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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise
 Vegetarian Cooking with Zel

Includes recipes below

For More Thanksgiving ideas click on


Autumn is that wonderful season when the air is crisp and often dotted with tidbits of surprising Indian Summer heat. It's also the welcome season when we begin thinking about Thanksgiving and all the treasured recipes we've saved for that special day when we share the harvest meal with family and friends.

In this delightful season a trip to the grocery store is a feast for the eyes that gravitate to the edible treasures filling the brimming produce bins. What a joy it is to stroll the produce aisles and see brightly colored new varieties of squashes of every size and shape and tomatoes of many colors! Who can resist the bright orange crunchy Fuyu and ripe Hachiya persimmons, fresh and tart marbles of cranberries, and jumbo red pomegranates that beg to come home with us?

And we mustn't forget plump chestnuts! If you've never tasted the delicious sweetness of fresh chestnuts, now is that truly special opportunity while the September harvest is still available. The U.S. grown chestnut season is very short. After Thanksgiving, they're usually sold out, but fresh chestnuts from China are readily available through early spring.

Each of these magnificent foods adds irresistible enticement and pure dining pleasure for our autumn meals. Whether you're planning special dishes for Thanksgiving or just enjoying great-tasting foods of the season, you'll find each of these dazzling harvest gleanings represented in the following recipes.

This is one of the easiest appetizers I've ever made. I was able to prepare the hummus in advance, so it was a snap to create these shortly before dinner. The best part was that it was a total success--all the credit goes to delicious blending of both sweet and savory flavors that just melt in the mouth. Since this starter is eaten with the fingers, be sure to provide plenty of those cute little cocktail napkins, because it's guaranteed those little fingers are going to get a bit messy.

Persimmon Hummus Canapes


Makes 8 to 10 servings

    2 Fuyu persimmons

    1 recipe hummus

    Black or white sesame seeds
    Italian parsley
    Cluster of red flame grapes

  1. Use a paring knife to carefully remove the persimmon stems. Lay the persimmons on their sides and cut 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) thick slices. Cut each slice into quarters.
  2. Arrange the persimmon quarters on an attractive serving dish and use a spoon to place a tiny dollop of hummus into the center of each quarter.
  3. Garnish the tops with a pinch of black or white sesame seeds. Garnish the platter with Italian parsley and an attractive cluster of red grapes.

Hummus (Makes 1 3/4 cups)

    1 (15-ounce/424g) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
    1/4 cup (60 ml) tahini
    1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
    3 to 4 tablespoons water or garbanzo liquid
    1 clove garlic
    1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

  1. Combine the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt in a food processor. Process for a full minute, or until smooth and creamy. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water if needed to create a thinner consistency.
  2. Spoon the Hummus into a serving bowl. If serving hummus as a stand-alone appetizer with pita chips, sprinkle the top with paprika and add a little drizzle of olive oil.

What could be more fitting for an autumn meal than a robust kale salad with roasted root veggies to serve as a tasty first course or to add to the dinner buffet? This salad gives the oven a little workout roasting the beets and potatoes while the home chef is preparing the kale and remaining vegetables.

With this medley of vegetables, the ever-popular kale salad leaves summer behind and takes up an intuitive autumn sense with its choice of heartier, drier vegetables so apropos to the cooler season. Infused with the distinct flavor of sesame seeds, Tahini Dijon Salad Dressing adds the perfect finishing touch to this vigor-inducing salad.

