STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

  This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

DIRECTIONS
Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Vegan Pots de Creme

img_3215     This recipe for Vegan Pots de Crème is excellent the way it is, but there are some simple variations you could do (see below).   This is really easy, delicious, and elegant enough for a dinner party or New Years, or Valentines Day.  I topped mine with easy, homemade coconut whipped cream, but So Delicious also makes non-dairy whipped cream in a tub.

VEGAN POTS DE CREME

Makes about 6 generous servings

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup full-fat coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. Mori-Nu Silken Firm tofu, drained  (organic if it’s available)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Cup vegan chocolate chips  (dark or semi-sweet)
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, heat the coconut milk until very hot, but do not simmer or boil.  In a blender, put silken tofu, sugar, salt and chocolate chips.  Measure out only 3/4 Cup of the hot coconut milk, add it to the blender along with the vanilla extract, and blend until smooth and silky.  Spoon the mousse into small ramekins, espresso cups, demitasse cups, etc.  It’s rich, so keep the servings small.  Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours, but you can make this a couple of days ahead even.  Serve chilled or, I like it halfway to room temperature.  When ready to serve, top with vegan whipped cream, such as coconut whipped cream, So Delicious, etc.  See other variations below.

EASY VARIATIONS
For Black Forest flavor, make with dark chocolate chips, and top with a few pie-filling cherries and a dollop of whipped cream.  For Mocha flavor, make with vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips and add a couple teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee to the saucepan of hot coconut milk.  Or before serving, drizzle on some vegan caramel sauce.  You could layer the bottom of the ramekin with a few caramelized banana slices, or go for an almond-joy flavor with sweetened coconut and toasted almonds, etc., etc.
IMG_2875  I prefer the organic if I can find it.

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.

VEGAN HAUPIA CAKE

Makes one 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS
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

INSTRUCTIONS
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.

VEGAN VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE RECIPE

Makes one 9-inch cake of two layers

INGREDIENTS
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

DIRECTIONS
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.

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

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

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

Makes one pie, approx. 8-10 slices

INGREDIENTS
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

DIRECTIONS
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.

EASY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Makes about one pint

INGREDIENTS
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

DIRECTIONS
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.
IMG_2943

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.

VEGAN CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER PIE

8-10 servings

INGREDIENTS
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)

DIRECTIONS
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.
IMG_2875
IMG_2877

Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread

IMG_2593     This Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread is buttery, with a light crunch from the oats and almonds, and sweetness from the raspberry jam.  This is more of a delicate shortbread–amazing with tea, or any time.  Other raspberry bars on this site include Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars (thicker and nuttier with a touch of caramel), and plain Raspberry Oat Bars (more of a rustic crumble bar).  Yes, it would seem I have a thing for raspberry bars. . .

VEGAN RASPBERRY OAT SHORTBREAD

Makes:  16 squares

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cold vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I like Dickinson’s Red Raspberry)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/16th teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter an 8-inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.  Mix the jam with the vanilla and almond extracts, stirring until it’s a somewhat smooth consistency, and then leave it out at room temperature.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Then add oats and pulse a few times.  Cube the vegan butter and add it, pulsing until the mixture starts to cling together in bits.  Then add almonds and pulse just until incorporated.  The idea is NOT to grind up the almonds–you just want them in pieces throughout the dough. We also do NOT want to overwork the dough, it’s going to be a bit crumbly.

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the dough.  Press the rest GENTLY but evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough, leaving at least a 1/4 inch-wide border (in other words, do not spread the jam all the way to the edges).  Sprinkle the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake until the edges are starting to turn golden, about 20-23 minutes.  Within 5-10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.  You can also make your cuts after about 10 minutes, cutting straight down (do not use a sawing motion).  The end of a thin flat spatula works well for this.  The shortbread will firm as it cools.  Store in fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes:  This recipe took me three tries to get right.  I started out adding fresh raspberries but the end result was then too gooey and wet.  I pressed the dough too firmly in the pan and it was hard to cut into squares, and a bit tough.  I also found that for best results, it kind of matters in which order you process the dough ingredients.
IMG_2588  Leave the edges of the dough bare, as the jam will spread on its own.

Vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce

cherry sauce     I created this easy and delicious vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce specifically for the Daiya New York Cheezecake I was serving at a small dinner party.  This sauce can easily be made without the alcohol too.  And because we’re using frozen cherries, it can be made in any season.  Also, if you want organic–it’s possible to find frozen organic cherries, while it can be difficult to find fresh organic cherries.  This would also be good on a vegan Black Forest Cake.

BRANDIED CHERRY SAUCE

Makes enough for the top of a cheesecake or black forest cake.

INGREDIENTS
10 oz. bag frozen cherries
1/3 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon scant fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser  (or water)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In small saucepan, dry whisk sugar, cornstarch and sea salt.  Add Kirschwasser or water, and stir.  Add cherries and cook over medium heat, stirring often until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Add extracts and stir to combine.

Note:  It takes 15 or 20 minutes for this to thicken up, so I make this while I’m working near the stove, so I can stir it often.  I used Dekuyper brand Kirschwasser.  If you can find Oregon brand Dark Sweet Cherries in the 15 oz. can, they are a good substitute for frozen cherries, but remember to drain them first, and discard the can liquid.

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.

Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

IMG_0281    If you can’t tell by my Instagram, I’m currently a bit obsessed with Superfood Smoothies  by  Julie Morris.  To date, I’ve made eleven of the smoothies from this book and am crazy about some of them.  My favorite so far is the Pistachio Cherry,  with the Lucuma Macadamia coming in at a close second.  Sometimes we want a lighter, fruity smoothie for breakfast, and then a creamy rich smoothie for an afternoon snack.  Some of these smoothies are on the level of luscious desserts but are actually good for you, body and soul.  Superfood Smoothies has opened my eyes to a whole new world of true superfood ingredients, such as Maca, Maqui, White Mulberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Protein Powder, etc.  I started out buying one superfood per week, and found them to be cost effective in that most of them had long expiration dates–some up to two years.  And a little goes a long way on most of them.  For example, even 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder is effective.  Each superfood is profiled in the front, with tips on what form to buy it in, how to store it and the exact benefits.  Each recipe has a row of simple graphic symbols above it, to indicate its bonus benefits (such as a little red heart for cardiovascular health).  There’s a Smoothies by Benefit Index in the back so you can tailor the smoothies to your needs, like Bone Strength, Low Calorie, Protein, etc., and all the smoothies have multiple benefits.   Julie Morris is a firm believer that smoothies must taste good, even when incorporating vegetables like beets or broccoli.   Although I juice a couple of times a week, this gorgeous book has me excited to try new smoothies.  To see more from Julie Morris, check out her other superfood cookbooks on amazon, or check out her Youtube channel.
IMG_0285  Grapefruit Pomegranate
IMG_0329  Cacao Mocha with Soyatoo Rice Whip on top
IMG_0275Orange Goji

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 Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings

VEGAN HONEYDEW MATCHA BUBBLE TEA

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
IMG_2584IMG_2582
IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie

IMG_2542    This Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie is incredibly refreshing in the heat of summer.   Sweetened with dates, only a few ingredients but packing a wallop of nutrition, and it tastes like good vanilla ice cream.    It’s almost like magic.  Thanks to Gail, my lovely neighbor who delivered three monster cantaloupes from her garden yesterday.

CANTALOUPE VANILLA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2 to 3

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen cantaloupe chunks
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 Cup organic soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Scrape seeds out of cantaloupe, and cut into chunks .  Freeze chunks on dinner plates or a cookie sheet, for several hours.  Freezing the cantaloupe chunks is important so you get individual chunks of cantaloupe, not big lumps of frozen-together cantaloupe that won’t fit into the bottom of your blender.   Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then discard pits and chop dates.  Put all ingredients into blender and blend just until smooth.  Enjoy one of the most refreshing shakes ever.  This makes 2 medium smoothies or three small shakes of about 3/4 Cup each.

Notes:  You can stretch this a bit by adding another half cup of cantaloupe.  You may need to add a little more liquid to finesse the blender.  If you want it less sweet, use only one date.  If using smaller dates, adjust accordingly (the Medjool dates are big).
IMG_2534  Frozen chunks of cantaloupe on cookie sheet.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE SHAKE

Servings:  2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Vegan Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars

IMG_1971    These vegan Raspberry and Oat Bars by Yotam Ottolenghi have a caramel nut topping,  raspberry filling and rustic oat-pastry base.  You can vary the types of nuts and jam–use what you have on hand.  Although there are a few steps to these, this is an easy recipe,  and you wind up with something rich, decadent and kind of special.  I did add a pinch of salt to the topping, and used Spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour.  There is another excellent Raspberry Oat Bar on this site as well.

VEGAN OTTOLENGHI RASPBERRY OAT BARS

Makes 16 bars

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup spelt flour   (or all-purpose flour,  or whole wheat pastry flour)
scant 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 Cup rolled oats

3/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I prefer Dickinson’s brand)

TOPPING
3/4 Cup sliced almonds
3/4 Cup raw pecans,  chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw hazelnuts, chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw Brazil nuts, chop coarsely

6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
2 Tablespoons So Delicious Coconut Creamer  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper each way so the paper comes up each side of the pan to create tabs to lift the bars/slab out of the pan.  This will take two longer sheets of parchment paper.

To make the base.  Dry whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add sugar and dry whisk again.  Add cold vegan butter in small chunks, and cut in with a pastry cutter to form a crumb texture.  Stir in the oats.  Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool 10-15 minutes.  Stir jam until smooth and then spread the jam over the base crust.

To make the topping.  Place all chopped nuts in a large, heat-resistant bowl and stir  together.  In a small saucepan, heat butter, sugar and plant milk over medium heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, and then stir in vanilla.  Pour this mixture over the chopped nuts and stir together.  Pack nut mixture evenly over the jam/base, and return pan to oven to bake for 30 more minutes, until nuts have turned a nice golden brown.  Leave pan to cool on rack.  When it’s fairly cool, chill in fridge (it will firm up in the fridge).  Remove from pan and onto a large cutting board.  Peel away parchment paper and cut into squares.

Notes:  I reduced the butter in the base and in the topping by one Tablespoon each, as written above.  Measure out and then chop the nuts.
IMG_1968

Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

IMG_1169    This is basically Gena Hamshaw’s pumpkin pie, but I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and also put a pecan streusel on it.  It’s thickened with cashews instead of eggs, and it’s delicious.  The photo above is old.  In 2015, I replaced the molasses with pure maple syrup, to lighten up the color and flavor.

VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE WITH PECAN STREUSEL

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS FOR PIE
1 single pie crust, such as my pate brisee
2.5 Cups pumpkin puree  (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 Cup cashews, soaked 3+ hours (or overnight)  and drained of soaking water
3/4 Cup demerara, brown, or cane sugar
2 Tablespoons tapioca starch/flour
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup  (instead of molasses)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves  (1/16th teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

INGREDIENTS FOR STREUSEL
1/4 Cup chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Stick
1/4 Cup flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 Teaspoon fine sea salt
tiny pinch cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
Roll out pie crust and place in pie pan, pinch the edges decoratively, and put it in the fridge.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make streusel:  Melt butter.  In small mixing bowl, dry whisk all other streusel ingredients.  Add melted butter, stir well to combine.  Set aside.

Blend all pie-filling ingredients in a food processor until super smooth.  I used a Vitamix instead, see photo below.  The mixture should be quite thick, but if it’s too thick, you can thin it with a Tablespoon or two of water or non-dairy milk (I did not thin it).  Spoon into the crust, smooth over, and put a pie shield on the pinched edges of the crust.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Add streusel to the top of the pie, and then bake 15-20 minutes more until edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is dark.  Let cool completely before serving.  Serve with Coconut Whipped Cream or So Delicious CocoWhip.

Notes:  This is a great time to use fresh pumpkin, but canned is perfectly great too.  If you don’t have a pie shield, lightly crumple tin foil over the edges of your pie crust, to keep it from over-cooking.  Next time, I would possibly use all pure maple syrup, and no molasses, but it’s great this way too!
IMG_1156  Filling blended w/cashews in Vitamix.

