Vegan Entertaining: Charcuterie Board
By Lisa Neff

   Holiday entertaining is on everyone’s mind right now. So, how can you accommodate the vegan in your family? A festive vegan charcuterie board is sure to please everyone! Vegan cheese and meat have vastly improved in the last few years. The taste and texture give the feeling of the real thing, with less calories and cholesterol, and it’s better for the planet.


   I found a plant-based cheese flight by Violife at Costco, which inspired me to create a holiday vegan charcuterie board. It was a big hit with my friends at our annual Vegan Thanksgiving. There are several vegan cheeses on the market including Miyoko’s, Treeline, Daiya, and Follow Your Heart. Your local Kroger’s, Walmart and health food store have several options, or you can order online. My favorites are Violife gouda and Violife mozzarella with cranberries.


   To create a vegan charcuterie board, include 2-3 types of vegan cheese, rolled vegan meat slices, sliced bread, crackers, nuts, olives, and fresh fruit (and a little chocolate and candied ginger for something sweet). Creativity and color are encouraged. I included fresh orange slices and purple grapes as well as raw green pumpkin seeds. I chose to keep the nuts and seeds separate in jars and little bowls (which turned out to be a great idea for traveling with my board). You may want to have everything chopped and ready, and then assemble the board when you get to your destination. I also kept the hummus separate as well. Next time I will add carrot and celery sticks and cucumber slices for dipping.


   If you are trying to create a gluten free board, it may be a little more difficult, as most vegan meat is made with wheat gluten. There are a few brands available online. I chose regular Tofurky and a spicy salami for my board, they are widely available but not gluten free.


   Don’t forget to serve your board with vegan wine or beer. That is, drinks that are made without the use of gelatin, egg whites, dairy or isinglass (from fish bladder). Vegan wine and beer use only plant-based filters and products. I recommend using the Barnivore.com directory to find out which products are vegan because it is not always listed on the label.


   I ended up creating a small board (to serve 2-3 people) and a larger tray since I was going to a party. I used items I already owned, so search your cabinets and get creative and don’t feel like you need to purchase a fancy board or tray. After you are finished piling on all the food close together, the tray itself isn’t even seen. I estimated a small board to cost around $30. (I already had the pumpkin seeds and candied ginger in the cupboard.) A larger board, serving 5-6 people, with 4 vegan cheeses, 2 vegan meats, 3 fruits, and 3 types of nuts and hummus or other dip would cost around $50.


Happy Holidays!

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Vegan Apple Cobbler and a Visit to West Milton's Pink House Orchard 
Story and Photos by Lisa Neff

WEST MILTON - The Pink House Orchard in West Milton had their Apple Gathering Day in September and it was a wonderful day to explore the orchard and check out all the vendors.

 

   The Pink House Orchard is located at 5669 W. Kessler Cowlesville Rd. There were several local vendors including: Aprons for Nicaragua, Sasha, Hickory Hill Krafts, Cathy’s Crafts, Let them be Wild, Grow in Grace, The Moons Creations, Jonda WoodWorks, Kaliko Kreations, Handmade With Love 4All, Trades of Hope and Norwex. It’s a great place to start some holiday shopping! They also had live music by three different groups to create a festival atmosphere. 


   I really enjoyed walking through the orchard, the weather was perfect. I was hoping to pick apples, but I got there a little late in the day and most of them had been gathered already. I spoke with Tara, owner of the house, and she said this year’s apple crop was lower due to the deer in the area eating the apples. She said next year they will take further measures to prevent the deer from snacking on the apples. Learn more about this local orchard HERE.

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 Now, on to the recipe! We always made apple cobbler (and peach) in our house when I was a child. We used my grandmother’s Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, which has a harder topping and is served in a bowl with milk. I wanted to make something a little lighter with no dairy, and this recipe turned out perfect. I added pecan pieces for a little extra flavor and crunch, but if you have a nut allergy, simply leave those out. The apples and cinnamon are the perfect combination for fall weather and your kitchen will smell divine. 

