Easy Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

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


8-10 servings

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

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

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

BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Aging Smoothie with Red Grapes and White Mulberries

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


Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

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

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

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

Vegan Treats Bakery Halloween Box

IMG_2712    In yesterday’s mail, I received the Trick or Vegan Treats Box from Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   This is one of the best Halloween treats I’ve ever gotten and so thank you to Josie and Tim!  This bakery is so awesome that we once drove two hours out of our way to get there.  Vegan Treats Bakery does ship their goodies, and you can pre-order boxes of deliciousness like this, or even regular or gluten-free Easter Baskets–just go to their super-cool web site and look for merch.  Last night we split a pumpkin whoopee pie and I ate two white-chocolate-peanut-butter eyeballs (I swear I can see better).  On this Hallowed Eve, we will sup on Skeleton Gingerdead Men, or maybe the Swiss Chocolate Mummy Pop with bloody Red Velvet filling, or the Speculoos Brownie Bat with Belgian Cookie Butter filling, etc.  Bwa ha ha. . .

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


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

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_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.


Serves 2 to 3

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

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.


Servings:  2 to 4

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.


Makes 16 bars

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)

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

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.

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.


Makes 3 to 4 servings

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

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.


IMG_0159     Bananas and flax seeds are some of the best egg replacers around, so there are no eggs in this recipe (not that we need them any anyway).  Flaxseed meal is simply ground up flax seeds, one of the best sources for Omega 3 essential fatty acids.  I use Florida Crystals brand brown sugar.  Florida Crystals is the first and only certified organic sugar made in the United States!  Unlike most other sugars, It’s processed without bone char or any other animal products, and it is not genetically modified.  Either way, this delectable banana bread is easy enough for kids to make, and is great either served as a dessert, or smeared with peanut butter or Earth Balance organic whipped vegan butter.  p.s.  I love walnuts and dates in this bread, but you don’t have to put them in.

BANANA FLAXSEED QUICK BREAD  (with optional walnuts and dates)

Yield:  one loaf

1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 Cup Spelt flour
1 Cup Florida Crystals Brown Sugar  (packed) (or demerara)
2.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular salt)
3/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Flax Meal
1/4 Cup Safflower oil  (or other oil)
1/2 Cup apple sauce
1/2 Cup almond milk  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup banana, mashed well  (approx. 2 bananas)
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (optional)
3-4 dried dates, pitted and diced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.    Grease one regular sized loaf pan with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.    In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
If using the walnuts and/or dates, add them to dry ingredients now, and stir.
In another bowl, mix together the plant milk, oil, applesauce, vanilla and mashed bananas.    Gradually stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.    Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.    Cool pan on a rack for 5 minutes.    Invert pan onto rack until loaf pops out, and then invert bread again, so it’s right-side-up.    Cool on rack completely.

Notes:  Stirring the walnuts and dates into the dry ingredients just before adding the wet gets them coated with flour which should help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf during baking.  In the Fall, you could replace the Cinnamon with Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I like to keep a six-pack of 4 oz. organic applesauce cups in the pantry, to replace some or all of the oil in baking recipes.  I use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash the bananas on a cutting board until they are a fine consistency.   p.s.  If you want to go crazy, add in 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric for an enhanced golden color and natural anti-inflammatory for the body.

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.

Vegan Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes 24

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

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%.

Salted Caramel Popcorn

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and it hails from My Vegan CookbookI have to give Josh credit for creating a recipe that is much lower in fat than the standard caramel popcorn (he uses an air popper and eliminates the oil).  Also, the recipe is dead simple and does not require a candy thermometer.  I did change a few minor things and added some nuts, but you don’t have to.  When I was trick-or-treating as a kid, if we were lucky, we’d come to a house where we’d receive large, homemade, gooey popcorn balls wrapped in waxed paper, and this brings back those memories just in time for Halloween.  This is my 18th post for Vegan Mofo 2012, phew.  For the last two days, I did not post because we’ve been getting ready for Hurricane Sandy here in the coastal areas of Maryland.
Salted Caramel Popcorn

1/2 Cup un-popped, organic popcorn kernels
1/2 Cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 Cup Unsweetened/First Pressing, canned Coconut Milk
        (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 Cup of cocktail peanuts or dried fruit  (optional)
1/4 Cup of sliced almonds  (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pop the popcorn in an air popcorn popper into a very large mixing bowl, like the largest one you have.
Mix any nuts and/or fruit into the popcorn and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Josh says oiling the pan is not enough; the caramel will still stick to the pan if you only use oil.