Vegan Butterfinger Milkshake

IMG_0998    We recently tried the Butterfinger Milkshake at Café Blossom, and it was really good.  The key to this recipe is that old-school candy called Chick-O-Stick, because Chick-O-Sticks taste pretty much like the orange-colored center of a Butterfinger candy bar.  You can also get a vegan Butterfinger milkshake at Terri restaurants in New York City, but I haven’t had theirs.  Here’s my own delicious version of the Butterfinger Milkshake.

VEGAN BUTTERFINGER MILKSHAKE

Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
6 oz. soy yogurt in plain or vanilla flavor  (I used So Delicious brand)
1 Cup cold almond milk  (or soy milk)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 dried dates (pits discarded), roughly chopped
8 Chick-O-Sticks  (sticks, not bites)
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Spoon vegan yogurt into ice-cube tray and freeze.
When yogurt cubes are frozen, get out your blender.
Set aside 4 Chick-O-Sticks
Into blender, put almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and pitted dates, and blend until almost smooth.
Add the yogurt cubes and blend until almost smooth.
Add the ice and 4 of the Chick-O-Sticks and blend until almost smooth.
Add the last 4 Chick-O-Sticks and blend just a bit, so there are some tiny chunks of Chick-O-Sticks still intact.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  More photos below.  I put half the complete milkshake into the fridge, and it was still a nice, thick consistency an hour later.  I experimented, making this shake several times, trying different ingredients and mixing up the order of blending, in order to figure out better flavor and consistency.   I found the pretty paper straws at Target in their Thanksgiving paper-goods display, 40 for $3, and you get two different color combos (orange and brown in this case).

IMG_0993  I got the Chick-O-Sticks from amazon.com.
IMG_1000  I used only one 6 oz. container of yogurt.

Vegan Lychee Buttercream Frosting

IMG_0955    My lovely cousin Munam brought me some canned Lychee from Rockville.  And so I created this Lychee Buttercream Frosting to go with the Lychee Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.   I was a bit skeptical about the recipe for the cupcake itself because it has a whopping 5 Tablespoons of flaxseed in it, but these cupcakes are very good–slightly dense and fruity, but still definitely cake.  I used only 1/3 Cup of finely-chopped lychee fruit and only 1/4 Cup of oil in the recipe, and they were still great.  I remember eating lots and lots of lychee as a kid on Kauai when we would pick them right off the branches.  This is my first experience with canned lychee and although it’s been decades, the fruity floral perfume of this Lychee Buttercream Frosting takes me right back to the Garden Isle.

VEGAN LYCHEE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

4 Cups confectioners/powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3 Tablespoons lychee syrup/juice from a can of lychee
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 drop red food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, bring Earth Balance Buttery Sticks to room temperature.  Add all other ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.  If you want the lychee flavor to be milder, use only 2 Tablespoons of lychee syrup and add 1 Tablespoon of water.  I’m going from memory, but it seems to me that the canned lychee flavor is a bit more intense than the fresh lychee.  Canned lychee are often available in Oriental grocery stores.  I used a 20 ounce can of lychee, so I had plenty of syrup to work with for both the cupcakes and this frosting.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

IMG_0089  From the library, I borrowed Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli.   Had to get it through interlibrary loan, and order it twice, but it finally arrived.  These Salted Caramel Cupcakes were very easy to make, despite the caramel flavor achieved in the frosting.  I’ve never wanted to fuss with caramel since those recipes normally involve the words “candy thermometer” but this could not have been easier.  I pre-measured the dry ingredients one day, and made the frosting and put that in the fridge.  So when it came time to actually make the cupcakes, it went very fast, had them in the oven within 30 minutes.  No eggs here, Chloe uses her signature baking soda and vinegar combo instead.  They rose just fine and tasted great.  I sprinkled the frosted cupcakes with a few crystals of Pyramid Salt that I picked up years ago from Fauchon in Paris, but any nice finishing salt would do.   I’d avoid kosher salt, however, for its strong chemical taste.  Ok, so the flavor was perfect, fairly gourmet and a bit different.  My only complaint is that the bottoms of the cupcakes themselves were a bit oily.  Next time, I would sub out half the oil and add in some applesauce to replace it.  It also made too much frosting, so I put at least a cup of frosting in the freezer.  Next time, I would also make sure to spray the paper baking cups with cooking spray, as there was a bit of sticking on the sides, despite the slight-oily quality of the cake bottoms.  But, with these small changes, I would definitely make these for an occasion, such as a birthday, book club, or a dinner party–very good!  You must keep these in the fridge since the frosting is buttercream, so make sure they come to room temperature before serving.   p.s.  Don’t think I’m being harsh–these cupcakes (as per the original recipe) still beat any restaurant cupcake to hell.

Vegan Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

This recipe is from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, and wow, is it good.   It’s rich and creamy but somehow light.  It has the pumpkin flavor without being cloying, and yet it’s also got that classic cheesecake tang and texture.  I would take this to any Thanksgiving, and serve it at any dinner party.  On the other hand, it’s easy to make, and you can throw it together in under 30 minutes, not counting cooking and chilling times.
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Vegan Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Servings:  8 to 10

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (look for the non-hydrogenated one in the yellow container)
12 ounces extra-firm silken tofu, such as Mori Nu (Morinaga) brand in the little box
1/2 Cup light agave nectar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons lemon juice, or the juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 Cup pumpkin puree  (canned, not pumpkin pie mix)
2 teaspoons rum (optional)  (I used Malibu brand coconut rum)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg  (fresh is preferred but not required)

1 pre-made 8-inch graham-cracker crust  (or oatmeal cookie crust)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Put the first set of ingredients (Tofutti through vanilla) in a food processor and puree until completely, silky smooth.
Remove a heaping Cup of this mixture from the processor and spread it in the bottom of the crust.
Add the next set of ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg) to the ingredients remaining in the food processor, and process until well blended.
Smooth the entire mixture carefully over the white layer in the crust.
Bake until the center is almost set, about 50-60 minutes.
Insert a toothpick–if it comes out liquidy and cold, give it more time until the center is firm.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan on rack.
Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least three hours.
Serve to delighted guests  (don’t tell them it’s vegan until after it’s eaten).

Notes:  I did not bake longer than 60 minutes.  If you don’t know what to do with the leftover pumpkin, dogs like a spoonful or two in their dinner,  but don’t give it to them all at once, if you know what I mean.  The original recipe called for only 1.5 Tablespoons of lemon juice.  My friend Piliki made it with her fresh, pureed pumpkin.  She put the pumpkin in a fine sieve and let it drain well and pressed excess moisture out of it.  She also baked it for 65 minutes, and said, “It was perfection.”

Vegan Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

These little Vegan Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are such a nice treat for Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Lars gave them a thumbs up, and I’m impressed by how perfect the cake and spices are.    I’ve increased the filling amount below, because it made a lot more cake than the instructions said it would.  I also reduced the oil.  They’re perfectly spiced, thanks to a great recipe by Valeria on Food. com.   I’ll definitely make these again next year.

p.s. They freeze beautifully, so you could make them ahead.

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Vegan Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2.5 Cups brown sugar
3/4 Cup safflower oil
2 egg substitutes  (I used 1 Tablespoon Ener G powder plus 1/4 Cup of water, frothed or whisked)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Cups canned organic pumpkin  (I used Trader Joe’s)

The filling
3/4 Cup Tofutti Cream Cheese
3 Cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons vegan butter or vegan shortening

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease them).
In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
In a separate bowl, stir together brown sugar, oil, egg replacer, vanilla extract and pumpkin.
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
Drop by rounded Tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until center of cookie springs back when lightly pressed.  I baked mine for 16 minutes in my accurate, electric oven.
Cool thoroughly on wire racks before spreading with filling.

While the cakes are baking, you can make the cream cheese filling:  In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together vegan cream cheese and vegan butter.
Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until thoroughly blended.  Chill in fridge.

To assemble, spread a dollop of filling on the bottom of one thoroughly-cooled cake and make a “sandwich” with a 2nd cake.  Wrap individually as they tend to dry out.

Notes:  These come out approximately 3 inches across.  They freeze beautifully.  I used Trader Joe’s canned organic pumpkin and found it superior to other brands I’ve tried, silkier and lighter in color.

Nutrition:  Calories 250, Fat 10, Saturated Fat 2, Trans Fat 0, Polyunsaturated Fat 1, Monounsaturated Fat 6, Cholesterol 0, Sodium 107, Carbs 39, Fiber 1, Sugars 22, Protein 2, Vitamin A 63%, Vitamin C 1%, Calcium 2%, Iron 5%.

Vegan Nut Bars

This Nut Bar is sort of like my old favorite, the Payday candy bar, which is unfortunately not vegan.  No worries, because this tastes way better.  The nuts and dried fruit can be mixed and matched here, using whatever you like.  The Lyle’s Golden Syrup, while British, is easily available in most U.S. grocery stores, and it adds a buttery unctuousness that’s hard to describe, with a slight caramel flavor.  The salt is a tiny bit intense but is an amazing foil against the sugar, and makes up the whole “salted nuts” flavor profile.  Any kind of nut combinations would do, so I plan to experiment with hazelnuts, pecans, etc., someday.   Vegan Mofo 2012.
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VEGAN NUT BARS

Makes approximately 12 to 16 bars, depending upon how you cut them.

INGREDIENTS
1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick  (1/2 Cup vegan butter)
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds (also called blanched almonds)
1/4 Cup white sesame seeds
1/2 Cup cocktail peanuts
1/4 Cup raisins

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper  (cut the parchment paper slightly long so you will be able to grasp it to pull the baked-and-cooled bar mass out of the pan).

In a large bowl, combine oats, all nuts and dried fruit, and stir well.    In a small saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, just until you see a bubble or two, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.   Add syrup mixture to oat/nut mixture, stir well and press evenly into prepared pan.    Bake 20 to 25 minutes, making sure edges turn golden brown, but do not burn.  Place pan on rack and allow mixture to fully cool in the pan, so it can harden and set.   Lift nut-bar mass onto a cutting board and cut into bars.  I used a long, sharp knife.   Store in airtight container with wax paper between the layers, so they don’t end up stuck together.  Chill in fridge, which will harden them a bit and make them less likely to fall apart.  Or freeze.

Notes:  Mix and match, use any combination of nuts and fruit you like!  Wrap in wax paper for the best lunchbox or road trip snack ever.

Earl Grey Poached Pears

I recently got the cookbook The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester.  These Earl Grey Poached Pears are the first thing I’ve made in my 4 quart, oval Crock Pot.  You end up with a thin floral sauce that could easily be cooked down to a thicker syrup on the stove top.  While we ate them plain, I think these pears also would be great chopped up on top of hot oatmeal, in pancakes or crepes, or over some vegan ice cream.  I’m a tea addict, and have made side trips to Fortnum and Mason, Mariage Freres, etc.  While I normally only drink oolong or green teas, with the occasional Darjeeling debacle, I do like the Earl Grey here.  That faint scent of roses on the melting, sandy pears.  I actually doubled up on the tea bags and we both liked the result.  I have a bunch of other recipes marked in this cookbook to try.  So for Vegan Mofo 2012, I’m recommending this cookbook.  It’s really got me thinking.

Rice-Cooker Balinese Black Rice Pudding or Bubur Injin

Supposedly, this exotic Black Rice Pudding from Bali is also called Bubur Pulut Hitam.  I think you can find other recipes using the name Bubur Injin, and there are other variations on this delicious dessert.  I found the black Thai sticky rice at Whole Foods; it’s their “365” store brand.   Believe it or not, I got the organic palm sugar from Amazon last winter.  The first time I made this, I made it the traditional way, in a steam pot, and permanently stained my white flour-sack dish towel.  So this time, I used my beloved Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker, and it was a snap.  My recipe below also eliminates the traditional overnight soaking of the rice.  Compared with the steaming, I got a softer texture with the Zojirushi, so if you’re a stickler about that chewier texture, such as you would supposedly get on the street in Bangkok, then this method may not be for you.  But for me, it tasted great and was so easy.  p.s.  You can find videos for this very popular dish online.
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Bubur Injin or Balinese Black Rice Pudding
    or Rice-Cooker Thai Black-Rice Pudding

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups Black Thai Rice (such as the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
1/4 Cup palm sugar  (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt.
2 Cups, or one 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 Cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
one fresh mango, peeled and cubed

DIRECTIONS
Rinse rice at least twice.
Cook rice in Zojirushi rice cooker, according to the directions for brown rice.
In a small skillet, toast shredded coconut over medium heat, stirring often, until nicely browned, and then set it aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, mix sugar, salt and coconut milk over medium heat, bring just to a boil, and then remove from heat.
Using a small measuring cup (1/3 Cup or less) put a mound of the cooked black rice in a very small bowl, and then spoon some of the coconut milk mixture on top of it.
Top each dish with some cubed mango and then sprinkle on some of the toasted coconut.

