Week 5: Vegan Thyme Rolls & Vegan Bourbon Whiskey Caramelized Onion Dip – A Compassion is the Secret Ingredient Thanksgiving

Can you believe it’s already week 5, y’all? Let’s see… what are we missing?? A bread, an appetizer, and desserts, right? Well, this week I’m serving up the bread and the appetizer, and next week I will wrap this whole thing up with the desserts! But, back to this week…

I will admit that, for the longest time, I was deathly afraid of making any kind of bread. (What an odd thing to fear, am I right?!) I assumed it was far too complicated to make your own yeast-y beast but, after actually giving it a go one time, I found out that making bread is not so much complicated as it is simply a little time consuming. Homemade bread though, is so worth the time it takes to make and so, for our Thanksgiving feast, I knew that homemade rolls were a must. I began working on a recipe for rolls that would compliment the other flavors of the meal but be able to stand on its own should you want to eat it by itself. What I ended up with were these soft little rolls with a little dried thyme in them which makes them taste herbaceous and earthy.

The rolls get started the same way that most breads get started -with a yeast base! In a large bowl, some warm water gets combined with a packet of active dry yeast and a little agave. The mixture gets a good stir and then it’s left to rest until foamy -about 5 minutes. Next, almond milk, olive oil, vinegar, dried thyme, and salt are added and that all gets stirred together. The last things to be added are all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The dough gets worked with a spatula until combined then you’re going to pick up the dough ball, drizzle a little olive oil into the bowl, then return the dough ball back to the bowl -this oiling of the bowl helps the dough not stick to the bowl as it rises. Pop the bowl with the dough into your microwave or cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour.

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After an hour has passed, dump your dough out onto a floured surface and work, adding more flour as needed, until smooth -this should only take a minute or so. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut off a little chunk of the dough and roll it between your palms to form it into a ball that is roughly 1 1/2 inches big. Continue cutting off pieces of dough and forming it into little balls until no more unformed dough remains -you should end up with about 20-22 balls. Drizzle some olive oil over the dough balls, rubbing it around them if need be so that they are coated in it, then pop the dough balls onto a parchment lined sheet pan with just a little space left in between each. Place this pan into your microwave or cover with a kitchen towel and allow the dough balls to rise for an additional 30 minutes. (Told you, not so much complicated as it is time consuming!)

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After 30 minutes, transfer the sheet pan to a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the bottoms are just a little browner than that. Remove the rolls from the pan immediately so that they don’t continue to brown on the bottom. If making the rolls a day in advance, be sure to let them cool completely before transferring them to a storage container or bag.

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Vegan Thyme Rolls

  • Servings: 20-22 rolls
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (the “original” kind)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons agave
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for bowl and formed rolls
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed in palm of hand before using
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + more for board
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and agave together then let this mixture rest until foamy -about 5 minutes. Next, add the almond milk, olive oil, vinegar, dried thyme, and salt then stir to combine. Lastly, add in the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour and work until dough ball forms. Pick up the dough ball, drizzle a little olive oil into the bowl, work some of the oil up onto the sides, then return the dough ball back to the bowl. Pop the bowl with the dough ball into your microwave, or cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for 1 hour.
  2. After 1 hour has passed, dump the dough ball out onto a floured surface and work, adding more flour as needed, until smooth -this should only take a minute or so. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut off a little chunk of dough and roll it between your palms to form it into a ball that is roughly 1 1/2 inches big. Continue cutting off pieces of dough and forming it into little balls until no more unformed dough remains -you should end up with about 20-22 balls.
  3. Drizzle some olive oil over the dough balls, rubbing it around them if need be so that they are coated in it, then place the dough balls onto a parchment lined sheet pan with just a little space left in between each. Put this pan into your microwave, or cover with a kitchen towel, and allow the dough balls to rise for an additional 30 minutes. You can get your oven preheated at this time to 400 degrees.
  4. After 30 minutes, transfer the pan to your preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan immediately when done so that they don’t continue to brown on the bottom but be careful as they will be very hot. If making the rolls a day in advance, be sure to let them cool completely before transferring them to an airtight storage container. Rolls will keep in an airtight storage container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


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Okay, appetizer time! I have a rule about appetizers on Thanksgiving day and that is do not go crazy with them. Why? Because, while Thanksgiving is a food-centric holiday, it is not about the appetizers. The last thing you want to do is fill up on an appetizer smorgasbord and then not be able to fill up on the big meal or the desserts, right? So pick a single app or a couple of apps but no more than that.