In a medium saucepan combine all other ingredients except vanilla.
Place on heat that is one-click-below-medium and stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Caramel should be bubbling well.
Remove from heat and carefully add vanilla while stirring, just in case it splutters a bit.

Drizzle caramel by the spoonful over the popcorn and stir well after each spoonful.
Spread caramel popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, mix popcorn gently with a spatula and return to oven for 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven.
Caramel will be soft but it will become crispy as it cools.

Notes:  You should link to the original recipe, because I have changed a few things.  This recipe is not quite sweet enough for me, so next time, I’ll probably make 50% more sauce and try rolling the popcorn into balls (after oiling my hands).  I’ll also add some dried cherries or some other extra goodies.  However, Lars likes a lighter, less-sugary popcorn and was really pleased with how light this is.  And so it’s his, all his, bwa ha ha.

Vegan Easter Eggs – EggNots

I ordered a dozen of these EggNots, and they arrived three days later in an adorable egg carton (see photos below).  They are an un-fired ceramic,  dye-able, realistic, inedible, non-perishable and humane egg alternative.  To further quote the label, they are created to bring the Easter coloring experience to children and families affected by egg allergies.  The dyed eggs you make with EggNots are keepsakes, really, and can be used year after year.  I had some ancient food coloring in my cupboard and so I used that to make these marbleized eggs, using a simple technique I saw on Martha Stewart years ago.  Next year, I’ll try using one of the ecologically-responsible dye kits they make now, such as this one called eco-eggs.   Nowadays, you can buy various wooden eggs, and biodegradable eggs made of corn, and make your own natural dyes.  And here’s another good article on Dyeing Eggs Naturally from Martha Stewart Living.  Next year, I’ll probably dye another dozen EggNots, and delve into the lavenders and other colors that I didn’t do this year.  I can see where EggNots will help a lot of vegan families keep the ancient tradition of coloring eggs without harming anyone.  Why shouldn’t we eat eggs?  50% of chicks born are male, and they are not wanted in the egg and poultry industry, so they are simply stuffed into garbage bags and suffocated alive, or even ground up alive.  No male chickens (or roosters) are needed for egg production, because eggs are simply the results of the female chicken’s menstrual cycle.  Also, the suffering that chickens live through in the poultry industry is horiffic.   Eggs are not good for us, and they’re not good for the planet.

Buckwheat Sprouts

I received this post about buckwheat sprouts from the Food Matters site, and was amazed by the health benefits.  First of all, I thought buckwheat was a grain, but it’s not.  I really don’t care that it’s gluten-and-wheat-free, but I do care that it’s a complete source of protein, has all the B vitamins, is high in calcium, cleanses the colon, balances cholesterol, neutralizes toxins, and alkalizes the body.  As the site says, it’s also full of rutin, which is helpful for those with varicose veins or hardening of the arteries, because it actually strengthens capillary walls.  Our brains are made up of 28% lecithin and buckwheat sprouts are rich in lecithin, making this also a powerful brain food.  All in all, buckwheat sprouts are a superfood.  Buckwheat groats are simply hulled buckwheat seeds.  How easy is it to sprout buckwheat groats?  SUPER easy.  The hardest part was actually finding them, but I finally found some at Whole foods in Annapolis, although they were not organic.  There are all kinds of contraptions you can sprout with, but I love that this method only takes a fine mesh colander.  I’m going to buy a little plastic mesh colander for these because I’m guessing that over time, the metal colander will rust, not sure.  p.s.  I think this would be a fun project to do with kids of all ages.

