Vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake

german chocolate cake     This vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake is directly from that fabulous recipe site, VegWeb.  It’s so good, and it’s easy!  Please note that this is really only enough for one layer of cake, and I have not tried doubling the recipe.  It would also be great on a pan of brownies.  The classic recipe for this frosting calls for four egg yolks and 12 ounces of evaporated milk.   No need.

COCONUT PECAN FROSTING FOR GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Makes enough for one 9-inch layer of cake, or a pan of brownies

INGREDIENTS
1.5 Cups sweetened flake coconut
1 Cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3/4 Cup vegan sugar
1/2 Cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a medium-to-large saucepan put all ingredients except vanilla.  Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 12 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and immediately stir in vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes, and then pour on cake and spread while frosting is still warm and pliable.  Let set up for a few minutes before serving.  Supposedly, it sets up faster if you cover it and place it in the fridge, but I found this unnecessary.

Notes:  In my opinion, this is really only enough to frost one layer of cake.  I have not tried doubling the recipe.  Measure out one Cup of pecan halves and then roughly chop them.  I used WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Plain Soymilk.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Horseradish Aioli

IMG_2220     With a couple little tweaks, I veganized this quick and easy recipe from another site.  Now it’s just as delicious, but also cholesterol-free and cruelty-free.  You can have these in the oven in 5 minutes!

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH HORSERADISH AIOLI

Serves 2 to 4 as appetizers.

VEGAN HORSERADISH AIOLI
1 Tablespoon ground horseradish
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS
9 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients for Horseradish Aioli and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Toss frozen artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once or twice during baking, until crispy on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve with the aioli.

Notes:  Kelchner’s Horse-Radish (the plain one is vegan), can sometimes be found in the seafood department of the grocery store, in a 6.5 oz. jar.  I prefer Wizard brand Worcestershire sauce.
IMG_2218  These were the only frozen artichoke hearts I could find, but the original recipe calls for a 12-ounce bag.

Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

IMG_2079     Cheers and Happy New Year  to you!  This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.  On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon.  My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge.  I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%.  I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor.  My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together.  This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor.  One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous.  Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts.  I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day.  Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation.  Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails.  I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good.  The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation.  If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base  which makes plenty!

BEET AND LEMON SHRUB

Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

INGREDIENTS
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained  (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice  (from about 5 large lemons,  or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired

DIRECTIONS
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside.  Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans.  Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice).  In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved.  Refrigerate 48 hours before using.  Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur.  Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.

Notes:   I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice.  I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it.  Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage.  If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate.  You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off.  Filtered water is best.  Other beet posts on this site include Growing BeetsCinnamon Stick Quick Pickled BeetsRoasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.

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IMG_2177  One of my essential old kitchen tools that really came in handy for this recipe.  Lemon squeezer by IMUSA.  Tip: cut the ends off the lemons to get the best squeeze.

Lemonana

IMG_2104     We had frozen “Limonana” (Lemonana) at Dizengoff in Philadelphia recently and I was struck by the herbal flavor of it, and by how well it went with their very excellent hummus.  Lemonana is basically lemonade with a generous dose of mint, and it’s been called the national drink of Israel.  This aint your Grandma’s lemonade–it’s assertively tart with a divine herbal edge.  It can be made in a good variety of ways, but I know they make a mint syrup at Dizengoff, and they choose to serve it frozen.  I looked at a bunch of Lemonana online and developed this easy recipe, which tastes a lot like the one at Dizengoff.  I’m convinced, however, that Dizengoff uses a secret ingredient–some savory herb or something.  I’ll be trying that in future, but in the meantime, this is so good and refreshing that I’m satisfied.

LEMONANA

Serves:  2 to 3

Mint Syrup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1.5 oz. fresh mint
Combine water and sugar in a very small saucepan and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and wait 10 minutes for the syrup to cool slightly.  Stir in fresh mint, cover and let steep for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and discard mint leaves or strain syrup through a mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in refrigerator for up to one month.

Lemonana
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup water
2/3 Cup mint syrup
2 drops orange blossom water  (optional)
20-30 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS
To a blender, add lemon juice, water, mint syrup and orange blossom water, and stir.  Add ice and blend until frozen, adding a little more ice if necessary.  Taste.

