Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip

January 11, 2011

vegan appetizer tofu spinach dip

Vegan Tofu Spinach Dip


This recipe was developed as a vegan appetizer version of that onion and spinach dip that probably everyone has had at some potluck or party some time in their life. You know the one–I think you mix sour cream, onion soup mix, mayonnaise, water chestnuts, and spinach.

This has no dairy, no cholesterol, no unpronounceable chemicals or flavorings, and is almost as easy to make.

Recently I made a version for a memorial service, and I didn’t have gobs of dehydrated onions or powders to throw in. So I used minced onions and minced garlic for one batch, and sauteed onions and garlic for the second batch, for less of a strong onion bite.

Someone has already asked for the recipe, so it obviously tasted okay. I cannot post the exact recipe I used for the large batches, because I was making hundreds of pounds of food and had no time to measure or write anything down. Instead of 2 cups of tofu per batch, I used 2 blocks! I’ll give you some approximate amounts, though, to help you out.

Here is the original, normal-sized recipe I developed:

Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip

2 cups tofu
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion flakes
5 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts (half of an 8-ounce can)
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach* (this is probably about equal to one box of frozen spinach, thawed)

Blend all ingredients EXCEPT water chestnuts and spinach. Add water if necessary. Blend until it is smooth.

Stir in water chestnuts and spinach.

Serve with crudite or chips, or as a spread on bread, crostini, or crackers.

I’ve also served it inside a round loaf of sweet bread. Cut off a thin slice from the top. Pull the center out in chunks, leaving a bowl-like shell. Put the dip into the bread bowl and serve the bread chunks for dipping.

That makes a nice mix of sweet, sour, crunchy, salty, and creamy, and the dry bread soaks up the dip very nicely.

To make it with fresh onion and garlic,

use the same recipe, with the following changes:

Omit garlic and onion powders
Omit dehyrated onion flakes
Add 2 cloves minced garlic
Add 1/2 cup minced onion (I used sweet onions)

Taste and see if you need to add more onion and/or garlic. Keep in mind that the flavors will meld nicely if you let it sit.

I recommend you refrigerate this several hours, or overnight, before serving, but it’s not necessary.

*Note about the spinach: I’ve used regular spinach and cholesterol spinach, and both worked well. You could probably substitute other cooked greens instead, such as kale or collard greens, to get a similar flavor.


Homemade Croutons

October 19, 2010

homemade croutons

Homemade croutons are easy and delicious


If the only croutons you’ve ever had have been from a box, or on an iceberg salad from a fast food place, you have no idea what you are missing. The taste, texture, and value of homemade croutons are fabulous.

They are easy and delicious to make. So why aren’t you making your own?

Maybe you just don’t know how. Here’s how to make croutons at home, with delicious results.

Basically, croutons are just toasted bread. The difference is that they are toasted longer, so that the interior of the bread dries out, giving a satisfying crunch throughout, not just on the surface.

However, if you like that crunch just on the outside, the good news is, you have full control when you make your own. You can leave them in the oven for less time, to get a softer, chewier finished product. Or keep them there longer, to get almost a tooth-shattering morsel. The choice is yours.

Simply use some leftover bread. I don’t like bread heels, the slices you cut off at either end of a loaf. So I tend to use those, or just the odd slice or two that collects after a while.

I also use the pieces that are broken up and can’t be used for a sandwich. If you make your bread with a bread machine, you know about those pieces. They are ones in the middle, where the paddle has been, and cut a big hole.

Any bread is fine. You can use fresh bread or stale, whole grain or white, sweet or savory.

Recipe: Homemade Croutons
2 slices bread, cubed (or a similar amount of rolls or buns,) about 3 cups
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt to taste (optional)

I use a serrated knife to cut the bread into cubes. Place the bread cubes into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. I prefer this to a cookie sheet, because the cubes stay inside when you mix them, but you can use a cookie sheet as well.

Add the olive oil. Mix well. Sprinkle on the garlic and onion powders. Mix well. Spread out evenly in the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned and hard. Stir halfway through.

Homemade Crouton Tips

–Stick around while they are baking, because they can overcook very quickly.

–Be sure to cool them completely before storing in an airtight container.

–Try to make them on a day that’s not raining, because the moisture in the air from rain (and snow too?–I live in Hawaii–we don’t have snow–someone with experience will have to answer this for me!) will make them get soggy soon after you remove them from the oven.

–You don’t even have to use bread slices. Any shape or size will work. Have some leftover rolls or buns? Use those.

–In fact, for variation, try using sweet bread sometimes. It makes for a nice complement to a carrot soup, for example.

–You can add salt if you like, but I leave it out because salad dressing has a lot of flavor, and I like my croutons to add to the flavor, not compete with it.

–These are excellent on leafy green salads or soup. Try some with this vegan chocolate vegetable soup, for example.

–They can be quite addictive, so don’t be surprised to find yourself munching on them right out of the oven!

Now you know how to make croutons at home. It’s very straightforward and simple, and if you try it for yourself, you’ll see how delicious they are. You will likely never buy pre-made again.

I know, I know. You’re becoming a food snob, like me! ha ha.


