Iumi’s Vegan Cornbread

My dear friend Iumi has been my gentle, patient mentor in transitioning to a plant-based diet. I live in Washington, and she lives in Texas, but any time I get stuck, or want to create a vegan version of a well-loved recipe, all I have to do is message her and she fills my in-box with ideas!

Iumi’s Vegan Cornbread

1 cup unsweetened vegan milk of choice (I prefer almond)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup masa harina*
(alternative: 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup corn meal
2 flax eggs**
(alternative: 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil (if using applesauce, you can leave out the oil, if you’d like to be lower fat)
My additions—
2 tablespoons maple syrup
8 ounces corn kernels (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. If using a cast iron skillet, oil it well and put it in the oven now.

Whisk the nut milk and apple cider vinegar together and set aside. This will be your “buttermilk”.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  In another bowl, mix the “buttermilk”, coconut oil, and flax eggs or applesauce, and (if using) the maple syrup and corn kernels.  Stir wet into dry. You may need to add about 1/4 cup more liquid to batter….you decide. Stir only long enough to combine…don’t over-mix.

Pour the batter into your choice of pan. Iumi bakes in muffin tins (with liners), which she prefers; I use an oiled sizzling-hot cast iron frying pan, because my grandma taught me that version 😉

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean


Iumi adds: “There are two schools of thought regarding cornbread…sweet and not. You can see I am in the ‘not’ group!  But if you want it sweet, just add whatever sweetener you prefer and adjust for liquid.”

*Masa harina is a very soft flour made from finely ground hominy or dried corn kernels that have been cooked and soaked in a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide, aka limewater. Because the corn has been treated with limewater, you cannot substitute cornmeal in recipes that call for masa harina.

**Flax eggs are a quick and easy egg replacement, featuring freshly ground flax or chia seeds. Method: (yields one flax egg) Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed (measure after grinding) with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well, and place in the refrigerator to set for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, you will have a sticky egg-like substitute.

Additions: Instead of corn kernels, try chopped mild green chilies for a tasty Southwestern addition (or a few diced jalapeños for real Tex-Mex kick), diced, roasted red bell peppers for crunch and color, orange zest and dried cranberries for Thanksgiving style, toasted chopped walnuts, or cheddar and green onions (if you eat dairy).

Couscous Cake with Berry Topping

Years ago, I used to make this simple no-bake dessert all summer, with whatever fruits were in season. Cherries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and apricots all made their appearances. Then for some reason, I stopped making it, and only recently remembered how much I like its cool, lightly-sweet, simplicity. The quantities of the liquids can be played around with, meaning you can decrease the water and increase the apple juice, if you’d like. You can also use different sweeteners: honey or sugar works just as well…just be sure to start out with less than the two tablespoons of brown rice syrup called for in this recipe, and taste as you go.

Couscous Cake
3 cups unsweetened organic apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1-2 drops vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt
1-1/2 cups couscous

Add the juice and sea salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, zest, and vanilla extract, stir to mix, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes.

1-1/2 cups unsweetened organic apple juice
1-1/2 heaping tablespoons agar
A pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
2 cups of fresh or *frozen berries (or cherries, peaches, apricots, strawberries, etc.)

Pour the juice into a saucepan. Add agar and let sit for 10 minutes to soften. Add a pinch of sea salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes, whisking continually. Remove from heat and add brown rice syrup and fruit. Set the topping aside to cool.

Scoop the cooked couscous into a 9-inch square baking dish. Press the couscous to compress it into a cake.

When the topping starts to thicken, pour on top of the couscous cake and spread evenly. Refrigerate for one or two hours to allow the topping to firm up.

*For frozen berries:  Thaw berries in a small saucepan over gentle heat. If there is a lot of extra liquid, pour it off and boil gently until reduced to about 3-4 tablespoons. Use fruits with a lot of natural pectin (berries, peaches, apricots, cherries).

