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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 Christmas ideas click below


The long awaited holiday season is almost here and arrives with sparkling colors, familiar holiday songs, and memorable foods that wait a whole year to come to the festive table.

Following is a holiday menu that begins with an irresistible appetizer that puts chestnuts in the spotlight. Salads, soup, side dishes, a main dish, and a delightful cranberry dessert complete the meal. We hope our gustatory meal brings joy and pleasure to share with friends and family who share the occasion with you.


If you plan to serve one and only one special appetizer before dinner, make it this one and reap the rewards of having earned a gourmet reputation. The preparation is a bit fussy, but these can be made a day or two ahead or in steps, if you prefer. That's what I love about this recipe. Because the recipe can be assembled in separate snippets of time, it's easy to it work into a busy schedule. It's truly a party host's friend.

If you've never had the opportunity to feast on chestnuts and enjoy them in recipes, there's no better time than now. Fresh chestnuts harvested in the U.S. are available from October to December, but imported chestnuts from Italy and Asia and will be available in specialty markets and local groceries through January and sometimes even longer. The imported varieties are larger, but can be a little more challenging to peel.

What makes these Brussels sprout delicacies so extraordinary is the infusion of sweetness from the fresh chestnuts. There is no added sugar in the recipe. All the sweetness comes from the naturally sweet chestnuts.

Providing a striking flavor contrast are the bits of pungent green olives that add just the right tangy accent. You can serve these at room temperature, but warmed for 15 minutes in a preheated 325 degree F. (Gas Mark 3) oven, they're absolutely alluring!

Chestnut Stuffed Brussels Sprouts


Yield: 12 servings

    1 pound (453g) fresh Brussels sprouts

    2 cups (480 ml) diced onions
    2 cups (480 ml) diced tomatoes
    1 cup (240 ml) diced red bell peppers
    2 tablespoons water

    24 cooked and peeled chestnuts, diced (See note below)
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    Salt and pepper

    6 pimiento stuffed green olives, minced

    1/2 cup (120 ml) red and yellow bell peppers

    2-inch (5 cm) wedge of purple cabbage, finely minced

  1. TO PREPARE THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS, have ready a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan filled 2/3 full with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise. In small batches, blanch the sprouts in the boiling water for 1 1/2 minutes and remove them to a bowl.
  2. When they're cool enough to handle, use a grapefruit knife to scoop out the centers of each sprout half, forming a cavity for the stuffing. Save the centers to enhance a salad or vegetable stir-fry and set the hollowed-out sprouts aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE STUFFING, combine the onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and water in a large skillet and water-sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions are very soft and the tomatoes begin to break down. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.
  4. Add the chestnuts, garlic powder, and onion powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute longer and turn off the heat.
  5. Add the minced green olives and mix well. Spoon a generous quantity of the mixture into the sprout cavities, forming a heaping mound. Press firmly to secure the stuffing. Garnish each sprout with diced red and yellow peppers.
  6. Serve at room temperature or warm gently. To warm, place the stuffed sprouts on a large rimmed baking sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and put in a preheated 325-degree (Gas Mark 3) oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and transfer to a serving platter lined with a ring of minced purple cabbage.

With a firm-bladed paring knife, make crisscross cuts on both sides of each chestnut. Put the chestnuts into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan, cover with about 3-inches (7.5 cm) of water, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down slightly and boil gently for 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool the chestnuts slightly. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out about 3 or 4 chestnuts at a time into a small bowl, and use a paring knife to peel off the hard outer shell as well as the soft, thin, inner skin. Keeping the chestnuts warm makes it easier to remove the peel.


This is a dazzling salad you can serve any time of year, but it's especially effective during the winter, when there might actually be snow on the ground. Plan a day ahead for this recipe so you'll have the sweet potatoes roasted, the pecans candied, and the cauliflower pulse-chopped and cooked.