The Best Garlic Bread I’ve Ever Had

September 29, 2010

Decades ago, I had lots of friends working in restaurants. They turned me on to this delicious spread they used to make garlic bread at work.

I’m not sure why it tastes so much better than just garlic and butter, but it does…eater response has proven it time and time again (most recently at a potluck at my aunty’s house last summer.)

Garlic Bread Spread
Butter, margarine, or vegan spread, softened
Mayonnaise or vegan mayo
Minced garlic
Minced fresh parsley

Mix all ingredients together. I usually do about equal parts mayo and butter/spread.

If you use a long French loaf of bread, cut slices into the loaf, but don’t go all the way through the bottom crust.

Spread the mixture between each slice. Wrap in foil. Bake a few minutes in a moderate oven (about 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.)

You can pull the crusty slices apart. If you use just one slice of bread, microwave it for a few seconds, or put it in a toaster oven. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Serve with spaghetti, chili, lentil soup, pumpkin stew…anything hearty, with bold enough flavors that the garlic won’t overpower them.


Ai Dtim (That’s Ice Cream to us English Speakers)

November 25, 2009

The other students who were with me for our vegetarian cooking class shrieked when they heard the cha-ching, cha-ching of an ice cream vendor pass the restaurant.

Ai Dtim! You dtim. We all dtim for ai dtim!”

The Thai version of the ice cream truck had passed.

“You have to try it,” they insisted.

“Put rice on top.”

“And make sure you get it in the bread.”

“Bread?” I asked.

“Yeah–ice cream sandwiches…real ice cream sandwiches.”

“Make sure it’s not in the square thing.”

“Yah–it looks like it’s in a keg,” they explained.

“Okay, I’ll look out for it,” I promised.

Yesterday I heard the familiar ringing and spotted a woman wearing a pointy hat, pushing a keg on wheels.

Ai dtim?” I asked.

She opened the lid to show me. Deep down was some white substance. There was a row of small bread slices. This must be the stuff.

“Okay,” I said, and pulled out my camera.

She pointed to the bread and to some plastic cups.

I knew to choose bread.

She leaned over until her entire arm was buried…

A Keg-O-Mystery


and filled the bread with miniature scoopfuls while I snapped pictures.

Fill it up. I don't want an empty bottom.


She drizzled milk from a can on top, then pointed to a plastic container filled with peanuts. I nodded my head.

Just a drizzle'll do ya.


She was going to hand it to me, but I remembered the rice, so I pointed to the other plastic container. She unscrewed the top. Inside was cooked sticky rice.

Okay, I’ll try it…

She put a mini scoop of sticky rice on top, then more canned milk. I had her hold it while I took a photo and paid my 10 baht (30 cents US).

Want a bite?


The first few bites were coconut milk. I loved it. I couldn’t tell if it was only coconut milk, or it had dairy milk in it as well. It went perfectly well with the crunchy peanuts. Surprisingly, the bread made a nice combination.

The sticky rice was strange, along with milk that wasn’t sweetened; it must have been evaporated milk, and not sweetened condensed milk, as I had thought it was.

As I got further down, the ice cream changed from coconut to nearly tasteless vanilla. So there must have been a combination of the two in the keg, and she obviously strategically planned it so the vanilla part went into the bread, soaking the bread as it melted. Very interesting.

Not sure I’d eat it again, if I had to have both flavors. I’d want only the coconut milk kind, with peanuts. If I could have only that kind, I’d definitely eat it again. Better listen for that bell.

When’s the last time you ate something so interesting?


Vegan Blueberry Muffins

August 29, 2009

These light vegan muffins never missed the eggs.

These light vegan muffins never missed the eggs.


Ah, summer fruits–berries, cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, melons…hasn’t anyone written a song about this? If so, I’d be singing it now.

I had a craving for blueberry muffins after purchasing some fresh blueberries. I found this recipe on a site about eggless cooking. The recipe comes from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, which isn’t yet part of my already overflowing cookbook collection.

I modified it only slightly, leaving out lemon extract and substituting soymilk for regular milk and whole wheat flour for unbleached. Because the only substitute for eggs was vinegar, I was worried the muffins would end up dense. But the end result was a light muffin with clean blueberry taste.

The picture above is kind of odd. I ate most of them before remembering to take a picture. So I pulled the last three out of the fridge. That’s why they look a little sleepy!

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 TBS lemon zest
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your berries and how sweet you like your muffins)
1 cup soy milk or rice milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 TBS vinegar
1-1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Mix together dry ingredients and zest. Add wet ingredients. Stir until just barely incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Fill non-stick muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. No need to preheat your oven; I rarely do. Just leave it in an extra ten minutes.

Test for doneness with a chopstick stuck in the center of one of the muffins in the middle of the pan. If it comes out clean, they are done.

Very carefully remove from pan and let cool slightly. I like to eat my muffins warm, so they still have some crunch on the outside from the oven.

Makes 12 muffins.

Muffin-Making Tips

*Use frozen blueberries. That way they will remain mostly suspended in the dough rather than all sinking to the bottom.

*Do not overmix. Mix just until there are no dry ingredients rolling around. Overmixing will make tough muffins and/or create tunnels, large holes in them.


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