Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds & Cucumber – or Really Fancy Baba Ganoush

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

31 years ago today – I moved to Los Angeles intending to establish residency & go to a state school (UCLA) for film – hoping to one day direct. I was 19 & did not know anyone else in LA – and – I had never driven a car (and lived here for 2 1/2 years without car or even a driver’s license) and lived for the first week in a creepy, rent-by-the-week motel on Whitley just north of Hollywood Blvd – until I found an apartment at Sunset & Normandie – where I lived for the next 4+ years. 19 and alone – very far from anything familiar and, apparently iron-clad balls because I can’t imagine being that brave now.  And to be honest – I cried almost every day for the first year & had to deflect my mother’s repeated offers to fly out here, pack me up & move me back home.  Honest to God – I have no fucking idea what I was thinking or how my mother let me go in the first place. I look at my friends’ kids who are at or near that age & cannot imagine sending them off to a seedy big city (which Hollywood really was in 1984) – 3000 miles away. I am very, very proud of my 19-year-old self & what that kid pulled off – through sheer willpower. I wish I had the nerve & gumption now that I had then. I am very grateful to live in LA. It is a great town – despite what the haters will tell you. So, anyway – happy anniversary to me & my youthful courage.

See Los Angeles in all its coolness!

Below are some images of me from that general era.  Notice the shaved sides in the top picture that I tried to mask with bangs in my first ever headshot – just below it.  Little did I know that the edgier me was going to be the key to my ever working as an actress.  Conformity – or my attempts at it – fooled nobody.

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So – onto this gorgeous recipe!  I saw it on The Iron You (seen in their photo above) and could not resist the chance to photograph something so gorgeous.  I made a few minor tweaks – in the interest of it being vegan & a little less caloric – but it is really their recipe – and is is CRAZY delicious!   As The Iron You states – “The end result is an addictive, creamy, smoky, tart, sweet, salty, and aromatic dip/spread/salad.  It can stand on its own as a dip or condiment or as a side to meat or fish or it can be served as a refreshing Middle Eastern inspired salad.”

Funny that I often co-opt Iron You recipes because their primary focus is a Paleo diet which – in reality – is almost the opposite of my focus – a vegan diet.  But they use lots of veggies & their photographs (like that one just above) are so inspiring – I am a big fan!

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This is easy & requires no special tools.  I used a food processor but out of laziness – not need.  Chopping the mushy eggplant would be almost as easy by hand.   It is basically a fancified hummus – but using eggplant rather than chick peas.  I think it is virtually guiltless – as far as calories & it really does have a complexity of flavors that is delightful!  And just LOOK at it!  Can you imagine a pretty holiday appetizer?

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Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds & Cucumber – or Really Fancy Baba Ganoush

Serves several as an appetizer served with pita wedges


1 large eggplant

1/3 cup tahini

1 TBS plus 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp agave nectar

1 garlic clove – minced

3 TBS chopped parsley

1/2 large pomegranate

1/2 cucumber – peeled, seeded & diced

Sesame seeds


More parsley & maybe olive oil for garnish

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Roast the eggplant by placing it directly on a burner over a high flame.  You might want to protect your stove with foil – but I didn’t.  Turn frequently – and don’t walk away from it – lest it catch fire.  This should take 10-15 minutes & the skin should be charred almost all the way off & the flesh of the eggplant should be soft.  Allow to cool & then rub off the burned skin & stem top under cold, running water.  Allow to drain in a colander for 30 minutes.

Get the seeds out of half the pomegranate.  HERE are some tutorials showing how to do that.

If you do not have a food processor – chop the eggplant as finely as possible.

If you do have a food processor – pulse the eggplant a few times.

In either scenario – then mix/pulse in the tahini, lemon, agave, garlic & parsley.  Then fold in the cucumber & 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds.  Season with S&P.  Salt adds depth to this so definitely use some.

Garnish with the remaining pomegranate seeds, some chopped parsley & some sesame seeds.  Traditionally – olive oil is drizzled on top but I see no need to add those calories.  Knock yourself out if calories are of no concern to you.

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Vegan Spicy Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai – Laab Gai)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – now we are talking!  These are clean & light & perfectly suited to hot weather – both in the ease of preparation & the lack of anything too rich, dense or filling.  Another nice thing is that these guys come together in less than 20 minutes.  I think lemongrass is a traditional ingredient but I left it out – mainly because I know most people don’t have ready access to it.

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As always, I used Beyond Meat’s chicken because it is, in my opinion, the best vegan chicken on the market.  If you click that link – you can find a store locator & maybe even a coupon!  I also used jarred ginger & garlic but fresh would, clearly, be even better.

You can make this as spicy (or not) as you like.  I tend to go heavy on spice so keep that in mind if heat is not your bag.  For my money – the most critical detail in this recipe is the mint – but basil will do in a pinch.

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Vegan Spicy Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups (Larb Gai – Laab Gai)

Feeds 2


Enough large lettuce leaves to make 6-8 individual cups/wraps

9 oz vegan chicken – thawed

1 TBS olive oil

1 jalapeno – seeded & minced

1/2 red bell pepper – slivered

1/2 red onion – diced

1 TBS ginger

1 TBS garlic

4+ TBS soy sauce or tamari

2 TBS brown sugar

1-3 TBS sriracha (according to your taste for heat)

1 TBS peanut butter (optional)


Fresh mint (or basil) – but really try it with mint – the mint is SO GOOD!

Lime wedges

GARNISHES (use as many or as few as you like)

Carrot – cut into matchsticks

Cucumber – cut into matchsticks

Red cabbage – slivered

Chopped peanuts


Avocado (I show avocado in these photos but I did not add it to the wraps – though you might like to)

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Set two plates with the lettuce cups on them.