Notes:  My ice cubes are those smaller crescent-shaped ice “cubes” that come out of an ice dispenser in my freezer.  You may need more ice than this, unless you’re using the old-fashioned, big rectangular ice cubes.  Any leftover mint syrup can also be used in iced tea, of course.  To save time, make mint syrup ahead and have it well chilled.  Two photos of Dizengoff below.  Dizengoff has a cult following for their hummus and their pita bread.
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Tofu Ricotta

IMG_2081     If you have a block of tofu and a jar of capers in the house, you’re all set for this easy, delicious vegan ricotta spread.  We recently had dinner at Charlie was a sinner. restaurant in Philadelphia and loved it.  Our favorite dish was a chargrilled Caesar salad, but we also really liked their house-made “ricotta with agave, black peppercorn and olive oil”  served with grilled bread.  The waitperson said it was made of “whipped tofu.”  My version below is adapted from Tofu Ricotta Crostini by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg.  It’s good, easy and  versatile, and would be great for an appetizer.  Alongside a salad, it would also be good for lunch or dinner.  If you’re looking for other starter ideas, check out the appetizer category on this site.

TOFU RICOTTA

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. block of firm organic tofu, drained well  (not pressed)
2 Tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or some fancy pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 to 2  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
baguette to grill, or crackers

DIRECTIONS
In a medium mixing bowl, break up tofu with a fork until it’s the consistency of ricotta cheese.  Scrape 3/4 of this mixture into a food processor, along with the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Pulse until smooth and then scrape the processed tofu back into the crumbled tofu in the mixing bowl, add capers and stir to blend.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then sauté garlic for a minute or two, just until golden.  Add tofu mixture to pan, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir to mix.  Top with a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkle of your best salt (I used homemade basil salt).

Notes:  Some changes I made were to use the entire block of tofu, and to whip part of it for the creamier consistency of the restaurant dish I had.  I also reduced the initial oil and salt and then added a little more at the end to finish.  This recipe can be flavored any which way.  You could add a teaspoon of agave syrup when processing, and then top with thin slices of grilled fig or dried date,  or candied pecans, or toasted pistachio nuts.  Or use preserved lemon when you process, for a deeper lemon flavor.   On canapés, you could top it with slices of pear, or fruit compote, with shards of coconut bacon, etc.  It could even be used to enhance avocado toast.
IMG_2048  One photo from Charlie was a sinner.

vegan Kama’aina Coconut Curry

IMG_1909     This is adapted from an old recipe I got from a friend in Hilo, back in the 1980’s.  In Hawaii, locals love their chicken curry!  I’ve tweaked it over the years, and made it vegan, but it’s still a classic 1970’s American-style curry that brings the flavor.  It’s a really good, easy, and flexible recipe that doesn’t take too long to make.  Serve over rice and/or with naan bread or papadums,  with chutney and any of the toppings suggested below.  p.s. For other dinner ideas, there are about 60 recipes in the Main Dish category.

VEGAN KAMA’AINA COCONUT CURRY

Serves 5-6

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup vegetable stock  (I use Better Than Bouillon, either Vegetarian or No-Chicken)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon curry powder  (I use McCormick Curry Powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh peeled grated ginger (my favorite),  or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
15 oz. can Lite coconut milk
Any extra protein you want, including any one of the following:  Butler Soy Curls (3 oz.), Beyond Chicken, crispy tofu cubes,  nuts such as peanuts, cashews or walnuts, chick peas,  etc.

DIRECTIONS
Saute onion and celery in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook 10-15 minutes.  To the pot, add the lite coconut milk and only 1/2 Cup of the stock, and stir.  Cover and cook 5 more minutes, but do not let it boil.  With a fork, whisk the flour into the remaining 1/2 Cup of stock until it’s smooth, and set this slurry aside.  When the 5 minutes are up, add the slurry to the pot, and stir until the curry thickens, just a few minutes.  Add your extra protein now and heat through.  Serve over hot rice, or with naan bread.  Serve it simply like this, or add toppings such as mango chutney (my favorite), toasted coconut, salty peanuts or cashews, etc.

