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.

Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Cheeses

IMG_2814    We ate a lot of good food on Thanksgiving, but the highlight for me were these vegan cheeses by Miyoko’s Creamery.  These are gorgeous, cultured nut cheeses that taste like good European cheeses.   It’s possible that my favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive (above photo), which is like a rich Boursin with a lovely herbal flavor from organic chives.    I admit to eating too much of it on Thanksgiving.  Like, I could hardly wait for lunch the next day to break out the crackers, not kidding.  A few days later, that wheel was polished off, and we broke open the Fresh Loire Valley cheese which is wrapped in a fresh green fig leaf (see photo below).  Talk about presentation!  The Fresh Loire Valley cheese is a bit similar to the Classic Double Cream Chive except perhaps a bit milder, with a nice subtle tang–addictive in its own way, let me assure you.  I thought I tasted a hint of lemon in it, but it’s probably the organic wine that it’s made with.  The last one we tried was the Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, which, despite its name, tasted like a delicious very-mild smoked-cheddar cheese ball.  These are KILLER, the bees knees, the awesome sauce, the cat’s pajamas, and the bomb.  Thank you, Miyoko!  In case anyone doesn’t know, Miyoko has also written a cookbook called Artisan Vegan Cheese.  I’ve made a couple of the cultured cheeses in the book, with good results.   To make simpler vegan cheeses at home, please check out the Vegan Cheese category on this site.  To order Miyoko’s incredible cheeses, go to Miyoko’s Kitchen.  If we are eating dairy, we are killing veal calves, and subjecting female cows to lifetimes of extreme suffering, while simultaneously ruining our planet, giving ourselves cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, and starving children across the globe.  As we awaken, we can choose a different path.

IMG_2804  My favorite so far.
IMG_2807   Classic Double Cream Chive
IMG_0026  Fresh Loire Valley cheese in fig leaf.
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IMG_0019  Fresh Loire Valley cheese.

vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding by Vedge

IMG_2721    This vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding is from the Vedge cookbook.  It does taste like the excellent dessert we were served at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.   I increased the baking powder in the cake by 1/2 teaspoon because there are three cups of flour in this recipe and a baking standard is to use 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder per cup of flour.  Aside from that, I followed the recipe exactly, and the cake rose very nicely, but was still somewhat dense.  Now that I’ve made this, I recommend reducing the butter in the Figgy Toffee Sauce by half.  It was oily enough that I chilled it in the fridge and with a spoon scraped off most of the butter that rose to the top, and it was still very good.  The cookbook calls for serving this with a homemade madeira-quince ice cream.  I was short on time, so served it instead with Coconut Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream, which was also delicious.  No fresh figs on my tree this time of year, but the sauce came out great without them.  Heavy on the sugar, a half serving is plenty.  This is delicious enough for special occasions and Holidays.  Figgy Pudding dates back to 16th century England, and was traditionally served at Christmas.  As Dickensian a dessert as it gets, it was even on Bob Cratchit’s table in A Christmas Carol.   This is the fourth recipe I’ve made from the Vedge cookbook so far (two others are blogged here), and they’ve all turned out splendidly.  Vedge is my favorite vegan cookbook right now.

Vegan Brazil Nut Pate

IMG_1411    What we have here is a really nice vegan pate.  Inspired by a very simple Brazil Nut Pate I saw in Vegan For Her, I referred to my 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking, and also my 1961 copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cook Book.  Pates in those old tomes call for some common elements to choose from, including salt, pepper, Worcestershire, allspice or nutmeg, pistachio nuts, truffles, grated onions, parsley or chervil and lemon juice.  Also, a single type of alcohol, such as brandy, cognac, Madeira or sherry.  A bit of flour is often added, possibly for a binder.  Also, sometimes, whipping cream, which can easily be replaced by cashew cream.  And we now also have vegan substitutes for other commonly-used pate ingredients like gelatin and cream cheese.

Garnishes often include parsley and cornichons, or even stuffed olives and thinly sliced limes.  I would suggest that tiny sweet gherkins would do if cornichons are not readily available.  I added olive oil to mimic the fatty quality of outdated pates.   We like this on Ritz crackers or very thin slices of toasted garlic bread.  I know some consider Ritz a bit lowbrow, but we like the buttery, salty quality of them, and their delicate crispness.

VEGAN BRAZIL NUT PATE

Yield: 1.5 Cups?  (not sure)  This recipe will fill two 4-inch ramekins for a party though.

