Two Snacks for Summer

Yellow Squash Chips and Butter Bean Hummus
Yellow Squash Chips and Butter Bean Hummus

This recipe was inspired by the squash casserole served at family get-togethers. Except this healthy alternative is an excellent snack of sweet yellow squash chips and butter bean hummus. The chips are best prepared in a food dehydrator overnight but an oven will do.

Yellow Squash Chips

2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced rounds of 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and black pepper to taste
oil spray, if baking

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine flaxseed meal, nutritional yeast, wheat germ and onion powder. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add squash slices to the bowl and gently fold the mixture over them.

4. Line baking trays with aluminum foil and spray lightly with oil or use nonstick trays.

5. Lay squash slices on trays and bake for 5 – 10 minutes, constantly monitoring them. With a pair of tongs handy, flip them when they appear to get get toasty and bake for another 5 – 10 minutes.

6. If using a food dehydrator place them in a single layer and dehydrate for 6 hours at 115° F. Flip them over and dehydrate for one more hour.

Butterbean Hummus

15-ounce can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
sweet white onion, thinly sliced to garnish
sunflower seeds, to garnish

Place the garlic and sunflower seeds in the food processor or blender and process until finely chopped. Add the remaining solid ingredients and process for 30 seconds, pushing ingredients down as you go. Then slowly pour in oil and non-dairy milk. Garnish hummus with a few very thin slices of sweet white onion and sunflower seeds. You can exchange the sunflower seeds in the recipe and the garnish for pecans if you wish.

Morning Chocolate Chicory Bread

Field of chicory and clover blooming in September

This recipe came about because I had read about how American Civil War era soldiers drank chicory “coffee” versus the kind that we drink today because it was more readily available and much cheaper. Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant that can be found in open pastures where livestock used to graze. We live where a dairy farm used to be and there is a huge field of chicory mixed with clover here. Chicory roots can be pulled from the ground, scrubbed clean and roasted in the oven. Then they are processed in a coffee grinder. Recently, chicory has been discovered as a “functional food” in that it contains inulin but there is not enough in this recipe to matter.

Morning Chocolate Chicory Bread

Morning Chocolate Chicory Bread

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp vegan brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup freshly brewed ground chicory tea, temp approximately at 120 degrees F
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

1. In a small bowl combine yeast and 2 tbsp of chicory tea. Allow yeast to proof in a small cup. Bubbles start to form on top of mixture.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, sugar and salt.

3. Combine chicory tea, proofed yeast, butter in another bowl.

4. Add liquid mixture with dry mixture and stir until it begins to form a pliable dough.

5. Add vegan chocolate chips to the mixture and stir again.

6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 – 8 minutes.

7. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a light flour cloth kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm location until nearly doubled in size – about 45 – 60 minutes

8. Punch dough down in center and turn out onto a floured surface. Flatten to about 1″ thick and fold top and bottom towards center, folding the dough into thirds, like a business letter in an envelope. Flatten the dough out again and fold the right and left side. Continue for another 3 minutes and reshape into a loaf. Round the edges and fold underneath the loaf and place into a small loaf pan. Let the dough rise for 30 more minutes in a draft-free location.

9. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

10. Place a baking pan in the bottom of the oven filled with ice water. This will provide the necessary steam to give the loaf a firm crust.

11. Place the loaf in the center of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom and the internal temp is 190 degrees F. You can spritz the interior of the oven with water from a spray bottle to add more steam. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Grilled Cheezy Grit Cakes

Most Southerners love grits. I ate it nearly every morning growing up. But here they are treated like firm polenta cakes and grilled. These cakes can be served as a savory breakfast as shown here with broiled tomatoes, sauteed greens (these are broccoli raab from our CSA) and fakin’ bacon. If you’ve got room, you can mash some butter beans and place those next to or under the greens.  My husband, who doesn’t even like grits says that these are a “winner” and could be used in place of a bread. Nutritionally, they contain more than 10% of your daily iron quota.

Grilled Cheezy Grit Cakes

Grilled Cheesy Grit Cakes

4 cups hot cooked instant grits
1 tbsp vegan butter
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 1 tbspn chopped fresh garlic)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 tsp. dry thyme
1 tsp salt (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients and stir well.