Note:  The palm sugar gives a subtle but authentic flavor twist to this dish.  The salt is a key foil to the sugar.  Make portions authentically small, as this is a dense dish.  I like Thai Kitchen brand organic coconut milk, found in grocery stores.

Vegan Milk Crumbs

Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar created something called Milk Crumbs, which she adds to some of her famous, non-vegan dessert recipes.  Her Milk Crumbs are made with nonfat cow- milk powder. Now, with Vegan Milk Crumbs, we can make Tosi’s basic recipes without killing anyone.  You see, when we drink cows’ milk, we flood our bodies with the natural pregnancy hormones of suffering, innocent beings.  And we also personally create a system where cows are forcibly impregnated their entire lives so they will lactate to “give” us milk.  And all the male baby cows born from these pregnancies are chained for their short lives, and then literally dragged to slaughter because they cannot walk.  And they are never allowed one drop of their own mothers’ milk.  So, if we’re drinking cow’s milk and eating cheese, we might as well be eating veal.  And all this is aside from the foreign, heart-stopping cholesterol we take in.  We don’t drink horse milk, and we are the only species who will drink the milk of another animal.  And did you know that drinking cow milk actually thins bones?  It’s true and you can find many studies that show it.  When we have the Meat and Dairy councils funding the American Food Pyramid and financing medical schools, it’s no wonder we have been duped for generations.
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Vegan Milk Crumbs

Makes enough for a batch of cookies.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon of Better Than Milk Soy Powder
      (with 2 Tablespoons plus 1.5 teaspoons set aside)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1.5 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup vegan white chocolate chips, melted

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons plus 1.5 teaspoons milk powder, flour cornstarch, sugar and salt.
Stir in melted vegan butter until well combined.
Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven.
Bake until dried and crumbly, about 25-30 minutes or so.
Remove milk crumble from oven and let cool completely.
Chop up coarsely.
First, transfer Milk Crumble to medium mixing bowl and fold in remaining Better Than Milk Powder and toss gently.
Then, add melted white chocolate and fold in gently.
Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
If necessary, chop cold Milk Crumbs further.

Notes:  I get my white chocolate chips from The Vegan Store, but you can also buy them from Vegan Essentials, etc.   Christina Tosi uses these Milk Crumbs in various recipes, including her Blueberry and Cream Cookies

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars

These vegan Raspberry Oat Bars are delicious and easy.  Elegant enough for high tea, but (wrapped in wax paper and eaten out of hand) rustic enough for a picnic.  The flavor reminds me of the beautiful raspberry cookies we had in Amsterdam.   On this site, there is also a vegan version of the Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars.

VEGAN RASPBERRY OAT BARS

INGREDIENTS
(for crust and crumb)
1.5 Cups flour (any combination of all-purpose, whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat)
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1.25 Cups rolled oats (and/or granola)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1.5 sticks Earth Balance Buttery Sticks

3/4 Cup seedless raspberry jam  (Dickinsons’s brand has great flavor.)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place vegan butter out to soften a bit.  Line an 8-9 inch square baking pan each way with parchment paper extending up the sides of the pan (this will help you lift the bars out onto a flat surface for cutting).   Or just generously grease the pan and place it in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, dry whisk all dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to butter, and use pastry cutter to incorporate until there is no powdery texture left.  Reserve 1.25 Cups scant of the crumbles/dough and put aside.  Press remaining dough gently into the pan with the back of a spoon, or your fingers.  Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and set pan on rack to cool for 7 minutes.

With a spoon, spread jam on warm crust.  Crumble the remaining crust mixture on top of the jam.  Bake 15 minutes more.  Remove from oven and cool pan on rack.  Chill and cut into squares.

Notes:  I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  You can substitute in a cup of granola for the oats.  And/or mix 2-3 Tablespoons of sweetened flake coconut into the jam before spreading.  You can also add 1/16th teaspoon of almond extract to the jam, if you want to gild the lily.

Harvest Pumpkin Cake

Here is the link for this recipe.  I bought this cookbook called Vegan Baking Classics by Kelly Rudnicki, and this recipe is in there, along with her recipe for the Dairy Free Cream Cheese Frosting.  It seems that Kelly Rudnicki is not an ethical vegan, but cooks vegan due to having a child with allergies.  I’m not sure about this, but that’s what I’m getting from her web site and her cookbook bio.  Either way, this cake is absolutely scrumptious.  I would not hesitate to make it for an Autumnal birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  Last year, I learned how to bake sugar pie pumpkins, and that’s what I used for this cake.  I just weighed out 15 ounces of pumpkin puree that I had run through the Vitamix.  FYI, I found organic “sugar pie pumpkins” at Whole Foods recently, the first time I’ve ever found them organic.  This is a very moist cake with a wonderful mild flavor.  The tofu is the egg replacer and gives it some extra protein.  Pumpkin is full of fiber, beta carotene and iron.  It also has protein, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium.  I did cut the margarine in half; I just couldn’t wrap my brain around using all that fat.  So, I did have to chill my frosting in order to do a crumb layer of icing.  Use as little icing as possible for your crumb layer because this recipe makes a somewhat scant amount, and you will need every bit of it for the finish coat.  I actually made a little extra frosting, and used it.
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HARVEST PUMPKIN CAKE

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup dairy-free shortening, such as Spectrum brand
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup silken tofu
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)  (I used my own pumpkin puree from sugar pie pumpkins)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soy or rice milk
1 recipe Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine shortening, sugars, silken tofu, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract on low speed until creamy. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda with a wire whisk.
Preheat oven to 350ºF, and spray two 9-inch round cake pans with dairy-free baking spray. Add flour mixture alternatively with soy milk to the shortening mixture. Beat well.  Pour into prepared pans, and bake 25 to 35 minutes. Cool completely, and frost with Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting.  Note:  I let the cakes cool completely in the pans, and then ran a butter knife around the edges and then inverted them onto racks until they fell.
——————-
Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 2 cups
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine  (I used 1/4 Cup)
3/4 cup dairy-free cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
21/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the margarine, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, and mix on low for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium, and beat 4 to 6 minutes, until light and fluffy. Chill before using.

I baked the cakes for only 25 minutes in my electric, non-convection oven, until they pulled away from the sides of my pale-colored cake pans.  i did use use a tester to make sure it came out clean and that the cakes were done inside.

Tovolo Popsicle Molds

I tried these popsicle molds for the first time this past week and am very satisfied with them.  After reading a bunch of reviews on amazon.com, I chose this Tovolo Star Ice Pop Mold.  You get six popsicle molds on a stand.  The green star on each mold acts as a drip catcher, which is kind of smart.  One thing I looked for was individual pop molds, so I could release one pop at a time.  So, if I need to run it under warm water for a few seconds, I’m only loosening one pop, and not the whole lot of them.  With all the bad stuff in popsicles now, these molds are very popular with people of all ages.  Online, I’ve seen uber-healthy pops made from things like acai juice, and homemade vegan fudgesicles, etc.   I think these would be great for teens too, or even to give as a gift, along with a cool popsicle recipe book such as Paletas by Fany Gerson (some of the recipes are vegan and some can be veganized).  These molds are also BPA free.  One tip I have is not to fill them too full, because you want to leave your little drip cup empty.   I filled mine too full, and Lars ended up eating the last bit of popsicle out of the drip cup with a fork.  So far, we’ve released two popsicles and, with a bit of warm water running on the mold for a few seconds, they both came out easily.    There are lots of vegan popsicle recipes online.  Additional photo below.

Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

I made a hot fudge sauce with this Baker Josef’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate which comes in an 8 oz. bag.  The only ingredients is “cocoa mass” so it’s totally vegan.  My bag has an expiration date of more than one year, and the chocolate comes in small, flat discs so it does indeed melt very easily.  Furthermore, 6 discs equal approximately one ounce, so you can count out the amount you want.  I did weigh 12 discs and it did come to just a hair over 2 ounces, so pretty accurate.  Of course, this would be great for any recipe calling for baking chocolate; cakes, brownies, sauces, etc.

Vegan Rice Krispy Treats – Take Two

This is my second attempt at vegan Rice Crispy Treats.  In my first attempt, I had to use puffed brown rice, because I found out that Rice Krispies are NOT vegan.  How lame is that?  Anyway, I found vegan Rice Crispy cereal at Giant grocery store, of all places.   The brand is called Erewhon (pronounced air-wahn).  If you did not see the box, you would swear you were eating Rice Krispies–they taste just like them, without the needless killing, and they’re healthier!  I mean, not only are they organic, they’re also non-GMO.  Then, at Acme grocery store, I stumbled upon Suzanne’s Ricemellow Cream, I couldn’t believe it.  So, here’s the recipe, and they taste much more authentic than my previous puffed-rice version, due to the new cereal.  I’m guessing that Dandies or Sweet and Sara marshmallows paired with this Erewhon cereal would create an exact taste match to the Rice Krispy Treats of our youth.  But these are delicious too.  It should also be noted that Ricemellow Creme is much cheaper than vegan marshmallows.  I will also add that the Ricemellow Creme melted quickly and completely, whereas the Sweet and Sara did not melt quite all the way.  On the other hand, this is fine because the little residual lumps of marshmallow are very good in the Treats.  And of course, you can roast those Sweet and Saras and the Dandies over a good old campfire, from what I hear.
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Vegan Rice Krispy Treats – Vegan Rice Crispy Treats

INGREDIENTS
10 ounce container of Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Cups Erewhon Organic Crispy Brown Rice cereal

DIRECTIONS
Heat vegan butter in large saucepan on low-to-medium heat.
Add vanilla extract and Ricemellow Creme and stir until smooth.
Be careful not to overheat the Ricemellow cream, because it can burn and have an offputting flavor.
Add cereal to hottish Ricemellow Creme and mix gently.
Press into a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan.
With a dull knife, cut into squares but do not remove from pan.
Store in refrigerator.

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

For the 4th of July, I made this Summer Berry Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Whipped Creme by Chloe Coscarelli.  The cobbler was good and easy, but really, it’s the Coconut Vanilla Bean Whipped Creme that’s AMAZING.  It’s easy and quick, could be used on a multitude of desserts, and it’s delicious.  Rich but light, it has the faintest hint of lush coconut essence in with the natural vanilla bean.  Chef Chloe was the first vegan to win a Cupcake Wars on the Food Network (Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers Bakery in D.C. also won a different episode).   Anyway, I actually love the cobbler/crisp posted previously on this site, but Chloe’s cobbler is good in a different way.  Hers has an almost shortbread quality to it, and of course, any seasonal fruits can be mixed and/or substituted.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Whipped Creme

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. can of full-fat coconut milk, chilled. Thai Kitchen or Whole Foods 365 are brands recommended by Chef Chloe.
Seeds from one vanilla bean (slit and scrape the bean)
2/3 Cup powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)

DIRECTIONS
Chill the coconut milk in the fridge for an hour or more. You can also give it a head start by putting it in the freezer for 20 minutes, like I did.
Chill bowl and whisk of stand mixer in the freezer for 30 minutes. I just used a medium-sized mixing bowl and the beaters from my little hand mixer.
Scrape the cream from the top of the coconut milk can, and discard the remaining liquid. Or save it for a curry or something.
Add all ingredients to the chilled bowl and mix with chilled beaters a minute or two until fluffy.
Store in refrigerator.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook

Blueberry Lemon Muffins  from  The Joy of Vegan Baking, were a success (see second photo below).  I did make a couple of slight changes.  First, I used sea salt instead of regular salt.  Secondly, and most importantly, I used only 1 teaspoon of baking soda, because this recipe was a bit over-leavened, especially since we have the white vinegar as our acid for the baking soda to react to.  And these muffins rose nice and high.  In order to create a “buttermilk,” I added the vinegar to the non-diary milk separately, stirred it and gave it a couple of minutes to thicken.  I added the lemon zest to the wet ingredients in order to keep it away from the baking soda until the combining of the flour mixture with the wet ingredients.  This batter just fit in my standard 12-cup muffin tin.  I had to poke a few berries into the last two cups I filled because most of the berries had poured into the other cups.  Because the cups had been filled so full, I was a bit concerned.  As I did the dishes, I peeked through the oven-door glass every now and then, and hoped these muffins would not overflow the pan.  They did not, and they are delicious.  In the end, I was glad I had chosen to use the full cup of sugar, because they were not too sweet in taste.  You may need to run a butter knife around each muffin in order to get it out of your pan, as I did, even though i had generously greased each cup with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, which is made for baking (recipe calls for only a light greasing).  I broke one muffin open while it was still hot, and put some Earth Balance Whipped Organic Buttery Spread on it while it was still steaming, and it was wonderful.  The hint of lemon is nice, and the crumb is very tender and light.  The outside of these muffins have a very thin buttery golden crust to them.  Lars gave them a thumbs up too.