Notes:  This can be made a day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  Jasmine rice is the traditional rice to serve with this, but I found it delicious even with Trader Joe’s sprouted red rice.  My favorite chutney is Patak’s Mango Chutney (the plain one or the hot one).  If you don’t have chutney, you can always just put out some raisins to sprinkle on top.  Other vegetables can be mixed in when cooking, such as green bell pepper (tiny dice), or even fresh corn at the last minute.  I do like the McCormick Curry Powder–it’s not gourmet, but it’s got the classic 1970’s flavor of this particular dish.

Zippys Chili Recipe Gone Vegan

IMG_1881    My parents called from Hawaii yesterday, and they had just been to Zippys for breakfast.  It reminded me that I used to like Zippys chili (it’s famous in Hawaii).  After looking at copycat recipes online, I made a vegan version, and it’s really good–a keeper.  Although I’ve made several vegan chilis before, this one is just a bit meatier and richer than the others, and it really does remind me of Zippys.  I could see serving this easy dish for the Superbowl, or any game day.  If you want a healthier vegan chili, try this Perfect Vegetable Chili with Quinoa.  I like to serve chili with these Fruited Cornbread Muffins, or Tostitos Original Restaurant Style chips, Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, etc.  More photos below.

ZIPPYS VEGAN CHILI

INGREDIENTS
11 oz. package Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles  (or other ground beef substitute)
15 oz. can Kidney beans, with liquid from can
15 oz. can tomato sauce
10 oz. can Ro-Tel Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies  (use 1/2 can, or more to taste)
2 teaspoons peanut oil (or grapeseed oil or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegenaise Reduced Fat vegan mayo  (the secret ingredient)
1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (No Beef, or Vegetarian,  or No Chicken flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sherry Cooking Wine, (or red wine, or vinegar)
2 teaspoons minced dried onions  (from the spices aisle)
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire, such as Wizard brand  (it’s delicious)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cinnamon  (a pinch equals 1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Heat oil in small stock pot, and sauté onion and bell pepper.  Set beans aside for now, but add all other ingredients and simmer on medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Add beans and bean liquid just before serving and stir them gently into the chili.  Serve with Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, nacho chips, etc.

Notes:  I avoid canola oil for purposes of flavor.  I prefer Eden Organic beans because they use kombu to “salt” their beans, but any kidney beans will do.  If you want it spicier, add the full can of Ro-Tel, or the Ro-Tel can simply be put out to dollop on bowls for those who like it hotter.  The mayonnaise might seem an odd addition to this recipe but it’s rumored to be the secret ingredient in Zippys Chili, and it does seem to add an unctuous richness.  I reduced the mayo by 75% here and the chili still tastes really good.  I deleted the MSG from the original recipes, but if you want to add it back in, use about 1/2 teaspoon.  I grew up eating a lot of Ajinomoto, and I didn’t miss it here.
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BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America

IMG_0400     Did you know there’s a web site where you can post photos of butterflies and moths you see?  No, it’s not Instagram,  it’s BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America.  With Instagram around, why would we do this?  Because it helps track our little friends, who are also very valuable pollinators.  Some think butterflies are not as effective at pollinating as bees are, but butterflies can travel longer distances, ensuring coverage of equal amounts of flowering plants in a larger area.  So, although they’re only looking for food (nectar), they actually help plants reproduce in an important way, on a larger geographic scale than bees sometimes.  Moths also pollinate and are vital.  I went over all this in episode three of the podcast by the way (the gardening episode).   Posting butterflies and moths on BAMONA is also a great activity for kids.  I caught the image above on a little Canon automatic camera in my backyard.  I realized this fritillary was larger than the tiny ones that I sometimes see, grabbed my camera and got lucky.  You can see my actual submission and another photo of this Great Spangled Fritillary here.

My latest submission to BAMONA is not a good photo–it was taken by my husband with his phone, outside a Chili’s Restaurant on a busy bypass road in Easton, Maryland.  We think he/she was drying her wings, and we didn’t want to get too close and scare her.  It was a huge Silkmoth, about the size of a coffee cup, although the photos don’t show the perspective of her size.  By the way, at Chili’s Restaurant, I got the citrus rice, black beans and sweet potato fries, in case you’re wondering, ha ha!  Anyway, outside this Chili’s, are growing several of the host plants for this gorgeous Silkmoth (the adults do not feed, but these host plants probably supported this Silkmoth when it was a caterpillar).