Vegan Apple Cobber 
Fruit filling

  • 6-8 apples peeled and sliced small (granny smith, gala, honey crisp, or similar varieties)

  • ½ cup white or brown sugar

  • 2 T arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

  • 1 t. cinnamon

  • ½ cup water 

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 

Topping

  • 1 ¼ cups flour or gluten free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gf flour)

  • ¼ t salt

  • 1.5 t baking powder

  • 2 T sugar

  • ½ t cinnamon

  • 3 T Earth Balance vegan butter

  • ½ cup almond milk (or other plant-based milk)

  • ¼ cup pecan pieces (optional)


Directions:
   Preheat oven to 400 degrees  and grease 8x8 glass dish with oil or vegan butter. 
   Mix all filling ingredients except the apples. After combined, add the apples to the bowl. Then transfer to a saucepan and cook on stovetop for about 5 minutes on high, stirring often. Add vanilla after removing from the stove and stir.

   Mix topping ingredients, cutting the vegan butter into the flour. Then add pecan pieces. 
   Transfer apple filling to baking dish and spoon topping on top. 
   Bake in lightly greased dish for 23-25 minutes. The filling will be bubbling! Let it cool for 15-20 minutes. Serve with vegan ice cream and enjoy the fall season! 
(Cover lightly after completely cooled, so the topping stays crisp.)

Fresh Stir Fry from the Farmer’s Market at the Heights
Story & Photos by Lisa Neff


   The best inspiration for vegan meals is at your local farmer’s market this summer (and early fall). You can find many new types of vegetables and fruits and you get the best bang for your buck! I visited the Farmer’s Market at the Heights at the YMCA and found fresh veggies and a few surprises. The market operates on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 7251 Shull Rd. I created a delicious, easy vegan stir-fry with the veggies I found there, look for the recipe at the end of this article. It tasted similar to what you can buy at a restaurant, but with less oil, so it is a healthier option. Feel free to substitute other vegetables in this recipe, depending on what you find at your local market.

   The market has several local vendors and I ended up purchasing a little from each one. I found a pattypan squash, which was new to me, so I accepted the challenge to learn how to cook it. It went perfectly with the zucchini, green pepper, green beans, and carrots for my stir-fry. I was concerned it would take longer to cook, but everything cooked at the same time. I did cut the pieces smaller and removed the skin (similar to butternut squash). Part of learning how to cook vegan foods is trying new things and having the right tools. A sharp knife, carrot peeler and a Titan brand carrot julienne tool can make the process easier. I also couldn’t live without my rice cooker, I use it at least once a week for rice and quinoa. 

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   The JuJu Plant Bus was at the market the day I visited, which was a fun surprise. I spoke to the owner, and she rotates around various markets and also takes orders on her website. She has unique plants and pots at excellent prices. The bright green bus displays most of the plants for sale, so be sure to climb up into it to see everything she has available. Hemp Honey Soaps has a stand at the Huber market as well. I purchased the body polish, without honey, and it is decadent. My skin felt wonderful after using it. Some vegans are opposed to honey and honey products, due to it is an animal product. It’s a controversial subject, but I personally don’t worry too much about it. I’ll occasionally buy local honey for my tea to help my seasonal allergies. I choose products without honey if they are available and all of the cosmetics and hair products I use are vegan, but it took time for me to get to this point. 

  The Farmer’s Market at the Heights has arts and crafts vendors and baked goods as well and different food trucks each week. Check out their Facebook page for a complete vendor list. 

Vegan Farmer’s Market Stir-Fry
Serves 2-3, total time to create is approximately 30 minutes. 
First, start the rice on the stove or your rice cooker following the instructions on the package. 
Next, wash and chop all your vegetables: 

  • 2 large carrots, sliced or julienne

  • 1 large green pepper

  • 1 pattypan squash

  • 1 large zucchini

  • 2-3 handfuls green beans

  • 1 medium onion (optional, use more or less depending on your tastes) 

  • 1 banana pepper or serrano pepper

  • 1 package mushrooms (optional but recommended) 

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Sauce ingredients:

  • 2 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder, mixed with ¼ c. water

  • ¼ c soy sauce or tamari (gluten free)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 or 2 tsp. ginger, freshly grated

  • 1 lime, juiced 

  • ¾ c water or vegetable stock 

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 1 T sesame oil

  • ¼ t red pepper flakes 

When the vegetables and mushrooms are nearly fully cooked on medium heat, add the sauce (mix all sauce ingredients first) and lower the temperature to low. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice. Enjoy! 