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup raw Brazil nuts
1/2 Cup blanched almonds
1/3 Cup pickled red onions (or regular red onions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 Tablespoon organic vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard brand
2 Tablespoons Madeira wine  (or cognac, or brandy or sherry)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin organic olive oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Soak all nuts for two hours, or overnight.  Drain and rinse nuts in colander.
In a food processor (not a blender), add all ingredients and process to as fine a consistency as you can, scraping down the sides often.  Add an extra Tablespoon of plant milk or water if necessary.  Set in fridge for a few hours or even better, overnight, for flavors to meld.   Garnish with parsley and cornichons.

Serve with thin slices of garlic bread, crackers, and/or raw vegetables such as slices of sweet red bell pepper, or endive.  I could also see stuffing cherry tomatoes and garnishing with a thin round slice of olive, for example.

Notes:  Read the lead-in for variations suggestions.  Brazil nuts are definitely a power food, providing calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, omegas, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, zinc, etc., etc.  Another vegan Worcestershire sauce is by Whole Foods 365 Organic.  You can also sprinkle with Paprika.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll

IMG_1369    After having such good success with the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey, I decided to give the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll a try.  And I’m glad I did.  I got this specifically for Christmas day, but I could also see having it at Easter.  I was amazed at how much it smelled like ham as it was baking, and the flavor is very hammy as well.  Everyone knows that Ham Biscuits are a Southern Tradition.  For many, Ham Biscuits are served on New Year’s, but I have a girlfriend from South Carolina who always serves them on Christmas Eve.  I ordered this from Vegan Essentials and it was shipped with cold packs around it.  When it arrived, I called Vege USA on their 888 number and was told I could put it immediately into the freezer, which I did.  I paid about $40 for it, including $4 for the cold-pack shipping.   The box says this 2 lb. vegan ham roll serves 14 and I believe it.  When it was partially thawed, I cut it in half and put half of it right back in the freezer, and we had ham every which way for the next 4 or 5 days.  On Christmas Eve I made a bunch of vegan Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits and put them in the freezer (un-baked).  On Christmas Day, I made the ham roll and some of the biscuits and we had them with slices of Daiya cheese and my homemade mustard (photo below).  I did prepare the Apricot Plum Glaze that came in the box and it’s surprisingly good (Lars has been having it on his ham biscuits).  I also made a delicious ham salad, with some Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise, organic sweet relish, and a bit of salt and pepper.  This minced ham salad would be good for a rustic ham roll, or tiny finger sandwiches for afternoon tea, or on the aforementioned biscuits.  With the half that’s still in the freezer, I’m thinking Portuguese Bean Soup, and Lars suggested Ham and Pineapple Pizza.  This is a convenient, delicious solution for those transitioning or entertaining omnivores, and for vegans who want traditional flavors on holidays.  I also like that it allowed me to focus on the baking and side dishes and holiday preparations, and not worry so much about the main dish.  If you want to make this at home for pennies, try this vegan Candied Ham.   We’re talking about vegan ham, of course.  Bless all the pigs and may we never torture and eat them again.  Happy New Year.
IMG_1383  Real Southern Style Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits (vegan) for the traditional holiday Ham Biscuits.

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Holiday or Christmas Playlist

IMG_1276    Here are some of the Holiday or Christmas songs on my ipod, so you can pick and choose and make a holiday playlist of your own.  It starts out with faster songs for the beginning of a party, and then slows down as it goes along.  Within each section, the songs are in no particular order, and there are some duplicate songs done by different artists.

All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Katia Keres
All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Mariah Carey
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree  by  Brenda Lee
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town  by  Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper
Winter Wonderland  by  Eurythmics
Merry Christmas Baby  by  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
Santa Baby  by  Madonna
Christmas in Hollis  by  Run-D.M.C.
Run Rudolph Run  by  Bryan Adams
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)  by  U2
Back Door Santa  by  Bon Jovi
What Christmas Means To Me  by  Paul Young

Blue Christmas  by  Ann and Nancy Wilson
Santa Claus Is Back In Town  by  Jonny Lang
Merry Christmas Baby by  Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown
Santa Baby  by  Eartha Kitt

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas  by  The Pretenders
The Christmas Song  by  Luther Vandross
The Christmas Song  by  The Raveonettes
Christmas Time Is Here  by  Sarah McLachlan featuring Diana Krall
Please Come Home For Christmas  by  Pat Benatar
Silver Bells  by  Jonny Mathis
White Christmas  by  Otis Redding
White Christmas  by  Elvis
25th December  by  Everything But The Girl
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow  by  Dean Martin
I’ll Be Home For Christmas  by  The Platters
Auld Lang Syne  by  Mindy Smith

