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Cavatappi and Chestnuts with Creamy Kabocha Sauce and Cranberries

There have been several requests that I post the recipe for my pasta with kabocha squash sauce — so here it is!  The first time I made it, there was no recipe because I put it together quite spontaneously using leftover roasted kabocha squash.  This particular type of squash is so deliciously flavorful that it barely needs any other seasonings to boost its flavor. So, unlike your typical pumpkin sauces or those made with a less flavorful squash, there aren’t a ton of ingredients in this sauce — the squash does most of the heavy lifting!

Look for kabocha squash (aka Hokaido pumpkin) at Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. The superior flavor of the kabocha squash makes a substitution difficult, but if you can’t find one, then use a buttercup or butternut squash instead.

To dress this up for Thanksgiving, I’ve added cooked peeled chestnuts and sweetened dried cranberries, resulting in a very festive and totally delicious dish.

Some variations:

  • If you can’t find cooked peeled chestnuts (I buy them at Asian markets where they are available in vacuum sealed bags for under $2.00), you can roast your own chestnuts or simply substitute lightly toasted walnut or pecan pieces.
  • To make this a “centerpiece” dish, transfer it to a large serving bowl and top with a sprinkling of  lightly toasted panko crumbs and a little minced parsley.
  • You can substitute any bite-sized pasta you like, but I prefer the fun shape and chewy texture of cavatappi (and it holds the sauce well).

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Cavatappi and Chestnuts with Creamy Kabocha Sauce and Cranberries

1 small kabocha squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or sage
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
12 ounces cavatappi or other bite-sized pasta
2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked peeled chestnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the two squash halves, cut-side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake until the squash is tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover and set aside to cool.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the thyme and paprika, if using, then remove from the heat.
Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until it is just tender. Drain and return to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, scoop about 2 cups of the cooked squash out of its shell and transfer it to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add the reserved onion mixture and 1 cup of the almond milk and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, scraping down the sides of the processor, then process again until smooth and creamy, adding as much of the remaining almond milk as needed to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
Add the sauce mixture, along with the chestnuts and cranberries to the drained cooked pasta and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Heat over low heat for a few minutes, if necessary. Serve hot.

Serves 4


Vegan Holiday Hotline – 2014 Edition


It’s that time of year again!  We all know holiday meals can be stressful, especially for new vegans whose extended families may be accustomed to a turkey on the table. That’s why I’m here to take the stress-work out of the holidays. There are lots of ways to stay calm and enjoy the day.

If you’re having omnivore guests for Thanksgiving, let them discover how delicious a turkey-free Thanksgiving can be by serving a menu of delicious seasonal dishes. I love traditions, so whenever I cook a holiday meal at home, whether for two people or twenty, I like to prepare a big feast with all the trimmings. Here are some tips:

I never debut an untried new dish for company, and I encourage you to do likewise. If you want to make something new to you, plan to make it once before the big day so you know in advance what to expect from a particular recipe. This will help eliminate the stress factor when you make it the second time around, because by then, you’re an expert.

  • When cooking for non-vegan guests, the menu should include a few familiar dishes. Holidays are not the time to try out that new quinoa-hemp seed dish. If you have some favorite family side dishes, you might want to include them in your menu to provide a familiar touchstone. Familiar favorites such as cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, can help to quell any anxiety of relatives who may think they’ll starve if they can’t eat meat.
  • Many traditional holiday recipes (especially the side dishes) can be easily made with plant-based ingredients such as vegetable broth, Earth Balance, and non-dairy milk – and no one will know the differences.
  • When it comes to a main dish, I suggest featuring a “centerpiece” dish such as a thinly sliced vegan roast or loaf, garnished with roasted vegetables, or perhaps a stuffed squash (or several individual stuffed squash halves) served with a luscious vegan gravy.
  • If you’re not much for old traditions, make some new ones! Prepare a large pan of lasagna or mac and cheese with a big salad, or go global with an Ethiopian feast or Spanish tapas.
  • For those occasions when I’m a guest at someone’s home, I always offer to bring something to the dinner table – I usually make a hearty casserole of some kind that can double as a main dish for us but be enjoyed as a side for all the non-vegans who will invariably want a “taste.” If I have time, I also like to bring a vegan dessert, mostly to serve as an ambassador of plant-based food. No omnivore has ever turned down a slice of my pumpkin cheesecake!

