Ranch BBQ Pasta Salad

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Summer is winding down, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of picnics and potlucks to attend. Yeah, neither are we. Try this AMAZING BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad. It’s got all the comfort and love of noodles, but the surprise of savory BBQ sauce and Ranch. As written, this recipe is vegan and gluten free.

We do use a very local ingredient in this, This is Vegan Foods Bleu Cheese Crumbles. You can mail order from TIVF, or just skip the ingredient. We haven’t run into ANY other brand that makes a bleu crumbling cheese like TIVF. Try it, if you can.

 

BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad

1 bag Tinkyada pasta spirals, cooked per directions and cooled

1 can kidney beans, rinsed

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can chickpeas, rinsed

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 red onion, minced

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 bag Beyond Meat or Gardein chicken strips, thawed and chopped

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained

Sauce:

1/2 cup vegan ranch salad dressing (Hampton Cree/Just, Daiya or Vegenaise brands)

1/4 cup Annie’s BBQ sauce

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbs. A1 sauce or vegan Worchestershire

splash sriracha, or to taste

Topping:

smoked paprika

1/2 block This is Vegan Foods Bleu cheese crumbles

 

Cook pasta per package directions and set aside to cool.

Mix together sauce ingredients in a bowl.

When pasta is room temp or chilled, add in kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, fresh parsley, red onion, chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers, Beyond Meat chicken strips and corn. Pour pre-made sauce on top and gently fold all ingredients together.

Top with smoked paprika and crumbled TIVF Bleu cheese. Serve cold.

 

Oh, here is that amazing vegan cheese – if you wanna see it up close and personal. We love it…

Kim’s Magical Blackberry Salad

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Kim is no ordinary hostess. When you dine with Kim and her husband Henry, you’re in for an evening of fine entertaining. We were treated to just such a meal. And dang it, we didn’t have a camera along. The decor, the tablescape – every detail was considered and lovely, yet casual and non-intimidating.

Not to mention the food. I wish there were images to share. We did save the printed menu card… check it out below the recipe. Yeah, that was dinner!

After the feast, Kim was kind enough to share her amazing Blackberry Salad recipe with me. It’s really special – you’re going to want to make it for someone you’d like to impress. Maybe a date or SO, perhaps a parent or neighbor or co-worker. Maybe you just want a special meal for yourself. You deserve it.

Kim’s Magical Blackberry Salad

Dressing:

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 tsp. agave nectar

juice and zest of one lime

salt and pepper, to taste

Salad:

1 bunch leaf lettuce, chopped

1 cup fresh kale, chopped and masssaged

1 avocado, sliced

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

1 cup fresh blackberries

2 green onions, chopped

 

Combine pom juice, red wine vinegar, oilve oil, agave nectar, lime juice, lime zest and salt/pepper in a jar with a lid. Shake well until combined.

Toss the leaf lettuce, kale, avocado, kiwi, blackberries and green onion with the dressing and serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: Kim made this extra special by tossing pom seeds into the salad, but we couldn’t find any. If you got ’em, add ’em. Other optional additions she suggests include apple or pear slices, or make this a main dish salad by adding a protein like chickpeas. We love the dressing so much, we often make a triple batch and use it on our daily lunch salads. It keeps in a fridge for about a week – if it lasts that long!

 

Kim’s Menu ~

 

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

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In our non-blog life, the Dirty Hippie and I are commercial photographers, and for the past seven years, we’ve had a great assistant named Jess. She’s been much, much more than any one else affiliated with our little photo company. Over the years, Jess has become a close friend and annually, we celebrate the day she started working for us with a special meal. Eggplant is her favorite veggie, so this recipe is a healthier version of the Chinese-takeout classic Jess adores. Thank you Jess! It’s been a wonderful seven years working with you!!

Try Jess’ new fave at home served over steamed rice. It’s vegan and gluten-free. Serves about 4 to 6 for dinner with rice.

 

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

2 lbs. Asian eggplant, sliced and sweated

1 cup fresh red peppers, chopped

1 cup white onions, chopped

1 block extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

1 Tbs. peanut oil

Sauce:

6 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

6 Tbs. tamari sauce

2 Tbs. cornstarch or arrowroot

4 Tbs. coconut sugar

4 to 6 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger

4-5 Tbs. peanut oil

hot pepper paste (to taste)

1 tbs. minced hot pepper, such as jalapeno (optional)

To garnish:

chopped scallions

chopped cilantro

sesame seeds

chopped peanuts

To sweat your eggplant, slices them into long pieces and place on paper towels on a cookie/baking sheet. Sprinkle salt over all cut sides and sit aside to rest for about 30 minutes. By then, sweating process will make the eggplant less bitter. Blot off and get going on the rest of the recipe. We usually start this and then start the steamed rice, so everything is ready at the same time.

In a bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Stir well and set aside.

Add eggplant, chopped onion, chopped red pepper, and cubed tofu to a large pan or wok. Toss with 1 tablespoon peanut oil and lightly saute over medium heat, stirring often, until onions begins to wilt and tofu lightly browned. This will be about five to seven minutes.