In a food processor, pulse the chicken together with the jalapeno, half the onion & half the red bell pepper until it looks like pulled chicken or ground chicken (depending on the brand you are using) – or chop it all very fine, by hand)

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan & cook the remaining red onion & bell pepper for a few minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter & sriracha & blend until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chicken & heat through.  Tweak the seasonings & divide the chicken between the lettuce cups.  Top with cilantro and MINT (!) & serve with lime wedges & any other garnishes you opted to use.


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Vegan Chicken & Mixed Vegetable Pot Pie

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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To be honest – I prepped this thing a few months ago & it has been sitting in the freezer – uncooked – ever since.  I did this because this recipe makes enough for TWO full-sized pot pies.  So – cut everything in half – if you only want to make one.  Or – do what I did.  Make two pies & freeze one for later.

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Vegan Chicken & Mixed Vegetable Pot Pie

Makes TWO pot pies


4 pre-made vegan pie crusts – for the top & bottom of two pies

9 oz vegan chicken – cubed (I always use Beyond Meat)

5 TBS vegan butter

1 onion – diced

1/2 lb mushrooms – chopped

4 carrots – diced

3 small potatoes – cubed

4 celery stalks – chopped

1 cup peas

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups almond/soy/or other vegan milk

2 TBS fresh thyme – chopped (or 1 1/2 tsp dry thyme)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dry rosemary – chopped

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Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 1 TBS butter & saute the onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery & potatoes over medium heat – stirring often.  After about 5 minutes – add the thyme, oregano & rosemary, bay leaves & the stock.   Bring to a boil & reduce to a simmer & cook it down util the vegetables are soft & most of the stock boils away.

Meanwhile – melt the remaining 5 TBS butter over medium heat in a stock pot & whisk in the flour.  Once that is combined & thick – SLOWLY add the milk – in small increments – stirring the entire time.  Whisk continuously – until the roux is thick.

Stir the roux into the vegetables & add the peas & cubed chicken.  Simmer until it is thickened & then remove the bay leaves.  Season with S&P.

Press the crusts into two pie pans & divide the filling between them.  Top the pies with remaining crusts & pinch the edges closed.  Perforate the top with a knife of fork so steam can vent.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is the color you desire.  Mine wasn’t browning so I rubbed vegan butter on top & it helped a bit.

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If you are freezing one (or both) of the pies – try to prep the edges tucked into the pan – like mine above.  That way there is no fragile rim to get crushed in the freezer.  Wrap tightly in foil & freeze.  You might want to write the date on the foil – so you can keep track of when you froze it.  To cook it – let it thaw & then just bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.  If you do not have time to thaw it – heat oven to 425 degrees, place the pie on a baking sheet, cover edges loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake 70-80 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown

When your pie is cooked – let it rest at least ten minutes before cutting into it.

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Vegan Tofu Quiche with Chard, Spinach & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back BathingandthesinglegirlCover

I have never been a huge quiche fan.  Sure – I’ll eat it – but I will eat most things if they are my only option.  I became even less charmed with quiche when I made a few & realized that they really are not mostly egg – but rather – are mostly heavy cream.  They are as rich & decadent as ice cream and, frankly, I’d rather eat a tub of sour cream with spring onion powdered mix in it & gorge on an entire bag of reduced fat Ruffles.

So – I recently discovered the charms of tofu masquerading as egg whites & I am very pleased.   I made Vegan Tofu Scramble Breakfast Burrito with Mixed Vegetables & Cheese & Vegan Tofu Chilaquiles with 5-Minute Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce – seen below, respectively.



And, when I am working, I scramble a quarter of a block of tofu with S&P and some spinach or veggie sausage & wrap it in an 80 calorie tortilla & dip it is salsa & call it breakfast.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I am now completely off eggs.

So – I thought – why not make a tofu quiche?  Cruelty-free & way less rich than a traditional quiche.  I used chard & spinach & vegan cheese in mine but you can adapt this to reflect whatever quiche ingredients you prefer.  A little veggie sausage would be nice.

I used 5 slices of this Field Roast Chao cheese – below.

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I really, really like that cheese – in all three flavors.  The texture is believable & it tastes yummy.  I pulsed mine into the tofu so that it might melt more effectively and, no matter what kind of cheese you use – I recommend this method.

The real secret to a delicious-looking quiche is the depth of it – so be sure to pack yours with ingredients.  I could have added sausage or other veggies – like broccoli – to this & it would still have fit into the crust – so err on the side of too much stuff in the crust rather than too little.

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Vegan Tofu Quiche with Chard, Spinach & Cheese


1 prepared vegan pie crust

1 lb extra firm tofu

1 head chard – hard ribs removed – chopped

2 cups fresh spinach – chopped

1/2 onion – diced

1/2 red bell pepper – diced

1 carrot – diced

5 slices of vegan cheese (or 1/2 cup or more of your cheese selection)

2 TBS tahini (optional)

1 TBS miso (optional)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 TBS fresh basil – minced

Olive oil

Smoked (or other) paprika

5-10 cherry tomatoes – halved


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Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Press the crust into a pie pan.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.  saute the onion, carrot & red pepper until soft.  Add the chard & spinach & basil & saute until the greens wilt.  Season with S&P.  Set aside.

In a blender or food processor – pulse the tofu & cheese together with the Dijon and the miso & tahini (if using).  Season with S&P.  Add to the vegetable mixture & combine.

Pour into the crust & sprinkle with paprika.  Arrange the tomatoes on top.  Pinch your crust edges – if you like.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is browned to your taste.

Let sit 10 minutes & serve.

