Happy As A Vegan Clam

New Year’s Eve is the single most superstitious day of the year.

Even if you’re typically a logical, pragmatic person, it’s hard to resist placing some significance on the visible acceleration of time. When faced with a full 365 days of unknown fortune ahead, wouldn’t you want to stack the deck in your favor, just in case? Don’t just raise a glass to good luck; make it a guest at the party by inviting these Plant-Based Baked Clams to join the fun.

Vegan Baked Clams

What’s The Significance of Clams?

Slang for dollars, round like coins, and known to produce lucrative pearls, clams are strongly associated with property across all cultures. In fact, the indigenous peoples of the Americas used the shells themselves directly as a form of currency. Beyond symbolism, this was literal money harvested from the sea.

That said, you can enhance your luck while preserving your karma by cooking up plants, not bivalves.

Ingredients for Vegan Baked Clams

How Can You Make Vegan Baked Clams?

The key ingredient is soaked Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms. Rich with natural umami, chopped to approximate the toothsome, chewy texture of diced seafood, it’s a wholly unique creation that no other plant or animal can replace. Koshin shiitake are ideal for their wide, flat caps, but Donko shiitake would also be welcome for a meatier, heartier bite.

Finely minced shallots and garlic are sauteed in peppery extra-virgin olive oil to infuse their savory aroma into the entire kitchen. Caper brine adds a distinctive oceanic salinity, accentuated by the gentle acidity of fresh citrus. Cheesy, buttery nutritional yeast brings everything together with light panko breadcrumbs for binding, toasting to a nutty and crunchy finish.

Vegan Baked Clams

What Are Variations On Baked Clams?

Consider this formula the classic rendition, simple and elegant, that goes with every occasion. If you want more pizazz and flair, you have plenty of room for creative adaption:

  • Clams Casino: Swap the olive oil for melted vegan butter and add 1/4 cup meatless bacon bits.
  • Dynamite Clams: Stir in 2 – 3 teaspoons sriracha and 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise right before baking.
  • Sweet & Salty Clams: Swap the breadcrumbs for crushed pretzels and add 1 tablespoon vegan honey or maple syrup.
  • Clams Rosa: Swap the white wine for red and add 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Optionally, add minced fresh basil.

Vegan Baked Clams

Tips For Success

The best party has food for everyone. That means catering to a diverse range of dietary restrictions, but it’s easy to accommodate with some simple modifications:

  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or coarse almond meal.
  • To make this recipe without alcohol, use more mushroom soaking liquid instead of white wine.
  • To make this recipe oil-free, use more mushroom soaking liquid instead of olive oil. You may need more than the 1/4 cup listed; watch it carefully and make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Don’t take your chances with other hors d’oeuvres. Shiitake baked clams are bougie on a budget, which means you’re already well on your way to greater fortunes ahead.

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How to Build a Vegan Cheese Board

For any gathering big or small, a well-appointed cheeseboard has always seemed like the height of sophistication. Arranged just so over a distressed wood plank, discrete piles of sweet and savory morsels sparkle like jewels in a treasure chest, waiting to be plundered. Carefully curated selections manage to dance in step no matter the pairing, as if they were all destined for this stage. How is it possible to create such a winning cheeseboard at home, with little experience, limited budget, or particular tastes?

If you’ve ever enjoyed cheese and crackers together, believe it or not, you’re already an expert. Putting together a selection of snacks for grazing isn’t rocket science. Start small and keep building as the occasion demands, breaking it down into five distinct categories for easy execution.