When veggies are warmed through and tofu is getting crispy, pour in the sauce and fold to coat evenly. Lower heat and stir occasionally, allowing veggies and tofu to take on the flavor of the sauce. As it cooks, sauce will thicken and reduce. Leave on heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce is at desired texture.

Serve warm over steamed rice. Garnish with chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and/or chopped peanuts.

 

Oh, and this is Jess. She’s stealing a smooch from our hound Valerio…

 

Tempeh Sandwich Salad

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When it’s time for summer, you’re thinking picnics, road trips, beach/pool – and packing a sandwich is one way to make all those things even more fun.

This tempeh sandwich stuffing comes together in a snap and has a savory sophistication sure to please everyone. It’s gluten free and is a delicious taste of summer!

Tempeh Sandwich Salad

2 packs tempeh, steamed & crumbled

1 cup finely chopped carrots

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

1/3 cup vegan mayo

2 Tbs. fresh thyme, de-stemmed

2 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced

1 Tbs. yellow mustard

1 Tbs. A1 sauce (or use vegan Worchestershire sauce)

1 tsp. dried sage

1 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. dried dill

salt and pepper, to taste

 

Steam tempeh using a stovetop, microwave or electric steamer until tender. (Time will vary based on method. Stovetop, about 7 minutes. For microwave or electric steamer, consult directions on appliance.) This step isn’t crucial, but it will soften the tempeh and help it absorb the flavors of the herbs, as well and taking away the touch of bitterness tempeh sometimes has.  Allow to cool and crumble into bite sized pieces.

In a large bowl, combine steamed tempeh, chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped scallions, vegan mayo, thyme, parsley, mustard, A1 sauce, dried sage, celery seed, dried dill and salt & pepper if using. Fold together and chill before eating. Can be made a day ahead of time.

Serve in sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, onion. pickles or other fixins you like. This tempeh salad is great in tortillas or in lettuce wraps as well.

 

Carly’s Cucumber Hummus

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Our friend Carly was faced with a task – use up a LOT of cucumbers. We loved her cucumber salad, her cucumber lemonade and then… she made this incredible cucumber hummus.

It’s surprising, refreshing and downright addicting! Before we knew it, we had munched through the entire batch. Good thing our garden yields loads of cucumbers. Step outside the usual dip this summer and give Carly’s Cucumber Hummus a try. It’s gluten free, SOS-free and easy to make! Oh – and make sure you have plenty of crackers and carrot sticks. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself eating this with a spoon.

 

 

Carly’s Cucumber Hummus

3 14-oz. cans of chickpeas

1 cucumber (skin on)

4 to 5 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/3 cup of fresh basil

1 1/2 Tbs. light miso

 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve chilled with veggies, crackers or whatever you like to eat with hummus! Also makes a tasty sandwich!

Broccoli Chips

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Don’t click off! Really! you are going to LOVE these broccoli chips, even if you think you aren’t into broccoli.

When it gets warmer and produce is plentiful (and cheap) at the Farmer’s Market, we get our dehydrator going. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can make these in a low-temp oven, but the results will be a little different. Dehydrators are amazing tools – and you can pick up a small one at many chain stores for as little as $25. What can you do with a dehydrator? Make your own kale chips for a fraction of the price of store-bought! Make homemade fruit and veggie “leather” snacks. Try other raw recipes like zucchini chips, raw crackers and more. Loads of blogs have hundreds of free dehydrator recipes.

Anyhow, we love these crunchy broccoli snacks. They’re so fun to eat, you completely forget it’s something healthful! Yeah, we’ve even fed them to kids, who willingly consumed them! This recipe is raw and gluten-free with SOS-free options.

 

Broccoli Chips

2 lbs. of broccoli florets

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (no oil kind)

1/8 cup almond meal

1/8 cup flax seed meal

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

1 Tbs. olive oil (optional, can use more water)

2 tsp. liquid aminos (optional, can use more water)

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. onion powder

up to 1 or 1 1/2 cups water, as needed

 

Wash and trim broccoli into bite-size florets. They will need to fit into your dehydrator. Place florets into a large mixing bowl.

In a blender or food processor, combine oats, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes, almond meal, flax meal, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, smoked paprika, olive oil, liquid aminos, turmeric and onion powder. Process a few seconds until oats are broken down, then add 1/2 cup water. Process again, adding another 1/2 cup water. If needed, to develop a smooth paste, add more or less water.

Pour paste onto broccoli florets and use your hands to really get in there and make sure all the veg is coated in sauce. The most delicious bites later will be the ones with the most saucy goodness rubbed into the florets. Next, to the dehydrator (or oven).

Dehydrate at medium-low or around 145-degrees for 8 to 10 hours until the florets have shrunk and are crisp to the bite. In the oven, bake on lined sheets at 200 (or as low as your oven will go), checking every two hours to stir. Bake about 5 to 8 hours in oven until crispy.

Store in a closed container at room temp for about a week – if they last that long!

