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White Wine-Braised Chickpea, Tempeh, and Spinach Linguine from the Slow Cooker

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Spring: some days are too hot for the oven, then you're hit with a blustery, rainy day that calls for a bowl of comfort. Either way, this recipe has you covered. Toss chickpeas, tempeh, spinach, artichoke hearts, and blissfully salty Kalamata olives into the slow cooker with a dose of herbs and white wine. Let it cook all day, and there's nothing left for you to do but boil the amount of pasta needed for the meal, and done. Repeat with leftovers, should you have them.

The whole thing depends on the garnishes to really shine, so don't skip them. A generous spoonful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a final squeeze of lemon over your plate are necessary ingredients to add color, intense bits of flavor, and brightness.

White Wine-Braised Chickpea, Tempeh, and Spinach Linguine from the Slow Cooker

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serves 4-6

For the legume-veggie mix:

8 oz frozen chopped spinach

1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives

3 TBSP quick-cooking tapioca

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

2 15-oz can chickpeas, drained, but not rinsed

8 oz tempeh

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried marjoram

1 cup dry white wine

6 oz canned (and drained) or frozen (and thawed) artichoke hearts, chopped

fine sea or kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To serve:

1 lb linguine

generous 1/4-1/2 cup julienned oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained well

lemon wedges, from 1-2 lemons

Layer spinach and olives into the crock of a slow cooker. Sprinkle tapioca evenly over the spinach. Place bouillon cube in the center of the crock. Pour drained chickpeas in evenly, then roughly crumble tempeh into the crock in small bite-size pieces. Sprinkle in each of the herbs, then slowly and evenly pour wine over the whole thing. Cover and cook on low seven to eight hours.

When ready to serve, stir in chopped artichoke hearts, add salt and pepper, to taste, and cover again. Cook pasta according to package directions. Divide pasta among plates and top with chickpea mixture. Add a generous tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes to each plate and give a squeeze of lemon juice over the whole thing. Serve at once.

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Party Animals No. 48; Hitting the Books No. 7: White Chocolate Truffles

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Just a short and sweet Party Animals (and a sort-of online edition of HtB) post today to show off these absolutely heavenly truffles. Your food processor turns shredded coconut and macadamia nuts into a rich paste, then melted cacao butter and sugar ride in to smooth it all out. Blissfully, dangerously easy to make.

The recipe comes from Minimalist Baker. The only liberty I took was to finish the truffles in cacao nibs (broken down in the food processor) instead of more coconut, but follow your bliss.

Photograph by Leah Moyers. (More on that later!) Leah also alerted me to this recipe, so three cheers for that lady.

Thanks for reading. See you back here next week.

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Smoked Tofu, Avocado, and Sage-Roasted Lemon Sandwich

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This sandwich relies on the convenience of store-bought tofu, the convenience of nature's perfect condiment (avocado), and takes just about 15 minutes to punch up that lovable combination with seriously dreamy roasted lemons. The result is sure to brighten up any Tuesday afternoon, but feel free to serve this to pals at any casual gathering, too.

Whole-lemon anything is never to be passed up, so when this salad recipe came into view, there was no question that the sage-roasted lemons would be put to work long before tomato season. Totally worth the light effort, these dreamy little lemon slices jazz up absolutely everything. New favorite ingredient.

Smoked Tofu, Avocado, and Sage-Roasted Lemon Sandwich

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yields three sandwiches

1 recipe sage-roasted lemon slices

8 oz smoked tofu, such as Soy Boy brand

1 ripe avocado

6 slices whole wheat bread from a small boule

flaked salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Prepare the lemon slices as directed.

While the lemon slices roast, place each tofu square on its thin side and cut into thirds, so you have a total of six thinner squares. Halve and pit the avocado, divide into eight slices, and scoop out.

To assemble, place two slices of tofu on three slices of bread. Divide the avocado as evenly as possible and place atop the tofu. Sprinkle with flaked salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add lemon slices, sandwich, and serve at once.

 

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Blueberry Maple-Pecan Breakfast Polenta (or Grits)

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This isn't a groundbreaking combination, but man, is it a good one. The heaven is in the details for this particular bowl: corn in the form of polenta (prettier) or grits (shown), plus toasted pecans—and you should really take the time to toast the pecans—and maple syrup all hug little dried blueberries. Those berries gently plump without breaking down while cooking, making for a wonderful presentation and winning texture.

With quick-cooking grits, this is a ten-minute breakfast. (Yes, you sacrifice texture, and yes, I still recommend them for incredible convenience. Feel free to use the regular sort if you have half an hour to kill.) You can use all that time you saved to linger over the eating of it.

Blueberry Maple-Pecan Breakfast Polenta (or Grits)

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serves 2 generously

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta or grits

1/4 cup blanched almond meal

1/4 cup dried blueberries

3 TBSP chopped pecans

maple syrup, to serve, grade A: dark color and robust flavor recommended

Combine soy milk, water, salt, and vanilla in a pot over high heat. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together polenta/grits and almond meal. When the liquid in the pot begins to steam, begin whisking while pouring the grits mixture into the pot in a thin, steady stream, whisking all the while. When all is incorporated, add the blueberries. Make sure the mixture is bubbling, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook five minutes, covered, carefully whisking the bubbling mixture once each minute.

Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Toast pecans, tossing frequently, until deeply fragrant and darkened, being careful not to burn. Transfer to a plate to let cool.

When the polenta or grits is thickened to your liking, divide between two bowls. Top with toasted pecans and maple syrup (start with one tablespoon per bowl). Serve at once.

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Molasses, Oat, and Cranberry Breakfast (or Snack) Cookies

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If you're not a molasses fan, maybe just come back next week. The rest of you now officially have a new breakfast item in rotation. These guys could not be easier to throw together, they're sweet and a little sticky without being sugary, and they make nice, big servings that will keep you satisfied until lunch (especially when paired with a glass of plain soy milk). Plus, you get a dose of iron from the generous amount of molasses in these cookies and fiber from the oats. Meanwhile, dried cranberries make the perfect sweet-tart foil to that deep, dark syrup.

You'll get nine large cookies from this recipe, which means you can nibble on one minutes from the oven and still have enough to get you through a full calendar week of breakfasts. They're tender and cakey stored at room temperature. Kept in the freezer, they become chewier, and you don't even have to thaw them before chowing down (though, naturally, you can, if you prefer a warm breakfast). Can you say cool, instant breakfasts all summer long? Yeah, you can.

Molasses, Oat, and Cranberry Breakfast (or Snack) Cookies

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yields nine large cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup blanched almond meal

1 TBSP psyllium husk powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

1/4 cup turbinado

1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (oats through salt) thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add cranberries and stir again.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients with a fork. Add wet ingredients to dry. Spoon dough into nine mounds on prepared baking sheet. Use your hands to press them down and clean up the edges.

Bake 15 minutes. Let cool five minutes (do not skip this step) before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool an additional 10-15 minutes to let fully set. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature for a softer, cake-like cookie or in the freezer for a chewier texture. (Cookies can be eaten straight from the freezer.)

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Hominy, Poblano, and Potato Enchiladas with Spiced Black Bean Sauce

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Get ready to have a new favorite meal. And for any meal—these guys can handle it.

Golden hominy and (convenient frozen) potatoes combine to make a comforting, fluffy filling seasoned with a generous dose of garlic and contrasting little strips of gently piquant poblano pepper.

Top the whole dreamy thing off with a dead-simple black bean sauce seasoned with cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, and a touch of smoke, and a big, fat platter of dinner is ready in under half an hour. Just make sure you have some leftovers to reheat for breakfast.

Hominy, Poblano, and Potato Enchiladas with Spiced Black Bean Sauce

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serves 4

To assemble:

12 6-inch corn tortillas

For the sauce:

1 15-oz can black beans, undrained

1/2 cup water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp Mexican oregano

1/4 tsp mild chile powder, such as ancho

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp liquid smoke

1 TBSP olive oil

For the filling:

3 TBSP olive oil

6 large cloves garlic, minced

6 scallions, thinly sliced, divided

2 large poblano peppers, trimmed, seeded, and cut into thin 2-inch strips

2 15-oz cans yellow hominy

1 1/2 cups frozen hash browns (look for a brand that contains nothing but potatoes)

2 TBSP nutritional yeast (optional)

freshly cracked black pepper

salt, to taste

Heat oven to 350.

Blend all sauce ingredients, except oil, until smooth. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and hot. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Meanwhile, divide tortillas into three stacks of four. Wrap each stack securely in foil and heat in oven for 20 minutes.

While the tortillas heat, prepare the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, white and firm green parts of onions (reserve tender tops for garnish), and poblano strips. Cook five minutes, stirring frequently, until pepper begins to soften.

Meanwhile, drain hominy well. Add hominy and potatoes to the skillet, top with nutritional yeast, if using, and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Continue to cook until the peppers are tender, the whole mixture is hot, and the flavors have melded, about 7 minutes. Add salt, if needed (since canned hominy is already quite salty).

When the tortillas are ready, carefully open a foil packet (leave remaining stacks wrapped until you're ready to work with them) and take a warm tortilla from the top. Add filling, roll up and place seam-side down on a serving dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, working quickly.

Taste the black bean sauce and adjust salt, if needed. Pour bean sauce evenly over assembled tortillas. Garnish with sliced scallion tops. Serve at once.

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Dead Simple Red Wine-Fig Syrup

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Three ingredients and occasionally stirring a pot are all that stands between you and this dreamy condiment. Red wine and figs make a rich and complex pairing that you can use to punch up any meal of the day.

Pancakes, ice cream, and pastries would all be happy to go for a swim in this syrup, but don't hesitate to work it into salad dressings or sandwiches, too. First one to try roasting Brussels sprouts in it, let us all know how it goes.

Crackers or toast spread with Kite Hill cream cheese (which provides a nice canvas to show off the syrup's color) absolutely beg for the stuff and make for an instant treat.