One of my favorite go-to apps is something I like to call bourbon whiskey caramelized onion dip. If you’re only doing a single appetizer then I highly suggest it be this because, simply put, it is damn fine. Vegan “cream cheese” serves as a base for oodles of caramelized onion goodness with a hint of bourbon whiskey to it. Served with mini toasts, plain pita chips, or veggies, it is addictive and loved by all who try it -even people who don’t like booze or onions!

It all gets started with you cutting 2 large white onions into strips. Toss those strips into a large skillet (the bigger the better) with a little vegan “butter,” and some salt, and cook ’em for 10 minutes over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, add in a little brown sugar and some agave then continue to cook the onions until richly browned (aka caramelized) and super tender -about another 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions are done, turn off the heat and pour in a couple tablespoons of bourbon whiskey. With a long lighter, light the bourbon whiskey on fire and allow that to cook off completely. When the flame has fully extinguished itself, add a couple more tablespoons of bourbon whiskey and repeat the lighting/burning process a final time.

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When the final bit of bourbon whiskey has extinguished itself, carefully (cause they’re hot) scoop out the caramelized onions and transfer them to a cutting board. Finely chop the onions so that they are in much smaller pieces then set them aside for use in a minute.

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In the pan that you cooked the onions in, turn the heat back on and bring the pan back up to low-medium heat. Toss in some vegan “cream cheese” and stir, as best you can, the “cream cheese” around until it starts to melt. Add in the caramelized onions you chopped up a moment ago as well as some black pepper then stir to combine. Once thoroughly combined, turn the heat off and transfer your dip to a serving dish.

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Vegan Bourbon Whiskey Caramelized Onion Dip

  • Servings: 6-8
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 2 large white onions, cut into thin strips
  • 4 tablespoons vegan “butter”
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons agave
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon whiskey, to be added 2 tablespoons at a time
  • 2 1/2 (8-ounce) containers of vegan “cream cheese” (20 ounces in total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Cut onions into thin strips if you haven’t done so already. Preheat a large skillet to low-medium heat. Add in “butter” and allow that to melt. Add in onions and salt, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, add in the brown sugar and the agave. Stir to combine then continue to cook the onions until richly browned (aka caramelized) and super tender -about another 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the onions are done, turn off the heat. With the heat off, pour in 2 tablespoons of bourbon whiskey. Using a long lighter, carefully light the bourbon whiskey on fire and allow that to cook off completely. When the flame has fully extinguished itself, add 2 more tablespoons of bourbon whiskey and repeat the lighting/burning process a final time. When the final bit of bourbon whiskey has extinguished itself, carefully (cause they’re hot) scoop out the caramelized onions and transfer them to a cutting board. Finely chop the onions so that they are in much smaller pieces then set them aside for use in a minute.
  3. In the pan that you cooked the onions in, turn the heat back on and bring the pan back up to low-medium heat. Toss in the “cream cheese” and stir, as best you can, it around until it starts to melt. Add in the caramelized onions you chopped up a moment ago and the black pepper then stir to combine. Once thoroughly combined, turn the heat off and transfer your dip to a serving dish. Serve immediately. Serve with mini toasts, plain pita chips, or veggies. Leftover dip will keep in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.

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Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

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It’s been said that I’m a bit of a bean fiend but how could anyone not love those wholesome little nuggets of deliciousness?! In fact, I was told to eat even more beans by my nutritionist so hate all you want but I’m gonna be cramming beans in my diet wherever I can! #BeanMeUpScotty

One of my favorite beans to cook with is the white bean but the other day I realized that I’ve only shared one recipe with y’all that features white beans. (I seriously did a recount because I couldn’t believe I had only shared the one.) I knew that I needed to up my white bean game and share not just a recipe with white beans in it but rather a white bean-based recipe so today I’m doing just that.

Now, maybe you’re like, “What the hell is a bean spread?” So before I go any further allow me to explain this for those of you who are a little confused. A bean spread is a super thick and delicious mixture that can be enjoyed by itself, as a side, or smeared on veggies, on a bagel, on a pita, on tiny toasts for a party, on your finger, on the finger of your lover, on a shoe, on a stick… you get the idea. And the “benevolent” part? That’s just a cutesy word taken from one of the ingredients (more on that in a moment) that I chose to add to the title because I can.