TRADITIONAL, NON-SECULAR CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Mary, Did You Know?  by  Cee Lo Green
Gabriel’s Message  by  Sting
The Coventry Carol  by  Alison Moyet
The Little Drummer Boy  by  Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
Silent Night  by  Priscilla Ahn
Silent Night  by  Sinead O’Connor
Silent Night  by  Stevie Nicks
What Child Is This?  by  Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige
What Child Is This?  by  Sarah McLachlan
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Enya
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Bette Midler
O, Little Town of Bethlehem  by  Nat King Cole
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen  by  The Platters
Away In A Manger  by  The Platters

Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry

IMG_1145    This might be the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever made.  To temper the astringency of the cranberries, I’ve paired them with cherry brandy and 100% real cherry juice.  I used a potato masher on the cooked sauce to give it a smoother texture while leaving a bit of Early American rusticity.  Kirschwasser is a clear brandy distilled from a fermented mash of cherries.  I’ll use the leftover cherry juice in the juicer, but you could make cocktails with it, or drink it straight in the morning, because it’s great for inflammation.  I don’t drink, but with the leftover Kirschwasser, you could make festive cherry Sidecars for the Thanksgiving bar too.  If you don’t want any alcohol in the house, just substitute more cherry juice for the Kirschwasser.   p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Classic Cranberry SauceHoliday Cranberry Sauce,  and Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry.

CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH KIRSCHWASSER AND CHERRY

Makes about 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Kirschwasser  (I used Dekuyper brand)
1/2 Cup 100% cherry juice  (I used R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry Juice)

DIRECTIONS
Bring cranberries, sugar and Kirschwasser to simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium or medium-low heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cherry juice.  Mash gently with a potato masher until it’s the consistency you want.  Cool completely.  Freeze or keep in refrigerator up to one week, in an airtight container.

Note:  If you don’t want to use the alcohol, just use more cherry juice instead of the Kirschwasser.

Vegan Cheese Ball

IMG_0307    This recipe is straight from Josh Latham of My Vegan Cookbook.  And it’s really good!   For me, Josh’s original recipe here has a flavor reminiscent of mild cheddar, but with the texture of goat cheese.  Josh has suggested variations such as Black Pepper & Rosemary, or Hawaiian-style (with Baco Bits and Pineapple).  However, I’m thinking a swirl of reduced port wine would be just the thing to mix into this vegan cheese ball, especially for the holidays.  The only thing I did differently was to soak the almonds overnight, just to make them a bit creamier.  Josh seems to have a way with making decadent food that’s also healthy, and this easy vegan cheeze ball is no exception.  p.s.  I made another one of Josh’s recipes for Vegan Mofo last year, his Salted Caramel Popcorn.

JOSH LATHAM’S CHEEZE BALL,  ORIGINAL FLAVOR

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup slivered and blanched almonds
1/4 Cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 of a 14 oz. block of firm tofu  (refrigerated kind, well drained)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon canola oil  (I used grapeseed)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons fresh chives  (I like 2 teaspoons)
3/4 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (to coat outside)

DIRECTIONS
(I soak the almonds in a jar of filtered water overnight, but this is my optional step.)
Place almonds and pine nuts in food processor with salt and sugar, and blend for about 2 minutes until clumps start to form.

Measure 1/3 of a block of tofu from a 14-ounce block.  It’s important to use firm tofu.  Silken or extra-firm tofu will not work.  An average block of tofu is about 4.5 inches long, so measure 1.5 inches off.  Drain tofu in a strainer by smashing and pressing firmly.  Using a clean lint-free dish towel to soak up some of the water also helps.  It’s important to get as much water as you can out.   (I just used a Tofu Xpress instead).

Now add the tofu to the almond and pine-nut paste that’s already in the food processor, along with the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oil and onion powder, and blend about two minutes.  Mixture should resemble extra-thick mashed potatoes.

Add chives to food processor and pulse them into the mixture, just until distributed.

Spray a small bowl and a square of plastic wrap with cooking oil spray.  Press mixture into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge and let this chill for at least five hours or overnight.  It will get nice and firm and can now be shaped into a ball and rolled in chopped walnuts to coat.  If you lightly oil your hands, it will keep it from sticking to your hands while you roll.  (I did not bother oiling my hands and did not need to, it was not sticky.)

Here are Josh’s variations on the same recipe.  Just leave the chives out and add:

Black Pepper & Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Coat with pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
or
Hawaiian
1 Tablespoon Baco Bits
1 Tablespoon pineapple, well-drained and finely chopped
Coat with chopped pecans that have been lightly coated with maple syrup and toasted until crispy on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Notes:  I’d like to do a port-wine reduction and swirl it through the cheese mixture (by pulsing it in the food processor) before the initial chilling.  I made this two days in advance, with great results.