If you're feeling a little more ambitious, use the red wine-fig syrup to marble a batch of gently sweetened almond pate. This small tower was a recent take-along to a pal's housewarming (more on almond pate towers at a later date if all goes as planned). Good stuff.

Dead Simple Red Wine-Fig Syrup

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3 cups red wine, such as Zinfandel

1/2 cup fig jam

1/2 cup natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

Bring all ingredients to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a low, steady simmer. Let cook down, stirring occasionally, for about an hour—give or take—until the mixture is reduced by two-thirds. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Syrup will continue to thicken a bit when chilled.

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Party Animals No. 47: Big Ears Brunch 2017

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Big Ears brunch, 2017 edition! (Past years: 2014, a tiny peek at 2015, and 2016.)

In addition to coffee on the hot end, there were four chilled drinks on offer:

  • pineapple-carrot-chamomile juice topped with sparkling water
  • blueberry-mint Bellini
  • apricot-ginger Bellini
  • ginger shandy made with Harpoon UFO White

All four garnished with a lime wedge (easy peasy).

The main focus this year was breads and things. There were biscuits with tempeh-walnut patties (not pictured), everything bagels, wheat toast, and pecan-raisin toast.

And the toppers, from right to left:

No one went hungry.

There were also some fork foods to round out the table. On the left is a fruit salad of mixed grapes and halved strawberries tossed with a little oil, a dose of apple-chamomile molasses (the best fruit booster, by the way—adds tart and sweet in one go), and finely chopped mint. On the right is a dish of black beans and tomatoes simmered with cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and Mexican oregano. Into a giant baking dish they went. The top was studded with slices of polenta, which were brushed with a mix of olive oil, nutritional yeast, and kala namak before baking. Hearty and comforting and seriously spiced. Finally, a big bowl of this potato salad was served, but with roasted cauliflower florets substituted for the potatoes (with all the bread on hand, potatoes seemed a bit much). Parsley for the herb. It was a hit, as ever. Seriously, take that salad to the next party you go to.

So there you go. This was decidedly a generous vegan brunch. And a great festival.

Back next week with a new recipe. Thanks for reading.

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Smoked-Tea Baba Ghanoush

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The popular spread known in the States as baba ghanoush—that sikly puree of eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon, and oil—has been primarily a restaurant experience for me. In Knoxville alone, there were generous bowlfuls garnished with streams and lakes of oil at Ali Baba's Time Out Deli (RIP). There were tastes stolen from a friend's order at Yassin's Falafel House (later learning, alas, there's a touch of dairy yogurt involved). Then there's the stuff from Holy Land Market.

Paprika and liquid smoke can do a lot, but maybe not everything. Having nothing but an electric broiler in the MSV kitchen to char eggplants, knowing I'll never bring myself to load in the oil the way restaurant owners will, and having known Holy Land's exquisitely smoky spread, at-home baba ghanoush has always felt pointless. Until now.

Thanks to Kathy Hester's smoke-infusing method from the deceptively humble-sounding Tea-Scented Tofu(*) recipe from The Vegan Slow Cooker, satisfying baba ghanoush can happen even in electric-only kitchens with no access to an outdoor grill. The smoke-infused eggplant, thanks to a spin in the slow cooker with a dose of Lapsang Souchong, takes on such a deep, seductive flavor that you can get away with surprisingly little added oil and still come out with a gorgeous spread.

Side note: the same method works on sun-dried tomatoes, too. Oh, yes, it does. (Calling all bagels.)

This spread may not look like much, but it's seriously worth it. The eggplant keeps everything silky, the smoke (the smoke!) infusion ensures the eggplant can stand up to the bold flavors of tahini and fresh garlic. Lemon lightens it all up. The unique flavor of the tea adds a touch of je ne sais quoi. It wouldn't hurt to make a double-batch.

Smoked-Tea Baba Ghanoush

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yields about 1 3/4 cups, adapted from The Vegan Slow Cooker and the kitchn

1/4 cup loose Lapsang Souchong

1/4 cup brown rice

1/4 cup turbinado

1 1/4 lbs eggplant, trimmed, and cut into large dice

2 small cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup tahini

3 TBSP lemon juice

2-4 TBSP olive oil (or to taste)

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Line a slow cooker crock with foil. Add tea, rice, and sugar, and stir to combine. Place a small metal adjustable steamer basket (wrap the feet in foil, too) into the cooker. Place eggplant cubes into steamer basket. Cover and cook on high two hours. Reduce heat to low and cook two hours more.

Place all other ingredients in a food processor. Carefully add eggplant and blend, adding oil as desired to loosen. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Apple-Chamomile Molasses

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A long time ago, I made a pile of syrup made from nothing but unfiltered apple juice. This week, we improve upon it. And in a reasonable quantity.

The pure apple syrup is totally good, but there's a brunch coming up in the MSV house, and it's going to feature condiments in a big way. So to add complexity to something already yummy, look to sunny chamomile.