My Vegan Pantry

Here’s a rough look at the foods I have in my kitchen. There are times I run out of something and don’t replace it until a particular menu or recipe comes up that’s on slow rotation, but I’m lucky enough to have a walk-in pantry, so I can afford to stock up.



Brown rice (short grain, long grain, black)
Oats (steel cut, rolled)


Chia, ground flaxseeds, hemp, sunflower
Wild rice


Lentils (brown, red, green)
Red kidney
Split peas (yellow, green)


Whole Wheat (pastry & unbleached)


Potato starch, corn starch, agar agar, arrowroot, guar gum, glucomannan powder, kudzu
(I mostly use potato starch, but have the others for specialty dishes. More ideas, here.)

(no/low fat, low sodium)

Oils (rarely used, in tiny quantities: olive, coconut)
Kalamata olives, capers (high sodium)
Canned pineapple slices (sugarless)
Tomatoes (juice, crushed, paste, pasta sauce)
Green/red enchilada sauces (and/or tomatillo sauce)
Chopped green chilies
Canned beans
Refried beans (low/no-fat)


Newman’s organic popcorn
Misc. crackers (whole grain, low fat, low-sodium)
Instant brown rice
Whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, tubes, lasagna noodles, flat noodles, spirals)
Asian noodles (buckwheat soba, udon, rice noodles)
Dried mushrooms & mushroom powder
Sun-dried tomatoes
Nutritional yeast flakes
Almond, coconut, and oat milks (plain, unsweetened)
Organ plant-based protein powder (chocolate…for quickie breakfasts and sickbed food)
Vegetable & mushrooms broths (low sodium)
Dried fruits (raisins, currents, apricots, figs, cranberries, cherries)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine)
Muscovado sugar (dark and light)
Scharfenberger cooking chocolate


Green tea chai, herb teas, Irish black tea, organic unsweetened cocoa powder



Roots: potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets
Squash: winter squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck
Salad Stuff: spring greens, green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, celery
Greens: kale, spinach, chard
FRESH HERBS: basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, dill, mint, tarragon
+ anything yummy that’s in season


Apples, grapes (freeze some individuals)
Lemons, limes, oranges/tangerines
+ anything yummy that’s in season


Whole wheat bread, pita, corn tortillas, sour dough starter


Vegan yogurt, tofu, tempeh


Greens: spinach, chard, kale
Sweet: peas, carrots, corn
Cruciferous: broccoli, cauliflower
Beans: green beans, lima beans
Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, mango, pineapple, ripe banana chunks, cranberries
Orange Juice (unsweetened, organic)
French Roast coffee beans


(very helpful if cooking low-fat and low-sodium)

Balsamic Vinegars (aged, plain, fig, pear, raspberry, pomegranate, white)
Brown Rice Vinegar
Red Wine & Champagne Vinegars


Ginger, garlic, onions (red, Maui), shallots


White miso, low-sodium tamari
Fruit-sweetened jams, maple syrup, liquid stevia
Misc. no-salt ideas, here


Italian: basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, powdered garlic
French: Herbs d’Provance, tarragon, thyme, marjoram, saffron, fennel, shallots, garlic
Indian: curry/garam masala, green curry paste, turmeric, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, fenugreek,
Eastern European: juniper berries, mace, mint, parsley, mustard seed, nutmeg, poppyseed, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, pepper (black, white, red
Moroccan: Harrisa, Ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, paprika, turmeric, saffron, parsley, cilantro, thyme, preserved lemons, tahini, sesame seeds, orange flower water, rose water
Asian: tamari, miso, nori, kombu, ginger, garlic, coriander, lemongrass, star anise, basil, lime
Mexican: cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, anise, bay, coriander, canned chipotle peppers
Grilling: blackening spice mix, bbq sauce, smokey flavoring

Sweet Potato Curry

This is what I call a “refrigerator recipe”. I find myself with a meal to make, look through my pantry and refrigerator, see something that strikes my fancy, think about what flavor direction I’d like to take it, and start noodling around until a meal is created. So this unfolded as “Hmmm…those sweet potatoes look tasty…and sweet…bet they’d be good in a curry.” Then I added other traditional sweet curry ingredients, and voila…dinner is served.