Have a particular question? My “Holiday Hotline” is open Just leave your question at the end of this post, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.

In the meantime, here are a few links to help you get through the holidays deliciously (and stress-free).

On Vegan.com, you can find my recipes for two complete Thanksgiving dinner menus:  Menu #1 and Menu #2 (each link goes to a different set of recipes.)

On VeganStreet.com,  some of my holiday tips (and a recipe) are featured in their All-Star Guide.

For more menu ideas, here are links to some of my favorite holiday recipes from my blog (some traditional and some not!):

Savory Pumpkin Bites with Green Chile Aioli

Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus

Mac and Cheddar Cauliflower

Roasted Shepherd’s Pie

Lime-Braised Cranberry Sauce

Penne and Butternut Squash with Kale Pesto

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Pumpkin Tiramisu

Pumpkin Cheesecake

And finally, here’s the recipe for my new favorite holiday side dish, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts from my new book, Vegan Without Borders: Easy Everyday Meals from Around the World.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Walnuts

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, it may be because you’ve never had them prepared this way. Roasting transforms these tiny orbs into delicious flavor bombs, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper and a little olive oil and lemon juice. The walnuts add a delightful crunch.  This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson (c) 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Serves 4 |Gluten-free | Soy-Free

1½ pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup walnut pieces
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside. If the Brussels sprouts are small, leave them whole. If they are on the large side, cut them in half lengthwise. Place the Brussels sprouts in a bowl. Add the oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, stir the sprouts so they brown evenly, then sprinkle the walnut pieces among the sprouts. Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast, until the sprouts are crisp and browned on the outside and tender
inside, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot sprinkled with a little lemon juice.

Variation: For a touch of sweetness, mix in  1/4 to 1/3 cup of  sweetened dried cranberries or chopped pitted dates just before serving.


…to best way to promote holiday harmony at the dinner table is to end your meal on a sweet note…..

Pumpkin Cheesecake w drizzle 1c



Plant Power! Chickpea and Kale Sandwich Spread


Chickpeas and kale are two of my favorite everyday ingredients.  They’re so nutritious and flavorful, but it’s their versatility that gives them extra points.  That’s why the recipe for Chickpea and Kale Sandwich Spread in Nava Atlas’s new book, Plant Power caught my eye.  And it’s also why I’m especially happy to share this recipe with you today as part of my friend Nava’s blog tour for Plant Power, her latest book.

In addition to featuring over 150 plant-based recipes, Plant Power also serves as a guide to help transform your life with vegan food. Nava’s easy and delicious recipes, helpful tips, and welcoming voice, along with lovely photos by Hannah Kaminsky, combine to make this a terrific book for new and longtime vegans alike.

I hope all my fellow chickpeas and kale lovers will enjoy this stop on the Plant Power blog tour with this easy and delicious recipe from Nava Atlas.

Chickpea and Kale Sandwich Spread or Salad
Chickpeas and kale are a tasty team, and this combination makes a great spread for bread, a filling for pita bread or a wrap (along with some tender lettuce and sliced tomatoes), or layered scoop of it on a sturdy flatbread and served open-faced. For a nice warm weather meal, this is great served with a potato salad and a simple fruit medley. Recipe from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

Serves: 4 to 6 (makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups)

• 2 medium kale leaves (any variety), rinsed well
• 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
• 2 cups cooked or one 15- to 16-ounce can (drained and rinsed) chickpeas
• 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but highly recommended)
• 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
• 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
• 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves
• 1 to 2 scallions, green parts only, cut into large pieces, optional
• 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, or more to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
• Freshly ground pepper to taste
• Fresh green sprouts (optional

Combine the kale and carrot in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the chickpeas are evenly chopped and everything is nicely blended—don’t overprocess; leave the mixture a bit chunky.  Transfer to a serving container and serve at once, or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Variation: Use a good handful of baby spinach or arugula in place of the kale.

