Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

img_3146     This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices is perfect for Fall, and good enough for Thanksgiving too.  I love it.  Sauté shallots and a little garlic in olive oil and white wine, add an apple and a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness.  Warming spices and coconut milk round it out.  Dress it up any which way, with homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple slices, etc.

2.5 to 3 lb. butternut squash  (cooked, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Cup chopped shallots  (about 6 shallots, depending on size)
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf,  one thyme sprig
1 Cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric  (for color–you won’t taste it)
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
4 Cups vegetable stock
1/2 Cup coconut creamer or coconut milk
one single star anise

Any toppings you desire, such as homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple bits, etc.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter and then add shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.  Cook until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Add squash, chopped apple, maple syrup, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and the single anise star.  Cook on low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, thyme and star anise.  Let soup cool.

Puree soup in blender.  Re-heat and serve with any toppings you desire.

Notes:  I like Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” base for this soup, but any vegetable stock will do.  Substitute onion for the shallots if necessary.   An easy way to cook the squash is to poke some slits down one side with a sharp knife, and then place it in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  Place in cold oven, set oven to 375 and bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I add the anise star later in the cooking process so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but instead gives a delicate hint.

Vegan Haupia Cake

img_3068     I adapated this Vegan Haupia Cake from a recipe by Roy Yamaguchi, a famous chef from Hawaii.  Haupia (pronounced HOW-pee-ya) is something we would enjoy at luaus on Kauai, back in the day.  It’s traditionally a cool and refreshing coconut pudding, often cut into squares.  Here it’s a softer pudding that’s been infused into a sponge cake.  It’s a bit richer than the original this way, but so ono (delicious).  We’ve eliminated the animal cruelty and the cholesterol, but added a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  You could use a vegan white or yellow cake, but the original recipe uses a sponge cake, which provides great texture.   Here is the vegan sponge cake recipe I use.  I make both layers and leave one in the freezer for future use.


Makes one 9-inch cake

a single 9-inch layer of vegan sponge cake, frozen and set to partially thaw
4 Cups unsweetened full-fat coconut milk  (two 15 oz. cans is fine)
1.5 Cups water, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 teaspoons coconut extract
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

Remove the single layer of cake from the freezer to let it thaw by half.  You will slice it into two layers, and it’s easier to slice if it’s about half frozen at that time.  In a small dry skillet, stir and toast the shredded sweetened coconut over medium heat–do not walk away, it only takes a couple of minutes.

To prepare the haupia, place the coconut milk, 1 Cup of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring a bit.  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 Cup water together to make a smooth slurry.  Add the slurry to the coconut mixture, and stir until the mixture returns to a low boil and thickens.  Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes, and then stir in coconut extract.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cake layer to level it flat.  Slice the cake in half horizontally to make two somewhat-even layers.  Place the bottom layer in a cake pan.  Pour the haupia over the bottom layer to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (this will save some for the top).  Place the top half of the cake layer over the haupia-soaked bottom layer, very gently pressing down.  Pour more of the haupia over the top of the cake, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 to 4 hours to set the haupia.  When ready to serve, garnish with the toasted shredded coconut.
img_3064  Bottom layer back in the cake pan and soaking in haupia.

Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake

img_3091     I made this recipe for Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake three times before it came out right.  On this side of the pond, the winning flour turned out to be Gold Medal Self Rising Flour.   I could see serving this for birthdays, afternoon tea, and other special occasions.  It’s humble but rich and so very English, with its layer of fruit jam and judicious dusting of powdered sugar on top.  Because this is a British recipe, I got out my trusty food scale.  Then I made sure my baking soda was fresh, and stuck with soy milk for these trials.  I also successively reduced the Golden Syrup, with good results.  In future, I’d like to try making it with almond milk and coconut milk.  And there will be a next time because this cake is good, really good.  Take that, Great British Baking Show.