Place 1.5 Cups of buckwheat groats into a bowl and cover it with 2 to 3 times as much room-temperature water.
Mix the seeds so that none are floating on top.
Allow seeds to soak for about an hour.
Rinse and drain the water in a colander and let them stand in the colander (with the colander resting over a bowl) on the counter.
Rinse 3 times per day with cool water, for two days.
When rinsing sprouts, use a little water pressure to make sure you are rinsing them wellI also shake the colander a bit to rotate the groats in the colander.
You may notice a gooey substance on the buckwheat, which is starch.  Make sure that you wash this off thoroughly.  I found no gooey substance.
Sprouts will form after only a day or two.
After a final rinse, dry the sprouts by laying them on a clean, lint-free towel.
Let sprouts dry on the counter for 8 hours or so.
Never refrigerate wet sprouts.
Sprouts are ready to use, or you can refrigerate them in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.  Here’s how to use your crop:

  • Pack sprouts into sandwiches.
  • Blend with fruits and vegetables for green drinks or smoothies.
  • Eat cold as a cereal (with nuts, dried fruit, plant milk, agave syrup or maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.)
  • Sprinkle on top of other cereals.
  • Throw into salads just before eating.
  • Buckwheat sprouts are best eaten raw.

Notes:  My buckwheat groats sprouted after only one day, and by the second day the little sprouts were pretty long (see photo below).  Check out Sprout People for a LOT more info. on sprouting everything and anything.  They are also a source for organic buckwheat groats (hulled seeds).

Here are the sprouts by day two, ready to dry.

Pomelo or Pummelo or Jabong

When I was a teenager on Kauai, I had never heard the word pomelo, because we called this fruit “jabong.”  Tasting like a mild grapefruit, pomelo are a great breakfast food or snack.  There are different cultivars of pomelo, and some are pink and some are white.  Although they’re the largest of the citrus fruits, one pomelo only yields enough fruit for two people and I can easily eat one all by myself.  You see, the skin is so thick that by the time you peel and segment it, it doesn’t give up as much fruit as you’d think.  However, if you value quality over quantity, go for the jabong!  I love it, and it’s available in winter when we really need that extra shot of vitamin C.  If I’m in a hurry, I supreme the fruit, as you would an orange.  I usually try to find a pomelo that is leaning toward bright yellow, because then I know it’s ripe.  However, I’ve read online that a green pomelo is fine.  I’m guessing that, like most citrus, this does not ripen once you pick it.  See below for a photo of one I found recently at Whole Foods in Annapolis.  There are many good videos on how to peel and even carve a pommelo on youtube, and here is one I found for you.  And here is another video if you decide you want to supreme it.  Yes, it actually takes a couple of minutes to peel a pomelo, but it’s fun, and so worth it to get to the luscious flesh that tastes like a sweet grapefruit without any of the bitterness!  The giant size of the sections is fun too.   Even children who find grapefruit too acidic love pummelo!  If you want it extra sweet for children or a dessert option, you can lightly drizzle the sections with a light agave syrup.  This delectable fruit is at its peak and more available in winter.  It’s also said to bring good luck and prosperity at New Year’s celebrations, so it’s appropriate for this first post of 2012.  Happy New Year!  p.s.  My lovely cousin Munam says to please add the moniker “suha” (soo-huh) to the list of names this gorgeous fruit goes by.  She grew up with suha trees in her backyard, in the Philippines, and can peel one without a knife!

Peanut Butter Quinoa Cookies

Since going vegan, I had not found a really good peanut butter cookie.  I tried the recipe from TJOVB, and didn’t love it, etc.  Recently, i found some  Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes, and on the back of the box was a little recipe for Crispy Quinoa Cookies.  I never thought this would also turn out to be a really good, gluten-free Peanut Butter cookie.  I took a bite, expecting more of a Middle Eastern or quinoa flavor, but no, it just tastes like a great little peanut butter cookie!  I switched out the honey and got lucky on the results.  These would be great to pack into lunch boxes, take on hikes and bikes, and are good enough to give as gifts.  Gluten Free and loaded with protein, but you’d never know.  I’d like to try making them as peanut-butter-and-jelly thumbprint cookies.


