TIME TO DRESS IN GLEAMING AUTUMN COLORS!

HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD

FOR THE HALLOWEEN FESTIVITIES

A Halloween treasure hunt is always a fun adventure, and even more intriguing when the hunt is right on your plate. This autumn-inspired salad hides a delicious and highly nutritious little treasure that becomes even tastier when drizzled with a lively dressing made from a base of cooked sweet potatoes.

I prepared this salad for a banquet held in late October and was fortunate enough to hear some of the enthusiastic comments. I think it was the dramatic fall colors that sparked a few oooohs.

And I have to confess, I had fun concocting this salad course–the colors still dazzle me! I love the brilliant color contrast of those deep purple lettuces accented with the yellows and oranges that top the greens.

I thought the Hidden Treasure Salad made such an eye appealing presentation, why serve it just for Halloween. The salad would make a gorgeous first course for Thanksgiving, too! And, the ingredients are available throughout the entire autumn and winter season.

I hope you’ll give the Tangy Sweet Potato Dressing a try. It was the autumn season, my favorite time of year, that inspired me to cook up some sweet potatoes and create a unique and very tasty salad topping that shines a spotlight on these lovely spuds–they’re one of my favorite foods.

I’m aware I’ve strayed from my December holiday dishes, but how could I resist–this is a simple recipe that just wants to be shared for the fun of it. Enjoy!

HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD

FOR THE HALLOWEEN FESTIVITIES

Yield: 6 servings

Hidden Treasure Salad

12 mini white potatoes

6 yellow or orange mini bell peppers

 

12 ounces mixed baby lettuces

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

4 cups finely chopped purple cabbage

 

2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch long, thin julienne

1 cup pomegranate seeds

6 large pimento stuffed green olives (optional)

Tangy Sweet Potato Dressing (Makes about 2 3/4 cups)

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

3/4 pound yellow or orange sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and mashed

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

5 to 6 pitted dates, snipped in half

1 garlic clove

1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

TO MAKE THE HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the mini potatoes and mini bell peppers on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes and remove the mini peppers. Set them aside to cool. Roast the potatoes 10 minutes longer for a total of 30 minutes. Remove them and set them aside to cool while preparing the remaining salad ingredients.

Combine the lettuces, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and purple cabbage in a large salad bowl and mix well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE SALAD, place 2 mini potatoes in the center of each salad plate. Heap the lettuce mixture over the potatoes. Place 2 or more carrot sticks on each plate and sprinkle the salad with pomegranate seeds. Top each salad with a roasted mini pepper and a pimento stuffed green olive. Serve the dressing on the side.

TO MAKE THE DRESSING, combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.

Using a funnel, pour the dressing into one or two narrow-neck bottles for easy serving. Use immediately or chill until ready to serve.

For convenience, the dressing can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerated, it will keep for up to 6 days.

Note:

For a tasty dressing variation, a add 3 tablespoons rice vinegar and 3 pitted dates and blend until smooth and creamy.

 

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FIGGY LOVE IN EVERY BITE!

Fig CrackersFIGGY WAFERS

Hunting for a stand-out holiday appetizer? I think I’ve got just the one!

Welcome your holiday guests with something warming to sip and a surprise taste adventure to invigorate the appetites –a platter of Figgy Wafers. Beautiful little flavor-infused morsels, these delicious crackers stand out because of a generous measure of aromatic cardamom to complement the sweetness of the figs.

While these irresistible little wafers make wonderful tidbits without accompaniments, pair them with a thin slice of vegan cheese and send your happy little flavor receptors into vegan nirvana. Even better, top the crackers with a slice of banana and then put the cheese on top.

Fig CrackersPlan ahead for the holidays by making one or more batches of the recipe, rolling them into logs, and freezing them. Then, when you’re planning to serve them, it takes only a few minutes to slice and bake them.

 FIGGY WAFERS

 

Yield: about 40 slices

10 dried figs, either black or golden

1/4 cup rum or brandyFig Crackers

1/2 cup whole almonds

1 cup Old Fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

  1. Have ready a large bowl and a pair of kitchen scissors. Using the scissors, snip off and discard the tough stems from the figs and snip the figs into small dice into the bowl. Pour the rum over the figs and set aside to soak for several hours or overnight.
  2. Combine the almonds, rolled oats, flour, ground cardamom, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are finely ground.
  3. Add the margarine and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the figs and use a fork to blend the mixture into a dough.
  4. Form the dough into a long log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 3 or 4 hours, or until solidly frozen. The log will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to bake the wafers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
  6. Unwrap the frozen log and use a firm, thin-bladed knife to cut it into 1/8-inch slices. Put them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Carefully, lift the wafers with a metal spatula and transfer them to a platter to cool completely.