Vegan Food Gifts for The Holidays

Here are some ideas for vegan food gifts during the holidays, or any time.  This year, I made pints of Refrigerator Pickles and 8-ounce jars of Candied Peanuts to give away.  In the last couple of years, I gave away quarts of Spiced Cider, and Bloody Mary Mix, both of which can be made and given with or without alcohol.  All of these are super easy to make, and can be accomplished in under an hour.  Of course, any of the cookies on this site would make great gifts–I just mailed a bunch of Molasses Ginger Crisps to family members.  Last year, my friend Jan brought us these elegant Chewy Almond Macaroons, which are also easy to make and not too time consuming.  To decorate canning jars, you can simply stick a bow on top, or use recycled Christmas cards (see photo below).  I keep my eyes open after Christmas for flat rectangular tins on sale, sometimes at 75% off, and use these for bar cookies, such as the Nutty Buddy Bars, or Biscotti.  There’s a new cookbook called Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman and it’s full of good ideas too.  Not just cookies and quick breads, but Sea Salt Caramels, Minty Doggie Biscuits, soup mixes, drink mixes, jams, chutneys, sauces and curds.  And in the front of the book are packaging ideas.  Homemade food gifts evoke a simpler time when we did not have so much stuff, when food was more real, when we used our time differently and had more time to do such things (less technological distractions).

I like to recycle Christmas cards that I’ve received.  Here, I’ve traced the canning jar lid onto the back of a card, cut it out, laid it on top of the lid, and then screwed the ring over the top.  No glue or tape, and a card from a friend gets a second life.

Vegan Whipping Cream – Healthy Top by Mimic Creme

May 12, 2016.  Please note it seems this product is not currently in production, but they are looking for a processor to get the product available again.  Who knows when this will happen.  The content below is from 2012.  Thank you.

I found this Mimic Crème Healthy Top whipping cream at Whole Foods in Annapolis yesterday for $4.99 per 16-ounce box.  It’s vegan whipping cream made from almonds, cashews, water, coconut oil, etc.  It’s high in fat, so it’s really for special occasions.   You put it in the fridge for 30 minutes and you also chill the mixing bowl and beaters.   To my surprise, within a minute it had whipped up beautifully and had a nice, light taste, not too sweet.  This is the perfect vegan whipped cream to go on top of pumpkin pie and a myriad of other desserts.  Once you whip it up, it’s good for two weeks, another shocker.  It’s dairy free, soy free (for those who care), gluten free, cholesterol free, Non-GMO, vegan and kosher, sheesh.  See more photos below.

Vegan Potato, Sweet Potato and Onion Latkes

I adapted and veganized this old Martha Stewart recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for years, and it came out great.  It’s simple, and I like that you get that deep-fried effect with only a few Tablespoons of oil.  I increased the onion just a bit to get a better potato/onion ratio.  Replaced the egg and followed a couple of Latke Tips from other web sites.  Now we’re able to make these ahead, and reheat them in the oven to an even crisper effect.  These little vegan Latkes are special due to incorporating the sweet potato, and the Martha recipe advises that you could also use carrots and parsnips.  I don’t think I’d eliminate the white potato altogether, however, for structural reasons.  There are many latke videos on youtube and I chose this one from the Culinary Institute of America to share with you here.  The C.I.A. also does an eggless latke, and I knew you didn’t need the egg after making this egg-free potato galette.  After doing some reading, I realize these are not kosher for Passover due to the small amount of flour in them, but they’d be great for Hanukkah.  Supposedly, you can simply substitute matzo meal to make them kosher for Passover, but I can’t vouch for that because I haven’t tried it myself.  But then again, I’m not Jewish, I just like Latkes.  I made a quick dill sour cream with some softened Tofutti and chopped fresh dill, and it was perfect with these, and I threw some organic applesauce on the side too, which played off the sweet potatoes.  Now we can have excellent Latkes at home, and serve them to guests without having the hot-oil fuss going on.  These would be great for a breakfast, brunch, luncheon, or side dish with supper.
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Vegan Potato, Sweet Potato and Onion Latkes

Makes 18 small Latkes

INGREDIENTS
1 all-purpose Yukon Gold potato (about 10 ounces), peeled
1 sweet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled
1/3 large white onion, peeled
1 Tablespoon dry Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, or rice flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (no kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying (not canola) (use olive, peanut or safflower, etc.)

DIRECTIONS
Put filtered water in a large non-reactive bowl (I like glass).   Add a Tablespoon of fine sea salt to this water and stir to dissolve (this will keep the potatoes from going brown).   Grate both potatoes using the largest holes of a four-sided grater, immediately placing the grated potatoes into the salt water as you go.   Let the grated potatoes sit in the salted water for about 20 minutes while you work.

