Cilantro Pepita Pesto Sweet Potato Fries

Cilantro Pepita Pesto Sweet Potato Fries

I love fries! Well, I love homemade baked fries the most. I eat them several times a week (okay most days..) and I can't imagine how sad my plate would be without a big side of fries! I love russet potato fries, red potato wedges, yellow potato fries and of course sweet potato fries!! 

And while I LOVE just plain fries with a bit of salt, I love to sometimes jazz them up with a bit of something. This something is some awesomely delicious oil free vegan pesto made with cilantro and pepitas (if you haven't had them they are hulled pumpkin seeds!) 

If you hate cilantro you can use basil instead, I won't judge!

Oh and by the way - my family loves these fry baskets that I picked up at the store! So fun for sandwiches and fries outside or at home sitting on the couch! We just line them with parchment paper and throw our meals into them. Easy clean up!

Cilantro Pepita Pesto Sweet Potato Fries

Cilantro Pepita Pesto Sweet Potato Fries

makes 4-6 servings

  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into fries
  • 2 cups loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno, optional
  • juice of 1 lime
  • big pinch of salt 
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicon baking mat. 

Lay the sweet potato fries on the baking sheets in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the fries and then bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Meanwhile blend the cilantro, pepitas, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and water together until smooth (I used my awesome new Blendtec for a really smooth sauce but a food processor would work as well!) Taste and add any additional salt as necessary. 

Toss the fries with as much of the pesto as you like! Any leftover pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

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Easy Baba Ganoush (oil free!)

Easy Baba Ganoush  (roasted eggplant dip!)

So we all know that vegans are famous for loving hummus but did you know that baba ganoush can be just as delicious? It can be virtually the same but you use roasted charred eggplant instead of chickpeas. This results in a lighter but smoky delicious dip that can be mildly addictive! 

You can eat it on pita chips, cut vegetables and even use it as a fabulous sandwich spread. I'm a dip fanatic, if you haven't heard, and there are few foods that don't get some dip or sauce slathered on them!

Easy Baba Ganoush  (roasted eggplant dip!)

Since the recipe calls for charring the eggplant you could always do this on the grill - which is super fun in the summer! Just keep turning them over the grates to get them charred and toasted. Then you can wrap them up and place them on a higher rack to let them cook until they are very soft (or transfer them to the oven to finish off!) Then you could eat this dip slathered on some plant-strong burgers for the best BBQ ever!

Easy Baba Ganoush  (roasted eggplant dip!)

Easy Baba Ganoush

  • 2 large eggplant

  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 large garlic cloves

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Cover a baking sheet with foil (parchment paper should not be put under a broiler or it can catch on fire, trust me!) 

Prick your eggplants several times with a fork and place on the baking sheet. Put under the broil and char for 2-3 minutes, or until the skin starts to darken and blister. Use some long tongs to turn it so that each side gets charred. 

Leave them in the oven, turn off the broiler and turn it to bake at 375 degrees. Let it bake for 30 minutes, or until they are very tender. 

Take it out and let them cool until you can handle them comfortably. 

Scoop the eggplant flesh out of the skins and put into your blender (I used my high speed Blendtec and it made this the smoothest dip I've ever had!) Add in all of the remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth (my blender totally blended up the sesame seeds.) 

Add additional salt or lemon juice to taste if necessary. Garnish with some sesame seeds and parsley if desired.

Serve up with some vegetables, pita chips (bake some pita at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp!), or spread it on a sandwich... mmm!!! 

 

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100% Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels with 3 dips

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (vegan!)

I don't know of anyone that doesn't like a soft pretzel now and again. We all have smelled those delicious pretzels in the mall while walking by... just wishing, oh wishing, that they were vegan and made from whole grains. 

Okay, well, wake up! They aren't likely to have 100% whole wheat soft pretzels anywhere you go but hey you can make them at home - EASILY! This is by far the easiest soft pretzel recipe I have tried so far. Some require several long rises and boiling the pretzels. Those are delicious, trust me, but more work. This one just requires a short rising time and a quick dunk in baking soda water for that authentic pretzel flavor. It's based off a King Arthur Flour recipe (here) but of course tweaked to make it whole grain and vegan. 

Yes, they require yeast but do not be afraid of the yeast. Buy some fresh stuff, have confidence and follow the directions. You will have some yummy soft pretzels soon enough!

pretzel7.jpg

Now of course these are much heartier than any soft pretzel made with bleached refined white flour. That's not a bad thing though!! They are far more filling, have a delicious bite and really stand up to thick dips (also, they are McDougall friendly and Plant Strong!) I recommend using a White Whole Wheat Flour instead of regular whole wheat flour because it is a lot softer in texture. It just works so well in so many recipes that it's my go to whole wheat flour. 

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (vegan!)

And what's a pretzel without some fun dips to go along with it? I made a Creamy "Honey" Mustard Dip (This one I've got more plans for!), a Beer Mustard Sauce and a Beer Cheese Dip. Of course beer because beer and pretzels are best friends. I think it would also be good with the Vegan American Cheese and Ro*tel Dip so you've got all sorts of options!

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (vegan!)
Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (vegan!)

100% Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels with 3 dips

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional

Place the first give ingredients into a bowl and stir until well combined (you can also do this with your stand mixer.) Start with the lower amount of water and add a bit more water as necessary to get a nice soft dough. Knead the dough by hand or in your mixer for about 5 minutes, until it's soft and smooth. Sprinkle the dough with flour and place it in a plastic bag. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting prepare the baking soda bath. Combine the boiling water and baking soda in a heat proof dish (I used a small 9x9 dish.) Make sure to stir until the baking soda is totally disolved. Set it aside and let it cool.