Makes one 9-inch cake of two layers

400g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
250g vegan sugar
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks  (for greasing the pans)

115ml safflower oil  (2/3 Cup)
400ml soy milk, plain organic unsweetened  (supposedly 14 oz.)
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons strawberry jam
5 oz. strawberries, halved or quartered, for decoration  (optional)

for the vegan buttercream
125g Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread  (not the baking sticks)
250g powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease well two 9-inch regular cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper traced and cut to fit.  Flour each pan and tap to shake out any excess.   In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda and sugar.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, plant milk, Golden Syrup and vanilla, lifting the whisk to see that all the syrup is dissolved.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and using an electric hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake about 35 minutes until risen and cooked through.  Use a cake tester (such as a skewer) and make sure it comes out clean.  Leave pans to cool on racks for 15 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the inside sides of the pans,  remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks (an hour or two).

While cakes are cooling, make the filling.  With the electric hand mixer, beat together the Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Store in fridge if not using right away.

Spread the jam evenly over the bottom layer, pushing the jam a bit over the edges (so it will be seen once the cake is assembled).  Spread the buttercream on the underside of the top layer.  Put the top layer onto the bottom layer, so that the jam and buttercream meet.  Holding a sieve up over the cake, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.  If the top layer is sliding at all, push 2 or 3 shortened skewers into the cake.

Notes:  You could lighten this up and just use one layer, sliced horizontally in two, and then reduce the frosting.  Many bakers use a food scale for measuring ingredients, as it’s more accurate.  It’s interesting to note that I’m baking at sea level and this recipe worked fine for me anyway.  I notice many of the Victoria Sponges online have only a dusting of powdered sugar on top (no frosting on top), so that’s what I’ve done here.  I like Dickinson’s Preserves, particularly the Pure Cascade Mountain Red Raspberry, and the Pure Pacific Mountain Strawberry.  I found the original recipe had barely enough jam and frosting, so have increased those a bit, and reduced the fat ratio in the buttercream.  For this recipe, you will need two 9″ cake pans, some parchment paper, and a sieve for the powdered-sugar dusting.  I use this method to get cakes out of pans, except I use a baking rack instead of a plate or cardboard, and I don’t use plastic wrap.  Let the cake sit on the rack for an hour at least, to cool completely, before wrapping for the freezer, or icing.  Do NOT try to use the baking sticks for the buttercream, because they are made only for baking.  The Buttery Spread has a nice butter flavor.
img_3097  Fresh strawberries can go in the middle, but it’s optional.  I just wanted the pure jammy preserves.
img_3081  My cake layers came out different sizes, so I just used the shorter layer on the bottom, no worries.

Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.


Makes 6 to 8 slices

2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

IMG_3000     I adapted this Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole from a recipe on VegWeb.    Under the spaghetti sauce, there’s a layer of cream cheese with green onions and chives, and I added a layer of meatballs in the middle.  This is easy and pretty quick to throw together, and surprisingly delicious.  It makes plenty, so there will be leftovers, or you could serve it for a dinner party, with salad, garlic bread, and maybe a sorbet for dessert.


Serves 6

8 oz. thin spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/2 Cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 Cup vegan sour cream
1/3 Cup chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
12 oz. vegan meatballs  (about 16-20 is good)
24 oz. pasta sauce  (from a jar is fine)
1 Tablespoon vegan parmesan, such as Go Veggie brand

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a pot of water, break spaghetti in half and start cooking pasta per package directions.

With a fork, mix vegan cream cheese, sour cream, scallions and chives in a bowl.
When pasta is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1/3 Cup of pasta water and set it aside.  Remove from heat and strain pasta.  Into the empty, still-warm pot, put the butter, nutritional yeast and the 1/3 Cup reserved pasta water.  Add strained pasta back to the pot and with a wooden spoon, mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.