Autumn Kale Salad


Yield: about 5 servings

    4 small golden beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wedges
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic canola oil, divided

    1 large red beet, peeled and cut into thin wedges
    1 1/2 cups pee wee potatoes

    1 large bunch kale

    2 medium carrots, coarsely shredded
    1 large apple, chopped
    3/4 cup (180 ml) toasted walnuts

    1 recipe Tahini Dijon Salad Dressing

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (Gas Mark 5) and have ready 2 small rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Put the prepared golden beets in a large zipper-lock plastic bag and add 2 teaspoons of the canola oil. Shake the bag to coat the vegetables completely. Put the beets on one of the baking sheets.
  3. Put the red beets in the plastic bag and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Shake well and put the red beets on the other baking sheet. Divide the potatoes between the two baking sheets and roast the combo for 30 to 35 minutes, or until just fork tender.
  4. While the beets are roasting, tear the kale into bite-size pieces, discarding the tough ribs. Put the kale in a large, wide salad bowl.
  5. When the beets are soft, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Toss the red beets with the kale and arrange the golden beets on top in the center of the kale.
  6. Alternate clusters of the potatoes, carrots, and apples around the golden beets and sprinkle the walnuts over the top. Bring to the table and toss well. Serve with Tahini Dijon Salad Dressing on the side.

Tahini Dijon Dressing (Makes 2 cups)
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) water
1/2 cup (120 ml) plus 1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce, Tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum, if needed for thickening

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until smooth and creamy.
  2. Use a funnel to pour the dressing into a narrow-neck bottle for easy serving. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. Refrigerated, the dressing keeps well for up to 1 week. Shake well before serving.

There's just something magical about bringing an aromatic, eye-appealing, savory main-dish pie to the table that stirs the guests waiting in anticipation of a hearty serving. This irresistible mushroom pie with its very unique garbanzo bean crust is definitely the hearty centerpiece of the meal and pairs easily with almost any vegetable, grain, or legume side dishes you might choose.

I like to serve the pie with a dollop or two of Tofu Sour Cream or a generous ladle of Mushroom Wine Gravy--A special topping just seems to heighten the flavor and brings a touch of elegance to each serving. Both recipes are below.

You might be wondering why the pie filling contains tapioca starch--definitely not an ingredient common in everyone's kitchen. This unique ingredient makes a terrific binder in foods like vegetable pies, veggie and bean patties, and even desserts like a vegan pecan pie--it's simply the handy glue that holds meal-like mixtures together.

The pie can be prepared a day or two ahead and simply warmed in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Before reheating, cover the pie with aluminum foil to prevent drying.

Mushroom Pie/Garbanzo Bean Crust


Yield: 8 to 10 servings

    Garbanzo Crust
    1 (14-ounce/396g) can garbanzo beans, liquid drained and reserved
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 1 tablespoon aquafaba (garbanzo bean liquid)

    1/2 cup (120 ml) whole wheat pastry flour
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    Mushroom Filling
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
    2 tablespoons tapioca starch

    1/2 pound (226g) button, cremini, or Portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
    2 cups (480 ml) cooked short-grain brown rice or coarse-grain bulgar wheat
    3/4 cup (180 ml) minced carrots
    3/4 cup (180 ml) minced onions

    1/2 cup (120 ml) coarsely ground walnuts
    1/2 cup (120 ml) almond meal
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
    1 teaspoon salt or to taste
    3/4 teaspoon liquid hickory smoke
    Freshly ground pepper to taste

    6 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (optional)
    Sprig of fresh herbs of choice