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A Summer Harvest from the Cherry Street Local Farmer's Market in Troy
Story & Photos by Lisa Neff

   Grab your reusable tote and head out to your local farmer’s market for the season’s best veggies!

   Most cities have local farmer’s markets in the summer where you can find local treats like vegetables and fruits, baked goods, fresh flowers, maple syrup and honey. I visited the Cherry Street Local Farmer's Market in downtown Troy last Saturday and got everything I needed to create a fresh pasta salad to take advantage of the summer harvest, except for a few items already in my pantry. It’s perfect for a summer lunch or dinner. The recipe is at the end of the article. 

   The market is held on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on Cherry Street. I arrived at 11:30 a.m. and found they were still well stocked. The vegetables and fruits were obviously just picked. Everything looked ripe and the colors were bright. I’m a visual person, so colorful veggies are inspiring to me.

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    I quickly found the ingredients for the pasta salad and the prices were great. Some of the veggies were organic or no chemicals used, which is what I prefer to eat. I try to at least stick to the “dirty dozen” list, which lists the vegetables and fruits you should always buy organic, compiled annually by the Environmental Working Group. Bell peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are on the list because they have thin skins and absorb more pesticides. (See the full list HERE.)

   The Troy Farmer’s Market has many vendors. I purchased a lemon-thyme blueberry muffin from Basil & Bloom (pictured above, below right) that was vegan and gluten free. How could I resist? The owner stated that she tries to have one vegan item per week. I’ll definitely be back for more! I also purchased an organic tea blend from McGuffey Herb & Spice Company that was wonderful with my breakfast the next day. There were several other vendors to round out the shopping experience, providing many basics and treats such as jellies and jams, cookies and fresh flowers for your dining table. 

Farmer’s Market Vegan Pasta Salad:
Serves 6, prep time 30 minutes (plus 1 hour cooling in refrigerator).

  • 12 oz spiral pasta, cooked al dente (gluten free or regular)

  • 1-2 cucumbers, chopped (1 large or 2 small)

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (or substitute 15 cherry tomatoes, halved)

  • 2 bell peppers, chopped

  • ½ head broccoli, chopped

  • ½ bunch green onion, chopped 

  • ½ bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional for protein) 

 

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Italian vegan dressing:

  • 2/3 c. olive oil

  • ¼ c. apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 2 Tbsp water

  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup

  • 2 tsp Italian herbs, dried

  • ½ tsp garlic powder, or one garlic clove, crushed

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp pepper

 

Blend all dressing ingredients in blender or add to a covered jar and shake! 

Cook pasta as directed then rinse with cold water. While your pasta is cooking, chop your farmer’s market veggies and make your dressing. Combine the veggies and pasta and mix in Italian dressing. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. 

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About Lisa Neff

Lisa Neff is a Tippecanoe High School alumni and still lives in the Greater Dayton area. She has been vegetarian since 2007 and fully vegan since 2009 (no meat, dairy or eggs). She believes in eating vegan for the planet, for the animals and for health. She will be writing articles about local vegan restaurant options, farmer’s markets and sharing healthy vegan recipes.

Summertime Smoothies at ReU Juicery & at Home

Story & Photos by Lisa Neff

   Summer is the perfect time to get out your blender and make healthy smoothie bowls for breakfast, snacks or even dinner. They are fast and easy to create and you can customize them to your tastes (or whatever ingredients you have in the fridge or pantry).

 

   When it’s too hot to cook dinner, I turn to blended frozen and fresh fruits and toppings like granola and almond butter. Smoothie bowls are thicker in consistency than regular smoothies, similar to soft serve ice cream and eaten with a spoon. 