Maple Walnut Cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance

These Maple Walnut Cookies are from the Vegan With A Vengeance cookbook.  Online, this cookbook is also referred to as VWAV.  Here are my experiences with this recipe:

It’s easy.  I didn’t quite get 36 cookies, but maybe 32 or 33. The cookies are on the thin side, and simultaneously chewy and crispy, depending upon how long you bake them.  I did read some comments that the cookies are too thin, batter is too watery, etc., but I embrace this texture for what it is.  To me, these cookies have a decidedly Autumnal look and flavor, so they would be great in the Fall. There’s a whopping 1.5 Cups of chopped raw walnuts in this recipe and so the walnut flavor is a little too strong for me (and I love walnuts).  So I think next time, I would also try making this recipe with pecans and they would be like “pecan pie” cookies.  All in all, a good recipe but not for those who are not crazy about walnuts.  I found this one old blog post by Vegan Duckling and she made this recipe gluten-free by substituting 1/2 Cup each of quinoa flour, brown rice flour and oat flour.  To thicken the batter, she also added 1/4 Cup more tapioca starch (you could also use arrowroot or corn starch) and 2 more Tablespoons of brown rice flour, and says the cookies came out perfectly.  In her photo, the cookies do look more conventional, and this is perhaps from her thickening of the batter.  However, she doesn’t comment on texture.  So, it seems like this is a forgiving recipe, too.  Just to remind myself, I’ll note here that I should also try adding 1/4 Cup of rolled oats; I think they’d be great in this recipe.  Also, you could use half walnuts and half pecans, etc., etc.  OK, here’s my final thought:  1/2 Cup chop walnuts, plus 1/2 Cup chop pecans, plus 1/2 Cup old fashioned rolled oats.  Good recipe if you love walnuts, but still not stellar as written, in my opinion.  p.s.  I actually prefer this other recipe for similar cookies on this site; Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies.

Rhubarb Strawberry Compote

This is my own recipe that I developed about ten years ago when i was looking for the easiest way to make compote.  The answer is to simply combine some of the ingredients into a casserole dish and bake it in the oven, of course.  I saw a lot of recipes that called for whopping amounts of sugar (like two cups), but I’ve really  cut it down here and still have plenty of sweetness to offset the extremely stringent rhubarb.  Married here with its seasonal partner, the strawberry, this is so good that it has converted rhubarb haters.  Also, the finished hot rhubarb ends up cooking the raw strawberries and it comes out just right (said the baby bear).  p.s.  Keep in mind that strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen, so it’s important to buy organic when it comes to this fruit.  If you want to skip the rhubarb, there’s also a quick Strawberry Chia Jam,  and a Quick Freezer Jam on this swite.

RHUBARB STRAWBERRY COMPOTE

INGREDIENTS
1 pound rhubarb (3-4 large stalks)
16 oz. organic strawberries
½ vanilla bean (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 Cup organic sugar
¼ Cup Brown Rice Syrup

a teaspoon of Earth Balance to butter the casserole

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
(Do NOT add any water, because rhubarb releases a lot of water)
Butter the casserole dish with the Earth Balance, and set aside.
Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces, and place into buttered casserole.
Optional; scrape seeds from half of a vanilla bean, and add to casserole dish.
Add salt.
Pour pour sugar over all.
Cover with lid and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, slice strawberries into halves and quarters.
Gently mix strawberries with brown rice syrup, and set aside.
When timer goes off, remove casserole from oven.
immediately put strawberries in with hot rhubarb, and mix gently.
Replace lid and let strawberries “cook” with rhubarb as it cools.
Freezes beautifully!  This versatile compote is great on vegan cheesecake, soy yogurt parfaits, etc.  It also makes a big splash on the center of broiled grapefruit halves for a special brunch or breakfast, spooned over vegan ice cream, you name it.

Apricot Cheesecake by La Dolce Vegan

This recipe is a winner.  It tastes almost like a dairy cheesecake but does not support the veal industry or killing cows, so what could be better?  And it’s cholesterol free and doesn’t stop your heart!  Online I found that a lot of people love the Apricot Cheesecake from the La Dolce Vegan cookbook by Sarah Kramer.  Sarah even claims in this interview, that it’s one of her favorite recipes, and I just happen to own that cookbook.  It’s an easy recipe but I did find a few things I was not prepared for, including the fact that the recipe does not call for pressing or even draining the tofu.  I recommend both because tofu holds a lot of water right out of the container.  My cheesecake came out perfectly, but then i realized two days later that the residual (hidden) tofu water had dripped onto the bottom of my oven. And I realized this when I went to make garlic bread and my oven started smoking something wicked.  One self-clean cycle later, I then realized that if the spring form pan had not dripped, the bottom of the cheesecake would have been soggy.  All this despite the fact that I placed the tofu blocks on a dinner plate and kept tipping the plate to drain them into the sink.  I own a “good” Kaiser brand springform pan that supposedly does not leak, but it does sometimes.  So next time, I’m pressing the tofu some.  And when I say pressing the tofu, I don’t bother with paper towels, I simply put the tofu on a clean plate, invert another clean plate on top of the tofu and place a 14 ounce can of beans on top of the top plate, and then just drain the whole shebang into the sink every now and then, until half an hour has gone by.  I will also place the spring form pan on a baking sheet next time too, just to be safe.  The cheesecake turned out to be approximately 1.5 inches high.  I added an extra teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and doubled the lemon zest and it was still not too lemony, and it enhanced the taste.  I used two 12.3 ounce packages of Mori-Nu brand Silken Soft tofu from the grocery store.  And two 8 ounce tubs of Tofutti Vegan Cream Cheese (the non-hydrogenated one).  For the glaze, I used an 8 ounce jar of organic apricot fruit spread.  My 7-cup food processor was just big enough to hold the entire batter.  There are two other cheesecake recipes in this book, but this one appears to be the winner.    Of course, you could really dress this up in many ways–with fresh berries, edible flowers, you name it.  I’ve also served it with my own super-easy strawberry rhubarb compote.

Vegan Cocoa Brownies with Espresso Icing Glaze

These brownies are chewy and dark and like a mainline of chocolate therapy with my own coffee glaze that pushes them over the top.  This is not your tall, cake-like brownie, this brownie is not for wimps. Everyone knows chocolate has mood-lifting agents in it, and this one has that same mojo.   I remember when I (full of new-vegan hope) made the brownies from The Kind Diet, which are the worst brownies I have ever eaten, EVER, which is odd because the oatmeal cookies from that same cookbook are SO good.  So, I went to epicurious.com.  Some chefs claim (a tiny bit snootily) that Dutch cocoa is better than non-Dutch cocoa.  However, Dutch cocoa is processed with an alkaline solution that depletes the flavanols in the cocoa.  As I later learned, so does my addition of baking soda.  In future, I’ll try 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder, and eliminate the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, which I’m guessing will work just fine or even better.   Flavanols are polyphenols that act as antioxidants and the ones in cocoa are thought to improve blood vessel health and blood flow, something that is all good when you’re stressed or heartbroken!  Note, this photo is not entirely representative.  Yes, the brownies are this thin, but in real life, the Espresso Glaze is thinner.
VEGAN COCOA BROWNIES WITH ESPRESSO ICING GLAZE 
Yield:  Makes approx. 16 brownies
INGREDIENTS
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons flax seed meal (or grind your own flax seeds)
     plus 5 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda  (try using 1 teaspoon baking powder instead)
1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a small bowl, combine flax seed meal and water, and stir well or use a latte frother, like I do.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (or use a double boiler).
Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.
Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.
Add the flax meal binder mix, stirring vigorously.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and baking soda, and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
Stir in the nuts, if using.
Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a rack.
Pour Espresso Glaze on top of brownies and then refrigerate them.
When chilled, lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or so squares.
Keep chilled, they’re fabulous when they’re cold and fudgy!

Espresso Icing Glaze

This is an icing glaze I came up with a few years ago, and it takes less than five minutes to make.  Because caffeinated coffee gives me migraines, I use decaf instant coffee, or decaf instant espresso when i can find it.  This glaze is especially good on brownies but is versatile and can be drizzled on Bundt or coffee cakes, muffins, etc.  It has a gorgeous cafe au lait color.

Espresso Icing Glaze
2 Tablespoons soy milk or other non-dairy milk or creamer
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon  instant coffee or instant espresso GRANULES
1 Tablespoon vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1.5 Cups confectioner sugarDIRECTIONS
Heat milk, butter, and coffee until butter melts.  Watch carefully that it does not boil.
Stir in sugar until smooth.
Glaze while hot.

Flapjacks – British Oat Cakes

In America, the word Flapjack is most often synonymous with Pancake.  However, it is something different in Europe.  No matter which country you’re in, these particular flapjacks are chewy and sweet and uber satisfying.  When I took my Mom to England in 2004, we stayed in South Kensington, but hopping the Tube and various trains, we went everywhere for eleven days.  I noticed these little packages of individual oat cakes in every convenience store.  The exchange rate then was so bad for us, that I ate a “flapjack” almost every day.  We were walking at least 8 hours a day and were spending sometimes $30 U.S. on lunch (including tip) per person, so these curious flapjack thingies were a great snack that kept me from hunger until dinnertime.  I’ve tried several recipes for flapjacks over the years and this one tastes the most like the ones I had in London, and Leeds, and the Cotswolds.  Sort of brings me back there, like Paddington Bear.
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Vegan Flapjacks – British Oat Cakes

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup vegan butter, or one Earth Balance Buttery Stick
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar or Sucanat
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 Tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
3 Cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I use organic)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine vegan butter, sugar, salt, and Golden Syrup.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar have melted.
Add vanilla.
Immediately stir in oats until coated.
Pour into 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.  Mixture should be somewhere about an inch thick, maybe a bit less.
Oil your wooden spoon and press the oats down into the pan.
If using an 8-inch square pan, bake for about 20 minutes.
If using a 9-inch square pan, bake for about 18-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cut into squares or rectangles, but leave them in the pan until they cool completely.
They will harden more as they sit.

Notes;  Once again, I love my inexpensive Wilton9-inch square pan with cover.  A narrow offset spatula is helpful to extract slim rectangles or “bars” of the oat cakes from the pan, or you can just use a fork.  From what I’ve read, some Brits put raisins and/or nuts in their homemade flapjacks.  Lars likes them with chocolate chips.  If you’re adding anything like that, just add 1/4 Cup.  The store-bought ones I had in England, however, were just plain.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking

Here’s just a quick review on this recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.  This recipe is quick and simple and tastes very good!  A deliciously quintessential muffin.  The four bananas provide all the binding this vegan recipe needs and of COURSE there are no eggs in it.  This photo is not representative of the recipe, because the recipe calls for all-purpose (unbleached) white flour, which yields a much lighter-colored muffin.  But, I’m trying to get more onto the whole-grain train, and so used whole wheat pastry flour.  So, they are not quite as pretty, but still delicioso.  Here are my tips for this recipe.  If you’re making these for any special event, bringing them to work, serving them to omnivores, for example, make them with the white flour.  The original recipe calls for way too many (1 cup) chocolate chips.  I used 3/4 Cup and felt it was still too many.  Next time, I’ll use one half cup for a perfect ratio.  I did use the walnuts, and they’re fantastic in this recipe.  The recipe says to fill the muffin cups halfway, so I’m guessing Colleen or her recipe tester has really large muffin cups.  I filled my regular muffin cups 3/4 of the way and still had leftover batter and got 14 or 15 muffins out of it, instead of the cited 12 muffins.  I think I baked them in my electric, non-convection oven for 25 minutes.  Again, for presentation, I would use my larger muffin tin (I have an old popover muffin tin) and make the 12 large muffins with the white flour, but I would still cut the chocolate chips in half.  If you don’t have a larger muffin tin, just fill your muffin cups right up.  But again, these are really good.  2nd photo at bottom, below.