Mushroom Pie/Garbanzo Bean Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (Gas Mark 4) and lightly oil a 9-or 10-inch (20 or 23 cm) pie pan. Set the pie pan on a large rimmed baking sheet for easy removal from the oven. Set aside and prepare the pie crust.
  2. TO MAKE THE CRUST, combine the garbanzo beans and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the aquafaba in a bowl and mash firmly with a potato masher until the beans are completely broken down.
  3. Add the flour, olive oil, salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of aquafaba and mash with a fork until well incorporated but still slightly lumpy.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the oiled pie pan and use the fingers to press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  5. Bake the crust for 15 to 18 minutes to firm. Remove from the oven and set aside. Prepare the filling.
  6. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM FILLING, combine the water, flaxseed meal, and tapioca starch in a small bowl or cup, stir well, and set aside to thicken.
  7. Put the mushrooms and cooked rice in the food processor and pulse until the mushrooms are finely minced or almost paste-like. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
  8. Add the carrots, onions, walnuts, almond meal, garlic, poultry seasoning, salt, liquid smoke, and pepper to the bowl and mix well by hand to distribute the seasonings evenly.
  9. Add the flaxseed mixture and continue mixing by hand to incorporate all the ingredients evenly.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pie crust and use the back of a spoon to pack the mixture firmly, filling the edges and smoothingthe top.
  11. Arrange the optional cherry tomatoes in the center, in a ring around the edge of the pie, or create your own design with the tomatoes. Cover the pie pan with aluminum foil to prevent drying.
  12. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until the top is firm when gently pressed. Cool 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with Mushroom Wine Gravy or Tofu Sour Cream on the side.

Mushroom Gravy (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

    1/2 pound 225g) sliced button mushrooms
    1 3/4 cups (415 ml) plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
    1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
    1/4 cup (60 ml) dry red wine
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    3 tablespoons cornstarch

  1. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, combine the mushrooms, 1 3/4 cups (415 ml) of the water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.

Tofu Sour Cream (Makes 1 1/2 cups)
1 (12-3-ounce/348.7g) box Morinu extra-firm silken tofu, well drained
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

    Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping once to scrape down the work bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to thicken. Stored in a tightly covered container and refrigerated, Tofu Sour Cream will keep 1 week.

This is a medley of fruits and vegetables that boasts the edible riches of the season. Easy to assemble and quickly seasoned with only a minimum of ingredients, this side dish can be prepared up to one day ahead but best if served the same day. Rose water is what gives this salad its special perk. Look for the rose water in Middle Eastern markets and sometimes in natural food markets.

Autumn Beauty Beet  Salad


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

    3 tangerines, sectioned, sections halved crosswise
    1 (8-ounce/226g) package Melissa's Steamed Baby Beets, cut into wedges, or use 1 (15-ounce/424g) can whole beets, drained and cut into wedges
    1 cup (240 ml) finely sliced sweet onions
    3/4 cup (180 ml) peeled and cooked chestnuts, cut into wedges
    3/4 cup (180 ml) pomegranate seeds, divided
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon rose water
    1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh mint leaves

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the tangerines, beets, onions, chestnuts, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the pomegranate seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, rose water, and salt and mix well to distribute ingredients evenly.
  2. Transfer the salad to an attractive bowl and top with the mint leaves and the reserved 1/4 cup (60 ml) pomegranate seeds.

Here's an easy, no-fail recipe that works for a variety of winter squashes and other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes. If you prepare all the vegetables and seasonings ahead, you can pop the pan into the oven 30 minutes before serving dinner, and you'll have a delicious, hot vegetable medley to accompany the entrée.

Roasted Butternut Squash Asian Style


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

    1 butternut squash, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds (1 kilo)

    1 or 2 leaves bok choy, chopped
    1 large red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) thick
    1 medium red onion, sliced into half moons
    8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon cumin seeds
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    Freshly ground pepper

    1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds, or a combination of both
    2 tablespoons chopped green onions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 6) and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the squash. With a heavy-duty chef's knife, cut the squash into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick slices, then, cut the slices into bite-size chunks. Put the chunks into a heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag.
  3. Add the bok choy, bell pepper, red onion, garlic, vinegar, cumin seeds, sesame oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Seal the bag and shake well to distribute the ingredients and seasonings evenly.
  4. Spread the vegetable mixture onto the baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When the squash is fork tender, adjust seasonings if needed and spoon into a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Chestnuts are the definitive sweet infusion that makes this earthy pilaf so special, while exotic spices help transform it into a vibrant side dish. In addition to their delicate sweetness, chestnuts also contribute pleasing potato-like texture.