Grate the onion and place it in a small dish and cover it with a napkin (to spare yourself from the fumes).   Dry whisk flour, egg replacer, sea salt and pepper to thoroughly combine.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Place grated potatoes into a sieve or fine colander, let drain and press the water out well.   Rinse your mixing bowl and wipe it dry.

Place a Tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and let it heat.
Place potatoes back into the dry mixing bowl and stir to combine thoroughly with the grated onions.   Add in the flour mixture and stir thoroughly again.

With a heaping Tablespoon, shape Latke mixture into discs and place into hot oil in skillet, and do not crowd the pan.   Let latkes cook for three minutes and then turn them only once.   Flatten latkes lightly with a spatula and let cook 3 minutes on second side.  If skillet becomes dry, add a Tablespoon of oil, but you should only need 2-3 Tablespoons total by the time you’re done.   Place finished latkes on paper towels.

Keep warm in a 250 degrees Fahrenheit oven, until ready to serve.
Or, you can place cooled latkes in the fridge and then reheat in the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, for 10-15 minutes.
If you must freeze them, reheat from frozen.

Notes:  The pale yellow color of the Yukon Gold potato fools the eye into thinking there is more oil in the latkes than there actually is.  The acid in the onion helps keep the potatoes from turning brown.  The salt water also helps the latkes crisp up, and it helps keep the latkes from browning too quickly in the pan.  Baking latkes after frying them actually creates a crisper latke.  The best ratio for latkes is 5 parts potato to 2 parts onion.  Have a few spidery “legs” sticking out of your latkes, so they’re not too round and perfect, to increase the texture variation, and give some good crunchy bits.  Turn latkes only once in pan, to reduce oil absorption.  My own preference is not to use canola oil for frying because even fresh canola oil can sometimes taste metallic or fishy on high heat.  My own preference is not to use kosher salt due to its metallic, chemical taste.  Supposedly, you can substitute part of the potato for any starchy vegetable, such as beets, zucchini, etc.

Vegan Royal Icing

Here’s my first attempt at a Royal Icing without the egg whites or meringue powder.  It works great and tastes just like it ought to.  Simple to make and easy to work with, so I’m pretty happy.  I did read some vegan recipes online that call for corn syrup, but I decided to try using Ener-G Egg Replacer instead.  A box of this stuff is about $6 but it lasts for a couple of years, even if you bake a lot.  I would say it’s one of those basic pantry necessities.  The classic Christmas Cookie is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and Royal Icing is an integral part of it.  I always leave the iced cookies out overnight so the icing fully cures and hardens some.  Also, i always put a bit of colored sugar or sprinkles or something on the wet icing, because this helps keep the cookies from sticking to each other when they’re stacked in tins.
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Vegan Royal Icing

Makes 2 Cups or so

INGREDIENTS
1 Lb. confectioners (powdered) sugar
5 Tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder
scant 1/2 Cup water (you probably won’t need all this water)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS
Put powdered sugar into a mixing bowl.
Add Ener-G Egg Replacer powder, and dry whisk to combine.
Add water, a little at a time, and stop when it is the right consistency.  I usually do not add all the water, and you don’t want it watery.
Add the almond extract.
Mix well with an electric hand-held mixer.
Divide icing and tint each portion your desired colors.
Chill icing for at least an hour or overnight.

Notes:  For Christmas cookies, make sure cookies are fully cooled on racks before you ice them.  I like to immediately sprinkle the iced cookies with edible glitter, colored sugar, sprinkles, etc., while the icing is still wet enough so that the decorations will stick.  Once cookies are decorated, leave them out, uncovered overnight in a dry location, so the icing can cure and dry more.  Another classic thing to do is to flavor Royal Icing with lemon or lime juice and the zest of same.  I’m not crazy about the lemon, and I’m a lemon freak.  If you decide to flavor your icing with fruit juice, make sure to reduce the water added by the same amount.  I use a plain old table knife to apply the icing.