2. Spray an 8″ square brownie pan with a little oil.

3. Pour grit mixture into pan and smooth the top. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight to let it set until completely cool.

4. Turn the form out onto a cutting board and cut into four squares.

5. Lightly spray grill and cook until you see grill marks on each side (about 3 minutes). Do not move the cakes around and allow plenty of space between them on the grill.

6. Cut each square diagonally into triangles. Serve hot.

Cold Sunflower Soup with Grilled Watermelon and Mint Puree

Watermelon on its own is just fantastic! Like strawberries, they are easy to grow and take over the whole garden. Like cantaloupes, they need plenty of room to grow. My first decadent experience was a watermelon eating contest at 6 years old. Our daycare decided to let a small group of us compete to see who could eat the most watermelon in one sitting. I don’t remember what we were supposed to win but eating as much watermelon as I could handle seemed to be the prize.

About 7 years ago, I joined my husband on a business trip to Madrid. Being omnivores at the time, we sought out vegan/vegetarian restaurants. I think all of the bone-in serrano ham hanging in the storefront windows turned us off to meat during our visit. One vegan restaurant served Sopa de Ajo Blanco. My husband had it both times that we visited them. It is a cold almond/garlic soup. It is refreshing and soothing at the same time. He asked me to make it for him recently as he remembered it and I think I came up with something similar and we were really pleased with it.

Cold Sunflower Soup with Grilled Watermelon

The original recipe is distinctly Mediterranean as it calls for almonds and grapes. But for my version I decided to put a uniquely Southern twist on it with watermelon and sunflower seeds. It is so versatile. You could use nuts/seeds and fruits more commonly found or produced in your area, for example; macadamia nuts and pineapples, walnuts and blueberries or pecans and peaches. It is very easy to make and perfect for a hot day like today.

Cold Sunflower Seed Soup with Grilled Watermelon

8 ounces raw sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (not chopped)
3 cups spring water
2 cups Ezekiel Bread crumbs, cut into cubes, soaked in water until soft
1/2 cup sunflower oil, separated
1 tbs red vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 small watermelon
1 bunch mint springs, chopped

1. Combine sunflower seeds, garlic and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour contents through a wire mesh sieve (containing the sunflower seeds and garlic). Repeat procedure but this time save one cup of water for the next step.

2. In a blender, combine sunflower seeds, garlic, salt and vinegar and the one cup of water and blend. Squeeze out the water from the bread crumbs and add them to the blender. Add more water if necessary.

3. With blender running, slowly add 1/4 cup of sunflower oil until thoroughly combined. Add remaining water.

4. Pour mixture through metal sieve and reserve the smooth liquid. Place in refrigerator and let cool for 2 hours or until well chilled.

5. Cut a 3″ circle or a 2″ x 3″ cube out of the watermelon.

6. In food processor or blender combine chopped mint and 2 – 3 tbsp of sunflower oil until pureed.

7. To serve, place grilled watermelon piece in the center of the bowl. Pour chilled soup around it. Garnish with mint oil and a few mint leaves.

Seven Layer Salad

Seven Layer Salad – Original Recipe

My first encounter with this dish was at a family reunion. Many years later I recreated it for another family gathering based on my husband’s memory of it. His version was accurate and it had all of the original ingredients: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sweet peas, hard-boiled eggs, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon pieces. But, to be honest with you, I thought it was pretty disgusting and he did too when he saw someone walk by with a plate of it; a big glob of mayonnaise wobbled precariously next to a few pieces of lettuce. Maybe my proportions of mayonnaise to lettuce was off but if you do an image search you will see what I mean.

Here is a modern and healthy vegan version.  You can always veganize this recipe to more closely match your own taste memory and use a vegan substitute for each with tempeh bacon, Daiya cheese shreds, firm tofu squares and black salt for the eggs and Vegenaise or Annie’s Green Goddess Dressing but I wanted to skip those options and try a cleaner eating approach.

Seven Layer Salad – Modern and Vegan

The salad sorted by layer from top to bottom:

green onions

carrots (can be tossed with nutritional yeast)

potato salad (sweet potato, white potato, red onion diced, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, sunflower oil, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper)

green peas

red onion slices

green bell pepper slices

tomato slices

baby spinach leaves

Hope you enjoy it!

