When my friend Francine raved to me about Smitten Kitchen’s Crackly Banana Bread, I know I had to try and make a vegan version. It turned out to be an easy challenge, because the recipe didn’t contain butter. So I just substituted a “flax egg” for the real one, and it worked like a charm. A few other changes: I added chopped walnuts for extra flavor and texture, and went easy on the sugar. I also used spelt flour, which I’ve been really liking in baked goods lately.

While the crunchy millet is great, I thought the bread seemed just a tad too millet-y – so I’m specifying a “scant” quarter cup here. And here’s a tip: my banana bread-obsessed friend discovered that you can substitute a quarter cup of millet flour for an equally delicious but non-crackly version. (She also completely forgot to add the oil and still loved it!)

Vegan Banana Bread with Walnuts and Millet

3 large over-ripe bananas
1 “flax egg” (see note below)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or high-oleic safflower oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Scant 1/4 cup uncooked millet

Note: for this egg substitute, combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Whisk vigorously, then refrigerate for 15 minutes, or in a microwave for 45 seconds.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Mash bananas with a potato masher in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in the flax egg, then oil, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, flour, walnuts and millet. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, and mix just until combined.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife or tester comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing.

When I have leftovers to use up, I tend to throw things together a little randomly. Some of those experiments are very sad. Others, like this one, are a revelation. Yeah, this chickpea, barley and kale salad is that good!

Faced with big bowls of leftover chickpeas and barley, I recalled a simple chickpea, farro and kale recipe from theKitchn.com. Nice, but a tad boring. So I to give it a sweet-and-sour twist, along with some crunch. For the sweetness I could have reached for dried cranberries, but that’s so expected. Pickled red onions and pomegranate molasses add a much more interesting dimension. A generous amount of lemon juice and zest provided the sour notes, and roasted nuts the crunch. One taste was all it took to make me swoon.

Chickpea, Barley and Kale Salad with Pickled Onions

For pickled onions:
1 medium-large red onion, thinly sliced, then slices quartered
¾ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt

For salad:
1 medium bunch of lacinato kale, stems removed, chopped well
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one large organic lemon
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (or substitute balsamic vinegar plus a touch of honey)
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1½ cups cooked barley or farro (see note below)
½ cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped (or substitute chopped tamari almonds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the onions and simmer for 30 to 45 seconds. Let cool completely, then drain.

In a large bowl, combine the kale, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and pomegranate molasses. Massage with your hands for several minutes.

Add chickpeas, barley or farro, cashews and pickled onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper – but go very easy on the salt, because the nuts are salted.

Note: You can use leftover grains here, but if cooking the barley or farro specifically for this recipe, cook less than the suggested time, to achieve a very chewy, al dente texture. Drain and rinse in cold water before adding to salad.

Serves 4-6

Dear Readers,

Yes I am still here! Just frantically busy lately, so not much time for blogging. My sincere apologies! But while I don’t have a new recipe for you today, I do want to turn your attention to my five favorite cookie recipes. These are all musts for the holidays … so get baking!

Linzer Macaroon Sandwich Cookies. These are my absolute favorite. Gluten-free, too.

Vegan Molasses Ginger Cookies.  My friend David Kestenbaum is obsessed with these cookies. In fact, I don’t think he ever makes any other cookie recipe. I’m sure he’s making them right now.

Vegan Chocolate Mint Cookies. If you like Girl Scout thin mints but don’t care for the trans fats, these are for you. Warning, they are addictive.

Vegan Thumpbrint Cookies. These are rich with walnuts and almond butter. Definitely not a low-calorie treat, but worth the splurge.

Vegan Cranberry Walnut Cookies. The are straight from Eating Well magazine. They’re super sweet but the cranberries add a nice tang.

Happy Holidays, and happy cookie eating.

A friend recently confessed to me that he uses four sticks of butter in preparing his Thanksgiving meal. Actually, I have nothing against a splurge, if you eat very well the rest of the year, which he does. So this is not a sermon – I’m adamantly opposed to sacrificing one ounce of flavor for this, my favorite holiday. But I just know you can have a mind-blowing feast without all the butter, cream, bacon and sausage.

So I’ve searched and searched for Thanksgiving recipes that will wow vegetarians and omnivores alike, while not clogging their arteries. I think even my butter-loving compadre will find that a lot to love here!  In a departure from tradition for this blog, I have included turkey and turkey gravy recipes here. I want as many people as possible to have a heart-healthy holiday, so I’m going the inclusive route. And I’ve noted whether recipes are vegan and/or gluten-free to make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Use this as your mix & match menu planner. Pick an app, a vegetarian entree or turkey, a few sides, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, a dessert and you’re done.  Well, you still have to cook it all, but hopefully this will get you started.

