August 1st, 2023
Because I’ve been Vegan since 1983, people assume that I’m a good cook, that I create recipes and work wonders in the kitchen. Not true. I’ve never been a food whisperer, but I have a collection of basic reicpes, most of them decades old, that have made eating Vegan at home pleasant and sustainable for all these years. Here are half a dozen of my go-to faves.
Tofu Mayo Dressing or Dip
I copied this recipe from a card on a bulletin board in suburban Chicago in the 1970s. In those days, we could get tofu only from an Asian market: we dug it out of a deep tub of water with long tongs. You’ll note that the recipe doesn’t say “firm” or “soft” or “silken”––that’s because back then, tofu was just tofu. (Now I use firm, simply because that’s what I buy.) The recipe calls for a blender because it predates food processors, but a processor works better. Also, I give the recipe here as written, but I no longer use the olive oil and don’t notice a difference.
6 oz. tofu, drained
2 Tbls. lemon juice
2 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. finely choped parsley
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree 30 seconds. Variations: add 1/4 cup diced onion, 1/4 tsp. dry dill, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, minced pickle, etc. Makes about 1 cup.
Aztec Salad, The Peaceful Palate, (c) 1992, 1996 Jennifer Raymond
A selling point for SOS––salt, oil, and sugar-free––recipes is that they’re not addictive (not tasty, some would say), but this corn-and-bean salad is the opposite. It’s so enticing I usually make only half a recipe (the full recipe given here serves 8 to 10) so leftovers won’t be singing from the fridge any longer than necessary. Its creator, Jennifer Raymond, is a dedicated dog rescuer and former recipe developer for Dr. Dean Ornish’s heart disease reversal program.
2 15-oz cans black beans
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
3/4 cups chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 Tbls. seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbls. apple cider or distilled vinegar
1 lime or lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large sslad bowl with the onion, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and cilantro. In a small bowl combine the vinegars, lemon or lime juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the salad and toss gently to mix.
Neat Loaf, also from The Peaceful Palate, (c) 1992, 1996 Jennifer Raymond
Vegans and vegetarians used to eat a lot of loaves––nut loaf, tofu loaf, lentil loaf. These provided both concentrated protein and the heaviness new vegetarians looked for when making the switch to plants. Of all the loaves I’ve made and eaten, I’ve liked none better than this stand-by from Jennifer Raymond. And something interesting: one of the ingredients, wheat germ, was a health food fave in the 20th century. Probably because of the current distrust of gluten, wheat germ hasn’t been talked about much in recent years. However, some new studies lauding the rejuvenation properties of a nutrient called spermadine may be the chance for wheat germ, its richest source, to make a comeback. This loaf serves 8 to 10 and makes great sandwiches the next day.
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded or finely chopped
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 tsp. each: thyme, marjoram, sage
2 Tbls. soy sauce
2 Tbls. stone ground or Dijon mustard
Barbecue sauce or ketchup
Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce or ketchup. Mix for 2 minutes with a large spoon. This will help bind it together. Pat into an oil-sprayed 5 x 9-inch loaf pan and top with barbecue sauce or ketchup. Bake for 60 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Baked Chee Spaghetti Casserole, Ten Talents, (c) 1968, 1985, 1996, 2012 Rosalie Hurd
In my earliest days as an aspiring Vegan, the only two cookbooks available that were 100% plant-based were The Vegan Kitchen, by Freya Dinshah, and Ten Talents, by Rosalie Hurd, a former Mrs. Minnesota who based her Veganism on 7th Day Adventist teachings. Vegan mac and cheese has now become an artform, but I haven’t had one better than this. I’ve ceased including the oil called for, although I’m giving you the recipe as it was written. I also usually skip the breading on top because I want no distraction from the cheese sauce.
Cook 1 lb. spaghetti or elbow pasta according to directions.
Whiz in blender:
1 cup raw cashews (or cashew pieces)
1 cup water
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls. sesame seeds
4 Tbls. nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil (add slowly)
1 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. celery seed
Pinch of garlic powder
Then add and blend until very smooth:
1 jar (4 oz.) pimentos or 1 cup tomoatoes
Mix drained macaroni, spaghetti, or noodles with the cheese and put in prepared baking dish. Top with seasoned bread crumbs. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or just to heat through. Note: If using tomatoes, add a little paprika for color. Serve with a tosssed vegetable salad and a few ripe olives for a complete meal.
Lemon “Stedda” Chicken, The American Vegetarian Kitchen from the Fit for Life Kitchen, (c) 1990 Marilyn Diamond
The 1984 bestseller Fit for Life, sold over 40 million copies around the world and led to a 10% increase in fruit and vegetable sales in the U.S. for two years in a row. Fit for Life was nearly, but not strictly, plant-based; this follow-up cookbook is. This simple recipe, inspired by the Chinese dish, lemon chicken, is quick and satisfying––and has been for over thirty years.
1 pound firm tofu
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. pressed garlic
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 Tbls. whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tbls. nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 tsp. Umeboshi plum vinegar or brown rice vinegar
2 Tbls. teriyaki sauce or light soy sauce
1 Tbls. lemon juice
- Cut tofu crosswise in 1/4-inch slices, then cut slices in 1-inch segments.
- Heat wok or large nonstick skillet and add oil and garlic. Add tofu immeidately and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add green onions and stir-fry 1 minute longer.
- Dust tofu and onion misture with flour and yeast. Stir-fry for 2 minutes more, allowing tofu pieces to brown and crisp slightly. Add vinegar and teriyaki sauce, then stir-fry until completely absorbed. Add lemon juie and stir-fry 2 minutes longer.
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, (c) 2005, 2012 Jennifer Cornbleet
While I’m not a raw-fooder, my friends who are astround me with their health and radiance well into their senior years: Mimi Kirk, Karen Ranzi, Dr. Fred Bisci, Karyn Calabrese, Cherie Soria––if you’re interested, each of these incredible people is well worth Googling. And Jenny Cornbleet’s book, Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, is a wonderful resource, even for those of us who aren’t giving up our air fryers and Instant Pots. In addition to helping add more healthful straight-from-nature foods to the menu, this book is a teasure trove of delicious, health-promoting raw desserts. I always remember the time when one of my husband’s clients was to make an impromptu visit to our home. I said, “I’ll make a cake.” William said: “There’s no time: he’ll be here in 40 minutes.” The cake was ready in ten.
Yield: one 5-inch cake, 6 servings
1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans (not soaked)
8 pitted Medjool dates (not soaked)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa or carob powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. water
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, for garnish
Put the walnuts and salt in a good processor fitted with teh S blade and process until finely ground. Ad the dates, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture begins to stick together. Add the water and process briefly. Transfer to a serving plate and form into a cake, 5 inches in diameter. Decorate the cake and plate with fresh raspberries before serving if desired. Covered with plastic wrap, Flourless Chocolate Cake will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator or 2 weeks in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Victoria Moran (www.victoriamoran.com) is the author of 13 books and founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches & Educators since 2012. She lives in NYC with her husband, William, dog Rupert (rescued from hoarding), and rescue pigeon, Thunder. Victoria will celebrate her 40th Veganiversary in November 2023. Follow her on IG @VictoriaMoranAuthor and @mainstreetvegan.