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Vromage – A West Hollywood Vegan Cheese Shop

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015 (except some here I took from Vromage’s site)

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

OK – so – I am about 75% vegan – in that I eat vegan about that often or more.  I have not had a hard time giving up meat or fish (except for sushi) but the one thing that I still occasionally indulge in is cheese.  I have been experimenting extensively with vegan cheeses with mixed results.  I reviewed these cheeses below HERE.





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And these from Miyoko’s Kitchen.

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You can read that blog post for my opinions of those cheeses but if you live in LA and you are vegan – have I got news for you!

Behold!  VROMAGE!

(PS – Vromage SHIPS – so you can get it – even if you are not in LA – VROMAGE online store.)




I had long heard there was a vegan cheese store in West Hollywood but I always imagined it on Santa Monica Blvd in an area with heavy traffic & non-existent parking.  While I wanted to try the cheeses – I loathed the idea of driving west of La Brea & circling West Hollywood for hours – looking for some non-resident parking.

Then, last Friday, I had a photo session for a 90210 interview.  Here I am with the make-up artist, Noa Bolozky, and alone in a selfie in my bedroom afterward.  Noa does the MOST beautiful make-up!!!!  I will show some images from the session once the article runs.

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Anyway – as I looked out the window from the photo studio – I spotted Vromage!  It is in the strip mall – a block east of the mall at Sunset & Crescent Heights – the one with a Crunch.  It is in that plaza on the left (NOT The Crunch mall) – and it nestled near the elbow of the mall.


So – as soon as I got out of that photo session – I headed directly to Vromage!  Noa beat me there & left swinging $70 worth of vegan cheese & a wearing a huge grin.   I braced myself for what promised to be a vegan adventure.

My mom & I were greeted by Youssef (seen below – in a photo I took from his site).


Isn’t he cute?  He was so excited to let us try his cheeses – it quickly became overwhelming.  In a good way!  If you look at the second picture from the top  – that was the selection he had available that day & we still must have tasted 7-8 cheeses.  Once I had that many flavors going on – I lost my ability to keep them straight.  I THINK – I left with a mozzarella, a truffle brie, a pepper jack and a Gorgonzola (Veganzolla below).

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I added this video so you can see how outrageously creamy & spreadable Vromage’s cheeses are.  The truffle brie (the top picture – first in this post) came the closest to matching both taste & texture (as this Gorgonzola was way creamier than real Gorgonzola – but I am not complaining!).  The mozzarella – seen center, below – was mild & light & creamy & Youssef advised that, if I was making a pizza, to add this cheese at the very end & just flash-bake it.  I did not make a pizza but I will soon & I will report back.

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The pepper jack is the yellow cheese with the red on it – not sure what spice(s) that might be but the cheese is peppery & yummy!

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Those are kiwi berries, by the way.  They are about the size of large grapes & are just like tiny, hairless kiwis.  I recommend trying them if you ever come across them.

Youssef also offers sandwiches etc.  See below.  My mom tried the caprese sandwich & raved!

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Because my photos do not do Youssef’s whole situation & products any justice – here are some photos I nabbed from his site.

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So – for my money – Vromage has produced the best vegan cheeses I have tried, to date, and by a wide margin.  Most will not fool a real cheese eater (though the brie really might) but these guys are SO fucking creamy & bursting with flavor – I think they really hold their own.  And if you are a long-time vegan – these cheeses will make you lose your shit.  They truly are creamy & decadent & just BEG to be spread on a crusty baguette with some jam or veggies & basil.   Treat yourself and run – don’t walk – to Vromage.  And be sure to engage with Youssef – the owner.  He is kind & accommodating & very proud of his product & will let you sample anything you want.

And remember!  Vromage SHIPS – so you can get it – even if you are not in LA – VROMAGE online store.  Whatcha waiting for?  Get your ass some cruelty-free cheeses!

Vegan Beef & Sausage Breakfast Hash


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

This is a very easy & very forgiving recipe.  I used what I had around – but you can add or subtract things as you wish.  It is basically a breakfast stir fry.  If you eat eggs, a poached egg would be lovely on top.  Or serve this alongside a tofu scramble – or wrap it all up in a tortilla.  Easy & yummy!

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Vegan Beef & Sausage Breakfast Hash

Serves 4 as a side dish


5 red potatoes – cut into 1/2″ small cubes

Olive oil

1/2 onion – diced

1/2 bell pepper – diced

1 jalapeno – seeded & diced (optional)

2 (or more) sausage patties (I used Morning Star sausage patties – which I just discovered on 10/30/15 – are NOT vegan – see ingredients list in the COMMENTS below.)

1 cup (or more) beef crumbles (I used Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 TBS dry parsley


Fresh parsley as garnish

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Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a saute pan.  On high – cook the potatoes until they are softening & about 1/2 browned.  Add everything else (except the fresh parsley) & saute until the onions & bell pepper are soft & browning.  Season with S&P.

Serve with fresh parsley.

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Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back


Photo – The Iron You

So THIS recipe for the CREAMY CAPRESE CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE (seen above) showed up in my email box & I could not resist.  Apparently, they were inspired by another of my favorite food blogs – How Sweet It Is – but I was unable to find her recipe.

I would have been happy to make this with cauliflower only but once I roasted my medium head of cauliflower florets – they shrunk to a portion too small – so I added leftover pasta from my Vegan Pasta with Sausage, Arugula & Tomatoes – seen below.

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I will confess to using half real cheese & half vegan cheese in this.  I used the leftover mozzarella from my Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar – seen above – as the topping cheese (and a few shreds of real Parmesan) – but I used a lot of this cheese below – that I gave a bad review to yesterday.  I did not want to waste the tastier vegan cheeses I have & I felt this stuff seemed most likely to melt into a binding element in this casserole – and I think I was correct.