Makes:  about 36 to 40 cookies

1/4 Cup agave syrup
1/4 Cup real maple syrup
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup vegan butter (one stick of Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1/2 Cup peanut butter (I like Maranatha No-Stir  or  O Organics No Stir)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup rice flour
3/4 Cup Quinoa Flakes (Ancient Harvest brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 Cup sliced almonds (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, beat agave and maple syrups, brown sugar, vegan butter, peanut butter and vanilla, until creamy.    In a medium bowl, combine rice flours, quinoa flakes, baking soda and salt, and dry whisk.    Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until well blended.
If using, add nuts and mix just until incorporated.
Measure out rounded teaspoons and then flatten them slightly.  Place about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper).
Bake 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown (I found 13 minutes just right for my electric, non-convection oven).    Cool one minute before transferring cookies to rack.

Notes:  Cookies will firm up slightly once cooled.  I made them one time using 1/2 Mochiko flour and 1/2 brown rice flour, and they were good.  These cookies do not spread much, so that’s why I flatten the dough balls slightly before baking.

Is Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal vegan?

One of the debates among young vegans online is whether or not Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal is vegan or not.  I noticed this because I’ve been wanting to veganize the famous Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies, and I thought Cap’n Crunch cereal would be good in them.  So, I emailed the Quaker Oats company and here’s their response below.  I found it fascinating that there’s a Kosher symbol code that indicates whether a product has meat or dairy in it.  Since I’m not Jewish, I was unaware of this.  I checked the box of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal, and sure enough, there’s a “U” enclosed in a circle, indicating there’s no meat or dairy in this product.  I’m not debating the nutrition (or lack thereof) of this cereal, because we all know it’s junk food, but I am interested in food labeling.   It’s pretty crazy that many things like Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and Bisquick are NOT vegan.  And why do they have to put animal products in Gummy Bears and Marshmallows and Candy Corn, all of which have hair and skin and bones in them?  I’d like to see food commercials show intermittent flashes of the horrific, needless suffering that other living beings go through, sometimes for years on end, to create these products.  I have never seen it, but a friend once told me about an old PETA commercial that shows a model wearing a luxurious fur on a runway, and as she gets to the end, and pivots for the audience, the folds of the fur coat flare out and spatter the audience with the blood of the animals that died for this vanity.  I appreciate the “V” symbol that Trader Joe’s uses to indicate vegan foods, and have noted the use of more “Dairy Free” and “Vegan” phrasing on labels in the last year.  In short, Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal is supposedly vegan.  
Ms. Erickson:

Thanks for your interest in our Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal, as well as our other Quaker brand cereals. I’ll be happy to help.

While we don’t currently label any of our products specifically for vegan concerns, I’d like to let you know that we do Kosher-certify all applicable Quaker products, which we know is helpful for many consumers who are concerned with animal-derived ingredients. Kosher Law precludes the use of meat and dairy products in the same meal, therefore, you can trust that they will be labeled appropriately if they contain any animal-derived products so that you may avoid them.

Below is a guide to the symbols you can watch for on Quaker brand products to find vegan-friendly products which do not contain any animal or animal by-products:

* The letter “U” enclosed in a circle on the front of a product (the symbol of the Orthodox Union of
Jewish Congregations) indicates that the product is Kosher. If it appears by itself, the product
contains neither meat nor dairy.

* If a letter “D” is beside or underneath the circled U, it means that some part of the product
contains dairy, but not meat.

* If a letter “M” is beside or underneath the circled U, it means that some part of the product
contains meat (not currently used for any cereal products).

Note: Fish and Eggs are not considered meat under Kosher law; however, we do label for their presence below the ingredient listing since they are common allergens. If either of these products were present in the formulation, or exposed to the product during manufacturing, we will label “Contains” or “May Contain” in bold print right beneath the list of ingredients.

With that said, I’m happy to let you know that our Peanut Butter Crunch flavor is free of any meat or dairy ingredients. Our other flavors (including original Cap’n Crunch, Crunchberries, and Oops! All Berries) are Kosher-Dairy, indicating that they include or may have been exposed to dairy ingredients at some point during manufacturing.

I hope that this information is helpful for you, Ms. Erickson, in choosing products. We appreciate your interest in Quaker.

Quaker Consumer Relations
A Division of PepsiCo
Ref# 027574729A

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.