So now we know what a bean spread is, let’s talk about what it tastes like. My bean spread is so full flavored it’ll knock your socks off! It’s garlicky, it’s oniony -wait, oniony is not a word but garlicky is? Lame! Anyways… full flavored. There’s a creaminess that you get from the beans and a little vegan “cream cheese,” then you have a meaty, salty element thanks to Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, and the whole thing’s rounded out with some baby spinach. It’s really good and it all gets started with a little prep.

First things first, drain and rinse a can of great northern white beans then plop them into a mini food processor. Add in the vegan “cream cheese,” some salt and pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil, then pulse the mixture until smooth. Set your white bean creaminess aside for a moment and move on the the rest of the prep.

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Wash up some baby spinach (or buy the prewashed stuff) then remove excess stems and  tear remaining leafy bit into smaller pieces until you have 2 cups worth of torn baby spinach leaves. Also, finely dice about 1/8th of a white onion, finely mince a few garlic cloves, and slice up about 5 slices of the “bacon” to get them down to more bite-size pieces.

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Now it’s time to get cookin’! In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook the “bacon” and the onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure that the “bacon” is cooking up evenly.

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After 5 minutes, add in the torn spinach leaves and the garlic. Stirring occasionally, just as you did before, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

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The last thing that we need to add is the white bean mixture we made earlier. Pour that into your pan then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir nearly constantly at this point so that the beans don’t burn to the bottom of the pan.

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Serve your finished bean spread hot or cold -it’s great either way!

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Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

  • Servings: makes about 1 1/2 cups
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can of low-sodium great northern white beans, drained and rinsed + 1 generous tablespoon vegan “cream cheese” + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (measured after being torn, not before)
  • 5 pieces of Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, uncooked and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/6-1/8 of a white onion (about 2 tablespoons), finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Something to smear bean spread onto like a bagel, pita, veggies, mini toasts, etc. (optional)

Directions

  1. In a mini food processor, combine drained and rinsed beans with “cream cheese,” extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Pulse until smooth then set aside. Tear up baby spinach leaves and prep “bacon,” onion, and garlic, if you haven’t done so already.
  2. In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook “bacon” and onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add torn spinach leaves and garlic then cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in bean mixture then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir almost constantly at this point so that the bean mixture doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. When spread is done, serve it hot or cold. Spread will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Vegan Tomato Tart

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I love my best friend, Angel. She’s the bestest best friend a girl could ask for! We’ve known each other for (I think) nearly 15 years and if there is one thing that I have learned about her in those 15 years it’s that she loves food. Any food.

Now this is both a good thing and a bad thing though. It’s a good thing because it means that she will eat whatever I make for her (and her hubby and baby boy). I always get to test out new recipes and she gets free, yummy vegan food -most of the time. That’s where this can be a bad thing. I’m not a professional chef or culinary wiz by no means so there are times when, despite my best efforts, something just doesn’t turn out as I had hoped it would. But there’s my soul sister, eating it anyways. I’ll critic my work with every bite but she doesn’t say a peep. When I mention how I can make it better next time she often lovingly says that it was great this time. (Did I mention that I love her??)

One such occasion where we didn’t agree on how a recipe turned out was when I made my very first tomato tart. It looked amazing but it was troublesome to eat and missing something. I rattled off the changes I wanted to make to the recipe and what did my best friend do? She asked me for the recipe. As it was. Well me being the perfectionist that I am, I straight up refused to give it to her. Instead I said that when I had finished tweaking it I would then, and only then, share it with her -and all of you. Fast forward a few months later, to today, and I am proud to say that my tomato tart recipe has been perfected and is finally ready to share.

This one’s for you, Angel! #LoveYou

This easy to make tart is a thing of beauty and I’ve definitely improved on its eatability and flavor. The sweet little cherry tomatoes which have been cooked down in a balsamic vinegar reduction are everything -they are bursting with flavor. Below them there is a creamy, garlic-flavored tofu cream and below that is light and crispy puff pastry. Top it all of with some fresh basil and this recipe is perfect for a light lunch or dinner, or as an appetizer at your next get-together.

The first thing that we need to do is prepare some egg substitute for use a little later. I used Ener-G egg substitute and I prepared it in accordance with the instructions on the box for 1 egg. Set this mixture aside until it’s needed.

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Next, the creamy tofu filling needs to be made by first draining and pressing some firm tofu. Put the tofu in a blender and add in almond milk, lemon juice, a whole bunch of garlic, a little onion powder, salt, and some sugar. Blend until perfectly smooth then set aside for a moment until we need it.