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This is not a complicated recipe & is likely to be a crowd pleaser – whether you make it vegan or not.

Caramelized Cauliflower & Creamy Pasta Caprese Casserole (Vegan or Not)

Feeds 6


1 large head of cauliflower – cut into florets

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

4 TBS tomato paste

1 cup almond (or soy) milk

1 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)

2 cups shredded or fresh mozzarella (or vegan alternative)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes – halved

2 large handfuls basil – shredded or chopped

Olive oil

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper

3 garlic cloves

3 cups cooked pasta (about 1/2 lb dry)


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Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with olive oil & some S&P.  Bake for 30 minutes – tossing once at the 15 minute mark.  Set aside.  Lower oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile – heat a TBS olive oil in a stock pan on low heat.  Add the crushed red pepper & the garlic & cook one minute.  Add the tomato sauce (being careful not to get splattered) & the tomato paste.  Heat through.  Add the milk, 1/2 the mozzarella, all of the Parmesan, 1/2 the halved tomatoes and a good handful of shredded basil & combine.  Season with S&P.

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Add the cauliflower & pasta & toss well.

Put into a greased casserole pan & top with the remaining mozzarella & tomatoes.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven to 500 degrees & cook another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to turn golden.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes & then garnish with shredded basil.

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Vegan Pasta with Sausage, Arugula & Tomatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

I eat way too much pasta.  Pasta & pizza but there are so many yummy ways to make them – who can resist?  I made this pasta last night because I had this stuff laying around.  I really enjoy trying to invent something using stuff I need to get rid of.  I used these little Field Roast sausages you see below.

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I have to admit, that while they are cute – I find them a tad sweet or something.  They did not really satisfy the sausage craving I developed as I cooked this.  Still – you might like them – or you may have another brand that you like.  Clearly – if you are a meat eater – real sausage could be used.

This is another easy one that comes together in about as long as it takes to cook the pasta.

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Vegan Pasta with Sausage, Arugula & Tomatoes

Serves 4


12-16 oz pasta

Olive oil

1-3 jalapenos – diced (or crushed red pepper to taste)

5+ oz vegan sausage

7 oz arugula

1 TBS fresh thyme – chopped

3 garlic cloves – minced

1 large tomato or a dozen cherry tomatoes – chopped

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

Vegan Parmesan (optional)


Parsley or basil as garnish

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Cook the pasta.

Meanwhile – heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the jalapeno (or crushed red pepper) and the sausage.  Cook until the sausage begins to brown.  Add the garlic and thyme & cook one minute.  Add the tomatoes – stir.  Add the arugula (in increments – if your pan is too small) & stir until the arugula wilts.  Add the lemon juice & season with S&P.

Toss with the pasta & Parmesan (if you are using Parmesan) & garnish with chopped parsley or basil and lots of freshly cracked pepper.

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Leftover Vegan Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Mississippi Come Back Sauce & a Vegan Cheese Review


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

OK – let’s talk vegan cheese for a minute.  I read somewhere that saying you don’t like vegan cheese is tantamount to saying you don’t like cheese – and, I think we can all admit, that is just crazy talk.  I mean, I guess there are folks out there that really do not like ANY kind of cheese but who wants to know or hang out with THEM?  They probably don’t like dogs, either, and are also likely prepared to vote for Trump. Fuck them.

Let’s talk about reasonably sane people.  So – the point was, there are SO MANY kinds of vegan cheeses that sweeping & strident statements about not liking vegan cheese come off as either unattractively petulant or willfully ignorant.  Nobody likes people like that, either.  Still, I must say, I have said things that could be interpreted to mean, “I don’t like vegan cheese.”  In fairness, I have not yet ventured out to Vromage – but I intend to next week when my mom is in town visiting.

I have, however, ponied up the $10+ per cheese at Miyoko’s Kitchen – sampling these four:






My opinion is that the hard cheeses are not “there” yet – in that they are unpleasantly sharp & really do not replace the things they are meant to with much success.  They might fare better on a cracker or burger but naked – not so much.  The two soft ones, however, the Garlic Herb & Double Cream Chive are pretty good – even naked.  Additionally, they melted beautifully into cream sauces, like my 5-Ingredient Creamy Vegan Garlic Herb Pasta with Roasted Golden Beets & Chard, seen just above.  So – if you are looking to make creamy pasta dishes – I recommend these guys with full-throated enthusiasm.

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I have also tried one of the earliest vegan cheese contenders – one that met with general, vegan approval, that is – Daiya.  Many a vegan has sworn by the awesomeness of this stuff.  I must admit – my first efforts with it let me down but it is certainly possible that I had not managed my expectations properly & my disappointment was a result of expecting it to be a really cheesy product.  It is not.  I used to argue that it doesn’t melt but these shreds here did melt in a recent quesadilla that I made.  I actually enjoyed that quesadilla, too, because I have learned to be a more generous audience for these early attempts at what is surely to evolve, eventually, into something as convincing as Beyond Meat’s faux chicken & beef-free crumbles are.  This Daiya stuff is to mozzarella what veggie burgers are to real burgers – a decent substitute – not a product that will fool anyone into thinking they are getting the real thing.  And it has a very distinct flavor – specific & not terribly cheesy – but not unpleasant either – once you adjust.  But really – there is only one other vegan product (like Beyond Meat’s line) that, I think, CAN fool people is the Morning Star Sausage Patties – seen below.  They are AMAZING & complete with seems like gristle & everything!  They look & taste like the real thing.  In fact, the first time I had one was at Duke’s, on Sunset in West Hollywood (now closed! ).  I took one bite & blanched.  These were REAL sausage patties!  I complained to the waitress who assured me they were, in fact, veggie.  I persisted – until she explained that their real sausage was served link-style.  They had no real sausage patties.  And it was then & there that I fell in love with these guys. (UPDATE 10-30-15 – these sausage patties are NOT vegan and they contain egg & dairy.  See the full ingredients list in the comments below.)