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.
Vegan Rice Krispy Treats – Vegan Rice Crispy Treats

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

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.

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.

Vegan Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joes

This vegan Manwich is fast, easy and delicious.  I first saw Manwich on the Accidentally Vegan lists put out by PETA.  I doctor mine up with what I have on hand, such as grated carrot, finely-diced onion, garlic, or bell pepper.  I’ll sometiomes throw in a half Cup of raw walnuts, but you can’t really taste them.  For little ones, it might be easier to serve on hotdog buns.

Vegan Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joes

Serves:  about 6

15.5 oz. can of Hunt’s Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce
1 medium or large onion, diced
2 small or medium carrots, grated (or one large carrot)
2 cloves garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon cooking oil, such as safflower or peanut, etc.
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 Cup finely chopped raw walnuts (optional)
1 Cup Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, or Boca Crumbles

In a large skillet, add onions, carrots, garlic, salt and oil.
Cook on medium/low  heat until things soften up, maybe 5-10 minutes.
To the skillet, add can of Manwich sauce, stir and cook one minute.
Add the finely chopped raw walnuts, stir and cook one minute.
Add vegan beefy crumbles, stir and cook a couple more minutes.
Serve good and hot on some type of bun or a slice of bread.
Have flashbacks of the 1970’s.

Notes:  In place of vegan burger crumbles and nuts, you can instead  use a Cup of dry TSP (textured soy protein) or TVP (textured vegetable protein) from Bob’s Red Mill.  We like to serve these on Martin’s Potato Rolls, which are accidentally vegan.

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.
Vegan Rice Crispy Treats

Makes:  16 pieces

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

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.

Sweet & Sara Vegan Marshmallows

With Easter coming up, we naturally begin to think of sweets.  Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that these would make a gorgeous addition to any Easter basket!  Vegans don’t eat gelatin because it’s made out of the hair, bones, skin and organs of animals that suffered greatly, and so I sat up straight when I read about Sweet and Sara Vegan Marshmallows.  You can use these marshmallows like any other; in hot cocoa, flaming on a stick around the campfire, and even on your Thanksgiving yams.  Sweet and Sara has lots of other products, and now they’re even kosher.  I made some Rice Crispy Treats using puffed brown rice (blog post to follow).  But before I mixed up the Treats, I had to eat a Sweet and Sara vanilla marshmallow plain to see how it tasted.  And, it was absolutely delicious, despite having been in my refrigerator for two months.  Yes, I’m happy to report these vegan marshmallows actually taste better than the marshmallows made from slaughtered animals.  And there’s lots of press that agree with this opinion.  These are hand-cut and so they have square edges and are slightly irregular, a little bit elegant and artisanal.  And going from memory, they seemed a bit denser than  common marshmallows.  These are charming, like something you’d see at Dean and Deluca, or Harrods.  I had to buy these through mail order, could not find them within an hour of my house, although they are sold in online stores, including Vegan Essentials, Pangea, etc.  Then I found out that Pangea Store is actually in Rockville, Maryland, and I do pass by there once or twice a year.  Here’s an article about Sara, the mastermind behind these uber-delicious and violence-free marshmallows.  I think I got about 16 nice fat marshmallows in my little box, and the price was just under $6.  So, not cheap.  But, in this case, you really do get what you pay for; non-bone-char sugar, and natural, peaceful ingredients like carrageenan (seaweed extract) and locust bean gum.  Next time, I will try the toasted coconut ones!