Fig CrackersA Note About Cardamom

Because cardamom is not as familiar a spice as cinnamon, it frequently gets overlooked. But give it an opportunity to show its mojo and you’ll be hooked.

cardamom-greenYou can buy this spice already ground into a powder in the spice section of most markets. You can also find it in Asian and Indian markets where it’s available in whole pods or already ground. While the ground cardamom is certainly more convenient, it quickly loses its pungency and its flavor fades.Cardamom brown

For its flavor delightful strength I much prefer to buy the whole pods and crush the small seeds with a pestle. Really fresh pods are green, but if they’ve been around awhile, they turn beige. It’s a bit painstaking because first I pound each pod to open it. The, one-by-one by hand I open each pod and empty the seeds into the mortar. You can also put the seeds into a spice grinder for a quicker grinding process.

CHOCOLATE? YES! BRING IT ON FOR BREAKFAST!!!!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip MuffinsCHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Chocolate for breakfast is my favorite! And it’s actually a better way for me to indulge than eating it at night. That naughty little chocolate has the power to keep me up at night. As tempting as it is to reach for the chocolate as an after-dinner treat, I resist. It takes a heck of a lot of will power, but I really prefer a good night’s sleep and to wake up feeling great.

Chocolate doesn’t affect everyone like that, but those of us who are sensitive to the caffeine-like substance  in chocolate called theobromine, actually get a high from eating it. 

These muffins offer some SERIOUS CHOCOLATE–inside and out. So I offer them at a time of day when more than half the world turns to coffee for that morning boost.

I’ve enhanced the muffins with chocolate chips and enriched them with plenty of pure cocoa powder, so these outrageous little babies offer heaven in every bite for those of us with a passion for chocolate.

Once you bite into these muffins, you might feel like you’re eating dessert, but consider the wheat bran and bananas a healthy dose of dietary fiber that justifies their presence at the morning meal. I like to include this recipe as part of the muffin party for its uniqueness. Served with seasonal fruit, either as a fruit salad, attractively sliced, or presented whole with knives and a cutting board, the muffin breakfast or brunch makes a festive gathering pure fun.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip MuffinsCHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Yield: 1 baker’s dozen–yep, that’s 13 unless you overfill the muffin pan like I did.

1 1/4 cups plain or vanilla soymilk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or distilled vinegar

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flourChocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/4 cups wheat bran

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

1/3 cup organic sugar

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or raw cacao powder

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup mashed bananas

2 tablespoons organic canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon caramel extract

Topping

1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

1/3 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line 2 six-section muffin tins with paper baking cups. Alternatively, use an ungreased silicone 12-section muffin pan. Put the muffin pans on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Combine the soymilk and vinegar in a medium bowl, stir well, and set aside to thicken.
  3. In a large bowl combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, wheat bran, brown sugar, chocolate chips, organic sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Mix well to distribute all the dry ingredients evenly and set aside.
  4. Add the bananas to the bowl with the soured soymilk, along with the canola oil, and vanilla and caramel extracts. Mix well and add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring briefly just until the batter well moistened. .
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, over-filling each section to use all the batter. For the baker’s dozen, reserve some of the batter to fill an oven-proof custard cup or ramekin.
  6. For the topping, sprinkle the chocolate chips into the center of each muffin, and the sliced almonds over the remaining exposed surface. Bake for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of several muffins comes out clean. Cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving to allow easy release from the baking pans.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip MuffinsVariation:

Espresso Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Grind 2 tablespoons of espresso coffee beans into a very fine powder in a mini blender. After spooning the muffin batter into the muffin pans, sprinkle the tops lightly with the espresso powder. Then, add the chocolate chips and toasted sliced almonds.

Suggestions:

Turn your one-dozen muffins into four dozen of the cutest little mini muffins you’ve ever seen by baking them in mini muffin pans. For ease in moving the muffins in and out of the oven, have 2 large rimmed baking sheets ready with two mini muffin pans on each of the baking sheets. Spoon the batter into the mini muffin pans and bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Allow the minis to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pans.

To prepare well ahead of the holidays, put the baked mini muffins on metal or plastic dishes or trays and put them, uncovered, in the freezer. When completely frozen, transfer the muffins to a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and seal tightly. Defrost the muffins before packaging them for gift giving.

CRANBERRIES COME TO BRUNCH DRESSED IN HOLIDAY RED!

 Cranberry Muffins

CRANBERRY MUFFINS

If you’re a cranberry lover like I am, you, too, will revel with joy at the sight of these voluptuous golden muffins with a fluff of bright red berries on top and a confetti of cheery red bits of cranberries dotted throughout the batter.

