickpea of the sea” immediately makes me start singing the Billy Bragg song, Secret of the Sea, performed by Wilco)

The classic tuna salad consists of base recipe of mayo, celery, pickle chips or relish and…  If you are jonsing for those familiar flavors, use your preferred vegan mayo (mine is Follow Your Heart) and a can of chickpeas instead of tuna.  When you stir everything together use a potato masher or you hand to lightly smash or break apart about a quarter of the chickpeas or until it has achieved a texture you find most suitable. I know mine is ready when I can scoop a out a spoonful and it keeps its shape nicely.

Chickpea of the sea salad works for sandwich and wraps, and really shine in a pita stuffed with fresh crunchy lettuce.  If you are not looking to add extra calories to your lunch, a bed of salad greens topped with a tidy scoop never disappoints. The basic recipe is kid friendly, but the flavors can easily be punched up.  Lemon pepper? Pickled red onion? Chopped herbs? I enjoy diced red onion, fresh dill and one clove of minced garlic, but that flavor profile is a little too much for the kids, so I generally stick to the basics.

Ingredients

  • 1, 15oz can of chickpeas
  • 2-3 tablespoons of vegan mayo
  • 3-4 stalks of diced celery
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 shakes of celery seed (options)
  • Salt to taste (for me that’s 2 shakes)

Glossy garlic green beans

In a moment of severe stress many months ago, I ordered a pimento cheese sandwich from Black Mountain Bistro. It had a thick slice of tomato and lettuce on toasted wheat, and I felt so deeply guilty for the splurge, I ordered garlic green beans instead of the French fries I desperately wanted.  The green beans were bright green, tender, salty and I could nearly see my reflection in all of the olive oil. 

This summer our garden has provided dozens (and dozens!) of pounds of beautiful green beans. A second round were planted several weeks and once ahead we are swimming in them! This recipe is so popular with the kids that is the ONLY way I have prepared them all summer. Below you will see this recipe, served along side a vegan hotdog, coleslaw and boiled new potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of fresh green beans, with the ends trimmed
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced (you make sub garlic powder if you do not have fresh garlic available)
  • 1 teaspoons of salt (or more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of water (at least)

Directions

  • Gently heat 4-6 table spoons of olive oil, minced garlic and salt until fragrant – do not brown the garlic
  • Add water and increase to a med-high heat and add the green beans
  • Cook the green beans until tender, stirring regularly (about ten minutes), add more water if the beans are not as tender as you’d like
  • When the water is nearly cooked out, add the rest of the olive and reduce to low-medium heat, be careful to not burn the garlic as the water begins to evaporate.
  • Allow the water to evaporate, and gently stir the green beans coating them in garlic infused olive oil – they will very tender, smell like heaven and shine like a mirror.

Vegan Coleslaw Two Ways

Summer treats us to bright colors, abundant gardens, and simple  pleasures – like coleslaw. For most of my life I believed coleslaw to be the shredded cabbage with a mayo based dressing and slaw to the the familiar diced into fine confetti cabbage with an orange and pink vinegar based dressing.  Coleslaw was a side a cookouts and potlucks, whereas slaw was found next to the fried okra on your barbecue plate, on top of your barbecue sandwich and a top a hotdog.  I also nearly an adult when I realized barbecue wasn’t the monolith of Lexington-style barbecue – smoked, chopped pork that I believed it to be.  Debating the merits of vinegar based against tomato or mustard based barbecue sauce is a conversation we Southerner’s will gladly take up, even vegan ones!

Traditional vinegar based slaw is vegan and deserves to share the spotlight with the more famous picnic style coleslaw. This recipe is Piedmont-style slaw I so fondly remember, especially from Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, NC. Stamey’s published the recipe many years ago, and it’s enough to share with your neighbors. A reduced everything by half for a family cookout – reduction is noted in parenthesis.

Ingredients

  • 6 (3) medium heads cabbage (about 12 1/2 pounds), finely chopped/diced — truly think of confetti!
  • 2 3/4 ( 1 1/3) cup granulated sugar 
  • 3 1/2 (1 3/4) tablespoon salt 
  • 4 (2)teaspoons ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 (1/4)teaspoon ground red pepper 
  • 1 quart (2 cups) ketchup, such as Heinz 
  • 1 cup (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar 

Directions

  1. Mix together the cabbage, sugar, salt, black pepper and red pepper.
  2. Add the ketchup and vinegar and mix well.
  3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

If you’re not feeling spicy, the shredded mayo can be ready to go in no time. Always short on time, I reach for the organic slaw mix at the grocery store with purple and green cabbage and carrots.

Super easy and kid approved!

Ingredients

  • 1, 14 ounce package of organic coleslaw mix (purple and green cabbage)
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I prefer to start with 1/4 of a cup, and see how I feel about it before going all in with the entire half cup)
  • 1 tablespoons sugar (you can go to 2 tablespoons if you prefer!)
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Thoroughly mix cabbage and carrot mix with all ingredients
  2. Chill for at least two hours (and up to overnight) before serving

Vegan Taco Filling

I originally shared this recipe two years ago when my daughter was just a wee thing.

My daughter is a history buff. If left to her own devices she often creates a world around her that is the 1880s, a fantasy which is charming (and socially acceptable) because she is only eight. When she or little brother sense I am busy in the kitchen they are inspired to ask me to do one thousand things, including play with them. 