The result is tart, sweet, and a little floral—in short, a total dreamboat. It's a wildly handy liquid sweetener to keep on hand because (dare I say it?) sometimes you don't want what you're making to taste of maple.

To put it to work, an easy place to start is a big slice of toast topped with Kite Hill ricotta (or plain nondairy cream cheese), pear slices, and roasted and salted pistachios. Drizzle the syrup over all that goodness and buckle up for a dead-lovely breakfast. Or snack. Or whatever.

Apple-Chamomile Molasses

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yields 1 - 1 1/4 cups, adapted from here

1 gallon unfiltered apple juice, such as Field Day Organic brand

1/4 cup dried chamomile

1/4 tsp pure orange extract (optional)

Add chamomile to juice and let steep, refrigerated, overnight.

Strain juice and discard chamomile. Add strained juice to a pot, add orange extract, if using, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high to maintain a steady boil. Cook about one hour, or until reduced to eight to 10 oz. Reduce heat as needed as the syrup reduces to maintain your steady boil. (To measure your reduction, pour a cup of water into the pot before beginning and mark the level on the end of a wooden spoon.)

The syrup will continue to thicken a bit as it cools, and, at this level of reduction, settles at a thick, pourable syrup consistency (it does not get as thick as molasses) when stored in the refrigerator.

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Lavender and Lemon Cheesecake

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Generally, MSV posts stick to explaining why the dish of the week works. It talks about what flavor combinations are contained within the recipe, and how that's effective, or what addition keeps your protein salad from being deadly boring (or even what makes it interesting, depending on the recipe). But this cheesecake? Well, it's totally lovely. It's a little floral, a little bright, sweet, rich, and creamy. It pretty much sells itself. It's also a special occasion kind of deal—not at all inexpensive—the kind of dessert you pause to scrape a vanilla bean for.

The only thing to note, really, is that the crust here is softer than a cookie crust, made with almond flour because it's destined to entertain a gluten-free pal. Feel free to make whatever vegan crust you like if you have a favorite and don't want to splurge on almond flour (though it's always worth having a pound or three in the pantry).

So let's depart from the formula and instead stop to appreciate how far vegan cooks have taken vegan food. After nearly two years of wishing I had some reason to go bananas over aquafaba (aside from that meringue French toast recipe that really, really needs an update and somehow never, ever gets it), I finally have one for you here. The cake part of this cheesecake is made with Kite Hill brand cream cheese and whipped aquafaba. So that means blended, strained, and cultured almonds combined with the liquid from a can of beans makes this totally delicious and elegant dessert. And it didn't even occur to me that that was strange in the slightest until it was time to write about this guy.

We've come a long way. We have a truly impressive toolbox that keeps getting better. Thanks to everyone working out there. You're the best.

And, hey, make this totally gorgeous cheesecake next time you have friends to feed.

Lavender and Lemon Cheesecake with an Almond Crust

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1/2 cup chickpea brine (aquafaba*)

2 TBSP dried lavender

1 1/2 cups blanched almond meal

1 cup natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice), divided

1 tsp psyllium husk powder

pinch salt

1/3 cup canola oil

24 oz plain cream cheese, such as Kite Hill brand

1/4 cup lemon juice

contents of half a vanilla bean

Bring chickpea liquid to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Remove from heat, stir in lavender, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and steep two hours.

When your aquafaba is nearly done steeping, heat oven to 350. In a 9-inch springform pan, combine almond flour, 1/4 cup sugar, psyllium husk powder, and salt. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Add canola oil, stir with a fork until uniform, and press the crust into the bottom of the pan with your hands (be sure to press firmly around the edges, too). Bake 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, add remaining 3/4 cup sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Strain chickpea liquid into the bowl and discard lavender. Add whisk attachment. Turn mixer on low to combine ingredients, then turn to medium-low speed and beat one minute. Turn up to medium speed and continue to beat four minutes. The mixture should now be thick, fluffy, and hold tracks but will still flow back into the bowl from the whisk.

Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add to whipped aquafaba, switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on low speed just until combined. Pour into prepared crust. Drop pan on the counter once to try to minimize air bubbles. Bake 50-53 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Cake center will be wobbly when removed from oven and will firm as it cools. Cool in the pan on a wire rack until cooled completely. Remove pan sides and chill. Best served slightly chilled.

(*I used Trader Joe's organic chickpeas. The brine is slightly thicker than in TJ's conventional canned chickpeas. One can of Trader Joe's organic chickpeas has repeatedly yielded more than 1/2 cup total brine, so you need only one can with this brand.)

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Balsamic-Dressed Sweet Potato Salad with Shallot, Chives, and Coconut Bacon

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This dead-simple side turns absolutely anything into a meal. Toss some lettuce and beans in a creamy dressing, serve this colorful, warm salad on the side, and you're all set.

The sweet potatoes take about half an hour to roast, but everything else is done in mere minutes. And when was it ever not worth waiting for a potato to cook? Meanwhile, take just a few minutes to whip up a batch of stovetop coconut bacon.

When the potatoes are finished, you'll quickly cook the shallots, season the whole lovely thing with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, and dig in.