1 – 3 Types of Vegan Cheese

This is the star of the show here so don’t hold back. Plan on at least 1 – 2 ounces per person as an appetizer or snack. For a small party, it’s perfectly fine to focus on just one superlative cheese, but it’s always nice to offer different options to compare and contrast. Think of them in three categories while shopping or cooking:

Something Sweet

Personally, I wouldn’t go with desserts like cookies or truffles, but a more moderate, natural source of sweetness. The idea is to help balance the savory notes of the cheeses, rather than overpower them. That means relying on nature’s candy with no added sugars:

  • Fresh fruit (grapes, sliced apples or pears, berries)
  • Dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs)
  • Jam or preserves

Something Salty

There’s a lot of potential overlap in this category with the following, so you can pick one or the other for a smaller spread. For concentrated pops of salty contrast, I’d suggest at least one of these:

  • Pickles
  • Marinated artichokes
  • Olives
  • Capers

Something Crunchy

Texture is critical! It’s especially important to have something crispy when you have a soft, spreadable cheese on deck. There should be a vehicle for any schmear, and maybe even a crunchy topper to finish it off:

Something Neutral

There’s a whole lot going on with the rest of the board, so it’s nice to provide some blank space as a palate cleanser. These are also great options for those that really want to put the cheese first, but not just shove a whole plain wedge of it in their mouths. Use these as fillers when you have blank space:

  • Soft bread
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Cucumber slices

BONUS: Charcuterie

If this was a genuine charcuterie board, you’d want to go heavy on the sliced plant-based meats. That, however, is a whole separate topic in and of itself. Consider it a wildcard addition if you want some extra protein to make it more of a meal.

Don’t Forget…!

There’s plenty of overlap that exists and you shouldn’t let these simplified lists restrict your creativity! Consider candied nuts for a sweet, salty, and crunchy component, for example, or a spicy pepper jam that’s more hot than sweet.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with paring it down to the bare essentials; all you need is a really great cheese and hearty crackers to start a party on the right foot. Perfect for the holidays or everyday entertaining, a plant-based cheeseboard offers a little bit of something for everyone.

GuacTober

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, though my appreciation for it has changed substantially over the years. Long gone are the nights spent trick-or-treating, seeking the thrill of the hunt as much as the sugar high to follow. Off-the-shelf costumes are permanently off the shopping list, since I refuse to dress as the “sexy” version of literally anything. Now, I’m content to enjoy the spooky season in a similar way to other special events: By playing with my food.

Whether you’re throwing a Halloween party for one or one hundred, solid snacks are an absolute must. Balancing out the abundance of candy and booze alike, reasonably healthy and savory options are essential for a killer bash. For that, I turn to classic guacamole, but with a ghoulish twist.

Pick your favorite recipe and get crafty! Here are four different ways to dress up the same old green goop as a fun, festive party starter.

Sick Dip

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the classic barfing jack-o-lantern motif by now, but what if we could make that into an edible centerpiece? Allow me to present sick dip, replacing the pumpkin with a carved bell pepper.

  1. Cut around the top in a jagged pattern just like you would for a traditional jack-o-lantern. Pull off the top and remove the seeds and membrane inside.
  2. Use a paring knife to carefully carve out eyes and a large opening for the mouth.
  3. Place the pepper on a serving plate and fill it with your guacamole, pushing some out the mouth hole.
  4. Fill the rest of the plate with more guacamole and place the top back onto the pepper.
  5. Serve with the paring knife sticking out of the pepper for guests to slice off their own crudites.

Guacamole Graveyard

Parting is such savory sorrow when the final resting place is this delicious. You could pipe “RIP” onto the tombstones with smooth guaca-mole, but I prefer to keep it simple and classy.

  1. Spread your guacamole into a rectangular dish an in even layer.
  2. Stick crackers in, spaced at regular intervals, in two or three rows.
  3. Spoon a mound of minced black olives or tapenade in front of each cracker tombstone to make the burial plots.
  4. Serve with more crackers on the side.

Monster Mash

Kids will especially love this silly Frankenstein face! You may even be able to convince them to eat their veggies this way. You can even blend fresh spinach into the guacamole to make it more green and add an extra superfood boost.

  1. Spread your guacamole in a circle on a round plate, leaving a larger border at the top.
  2. Stick crackers or cut vegetable crudites into the top part for the hair.
  3. Cut a black olive in half and add them to the middle as eyes.
  4. Cut a jagged smile out of a bell pepper or carrot slice for the mouth.