Chewy Almond Macaroons

This is my favorite Christmas cookie this year, and these macaroons have neither eggs nor coconut.  My friend Jan Baker is the best cook i know, and she brought these to my house on Christmas Eve.  She is not vegan but she searched for a vegan cookie recipe and found this one from Saveur magazine.  You might think I love this cookie just because it arrived at my doorstep in the hands of a thoughtful friend, but it’s more than that.  It’s also unexpected, delicious, and oh so French.   And in fact, this recipe was given to a Saveur contributor by a second-generation French boulanger (see story).  It’s softly-chewy, and has the taste of cherries that  reminds me of Alsace in Spring.  It has only five ingredients and the directions look pretty simple.  Granted, you will have to seek out some almond paste (not marzipan) that is egg free, some Amaretto liqueur, and superfine sugar, but trust me, these cookies are worth it.  I’m going to see if I can find some Amaretto minis at the liquor store today and try to make them myself.  Ils sont delicieux!
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CHEWY ALMOND MACAROONS

Makes about 20 macaroons

INGREDIENTS
18 oz. almond paste (not marzipan; see note)
1/2 Cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
1 Cup powdered sugar

INSTRUCTIONS
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine the almond paste, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Using your hands, gently knead together just until mixture is incorporated.
Add in liqueur and gently work it into the paste to form a smooth dough.

Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl.
Using a Tablespoon measure, scoop out individual portions of dough, roll into balls and place each in the bowl of powdered sugar.
Coat each ball completely with powdered sugar and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a one-inch space between each macaroon.
Pinch together the sides of each macaroon with your fingers and thumb, leaving a finger-indented well in the center like a little volcano.
Let macaroons sit out for 20 minutes (or up to one hour) to dry.
Bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Note:  Be sure not to over-mix the dough or the macaroons’ characteristic texture will be lost.  These keep beautifully for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.  Almond paste is similar to marzipan but contains less sugar and no fillers.  Some versions of almond paste do contain cream or eggs, so read your labels carefully.  Marzipan will not work for this recipe.  Comments on the Saveur site included letting the cookies sit out for one hour so that they would retain their volcano shape.  Others didn’t worry about it and said their cookies went flat but still tasted amazing.  A couple of reviewers also recommended Solo brand almond paste and said it is vegan and also gluten free, and comes in 8-ounce cans.                                                                                         

Apple-Pie Spiced Cider

I made this delicious spiced cider recently as part of a holiday supper.  It’s a Martha Stewart recipe and has good reviews and a video you can watch.  It’s quick and easy, and you can spike it with apple brandy if you want, or not.  My only change was to reduce the sugar a bit, because apple cider is about as sugary as it gets.  This smells great as it’s heating up, and is a perfect winter drink.  I was wondering what the difference is between apple juice and apple cider, so I looked it up.  Apple cider is less filtered and can sometimes appear to be cloudy, which is fine.  Apple juice has a longer shelf life.  I think either one would be fine here, but I like things that are less processed and the cider was available.
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APPLE-PIE SPICED CIDER

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
1.25 quarts apple cider (I used 1.6 quart or 1.5 liter)
2 Tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar (or regular brown sugar)
1 whole cinnamon stick, plus 6 sticks for garnish
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves  (1/16th teaspoon)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (1/16th teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup Calvados (French apple brandy) or other brandy (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, whisk together cider, sugar, spices and salt.
Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Remove from heat.
If desired, pour in brandy.
Strain into a pitcher, and discard solids.
Serve in mugs, garnished with cinnamon sticks.

Vegan Molasses Ginger Crisps

This is a very popular Martha Stewart recipe that I veganized.   They have three different types of ginger in them, and that might sound scary to some, but trust me, they’re amazing.  Even people who are not crazy about ginger like them.  Christmas cookies are one of my favorite holiday traditions and this recipe makes plenty to give away too.  This is a good time to explain why I never use Kosher salt; it tastes horribly chemical, whereas sea salt provides a beautiful, natural flavor.  I also shun iodized salt in baking due to flavor issues.
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Vegan Molasses Ginger Crisps

Makes about 6 dozen

INGREDIENTS
2.5 Cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks (one cup) room temperature Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1.5 Cups granulated sugar
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal one egg (1.5 tsp Ener-G plus 2T water, frothed)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (peel before grating)
2 Tablespoons finely-chopped crystallized “candied” ginger
1/4 Cup unsulfured molasses (I like organic molasses)
1 Cup coarse sanding sugar (or regular sugar)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda and salt.
Beat butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium high speed until pale and fluffy.
Beat in molasses, and grated and crystallized gingers.
Beat in egg replacer.
Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the flour in three additions.
Shape teaspoons of dough into balls and roll in sanding (or granulated) sugar.
Space dough balls 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake until cookies are flattened and dark golden brown, 9-10 minutes.
Let cool on sheets 5 minutes.
Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
My personal tip is to place the mixing bowl of dough in the refrigerator between each sheet that you bake.  It keeps the dough cold and very easy to roll.
Cookies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 2 days or frozen for up to one month.

Notes:  In my electric, non-convection oven, I baked the first sheet for 12 minutes but then reduced the time to 11 minutes and then to 10 minutes for the rest of the sheets.  I buy my candied ginger at the health food store, but you could also make your own.