Balsamic-Dressed Sweet Potato Salad with Shallot, Chives, and Coconut Bacon

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serves 2-4

For the base:

1 lb small sweet potatoes

4 tsp olive oil, divided

pinch fine sea or kosher salt

2 large shallots

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

To serve:

1 recipe Coconut Bacon, recipe follows

1/4 cup chopped chives

Heat oven to 425.

Slice sweet potatoes into wedges 2-2 1/2 inches in length. Toss with 2 tsp oil and transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim and thinly slice shallots and set aside. Chop chives and set aside. Prepare coconut bacon and set aside.

When potatoes are done, heat remaining 2 tsp oil in the nonstick skillet you used to prepare the coconut. Add shallots and sauté for a few minutes, until they begin to brown. Add balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Stir to coat. Remove from heat, add sweet potatoes to skillet and toss to coat uniformly. Serve, topped with coconut bacon and chives.

Coconut Bacon

yields 1/4 cup, adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

1 tsp reduced-sodium tamari

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/4 tsp maple syrup, grade B preferred

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. In the skillet, combine tamari, liquid smoke, and maple syrup. The second it begins to boil, sprinkle coconut over and stir until thoroughly mixed. Continue cooking for a few minutes—stirring every 20-30 seconds—until coconut absorbs all liquid, the skillet becomes dry, and coconut just begins to crisp in spots. Your nose is your best guide. When it smells deeply toasted and just shy of burning, quickly remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plate, spread out in a single layer. Coconut will continue to crisp as it cools.

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Lime and Thyme Blueberry Bundt Cake

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You must make this cake. Make it for all the special occasions, big or small.Make it for yourself to linger over. Make it for anyone and everyone you love. It's so easy and dead lovely.

The first bite will hit you with the sweet toasted wheat flour and thyme. The second bite will surely reveal one of the many berries studded throughout. Wait for it, and you'll notice how the thyme makes a blissful complement to the blueberries and brings out the depth of their flavor. All the while, the lime syrup that coats the exterior keeps flavors bright.

Those berries, by the way, are dried wild blueberries, which makes this cake even easier to make (if more expensive). And the way dried berries plump up and tenderize in baked goods is truly one of the distinct pleasures of the oven.

Now, credit where credit is due. When the seriously fabulous (and fellow Knoxvillian!) Heather Baird of SprinkleBakes posted her very-first-ever vegan cake, there was no choice but to make it as quickly as I could. But obviously not the exact cake she made because that requires time, patience, skill, candy, and fondant. None of which are things I bring to baked goods. But on the MSV shelf is a handy bit of visual inspiration called Luscious Berry Desserts. Around here, it gets used mostly as inspiration for ways to serve fresh fruit gorgeously. But it also includes a pound cake (also not something that happens in the MSV kitchen) flavored with lime, thyme, and plenty of blueberries.

Put them together, and heaven on Earth is achieved.

Lime and Thyme Blueberry Bundt Cake

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serves 8-10, adapted from SprinkleBakes and Luscious Berry Desserts

2 cups full-fat coconut milk

4 sprigs fresh thyme (each 4-5 inches in length)

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 tsp lime zest, divided

2 cups natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice), divided

1 cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup dried wild blueberries

1/2 cup lime juice

Heat oven to 350. Oil and flour a Bundt pan.

Add thyme sprigs to coconut milk in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let steep 10 minutes. Discard thyme. Set coconut milk aside to let cool.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Separately, whisk together 2 tsp lime zest, coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups sugar, oil, and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until almost mixed. Add blueberries, stir just until combined, and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pan on a rack.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 2 tsp zest, and lime juice over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once the mixture boils, remove from heat and let stand five minutes.

Turn out cake onto your cooling rack, and place a pan underneath to catch excess syrup. Pour lime syrup slowly over the warm cake and let cool completely before cutting.

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Dijon Chickpea and Broccoli-Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Creamy Dill-Caper Dressing

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If there's one culinary benefit to winter, it's the freedom to crank the oven up and bake your veggies until browned and lovely. You're assured a plate with deep flavor with a minimum of effort. Make one of those veggies fluffy, earthy russet potatoes, and you've got a serious plate of comfort on your hands.

It goes like this: pop open a couple cans of chickpeas, tear up some broccoli, and toss that in a big pile of Dijon-style mustard (it'll seem like too much, but don't worry—it mellows out in the oven (thanks, Mollie Katzen)). The potatoes and the filling cook right alongside each other.

While all that takes care of itself in the oven, blend up a quick sauce that makes an ideal accompaniment for baked potatoes. It's cool and creamy thanks to a base of soy milk and tofu, and it's flavored with scallions, fresh dill, and capers. The dijon-roasted beans and veg also love this sauce. The three elements come together to make a totally satisfying meal.