Vegan Pigs in a Blanket

My girlfriend Piliki has been experimenting with vegan corn dogs for her grandchildren, but hasn’t been satisfied with the results yet.  I decided to try making Vegan Pigs in a Blanket, in hope that she would find them easier.  Of course, these are not exactly health food, but if you take into consideration the unspeakable animal products and chemicals in hot dogs (yes, even kosher ones), and all the preservatives in the store-bought buns, etc., you are still ahead of the game.  And these Smart Dogs have more protein, zero fat, zero cholesterol, and only 45 calories.  Once in a while, kids want to have what the other kids are having, and these would also be great for a Super Bowl football party or something.  So, I used Smart Dogs by LightLife and my own Vegan Pate Brisee dough.  You’ll want to make the dough a few hours ahead or the day before (so it can rest in the fridge), or pull it from the freezer.  It’s an easy and quick dough–once you make it, you’ll see.  And then you can pop one or both of the  single crusts into the freezer and just pull them out the night before.  These may seem like gourmet Pigs in a Blanket, and maybe they are due to the decadent French pastry crust.  I had to play around with the baking time, but it worked out perfectly and yielded a delicate bun with a flaky, buttery crust.  Be sure to serve with little pots of condiments, including different mustards, catsup and relish, chopped onions, etc.  Afternote:  Since posting this, I’ve learned that the Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls are accidentally vegan, and those can be used in lieu of the pate brise dough.
Vegan Pigs in a Blanket   or   Vegan Pigs in Blankets

Yield:  8 Pigs in a Blanket  (you can double this of course)

one package of Smart Dogs
one Vegan Pate Brisee single crust (for 8 pieces)  (or Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls)
Condiments for serving, including mustards, ketchup, chopped onions, sweet relish, etc.

-At least 30 minutes before you begin, place one or two rolling pins in the freezer.
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
-Slice Smart Dogs in half the short way, so you’ll get two Pigs in a Blanket from each hot dog.
-Sprinkle a flat surface with flour, and take dough from refrigerator.
-Using one of your well-chilled rolling pins, roll out the dough on your floured surface.  Don’t be afraid to add more flour as you go, rolling and flipping the dough, no worries.
-With a butter knife, cut the dough into rectangles or squares and then cut those on the diagonal so you wind up with triangles of dough.  Immediately roll the little dogs up in the dough and place on baking sheet.  As you run out of dough, just improvise and use rectangles or whatever.
-You can re-roll the last little bit of dough if you use the other frozen rolling pin.  Otherwise, the dough scraps are  probably too warm to work with by now.
-Bake for 15 minutes.

Note:  You can briefly fry on medium heat some or all of your Smart Dogs in a teaspoon or two of Earth Balance and a sprinkle of sea salt–this will yield a slightly chewier dog.  Good but possibly not worth the effort.  We tried them both fried and un-fried, and liked both just as well.  The oven heat is high enough that it cooks the dog well, even if it is un-fried first.

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.
Vegan Vanilla Praline Smoothie

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

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.

Moo-Cluck Peanut Butter Creme Filled Choc. Cupcake

We were at Whole Foods in Annapolis yesterday and look what Lars found for me.  I love, love, LOVE, the label that proudly proclaims No Dairy  and No Eggs!  I’m not saying this is health food, because it isn’t.  But, if there are hundreds of sugary, dairy-laden, egg-filled murderous desserts on the shelves of Whole Foods, it sure is nice to see a few of these vegan treats there too.  So, after lunch today, I tried it, and it’s really good in an adolescent, decadent way.  It brought me back to high school, when we would buy Hostess cupcakes in the lunch-room.  The icing is not overly cloying and the cupcake is pretty good, but the peanut butter frosting inside it is stellar.  In short, I’ll be buying another one of these on my trip to Annapolis next month.  Thank you, Moo-Cluck, and you get the award for the most adorable label, too!

Vegan Better-Than-Tuna Salad

Recently, I was wistful for a tuna sandwich.  Not that I would eat one, but it’s natural to miss something you used to eat without thinking about it.  Some of what we miss is that hit of protein, and texture.  By pulsing chickpeas lightly in the food processor, you get that flaky texture of canned tuna.  And to my surprise, this actually tastes like tuna (without the fishy smell).  Not exactly, but pretty close, and it’s delicious.  This recipe is adapted from The Vegan Table.   An added bonus is that this recipe will make you feel good.  Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) have all the essential amino acids that adults need, and are packed with protein and fiber.  Here is a quote from the LiveStrong web site:  “The proteins found in garbanzo beans include all eight of the essential dietary amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. The only missing essential amino acid in garbanzo beans is histidine, which is necessary only for infants.”

Colleen’s addition of adding the raw walnuts (which you cannot really taste) supplies the Omega 3 Fatty Acids.    p.s. I changed some measurements and added the onion and relish.  The optional seaweed flakes give it a faint fish flavor.