Vegan Swedish Meatballs (Kottbullar) from The Vegan Table cookbook

This recipe for vegan Swedish Meatballs (kottbullar) from The Vegan Table cookbook was a success for us.  Before I went vegan, I used to like the Swedish Meatballs plate at IKEA but it was not vegan, of course.  I did tweak this recipe a bit, but it’s a winner, especially when paired with classic accompaniments such as gravy and potatoes.  I did not have any lingonberry jam, but cranberry sauce made a good substitute.  I did read some complaints about the sauce in this recipe, so I made a gravy of my own.  Either of the easy gravies on this site would be good here.  I made mashed potato puffs with dill, but any potatoes would do.  If you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, this is the time to use it, because the vegan sausage is very dense and hard to mix.  Colleen Patrick Goudreau suggests using your hands to mix, so I’m guessing that works ok too, but perhaps you’ll get it more evenly incorporated with the flat beater on the KitchenAid stand mixer.  I added just a few things to make the meatballs richer:  1/4 teaspoon of dried dill, a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh flatleaf parsley, a Tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture (Gimme Lean is fat free), and 2 teaspoons of vegan Worcestershire sauce (such as Wizard brand, which is so delicious).  Make sure to dice the onion fine, because the meatballs are small.  I pan fried these in a cast-iron skillet which gave them a nice, authentic crust.  The main comment I have is that I will use the plain Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style with this dish next time, and not the Gimme Lean Ground Sausage Style.  You see, the “Sausage” has a distinct maple’y flavor, like that of breakfast sausage, that is not quite right in the Swedish meatballs.  Whereas, the Ground “Beef” is a plain flavor that should not mask and confuse the lovely seasonings in Colleen’s recipe.  I’m guessing the result would be more pure and simple, and classic in flavor.  I wasn’t too careful on measuring, I just used a cereal spoon to scoop up the meatballs and so I got 46 small meatballs, not the 60 “tiny” meatballs Colleen specifies.  This took an hour or so but now I have enough to freeze for the two of us, for 3 or 4 more meals.  Fry them before freezing because prior to frying, the raw meatballs are a bit gooey.  Lars is of Scandinavian descent and he really liked these, and I did too.  So, the next time you’re at IKEA, pick up some Lingonberry jam and make these vegan Swedish Meatballs!

Vegan Tourtiere or Vegan Pork Pie

If you ever lived in Canada or New England, you might know what a tourtiere is; a traditional French-Canadian Reveillon dish (also enjoyed at New Years).  I was told of this dish by some French Canadians and once I tasted it, I was smitten.  It wasn’t so much the meat in this pie, but the marriage of a savory pie with spices I had previously only associated with sweet desserts.  One guy told me his mother would slice the potatoes very thinly, and lay them in the bottom of the pie tin, in concentric circles.  But the only tourtieres I ate in New Hampshire, had a ground filling that was whipped with the potatoes.  This is the perfect time to break out the vegan pate brisee pie crust recipe I posted under pastry.  It is so rich and delicious that almost anything would taste good in it.  The end verdict is that this tourtiere tastes almost EXACTLY like my old favorite pork pie that I made at Christmastime for about 30 years.  I don’t know that anyone would be able to tell the difference.

VEGAN TOURTIERE  or  VEGAN PORK PIE

Yields 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
A double crust of Pate Brisee, well chilled and preferably resting in fridge overnight.
2 Cups Beyond Beef  Beefy Crumble   (or Boca Crumbles )
3 medium russet potatoes (or two larger ones)
1 medium-to-large onion, diced small
8 oz. carrots, grated very fine (about 3-4 medium carrots)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
½ teaspoon sea salt, divided in half
2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground Allspice

DIRECTIONS
Put one or two rolling pins in the freezer to chill.   Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and immediately put washed potatoes directly onto cold oven rack, and bake potatoes for 30 minutes.  Then poke potatoes deeply twice along their sides with a fork, and then bake potatoes 30 more minutes.  Remove potatoes from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

While potatoes are baking:  Process carrots until very fine, or grate finely.    Cut onion into a small dice.  On medium heat, cook diced onion and processed carrots in 2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance vegan butter and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, until all are softened well.    Turn heat off under carrots and onions.   Stir together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the cinnamon and allspice, and add this spice blend to the warm carrot mixture, and stir to mix well.

Slit open the potatoes and scoop out the hot potato (not the skins) into a large mixing bowl.   Add carrot/onion mixture to the potatoes, and beat all with a hand mixer until semi-smooth, about a minute.  Add vegan meat crumbles and mix lightly with mixer just until incorporated, maybe 15-30 seconds or so.