Dijon Chickpea and Broccoli-Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Creamy Dill-Caper Dressing

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serves 4

For the potatoes, adaped from Food Network's Alton Brown:

4 medium-large russet potatoes, scrubbed

olive oil

fine sea or kosher salt

For the filling:

2 15-oz can chickpeas

3/4 lb broccoli crowns

1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

fine sea or kosher salt

For the dressing:

5 oz soft or firm tofu (one-third of a water-packed slab)

4 scallions, divided

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP packed fresh dill fronds

1 tsp drained capers

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 350.

Poke three sets of holes on each side of each potato with a fork. Rub potatoes lightly with olive oil (your hands work great) and set directly on a rack placed in the middle of the oven (leave half the rack open for the chickpea dish). (Place a piece of aluminum foil on the rack below to catch drippings.) Sprinkle potatoes with salt. Bake one hour. Check for tenderness, and, if needed, bake an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse chickpeas. Set aside in a sieve to let drain thoroughly. Break broccoli into small florets. Toss both with mustard, oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Add to oven and bake along with the potatoes, tossing once when the potatoes have been cooking for 30 minutes. The chickpeas and broccoli should be done when you test the potatoes at the one-hour mark.

Once the chickpeas and broccoli are in the oven, puree all sauce ingredients—using only the white and firm green parts of the spring onions—with an immersion blender in a wide-mouth mason jar. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to give the flavors time to mingle. Chop the scallion tops and set aside.

When the potatoes are done, carefully split them (press the ends to open them up for stuffing) and divide the filling among the potatoes. Serve at once. Allow each diner to add dressing to taste. Garnish with chopped scallion tops, as desired.

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Sausage-Spiced Tempeh-Walnut Patties

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Before we get to the recipe, I want to mention that I've updated the MSV resources page to include a couple local folks, including Knox Vegan. If you haven't been reading over there, Emily is doing some incredible restaurant outreach and is actively courting guest posts on (some locally made!) skin care products and anything else Knoxville vegans can dream up. She's working to make Knox Vegan a visible place to continue building community, and I would recommend her site even if that initiative didn't include linking to my recipes in her weekly newsletter. But it does! And I'm seriously grateful. She also shares in the newsletter valuable ideas and tidbits (like where to find vegan pho in town) that isn't on the site-proper, so don't skip signing up for that when you visit.

Now, onto the food.

If you're a fan of savory, highly flavorful breakfast foods, today is your today. A block of tempeh—for chew and blissfully nutty flavor—and a pile of walnuts—for buttery richness and firm-tender texture—come together with a fully-stocked spice rack to make breakfasts that will definitely wake up your taste buds, if not your pre-coffee brain.

And they're so easy to make. No sauteing anything before assembly—just a couple of spins through a food processor. They beg to be made again and again.

Calling for a generous quantity of walnuts, this isn't the cheapest recipe around. But it yields eight servings (since there's so much going on in these guys, a little goes a long way), and you can always keep the cost down by purchasing walnut pieces rather than whole halves.

The texture here is pretty fabulous. It's tender without being mushy, and the robust combination of tempeh and walnuts lets the patties stand up to a variety of serving options. Munch on them alone to complement a stack of pancakes, or place one on a buttery biscuit.

The biscuit option has received some particularly enthusiastic feedback, but my personal favorite way to make effortless breakfasts that are good to travel involves keeping a bag of English muffins in the freezer. This option keeps the patty in the spotlight, since it doesn't have to compete with the fat in a biscuit. And these patties really deserve a spotlight.

Of course, you're not limited to breakfast here. Feel free to crumble a patty into pasta, or any other dish that could use a shot of flavor.

And the aroma while they cook? Unbelievable.

Sausage-Spiced Tempeh-Walnut Patties

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serves 8

6 oz raw, unsalted walnut pieces

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried rubbed sage

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp crushed dried red chile pepper (or less, to taste)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

8 oz tempeh

2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari

2 TBSP water

1 tsp psyllium husk powder

Add walnut pieces to a food processor and process to crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add all spices (basil through black pepper). Set aside.

Roughly crumble tempeh into the processor bowl. Add tamari, water, and psyllium husk powder. Process until finely chopped (not pureed). Transfer to the mixing bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.

Set mixing bowl aside for five minutes (to let the psyllium husk powder begin to work) while you preheat a closing countertop electric grill. After the five minutes has passed, divide the mixture into eight equal portions. Form patties and cook, with the electric grill lid closed, for five minutes, or until heated through and browned on both sides. (For most electric grills, you'll need to cook these in two batches. If one is not available, try cooking these on the stove top in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes on each side, carefully flipping once.) Let cool five minutes before serving.

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Smoked Tofu and Avocado Enchiladas with Pinto-Chipotle Sauce

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These lovable enchiladas do it all. They make for an easy dinner, a fun and low-stress entertaining entree, and a breakfast you'll (probably almost) never get tired of. Relying on the convenience of flavorful smoked tofu, canned beans, and store-bought tortillas, this platter is a total breeze to put together. To balance all the ready-made elements, you'll season the tofu filling with fresh scallions and cilantro, plus add creamy satiety from avocado slices.