The key to planning your menu is choosing carefully. For instance, make sure every dish doesn’t contain fruit and nuts (a common Thanksgiving pitfall.) Balance savory with sweet, with a few really bold or unexpected flavors, and you’ll have the perfect meal.

Killer Vegan Appetizers

Porcini and Pecan Pâté from Food and Wine. With pecans and dried porcinis, this pâté is an earthy way to start your feast. Serve with toasted whole grain baguette slices. (Vegan, Gluten-free without the bread)

Curried Spaghetti Squash and Chickpea Toasts from Food & Wine. Such an interesting mix of flavors in this app, it’s sure to have people talking – with their mouths full. (Vegan)

Beet Muhummara from The Blooming Platter. Just the color alone gives this intriguing spread a wow factor. And the fact that you can make it in a few minutes doesn’t hurt, either. (Vegan)

Sriracha-Stuffed ‘Shrooms - This recipe is from the awesome new Veggie Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook. I mean, Sriracha-laced cashew cheese stuffed in mushrooms, how can you go wrong? (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Olive Oil-Rubbed Turkey 

Roast Turkey with Rosemary and Lemon from Martha Stewart.  A great, simple recipe, with a generous amount of olive oil standing in for the butter. (Gluten-free)

Oranges and Herbs Roast Turkey from A Beautiful Mess. Wow, just look at this picture! The shock of orange will look great on your table, and once again, olive oil only. (Gluten-free)

Fresh Herb and Salt Roasted Turkey from Fine Cooking. This dry-brined turkey is a great argument for simplicity. (Gluten-free)

Vegan Thanksgiving Entrées

Glazed Lentil Apple Walnut Loaf from Oh She Glows. When I served this to some friends a while back, they remarked, “This tastes like Thanksgiving.” ‘Nuff said. (Vegan)

Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks from Post Punk Kitchen. I’m all for giving vegetarians a hearty dose of protein on Thanksgiving. This recipe fits the bill and is sure to impress. (Vegan)

Maple-Grilled Tempeh from 101 Cookbooks. A simple, flavorful protein to complement all the Thanksgiving sides. And it’s just calling out for gravy. (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Gravy You’ll Feel Good About

My Vegan Thanksgiving Gravy. This stuff always gets raves from the vegans and the meat-eaters, too. (Vegan)

Apple Cider Turkey Gravy from Eating Well.  The sweetness of the cider with the tang of cider vinegar is perfect.

Pomegranate-Rutabaga Low Fat Turkey Gravy from Clean Cuisine and More. OK, this one is just so strange that I had to include it. Let me know if you try it!

The Best Vegetarian Gravy from Umami Girl. I love how Carolyn writes about gravy here. She provides both a butter and an olive oil option. (Vegan)

Side Dishes Without Butter, Cream or Bacon

Arugula, Orange, Olive and Fennel Salad from Rebecca Gray via The Kitchn. I love the idea of the olives, what a contrast they will provide. (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Green Beans Amandine with Leek Chips from Mollie Katzen. Leek chips – yum. Just leave out the small amount of butter, it will be fine without it. (Vegan without the butter, Gluten-free)

Butternut Squash with Red Onion, Oregano and Mint from Mario Batali, via Food & Wine. This one has the added benefit of being fine served at room temperature, so you can make it ahead. (Vegan, Gluten-free)

My Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple-Mustard Glaze. I had to include my Brussels sprouts, because it’s the recipe most likely to convert brussels sprout haters! (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Healthy Green Bean Casserole from Vegan Yum Yum. Trudy developed this recipe for my Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge two years ago and it’s amazing. (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Roasted Rutabaga with Apple Cider Vinegar from Food Network. This sounds so good, I can’t wait to try it on my rutabaga-loving father-in-law. (Vegan, gluten-free)

Pureed Squash and Yams with Citrus from Martha Rose Shulman in The New York Times. I made this last year, and couldn’t believe how easy, yet vibrant, it was. (Vegan, gluten-free)

Healthier Stuffing

Rustic Bread Stuffing With Dried Cranberries, Hazelnuts and Oyster Mushrooms. This might be my pick for this Thanksgiving. I will substitute olive oil for the butter, and use a rustic whole grain bread. (Vegan without the butter)

Marcus Samuelsson’s Thanksgiving Stuffing. This is truly unusual, with pumpkin, quince and…peanuts. With this much interesting stuff going on, no one will notice it’s vegan. I’d probably use a whole wheat bread here rather than white. (Vegan with a vegetable stock substitution)

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout and Bread Stuffing with Apples from Food52. This thing has it all. Obviously, if you make this, choose sides other than butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. (Vegan, Gluten-free with a GF bread substitution)

Gluten-Free Apple Pecan Cornbread Stuffing from Sylvana Nardone via the New York Times. I’d substitute fresh sage and thyme for the Italian seasoning, but otherwise this looks awesome. (Gluten-free)

