pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoesIf you’re bored by the usual bland pasta salads, this one’s for you – especially if you’re a vinegar freak (I know I’m not the only one!)

My first step on this pasta salad makeover project was to add some nutrition, in the form of radicchio (loads of vitamins) and chickpeas (fiber & protein). With these additions, and the use of whole-grain pasta, this dish is pretty guilt-free.

Now, for the taste. Because I was going for a Mediterranean theme, I used sun dried tomatoes, which I have grown to love even more since discovering the type that are neither oil-packed or dried, but are soft and ready to use. I found them randomly at a store in the Catskills, and then recently ordered more on Etsy.

I wanted the salad to be super tangy, so I threw in some capers and quickly pickled a red onion, then used some of – well, a lot of – the pickling vinegar in the salad.

I liked this so much that I’ve made it two weeks in a row now. It could easily become a weekly addiction this summer. Hey, there are worse things to be addicted to than healthy pasta salad.

Pasta Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Pickled Onions

1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced – preferably with a mandoline
2/3 cup red wine vinegar (or more if needed to cover the onion)
1 teaspoon sugar or agave
Pinch salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or other ready-to-use, see note above)
1 small head radicchio (Treviso is nice here) cored and diced (about 1½ cups)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. whole grain elbow pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the onion in a bowl and pour on the vinegar, agave and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Spoon out the onions (reserving vinegar) and chop.

In a large bowl, combine the pickled onions, chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, radicchio, capers, basil, salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, draining very well the second time. Place the pasta on top of the ingredients in the bowl, then pour on olive oil and 1/4 to ½ cup of the vinegar from the pickled onions (I like it with ½ cup, but you may want to ease into it.) Stir all the ingredients together.

Best served within a few hours, as refrigeration tends to dull the flavors a bit (but still good!)

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

Mushroom leek tartIt’s not often that a gluten-free, vegan recipe can completely win over every meat eater in the room, but this savory tart does it, thanks to a crunchy chickpea flour crust, a rich cashew cream filling and a savory vegetable topping.

My original version of the tart was topped with caramelized onions and greens. I’ve got to thank Dani of the blog Just Kale Me Now for coming up with the idea of using mushrooms and leeks instead. I made Dani’s version today, changing only the variety of mushrooms used, and it was perfect for the Easter lunch at my friends’ place. (Thank you Robyn and Elisabeth for letting me barge in and start taking photos before we sat down to eat!)

You could use any combination of mushrooms, but I love a mix of oyster, shiitake and maitake mushrooms. Not a mushroom fan? No worries, this tart is very versatile – whatever vegetables you want to top it with will probably taste great. Asparagus and red peppers…zucchini and sun dried tomatoes…use your imagination. Just be sure to include onions or leeks, I think the allium family is key. (Isn’t it always?)

Leek and Wild Mushroom Tart with Cashew Cream

For the cashew cream:

3/4 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked in water for 6-8 hrs, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup water

For the leek and mushroom topping:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced (2 leeks if they are huge with lots of white)
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

For the crust:

1 3/4 c. chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. cold water

Puree all of the cashew cream ingredients in a food processor until very smooth and thick. This will take up to five minutes, and may require scraping down the sides of the processor. If the mixture seems to dry to become creamy, add one or two teaspoons of water as needed.

For the vegetables, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven. Cook the leeks and a pinch of salt over low heat for 7-10 minutes, until soft but not browned. Remove to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan, increase the heat to medium and add the mushrooms along with another pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid has cooked off. Combine with the leeks.

To make the dough, mix the chickpea flour, salt and thyme. Drizzle the olive oil over the flour mixture and work together with your hands until crumbly. Add the water and mix very briefly, just until dough comes together.

Flatten the dough into a disk on a floured work surface (I used all purpose flour for the work surface, but you can use a gluten-free flour.) Roll it out with a rolling pin to about 1 inch larger than the diameter of your tart pan.

Loosen the dough by slipping a pastry lifter or metal spatula underneath. Fold in half and carefully transfer to a fluted metal tart pan, pressing it into the bottom and sides. If the dough breaks, don’t worry – you can easily piece it together in the pan.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the crust lightly with foil (don’t press), add some dried beans or pie weights and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Top the partially-baked crust with the cashew cream, then the leek and mushroom mixture. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Tempeh 1

DiningatTheRavensToday I bring you a great recipe from a brand new cookbook called Dining at the Ravens. If you aren’t familiar with The Ravens, it’s the restaurant at Stanford Inn by the Sea, a vegan resort in Mendocino, CA. Dining at the Ravens is doing a “blog tour” and I’m happy to be today’s stop. See below for your chance to win a copy of the book, compliments of the publisher, BenBella Vegan!

The nut-encrusted tempeh is simple to make, and truly delicious. It calls out for a sauce, and while I first thought of gravy or a fancy chutney of some kind, I found that mustard or ketchup – especially this great new ketchup I discovered – is perfect. The recipe gives an option to pan-fry instead of bake the tempeh, but I’d stick with baking to cut down on oil and make sure the nuts stay in place.