And the sauce! Bean lovers rejoice, because all it takes is a can of beans and a couple chipotles en adobo to make a seriously satisfying topping—all without much added fat or spending time toasting or soaking chiles. These guys come together in the time it takes to warm tortillas in the oven. No joke.

Unlike the Tex-Mex variety, these enchiladas require no baking after assembly. Simply top with the warm sauce, garnish, and dig in. The ease here is due entirely to the genius of Enchiladas. Being reminded enchiladas don't have to feel like a production (and bean sauce!) pretty much guarantees this won't be the last batch to appear on MSV. But it sure is a good start.

And if you feel froggy, go ahead and make your own tortillas. If not, don't sweat it.

Smoked Tofu and Avocado Enchiladas with Pinto-Chipotle Sauce

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serves 4, sauce adapted from (and full recipe inspired by) Enchiladas

8 oz smoked tofu, such as Soy Boy brand

12 6-inch corn tortillas

3 large spring onions

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro

1 15-oz can pinto beans

2 small-medium chipotles en adobo

1/2 cup water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

2 TBSP olive oil

2 ripe avocados

Heat oven to 350.

Grate tofu into a mixing bowl. Set aside to allow it to begin coming to room temperature.

Divide tortillas into three stacks of four. Wrap each stack securely in foil and heat in oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop white and firm pale green parts of spring onions. Add to the mixing bowl. Thinly slice tender green tops of scallions and set aside. Finely chop cilantro. Add half cilantro to the mixing bowl and set other half aside. Stir tofu, cilantro, and onions in mixing bowl to combine. (The tofu should be salty enough already, but taste and season, if needed.)

In a wide-mouth quart jar, use an immersion blender to puree pinto beans (along with the liquid in the can), chipotles, water, and bouillon cube. Blend until smooth, about a minute. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add bean sauce and cook until heated through, stirring frequently. (The adobo sauce, canned beans, and bouillon cube should provide enough salt, but taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.)

Halve and pit avocados. Use a sharp knife to carefully divide each half into six sections. Use a spoon to scoop slices from the skin.

By now, the tortillas should be ready. Carefully open a foil packet (leave remaining stacks wrapped until you're ready to work with them) and take a warm tortilla from the top. Place a generous spoonful of tofu just off-center and top tofu with two avocado slices. Roll up and place seam-side down on a serving dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, working quickly.

Pour pinto bean sauce evenly over assembled tortillas. Garnish with sliced scallion tops and reserved cilantro, if desired. Serve at once.

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Artichoke and Poblano Almond Pâté

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Almond pâté is great, but it's so rich that it tends to get reserved around here for entertaining. But today's version may change that.

Today's creamy little wheels of joy come packed with a good dose of bright artichokes and gently spicy poblano peppers. The natural bitterness of green veg plays well with the natural sweetness of blanched almond meal.

The result is a predictably pleasing spread that comes across a little lighter thanks to that flavor tweak, plus the extra bulk from the finely chopped veggies.

Keep a batch of of this stuff in the fridge and get ready to seriously—and effortlessly—elevate your sandwiches. And pretty much anything else you put in your pie hole.

Artichoke and Poblano Almond Pâté

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serves 4-8, adapted from here (post includes credit links)

3 oz (app. 3/4 cup) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

1 small poblano (2 1/2-3 oz total weight), trimmed, seeded, veined, and roughly chopped

1 tsp lime zest

150 g blanched almond meal

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 TBSP olive oil

1 small clove garlic

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Use a food processor to finely chop artichoke hearts and poblano. Add lime zest to processor bowl and set aside.

Blend all other ingredients with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in veggies and lime zest.

For a softer spread, heat oven to 350. Divide evenly between two 10-oz ramekins. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown on top. The spread can be used immediately as a tart base before baking, or let cool before serving on a tartine or crackers.

Alternately, to mold, line two 10-oz ramekins with a double layer of cheesecloth. Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins, fold cheesecloth over, and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. (In a pinch, chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.)

Heat oven to 350. Use the cheesecloth to lift the pâté from the ramekins, carefully transfer to an oiled (or parchment-lined) baking sheet (without cheesecloth), and bake 40-45 minutes, or until golden.

Let cool thoroughly before transferring to the refrigerator. This pâté improves as it sits, when the flavors have had a good chance to mingle.

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Lentil, Spinach, and Rosemary Crisp

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Lentil and spinach soup is probably the most common dish that gets thrown together in the MSV kitchen when there aren't any other bright ideas floating around. It's warm, earthy, comforting, full of protein, and ensures at least some chlorophyll makes it into the gut for the day.

Today, you get a little twist on that easy dish that increases the comfort factor by adding a crispy layer up top, and increases the dreamboat factor by folding fresh rosemary into that topping. For the tiniest bit of extra effort, you get a charming little meal.

Bonus: it's so easy. Nothing to saute, hardly anything to chop. Just throw it all in the pot and let it go. And if you make the whole thing in a Dutch oven, there's only one dish to wash at the end of the night. Okay, that and the small bowl you mix your topping in. Still, not bad.