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Okay, now for the puff pastry portion -say that 10 times fast! For this recipe you will need 1 sheet of puff pastry that you’ve thawed according to the instructions on the packaging. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut a 1/2 inch wide strip off of the left side and the right side of the pastry sheet. Now cut 1/2 inch wide strips from both the top and the bottom of the pastry sheet.

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Grab your egg substitute and, using your finger or a small pastry brush, paint on a 1/2 inch wide strip of egg substitute onto the bottom edge of the final pastry square. Once you’ve got a strip of egg substitute on the edge, place the bottom strip of puff pastry that you cut off over top of the egg substitute to create the bottom side of what will be a frame of puff pastry. Repeat the egg substitute and puff pastry strip application on the opposite side of the pastry square.

With the top and bottom of the frame done now we must put on the sides. Before you “glue down” the left and right sides of our puff pastry strips with egg substitute, trim the length of the strips down to fit between the top and bottom puff pastry strips without overlap. Once all of the puff pastry frames edges have been attached with egg substitute, carefully transfer the whole thing to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

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Pour the creamy tofu goodness that we made earlier in the center of your puff pastry frame then carefully spread it out into an even layer. Try not to get it onto the frame itself but if some does accidentally spill over just push it back towards the the center of the pastry square.

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Get that into your preheated oven and bake it off until the puff pastry is golden brown and the tofu cream has set. While that’s baking, we will need to make the tomato mixture that will top off the tart after it comes out of the oven and we will also need to cut up some fresh basil.

For the tomato mixture, halve a generous cup of cherry (aka cherub) tomatoes. Put them into a pan with a little balsamic vinegar and cook them over low-med. heat for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have become soft and darker in color, and the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a thicker consistency.

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Once the puff pastry and tofu cream are done in the oven, it’s time to add the tomato mixture to our tart to transform it into the hella good tomato tart it was destined to be.

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As you can see, I just use a spoon to get the tomato mixture onto the tart. After all of the tomatoes are on there I then use the back of the spoon to gently press the tomatoes down a little which helps them fill out the tart a little better.

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Add the fresh basil and enjoy!

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Vegan Tomato Tart

  • Servings: 3-4 as a light lunch or dinner, 4-9 as an appetizer
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Egg substitute for 1 egg (I used Ener-G -it’s my favorite!)
  • Flour for cutting board or pastry board
  • 1 sheet of vegan puff pastry, thawed according to directions on packaging (Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan!)
  • 7 ounces of firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 generous cup of cherry (aka cherub) tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped or cut into little ribbons (chiffonade)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. In a small dish, prepare egg substitute for 1 egg according to package instructions. Set aside.
  2. Put the drained and pressed tofu into a blender and add in the almond milk, lemon juice, whole garlic cloves, onion powder, salt, and sugar. Blend until perfectly smooth then set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, lay out the puff pastry sheet. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut a 1/2 inch wide strip off of the left side and the right side of the puff pastry sheet. Now cut 1/2 inch wide strips from both the top and the bottom of the puff pastry sheet.
  4. Using your finger or a small pastry brush, paint on a 1/2 inch wide strip of egg substitute onto the bottom edge of the final puff pastry square. Place the bottom strip of puff pastry that you cut off over top of the egg substitute to create the bottom side of what will be a frame of puff pastry. Repeat the egg substitute and puff pastry strip application on the opposite side of the puff pastry square. With the top and bottom of the frame done now put on the sides but before you “glue down” the left and right strips of puff pastry with egg substitute, trim the length of the strips down to fit between the top and bottom puff pastry strips without overlap. Once all of the puff pastry frames edges have been attached with egg substitute, carefully transfer the whole thing to a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  5. Pour the tofu mixture in the center of the puff pastry frame then carefully spread it out into an even layer. Try not to get it onto the frame itself but if some does accidentally spill over just push it back towards the the center of the puff pastry square. Bake for 35 minutes.
  6. While the puff pastry and tofu cream are baking, make the tomato mixture that will top off the tart after it comes out of the oven. Cut each tomato in half. Put halved tomatoes into a shallow pan with the balsamic vinegar. Cook uncovered over low-med. heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have become soft and darker in color, and the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a thicker consistency. Set aside until tart is out of the oven.
  7. After 35 minutes is up, remove tart from oven and top with the tomato mixture. Use the back of a spoon to gently press over top of the tomato mixture to help it fill out the tart a little better. Finish with fresh basil and enjoy! Will keep in an airtight container in fridge for 1-2 days but is better when served and eaten immediately.