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The next vegan cheese I want to rag on are these guys.  Kraft & Velveeta cheese slices are dreamy – even if they are likely to be more petroleum than dairy.  So – I naturally thought that these guys above would be good.  After all, the product they are there to replace is as chemically & fake as any food on the market.  How hard could that be to reproduce?  Apparently – very hard.  These two flavors, as far as I am concerned, are downright yucky.  Still – some got mixed in with real ones at a BBQ recently & the kids there were ripping the plastic off the real & vegan ones, indiscriminately, oblivious the word “vegan” I had written with a Sharpie on the impostor slices.  They shoved them in their faces & happily munched – unaware that my dogs won’t even eat those things.  But, to be fair, two of my dogs won’t eat the “real” cheese ones, either.

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Onto Follow Your Heart brand mozzarella.  Follow Your Heart, indeed.  Follow it to some other brand of cheese – vegan or otherwise.  I had high hopes for this stuff – primarily because it was very soft & smooshy in the package & that made me think it would be one of the rare vegan cheeses that really & truly melts near heat – like real cheese.  I found it amid a plethora of vegan cheeses at the kinda awesome Lassen’s in Los Feliz.  This is a health food HEAVEN with nearly every vegan option you can think of – even vegan bacon bits sold in bulk!  GOOD ones, too.  But this place is only frequented by those with pockets as deep as Madonna’s.  Or those that want to go bankrupt faster than MC Hammer – or the reckless regular shoppers at Gelson’s.   But Lassen’s is a great one-stop spot to find vegan staples like nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten and a wide selection of vegan cheeses.  So – go there for specialty & hard-to-find stuff & a huge selection of bulk items.

Anyway – this Follow Your Heart shit is slimy & mushy & flavorless and does NOT melt in an oven at 350 – on top of a tortilla pizza.  I know.  Because I tried.  It softened a lot but the the pieces never melted enough to lose their shape – like real cheese does.  More importantly, it tastes like nothing & the raw texture is just unforgivable.  I am almost motivated to write a strongly worded letter.  Almost.

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Next in the hot seat – Lisanatti brand mozzarella.  UPDATE – THIS IS NOT VEGAN – AS IT CONTAINS CASEIN.  I almost opted not to try this brand of vegan mozzarella – primarily because the packaging is so ugly.  It makes me think of that Cracker Barrel logo above.  I possess an inexplicable & irrational loathing for that Cracker Barrel logo.  It is Just.  So.  Ugly!  Look at it!  What the fuck?  Were the powers that be too cheap to hire a real branding company to design their logo?  “Cousin Betty took a course in graphic design at Bodunk City College & she works cheap.  A pack of Pall Malls & a handle of Fireball and you’re golden.”

Apparently, Cousin Betty took that course in the fucking seventies because there is no other explanation for the color and…ugh.  It just makes me nuts.  I’d rather starve than eat there & support their bad taste in graphic design & poor marketing strategies.  But – I digress.

Lisanatti Foods seem to have let either Lisa or Natti design the packaging – unless Cousin Betty is still moonlighting but – you know what?  It is OK.  It is OK because whomever they put in charge to make this cheese did a fucking great job!  Still – there is a lot of info on that ugly label.  Apparently, Oregon is the landmark of quality, which is news to me.   This cheese is not only gluten-free but Kid Kritics approved.  I am always mystified when things to do with kids are deliberately misspelled – but whatever.  Apparently these kids approved of this vegan cheese but after I saw those kids eating that gawdawful Tofutti shit – my faith in kids as kritics is shaken.

The label declares, “Shreds, melts and tastes great!”  And, I am happy to report, it really does taste great!  Naked.  Really good.  It is soft like mozzarella & truly tastes good.  I did not try to shred it but I did try to melt it – on the same tortilla pizza I tested the Follow Your Heart cheese.  Neither cheese really melted.  They both got very soft & had I used this Lisanatti cheese in something pressed – like a quesadilla – the melting quality might have been facilitated more.  So – not a true melt but I am feeling forgiving here because they got the taste to be pleasant & that is more than half the battle.  PS – this is the cheese I used on my meatloaf grilled cheese here and I even nuked it for a minute and a half – hoping to just radiate the fuck out of it so it lost its will to not melt but I failed.  SOFT – but not ooey-gooey melted.  You can see in the photo below – it has not even melted enough to obscure where one slice ends & another begins – after nuking AND pan frying.  But it tastes good and I will buy it again!

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Now – on to Field Roast Chao slices.  These guys get the real cheese thing across best.  I have tried all three flavors & find them each to be distinct & genuinely yummy.  The creamy original is like a provolone or mild white cheddar.  Tomato cayenne is a very nacho cheese kinda thing & the coconut herb with black pepper is just a mild white cheese.  The texture is right on & the flavors are good.  And the packaging is attractive!  This is the bar, in my opinion, for vegan cheese that is widely available in supermarkets & not just in specialty shops.  While this cheese also failed the melt test in a 350 degree oven – it passed the “melt in a pan” test with flying colors!  This is the only cheese I have attempted that with because I was certain that the tomato cayenne cheese & some Rotel would make an amazing queso – and I was right!  Behold – my 5-Minute 2-Ingredient Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip!


Maybe all of these cheeses would melt in a pan – if given the chance – and that might be the secret to getting it gooey for sandwiches & pizzas etc…melt it in a an & pour it on top.  I will experiment & get back to you on that.