The sweet-tart flavor blend is heavenly–that first bite will confirm that. But don’t take my word for it–bake up a batch of these little sweeties and I’ll bet you’ll find these muffins just as irresistible as I do.

They’re ideal breakfast treats with their hearty base of rolled oats and delicate sweetness. To create a crunchy texture, add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts.

For an appealing holiday Brunch, I like to make the Cranberry Muffins along with another Cranberry Muffinsmuffin variety. I can make them in advance and tuck them into the freezer. About 20 minutes before serving, I take them out of the freezer and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Then, I tuck them into a preheated 375-degree F. oven and in 20 minutes they’ll start to fill the kitchen with crazy-tempting aromas.

I always include a colorful fruit salad with chopped apples, pears, Fuyu persimmons, navel oranges, strawberries (if they look plump and fresh) and pomegrante seeds. If I can find some beautiful red or black grapes, those add a wonderful touch of color and rich sweetness.

Vegan sausages, either homemade or prepared, always make a tasty and very satisfying addition to a festive holiday Brunch. And the finishing touch can be a steaming cup of herbal tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

This recipe makes a dozen muffins, but could easily make two recipients happy with a wrapped box of half-dozen each. To spread the joy even further, follow the suggestion below to create four dozen adorable little mini muffins and package them in small gift boxes tied with holiday ribbons.

 Cranberry Muffins

CRANBERRY MUFFINS

Yield: 12 muffins

1 1/4 cups soymilk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or distilled vinegar

2 1/3 cups fresh cranberries, divided

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar, divided

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/4 cups wheat bran

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 teaspoons baking powderCranberry Muffins

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana

3 tablespoons organic canola oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two 6-section muffin pans with paper baking cups or use an ungreased 12-section silicone muffin pan. Put the muffin pans on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Pour the soymilk into a medium bowl and add the vinegar. Stir well and set aside to sour.
  3. Coarsely chop the cranberries in the food processor. Remove 1/3 cup of the cranberries to a small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside for the topping. Transfer the remaining 2 cups of cranberries to a large bowl and add the remaining 3/4 cups sugar.
  4. Add the flour, wheat bran, rolled oats, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and baking soda to the bowl and stir well.
  5. Stir the bananas, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla into the soured soymilk and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to form a thick batter.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each section to the brim. Place a dollop of the reserved cranberry topping onto the center of each muffin and bake for 28 to 33 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the muffins 10 to 15 minutes before removing.

Cranberry MuffinsNote:

Because cranberries are so seasonal, you may consider substituting fresh apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, or berries to enjoy this tasty recipe year round.

Suggestion:

Turn your one-dozen muffins into four dozen of the cutest little mini muffins you’ve ever seen by baking them in mini muffin pans. Baked in metal mini pans, the muffins will be done in 12 to 14 minutes. The silicone mini muffin pans make slightly larger minis and will bake in 15 to 20 minutes.

To prepare well ahead of the holidays, put the baked mini muffins on metal or plastic dishes or trays and tuck them, uncovered, into the freezer. When completely frozen, transfer the muffins to a heavy-duty plastic bag and seal tightly. Frozen, the muffins will keep for 3 to 4 months. Be sure to defrost the muffins before packaging them for gift giving.

WHAT’S FOR DESSERT ON THANKSGIVING? BET YOU CAN GUESS!!`

 WILLIAMSBURG PUMPKIN PIE

Wiliamsburg Pumpkin‘Tis the season for pumpkin! There’s no doubt about that. Everywhere I look there are recipes for Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin stew, pumpkin scones, pumpkin breads, pumpkin sauces – you get the idea!

And wouldn’t something as highly anticipated as pumpkin pie be missing from the dessert table on Thanksgiving if it weren’t there? There’ll be no dessert disappointment for my family–pumpkin pie will take center stage at dessert time, along with a creamy and compassionate Satin Whipped Cream to spoon on top.

You can’t miss with this recipe that captures the spicy taste and aroma we’ve come to expect. The Pilgrims would have really appreciated this treat, especially with a dollop of Satin Whipped Cream as a finishing touch.