Harmony Acres Soap Company

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You’ve heard of a #latergram on instagram, but is there a #laterpost on wordpress? Let’s say there is. Cuz this is a #laterpost but still so worth it.

A little while ago, we got these awesome vegan bath and beauty goodies from Harmony Acres Soap Company. They’re a small, family-owned business located in North Carolina. When they learned that skin absorbs 90% of what you put on it, they took matters into their own hands and began developing their line. They have a policy of integrity and consistency with no synthetic ingredients.

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We sampled four of their delicious products: Lemongrass Lotion, Sweetgrass Body Butter (no longer on the website) and two scents of soap~ Appalachian Spring and Grapefruit de Pink.

Of all four items, we LOVED the lemongrass lotion. It’s beyond bright and refreshing, and as an unexpected bonus, it seemed to repel bugs when we were on the patio all summer. The lotion was light and clean, and it absorbed smoothly. Both of us were big fans of the soaps as well. The Grapefruit bar was the perfect way to wake up every morning – zesty and cheerful. The Appalachian Spring bar was earthier but not to the point of being overly masculine.

Harmony Acres Soap Company has expanded a lot since we bought our goodies. They now have a line of canine products, baby products, lip balms, natural deodorants, face moisturizers, beard oils, and outdoors-y stuff like poison ivy remedy.  A few of their items contain honey, so you will need to read ingredients. For the most part though, Harmony Acres Soap Co. has a LOT of very unique and effective vegan bath and beauty products. You can get the entire line by visiting their website. Happy scrubbing!

Springtime White Bean and Fennel Soup

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Our local farmer’s market is up and running, and already there are loads of gorgeous greens . This week, we tried something different (or different to us) and went with fennel. Sure, we’ve used fennel a handful of times and it’s a nice crunchy, surprise in salads or as a pizza topping.  There have been a number of cool, rainy nights in our area though, so we opted for soup. Also highlighted – another spring green, spinach! This recipe is gluten-free and SOS-free. It makes about ten portions.

 

 

Springtime White Bean and Fennel Soup

 

1 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 cups chopped fennel bulb and stalk, a few fronds reserved

1/2 cup plus 8 cups vegetable broth/stock (store bought or homemade)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

1/2 tsp. ground sage

1 bay leaf

1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes

1 block extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

2 15-oz. cans of white beans, rinsed and drained

pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup fresh spinach, cut into ribbons

 

In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute chopped red onion, chopped fennel bulb/stalk and 1/2 cup vegetable broth.  Saute, sitrring often, until onion is soft and wilty, about 5 minutes. Add 8 cups remaining broth, minced garlic, dried thyme, white pepper, ground sage, bay leaf and canned tomatoes with all juices. Cover soup pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until all fennel is very tender and flavors have combined to create a fragrant soup.

Remove from heat, take out bay leaf, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, remove soup in batches and blender until smooth in a regular blender or food processor. Be sure to vent regular blender/processor, lest the steam from the hot soup builds up.

Once the soup is smooth, add chopped tofu cubes, rinsed beans and optional red pepper flakes. Simmer over low heat an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, stir in spinach ribbons and garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

Cook’s Note: This soup is even better the second day!

Cindy’s Black Bean Salsa

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The Dirty Hippie’s mom makes this fantastic dip  every time we go visit. Finally, after a few years of devouring what could only be described as buckets of her black bean salsa, we got the recipe and she agreed we need to share it with everyone! This recipe is great for sharing at picnics, potlucks and parties. It’s naturally gluten-free and can be made SOS-free as well. What are you waiting for? Grab some chips and dig in!

 

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Cindy’s Black Bean Salsa

2 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small red onion, minced fine

16-oz. bag of frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 jalapeno, minced fine (use seeds if you like it spicy!)

juice of 3 fresh limes

2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

4 Tbs. olive oil (optional)

 

Toss all ingredients together and serve chilled. Can be made a day ahead.

Dirty Hippie Popcorn Seasoning

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Why be usual on Valentine’s Day? The Dirty Hippie and I have a long-standing custom of staying in on this holiday. What’s better in February than a quiet night at home on the sofa with a movie and some popcorn? So this year, if you dare, offer your love a jar of the Dirty Hippie’s Vegan Popcorn Seasoning. You can make it mild or spice it up. And it’s good on other foods too, like baked potatoes, broccoli, tofu sticks – really anywhere you want some cheesy deliciousness.

We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day, in whatever flavor you celebrate love!

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Dirty Hippie’s Popcorn Seasoning

2 cups nutritional yeast

1/8 cup smoked paprika

2 Tbs. Old Bay

2 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne powder (optional, or add more if you like)

 

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir together until well blended. Store in an airtight container, like a jar with a lid.

To make popcorn, pop about 1/2 cup of kernels in a heavy-bottom pan on the stove or use an air popper (follow manufacturer directions). Toss hot popcorn with some melted coconut oil or Earth Balance (optional, we use about 2 Tablespoons) and 1/3 cup of Dirty Hippie Popcorn Seasoning. Eat immediately!

This recipe is vegan and gluten-free. It makes enough to use on several (about six) batches of popcorn!