I’m looking forward to trying more of the recipes. Tops on my hit list:

– Chilaquiles
– Indian Spiced Kale and Potato Omelet
– Black Eyed Pea Cakes
– Cauliflower Ceviche
– Moussaka
– Peach Huckleberry Cobbler

These being restaurant-style vegan recipes, there is a heavy reliance on nuts (cashew sauces abound), making many of the dishes delicious but fairly calorie-heavy. Some of the ingredients are California-centric (I don’t think I’m going to be cooking a lot of sea palm, and I’ve never seen candy cap mushrooms on the East coast.) But for the most part, everything is accessible for the home cook. I was surprised that almost all of the breads and baked goods call for white flour rather than whole grain flours.

Nitpicks aside, this is a great cookbook to have around when you’re planning a fancy vegan dinner party. Whip up a Vegetable Napolean or Chanterelle and Fall Vegetable Stuffed Portobello, followed by Pecan Torte, and your guests will be talking about your mad vegan cooking skills for weeks to come.

Want your very own copy of Dining at the Ravens? Here’s your chance:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Almond and Hazelnut Encrusted Tempeh
from Dining at the Ravens, reprinted with permission

For the marinated tempeh:

1 tablespoon sliced ginger
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups water
1/4 cup gluten-free tamari
1 package tempeh, sliced 1/2-inch thick on the bias

For the flax “egg wash”:

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup warm water

For the almond and hazelnut crust assembly:

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Spray oil (if baking) or 2 tablespoons olive oil (if pan-frying)

For the Marinated Tempeh:
1. Combine the ginger, garlic, water and tamari in a saucepan and add the sliced tempeh. Cook until tempeh has heated through, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Drain tempeh from the cooking liquid, set aside and let cool.

For the Flax “Egg” Wash:
1. In large mixing bowl, combine flaxseeds and warm water and whisk until thicken. More water may be added as necessary; mixture should resemble thick pancake batter. (Note from Cathy: heating the mixture in the microwave for 45 seconds then letting it sit for 15 minutes helps it thicken.)

For the Almond Hazelnut Crust and Assembly:
1. In food processor, combine almonds and hazelnuts and process until coarse, sand-like consistency is achieved (note: you want little chunks of nuts, like you see in my photo.)

2. Add salt and pepper and process for a moment longer until well incorporated.

3. Place in a small mixing bowl and set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Dip each slice of tempeh into the flax wash and immediately dredge in the almond and hazelnut mixture until the tempeh is well coated.

6. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, then set tempeh slices on it.

7. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

8. Alternatively, place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan, or oil a griddle and heat to medium heat. Place each piece of tempeh on the pan or griddle and cook until golden brown on each side (5-7 minutes per side.)


Falafel final The first time I made homemade falafel, just last year, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I kicked myself for not trying it sooner – I missed out on years of falafel-eating happiness!

I started with Mark Bittman’s simple baked falafel recipe. Other than reducing the amount of olive oil used in the baking (just wasn’t necessary), my only big departure was the spicing; rather than cumin and cayenne only, I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend containing chiles, fenugreek, ginger and much more. I also included ground coriander and cardamom. As complex as it sounds, the spicing isn’t overwhelming at at all – the berbere adds a subtle but delicious layer of flavor. You can order it from, but I’ve also seen Frontier brand berbere at Whole Foods.

The great thing about making your own falafel is that you can eat it leftover for days (that’s why I’ve increased the quantity from the original recipe). You can also freeze the cooked falafel; it’s a handy gluten-free and vegan staple to have on hand. Recommended accompaniments include romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tahini sauce (just thin tahini with water and add a bit of lemon) and hot sauce of some kind. Pickles or even beets would nice additions, too. Eat your baked falafel in a salad, as a sandwich in pita bread, or just plain as a healthy snack.

One last note: falafel is made with raw, soaked chickpeas, and that is essential to the texture. Don’t attempt to make it with canned chickpeas. As long as you have a full-size food processor, it’s super easy to make – just throw it all in and give it a few pulses. Like me, you’ll be wondering why in the world you never made it before.

Baked Falafel with Berbere Spice
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe

1 pound dried chickpeas
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons berbere (or substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin and 2 teaspoons cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, large stems removed
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
1½ teaspoons salt (fine salt is best here)
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water for 12-24 hours. Drain.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large rimmed metal baking sheet with a couple teaspoons of the olive oil (I do not recommend a nonstick baking sheet – the falafel won’t brown the same way.)

Put half the chickpeas and half the remaining ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor (don’t bother measuring half – it’s all going to get mixed together later). Pulse until the mixture is minced and grainy, but not pureed. Place in a large bowl, then process the second half and stir everything together in the bowl.

Form the falafel into rounded discs by putting a couple tablespoons in the center of your palm and giving it four or five hard squeezes with both hands as you mold it into shape (you can use your thumbs to help round the edges). Place them on the baking sheet very carefully – if they break apart, re-form and repeat. Fit as many as you can on the baking sheet without overcrowding; it may take three rounds of baking to cook them all.