Once the dough has rest for 30 minutes take it out of the bag and place it on your working area. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and then let the pieces rest again for another 5 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat

Roll each piece of dough into a long rope (my daughter said it was a snake!) and twist each rope into a pretzel like in the images below. 

roll

roll

grab the bottom end and fold that over to make twist

grab the bottom end and fold that over to make twist

and press the ends of the pretzel onto the dough

and press the ends of the pretzel onto the dough

fold one end over the other

fold one end over the other

now grab both ends and flip them up to the top of the loop. (I was doing this one handed..)

now grab both ends and flip them up to the top of the loop. (I was doing this one handed..)

then they get to bathe in baking soda water!

then they get to bathe in baking soda water!

Once they are formed into the classic pretzel shape dunk them into the baking soda water. Let them soak for about a minute, flip them over and then let them soak for another minute.

After they've soaked place them on your baking sheet and sprinkle with some coarse, kosher or pretzel salt (optional but delicious!) Let them rest again for 10 minutes. 

Place them into the oven and let them bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Pull them out and eat em! Okay, okay let them cool a bit and THEN eat them. Serve them with dips (check out 3 dips we made below!) 

 

Dips!!

Creamy "Honey" Mustard

Blend the following together until smooth (I used my super handy immersion blender!) : 

  • 1/2 cup Plant Strong Mayo (or your favorite low/no fat vegan mayo)
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup, agave or a couple of drops of stevia

 

Beer Mustard Sauce

  • 1/2 cup beer (I used a hefeweizen - use your favorite beer here) 
  • 3 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup

Bring the beer to a simmer over medium high heat in a really small sauce pan (as small as you've got!) Cook until the beer has been reduced down to about 1/4 cup. It should be thick and syrupy. 

Mix in the mustard and maple syrup. 

 

Beer Cheese Dip

  • 12oz  (about 1 cup) silken tofu (such as Mori-nu Soft Silken Tofu)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup beer (I used a hefeweizen here again. Use any non-flavored low bitter beer. If you use an IPA the bitter flavor can really overpower everything.) 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon miso paste (white, "mellow" or red work! Can't find it? Use soy sauce/tamari instead.)
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Blend everything together until it's very smooth. Heat it up until its warm. (Again, I used my immersion blender for this!) Leftover should be kept well covered in the refrigerator for 5-7 days max. 

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Vegan American Cheese and Rotel Dip

Vegan American Cheese and Rotel Dip

I am not even closed to ashamed to admit that I grew up loving and eating Velveeta! Totally full on loved it. It's a Tex-Mex staple and that's what we ate. No shame. And the best dip ever is made with just Velveeta and Ro*Tel. If you've never had it don't worry about it because you can make the vegan version now! Of course I had to remake it!!

I use tapioca starch to make it have that "stretchy" thick cheesy texture. You can find it online or in many grocery stores these days. You can use cornstarch or rice flour instead but it won't have the same texture - it will just be thicker. It will still taste awesome so don't worry too much! 

This is the perfect nacho dip for dunking chips, veggies or even pouring over a burrito. I've made several batches now and I think I can safely say it is my new favorite dip. 

Vegan American Cheese and Rotel Dip

Vegan American Cheese and Rotel Dip

  • 12oz  (about 1 cup) silken tofu (such as Mori-nu Soft Silken Tofu)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon miso paste (white, "mellow" or red work! Can't find it? Use soy sauce/tamari instead.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour. If you cannot find it you can use rice flour or cornstarch but it won't have the same texture so try to find tapioca starch sometime!)
  • 1 can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles (or about 1.5 cups chunky salsa will work too) 

Blend everything except the can of Ro*Tel together until it's very smooth (I use my immersion blender for this!) Pour into a small pan and stir in the Ro*Tel (do not drain.) 

Heat the sauce over high heat until it comes to a boil. Make sure you stir constantly while making this sauce so it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom. Continue to stir while boiling until the sauce becomes thick. Remove from the heat, let it cool enough so that you don't burn your mouth and eat! 

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Baked Heart Shaped Seasoned French Fries

Baked Heart Shaped Seasoned French Fries (Plant Strong!)

This is about the lowest effort cutesy food you can make with huge results! My daughter was so cute about these. She said "Mama these are hearts. They mean luuvv (yes she says it like that!)" So we ate our love up with some ketchup (mustard for me!) and enjoyed our potatoes in yet another way! 

Baked Heart Shaped Seasoned French Fries (Plant Strong!)

These will be perfect for serving up with some Easy Black Bean Burgers and a side of Asparagus with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce or Sriracha Roasted Broccoli! Talk about a sweet healthy vegan meal! 

Hopefully the diagram below is clear enough to show you how easy it is to cut these. You cut the whole potato instead of each individual piece (that would take forever! No one has time for that!) 

And don't feel limited by the seasoning blend I have here. Maybe try it with some Italian seasoning instead, or curry powder or even just salt and pepper. 

heartfries1.jpBaked Heart Shaped Seasoned French Fries (Plant Strong!)g

Baked Heart Shaped Seasoned French Fries

  • 4 large potatoes 
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (salt free like this one!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat non-stick baking mat. Wash your potatoes really well. 

Below is my little diagram of how I cut the potatoes to make them into little hearts. Super easy!


You can use a manoline to slice them so they are all the same thickness. 

Toss with the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Spread into a single layer and put them into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes. I start to check after 15 minutes and then every 5 minutes after that. Recently I discovered that I don't even need to flip them for them to turn out good. I just wait until they start to lightly brown in spots on the tops and sides and then I know they are done! 

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