Oh – and Soledad Sanctuary used to make cruelty-free goat cheese but they recently turned vegan & are developing their own vegan cheeses!  If you live in LA, they have a stand at the Hollywood farmer’s market & are happy to let you sample their efforts.  Eventually, they will be selling the cheeses through their site, too.

So – now – let me present my Leftover Vegan Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Mississippi Come Back Sauce!

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Mississippi Come Back Sauce is, basically, a homemade vegan & spicy Thousand Island – not unlike the Delta Dipping Sauce I presented in my Spicy Southern Fried Cauliflower and Delta Dipping Sauce with Smashed Baked Potatoes and White Gravy and Buffalo Mac & Cheese – seen above.  This recipe makes quite a bit but it should keep in the fridge for a week so you can use it on other things – like a dip for tater tots, on burgers or tacos – even a salad dressing.

Mississippi Come Back Sauce


1/4 cup vegan mayo

2 TBS ketchup

1 TBS Dijon

1-2 TBS sriracha

1 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 tsp dry mustard

1/4 cup onion – minced

2 garlic cloves – minced

S&P to taste


Blend & chill.

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Leftover Vegan Meatloaf Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Mississippi Come Back Sauce

Feeds as many as you like – depending on the amount of leftovers you have.  Here are the ingredients I used:

Leftover vegan meatloaf

Jewish rye bread

Vegan butter

Mississippi Come Back Sauce (recipe above)

Vegan cheese (I used Lisanatti mozzarella)


Make like you would make any grilled cheese.  Butter the bread on one side & place it in a frying pan on medium heat.  Top with the other ingredients & put another slice of bread on top – buttered side up.  Turn a few times – pressing the sandwich with the cover of a pan to help heat it through – until the bread is golden to your taste & the cheese is at least pretending to wilt.

Eat.  🙂

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Roasted Rosemary Potatoes & Heirloom Carrots and a 90210 U4EA Podcast!!

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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So – I did a live-on-stage podcast about the 90210 episode U4EA.  It was really fun & I think it is pretty funny.  If you are unfamiliar with the episode – you can watch it here: (http://www.hulu.com/watch/802321#i0,p9,s2,d0) OR YOUTUBE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3AOH8HLFLw).

And HERE is a link to the actual podcast.   It is on i-tunes, too.

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These are not anything new but they really are delicious.  I used some leftover red onion that I had from my Easy Vegan Meatloaf – seen above.  I do not recommend that you do this as it just burned into charred blackness.  These come out crispy on the outside & creamy on the inside & are quite irresistible.  You will likely burn your mouth as you impatiently shove them in your face straight from the oven.

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Roasted Rosemary Potatoes & Heirloom Carrots

Serves 2 very well as a side


5-6 red potatoes – cut into bite-sized pieces

5-6 heirloom (or regular) carrots – cut into bite-sized pieces

2 TBS fresh rosemary – chopped

olive oil


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Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the potatoes & carrots with a drizzle of olive & the rosemary and S&P.  Be sure everything is evenly coated.  Roast – turning every 15 minutes – for about 45-60 minutes – or until the potatoes are golden & crispy.


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Easy Vegan Meatloaf


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is my first attempt at a vegan meatloaf.  I was determined not to use lentils or other distinctly NOT beefy ingredient – so I opted for Beyond Meat’s wonderfully versatile Beef-free Crumble.  I also could not use eggs so I needed some other ingredient to bind things.  Aquafaba (the liquid in a can of chick peas) is all the rage these days as an egg replacer – so I tried that.  My results were actually very good.  The only thing I would change is that I pureed all the ingredients & that left the meatloaf soft & without enough texture – so – I will recommend a different method in this post.

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I used that rich & thick BBQ sauce – but you can use your own favorite – or make your own.  The only other thing that I did – which was a pain in the ass but necessary for photos – was use a terrine pan to bake the meatloaf.  I wanted the end result to be DEEP – and look hefty in photos.  You do not have that concern so just use a regular loaf pan.  Finally, I guess I have never had traditional meatloaf because that sugary, ketchup topping that seems standard is news to me.  I wasn’t going to use any but changed my mind – basically for the color it added in the photos.  If a brown sugar-ketchup topping sounds gross or unnecessary to you – blow it the fuck off.

Ketchup Brown Sugar Glaze

1/2  cup ketchup (or additional BBQ sauce)

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)

2 TBS light-brown sugar

Whisk the ingredients together

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Easy Vegan Meatloaf

2 (9 oz) bags of beefy crumbles

1 (15 oz) can chick peas & their liquid (UPDATE 11-30-15– several folks complained their meatloaf is too wet/soft when done.  Maybe drain & reserve the liquid from the can to add only if you feel your meatloaf is too dry before putting it in the oven.)

1/2 cup panko or other bread crumbs (UPDATE 11-30-15 – likewise – maybe add more bread crumbs or some flax or chia seeds to aid in binding – if you feel the “meat” is too wet.  It should be like a raw meatball – moist but can hold its shape)

Olive oil

1/2 small onion – diced

2 celery stalks – chopped

2 garlic cloves – chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 TBS crushed red pepper

1/4 cup BBQ sauce (plus more for topping)

1/4 cup Bloody Mary mix (or tomato juice) or 1/2 small tomato – diced

1 TBS fresh thyme – removed from stems

1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped (plus more for garnish)

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First of all – ignore my photos of the terrine pan with the little ramekin holding my meatloaf in shape.  Just use a regular loaf pan.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saute pan, heat a 1-2 TBS or so of olive oil & saute the onion & celery until soft.  Add the beefy crumbles & heat through.  Add the garlic & heat for another minute.  Mix in the panko or bread crumbs.  Set aside.

In a food processor – puree the chick peas & their juice.