Sweet Potato Curry
Serves 2

1 large sweet potato, cut into 2″ chunks
1/2 a large onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups spinach, chopped (I used frozen)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 cups unsweetened boxed coconut milk
1/4 cup dried currents
1 tablespoon hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Salt and lemon-pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons potato starch

Cooked couscous, brown rice, millet, or quinoa as a starchy side dish.

Microwave the sweet potatoes, covered, until tender but not mushy, about 4-5 minutes. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and spinach in the vegetable broth until cooked through. Add the sweet potatoes to the sauté pan, then add the coconut milk, dried currents, spices, and maple syrup, and bring to a simmer. Stir and turn the vegetables gently. Spread the vegetables to the side a bit, sprinkle in the potato starch, and whisk until the liquids begin to thicken. Mix the thickened liquids in with the rest of the pan. Add salt and lemon-pepper, to taste. Taste, and adjust seasonings, and add more potato starch if more thickening is desired.

Serve over Couscous, brown rice, millet, or quinoa.

Moroccan Couscous

Quick, simple, and filled with the sweet, spicy flavors of Morocco, this couscous is wonderful as a side dish, or as a filling for baked acorn squash* (shown).

Moroccan Couscous
Yield: about 2-1/2 cups

1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice (about one orange)
Zest from one orange
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon harissa (or a pinch of cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
2 green onions, diced (reserve some of the green portion for garnish)
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup raisins
1 can (15oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup grated carrot
Squeeze of lemon juice
chopped cilantro and/or mint for garnish
slivered almonds, for garnish

Add water, orange juice, orange zest, spices, maple syrup, and green onions to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Add couscous, raisins, and chickpeas. Stir to mix thoroughly, cover, and turn off the heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes until couscous has absorbed all the liquid.

Fluff couscous with a fork and add the carrots and a squeeze of lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with scallion greens, chopped cilantro, and slivered almonds

*To bake acorn squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut an acorn squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the stringy bits and seeds. Place in a small oven-safe dish, pour 1″ of water into the dish, and add a tablespoon of water into the bowl of each squash half. Bake for 1—1/14 hours.

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Even though ratatouille is the very definition of summer, I’m making this in the middle of a February snowstorm. With all the cold weather, I wanted summer flavors to reassure me of the sun’s return!

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

1 large eggplant, cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/2″ slices
1/2 red onion, sliced into quarters
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1″ chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled, but whole
2 cans diced or crushed tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste, to thicken sauce
1/4 cup wine
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
Salt and Lemon-Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fig-infused balsamic vinegar

To finish:
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon kalamata olives, thinly sliced
Another drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Into a dutch oven (I use a 4-1/2 quart Le Crueset), add the vegetables, tomato paste, wine, stock, herbs, and vinegar, and mix well with your hands (or use a large spoon if using your hands is a no-go). Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and set a timer to 30 minutes.

At the 30-minute mark, take the lid off and stir the vegetables to keep everything moist. Put the lid back on and set the timer for another 30 minutes. Keep doing this until the vegetables are well-cooked—time will depend on the size of your vegetables, your pot, and your oven—about 1 to1-1/2 hours.

If there’s still quite a bit of juice in the bottom of the pot, carefully pour into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce. Pour back over the  vegetables.

Garnish each bowl with capers, fresh basil (if available), kalamata olives, and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar. I like to serve ratatouille over polenta*, or with fresh crusty whole wheat bread.

Ratatouille only improves with age—if you have the will power, save it for the next day!

(*Polenta is nothing more than coarsely ground cornmeal cooked into a silky cereal. The classic ratio is 1 part polenta to 4 parts water, but I like to measure the polenta just a little scant of a full cup. I often use vegetable broth instead of water. It’s a perfect base for any kind of saucy vegetable dish or mushroom ragout.)