Nutrition information (per 1/2 cup serving) Calories: 220; Total fat: 7g; Protein: 13g; Carbohydrates: 29g; Fiber: 9g; Sodium: 208mg



Chili Mac is the Answer

One Pot Cheesy Mac REV

With a chill in the air and darkness coming earlier, comfort food has been calling my name.  Two of my favorite comfort foods are vegan mac and cheese and a nice spicy chili.

I made a batch of quick chili on Sunday — the Three-Bean Pantry Chili from my cookbook, MORE Quick-Fix Vegan.  It was soooo good!  For last night’s dinner, I whipped up the Mac UnCheesy Bowls from the same book.   It was only with the greatest amount of willpower that there are some leftovers of both. So…..guess what’s on the menu for dinner tonight? That’s right:

Chili + Mac UnCheese = Chili Mac!!!

You don’t even need a recipe to make it!  Just combine leftover chili with leftover mac n’ cheese in a lightly oiled casserole dish and bake until hot.  (You can top this with a little shredded vegan cheese or some crumbled tortilla chips.) If you don’t want to turn on the oven, just heat in a saucepan or even in the microwave.

You can of course use any chili and mac and cheese recipes you like, but I really like the flavor (and speed, and convenience) of the recipes in MORE Quick-Fix Vegan.   (thanks to Zsu Dever for the great photos). On the chance that you do not yet have MORE Quick-Fix Vegan (my favorite of all three in the “Quick-Fix” series), I’ll share the recipes with you here.  Let me know what you think!

Three-Bean Pantry Chili REV

Three-Bean Pantry Chili
A selection of canned beans combine with a jar of salsa and some chili powder for an almost effortless pot of chili. Vary the beans according to what’s on hand (lentils are great in this!) and add some TVP if you like. The optional corn kernels make a tasty addition. Naturally, if you have any chili toppings on hand such as avocado, scallions, or vegan sour cream, feel free to use them at will. From MORE Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Serves 4

1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (24-ounce) jar salsa (hot or mild)
2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
1 (8-ounce) can corn kernels, drained (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, reserving half the corn, if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through and long enough to cook off any raw taste from the chili powder, 15 to 20 minutes. Add up to 1 cup of water if the chili is too thick. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining corn kernels.


Mac UnCheesy Bowls
Serves 4
If ever there was comfort food in a bowl, it’s this recipe. A protein-rich stovetop mac and cheese combines with broccoli for a quick and easy one-dish meal that is sure to please kids of all ages. Instead of broccoli, you could use a different vegetable, such as chopped spinach or frozen green peas. From MORE Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
8 ounces elbow macaroni
3 cups small broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper or cooked butternut squash
3/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/3 cup nutritional yeast, or more
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the macaroni in a pot of boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and cook a few minutes longer, until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is just tender. Drain and return to the pot.
In a food processor or blender, combine the cannellini beans, bell pepper, almond milk, tahini, lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, salt, and pepper. Add a dash of cayenne or hot sauce if desired. Process until smooth and well blended. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Add a little more almond milk if the sauce is too thick. Transfer the sauce mixture to the pot containing the cooked pasta and broccoli. Stir gently over low heat to combine and heat through. To serve, divide the mixture into four bowls.




The Vegetarian Flavor Bible…and more

veg flavor bible

Because my day job is writing cookbooks, you’d think I’d want to relax by reading something non-food related, right?  Wrong!  My nightstand usually holds a stack of food magazines and cookbooks, that I read like novels.

The latest page-turner I’ve been enjoying is The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, a labor of love written by Karen Page with gorgeous photos by Andrew Dornenburg.  Since I was already an avid fan of The Flavor Bible, I knew I’d love this new book dedicated to all flavors vegetarian!  Like its predecessor, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is not a cookbook — it’s all about FLAVOR — specifically flavor pairings of virtually every vegetarian ingredient under the sun.  (note: dairy products are also in this book.)

If you’re a “foodie” person, you’ll love The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.  It’s an indispensable resource for chefs, food writers, and cookbook authors, but even if you just like to cook, and want a better understanding of flavor dynamics — what combines well and why — you’ll find the information in this book extremely interesting and helpful.