Add the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, BBQ sauce and Bloody Mary mix (or tomato juice or tomato).  Blend.  Add about 1/2 of the beefy crumble mix from the pan & blend.  Add this mix from the food processor to the saute pan & mix in with the remaining, in tact beefy crumble mixture.

Grease a loaf pan (or treat it with cooking spray) and put the meatloaf mixture in it.  Top with BBQ sauce.

Put it in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until it begins to brown & is cooked through.  If you are using the ketchup glaze – make it while the meatloaf cooks & add it at about the 30 minute mark.  You need not use all of it & can serve the extra as a dipper or a fresh coat when the meatloaf comes out of the oven.

Let it sit a solid ten minutes before cutting into it.  Garnish with parsley & serve.

LEFTOVERS ALERT!!!  Make a meatloaf sandwich or a sloppy Joe or use the meat to stuff bell peppers or make a beef ragout pasta sauce or layer some in a lasagna.  Why not make chili?  So many ways to re-purpose this stuff!

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Easy Basil Pesto (Vegan or Not)


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Pesto is a lovely thing – when used sparingly.  I loathe a pesto pasta that is heavy with oily dense pesto – but if the pesto is light & clean & used delicately – it really is yummy.

Traditionally – it is made with pine nuts.  I have sworn off pine nuts ever since a friend got “pine mouth.”  Pine mouth is a horrid metallic taste that overwhelms your mouth whenever you eat or drink.  It is from eating rancid pine nuts.  Apparently, pine nuts have a relatively short shelf life & many come from China, Korea, Russia and Vietnam.  Nobody seems to really understand pine mouth but there is one easy way to avoid ever getting it – avoid pine nuts.  Easy.  Pine nuts are rich & greasy & are used way too liberally & frequently – much like sun-dried tomatoes in the eighties.  Fuck you, pine nuts.  I never like you much, anyway.

So – you can make pesto with almost any other nut – like pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios or – as I did here – with almonds.   You can toast the nuts or not – it does not matter much.

The real news here is the concept of blanching the basil.  I read that it makes for a smoother & more vibrantly green pesto.  Vibrant green is nice to photograph – so I blanched my basil.  Judge the results yourself.  If you wanna skip the blanching – there will be no repercussions.  I promise.

Traditionally – real Parmesan is used and I used it here.  If you are vegan – just use vegan Parmesan.

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Easy Basil Pesto (Vegan or Not)

Makes a lot


6 oz (or 4 packed cups) fresh basil

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

S&P to taste

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Blanch the basil by submerging it in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Drain & plunge into cold water to stop its cooking. Squeeze the water out.

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  I add water in tiny increments to thin it & to facilitate the blending.

Season with S&P.

I put mine into sandwich bags in small portions & froze it for later use.  Works great!

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Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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So – I saw THIS post from The Skinny Fork on Pinterest & was intrigued by the olive oil caviar.  I promptly Googled it & about $75 later – I had 4 little jars of the stuff in different flavors.   I bought it HERE.

This is what they say about it at Gordon-Gourmet.com:

“About Caviaroli ®

DSC_0184Caviaroli is fine Spanish olive oil that is encapsulated to mimic the delicate refinement of caviar.  The concept transpired back in 2008 when Ferrán Adrià created this innovative product and produced it in small quantities, inspiring others to take part in this surprising enterprise.  Pere Castells, technical director of Fundació Alicia, introduced olive oil caviar to the Caviaroli team and helped begin research on production.  For two years, the team worked enjoyably at mastering the technology which initially was a challenge.  Finally, the first olive oil caviar was created outside of El Bulli’s kitchen, and soon it was presented to Ferràn Adrià, who promptly ordered 10kg in less than a week.  Adrià considered this new caviar good enough to be served at El Bulli, the restaurant where he worked as head chef.  He even presented the product in a lecture at Harvard, saying that “soon the olive oil caviar will be available,” and in jest added, “…but it can only be done with Spanish olive oil”, encouraging the use of quality grade Spanish products.

In  2011 at the Australian Fine Food’s Show, Caviaroli won “Best new Foodservice product award”, and in 2012 the production plant in Spain was registered and Caviaroli was approved by the FDA.  Stored in a sleek glass bottle, the Caviar will stay fresh for up to twelve months–the same as regular bottled olive oil.”


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There it it!  Cool looking, no?  I used a basil flavored one.  I did not add the traditional basil to my dish here because I knew fresh basil would overpower the caviar & I wanted to experience it.  (I also think balsamic vinegar overpowers caprese salads & never add it.)  The olive oil caviar tastes strongly of olive oil – the basil flavor is barely a tiny hint.

If you do not want to invest in something like this caviar – just drizzle olive oil & add some fresh chopped basil to your caprese.   By the way – caprese is pronounced like this:

It is “ca-pray’-zay.”  Not “ca-preece.”

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This is as easy as cutting stuff up.  Use as much of each ingredient as suits your tastes & the number of mouths you are feeding.

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Avocado Caprese Salad with Olive Oil Caviar


Heirloom or regular tomatoes – sliced

Fresh mozzarella – sliced

Avocado – sliced or cubed

Olive oil caviar – or regular olive oil

Fresh basil (optional but traditional) – sliced – or even a thin drizzle of basil pesto

S&P to taste

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Assemble & serve.

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5-Minute Vegan Sticky & Spicy Indian Masala Chicken Fingers

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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These take 5 minutes & are completely irresistible!  I ate the entire 9 oz of chicken in one sitting.  I recommend using Beyond Meat chicken because it really is the best on the market.  Click the link to get a coupon & use their store locator.  In the pictures – I cooked these in a regular non-stick pan but I did, ultimately, transfer them to a grill pan – just for the aesthetic of the grill marks.  If you have a grill pan – use it – otherwise any pan will do.