Wicked Web

When all else fails, weave a simple spiderweb that’s guaranteed to catch guests’ attention.

  1. Spread your guacamole into a round dish in an even layer.
  2. Drizzle plain, unsweetened vegan yogurt, ranch dressing, or sour cream in a spiral pattern, starting in the center and radiating out.
  3. Use a toothpick to drag the loops alternating inward and outward from the center.
  4. For the spider, place one whole olive near the middle of the web. Cut another olive in half lengthwise, and then slice four little legs from each piece. Arrange them next to the side body.
  5. Enjoy with any of your favorite dippers.

Get into the Halloween spirit and whip up a ghastly appetizer that will haunt your friends and family all season! What’s your favorite diabolical dish?

Compound Interest

You can’t live in Austin without developing a taste for queso. I do believe that at a certain point in your residency, if you don’t profess your undying love for the gooey cheese dip, the authorities will come and escort you out. Queso is a Tex-Mex staple that’s as abundant as the bats under Congress Bridge. It’s the glue holding together every menu, sometimes literally, as a stand-alone appetizer, side dish, and topping. Given the opportunity, I have no doubt that it would be blended into frosty margaritas, too.

All you need is liquid cheese with a bit of spice to have a passable queso dip. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, consider stepping up your game with Queso Compuesto.

Compuesto translates as “compound,” which means “made up or consisting of two or more existing parts or elements.” As such, queso is still the main attraction, but now you have a dollop of guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream in the same dish. Go all the way and hide a layer of cooked taco meat at the bottom, and you can basically call that a balanced meal.

How do you serve Queso Compuesto?

  • Queso is always a stellar party starter, served as an appetizer with thick, crunchy tortilla chips.
    • Pro tip: Warm the chips first to make them seem freshly fried and extra crispy. Just spread them out on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5 – 6 minutes, until warm to the touch. Transfer the chips to a bowl so no one burns themselves on the hot pan.
  • Ladle or spread queso over tacos, inside burritos before wrapping, or use as instant quesadilla filling.

What are some tasty variations on Queso Compuesto?

  • Mix and match your favorite components to make this queso your own. Don’t like sour cream but love extra avocado on everything? Double up the guac and ditch the crema.
  • When you’re in a rush, there’s no shame in taking shortcuts. Use prepared guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Heck, you can even use ready-made vegan queso, if you just want to use this idea as a template to color by numbers.
  • Instead of meatless taco-seasoned grounds, stick with more whole foods like black beans or refried pinto beans for protein.
  • Switch out the pico de gallo for any other salsa, hot or mild, red or green, smooth or chunky.

What can you do with leftover Queso Compuesto?

This is definitely a party-sized serving, so if you want to have a fiesta for one or two, don’t worry about the extra going to waste. It’s an incredibly versatile addition to…

  • Pasta bakes
  • Pizza
  • Chili
  • Baked potatoes

Alternately, you could always divide the components into single servings. This is a great approach for portion control, planned leftovers, and simply preventing anyone from hogging the dish!

Some people still refer to this as “Bob Armstrong Dip,” attributing the creation to the former Texas land commissioner who allegedly asked for something different, off the menu, at Matt’s El Rancho in Austin, Texas. I think you can confidently name this one after yourself for improving upon the concept by making it far healthier, vegan, gluten-free, and even more flavorful.

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Party Like a Sushi Chef

When it comes to celebratory meals, sushi is always at the top of my list. For birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones, nothing could do proper justice to the event like a glorious platter of carefully rolled maki or dainty nigiri. From childhood to this very day, it’s still my number one request for a fancy treat.

Of course, sushi is not the kind of indulgence one can splurge on casually or in great volume. While I’d like to invite everyone I know and love to join me in such revelry, quite frankly, I don’t make that kind of money. I do, however, make that kind of food, which is why I’ve come to realize that throwing a sushi party at home is an even greater sort of celebration.

How can you throw a sushi party at home?

There are many ways to go about this. First, consider whether you want guests to be able to roll their own sushi or simply eat what your prepare. I think it’s a whole lot more fun to have a hands-on activity, and it puts much less stress on the host if they’re not doing all the work.