WILLIAMSBURG PUMPKIN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie: 6 to 8 servings

1 Oatmeal Crumb Crust (recipe below)

Filling

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch, (plus 2 tablespoons arrowroot for butternut squash)

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk

1 (12.3-ounce) box extra-firm silken tofu, drained

2 cups canned pumpkin or cooked, mashed butternut squash

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons organic sugarPumpkin pie

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of salt

1 recipe Satin Whipped Cream (recipe below)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare the Oatmeal Crumb Crust.
  2. To make the filling, combine the arrowroot and soymilk in a blender. Process at high speed for 1 minute until smooth and slightly thickened, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Set aside in the blender to thicken further.
  3. Put the tofu, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt in the food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, leaving no bits of white tofu visible, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.
  4. Process the arrowroot mixture again and add it to the batter in food processor. Process until well incorporated.
  5. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust. Use the back of the spoon to spread the filling to the edges and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. The center of the pie will still be slightly soft but will firm when chilled. Let cool completely.
  7. Cover the pie with an inverted 9 or 10-inch pie pan or form a tent with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. Serve with Satin Whipped Cream on the side, if desired.

Oatmeal Crumb Crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnuts

4 1/2 tablespoons organic canola oil

3 tablespoons organic sugar

3 tablespoon maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Have ready a 9-inch pie pan. Pour the oats into the food processor and pulse 12 to 15 times. Add the walnuts, canola oil, sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse and process until the mixture is a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched.
  2. Spoon the crust mixture into the pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm.

Satin Whipped Cream

1/2 cup cashews

1 cup water

1 small banana

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Put the cashews in a food processor. Process until ground into a fine meal. Transfer to a blender. Put the water, banana, sugar, xanthan gum, and vanilla extract in the blender with the cashew meal. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick, smooth and creamy.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a covered container and chill for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, Satin Whipped Cream will keep for about 4 days. Before serving, fluff the mixture with a gentle stir.

Vegan Holidays highresYou can find this recipe and a host of other delicious dessert and celebration recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook.

CAN’T BEET POMEGRANATE SALAD FOR THANKSGIVING!

sharonpalmer_headshot3Sharon Palmer RD generously shares her beautifully composed BEET AND POMEGRANATE SALAD to start the holiday meal with a pack of antioxidants packaged so appealingly no one will turn down a hearty serving.

Sharon has created an award-winning profession based on combining her two great loves–food and writing. As a registered dietitian with 16 years of health care experience, she channels her nutrition experience into writing features covering health, wellness, nutrition, and cuisine. Sharon is also a passionate writer about food and environmental issues, having published a number of features on plant-based diets, hunger, agriculture, local and organic foods, eco-friendly culinary practices, sustainability, food safety, and food security. Over 850 of Sharon’s features have been published in a variety of publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, 6x9Prevention, Oxygen, LA Times, Cooking Smart, and CULINOLOGY. Her books include The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health Beginning Today and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes. Sharon is the editor of the acclaimed health newsletter, Environmental Nutrition and nutrition editor for Today’s Dietitian. She writes every day for her popular Plant-Powered Blog. In addition, Sharon is a nutrition advisor for the Oldways Vegetarian130 Network and served as a judge for the James Beard Journalism awards. She was the proud recipient of the Loma Linda University Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013.

Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting the local farmers market every week and cooking for friends and family.

Beet and Pomegranate Seed Salad pic3BEET AND POMEGRANATE SALAD

Ingredients:
4 cups packed mixed baby greens
2 cups packed assorted micro-greens
2 cups sliced baby beets, cooked and chilled
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:
1. Arrange the baby greens in a salad bowl or on a platter. Top with the micro-greens.
2. Arrange the beets on top of the micro-greens and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and walnuts.
3. Whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, black pepper, and garlic in a small bowl.Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.

ACORN SQUASH GETS SOME SWEET LOVE!

MAPLE SQUASHFOR ZEL MAPLE BAKED ACORN SQUASH

Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE Award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. Ms. Theodore is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy SQUASH LAURA ZELVegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host of the weekly Jazzy Vegetarian cooking show on PBS and she hosts the podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio. Laura has made guest appearances on ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX, and she was recently featured on The Talk on CBS <https://vimeo.com/79038409> , Insider/Entertainment Tonight, News 4-NBC, Fox News 8, Better TV, and WCBS Radio. Laura has been featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, VegNews, Family Circle, Readers Digest, PBS Food, Naked Food and Healthy Aging, among many others. A love for good food, compassion for animals, and enthusiasm for great music has created a joyous life path for Laura Theodore. Read more at: http://www.lauratheodore.com <http://www.lauratheodore.com>

MAPLE BAKED ACORN SQUASH

Makes 4 servings
2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vegan margarine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking pan with unbleached parchment paper. Put the acorn squash halves, cut-side-up, on the prepared baking pan. Put 2 heaping teaspoons maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon margarine, and π teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in the center of each squash.
Tent with foil and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the squash is soft and filling is bubbling.