Snowy Daiya Salad


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

Prep in Advance
1 medium yellow sweet potato, roasted, peeled, and cut into bite-size chunks
1 cup (240 ml) Candied Pecans (Recipe below)
1/2 small head cauliflower, pulse-chopped in food processor and briefly cooked in 1/2 cup (120 ml) water on the stovetop for about 2 minutes, or until soft

Snowy Daiya Salad

    8 to 12 leaves of romaine, torn into pieces
    2 cups (480 ml) chopped purple cabbage or 3 or 4 leaves torn purple Napa cabbage
    2 to 3 leaves radicchio, torn
    1 cup (240 ml) packed baby spinach
    1 small carrot, coarsely shredded
    6 radishes, sliced
    1/2 sweet onion, cut vertically into half moons
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced

    1 cup (240 ml) shredded Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds
    Daiya Salad Dressing -- your choice of flavors

  1. TO ASSEMBLE THIS DAZZLING SALAD, combine the romaine, cabbage, radicchio, spinach, carrot, radishes, onion, and bell pepper in large salad bowl.
  2. Add the roasted yellow sweet potato chunks and half the candied pecans and toss well.
  3. Combine the cooked cauliflower and Mozzarella and sprinkle over the top of the salad, leaving a narrow border of the salad and enough spaces on top to allow the colors of the salad to sparkle.
  4. Top with the remaining candied pecans and present at the table before tossing with Daiya Blue Cheeze, Creamy Caesar, Homestyle Ranch Dressing or my homemade Creamy Ranch Dressing below.

Candied Pecans

    1/2 cup (120 ml) brown sugar, packed
    3 tablespoons maple syrup
    1 tablespoon water
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    3/4 cup (180 ml) pecans

  1. TO MAKE THE CANDIED PECANS, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, water, cinnamon, allspice, and sea salt in a 10-inch (25.4 cm) non-stick skillet.
  2. Stir with a wooden spoon over high heat until the mixture turns liquid and begins to bubble.
  3. Add the pecans and stir to coat the nuts completely. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then, transfer to a dish.
  4. Separate the pecans as best you can--they become hardened quickly. When completely cool, break apart the nuts that are stuck together.

Creamy Ranch Dressing
Yield: 2 1/2 cups (600 ml)

    1 (12-ounce/340g) box soft silken tofu
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
    3/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

    1 tablespoon finely minced parsley

  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the parsley, in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth and creamy. You may have to stop the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides. Blend again to incorporate all the ingredients.
  2. Transfer the dressing to a serving bowl or narrow-neck bottle for easy pouring. If serving in a bowl, garnish the top with the minced parsley. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
  3. Covered and refrigerated, the dressing will keep for 7 days. Stir well before serving.


Deaming of a White Christmas, this unique combination of salad vegetables provides a delightful medley of white veggies with sweet and savory flavors and crunchy textures. For seasonal flavor I've added a few veggies with bright yuletide colors. A special-occasion salad like this one deserves a very special dressing that's thick, creamy white, and ultra savory--enjoy the homemade Cashew Caesar Dressing.

Snowy Day Salad


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 (6-ounce/169g) package baby spinach

    1/2 large head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
    2 turnips, peeled and coarsely shredded
    1 medium jicama, julienne cut
    1 red apple, cored, quartered, and diced
    1 cup sliced, canned hearts of palm
    1 icicle radish, if available, or 1 celery rib, chopped
    1/2 pound (226g) button mushrooms, sliced (optional)
    1 small sweet onion, sliced into half moons

    1/2 cup (120 ml) pecan halves
    1/4 cup (60 ml) pomegranate seeds
    3 sprigs fresh mint

    1 recipe Cashew Caesar Dressing

  1. Arrange the spinach in a large, wide salad bowl. Spread the cabbage, turnips, jicama, apple, hearts of palm, icicle radish, mushrooms, and onion over the top of the spinach, allowing the spinach to form a border around the edge of the bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the top with the pecans and pomegranate seeds and garnish with sprigs of mint. After presenting the salad at the table, toss it, and serve the dressing on the side.

Cashew Caesar Dressing

Yield: 3 12 cups (840 ml)

    2 cups (480 ml) water, divided
    1/2 cup (120 ml) cashews, whole almonds, or macadamias
    1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lime juice or lemon juice
    3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    3 tablespoons dark miso
    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum
    1 clove garlic
    1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

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


An instant family favorite, this traditional Italian fisherman's stew takes on a distinctive new personality with its vibrant vegan base and a delightful burst of sweetness that chestnuts bring to the dish. Consider serving the chowder in a small bowl to leave plenty of room for the tasty meal ahead. Typically, the cioppino is served over pasta, which is always a delicious option, but this presentation is simply wholesome, homespun chowder that stands on its own. For the finishing touch, add a spoonful or two of vegan Homemade Parmesan over the top and bask in Italian delight.