Lentil, Spinach, and Rosemary Crisp

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serves 4

For the base:

2 1/2 cups water

8 oz brown lentils

8 oz frozen spinach

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

2 tsp Dijon-style mustard

1/t tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

For the topping:

1/2 cup panko crumbs

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary

1/8 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

2 TBSP olive oil

Add all base ingredients to a dutch oven and stir. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir again, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook 25 minutes.

In the last five or so minutes of cooking, heat oven to 350.

Remove lentils from heat and stir. The lentils should be almost done, and most of the water should have been absorbed, but there will still be some liquid in the bottom of the pot.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together all topping ingredients except olive oil. Add oil and stir with a fork until uniform. Crumble evenly over lentils.

Bake, uncovered, 18 minutes. Switch oven to the broiler and broil 3-5 minutes to brown the topping, being careful not to burn. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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The Basics No. 3: Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Plantains

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Continuing the MSV tradition of posting a helpful staple recipe at the turn of the calendar, today you get beans and rice. It doesn't get much more basic for vegan food, and for good reason. The combination of legumes and grains is seriously satiating, and it's an easy to dish to bolster with veggies and keep fresh with various spices, not to mention bean varieties. And finally, all you need is a garnish to make a simple, blissfully affordable meal feel fully formed (and good enough to serve friends).

Pico de gallo or a sofrito are always welcome toppings, but it's winter. So, to today's combo of black beans, coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika, you'll add an equally satisfying and equally easy helping of roasted plantains. A tiny bit of seasoning is all they need before getting totally delicious in the oven. (My favorite source for plantains in town is El Girasol. They keep three big boxes in the produce section for plantains in various stages of ripeness—green, yellow, and nearly ripe—so you can buy them to suit your timeline.)

The whole thing makes for a great meal that comes together breezily. The rice cooks while the plantains roast, and the beans simmer on the stove with their seasoning while the rice cooks. As ever, you can certainly make your beans from scratch. You can save money, control the texture better, and get deeper flavor if you do. But canned beans are wildly convenient and allow you to put a hearty meal together on short notice. Either way, you're well fed.

Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Plantains

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serves 4-6

2 ripe plantains

2 tsp olive oil

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch ground cayenne (optional)

pinch fine sea or kosher salt

2 cups water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

1 cup long-grain brown rice

2 15-oz cans black beans

1 small dried bay leaf

1 tsp smoked paprika

3/4 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Heat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Peel and slice plantains into diagonal chips about 1/2-inch thick. Add slices to a mixing bowl with oil, cinnamon, cayenne (if using), and pinch salt. Toss gently with your hands until uniformly coated. Transfer to prepared baking sheet in one layer and bake 15-20 minutes on each side, or until tender and golden.

Meanwhile, heat water in a medium pan and dissolve bouillon cube into it. Carefully measure out a half-cup broth and set aside. Cover pot, bring to a boil, and add rice. Replace the cover, bring back to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, 25 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.

Add reserved half-cup broth to a small pan. Drain beans (do not rinse) and add to pot. Cover and heat over medium heat. Add bay leaf, paprika, coriander, cumin, and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low with the lid cocked, and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, while the rice and plantains cook. Five minutes before serving, remove beans from heat. They will remain saucy but thicken as they cool.

Serve beans over rice and garnish with plantain slices.

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Baked Apples with Molasses & Spice Crumble

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So that's a pretty ugly-looking dish up there, but you really want to make it, anyway. Because while not a visual show-stopper, the combination of tart and sweet apples, apricot jam, vanilla, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar all baked together create an aroma that will make your knees buckle. It's incredible. And dead-simple to throw together whenever you feel like something sweet.

And the flavor's not so bad, either. The molasses obviously makes a stickier topping than you'd get from a classic crisp topping, but it also compacts the volume and concentrates the flavor. Pair that with a deep dish of tender apples with a little bite left in them, and you have the easiest path to a seriously satisfying little dessert. Transform leftovers into breakfast by tempering the sugar with a dollop of plain nondairy yogurt.

Baked Apples with Molasses & Spice Crumble

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serves 6

1 large (10-12 oz) sweet apple, such as Honeycrisp

1 small-medium (8-10 oz) tart apple, such as Granny Smith

1/2 cup apricot jam (look for a brand that lists apricots as the first ingredient)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

fine sea or kosher salt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup almond flour (or all-purpose flour)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

2 TBSP turbinado (or brown sugar)

2 TBSP canola oil

2 TBSP blackstrap molasses

Heat oven to 350.

Core apples and slice thinly into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add to a mixing bowl with jam, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Stir until well combined and transfer to a deep 8-inch round dish (an 8x8 square pan should also work).

To the same mixing bowl, add oats, almond meal, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss to combine. Add turbinado, oil, and molasses. Stir with a fork until uniformly moistened. Dollop topping over apples, spread out to cover evenly with wet hands or the wet back of a spoon. Bake 25-30 minutes, until apples are tender (but not too soft) and topping is browned and very fragrant.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Note: while hot, the jam and apple juices will remain syrupy but will firm up into a loose jammy consistency as the dish cools.

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