Brush the tops lightly with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, then carefully flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat by wrapping in foil and baking in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes (30 minutes if frozen.)


carrot muffinsThe reason behind these vegan carrot muffins lies in my refrigerator vegetable bin. I belong to a CSA that goes through late December, and by the holidays I was drowning in carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and turnips. I made a beet salad for Christmas Eve, carrot & sweet potato soup for dinner last night, and these carrot muffins today. I’m making a dent … in everything but the turnips.

I started with the spiced carrot muffins on, and made some adjustments – namely adding extra spices, orange zest, oat flour and pecans. And while I didn’t taste the original recipe for purposes of comparison, my version came out really well – hearty, spicy and just a tad sweet.

While these muffins do have some sugar in them, they are vegan, completely oil free and whole grain. I didn’t feel too badly about eating two of them today!

Spiced Carrot-Pecan Muffins

Dry ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
scant ½ teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1/3 cup chopped pecans, plus more for optional topping

Wet ingredients:

1 tablespoon ground flax seed whisked with ¼ cup water (see below)
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup plain almond yogurt (recommend Kite Hill brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups shredded carrots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a muffin pan.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the flax and water, then microwave for 45 seconds. Combine the wet ingredients, including the flax mixture, in another bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring briefly to combine. Add the carrots.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan (I found that there was enough batter for 11 muffins). Sprinkle the tops with additional chopped pecans if you’d like. Bake for 18 minutes.

Makes 11-12 muffins

Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy

OK, everybody’s asking what I’m making for Thanksgiving, so I’m sharing my menu here. Lazy blogger that I am now, I haven’t come up with any new and exciting recipes for the holiday this year. But I have quite a delicious spread planned!

It’s always a challenge to create my Thanksgiving menu, as it must be both delicious and heart healthy. Don’t worry, I don’t go so far into the healthy direction that I’m sacrificing flavor – I’m not going to serve steamed broccoli on Thanksgiving. I do try not to go overboard with sweet flavors – my pet peeve about some Thanksgiving menus is that almost every dish includes fruit, sugar or maple syrup (not to mention marshmallows). This year I’ve found some great recipes that are more on the savory side.

Most of my menu is vegan, but vegans be forewarned: there are a few exceptions, including shrimp and – gasp – a turkey. The people need their turkey, people.

Pickled Shrimp with Satsumas from Food & Wine. This just looks fantastic. I even ordered the Korean chili flakes called for in the recipe (I see kimchee in my future.)

Faux Gras with crackers and crudites.
I know it’s a store-bought item, but this stuff is positively addictive.

Sage-Rubbed Turkey with Lemon Bay Gravy from Eating Well
I like that the turkey gets a dry brine, and unlike most recipes, this one doesn’t call for rubbing the turkey with butter, or even oil. The lemons sound refreshing, too.

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon / PPK
This is a pretty legendary recipe that I’ve had my eye on for some time. Many vegan main dishes, like stuffed squash, seem to take the place of other sides, but this one is simply a protein-rich vehicle for gravy. ‘Nuff said.

My Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy
I have a lot of vegan gravy recipes running around my little head, but this in the top tier for sure. The pureed roasted shallots and garlic add an unusual twist, if I don’t say so myself.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from the New York Times
I don’t think people ever notice that my mashed potatoes aren’t loaded with butter and cream. Potatoes are great in their own right. Yukon Golds are especially good for this lower-fat treatment.

Sweet Potato Casserole, Gratin-Style from The Healthy Foodie
I think I’m most excited to try this one. It’s difficult to find sweet potato recipes that aren’t overly sweet. Here, there’s just a bit of honey plus onions, mustard and spices to keep things interesting.

Healthy Green Bean Casserole from Veggie Num Num
Trudy from Veggie Num Num made this as a guest post for my blog a few years back, but I’ve never gotten around to making it. I love the nut-based sauce and the crunchy quinoa flake topping idea, and I’ll take fresh onions over those icky canned fried things any day.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Cipollini Onions from the New York Times
I would never think of having Thanksgiving without Brussels sprouts. But I’m departing from my usual maple-mustard sauce version to go with a less sweet approach, in an effort to try and cut down the sugar in my holiday feast.

Apple Chestnut Stuffing from Healthy Happy Life
I’m pretty much of a traditionalist when it comes to stuffing, and this one fits the bill. The other one in the same post, Butternut Tangerine Pecan Stuffing, is also calling out to me but I’m worried about pecan overload in the meal. Bonus trivia: did you know that chestnuts are the lowest-fat nut? Now you do.

Clean Eating Cranberry Sauce from The Gracious Pantry
I was looking for a simple, traditional cranberry sauce that was lower in sugar. Bingo, this one looks perfect.

My Apple Cranberry Pie
It will basically be the same recipe as my Apple Raspberry Pie that I link to here, but substituting cranberries (maybe heavier on the apples, since cranberries are so tart.) My healthy-ish pie crust recipe continues to win over even the most hardcore butter crust lovers, so I urge you to give it a try.

Last but not least, my friend Robyn is bringing her famous Squash Pie. The recipe remains a mystery, but I’m very excited to try it.

Happy cooking and Happy Thanksgiving!