Add half the pasta to the casserole dish and level it somewhat.  Place the vegan meatballs on top of this bottom layer of pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta on top of the meatballs.   Add dollops of the cream-cheese mixture to the top and spread gently with the back of a spoon.  Pour the pasta sauce over all.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes–you should see the edges bubbling.  I bake the first 15 minutes with the lid on, but am not sure if this is necessary.

Notes:  I use an old Corning Ware 3-Liter casserole dish that is about 8″ square by 4″ tall.  This tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good one to make ahead.  I set out the sour cream and cream cheese for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  The variations are endless:  you could lean into a more whole-foods, gluten-free version with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Or instead of meatballs, mix chopped walnuts into the tomato sauce, to mimic ground beef and add protein and omegas.  During that summer glut of garden tomatoes, fold some in.  Or mix some chopped spinach into the cream-cheese and scallion mixture, etc.  Buon appetito!


IMG_2951     There are quite a few vegan key lime pie recipes out there, but none were ever quite perfect for me.  The no-bake ones tasted of cornstarch, or I couldn’t get the vegan pudding packets required, etc.  So after a couple of tries, here’s one that’s really delicious, with easy-to-get ingredients.  It’s got that balance of sweet-to-pucker, it’s easy, and it’s pretty.  As with many cream pies, you make it the day before, so it’s perfect for a dinner party


Makes one pie, approx. 8-10 slices

3 medium-size regular limes, organic  (enough to yield 1/2 Cup fresh lime juice)
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I used Trader Joe’s)
12 oz. box Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Extra-Firm, pressed
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons zest from the limes, plus more for grating on top
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
9-inch vegan graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler has one that’s accidentally vegan)
vegan whipped topping, such as coconut whipped cream, or So Delicious Coco Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Zest the limes and reserve 1/3 of the zest for garnish on top of the pie.  Juice two of the limes and see if it comes to 1/2 Cup of lime juice.  If not, juice the third lime.  In a food processor, mix cream cheese, tofu, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, lime juice and 2 teaspoons of the lime zest.  Mix well, add green food coloring and mix again.  Pour into crust, place on baking sheet and bake 35 minutes.  It might jiggle just a bit when you take it out of the oven–that’s okay.  Let cool on rack.  Refrigerate overnight.  Grate or sprinkle fresh lime zest over the pie, and serve with vegan whipped cream.  When you cut it, rinse or wipe your knife between slices.  It cuts even better after two days in the fridge.

Notes:  Depending on the depth of your crust, there might be about 1/3 Cup extra filling, that you can cook alongside the pie in a ramekin (for a pudding snack) if desired.  If you don’t have a food processor, a hand mixer would probably do just fine.  The color of the pie will deepen a bit upon cooking.  Do not add extra vanilla, because it will muddy the green color.  Bottled lime juice does not taste as good as fresh–I tried it.  Mori-Nu silken tofu in the box is what is called aseptic packaging, see photo below.
IMG_2875  Silken tofu in an aseptic box.

Easy Blueberry Sauce

IMG_2946     If you have a bumper crop or windfall of extra blueberries, you could freeze them for smoothies or pies, or you can make this fabulous easy blueberry sauce.  It can be used on pancakes, or vegan ice cream, stirred into vegan cream cheese for bagels, swirled into vegan cheesecake batter, etc.


Makes about one pint

2-1/2 Cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/3 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon  (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the blueberries, and the vanilla.  In a blender, add all other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  In a small saucepan, stirring often over medium heat, bring blueberry mixture to a boil.  Immediately turn heat down a click or two, and add reserved blueberries.  Cook at a low boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, let cool, and chill.  Use or freeze.

Notes:  If you let the raw blended mixture sit around without cooking it, it could clump, maybe from the pectin.  If that happens, you can re-blend or use a potato masher.