On one such occasion this summer, while I was prepping burrito makings, I pretended to add a log to my new GE Profile range. When this little prairie child asked what I was cooking, I said deer meat (showing my non-meat eating habits by not thinking to call it venison). My little plant eater looked at me like I was insane for a moment before giggling and falling back into her make-believe world. And that is how my taco tofu became known as deer meat. This is a flexible taco or burrito filling that will are texture and flavor to your meal and probably be acceptable to your meat-eating guests as well. 

I prefer it a million times over faux meats because I can better control the flavor, it is less processed and it is super cheap. One package of organic extra firm tofu rarely costs more than $1.79 at Whole Foods or any other grocery store I visit regularly.

When you cook the tofu, the water will be reduced and the spices and flavors will intensify. Remember this when you are seasoning to taste. If you need to multitask or working to reduce calories from fat, skip cooking on the stove and put it right into the oven, for approximately 40 minutes.

Ingredients 

  • One pound of extra firm tofu 
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin 
  • 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1  teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you’d like to punch up the heat!)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil/neutral high heat oil (and 2-3 more to cook)

Instructions

Prep Work Slice the tofu into pieces about 1×1 inch and set aside on a dish towel for about an hour before you’re ready to cook. The longer you let it site, the faster it will be to cook.

Roughly chop the tofu into irregular, smaller pieces.

Heat canola oil on medium heat, and add the tofu. Stir the tofu around to allow it to brown evenly and encourage moisture to evaporate. When the tofu has turned a light golden color add remaining canola oil, spices, soy sauce and nutritional yeast. Turn down the heat and cook slowly as the tofu continues to brown. If the heat is too high you will burn the oil and the spices. I will add a little more oil as it continues to cook, and then the heat back up just before it is ready to serve, adding a little extra crisp. Salt and fat make this taco filling hit all the right notes, so don’t be shy with your seasoning.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

How to build a vegan food bowl

Grain bowl, Buddha bowl, harvest bowl, burrito bowl, big ass salad — or the perfectly fine and broadly used — food bowl.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

I was introduced to the term “food bowl” by my brother-in-law. He was chopping veggies in the kitchen while we were on vacation, resulting in a family favorite, gado-gado. I am not a big fan of the term “food bowl” – probably because it makes me think of a dog bowl. While the simple and descriptive name leaves something to be desired, a well built-food bowl does not.

A bowl is cozy and informal.  As a simple vessel they make us happy. When your create a successful good bowl, you bring together complementary flavors in one space, mixing and matching each bite. The supported sides allowing a particular architecture a plate simply doesn’t provide.  Food bowls are great for those of you overachievers out there who manage to food prep during the weekend. Without making a major commitment to a menu, you can slice and dice your a variety of veggies which makes creating your food bowl easier during the week.

An aside…I haven’t been able to bring myself to make a smoothie bowl. Yes, the colors are beautiful and I’m sure they are also delicious, but for me it’s entirely impractical. I make a smoothie so I can feed myself with one hand while accomplishing some other task like driving or checking email at the office. I have no extra time for such luxury as breakfast food bowl.

A satisfying food bowel (for lunch or dinner)  takes simple ingredients and balances flavors, textures and livens them with small amounts of flavor-enhancing goodies, like a slice of lime or drizzle of a nice balsamic vinegar to tie it all together.

I have had only two food bowl fails, both were simply too much of a good thing — carbs.  Thanksgiving leftovers and a southern veggie bowl that was poorly planned. The textures and flavor profiles were too similar, resulting in a heaping bowl of…..mush.

My kids aren’t into spicy food or even strong flavors, but I am. One reason I so enjoy making food bowls is the ability for us to build exactly what we want, and I am spared from another boring dinner and from their complaints.

Some of my favorite combinations (this week) are: Rice and romaine base + “ground beef” style tofu + avocado slices + pickled jalapenos and mangoes + lime juice and salsa

My kids, who seem uninterested in flavor,  eat a version of it like this: Rice + refried black beans + guacamole + lettuce + tortilla on the side

Before you begin building a bowl choose a flavor profile.  Are you in the mood of Thai? Seasonal garden fare? Tex-mex? Japanese? Italian? Mediterranean?

Base: Soba noodles, bow-tie pasta, quinoa, rice, chopped kale, crispy romaine lettuce, pearled couscous, millet, barley…. Or mix and match.  Note: To effort to keep my calories in check and eat more greens, half of my base is almost always romaine lettuce, lightly sauteed kale, or broccoli. These work with basically any flavor I’m in the mood for.

Protein : Chickpeas, black beans, tofu, tempeh, veggie burner of your choice, favorite meat substitute (I’m not a super fan), portobello mushrooms

Toppings: Cucumbers, sliced cherry tomatoes, green peas, sugar peas, roasted broccoli, chickpeas, sprouts, steamed green beans, roasted okra, diced/roasted sweet potato, steamed broccoli, all the veggies. All of them.

Goodies: Matchstick carrots, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, maderin oranges, pickled red onions, mangoes

Extra flavor: Squeeze of lime juice, balsamic reduction, pico de gallo, salsa, thai chilis, salad dressing, shot of soy sauce, homemade Chinese garlic sauce.