Here’s what I found online about whole wheat pastry flour:  A flour similar to refined white pastry flour, however not all of the bran and germ portions of the wheat kernel have been removed during the milling process. Whole-wheat pastry flour is produced from soft-wheat and it has a fine-texture and a high starch content. Because of the presence of some of the bran and germ, pastry items made with whole-wheat pastry flour are more nutritious than pastries made with white pastry flour, but they are not quite as light and airy.

Light lemon Bundt Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking

According to the cookbook, The Joy of Vegan Baking, this recipe was slightly adapted by Colleen Patrick Goudreau from The Millenium Cookbook.  This cake is good, if not sensational.  It is indeed a light cake, possibly perfect for a high tea or ladies’ luncheon.  It was easy to throw together except that I had to run to the store to buy Lemon Extract.  Once again, a reasonably-priced bag of organic lemons from Whole foods came in handy.  This is a slightly petite cake, and yields approximately 8 slices, depending upon your Bundt pan.  I have a very cheap Bundt pan, which is actually not a real Bundt pan, but something I picked up at Wal-Mart or the grocery store years ago.  It’s like paper thin aluminum or something, although it does have an enameled interior.  I sprayed the inside of the pan very well with cooking spray that has flour in it (Giant brand).  Here are my observations about this recipe.  The lemony flavor of this cake is not strong, so you really do need that Lemon Extract after all.  The Lemon Sauce (a separate-but-simple recipe from the same cookbook) is recommended here or the cake would be too plain.  Although, in a pinch, you could just dust this cake with some powdered sugar.  Lars and I agree that what would be really good is that common white icing glaze that tops many a lemon pound cake; something that would drip prettily down, but also stick to the cake.  This would consist of about two cups of confectioners sugar with a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and maybe some zest too.  You see, the Lemon Sauce quickly slides right off the cake, like water off a duck’s back.   It is elegant to have the slice of cake sit in a lemony pool of syrup, but this only wets the very bottom of the slice, and the icing glaze would really complete it.  I just had a thought that if you are glazing the cake, you could poke holes in the warm cake, drizzle on the Lemon Sauce and then cover up the holes with the glaze.  Ok, I’ll quit now.  My last comment is that in my electric, non-convection oven, I did have to bake the cake for the entire 45 minutes.  See more photos below.  Lars loves fruity desserts and really did like this.  He said, “It tastes just like any normal cake.”  And I replied, “Look Ma, no eggs.”  Happy Mother’s Day!

Here is the Lemon Syrup, slid right off the cake.  You can see where a thin bit of glaze on top would have just enhanced
it.

You can see how the cake is starting
to pull away from the pan here.  Once cooled completely, the cake fell right out of the pan!

Carrot Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, The author of The Joy of Vegan Baking, has not put the recipe for this carrot cake online, so this post is really for those who already own the cookbook, or who want to buy it or get it from the library.  I’ll just say that this carrot cake is killer good;  rich, dense and moist, with a bewitching spiciness (see side shot of cake below).  Yes, if Mma Potokwane served this to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, she could get a brand new tractor for the orphan farm out of him.  Part of the magic of this cake is the way the flax seed meal gets whipped into healthy egg replacer.  I found whipping for 3 minutes with my Caffe Latte Frother worked amazingly well, and it saves cleaning up another kitchen appliance.  But you can also just use a single beater on your hand-held mixer and get the same results.  My only changes were minimal in that I reduced the raisins by 1/3 cup, and cut the two stronger spices (clove and nutmeg) in half.  It was still very spicy and luscious, even after those changes.  Also, this recipe was a bit over-leavened, so I reduced the baking soda by 1/2 teaspoon and the cake rose just fine, especially since there was also plenty of baking powder in the recipe.  I did make a vegan cream cheese icing using Tofutti Cream Cheese but did not follow Colleen’s recipe on that.  I baked this in my new Wilton 9 inch square cake pan, which I really like, especially since it comes with a nice cover.  The cute carrot on top is simply cut out of a piece of carrot peel, and adorned with a tiny sprig of fresh dill out of the garden.  Supposedly, you can also make this as a loaf or as cupcakes.  This recipe is a keeper, and an added bonus is that your house will smell like an exotic spice market!  Thank you, Colleen!

Vegan Tapioca Pudding

This tastes every bit as rich as tapioca made with eggs and cows milk, and yet it has neither.  So good, and so easy.  Yes, you DO have to stir it for about 15 minutes, because here, we’re not using “quick tapioca” or “granulated tapioca.”  I made some quick tapioca for my Dad recently (a Jacques Pepin recipe) and I did not care for it at all.  Then I looked around online and noticed that many Thai and Vietnamese recipes call for “small pearl” tapioca, so I bought some at the supermarket.  I didn’t have high hopes for this one either, but to my delight, it came out perfectly delicious.   It has that Vietnamese-style warm, slightly-soupy texture when it was warm, but later it chilled and thickened into traditional tapioca texture, but was still more tender, more delectable, and more flavorful than the granulated/quick tapioca.  Now we have a good base to play off of in future, but for the record, it’s wonderful as is. The burning question about tapioca (for me) was to soak or not to soak the tapioca pearls first.  I looked at a LOT of tapioca recipes online and in cookbooks, regarding this question. Even the Bascom’s box said to soak the pearls overnight.  After reading a lengthy article and some non-soaking recipes, I decided to skip the soaking, and am glad to say it worked just right.  One article even said not to soak overnight because the pearls get mushy, but to only soak for 30 minutes.  You can decide.  Another article cautioned to only use a heavy-bottomed pot.  Between this recipe and the Persian Rice recipe, I’m glad I own a smaller stock pot with a heavy bottom.  Maybe you will have good luck with a regular pot, but after one failure, I wasn’t taking any more chances.  Postscript:  My girlfriend Piliki soaked the pearls for two hours and said it made a big difference to her, made it better.
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Vegan Tapioca Pudding

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 heavy-bottomed pot (I used a small stock pot)
3 Cups soy milk (I like WestSoy Organic Unsweetened)
1/2 Cup small pearl tapioca (I used Bascom’s brand)
1/2 Cup sugar (I used organic)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Earth Balance vegan butter

DIRECTIONS
Take one tablespoon of your measured sugar and mix it in a small dish with the cinnamon and salt.  This will help prevent the cinnamon from clumping, as mine did.  Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, simmer soy milk, remaining sugar and tapioca over medium-low heat, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes until tapioca is  translucent.  Bringing the heat up slowly like this allows the un-soaked tapioca to absorb the liquid and swell.
Turn heat up to medium, add in the cinnamon/salt mixture and now when it is at a low, constant boil, stir constantly for 10 more minutes or so.  Mixture will thicken and tapioca pearls will continue to swell and become more translucentYou will all of a sudden see the translucent pearls become more visible as you stir.
Once mixture is thickened and tapioca pearls are completely translucent, remove from heat and add in the butter and vanilla, and stir to blend well.
This is fabulous served the Vietnamese way; warm with sliced bananas in it.  Or you can chill it and let it thicken all the way in the fridge–it’s good that way too!  If you’re leaving bananas in your pudding too, make sure they are covered completely so they don’t turn brown in the fridge (I read this but have not tried it).

This is the only way I’ve made it so far, but I do believe one could play around with this a lot.  Although I already used less sugar than many online recipes, I will try to reduce the sugar a little in future or substitute in some healthier sweetener.  Substitute some  other nut milk if you like, or add different flavored extracts or syrups to it, instead of the vanilla.  You could even go Middle Eastern with the flavors by adding some kewra and/or a tiny bit of rosewater.  Or make it more butterscotchy by browning a bit of vegan butter and using brown sugar instead of white, and a little butterscotch extract.  Or add some sweetened coconut flakes, substitute one cup of coconut milk and add some coconut extract.  Or substitute a bit of maple syrup and use maple extract.  Buttered rum, chocolate chips . . . let me know what you try!

Vegan Rice Crispy Treats

These Vegan Rice Crispy Treats are from the Sweet and Sara web site.  They take 15 minutes to make and only 15 minutes to set up in the fridge.  I had a bunch of puffed brown rice cereal left over from the granola bars recipe, so I used that for a healthier alternative to Rice Krispies.  The result adds a very light toasted flavor to the Treats, which I like.  Regular Rice Krispies are not vegan, just in case anyone was wondering.  Postscript:  I have since made a second attempt at Rice Krispy Treats and used Erewhon cereal, which taste exactly like Rice Krispies.
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Vegan Rice Crispy Treats

Makes:  16 pieces

INGREDIENTS
1 box Sweet and Sara vegan marshmallows (I used vanilla flavor)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
5 Cups of Puffed Brown Rice Cereal (I used Arrowhead Mills brand

DIRECTIONS
Melt vegan butter in a large pot over low heat.
Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted, about 10 minutes.  My marshmallows never did dissolve totally but it didn’t harm the outcome.
Remove from heat, add the rice cereal and mix until well coated.
Spray an 8-inch square pan with oil and press mixture down evenly with fingers.  I used a slightly larger pan.
Set in refrigerator for about 15 minutes until firm.
Cutting them into squares before they get totally chilled will make for easier slicing.

Note:  If you want to, you can extend your marshmallow mixture with a tablespoon of light corn syrup.  I ended up adding another teaspoon of vegan butter.

Vanilla Praline Smoothie by Ani Phyo

Because I subscribe to the amazing VegNews Magazine, I got an email with this recipe in it.  Ani Phyo is the Queen of Raw Food and this is her recipe.  My twist of using soy milk means this is technically no longer a totally raw recipe, but to me, it’s sort of raw.    Remember to slit open the date and remove the pit (see photo below).  There might also be a tiny piece of dried stem on one end, which you can simply cut off with the tip of a sharp knife.  So, the flavor of the smoothie was surprisingly delicious.  I kept trying to figure out exactly what it tasted like–maybe like a cross between a malted milk shake and a vanilla shake, if you get the idea.  I did find the taste just a teensy bit too strong and sweet, so I modified it just slightly.  But man, this could really take the edge off any craving for milk shakes, no kidding.  I’m guessing that some people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and a less-healthy milk shake.   So, here’s my only-slightly-modified version below.  And here’s the original recipe by Ani Phyo.
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Vegan Vanilla Praline Smoothie

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup raw pecans
4 Medjool dates, WITH PITS REMOVED
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 cups cold soy milk (or filtered water or rice milk, etc.)
1/2 Cup ice, or a little more

DIRECTIONS
REMOVE PITS from dates!
In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.

Note:  My favorite soy milk for this type of thing, where you want a rich flavor, is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Soymilk, yum.

Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Another recipe from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.  One thing I want to point out about this recipe is that the photo in the cookbook is very confusing.  First of all, the recipe calls for a 9×13 inch cake pan, but the illustration photo shows a round, approximately 9-inch pan (no larger).  Secondly, it also shows a lot of dark syrup being poured from a large pitcher over the completed cake.  What’s that about?  There’s nothing about syrup-pouring in the recipe, at all.  That being said, this recipe is easy, good and worth making.  Because of the confusing photo, I went into it a bit apprehensive and so am posting this here so you can make it with more confidence, and see how I laid out the cake.  i did not have maraschino cherries, but I did have a small bag of organic frozen Bing cherries in the freezer (which I keep handy for juicing), and so I used those, and I didn’t even bother to thaw them.  Lars has been known to infamously take the center out of an uncut upside-down cake, so he could have that unbroken ring of pineapple in the middle.   The way I’ve laid it out here, there are 8 full rings of pineapple, and I used up the entire 20 oz. can of pineapple without wasting any.  My other tip for this cake is that you can simply use the pineapple juice from the can instead of also buying additional pineapple juice.  In fact, there will even be some can juice left over.  I used Dole brand pineapple but there are a couple of other brands that use 100% juice in the can, with no icky “cling” syrup.  Also, pineapple is high on the list of the Clean Fifteen, so it’s more okay to buy it conventional (non-organic).   And my last tip would be to let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes.  One blogger reported that if you let it cool for only 10 minutes (as per the recipe), the syrup drips everywhere when you flip it.  After 20 minutes, you may have to loosen the edges with a butter knife, but the cake will fall to the platter and it will be more intact and quite handsome, as you can see.  As an aside, I found this pretty antique platter (probably circa 1800’s) for only $11 at an out-of-the-way antique shop near Denton, Maryland.  It’s so much nicer to buy old glass and china, but you must check it carefully for hairline cracks and any chips.  My mother always did this by running her fingertips continuously over every single edge, and sometimes carrying it to a window where the light was very good.  Also, we’re recycling when we’re not going to the store and buying new dishes.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  p.s.  Remember to have some Soyatoo Rice Whip on hand for this, it’s the perfect whipped cream for sweet desserts.