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

IMG_2868     After seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars where they eat the Dragon Carrot Risotto, I knew I had to make it.  So last Fall, I ordered organic seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, and began planning a few dishes to make.   I found this recipe online and veganized it.  Swapping out the animal products still produced a classic, restaurant-style risotto, with a real flavor of parmesan.  Caramelizing the carrots is genius, and this is good enough for company, for a birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  In the end, I did use a mélange of carrot cultivars to make this dish, because that day, along with the Dragon carrots, I also pulled Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots from the ground.   This dish makes a lot and reheats well.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided  (not canola oil)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 Cups)
(I used a food processor for the carrots)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
1/3 Cup minced onion
1.5 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 Cup vegan parmesan, I like Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon roughly-chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add carrots and stir until well coated.  Ad 1/2 Cup water, salt and sugar, cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender.  Uncover and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown.  Reserve half of these cooked carrots.  In a blender, puree the other half with 3/4 Cup hot water.

Bring broth to a simmer and keep hot, covered, over low heat.

In same (unwashed) pot used for carrots, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, 1 minute.  Add wine and cook, stirring until wine evaporates.  Add carrot puree and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

Add 1/2 Cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Repeat process, adding 1/2 Cup broth at a time and stirring often until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).  At least 1 Cup of broth will remain.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the caramelized carrots.  Fold in the remaining carrots, cream cheese, parmesan, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and the thyme.  Add up to 1 Cup broth (1/4 Cup at a time) to loosen the risotto.  Season with pepper.

Garnish each bowl of risotto with the remaining parsley and reserved carrots.  Serve immediately.

Notes:  Better Than Bouillon also makes a very good Seasoned Vegetable Base that would work fine.  When reheating, add some leftover broth or water to loosen it up again.

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

One Pot Pasta

IMG_2843     One Pot Pasta is a thing–it’s all over the internet, so I tried it.  It’s good, but be aware that since you’re NOT draining the pasta, there is a slight starchy quality to the sauce.  It was quite good though, and it makes a quick meal with no colander to wash.  Also, there’s no walking to the sink with a heavy pot of boiling water (to drain the pasta).  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, except I prefer thinner pasta, so I used spaghetti instead of linguine.


Serves 4

12 ounces spaghetti
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, or chopped fresh tomatoes, if in season
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4.5 Cups water
vegan parmesan for sprinkling, such as Go Veggie Grated Parmesan Topping

In a large skillet with straight sides, or a small stock pot (which is what I use for everything), combine uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, salt, pepper and water.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Keep at a low boil, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente, and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Divide among bowls and garnish with basil.

Serve with any toppings you like, such as vegan parmesan, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, cannellini beans, sautéed vegan sausage, blanched broccolini, etc.

Notes:  Can also be made with linguine.  Do not try this with capellini or angel hair, because finer pasta sort of breaks down into a starchy mess (speaking from experience).  I made this twice so I could be sure of the technique.  If there are no fresh tomatoes in season, I suppose one could try using well-drained canned tomatoes, and a few Tablespoons less water.
IMG_2849  I used red and yellow Amish tomatoes.
IMG_2848  Toppings.
IMG_2846  Still cooking.

Easy Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

IMG_2860     This is kind of the perfect peanut butter pie, adapted from a recipe called Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, on the Mori-Nu web site.  I simply made it no-bake, switched out the honey, and used a store-bought crust.   It only takes about 15 minutes to make, although it does have to chill in the fridge overnight.  The texture holds together well, but it’s silky and pudding-like.  It’s so decadent that you’ll have to reassure people it doesn’t have dairy or eggs in it.


8-10 servings

graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler Ready Crust is accidentally vegan)
1 package Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, extra firm
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
2/3 Cup vegan cane sugar
1/2 Cup organic creamy no-stir peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup  or  agave syrup
chocolate syrup for drizzling  (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor, puree until smooth, and pour into crust.  Chill in fridge overnight.  If desired, serve with dollops of Coconut Whipped Cream, and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Tips:  It’s possible that this would NOT work with one of those natural peanut butters where you have to stir in the oil–I don’t know.  I had good success with organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  I used O Organics brand.  Maranatha also makes a good organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  This would also be a great recipe for kids since it’s no-bake.