Strawberry and Pea Salad

From L-R my father, me and my brother.caption]

While growing up in the suburbs, my father decided to develop and maintain a small garden plot. In addition to being a hunter (of most animals), he ate a lot of fruits and vegetables. I think it was his connection to his rural upbringing that drew him to it. He got most excited about growing strawberries. In late spring, he would tell me and my brother that they were about ready to be picked. We would get real excited and go down to the garden to look at them. They were greenish/pinkish in color, which according to dad meant maybe another 2 weeks or so. So, we checked back later and they were gone. Gone! He told us that possibly the rabbits got them or the deer. Sometimes there were feral pigs that roamed the woods behind our house. My brother and I would see them back there every once in a while building forts. Maybe? It was a disappointment and a mystery until my mom told us the truth.. He would just laugh and say that he just couldn’t help himself. Insufferably frustrating at times – that is my father.

These days you can pay a modest fee to pick your own strawberries from fields and they are very popular. If you miss the prime picking times, you can always grow your own. Strawberries are one of the most rewarding crops to grow if you have a small garden. It’s best to pick strawberries yourself from an organic garden as they are on the dirty dozen list. Another crop for small gardens are English peas as they grow vertical.

[caption id="attachment_490" align="alignright" width="300"] Strawberry and Pea Salad

This recipe utilizes both of these plants. I encourage you to not trim too much from your food so as to not create too much waste. Strawberry flower petals, their hulls and crowns are ALL edible. Just wash them well and move forward. If you don’t use them, put them in a compost pile to use in your garden.

Strawberry Dressing

Strawberry and Pea Salad and Strawberry Dressing

If you have strawberry flowers, they make a nice touch. Mint mixed in also makes a nice addition.

2 cups strawberries
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 handful pea sprouts
1 tbsp red vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp water

1. Measure out and thaw your peas, if frozen. Rinse them off and set aside.

2. Begin making your dressing by chopping 1 cup of strawberries and place them in food processor or blender.

3. Add the vinegar and water to the berries. Turn the food processor on for a minute or two, pushing down the pieces towards the blade until the mixture is smooth.

4. Slice the other cup of strawberries in half and place in a medium to large bowl. Add spinach and pea sprouts. Pour 2 – 3 tablespoons of strawberry dressing over salad and gently fold it in.

Cherokee Bean Bread

A picture of me when I first learned to cook a recipe

One of the first things that I ever learned how to cook, something edible, was in grade school and it was cornbread. This came about because our teacher asked her students to make a recipe reflecting the cultural heritage of a certain group. You could choose a group or it would be assigned to you by our teacher. This exercise coincided with the library’s efforts to get students into reading books on other cultures. Coincidentally, I was assigned the Appalachian people. I did not know it at the time that there were deep connections between my own cultural upbringing and these people. So, I went into the library, picked out a book on the Appalachian people and brought it home with me.

My mother was real intent on helping me get this right. She had made cornbread many times before for us but it was always the same. Sometimes she used buttermilk and other times she didn’t. She would slip a big pat of butter between the slices. In the book, I found a recipe for cracklin’ cornbread. Cracklin’ is essentially fried pieces of pig skin. We went to Winn Dixie and mom bought about 2 cups of tiny pieces and ALL of it went into the recipe. At the time, I had no clue what it was exactly but thought it looked disgusting. So, I made the recipe with my mother’s help and I took it to the library with me the next day. Every students’ dish was set up, covered in plastic wrap or aluminum foil on the fold-out tables. I  wrote on the index card what my recipe was, placed it in front of the dish and then went to class.

Unbeknownst to me, the students were not going to eat our food first but it was there first to be enjoyed by the adults; the teachers, the parents, the librarians, school officials came first to “assess” it and move on. When classes were over, I went to the tables to try some of the food but my cornbread was all gone. I was relieved to not eat the cracklin’ but also a little disappointed. So, I took my empty dish home and I never made cornbread with cracklin’ again.

We all have habits and cultural traditions that we hold or break from. My ancestors (like many others) likely adopted habits that became a tradition after only a single generation of practice. Once fondness for a particular habit develops, it becomes hard to break. Appalachian people found a way to incorporate every part of the pig into their recipes, as I’ve read that they slaughtered and consumed 5 – 6 pigs per winter. Regardless if this was healthy, it held to the ethos of “waste not, want not”.

