Pooh-bah Ben’s Haroset

This is a combination of Sephardic, Near Eastern, Middle-Eastern and Israeli recipes. This is a large recipe — about 8 cups/2 quarts — but halving all ingredients amounts works fine. As it freezes — and thaws — nicely, it’s a good idea to freeze leftovers as the fruit relish goes bad after a couple of days. Then it can be enjoyed later in the eight days of the Jewish holiday.

Adaptation of Israeli Haroseth, Egyptian Haroseth Ashkenazic Charoset recipes from 1983 and 1984 articles in the Dallas Times Herald, which ceased in 1991.

  • 2-3 cups loose (not packed) dried, pitted fruit, perhaps 1 cup figs, 1 cup dates and 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup wine or grape juice
  • 1 cup nuts, such as walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds, or a mix
  • 2 oranges, washed
  • 2-4 apples, depending on size
  • 2-4 bananas, ripe but still firm
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Chop dried fruit into raisin-size pieces. Plump with wine or grape juice in bowl for 15-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Zest orange. Mince zest and add to large bowl. Peel oranges. Dice and add to bowl.
  3. Core apples, peel if desired, dice and add to bowl. Stir with oranges to prevent apples browning.
  4. Peel and dice 2 bananas, add to bowl.
  5. Chop nuts that need chopping to raisin-size pieces and add to bowl.
  6. Stir in cinnamon. Stir in rehydrated dried fruits along with their soaking liquid. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour for flavors to marry. Stir and taste, add another chopped banana or two to sweeten if needed.

Note: I’d advise against hard nuts such as almonds. Nutmeats here should be more a soft chew than crunchy or crumbly.

Thanks, Giving

Here is a Thanksgiving menu that I’ve been refining the last three years. It’s low-fat whole-food plant-based vegan. We’ve found that when you reduce the oil to near-zero you can move around after the dinner rather than lumber with groans over to the TV room.

First is the “meat” or the protein-focused entree. It’s a veggie Neat Loaf. Most years I stuff a pie pumpkin or another winter squash with a favorite veggie dressing, but you can skip the gourd and just bake the stuffing. I have a great cranberry sauce but my family likes canned; if you find canned cranberry sauce without high fructose corn syrup let me know. The leftovers from these are pretty obvious, but if you have an unused can of pumpkin puree, here’s November Chili for the long weekend.

Otherwise, take a look at Scratch Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and Yammy Rolls.

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Flapjacks or Flapjanes

Cakey Pancakes, low-fat vegan
Cakey Multigrain Pancakes are low-fat vegan and rise more than other recipes.

Pancakes, hotcakes and the like are pretty much just another flatbread. But they mean breakfast maybe more than brunch and sweet usually not savory. These two low-fat vegan versions are not bland, either.

Cakey Multigrain Pancakes

Four servings

  • 2 Tablespoons egg replacer powder OR ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups plant milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Dash vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal, traditional OR quick
  • Zest from 1 orange, minced (optional)
  • 1 cup berries (optional), frozen is fine (thawed or not)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Oil spray
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Dress Up

Lettuce Rejoice

Here are two vegan salad dressings, essentially “whole food plant based low oil,” using pantry items (well, my ongoing pantry of staples!). The first is really quick and the second super tasty.

Healthier Savory Dressing

Based on “2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing” from Forks over Knives

2 parts good quality vinegar
1 part vegan mayonnaise
1 part nutritional yeast
1/2 part dried herb blend, such as Italian
Pinch ground mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 parts water

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Shake well to combine. Can serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.

Notes: If using a tablespoon for “part,” this will make about 1/2 cup of dressing, enough for 4-8 servings of salad. (The original made just a single serving, 2 tablespoons.)

To minimize dressing and maximize the fresh flavor of the greens I add a smaller amount of dressing to the whole bowl of greens, before separating to plates — and toss not with a fork or something but with a clean hand. This coats all the leaves quickly and thoroughly. You might need another tablespoon of dressing as you go along. Be careful not to bruise (wilt) the lettuce by mixing too roughly. The hand-mix method works for any dressing.

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Lettuce Rejoice

Plate of lettuce salad
Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Resources

It’s getting harder to find a satisfying bottled salad dressing, for the convenience. They seem sweeter now, at least the lower fat varieties.

Speaking of oil, there’s a way to cut that in half: toss your salad with a hand not utensils and you’ll need just half the dressing — 1 Tablespoon per serving instead of the suggested 2 — to coat the leaves. It takes seconds as your fingers quickly tell when all are moistened. That works when the cleaned lettuce is bone dry as experts advise or when the veggies are gently shaken of water.

Adapting this no-fat vegan 2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing from Forks Over Knives has become my go-to rather than a Ken’s or Newman’s Own. I often prefer vegan mayo instead of Dijon mustard as the resulting emulsion is more creamy than tart.

The recipe is a modest amount but easily scalable. It makes just under a half cup of dressing, for 6-8 servings if hand-tossed (above) or 3-4 servings conventionally.

Easy, Real Salad Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons quality vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan mayo OR prepared mustard such as Dijon
  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs such as basil or Italian spice blend
  • pinch dried garlic
  • pinch dry mustard (Colman’s recommended)
  • pinches salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a good lid and shake. Refrigerate until needed.

Notes: Balsamic or red wine vinegar work great, but if you want a lighter color then rice vinegar is good. Cider vinegar has a stronger taste, but sometimes that’s the right thing.

Nutritional yeast is a flavor booster with umami.

Heck yes, this recipe is a starting point. Don’t worry about the nutritional yeast. Replace the salt with a dash of soy sauce. If fresh herbs are available, mix rough-chopped ones in the bowl with the lettuce and drop the dried spices from the dressing. Whatever. Go for it.

Shakshuka 181, It’s Vegan

Skillet of Shakshuka 181
Vegan Reverse Shakshuka, 181

Shakshuka is a skillet dish where eggs are poached in a savory tomato sauce. It’s North African to Middle Eastern but generally considered Israeli. Cook and food writer Mark Bittman this week blogged on Epicurious editor David Tamarkin and his variation White Shakshuka.

Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce
Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce. Credit Wikimedia Commons

It looks wonderful, eggs poached in a stew of oniony-lemony white beans. It’s a reverse, though I’d call it 179 degrees not the full 180, as it’s still eggs.

Eggs and beans are redundant protein.

A true 180 would be egg-sized tomatoes floating in a whitish sauce. Call it 181, being a one-off from an impractical polar opposite. Mine is vegan with no added fat (but see notes).

The 181 is good looking and tasty. Grocery tomatoes are fine, so this is a year-round dish. Quick. It’s so quick that my pictures should be updated later on, as all I had were red onions and that darkened the stew to about a 182. Continue reading