Super Simple Raspberry Sorbet

This Super Simple Fruit Sorbet only takes about five minutes to make, and the result right out of the food processor is a perfect soft texture.  Because you’re adding almost no liquid, the fruit flavor is very intense, almost undiluted.   For a dinner party, this is elegant with one crisp little cookie sticking out of it.  You can get creative with your fruits too, go seasonal.  Try to buy organic frozen fruits because otherwise they’re  pesticide-laden.  In fact, the Dirty Dozen includes peaches, strawberries, blueberries and cherries as having among the highest pesticides.  Note that you will want to change the sugar quanitity, depending upon the fruit’s tartness.

SUPER SIMPLE VEGAN RASPBERRY SORBET

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
one 10 oz. bag of organic frozen raspberries (or more)
1/2 Cup soy yogurt, either plain or vanilla flavor
1/3 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons of water or nut milk or soy creamer

DIRECTIONS
Set aside 4 or 6 pretty frozen berries for garnish (optional).
Put all other ingredients in a food processor container, and pulse.
Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to help processor.  I used Silk Soy Creamer.
Process just until pureed and creamy, and stop a couple of times to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.   Do not over-process or the sorbet will liquefy.
Serve immediately or freeze it for later.
If serving later, allow 20 minutes for sorbet to soften at room temperature.
Garnish each serving with a berry or a mint leaf or a little cookie.
Stand back for applause.

Vegan Tart Dough

This dough is adapted from the  Tart and Pie Dough by Alice Waters.  I have veganized it simply by substituting Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, instead of cow butter.  This dough is tender, buttery, flaky and crisp, as any tart dough should be.  Don’t let this lattice crust distract you, this is a tart dough that can also be used for pies.  There is also a pate sucree (sweet tart dough) that can be used, and I have not tried veganizing that yet (but I will).  In a pate sucree, we need to eliminate the egg, as well as change the fat.
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Vegan Tart and Pie Dough

Makes two 10-ounce balls of dough, enough for two 11-inch tarts or one double-crust 9-inch pie.

This recipe is easily halved or doubled. You can make this recipe a day or two ahead. This freezes well, and can be kept in freezer for two months.  This is also good for savory tarts and galettes.

INGREDIENTS
½ Cup ice water
2 Cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 Tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold Earth Balance Buttery Sticks vegan butter, cut into small (1/4 inch) cubes

DIRECTIONS
-Put rolling pin into the freezer.
-Put cut-up vegan butter cubes into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
-Have some bench flour at your side.
-Mix together flour and salt.
-Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into flour, leaving some of the butter in larger pieces (this will take a couple of minutes).
-Pour in three quarters of the ice water while stirring with a fork, until dough just begins to form clumps.
-Add rest of water if needed.
-Gather dough gently into a shaggy ball and then cut it in two.
-Compress each dough ball into a disc and wrap in parchment paper.
-Let dough discs “rest” in refrigerator for at least one hour, or for two days if you like.  This rest is critical for ease of rolling.

You can roll out the dough on the parchment paper that you wrapped the dough in. The way I do this is to crease/fold one inch of the long paper edge over my counter edge, and then I lean on that edge to hold the paper in place. Either way, flour your surface and your chilled rolling pin. Roll from the center out away from you. Lift and give the dough a quarter turn after each couple of rolls. Flip the dough over every couple of times, and smooth a little flour on the dough or the rolling pin to keep it from sticking. Pinch together any cracks in the dough, but don’t stress. You want about 1/8” thickness when you’re done. Once you’re done rolling, dust off any excess flour with the light touch of a dish towel, your hands, or a soft dry brush.

If making a flat rustic tart (with no pan), place crust onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. To move the dough, lift an edge of the dough and curl/place it onto your rolling pin and roll the dough partly onto the pin and lift it this way. A flat spatula can sometimes help too, if you don’t have a pastry scraper. Put dough back into refrigerator to chill, baking sheet and all. If fruit is very wet, spread about one Tablespoon of flour evenly in a circle on the dough, leaving a two-inch border free of flour at the entire edge of the circle. Pile on fruit and fold and crimp the two-inch un-floured border of dough up over the fruit.  Sugar the top of this pleated dough edge.

If filling a tart pan, put dough right into the tart pan, and trim and/or crimp the edges and place the dough and pan back in the refrigerator to firm up before filling and finishing.  If fruit is wet, brush bottom of tart (not sides) with a tablespoon of flour (to keep bottom crust from getting soggy).  This Tablespoon of flour can be mixed with sugar, chopped nuts or ground spices if you likeOr, instead of the Tablespoon of flour, you could spread a couple of tablespoons of jam on the bottom of your tart pastry but this works best for fruit that’s only slightly juicy.  Bake tart according to your filling directions. You will want your tart pan on the lower rack. I’m not brave enough to put it on the bottom rack, so I put it one rack above the bottom, but bottom rack is suggested by Alice Waters. To make my cherry pie, I had my oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The chilled dough hitting the hot oven will give it a good puff.

To bake this crust “blind” (without a filling), line the shell with a piece of parchment paper, then fill tart with a layer of dried beans or pie weights. Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edge. Take empty tart out of oven, remove parchment paper and weights. Return to oven and cook another 5 to 7 minutes, until tart is an even, light golden brown.

Additional tips from Alice Waters are to glaze the tart after baking. You can do this with the fruit juice in the tart itself, or heat up a little jam and glaze it with that.  Other cookbooks suggest heating apple jelly and I like this idea because it would be clear and let the fruit shine through.  Fruit should be fitted snugly in the tart because it will shrink as it bakes.  If using really tart fruits such as rhubarb, tart plums, sour cherries or apricots, sprinkle top of fruit with another tablespoon or two of sugar before dotting with butter.  Another way to create a barrier between the pastry and the juice is to spread about 1/2 Cup of frangipane (a mixture of almond paste, sugar and butter) over the pastry (I have also seen someone just use almond paste from the supermarket, but I don’t yet know if almond paste has egg in it).

Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup

I bought these Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries on a whim and then when I looked around online, I noticed people were confused as to what to do with them.  As you can see, I made a lattice-crust pie, but what I learned is that this 24.7 ounce jar holds a somewhat scant amount for a pie.  In other words, to do a generously filled pie, you’d probably want a few more cherries than this jar holds.  However, it’s kind of the perfect amount of cherries for an open faced tart.  And so, that’s my suggestion, and that is what I’ll do with a jar of these in future.  An open-face tart would also allow a single crust and you could freeze that second crust for future.  I love to cook once and use twice, it’s a lifesaver.  But as I was bumbling along here, I pored over several cookbooks and came up with a filling that is delicious.  One thing you should know is that the Morello cherry is classified as a sour cherry;  perfect for pies, tarts and cakes, where the sugar in those recipes will balance the acidity of this particular cherry.  I consulted several different cookbooks (like five) and put together a filling.  Alice Waters had a “tart and pie dough” crust that I veganized, and it came out lovely, and I have now posted that separately under Pastry.   Alice also suggests adding kirsch (a clear cherry flavored brandy) to the filling, so I did.  My vintage Amy Vanderbilt cookbook suggested adding almond flavoring, so I did that too.  I read up on techniques, such as adding a tiny dot of butter between the lattices of a crust, to stop the cherries from burning on top, that kind of thing.  So here below is my filling, but I’ll be doing a tart next time, if using this product.  However, this pie was delicious.  p.s.  Both Lars and I bit into cherry pits, so be careful!!!  It might be worth it to run a thin skewer through each cherry and make sure there are no pits.  The jar label does warn of pits, but I didn’t see it until it was too late.  Luckily, no teeth were broken.
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Trader Joe’s Morello Cherry Tart Filling

Makes approximate 8 pieces.

INGREDIENTS
one jar of Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries (24.7 oz.)
1 Cup sugar (this is less than called for in other recipes)
2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup of the cherry juice from the jar
1 teaspoon of kirsch (clear cherry brandy also called Kirschwasser) (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of almond flavoring
1 Tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter

DIRECTIONS
-Have your tart dough in your pie pan and chilling in the fridge.
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Mix sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
-Drain one third cup of cherry juice from the jar and add to the flour mixture, and stir to combine.
-Add almond flavoring to flour mixture and stir.
-Also add kirsch to the flour mixture (optional) and stir.
-Drain cherries fully and set aside.  Discard the rest of the cherry juice or use it for something else.
Run a thin, metal skewer through each cherry to remove any pits (there will be a few and it’s better than breaking a tooth).
-Pour sugar/flour/juice mixture over cherries and mix gently.
-Fill your chilled tart dough shell with the cherry mixture, and dot cherries with little pieces of the tablespoon of butter before baking.
-Bake tart according to your tart-dough recipe instructions, or see my posting for tart dough under Pastry.

Macadamia Nut Shortbread

If you’ve never lived in Hawaii, you might not know that the locals LOVE shortbread.  For instance, my friend Velma just emailed me that, for a fundraising effort, the Hilo High School soccer booster parents and soccer girls recently baked 1400-dozen shortbread cookies.  The cookies were bagged and sold for $6 a dozen, raising in the vicinity of $8,000, which will be used for activities such as travel to tournaments, and purchasing necessary items for the team’s use.  In short (ha ha), shortbread is ono (delicious).  Velma’s email reminded me that I’d seen a shortbread being made on a segment about the Big Island last year.  Here’s a good video on just a few of the amazing foods of my beloved Big Island.  About 17 minutes into this video, you can see a Macadamia Nut Shortbread being prepared by a member of Gourmet.  Of course, shortbread is traditionally made with cow fat and loaded with cholesterol, so I had to veganize it.  Earth Balance vegan butter saved the day, and produced a rich, buttery shortbread that we would describe in the Islands as “broke da mouth.”  I made this twice, and didn’t care for it as much the first time, so then I changed several other things to suit my own taste, including reducing the chocolate by half, and using vegan chocolate chips, which are simply real chocolate without the animal secretions.  When you have good macadamia nuts, you don’t need a boatload of chocolate.  One last note is that I was so lucky that my Aunt Pat mailed me a bag of the most amazing macadamia nuts I’ve ever tasted.  They’re from Kuni-Maru Farms in Captain Cook, Hawaii.  They’re large and buttery and incredibly fresh.  They also do sun-dried mac nuts, something I’d never heard of.  Terry Mariyama told me they sun dry them for about a week.  Their roasted nuts are lightly salted, and that’s what I used (as opposed to the strong dry-roasted nuts the original recipe called for).  With my changes, this shortbread became not only violence-free but also sublime.  p.s.  I recommend using a small scale to weigh the nuts before chopping, but it’s not critical.
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Vegan Macadamia Nut Shortbread 

MAKES 16 WEDGES 

• ACTIVE TIME: 20 MIN
• START TO FINISH:1 1/2 HR

INGREDIENTS
6 oz roasted and lightly salted macadamia nuts (1 1/2 cups)
2 sticks Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, softened to room temperature 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (or you can use brown sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 oz vegan chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
-Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle or lower middle.
-Toast nuts in a 4-sided sheet pan in oven until golden, 8 to 10 minutes, then cool and coarsely chop.  Mac nuts are easy to chop by hand, being somewhat soft.
-Leave oven on.
-Stir together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon until combined well.
-Stir in flour, nuts, and chocolate chips until a soft dough forms.
-With floured fingers, pat dough into a 9-inch shiny metal cake pan (not a dark colored pan).
-Score into 16 wedges with tip of a thin, floured knife, wiping and flouring blade in between cuts.
-Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.  In my electric oven, I went for 27 minutes, and brought them to a slightly darker golden color.  This is because my first batch was too soft, not cooked enough.
-Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes.
-Cut into wedges (while still warm) with a sharp knife.
-Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Amanda’s Vegan Biscotti

I make biscotti every year during the holidays, and people always want the recipe.  Back around 1995, I was given some homemade biscotti and it was a revelation.  I had always shunned biscotti because the only kind I had ever tried was from coffee shops; hard and sawdusty and sometimes possibly even stale.  My friend could not reveal the recipe because she planned to market the biscotti.  So I cobbled together some recipes from cookbooks and made several batches of my own, and in the end, I couldn’t really tell the difference between hers and mine.  This is my first vegan holiday season and so I pulled out my old recipe and set about veganizing it.  I had to change cooking times and amounts, and during the baking process, the dough didn’t feel or look quite the same as my old familiar.  But, Lo and behold, we have our own little Christmas miracle; a good vegan biscotti.  Rustic and golden and simultaneously crumbly, crunchy and tender.  Lars was out at a meeting of the Hysterical Society, so I was alone and felt free to scream “YES” in my little kitchen (although I think I scared my dog Ipo).  I should also tell you that I first tried looking around online for vegan biscotti recipes, but they all seemed a bit mediocre.  I drifted off to sleep that night, dreaming up other flavor profiles, such as:
-white chocolate, coconut and toasted almonds
-white chocolate, apricots and slivered almonds
-white chocolate, cranberries and pistachios
-white chocolate, dried pineapple and macadamia nuts
-chocolate chocolate chips and hazelnuts
-chocolate chocolate chips and dried cherries
-chocolate chocolate chips, almonds and coconut
etc., etc.