Cherokee Bean Bread – 3 Versions

With that in mind, I love beans of all kinds and now that I am vegan I have the opportunity to incorporate them into every possible dish. When you cook up a pound of beans or even open a single can, it becomes impossible sometimes to use up the entire recipe for just two people. In these recipes, I have included three different kinds of beans, Southern ones, of course. The cornmeal should be straight cornmeal, not pre-mixed with flour or chemical leaveners in it. The first recipe is a light cornmeal, the traditional cornmeal, nutritional yeast (to add a cheesy taste), black pepper, thyme and lima beans. The second recipe is blue cornmeal, rosemary and butter beans. Finally, the third recipe is heavy grit cornmeal, cayenne/paprika and black-eyed peas. All are real satisfying but my favorite is the first recipe. Each recipe serves 8 people and takes about 45 minutes to prepare and cook. Credit is due to the Cherokee Indians (another part of my ancestry) for including beans in cornbread, as they helped European settlers to develop recipes from their native environment. That exact recipe is not here as it had too much moisture and relied on eggs to set almost like a custard.

A note on the cornmeal: I have a Kitchenaid mixer. This past weekend I bought an attachment to make my own flour or cornmeal. As this is a recent acquisition and my intention is to obtain dents from another supplier to make my own cornmeal, the flour in these recipes are store bought. According to various sources NOTHING beats fresh cornmeal. Incidentally, I came across this picture in an Appalachian cookbook of an old-fashioned gristmill. This one

Photo of the Frady gristmill pictured in The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery by Linda Garland Paige and Eliot Wigginton

was positioned over a stream, as it was water-powered, but later was converted to diesel/gas power. People paid a dollar, if they paid at all, to have their dents ground up for them. Now, don’t you feel lucky that you can just go into the store and buy a bag of it?

Cherokee Bean Bread – Version #1

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 tsp. dry thyme
1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
1 cups milk, non-dairy
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup lima beans, fresh or frozen and thawed

1. Measure the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. Incorporate wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Fold beans into the mixture.

2. Pour into a hot greased iron skillet and bake at 425 until brown (usually 30 minutes or so).

Cherokee Bean Bread – Version #2

1 1/2 cups cornmeal, blue
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 cups milk, non-dairy
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup butter beans, drained and rinsed

Directions are the same as Version #1.

Cherokee Bean Bread – Version #3

1 cup cornmeal, real heavy-grit
1 cup cornmeal, regular
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 cups milk, non-dairy
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup black-eyed peas

See above for directions.

Scrambled Tofu and Asparagus

Scrambled Tofu and Asparagus

This dish is a vegan variation on the old Southern one of eggs and pokeweed. Since eggs are a no-go and pokeweed, if not sourced and prepared correctly, can cause anything from a stomach-ache to a hospital visit, I am using tofu and asparagus here.

This recipe is scaled for one person.

Scrambled Tofu and Asparagus

4 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp onion, diced
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp Kala Namak black salt, optional*
black pepper freshly ground, to taste
1 tbsp vegan butter

1. In a small bowl, mash tofu with spices and nutritional yeast.

2. Prepare steamer and steam asparagus pieces for about 3 – 4 minutes. Make sure to place the stem ends at the bottom and the tips on top to prevent overcooking.

3. Heat vegan butter in cast iron skillet over medium. Saute onions and mushrooms for about 3 – 4 minutes. Add asparagus and mix well.

4. Add mashed tofu to the pan with the vegetables and stir well. Allow the heat in the pan to toast the tofu and flip it with a spatula. Flip it a few more times and serve hot with toast.

Butter Beanballs

Butter Beanballs

These little meatless balls can be used in soups, pasta, sandwiches or on their own as a snack. They can also be dipped in barbecue sauce.

To make them even healthier, you can skip cooking them in the pan with oil and just bake them for the entire time until done.

Butter Beanballs

1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, minced
3 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs, whole wheat
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp basil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

1. Place garlic cloves in the food processor with the butter beans and puree.

2. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl with the other ingredients and stir well.

3. Scoop one tablespoon-size balls either with a spoon or a scoop. This recipe makes 10 balls.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F.

5. Heat cast-iron skillet on medium-high and cook balls until lightly browned on outside.

6. Place balls evenly spaced on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.