To turn the chowder into a delicious, hearty meal, begin with a bountiful salad of leafy greens and plenty of chopped veggies dressed with a light balsamic dressing. Then, accompany the cioppino with plenty of lusty whole-grain bread for mopping up the savory sauce. During the busy holiday season, cioppino makes an easy, make-ahead meal to have on hand.

Tofu Chestnut Cioppino


Yield: about 6 servings

    2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 pound (453g) extra firm tofu, well drained, and cut into 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) cubes

    1 large onion, diced
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 to 3 tablespoons water, plus more if needed

    3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kilos) fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped

    1 green bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
    1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
    1/2 pound (226g) white or red potatoes, unpeeled, chopped into bite-size chunks
    1 zucchini, chopped into bite-size chunks
    1 (6-ounce/169g) can tomato paste
    1 cup (240 ml) water
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    3/4 teaspoon dried basil
    3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle
    Pinch cayenne, or more if desired

    1 cup (240 ml) cooked chestnuts, cut in half

    2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley
    6 sprigs fresh basil
    2 tablespoons pine nuts

  1. Combine the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and tofu in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high heat, frequently tossing the tofu with a wooden spoon for about 5 to 7 minutes until the liquid evaporates. Continue tossing the tofu cubes until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the onion, olive oil, and water in the same skillet and cook and stir over high heat for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onions begin to brown. Add more water as needed to prevent burning the onions. Transfer the onions to an 8 to 10-quart (8 to 10-liter) stockpot.
  3. Put the tomatoes in the food processor in batches and pulse-chop them until coarsely or finely puree, depending on your preference. Transfer them to the stockpot.
  4. Add the bell peppers, potatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, water, garlic, salt, oregano, basil, fennel seeds, and cayenne to the stockpot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Add the browned tofu cubes and chestnuts and cook another 2 minutes to warm through.
  5. To serve, spoon the cioppino into wide soup bowls and garnish with a pinch of minced parsley. Place a sprig of basil in the center of the bowl and finish with a tiny mound of pine nuts in the center or sprinkled over the top.

Note: If you decide to use Roma tomatoes, which tend to be a bit less juicy, add an extra 1/2-cup (120 ml) of water.

Helpful Hint: The secret to successful chestnut cookery is to always have at least one cup of cooked and peeled chestnuts on hand. Then, you can be spontaneous and plunge right in to cook up a tasty chestnut-based meal without advance preparation. Many markets now carry cooked and peeled chestnuts in vacuum-sealed pouches. These time savers make it possible to enjoy chestnut-enhanced dishes year round.

Homemade Parmesan

Makes 1 1/4 cups (300 ml)

    1 cup (240 ml) almonds
    1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. (Avoid over-processing or it will turn into almond butter.)
  2. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 months.


A beautiful main dish, this dynamic creation features a tasty whole-grain base, a hearty serving of vegetables, and an ambrosial sauce to give the dish the royal pizazz. The snowy white, ultra creamy walnut sauce provides the perfect white canvas for creative garnishing with fresh pomegranate seeds and a mince of parsley.

White Christmas Trio with Walnut Sauce


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    Bulgur Wheat
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) coarse bulgur wheat or Basmati brown rice
    3 cups (720 ml) water
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt

    1/3 cup (80 ml) raisins

    Walnut Sauce
    3 cups (720 ml) walnuts
    3 cups (720 ml) vanilla soymilk
    1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    1/2 teaspoon organic sugar
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    Pinch cayenne (optional)

    2 large carrots, coarsely grated
    2 large zucchini squashes, coarsely grated
    1 large yellow summer squash, coarsely grated
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 tablespoons water
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, crosswise
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper

    Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

    1/2 to 3/4 cup (120 to (180 ml) pomegranate seeds
    2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

  1. TO MAKE THE BULGUR WHEAT, combine the bulgur, water, and salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 12 to 15 minutes (steam Basmati brown rice 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender).
  2. Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to plump them while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  3. TO MAKE THE WALNUT SAUCE, put the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will thicken when standing. Set aside in a saucepan and warm gently before serving.
  4. TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, combine the carrots, zucchini, squash, onions, water, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large deep skillet.
  5. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add lemon juice to taste.
  6. Drain the water from the reserved raisins and add them to the vegetables and toss well.


  1. Spoon the bulgur wheat onto a large serving platter and spread it to within an inch of the edge of the platter.
  2. Spoon some of the walnut sauce over the bulgur, leaving a 1-inch border of the bulgur.
  3. Form a ring of the cooked vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border of bulgur wheat around the edges.
  4. Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and parsley over the top.
  5. Serve the remainder of the walnut sauce on the side.