 

    I visited ReU Juicery in Troy (5 E. Main St.) last week to try their Super Greens Bowl and I was inspired to create a recipe to share with you (at the bottom of this article).

 

   When I saw the menu, I was frozen in my tracks! There were so many healthy vegan options including smoothies, smoothie bowls, juices, functional lattes, toasties, sandwiches, daily soup special and “Good life bowls.” I had to make a second visit to try the Good life bowls and juice flights because there were so many vegan options that I could not decide. Everything I tried was delicious!

 

   ReU Juicery does serve some fish and nitrate free turkey, but the majority of the menu is vegan friendly (dairy free). They have a new location in Tipp City at 1928 Donn Davis Way featuring the same menu, pictured bottom right.

 

   The décor of the Troy location (pictured below left) is very fresh and welcoming. Someone must have a green thumb because all the plants are beautiful and green. It feels like a little tropical oasis which is so uplifting.

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   I chose the Super Greens Bowl (pictured top right) to try first because it has kale, which is a superfood. Kale contains several vitamins and iron. But, when you blend it with other ingredients, you can’t taste the kale. The other ingredients included coconut “mylk”, banana, mango and spirulina. The toppings were sliced banana, granola and coconut flakes. The bowl was so big, I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. It was a great value! I also had an “Ohana” juice made with pineapple, cucumber, apple, lemon and Blue Majik (a brand of blue spirulina, a superfood high in antioxidants). The tropical flavor was a great complement to the smoothie bowl. 

 

    The key to making smoothie bowls is frozen bananas. They create a thick base that mixes well with other frozen fruits. Peel your bananas before you freeze them for best results. You can also try protein powder, chia seeds, silken tofu or nut butters to thicken your smoothie bowls, but I have not experimented with that yet. If you try to create your own recipe, think about staying with similar fruit colors (one side of the color wheel). If you mix green kale and red strawberries, the result is a grey-brown color that doesn’t look very appetizing, but it will still taste good. Try my recipe below for a refreshing, vitamin-packed snack.

Kale-Peach-Pineapple Smoothie Bowl:
Serves 1, prep time 10 minutes.


1 large frozen banana, chopped
½ cup frozen peaches, chopped
½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 handful kale
2 fresh dates, pits removed
¼ - ½ cup coconut water or nut milk 


Place all smoothie ingredients in a blend or food processor and blend until smooth. Start by using ¼ cup coconut water or nut milk and add more slowly if needed.
Then, top with one sliced kiwi, ¼ cup coconut flakes, ¼ cup blueberries, 2 tsp granola, and 2 tsp hemp hearts (for added protein). Enjoy!

 

(Be creative with your toppings! Try sliced strawberries, raspberries, fresh mango, chocolate chips, sweet cacao nibs, sliced almonds, almond butter or chia seeds.)
My coconut bowl and spoon are from a local company, Hollis and Hanh. Their bowls are sourced from Vietnam and fair trade. 

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About Lisa Neff

Lisa Neff is a Tippecanoe High School alumni and still lives in the Greater Dayton area. She has been vegetarian since 2007 and fully vegan since 2009 (no meat, dairy or eggs). She believes in eating vegan for the planet, for the animals and for health. She will be writing articles about local vegan restaurant options, farmer’s markets and sharing healthy vegan recipes.

Delicious Vegan Food in Tipp City & at Home

Story & Photos by Lisa Neff

   Vegan options are everywhere! I visited historic downtown Tipp City last week and found delicious vegan options for lunch and dinner. I grew up in Tipp City in the 80s. My family was and still is omnivore, but I went vegan in 2009. Personally, it has been the best diet option. I’ve lost fifty pounds and kept it off, by choosing healthy vegan foods (and occasional vegan desserts) and exercising.

   The vegan movement is growing more each year with food options even in small towns. If you shop at Kroger, you can find their own brand of vegan meats, several brands of vegan cheese, dips and sauces and a great selection of fruits and vegetables. I’ll be sharing a recipe at the end of this article with ingredients from Kroger.