One final note is that I had to order my dairy-free white chocolate chips online, from Pangea.  The dairy-free chocolate chocolate chips, however, are readily available at most health food stores.  The vanilla beans can be found in the bulk section of your health food store, for much less than the jarred beans.  Here below is my new recipe, the first time out, and with a few minor adjustments for the next time.  For example, I forgot that they harden a bit as they sit, and so I reduced the cooking time slightly here below.  Also, I felt my old recipe was a little too heavy on the chocolate, so I reduced it to 1/3 Cup below.
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Amanda’s Vegan Biscotti

INGREDIENTS
2 ¼ cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Ener-G Egg Replacer to the equivalent of 3 eggs (I use a latte frother)
2 T vegetable oil (I used macadamia nut oil but canola is fine)
1 tsp good vanilla extract
Seeds from one vanilla bean (slit the long way and seeds scraped out with a spoon (not a knife)
1/2 C macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped (I like Kuni-Maru Farms mac nuts from Captain Cook, Hawaii)
1/3 C vegan white chocolate chips
1/4 C candied ginger, diced very fine (if using something milder than candied ginger, use one half cup of other dried fruits, such as apricots)

DIRECTIONS
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Chop nuts. Dice ginger.  Add these into a small bowl with the chocolate chips and stir a few times to get them evenly mixed up.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and then whisk these dry ingredients.
Put Ener-G in a glass and mix well with a fork, or froth with a latte frother. You could also use one single beater of a hand-held electric beater, in the glass.  For three “eggs” worth, you need 6 Tablespoons of water and 1 Tablespoon plus 1.5 teaspoons of Ener-G powder.
In a small dish, add oil and liquid vanilla.  Slit vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into oil/vanilla mixture and stir with a fork.
Add oil/vanilla mixture to dough.
Add Ener-G mixture to dough.
Stir in nuts, white chocolate and ginger.
Dough will not be wet or sticky.  With your hands, form dough into a cylinder and then cut it in half the long way.  Shape dough right on the counter into 2 flat bottomed cylinders measuring approximately 9 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1 inch high.
Place dough on greased cookie sheet, or parchment paper or Silpat.

Bake for 25 minutes or until very lightly golden on top.
Remove from oven and cool slightly, maybe five minutes.
Remove cylinders carefully from cookie sheet and place on a larger cutting board.
Cut diagonally into ¾ inch slices.
Place slices, cut-side-down, on the parchment paper/cookie sheet. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until sides are golden.  Don’t overcook because they will harden as they cool.
I usually remove the 4 or 5 smallest biscotti ends early as they tend to get a bit too hard with the full cooking time.
Cool completely on wire rack, transfer to an airtight container.

If you want to substitute dried apricots, pour boiling water over them and wait five minutes, then dice.  See additional flavor profiles above.  Please also note that I have a non-convection electric oven that is pretty accurate temperature-wise.  If you have a gas oven that tends to run hotter than electric, you’ll need to adjust temperature or cooking times.  Please see below for photos that will show doneness and texture.


Makes approximately 20-24

This photo shows the biscotti logs after the first baking.  You can see they are starting to just turn golden.  See next photo below to see the cut edges and varying degrees of doneness at that point, before 2nd baking.

Pear Crisp by Cook’s Illustrated

I was looking for a simple dessert for Thanksgiving, and decided upon the Pear Crisp from Cook’s Illustrated.  They take a scientific approach to making the best version of any particular dish.  In the case of this pear crisp, they preferred Bartlett pears over Bosc.  They found that a traditional “loose and sandy” crisp topping with cold butter sank down into the fruit filling, whereas a topping made with melted butter was more cohesive and stayed in place.  They even tell you how many pieces to cut the pears into.  To save time on Thanksgiving Day, I made the crisp topping the night before and put it in the fridge, so making this after dinner was quick work!  Lars rated it “really good” and “better than average.”  This is possibly the best fruit crisp I’ve ever had, and it strikes me as very French, a bit more elegant than my gorgeous and rustic fruit crumble.  I had mine with some Rice Whip by Soyatoo!  This Rice Whip is not something you want to eat plain, because it’s not as sweet as regular whipped cream.  However, it’s a light, creamy topping that gives a bit of relief on a sugary dessert (we used up the leftovers on hot cocoa a few days later).  There’s a good video of Cooks Illustrated actually making this Pear Crisp, on itunes, and it clearly shows them using slivered almonds as opposed to sliced or chopped almonds.  I think this is an important distinction that they oddly didn’t mention in the text of their recipe.  Slivered almonds are blanched and every bit of their skin has been removed, so they’re more refined.  The pears I found were large, so I needed only 3.  On the itunes Pear Crisp video, they also tell you to how to speed ripening of rock-hard supermarket pears by putting them in a closed paper bag (it concentrates the ethylene gas coming off the pears).  I did this the day before and it worked like a charm.  My electric oven is accurate and I’m glad I did not bake it for the full time, as it would have burned.  Every oven is different, but set your timer at 20 minutes and begin to watch it at that point, is my advice.  p.s.  Healthy Top would also be a great topping on this dessert.
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PEAR CRISP  BY  COOK’S ILLUSTRATED

Serves 6

Published September 1, 2007.

The test kitchen prefers a crisp made with Bartlett pears, but Bosc pears can also be used. The pears should be ripe but firm, which means the flesh at the base of the stem should give slightly when gently pressed with a finger. Bartlett pears will turn from green to greenish-yellow when ripe. Although almost any unsalted nut may be used in the topping, we prefer almonds or pecans. Serve the crisp with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (3 ounces), see note above.  They use slivered almonds on their instructional video and I feel these taste the best too.  I use more like 4.5 ounces of the slivered almonds.
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar (reserve 2 T, see below)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
3 pounds ripe but firm pears (6-7 medium), see note above

INSTRUCTIONS
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Process nuts, flour, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in food processor until nuts are finely chopped, about nine 1-second pulses. Drizzle butter over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles crumbly wet sand, about five 1-second pulses, pausing halfway through to scrape down sides and bottom of workbowl. Set aside while preparing fruit.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and pinch of salt together in large bowl. Peel pears, then halve and core each (see illustrations below). Cut each half into 4 wedges and then cut in half crosswise (pieces should be about 1 1/2 inches). Gently toss pears with sugar mixture and transfer to 8-inch-square baking dish.

Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit, breaking up any large chunks. Bake until fruit is bubbling around edges and topping is deep golden brown, 27 to 32 minutes. Cool on wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes, and serve.  Note:  I suggest setting timer to 20 minutes and then watching it for 5 minutes.

Vegan Pie Crust – Vegan Pate Brisee

You can make this vegan Pate Brisee pie crust dough in 15 minutes, for both sweet or savory pies and tarts.  You can even make it ahead and just pull it from the freezer the night before.   This is a classic French pastry recipe–I simply switched out the cow butter for Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.  The dough can be a bit crumbly and fragile at first, but in the end, easy to work with, despite the notion that making pie crust is difficult.  I found this simple video on YouTube and it jives with what I’ve read and done before.

VEGAN PIE CRUST – VEGAN PATE BRISEE

Makes one double pie crust or two single 9-inch crusts, for sweet or savory pies and tarts.  For about 8 generous pieces of pie.

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Cup (2 sticks) cold Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, cut into small one-inch chunks
1/3 to 1/2 Cup ice water

DIRECTIONS
Put vegan butter pieces in freezer for ten minutes.   Prepare a glass of ice water and set aside.   In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to get it blended (or dry whisk in a mixing bowl).  Add butter and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.  Even a few pieces as large as a nickel are good, and the rest around pea size.   (Or, you can use a pastry cutter instead of the food processor)    Add ice water gradually and pulse just until dough begins to hold together, just a few seconds.  You do not want wet dough, because adding too much water will make a less-tender dough.

Gather dough gently into a ball, and cut the ball evenly in two.    Shape dough halves into disks, wrap in parchment paper or wax paper and chill at least one hour or overnight.  Overnight is preferred, so the dough can rest.    Dough can now be frozen for one to three months, depending upon whom you listen to.

To bake the crust, for example in a single-crust pumpkin pie:  Dock the bottom of the crust with a fork.  In other words, just poke the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to make indents all over.  According to “Joy of Cooking,” for pumpkin pie, one would heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake filled crust for 15 minutes, and then lower heat to 350 and bake an additional 45 minutes until a knife inserted into filling comes out clean (please note this is for pumpkin pie which requires longer cooking, so please refer to your filling recipe here).  Also, use a pie crust shield ring so the exposed crust edge does not burn!  If you don’t have a pie shield, an old household trick is to crumple tin foil all around the edge of the crust.

Note:  To make empanada dough, simply replace 1/2 Cup of the All Purpose flour with 1/2 Cup of fine corn meal (not coarse).

 

Vegan Maple Buttercream frosting

In New Hampshire, lots of folks love the flavor profile of “maple walnut.”  I mean, it’s serious.  In the uber popular little cookbook “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World” there’s a recipe for Maple Cupcakes with Creamy Maple Frosting and Sugared Walnuts.  So the other day, I made the sugared walnuts which was more like making nut brittle than I had at first imagined, but extra fancy and delicious, of course.  So the next day I made VCTOTW’s Creamy Maple Frosting and . . . it was kind of awful.  It sounded good but it called for soy milk powder instead of confectioners sugar and the result was a very floury tasting icing that was not even sweet despite the maple syrup in it.  What could be worse to serve to omnis?  And I was taking these to book club.  So, I threw that away and maple-ized their Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting recipe instead.  And here it is below.  It really does taste wonderful and so then I was able to throw the cupcakes together and create the perfect maple walnut storm.  In this cupcake recipe, you reserve some of the candied walnuts and chop them finely and add them to the batter.  I was  worried that the cupcake itself would be too too, but it really was good.  In the end, I wish I had used a little bit less frosting as my sweet tooth is not what it used to be, but all in all, a special cupcake, for sure.  And very Autumnal, somehow.
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Vegan Maple Buttercream Frosting

makes enough to ice at least 18 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
1 C Earth Balance vegan butter
3.5 C confectioners sugar
1.5 tsps maple extract
1/4 C real maple syrup, such as Mapletree Farm syrup

DIRECTIONS
Put vegan butter in a large mixing bowl and let it soften while you do other things.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well until smooth and creamy, and fluffy.  I use an electric mixer.
Pipe onto whatever, or chill in fridge for a few days before using.  Bring to room temperature for 15 minutes before attempting to pipe or spread.

Sugar Cookies and Icing

I found this recipe online and the pretty photos convinced me to try it.  Took them to a big Halloween party last night.  The theme of the party was Dia de Los Muertos.  I could not find a good skull cookie cutter, so went with the oak leaves instead.  I would have done the big maple leaves but figured it would not make enough cookies for the party.  With this smaller cookie cutter, I got about 65 cookies out of one batch of the cookie dough.  I did roll some of the cookies a bit thinner than called for.  I found that the original icing recipe iced a lot more cookies than it said, so I have noted that in my rendition below.  I added a bit of salt to the cookie dough and used a tiny bit of lemon juice to thin the icing once it had stood for a while.

