When it comes to healthy, plant-based food options, we’ve come a long way in the past few years.
But one area that’s apparently still lacking bigtime: snacks.
I sent out a survey to the NMA newsletter list a few weeks ago — mainly to get some feedback about what features you’re looking for in the upcoming community site — and in doing so I asked about your frustrations with fitness and diet (which, it turned out, was also a pretty good way to generate blog post ideas).
One of the most common problems, at least when it comes to food? Not enough vegan snacks!
The No Meat Athlete post about 24 healthy vegan and vegetarian snacks is a perennial favorite, but today I’m excited to share one of the snacks I almost always have on hand — an amuse bouche I discovered at a local Asheville restaurant that’s simple, healthy, and incredibly tasty.
Speaking of Asheville, though, I owe you an update …
Why We Love Asheville
Two years ago, my wife and I decided to pick up and move our family away from a comfortable home amongst family and friends in Maryland. We wanted adventure, and to try a place more befitting of our lifestyle, and we found it in Asheville — a small city in the mountains of western North Carolina that’s known for its arts, craft beer, vegan-friendliness, family- and pet-friendliness, running and hiking trails, and (for lack of a better term) laid-back hippie vibe.
I get a surprising number of emails from readers considering a move themselves who ask about our impression of Asheville now that we’ve been here close to two years. In short: we love it.
Like any place, there are little drawbacks here and there, and certainly being eight hours by car away from our family (instead of 10 minutes) is still the toughest part. But each time we drive back to Asheville after a weekend away, when the city pops up out of nowhere in the middle of the mountains, my wife and I feel a sense of joy unlike anywhere else we’ve ever lived.
The first reason I love it here: we can live five minutes from a vibrant, eclectic downtown, yet be in a woodsy neighborhood with great hills for training (and I do mean woodsy — we’ve seen bears with cubs twice, once climbing a tree in our backyard!).
As for the social scene, a perfect example of what Asheville has to offer: last night we went out to a movie (Anchorman 2 — not recommended) … at a local brewery. A local brewery that happens to have a full-size movie theater. And, oh yeah, that brewery / movie theater happens also to be a pizza place, and they make a vegan pizza. There aren’t many other places I can think of where you can get any two of “brewery, movie theater, and vegan pizza” together, much less all three.
That type of quirkiness — with a little bluegrass thrown in for good measure — is Asheville’s charm.
And of course we love that we can find a vegan dish in just about any restaurant or food truck, so many of which serve local beer, buy produce from local farms, have compost bins, and charge reasonable prices. But of all the great places to eat, one stands out as my favorite, and that’s where today’s recipe comes from.
I rave about Plant to just about anyone who asks. If someone comes to visit and wants a taste of Asheville vegan fare, that’s where I’m taking them. I’ve had the pleasure of eating at a few of the country’s most famous vegan restaurants — in New York, L.A., Philadelphia, and San Francisco — and as great as they all are, Plant holds its own next to any of them. (Food + Wine and Travel + Leisure agree.)
And if you’re looking for some of the best vegan ice cream you’ve ever tasted, you’re in luck — Amy’s Kitchen recently started selling a Plant-inspired non-dairy frozen dessert, currently available at “Greenlife and Earth Fare in Asheville, Wegmans, Price Chopper, and Stop and Shop in the Northeast, and many Whole Foods outlets,” and will soon be available nationwide.
Plant’s chef and co-owner, Jason Sellers, contributed three recipes from his restaurant to my book, No Meat Athlete, and today it’s my pleasure to share one of them here.
In Chef Jason’s words:
S’nuts are super, sexy, smoky, snacking nuts. At Plant, we serve S’nuts during dinner service as a pre-dinner snack. The only difference between the recipe here and those that we serve for amuse bouche is that we smoke our snacking nuts over apple or cherry wood for about 5 minutes. If you have a smoker, then doing so will take your S’nuts to another level.
I’d add that a batch disappears within hours at my house — due in no small part to our son, who is as picky in his eating habits as any three-year-old. S’nuts are a good way to get him to eat something besides his normal sustenance of bananas, hummus, and Ezekiel bread.
As for cooking notes, I’ve only made S’nuts with raw almonds, and it always turns out great. Each time I make them, I crave the flavor more the next time, so I’ve become more heavy-handed with the seasonings over time. Make your first batch as written, then adjust as you see fit.
From No Meat Athlete, courtesy of Jason Sellers, Plant Restaurant, Asheville, North Carolina.
- 4 cups of your favorite energy-rich nuts (e.g. hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Large pinch each black pepper and onion powder
[Matt's note: I add up to a half-teaspoon of liquid smoke before baking, since I don't have a smoker.]
Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Combine the nuts and maple syrup in a mixing bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until the nuts are coated. Then season with salt, pepper, and onion powder and stir again to make uniform. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking pan covered with parchment paper or a reusable baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and store or mix with fruit and seeds for a nutritive trail mix.
[Matt's note: You won't be able to gauge when they're done based on texture, because they'll be fairly chewy (like raw almonds are) until they cool and get crispy. I suggest baking for 12 minutes the first time you make this, then adjusting next time if necessary.]
Yield: 4 cups