I love to entertain around the holidays and even though our friends and family are omnivores I still only prepare plant-based food. My goal is always to win them over with flavor! Here are three of my favorite holiday dips which are great on crackers, crostini, or crudités, that I served up this morning on Fox 7’s “Good Day Austin; Clean Eating” segment with Loriana Hernandez.

This lentil walnut pate is from two of my favorite vegan restaurants. Angelica’s Kitchen in New York City has been serving delicious and healthy food for over 30 years. I was a regular customer when I lived in Manhattan in the 80s. Shortly after I moved to southern California in 1989, Real Food Daily opened and it was a huge step in raising awareness of gourmet vegan fare. Much to my delight owner/chef Ann Gentry had incorporated the lentil walnut pate I used to love at Angelica’s kitchen only she gave it a little more pizzazz by adding fresh thyme and a drizzle of tofu sour cream. The recipe here is almost exactly the same as Real Food Daily’s, though I changed the measurements of some of the ingredients slightly and I offer options for the mirin and the miso (after having to improvise a couple of times!). I thought of making up my own, but why mess with success? This is truly a party hit and one of my favorites!

Lentil Walnut Pate with Dilled Tofu Sour Cream on Rice Crackers
3/4 cup brown or green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T mirin or sherry or marsala wine
1/2 cup loosely packed basil or 1 T dried
1 T umeboshi paste
2 T yellow, white or barley miso
1 sprig fresh thyme, destemmed and chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse lentils, place in 2 quart sauce pan and bay leaf and cover with filtered water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover lower heat and cook until soft, about 25-30 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Meanwhile dry toast walnuts in pan or on cookie sheet in oven until golden and fragrant. Allow to cool.
Saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat until soft and translucent, add garlic and saute a few minutes more. It’s OK to allow onions to get a golden or brown. Stir in mirin or sherry to deglaze, remove from burner and set aside to cool.
Combine lentils, walnuts and onion mixture in food processor with remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Spoon into pate mold or bowl and chill until ready to serve.
Use ice cream scoop to form a mound on plate, drizzle with tofu cream, and garnish with thyme twigs.
Tofu Sour Cream:
1 container vacuum packed, extra firm silken tofu
1 1/2 T umeboshi vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried dill or 2 T chopped fresh
Blend everything but dill in food processor. Transfer to bowl and stir in dill. Chill until ready to serve.

Herbed Cashew Cheeze served with Bagel and Pita Chips

This dip I came up with as an alternative to scallion cream cheese. I love a good bagel with cream cheese and this works great if you don’t eat dairy. It’s also great on crackers and with veggies. Much to my delight I discovered a similar recipe by one of my mentors Chad Sarno in his book with Kris Carr “Crazy Sexy Kitchen.” Only his is slightly more gourmet and very delicious so I have included it here as well. You will notice they both contain the same base of soaked cashews, an acid (lemon, vinegar) and salt.

In a blender or Vitamix combine:

2 cups raw cashews or cashew pieces, soaked for at least 2 hours to over night and drained

2/3 cup water

1/2 a large lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)

1/8 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 capsules probiotics, empty into blender and discard capsules (I used PB 8 but you can use whatever brand you’ve got or skip this if you don’t have any and it will turn out fine!)

Blend until smooth, transfer to bowl and stir in:

 

2 scallions or green onions, white and part of green, minced

 

1 small shallot, minced

 

2 -3 Tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, chopped small

 

Chill in fridge at least an hour before serving. Great on crackers, crostini, sliced baguette, crudités, toasted bagels and as a sandwich spread.

Variations: Try adding other fresh herbs like tarragon. Or basil and thyme. Or cilantro and mint. Or olives or capers. Change it up to match your other dishes!

Chad Sarno’s Crazy Sexy Artichoke Aioli Dip

Base: 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 4 or more hours and drained

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed to blend

2 T olive oil

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 T lemon juice

1 T agave (I actually use less or none at all as I find it a little too sweet otherwise)

2 cloves garlic

3/4 tsp sea salt

Blend everything on high in blender or Vitamix until smooth and creamy, Stir in the following to 1 cup of the above base:

1/4 roughly chopped jarred or canned artichokes (I use the kind packed in water)

2 T chopped fresh tarragon

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 1/2 T minced shallot

1 T lemon zest

Chill and serve! Delish…

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Spread on Crostini

2 large, whole roasted red peppers (jarred or roast your own red bells)

1 cup whole raw almonds

1 chopped garlic clove

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*optional – You can also add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cup coarsely chopped oil cured black olives
Put all ingredients except olives in food processor and pulse until blended but still a little chunky (like the consitency of chunky peanut butter). Transfer to bowl and fold in chopped olives. Serve on crostini, crackers or crudite.