   I ate lunch at Coldwater Café, and I was very impressed with their new vegan taco salad. It had fresh, healthy ingredients including spiced tempeh, house-made vegan cheese (made from cashews), cilantro, tomatoes, avocado and a cilantro lime vinaigrette dressing, topped with fried tortilla strips. It came with a few small slices of wheat bread in a basket. It was so filling and kept me going all afternoon.

   The atmosphere at Coldwater Café is lovely. The décor is unique, upscale and yet quaint. They were quite busy for a weekday lunch hour. The service was fast, and my server was very helpful and knowledgeable about their vegan options.

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From left to right above: The beautiful interior and entrance to Coldwater Cafe in Tipp City. A windowfront in the historic shopping district in downtown Tipp City. Left to right below: A cucumber soda and the new Vegan Taco Salad at the Coldwater Cafe.

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   It’s always best to call ahead, check the website or ask your server about vegan options they may have. Often restaurants have vegan options that are not listed on the menu. Sometimes you need to clarify the definition of vegan, but most restaurants today are aware. Coldwater Café doesn’t offer the taco salad at dinner though. The server told me that the crispy brussel sprouts appetizer is very popular and vegan. They also have a house salad, seasonal vegetables and coconut rice. That sounds like a tasty dinner to me!

   Mexican food is one of the easiest cuisines to make vegan. You can substitute many things for meat including: tempeh, black beans, shredded jackfruit, crumbled tofu, lentils, ground walnuts, seitan or portobella mushrooms. Tipp City has two Mexican restaurants, Frida’s and Dos Lunas. I called both of them to find out what vegan options they offer. Frida’s lists a vegan salad, but it has buttered corn, which can be left off. They also have veggie fajitas and a grilled veggie sope. Just ask for no sour cream or cheese. I always ask for extra guacamole instead. They were helpful and assured me that there was no dairy in the guacamole and that there was no lard or pork in the beans. They have a variety of vegetarian options as well, if you eat dairy.

   Dos Luna’s offers similar items and were also very knowledgeable. They have a unique item that I haven’t seen anywhere else, a veggie chimichanga. It is vegan without the cheese sauce. It is deep-fried, so it’s not the healthiest option, but I’ll be trying it soon!

Vegan Taco Salad at Home

   Now, let’s make a vegan taco salad. The prep and cooking time is just 25 minutes for the salad and dressing.

Serves four. Pictured below left is what you'll need to make this recipe. At right is the taco salad being cooked.

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Taco Filling:

8 oz. tempeh, crumbled or grated

1 - 10 oz. can Mexican spiced diced tomatoes

2 tsp. chili powder

3 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

¼ cup Braggs liquid aminos, or soy sauce

1 tsp. smoked paprika

½ medium red onion, diced

Add tempeh, tomatoes, spices and Braggs to a large bowl and stir together. Sautee the diced red onion in a non-stick skillet for 3 minutes, adding a little oil or water if needed. Add the tempeh mixture to the skillet, flipping a few times, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

 

Cilantro Lime Dressing:

¾ cup cilantro (1 bunch), thicker stems removed

1/3 cup lime juice (3 limes)

¼ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1 ½ tsp. sugar

½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

 

Combine all ingredients into a blender, blend about 2 minutes. The dressing will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator.

 

To assemble the salad, use any greens you like for the base, add shredded vegan cheese, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, avocado and tortilla strips, and top with cilantro lime dressing. Add hot sauce to taste, if you like it extra spicy!

Another option for a spicier salad is to substitute 2 Tablespoons tomato paste, 3 adobo chilis in sauce, chopped, and ½ cup water for the can of Mexican spiced diced tomatoes. The adobo chilis have a smoky heat that will really warm you up. Enjoy!

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The new Vegan Taco Salad at Coldwater Cafe.

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A spiced-up version of the dish made at home.

About Lisa Neff

Lisa Neff is a Tippecanoe High School alumni and still lives in the Greater Dayton area. She has been vegetarian since 2007 and fully vegan since 2009 (no meat, dairy or eggs). She believes in eating vegan for the planet, for the animals and for health. She will be writing articles about local vegan restaurant options, farmer’s markets and sharing healthy vegan recipes.