In other news:

There’s been a lot of great buzz for my newest book, Vegan Without Borders.

Here are some highlights:

  • Named one of the best vegan cookbooks of 2014 on Vegan.com
  • Great reviews on GoodReads
  • Reviews, recipes, and more in a variety of print newspapers
  • Featured on lots of great food blogs including:

Veggie Girl

Zsu’s Vegan Pantry

Food Republic


Hungry Vegan (there’s a cookbook giveaway going on there now!)



Appetite for Books

…. and lots more.

In other, other news…..

I had the pleasure of attending a multi-course dinner event at Eatonville in DC last week to celebrate The Lusty Vegan by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg.  The recipes were from the book and the meal was out of this world.  The place was packed!

The night before, however, was even better.  Ayinde cooked a fantastic meal for us at a friend’s home including his insanely delicious crab cakes made with hearts of palm:


He also made his Devil’s Pot Pie (with a hint of habanero), roasted winter vegetables, and a refreshing kale salad.  (I brought the appetizer and dessert!)  Here’s a pic of Ayinde in action:






Balt Crab Cake IMG_8043

I’m excited to be the first stop on The Lusty Vegan Blog Tour, not just because it’s such a fun (and well-written) book to read; not even because Jon’s company published it; and certainly not because I need dating advice (!). The reason I’m especially excited is because I get to share one of my favorite recipes from the book (and believe me, there are SEVERAL favorites!) – but I especially love the Hearts of Baltimore Crab Cakes, made with hearts of palm. The recipe is easy to make and absolutely captures the texture and flavor of crab cakes. Served with a simple but delicious garlicky dill aioli and lemon wedges, this is definitely a recipe to lust after.

Which bringTLVs me conveniently back to the book: With a subtitle of “A Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them,” you may think The Lusty Vegan is just for those in the dating game. Think again. The book contains great advice from co-authors Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg that I found to be applicable to most any relationship dynamic involving vegans and nonvegans, be it friends, family, or colleagues, and of course spouses.

I enjoyed the stories, tips, and anecdotes in the chapters, but I have to say that my favorite part of the book is the recipes. Each chapter closes with a group of recipes (80 in all) that relate to the topic of the specific chapter. Created by chef Ayinde Howell, these fabulous recipes can be savored harmoniously by both vegans and omnivores. Among my favorites are: Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa, Cauliflower Steak with Miso-Rooster Sauce, Polenta Cakes with Chili-Garlic Sauce, Cranberry-Walnut Cinnamon Rolls, North African Lentil Stew with Roasted Yams, and, of course, the Hearts of Baltimore Crab Cakes:

Hearts of Baltimore Crab Cakes
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes | Serves 2

Maryland crab cakes are traditionally oversized, and I wanted to recreate them using hearts of palm and traditional seasonings. I make them gluten-free and pair them with a garlicky dill aïoli. I don’t know if it’s spot on, but from what I hear, it’s pretty darn close.
(From The Lusty Vegan © 2014 by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.)

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil, divided, plus more for frying
1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, (not packed in sugar), roughly chopped to the consistency of crab meat
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, or more
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Lemon wedges, to serve

1. Garlicky Dill Aïoli: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. Set in the fridge to keep cool.

2. Crab Cakes: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the hearts of palm and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until golden brown on all sides. Set aside to cool. Add the celery and peppers and mix well.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium-heat heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

4. Remove from the heat, add to the hearts of palm, and mix well. Add the Old Bay seasoning, cornstarch, and mayo.

5. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and mix well. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then shape the mixture into four round patties.

6. Breading: In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning, stirring to mix. Coat the patties with the breadcrumb mixture and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

7. Heat about 3 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Carefully place the patties in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side, approximately 2 minutes per side. Watch closely to prevent burning. Transfer the cooked patties to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. Serve hot, topped with the aïoli, with lemon wedges on the side.


Bottom line: Whether you want the guilty pleasure of the frank and irreverent relationships talk or Ayinde’s fabulous recipes, you’ll want your own copy of The Lusty Vegan.  (Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Lusty Vegan Blog Tour for more recipes,as well as guest posts, interviews, and giveaways.)