This is an ideal dish for the Thanksgiving meal, but you don't have to save it just for that special day. I invite you to enjoy the recipe throughout the season and to dress it up with special touches of your own. Perhaps, you'll want to add some diced red bell pepper or carrots for color. Even fresh kernels of corn might make a pleasing addition. Or, simply enjoy the dish as is. The pilaf is a convenient side dish you can prepare a day or two ahead and reheat gently on the stovetop shortly before serving.

For convenience, consider buying cooked and peeled chestnuts in a jar or vacuum-sealed packages. But if you're a true chestnut enthusiast, you'll probably want to buy fresh chestnuts, score them, boil them for 25 to 30 minutes, and spend a little time peeling them.

When chestnut season is over, you can still enjoy this dish by substituting with walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or pine nuts.

Wild Rice and Chestnut Pilaf


Yield: 4 to 6 servings

    3 cups ((720 ml) water
    1 cup (240 ml) wild rice
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
    1 (14-ounce/396g) can diced tomatoes
    3 large leaves Swiss chard, stems discarded, leaves chopped
    1/4 to 3/4 teaspoons curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cardamom
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

    2/3 to 3/4 cup (160 to 180 ml) chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or coarsely chopped raw or roasted walnuts

    1 green onion, sliced
    1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

  1. Combine the water, wild rice, and salt in a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the onion, tomatoes, Swiss chard, curry powder to taste, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, cardamom, and cloves in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion and chard are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  3. Drain any excess liquid from the rice and add the rice and chestnuts to the tomato mixture. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  4. Adjust seasoning to taste and spoon the pilaf into a large serving bowl. Garnish with the green onion and parsley.

Stuffed Winter Squashes with Wild Rice Chestnut Pilaf
When fall and winter squashes are in abundance, you can also put the Wild Rice Chestnut Pilaf to work as a delicious stuffing. Acorn, butternut, Delicata squashes, and small pie pumpkins make excellent vessels.

Cut the squashes in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, and brush the cut sides lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Spoon the pilaf into the cavities and cover the squashes with aluminum foil.

Put the squashes on a baking sheet and bake them in a preheated 400-degree F. (Gas Mark 6) oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the squashes are fork tender.

For that sweet finish to a magnificent autumn meal, you can serve this dessert as a simple mousse without the Cranberry Splash and top it with a fresh strawberry or a small cluster of thawed frozen raspberries sweetened to taste. Add a sprig of fresh mint for garnish and you're done--but you'll be missing a special flavor burst from one of the great jewels of the fall and winter season.

Simply put, fresh cranberries sweetened to taste are pure sorcery!

Chocolate Truffle Mousse/Cranberry Splash


Yield: 8 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) water
    1 cup (240 ml) cashews
    1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk
    1 cup (240 ml) plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    8 ounces unsweetened vegan chocolate

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) fresh cranberries
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
    3/4 cup (180 ml) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons organic sugar

    8 small springs fresh mint leaves

  1. TO MAKE THE MOUSSE, pour the water and cashews into a blender. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Add the coconut cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon and set aside in the blender.
  2. Put the chocolate in a 1-or 2-quart (1- or 2-liter) saucepan. Cook and stir over the lowest heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chocolate is completely melted.
  3. Add the melted chocolate to the blender. Process until the mousse is smooth and creamy. Spoon the mousse into eight small dessert cups or long-stemmed glasses to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the tops. Chill for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Wash and dry the blender jar.
  4. TO MAKE THE SPLASH, combine the cranberries, water, and sugar in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring to a boil uncovered over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the cranberry mixture to a blender. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Pour the cranberry mixture into a small pitcher or serving bowl and chill for 8 to 12 hours. Because of its natural pectin, it will firm slightly when refrigerated.
  6. To serve, stir the splash vigorously and spoon a generous portion over the chocolate truffle. For the finishing touch, top with a mint sprig.

Click here for past cookingwithzel@home.comeonin recipes

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