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5-Minute Vegan Sticky & Spicy Indian Masala Chicken Fingers

Serves 1-2 as an appetizer (though this would go great with rice, too)


9 oz vegan chicken

2 TBS garam masala

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup chili sauce (the sweet Thai kind)

2 tsp soy sauce

2 TBS sriracha

1 TBS ketchup

juice of 1/2 lime

Agave nectar

Olive oil or cooking spray

GARNISH – sliced scallions, sesame seeds

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Whisk all the ingredients except the chicken, agave & garnish.  Set the sauce aside.

If you have a grill pan (or other pan) – treat it with cooking spray or olive oil.  Put the chicken in the pan on high heat.  Add the sauce & cook, turning the strips frequently, until the sauce thickens & begins to blacken in spots – likely only a few minutes.  Just before they are done – drizzle with a little agave nectar for moisture.

Serve with choice of garnish.

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Vegan Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Candied Walnuts


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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These are so easy & so delicious – I bet even folks that hate Brussels sprouts will like them.  Sweet & salty & crunchy & warm & soft.  They are ready in 15 minutes.  YUM!

Vegan Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Candied Walnuts

Serves 4 as a side


for the spicy candied walnuts

1 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup white sugar

1 TBS vegan butter

1 tsp (or more) cayenne

for the caramelized Brussels sprouts

2 dozen Brussels sprouts

2 garlic cloves – chopped

2 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

salt to taste

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for the spicy candied walnuts

Heat everything in a pan for 3-5 minutes – stirring constantly being really careful not to burn the sugar.  When it is thick & gooey & fragrant – put the nuts on a piece of parchment paper & – using a fork so you do not burn yourself – separate the nuts so they do not clump together.

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for the caramelized Brussels sprouts

Either slice the sprouts in a food processor or slice them very thin so you are left with mainly ribbons.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the sugar & stir.  Add the sprouts & saute until soft – maybe 5 minutes.  Add the garlic & saute another minute.  Season with salt.

Serve with the candied walnuts on top.

See?  Crazy easy!

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Vegan Aloo Palak (Indian Spinach & Potato Curry)


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I fucking love Indian food.  I always have.  I have posted many Indian recipes & Indian food is the easiest way to feed someone vegan food without them noticing.  If you research, you will find that most recipes have largely overlapping ingredients.  If you intend to get into cooking Indian food – the critical spices (outside of cumin & coriander) are garam masala & cardamom.  If your local market does not carry the spices you need – and there is no local Indian spice source (ethnic markets are THE BEST resource for cheap spices) – buy them on Amazon.  This recipe calls for fenugreek (or kasuri methi) but I read that celery seeds are a decent substitute.  If you can’t find either – blow it off.

If you are accustomed to cooking Indian food – you might notice I tend to use far larger amounts of the spices than your average recipes.  The measurements are very forgiving, though, so don’t worry if you want to use more – or less – than what I suggest.

I used a vegan goat cheese that I bought at a Soledad Santuary stand at the Hollywood farmer’s market.  If you live in Hollywood or can make it to that market – look for them.  They recently turned vegan & are experimenting making many kinds of vegan cheese.  (If you get there – BTW – look for Dave’s Korean stand, too.  Their tempah is INSANE!)  You can use any soft vegan cheese (cream cheese or yogurt or goat cheese – if you can find some).  If you are not vegan – a Boursin or garlic/chive cream cheese would work.  You just need some sort of “dairy” to mellow out the overall flavor.

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Vegan Aloo Palak (Indian Spinach & Potato Curry)

Serves 4-6 with rice


1 1/2 – 2 lbs fresh spinach (You can use canned or frozen but the flavor will not be the same & you won’t get the vibrant green color.  Google Aloo Palak & see how ugly it can look.  LOL)

3 large red potatoes – cubed

1 large onion – diced

1-3 jalapenos (to taste) – chopped (remove seeds to lessen the heat)

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp cumin

1 TBS turmeric

1 TBS fresh ginger – minced (I used jarred)

1 TBS garlic – minced (I used jarred)

1-3 tsp chili powder (I used 3 but I like heat)

1 TBS ground coriander

1 tsp dry fenugreek (or celery seeds) – OPTIONAL

1 TBS garam masala

1/2 cup vegan soft cheese


Olive oil

Garnish – cooked rice and/or naan







Boil a large pot of water & blanch the spinach by immersing it for 30 seconds to a minute – so it wilts.  Plunge into cold water & drain.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil & pan fry the potatoes until they begin to brown – turning often.  This might cook them through – depending on how large your cubes are.  If it doesn’t do not worry.  They can cook more in the spinach.  Set aside.

In that same pan – heat another TBS olive oil & add the cumin seeds.  Once they begin to sputter, add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, ginger, & spices.  Cook until the onion is soft.

In a food processor – blend the onion mix.  Then – add the drained spinach & puree.  Return this to the pan.  Stir in the cheese & add the potatoes.  Heat through & be sure your potatoes are soft.  You may have to add between 1-2 cups of water to thin it out.  If it is too thick add more water.  Too thin?  Cook it down.

Serve with rice or naan – or eat it naked!  I mean – the spinach & potatoes could be naked – as the potato adds a starch to the dish, already.  But – if you wanna be naked yourself – I don’t see a problem with that.  Your roommate or children might feel awkward but fuck’m.  You just made motherfuckin’ Aloo Palak.   What the fuck have they achieved lately?  Probably not appreciate you enough, that’s what.

See my point?  Might as well swill some wine, too.  Haters gonna hate.  No reason for you to give any fucks at all.  Eat, drink & be proud you just made a yummy vegan meal!

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