Remove pie crust halves from refrigerator.  Roll out bottom crust and lay gently into pie pan, and dock with a fork.  Trim edges just a little to even them.  Put filling into pie crust until full to the top, press gently and smooth with back of a spoon but don’t pack the filling in.    Top with second crust, trim and crimp, and score into 8 pieces, instead of poking holes (see photo below).   Cover the edges of the pie crust with a pie crust shield or tin foil, this is important!    Bake tourtiere at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, setting timer.   Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 35-45 minutes. Check early. You should see the pie crust puff slightly and begin to turn golden at the edges, eyeball it and keep checking.   Serve hot, with a small pat of vegan butter on top of each slice, and sprinkle ever so lightly with fine sea salt.

Notes:   If you want, you can substitute 2 Cups rehydrated TSP (textured soy protein) for the vegan meat crumbles.  If you cut the potatoes open neatly the long way, you can use them for stuffed potato skins.  Try to use a lighter-colored vegan meat if possible.  Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble, for example, turns the filling quite dark, which is ok if you don’t mind the visual (it’s still delicious).

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Score into 8 pieces for venting and easy serving.  I’m guessing you could freeze the whole pie at this point, before baking, as long as the crust has not previously been frozen.

Macaroni and Cheese

For some, a good vegan mac and cheese is like the Holy Grail.  Maybe it’s because cheese is the hardest thing for many people to give up.  Not surprising, since cheese has opiates in it that are designed to bring the baby calf back to the mama cow.  Yes, the milk in cheese is for baby cows, not humans.  Nowadays, some recovering opiate addicts are even advised not to eat cheese and other dairy.  When VegNews magazine claimed they had the best mac ‘n’ cheese on the planet, I cut out the recipe.  However, i also had a  recipe from the little cookbook Skinny Bitch in The Kitch, called “Macaroni and Four Cheeses.”  So, I wavered between the two recipes, wondering which one to try.  The recommendation on the Skinny B. recipe was very strong, but I won’t quote it here.  And looking at the ingredients, I could tell it was kind of a brilliant recipe, because they use frozen butternut squash puree to help give that neon orange glow we all used to know and love (admit it).  Now, i don’t have four different vegan cheeses in my cupboard, and this recipe made way too much, so I made just a few minor changes, and DANG it’s good.  And the best part is that it was even better the next day!  I think we’ve all reheated the gloppy, congealed mess that is leftover Macaroni and Cheese.  Looking at it is a metaphor for what it does to your arteries, not to mention all the animals that suffer horribly so we can have a bit of gunk. If you haven’t read the best seller Skinny Bitch, then you need to, because  IT  WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!  Don’t let the title put you off, it’s deceptive.  This is actually a deep and serious book cloaked in a somewhat-offensive kitschy title.  There’s also a male version of this powerful little book.  I halved the recipe (but not the topping) and changed some other amounts too.

VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE

Serves 6-8 (depending upon if you’re serving women and girls, or men and boys)

INGREDIENTS
1 T fine sea salt, plus 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 pound whole wheat or brown rice elbow macaroni
1 10 oz. pkg. organic frozen butternut squash puree, such as Cascadian Farms
1 C soy or rice milk  (I use the 8 oz. boxes for cooking)
3 oz. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (approx. 3/4 Cup)
2 oz. (about 1/4 C) vegan cream cheese
3/4 tsp powdered mustard
1/16th tsp cayenne powder

TOPPING
1/4 C whole wheat bread crumbs  (equal to one slice Ezekiel bread)
2 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese, such as Go Veggie brand (optional)  (could substitute Nutritional Yeast here)
1 Tbsp oil, such as safflower or canola

DIRECTIONS
Pulse and grind 2 slices of healthy bread to fine crumbs.    Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease or spray a casserole dish (1.5 to 2 qt. size).    Add 1 T salt to a pot of water and cook pasta according to directions,  drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, combine frozen squash puree and milk, stirring until squash is defrosted.    Bring squash and milk mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.    Remove squash mixture from heat, whisk in vegan cheeses, spices and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, until smooth.

Return drained pasta to its pot,  and stir cheese sauce into macaroni.    Transfer macaroni/cheese mixture into buttered casserole dish.    In a cereal bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan and 1 Tbsp oil.    Sprinkle bread crumb topping over top of macaroni and cheese.    Place casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.    Then broil for 2-3 minutes until top is nicely browned.  Don’t walk away here, don’t burn it.

Eat and have flashbacks from your childhood, only better.  I like to chop up some garden tomatoes and sprinkle them with a teensy bit of fine sea salt.  Top with hot mac and cheese.  The next day, you can reheat the casserole dish in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.