Caterpillar Host plants for the Cecropia silkmoth include various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix).  Luckily, outside this Chili’s Restaurant on this busy bypass, are growing some birch trees and small dogwood trees.  These are plants that were probably required by the shopping complex as part of the approved landscaping plan, and this really highlights the importance of local plantings at new developments.  We’re already destroying large swaths of habitat with these developments, so a few plantings among the sea of pavement and sidewalks are the very least we can do, and we should be doing so much more.   Anyway, a female Silkmoth laid 2 to 6 eggs on leaves of a host-plant tree or shrub, and these eggs hatched in 10-14 days, and the young caterpillars then fed on those very leaves in a perfect symphony of sustainability, especially since moths and butterflies then help to pollinate the flowers of the host plants.  Then the flowers produce berries that support bird life, and on and on.  And her work is not done, because the flight range for Silkmoths is Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida, and/or west across Southern Canada and the Eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.

Participating in posting and tracking butterflies and moths creates Awareness and Consciousness of caterpillars and who they become, and of the beauty around us and of how we’re all connected.  Every life is important, no matter how tiny their earthly shell!
IMG_1701   River Birch trees planted as part of the shopping complex landscaping, near the entrance to Chili’s Restaurant where we saw the above Silkmoth.   Birch are host plants for various moths and butterflies.

IMG_1703  One of two young dogwoods (host plants) outside the restaurant.

Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread

IMG_1668     Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread is one of those recipes that’s almost too good to be true.  Quick, easy, elegant and especially delicious.  The earliest origin of roasted grapes I could find online was around 2004.  Here, we’re using vegan cheese, because nobody has to die so we can have really good food.  Having a sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy appetizer is wonderful, but knowing it’s also good for your body and the planet and the animals is priceless!

THYME ROASTED GRAPES AND CHEESE ON GRILLED BREAD

Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. seedless red grapes
2 ciabatta loaves, or a baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
spreadable vegan cheese, such as Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Or, Miyoko’s CreameryTreeline, etc.   Or even just Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated).  Any of them should work.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius).  Line baking dish with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, place grapes, olive oil, sea salt and thyme, and fold gently with a wooden spoon to coat the grapes.  Tip ingredients into prepared baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or so, until grapes are a bit shriveled but still juicy.  Set aside.  Also set out your vegan cheese so it can warm up a bit while you prepare the toasts.

Slice ciabatta loaves in half the long way so you wind up with two wide/flat paddles, or if using a baguette, slice into rounds.  If grilling, brush bread with olive oil on both sides.  If baking in oven, brush oil on just the cut sides.  Grill bread 1 to 2 minutes per side–do not walk away, as it can burn quickly.  If baking bread, have oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and bake for about 7 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  Smear bread with vegan cheese and garnish with thyme-roasted grapes.  Serve.

Notes:  If using a good nut cheese, this can easily be a main meal, especially if served with a salad.  I used the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread (made from almond milk) in the Chive flavor.

Anti-Aging Smoothie with Red Grapes and White Mulberries

IMG_1653     Right now, organic grapes are plentiful and so I bought a bunch on sale.  Froze half of them and this resveratrol-bomb smoothie was born.  It has the summery grape flavor I loved as a kid, when I would eat grape popsicles and grape slushies.  This is natural, bright grape flavor in a delicious treat that makes a healthy breakfast too.  Red grape skins contain resveratrol, and so do the white mulberries.  Maqui powder is made from berries that have the most antioxidants of any fruit ever tested to date.  The grapes are naturally sweet, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I threw in an optional Medjool date.

ANTI-AGING SMOOTHIE WITH RED GRAPES AND WHITE MULBERRIES

Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup frozen red grapes
1/4 Cup dried white mulberries
1 teaspoon freeze-dried maqui powder
1 Medjool date, pit removed (optional)
1/2 Cup coconut water
2 two-inch pieces frozen banana
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Blend everything but the ice.  Add ice and blend again until smooth.

Notes:  This is also good with granola sprinkled on top. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can put the coconut water, mulberries and date in the blender and let it sit for 5 minutes, to soften the ingredients.  Don’t let it sit longer than 5 minutes, or the mulberries will thicken too much.  As with chia seeds, smoothies that contain mulberries should be consumed within an hour for the best texture.  Grapes are part of the Dirty Dozen and can have up to 50 pesticides, so organic is best.  Wash and dry your grapes and freeze them on a dinner plate before putting them in container(s).