Garden-Based Vegan Snacks

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Good Eating, Fast And Easy

Try as we may to keep healthy food on hand, snacks have a way of penetrating our defenses. Commercial snacks are intended to do that, employing every genetically programmed hook we humans have. A taste for sweet and/or salty foods is a basic part of human nature, and recently, specific fat-sensing areas on the human tongue have been discovered as well. Millennia ago, all this worked in our favor in terms of survival, but most of us need a little protection from today’s unrivaled and often unhealthy smorgasbord.

Fortunately, it is definitely possible and even easy to make truly scrumptious snacks that make our whole bodies happy, from our taste receptors to our bellies and brains. Since more and more family and friends are becoming vegan, I’ve been playing with vegan treats that are both toothsome and wholesome. Some came about because of specific requests (‘I’m supposed to eat more cauliflower and I hate it: what can I do?”), others from sheer love (Kale Crunchies), but all are amazingly more-ish. Ready?

Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas

I ran into a friend browsing the canned bean isle this week, seeking unsalted organic chickpeas. She’d tried a complicated online recipe that was yummy but way too salty, and as we talked, I recognized it as a classic Indian snack. Back home, I dug out Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation To Indian Cooking, a long-ago gift from an Indian friend. Sure enough, a Punjabi dal dish called Chana Masaledar involved stir-frying cooked chickpeas until crispy with an arsenal of spices. Short on time, I made an extremely simplified version that knocked the socks off my dinner companions. You can dress it up with almost anything (MJ’s version includes cumin, onion, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, garlic, fresh ginger, tomato paste, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt; whew!), but try this first and see where you want to take it–or just love it like it is; crispy and spicy on the outside, creamy on the inside…yum. Clearly, such a simple dish is only as good as the paprika, and I strongly suggest using a spectacular brand such as Safinter.

Basic Crunchy Chickpeas

1 tablespoon avocado or coconut oil
2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Cook oil and garlic in a heavy frying pan over medium high heat to the fragrance point. Add chickpeas and salt and paprika to taste, then cook, stirring often, until crispy (8-10 minutes; watch so they don’t burn). Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 2 cups.

Irresistible Kale

Though kale has been a foodie darling for years now, there are still a few hold-outs (in my family anyway). If anybody on the planet does not know how to make kale chips, here’s a basic-plus recipe that really is irresistible. Kids and recalcitrant adults alike will eat amazing quantities of kale made this way, especially if you don’t explain what it is (definitely do not mention nutritional yeast to anybody exposed to the nasty brewer’s yeast common in the 70s and 80s. Nutritional yeast is delicious now, nutty and cheesy, but once burned..). There are zillions of variations to try as well, but like the old song says, ‘the original is still the greatest’.

Quick Kale Crunchies

1 bunch Tuscan (black or dragonskin) kale
2-3 teaspoons avocado (high temp) oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons flaked nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse kale, pat dry, trim off stems and cut in inch-wide ribbons (chiffonade). Pour oil into a rimmed baking sheet and rub it evenly over the whole sheet. Add kale and gently rub with oil until all is lightly coated. Spread in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and roast until crisp (12-15 minutes). Gently toss with nutritional yeast and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves at least one.

Coconut Chutney Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower (any color), cut in florets
1-2 teaspoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds

Steam cauliflower florets until just tender (3-4 minutes) and place in a bowl. Cook oil, salt, and seeds over medium high heat until seeds pop (2-3 minutes), gently toss with cauliflower. Serve with Coconut Chutney on the side for dipping. Serves 4-6.

Fresh Chutney

In India, fresh chutneys are served with vegetable pakoras, with naan breads, with all kinds of bean-and-pea dishes, and even with fresh fruit. You can make this fresh chutney with fresh, raw coconut, finely grated, but this quicker version is intensely flavorful and a lot simpler to prepare.

Coconut Chutney

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup stemmed cilantro, packed down
1 fresh green hot chile (Jalapeno or any), seeded and chopped
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place coconut flakes in a single layer in a rimmed baking sheet and toast at 350 F until golden (about 8 minutes), set aside. In a food processor, combine cilantro, chile, ginger, garlic, salt and 1/4 cup water and puree to a slurry. Stir in yogurt and add lemon juice to taste. Stir in toasted coconut just before serving. Makes about 1 cup.

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