Perfect Vegan Sugar Cookies

With a large cookie cutter, like a really big maple leaf, the recipe says it will yield 36 cookies. My smaller cookie cutter yielded about 65 cookies.

INGREDIENTS
1 C vegan butter such as Earth Balance
1 C white sugar
2 whole egg replacements (Ener-G)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ¾ C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
¼ C tofu cream cheese (Tofutti)

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, cream together vegan butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
Mix in egg replacements and vanilla.
In a smaller bowl, stir baking powder and salt into flour until well mixed.
Gradually add flour mixture and tofu cream cheese to the butter/sugar mixture.
Form dough into two thick rounds, wrap each in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼” thickness.
Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Tip: If you press the cookie cutter onto the rolled out dough and gently pinch the cookie cutter as you remove it, the raw cookie will lift up with the cutter, which you can then release onto cookie sheets.
Place cookies about one inch apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake for 12-14 minutes in the preheated oven, until bottoms and edges just start to get a light brown.
Remove from baking sheet immediately and place on wire racks.
Cool completely, and then store in an airtight container.

Perfect Vegan Icing Recipe
Two batches of this icing should be enough to coat one batch of the above cookies.

INGREDIENTS
2 C confectioners sugar
6 teaspoons soy milk or rice milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 tsp light corn syrup
½ tsp lemon juice or water for thinning, if necessary
assorted food colorings
sanding sugar, if desired

DIRECTIONS
In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners sugar and soy milk until smooth.
Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy.
Note that the icing will thicken as it stands.
If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup or water or lemon juice. (I use ½ tsp lemon juice).
Divide and color icing in separate bowls.
Dip cookies and allow to dry overnight on sheet pans.

Tips for rolling out the dough. About an hour before you start, put two rolling pins in the freezer. About 15 minutes before you start, put your dough rounds in the freezer too. Have your flour nearby as you will need to lightly add “bench flour” as you roll out the dough between batches. Lightly flour the rolling surface and your rolling pin each time. Lightly flour your dough if you need to also. I always have one dough round and one rolling pin in the freezer. Each time you roll out and cut dough, do so using the coldest dough and rolling pin. Once rolled and cut, put that dough and rolling pin immediately back into the freezer and reach for the other two that have been chilling. I don’t have a convection oven, so I bake one sheet at a time for best results. The dough gets easier to work with as you go, too.  We dipped our cookies to save time, and they looked pretty, just make sure you let them drip for a minute or you’ll have too much icing on them, which will pool and drip.  I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of sanding sugar on the wet icing because it not only gives them a bit of sparkle, it also helps prevent the cookies from sticking together if you stack them.

 

Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies

I made this recipe for an outdoor Fall brunch some friends threw last Sunday, and they seemed to go over well.  I ate one and thought they had a nice praline sort of flavor and crunch.  They tasted like the fall and the south combined.  The funny thing, when all was said and done, was the little brouhaha that happened on the Relish Magazine web site, simply because this recipe does not call for eggs.  One incredulous person asked, “Are there no eggs in this recipe?”   Others claimed their cookies did not turn out when in fact they had baked them too long instead of letting them set up on the baking sheets once out of the oven, as per the instructions.  So, a word about eggs.  We don’t need them people!  In The Joy of Vegan Baking, Colleen Patrick Goudreau devotes seven pages explaining why we don’t need eggs for baking, and guess what?  It all makes perfect sense.  Most of us were taught that eggs were essential for baking, and so these habits can be hard to get over, psychologically.  The marketing for eggs in baking started hundreds of years ago, so we’re getting out from under generations of women teaching us to use eggs.  Billions of chickens suffer terribly every year, and the health costs to humans is extremely high too, not to mention the dire cost to our planet.   Chickens beaks are cut off without anesthesia, and they go insane when their pecking order goes over about a dozen.  Tens of thousands of chickens are stuffed into hot sheds with a tiny hole in one corner, and that constitutes “cage free.”  97% of eggs come from chickens in battery cages where their feet are literally growing into the bottoms of the cages, that’s how tight they are stuffed in.  And they “live” in horrifying disease and chemical, viral, bacterial and parasitic conditions.  Poultry itself is responsible for the majority of cases of food poisoning, according to a new finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Roughly 76 million people in the US are sickened by food every year.  An outbreak of salmonella in eggs recently caused a nationwide recall of almost half a billion eggs, and sickened more than 13,000 people, and that’s one single event.  So, when a recipe needs a binder, or extra moisture or a bit of leavening that eggs used to provide, other simple ingredients can be substituted.  I’ve baked several vegan things, including cupcakes, and cookies for parties, and used several of these substitutes and have had no failures on the baking front.  And many recipes, like this one, need no egg replacer at all.  So far, I’ve tried ground flax seed, applesauce, banana, baking soda and vinegar, and Ener-G Egg Replacer, and they all worked well.  Certain things work better in certain recipes, but even on my old recipes I’ve adapted, where I winged it, I’ve had no problems.  I read that silken tofu works very well when you want rich, dense, moist cakes and brownies, but I haven’t made any of those yet.  There is a whole other range of readily-available food items you can use when you want to replace eggs as a thickener for sauces; and these include kudzu, agar, arrowroot, cornstarch, and nut and seed butters.  It’s amazingly simple.  OK, I digress.  Here’s the recipe.

Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies

“These addictive cookies are certain to be the hit of any bake sale or cookie swap.  Hearty oats and shredded coconut provide a chewy texture while toasted pecans add crunch.  Tightly covered, these cookies will keep one week, although they seldom last that long.”

INGREDIENTS
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup real maple syrup, such as Mapletree Farm brand
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon maple or vanilla extract
2 cups chopped toasted pecans (I just pulsed mine in the food processor and was glad I did)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 300F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large bowl; whisk to blend.
3. Combine butter, maple syrup and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.
4. In a coffee mug, combine baking soda and boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Note:  baking soda and water will bubble furiously.  Add to maple syrup mixture, stirring well. Add maple extract.  Stir into dry ingredients. Add pecans; stir well.
5. Place 1/4-cup size balls of dough on baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Flatten slightly.
6. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and almost set.  They will harden as they cool.  Cool on the baking sheets for 5 full minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 40 cookies

Interpreted here from a recipe by Julie Hession, in Relish Magazine.

Nutritional Information
Per cookie: 240 calories, 13g fat, 15mg chol., 3g prot., 32g carbs.,
2g fiber, 160mg sodium.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, vegan chocolate chip cookies, and really good ones too!  They pretty much taste a lot like Toll House cookies.  I’m filling this wax-paper-lined box with cookies because we’re headed up to the mountainous Canaan Valley in West Virginia this weekend, to see some friends and do some real hiking.  I’ve been cooking all day as we’re all bringing food to share.  Since one of my dishes to bring is a dessert, I decided to try these cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.  I won’t type it all out, but you can just click on this link and get the entire recipe, which I did proof against my cookbook to make sure it was correct.  I got out my little latte frother for the Ener-G egg replacer, and easily found some real chocolate, non-dairy chocolate chips at my local health food store, and used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks instead of dairy butter.  I will add a few comments about this recipe.  1)  I used a 1/8 Cup scoop (2T) scant.  I got 30 cookies, not one dozen as the book says you will get.  2)  I had to cook them for 14 minutes, not the 8-10 they call for.  I do think my oven is right on, but you might want to try 10 minutes first and check them.   3)  One scant cup of chocolate chips is enough, seriously.  And remember, vegan cookie batter is entirely safe, so go ahead and lick the spoon.  Tally ho, off to the mountains!

Banana Split Cupcakes

America’s gone crazy for cupcakes.  I recently read in VegNews magazine that Chloe Coscarelli won the show Cupcake Wars.  One of her winning recipes was Creme-Filled Chocolate Orange Cupcakes.  It’s the episode labeled Matchmaking Party if you go to tivo it.  No other vegan chef has won a challenge on the Food Network before.  It won’t be the last time, I assure you, as veganism is rapidly becoming more and more mainstream.  If you look on google images, you can see lots of photos of these cupcakes, made by others.  I got the recipe from the very, very popular cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  This little cookbook has 75 dairy-free recipes and won the VegNews Cookbook of the Year award a while back.  I made these vegan Banana Split Cupcakes for one of my book club groups, because my wonderful friend Ellen was thinking of grilling some bananas for dessert.  That sounds healthy, but it gave me an excuse to make these and then blog about them, ha ha.  Here are links to a couple of other cupcakes in this book:  Golden Vanilla Cupcakes  and  S’mores Cupcakes.  How do I feel about the Banana Split cupcakes?  This recipe is actually too sweet for me.  In the center are both pineapple preserves and dark chocolate, and the buttercream icing is a bit too thick.  Once I went vegan, the voracious sugar cravings I’ve had all my life kind of faded down to normal.  I don’t want something sweet every day and when I do have it, I really want a healthier dessert, even if it’s only a couple of squares off a vegan organic dark chocolate bar.  The banana cake part of this recipe is super moist and good, so in retrospect, I should probably have made the “Elvis” version of this recipe (also in the book).  The Elvis has no filling and it has a lighter, lower-fat peanut buttercream on top.  I’m glad I bought this book though, because it showed me that vegan baking is really as delicious as what you would get at a fine bakery.  Someday, for someone’s birthday or a potluck, I’ll try some of the other recipes.  Maybe the Pistachio Rosewater cupcakes, or Green Tea cupcakes with Almond Flowers.  For Lars’ birthday, I’ll make the Boston Cream Pie cupcakes.  A good Thanksgiving/autumnal cupcake might be the Maple Cupcakes with Sugared Walnuts, or the Apple Cider cupcakes.  Then there’s a good array of icings and toppings to pick from too, you could mix and match.   Obviously, these are a great, cholesterol-free, cruelty-free alternative for kids (of all ages).

Oatmeal Cookies by Alicia Silverstone

I first saw these Oatmeal, Walnut and Dried Plum Cookies on the Oprah showAlicia Silverstone was there and gave away a few recipes from her new cookbook (The Kind Diet) for the show.  Since we always have dried cherries in the house, I substituted those for the dried plums.  Really easy and good.  I freeze them and then when we have a sweet tooth, I can pull one or two out of the freezer and let them thaw.  I also threw in some white chocolate chips for Lars.  I tend to bake them only for 10 minutes as they will harden just a bit more as they cool.  I think due to the maple sugar, these have a lovely natural sugary crispness (without being too sweet) that is unlike many other cookies.   They are elegant enough for a luncheon or to bring somewhere or give as a gift.  Although the recipe says it makes 10-12 cookies, I used a measuring tablespoon as a scoop, and by my count, I get at least two dozen cookies.    Please note that I reduced the leavening in this recipe, using only 1 teaspoon baking powder and only 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  The cookies actually rose better using these measurements.  Post note Feb. 2014.  I upped the flour to 1 Cup, which helps these cookies hold together better.  I use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, and with the added flour, I bake them 11-13 minutes.

BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE

This recipe won $100 in July 1990 from Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen for Best Blueberry Desserts in “Prize Tested Recipes.”  I have a tattered old magazine clipping of this recipe, and was unable to find it on the internet, so no link.  Around the first week of July here in Maryland, we get fresh, sweet blackberries, and so I like to make this dessert with a generous quart of fresh blackberries.  You can use 5 cups of whatever fruit you like!

INGREDIENTS
3 C fresh or frozen blueberries
2 C fresh rhubarb, 1-inch pieces
or 2 C frozen rhubarb
1.5 C rolled oats
2/3 C packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup Earth Balance vegan butter
1/2 Cup sugar  (I reduce this to 1/3 Cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt  (this is my addition)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS
Thaw fruit, if frozen. Do not drain. For crust, in a large mixing bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, and the 1/2 Cup flour. With a pastry cutter or fork, cut vegan butter into oat mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2/3 cup crumb mixture for topping. Pat remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Note:  I used a vintage 8.5″ milk glass cake pan.  Bake this crust in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10-15 minutes, or until light brown (I baked mine for 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, for filling, put all fruit in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the 2 T flour; toss gently to coat well. Spoon atop baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.  I like this with coconut whipped cream.  Makes 6-8 servings.