Don’t have enough sushi mats for everyone?

Don’t worry; I don’t even use mine anymore. Lay down sheets of parchment paper to help everyone roll up their sushi creations, and simply throw them away when it’s all said and done. Use compostable parchment paper to prevent excess waste.

How much sushi rice should you make?

Let’s work backwards to figure out portion sizes. The average sushi roll uses about 1/3 cup of cooked rice, and let’s say most people will eat 2 – 3 rolls each. That means we want at least 1 cup of cooked sushi per guest. My basic formula makes 4 cups, which you can halve, double, or triple accordingly, always erring on the side of extra. Leftovers are great for making fried rice or ochazuke the next day.

Yield: Makes 4 Cups

Easy Sushi Rice

Easy Sushi Rice

For perfect maki sushi or nigiri, this simple formula for easy homemade sushi rice will never do you wrong!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Sushi Rice
  • 2 1/2 Cups Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the water.
  2. Bring rice to a boil over medium heat; immediately turn heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, remove from heat and let sit, covered, 15 minutes, undisturbed.
  3. Mix together the vinegar, sugar, and salt and add it to the rice. Gently fold with a spatula to incorporate. Let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes longer, until just warm to the touch.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 132Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 415mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

What kind of fillings are best for a sushi party?

The luxury of making your own sushi is having endless options for fillings, freed from traditional, tired, or simply uncreative menus. You could truly put anything in the middle of your maki, including veggie burgers and guacamole, if you so wished. Go ahead, use this as an opportunity to empty out your fridge, freezer, and pantry if you’re entertaining on a shoestring budget! For more thematic options, my favorites include:

Don’t forget the sushi toppings and condiments!

If you don’t have some sort of soy sauce or tamari for dipping, that’s a crime and I’m never coming to any of your parties again. Beyond that, there’s plenty of room for different ways to finish off your rolls with style:

Prepare ample snacks for those who come early or late.

It might take some time before everyone can finish rolling their own, so don’t leave anyone hungry while they wait. You can prepare all sorts of small bites and starters well in advance so you can stress less.

  • Edamame, warm, chilled, spicy, truffled, or pan-fried
  • Gyoza, steamed or pan-fried
  • Miso soup
  • Chuka ika sansai (calamari salad)
  • Seaweed salad

Finally, don’t forget the drinks.

When in doubt, good old ice water has never done me wrong. If you’d like something a bit more festive to say “kampai!” with, consider both spirited and sober options.

  • Green tea, hot or iced
  • Iced mugicha (barley tea)
  • Ramune soda
  • Sake, hot or cold
  • Shochu
  • Japanese beer

Are you ready to start rolling?

If you’d like some more inspiration to get this party started, here are a few more recipes you’ll love:

San Francisco, California Roll
Sush-Easy Creative Vegetable Sushi
Sushi Cups

Purple is the New Black

Potato salad is like the little black dress of dishes; it’s suitable for all gatherings and occasions, never going out of style. Potato salad is better than a little black dress, however, because it’s infinitely adaptable, rather than being restricted to the same basic routine for years on end. Not to mention, potato salad always fits.

Riffing off the classic creamy chilled spuds, this tropical twist makes a colorful splash with vibrant Okinawan sweet potatoes. More than a bland starchy base, these tender cubes are naturally sweet, like orange yams. As the name might suggest, they’re originally from the southernmost island of Japan, but were also cultivated by Polynesians in Hawaii, where it thrived in the rich volcanic soil. That’s what inspired the tropical flair for the rest of the chilled salad.

Crisp, buttery macadamia nuts are a key ingredient to making this simple recipe shine. That crunchy contrast against the tender flesh of the potatoes, paired with the creamy twang of tart coconut yogurt, sets it apart from average humble spuds.

Next time you need a quick dish for a gathering, no matter the season, think of potato salad and more specifically, purple potato salad, if you really want to wow your friends and family. Everyone will remember this dish long after memories of fashion trends are forgotten.

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