Mashed Potatoes, Only Virtuous

Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Big Girls, Small Kitchen. Simply olive oil, rosemary – oh, and an entire head of garlic! (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Mashed Potatoes with Greek Yogurt from Shape.com. Tangy and lemony, these are a delicious departure from ordinary mashed potatoes. Made with nonfat Greek yogurt, of course. (Gluten-free)

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower from Jeanette’s Healthy Living. With both garlic and Greek yogurt, this recipe is like a mash-up (pardon the pun) of the two recipes above. Using cauliflower along with potatoes cuts down the carbs quite a bit. (Gluten-free)

Less-sweet Cranberry Sauces 

Spiced Ginger, Cranberry and Pear Sauce from Pitchfork Diaries. I love, love, love this tart, complex cranberry sauce. (Vegan, gluten-free)

Spiced Cranberry Chutney with Apricots, Cherries and Pecans from Simply Healthy Family. What’s interesting about this one is that it’s sweetened only with fruit and fruit juice. (Vegan, gluten-free)

Cranberry Orange Relish from Eating Well. With only 1/4 cup of sugar, this is about the least sweetened cranberry recipe you’ll find. The ginger is a nice touch. (Vegan, gluten-free)

Hibiscus Cranberry Sauce from Love and Olive Oil. I was so excited to find this recipe, because hibiscus is one of my favorite things. Plus it’s got lime juice and very little sugar. Yippee! (Vegan, gluten-free)

Traditional Desserts Made Healthy

You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie from Food52. Wow, this recipe looks so much better than the vegan pumpkin pie recipes with tofu. Cashews are a great idea. (Vegan)

Chocolate Tofu Pudding from Vegetarian Times. Chocolate, on Thanksgiving? Hell, yeah!  I like that this recipe includes dark chocolate rather than just cocoa powder – that gives it a nice richness. (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Cranberry Upside Down Cake from This Can’t Be Vegan. While pie is more traditional, no one’s going to turn down this delicious, fruity cake. (Vegan)

My Apple Raspberry Pie. Raspberries are an unexpected touch for Thanksgiving, but the apples hold up the traditional end. Plus, the crust is so good, no one will believe there’s no butter or shortening in it. (Vegan)

Cranberry and Pear Tart from My New Roots. I’ve already made the oat and pecan crust from this recipe, to great accolades. Next time I’ll make the whole thing (although I will find a substitute for brown rice syrup, as it has been shown to be high in arsenic.) (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating,
Cathy

This is my riff on J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s lovely Garbanzos con Espinacas y Jengibre over on Serious Eats. I decided to make it less tomato-centric, instead relying more on the chickpea cooking liquid. Raisins, olives, saffron, cumin, wine and double paprika took it right to the top of Flavor Mountain.

Do try and cook the chickpeas from scratch, because the cooking liquid works very well here. But in a pinch, you can use two (BPA-free) cans of chickpeas plus their liquid, and some stock or water.

I love, love, love this stew and its intense flavors. If you’re not a big fan of smokiness, or perhaps if you’re serving this to children, you can skip the smoked paprika and even the olives.

I served this on soft polenta but it would also be good alongside olive oil mashed potatoes.

Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew

2 large garlic cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes (BPA-free brand)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups chickpea cooking liquid
12 ounces baby spinach (or chopped spinach)
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons sliced Spanish green olives (optional)
Sherry vinegar and olive oil, for drizzling

Combine the first 9 ingredients (through tomatoes) in a food processor and puree.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the pureed mixture and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add wine, chickpeas and the bean cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add a little more liquid if it seems too thick.

Add spinach and raisins, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Adjust salt to taste. Serve in bowls or over soft polenta, topping each serving with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of sherry vinegar.

First, sorry for not posting much lately. I keep getting emails asking if something is wrong. No worries, I’m fine – just busy to a ridiculous degree. Sometimes, life trumps food blogging.

As a result, this post will be short and sweet. I wanted to share this salad, which you should make this week while there are still good tomatoes and corn. The success of this dish depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients. The fresher the corn and tomatoes, the better it will be. So get to the farmer’s market!

I used tender baby zucchini in addition to the corn and tomatoes, but if there aren’t any good zucchini around, you could substitute cucumbers. Either way, the sherry vinegar gives this salad a nice tang without overwhelming the vegetables. It’s so delicious, I could eat the whole bowl in one sitting.

End-of-Summer Corn and Tomato Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Kernels from 4 medium ears corn, preferably just-picked
1 pint cherry tomatoes that have never been refrigerated, chopped
3 baby zucchini, diced small
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality sherry vinegar, or a bit more to taste
Pinch salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve. Best served the same day, without refrigeration.