Broccoli joins the festive occasion with its bright green florets and offers an attractive side dish boldly accented with the tang of lemon and capers. The secret to perfectly cooked broccoli florets is the brief blanching to soften them and a quick warming just before serving. By assembling the broccoli with the sauce just before serving, its color remains bright green.

Broccoli with Lemon Caper Sauce


Yield: 6 servings

    3 large broccoli crowns, cut into florets
    1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) matchsticks
    Boiling water

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) vegetable broth
    1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
    3 tablespoons well-drained capers
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 or 2 tablespoons water

  1. Fill a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan 2/3 full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. In small batches, plunge the broccoli florets and carrots into the boiling water and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
  2. When all the florets and carrots are cooked, drain the water from the saucepan. Combine the vegetable broth, lemon juice, capers, thyme, salt, and pepper in the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and slowly add it to the simmering broth, stirring continuously for 1 minute until the sauce is lightly thickened.
  4. Add the cooked broccoli and carrots and toss gently until just warmed. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.


How wonderful it is to have a repertoire of tasty and satisfying vegetable dishes that are easy and trouble-free to prepare! It's a host's dream when you can have the combination of easy and delicious in one dish, especially when assembling a special meal for guests. Rutabagas are the lesser-known vegetables of the root family, yet they're available year round and are prized for their rich flavor reminiscent of turnips and cabbages. Combined with yams, kale, and raisins, this dish makes an inviting appearance at the table. It's even delicious served cold or room temperature.

Golden Rutabagas


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

    1 large rutabaga, about 3/4 pound/340g, peeled and coarsely shredded
    1 medium yam, about 1/2 pound/226g, peeled and coarsely shredded
    1 medium onion, sliced vertically into half moons
    1 large leaf kale, rib discarded, chopped into bite size pieces or 2 small bulbs baby bok choy, chopped
    1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water

    1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins
    Pinch cayenne
    Salt and pepper

    2 tablespoons chopped green onions
    1 sprig fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil)

  1. Combine the rutabaga, yam, onion, and kale in a large deep skillet. Add the water and cook and stir over high heat for 4 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.
  2. Add the raisins and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl or platter and garnish with the green onions and herbs.


Here's a tasty and attractive side dish that looks great on the buffet table. To save time, prepare the chickpeas and vegetables a day ahead and dress the dish shortly before serving.

Chickpea Salad


    1 (15-ounce/424g) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    4 to 5 radishes, sliced
    1 small red onion, cut into half moons
    1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
    1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

    2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
    2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 mini yellow pepper

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine chickpeas, bell pepper, radishes, onion, parsley, and fennel and toss well.
  2. Add the grapeseed oil, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the mini yellow pepper flower.


A special holiday meal deserves a sensational finish to bring the meal to a close with delightful flavors that linger with sweet, memorable nostalgia.

Toss showy cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert.

Though prepared cranberry items will be available long after the holidays, fresh cranberries will disappear from the market by year's end. I like to buy a few extra 12-ounce (340g) packages and tuck them into the freezer. That way, I can almost spontaneously make a cranberry mousse, bread pudding, sauce, cake, or quick bread throughout the year. Frozen, the cranberries keep well for at least 6 to 8 months.

This is one of the delicious recipes from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet available on Amazon.

Cranberry Walnut Pie


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 cup (240g) walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
    1 (12-ounce/340g) package fresh whole cranberries
    1/2 cup (120 ml) golden raisins
    1/2 cup (120 ml) organic sugar
    1/2 cup (120 ml) light brown sugar, packed
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    Nutty Wheat Pie Crust:
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) whole-wheat pastry flour
    1/2 cup (120 ml) almond meal
    2 tablespoons organic sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup organic canola oil
    2 tablespoons cold water

  1. TO MAKE THE CRANBERRY FILLING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4).
  2. Put the walnuts in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
  3. Put 1 cup (240 ml) of the cranberries in the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
  4. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the cornstarch paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
  5. TO MAKE THE CRUST, combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and mix well. Add the canola oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated.
  6. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  7. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper or parchment. Remove the top sheet, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. The remaining sheet of waxed paper will now be on top of the crust. Remove it carefully and trim the edges of the crust with a knife.
  8. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
  9. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.



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