Better-Than-Tuna Salad from The Vegan Table cookbook

Half quantity shown here, makes at least 4 servings or sandwiches.

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 Cup Vegenaise (eggless mayonnaise)
½ medium-sized red bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1 carrot, grated fine (or pulsed to a grated consistency)
½ celery stalk, minced fine (or pulsed to a grated consistency)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot
2 Tablespoons sweet relish
½ C raw walnuts, chopped fine (or pulsed in food processor)
1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dulse granules (seaweed flakes) (optional, for that faint fish flavor)

Rinse and drain chickpeas well.
Here, if you want to, you can pulse the carrot, celery and walnuts in the food processor, until fine.  Empty food processor and then process the chickpeas until they are a somewhat-fine flaky consistency. Do not over-process, or you’ll get hummus! The flakiness of the chickpeas resembles tuna in texture, which is important for this recipe.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir carrot/celery/walnut mixture with onion, relish, mustard, and mayo and seasonings (salt, pepper and optional seaweed flakes/granules).
Add flaked chickpeas and stir again to mix all well.  Chill until ready to serve.

Notes:  I use my Pickled Red Onions in this (and everything else).  Please note that this recipe (as you see it here) is halved.  A scoop of this would be good sitting in the middle of a green salad, or you could make vegan tuna melts with Daiya cheese, or stuff it into pita pockets, etc.

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.


Yield:  4 to 6 servings

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

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 Granola Bars – Cherry Almond with Cashew Butter

Here’s my rendition of this recipe from the New York Times, and it took just minutes to make.  I just used what I had in the pantry; dried Bing cherries and cashew butter, and I have to say, they are the best granola bars I’ve ever tasted.  In fact, they put store-bought granola bars to shame.  I did not want to use honey, so I used Just Like Honey instead, and made them vegan.  I also added the salt to the warm nut-butter and nectar mixture, so it would melt and incorporate more evenly (as opposed to mixing it with the dry ingredients).  And I skipped the plastic wrap and vegetable oil, because there is no need to waste either as long as you have some wax paper or parchment paper (much healthier and greener alternatives).  This would be great for kids, especially since it’s versatile and you can change this up to use whatever fruits or nut butters the kids like.  For special occasions, you could even add some vegan chocolate chips and sub in some peanut butter.  You could substitute some oats for some of the brown puffed rice.  I love this cherry/blanched almond combo, but now I’m thinking of trying dried strawberries with agave syrup.  Or for adults, maybe black walnuts and good maple syrup.  I don’t know how other sweeteners would work, however.  p.s.  The tiny bit of sea salt is a key element, the perfect foil to the sweet fruit.
Simple Vegan Granola Bars

Yield:  approx. 12 to 16 bars

1/2 Cup of cashew butter (or any other nut butter)
1/2 Cup of Suzanne’s Just Like Honey
1 Cup crispy brown rice cereal (puffed)
1 Cup granola
1/2 Cup slivered almonds (or any other nuts)
1/2 Cup dried cherries (cut cherries in half) (or any other dried fruit)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or other salt)
parchment paper,  or wax paper

-Cut parchment paper or wax paper into two long strips the width of your 8″x8″ pan, and line the pan with one strip going one way and the 2nd strip going the other way (see photo below).  You will lift the granola bars out of the pan using these paper strips.
-Put nut butter and nectar (or syrup), and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until they melt together, stir to combine.
Put the crispy rice cereal, granola, nuts and dried fruit in a large bowl and stir.  Add the warm nut butter/syrup/nectar mixture and stir well to combine.
-Spread granola mixture evenly into the double-lined pan, and then fold down each of the four flaps of paper, and press down somewhat hard to compress the granola bar mixture.
-Refrigerate until set, approximately one hour or overnight.
-Once granola bar mixture has hardened in the pan, remove from pan in one piece, by lifting the edges of the paper out of the pan.
-Open the paper and cut the bars to any size you like.
Postcript:  My friend Piliki tried this recipe using brown rice syrup and said the bars were too sticky.  If you use agave or maple syrup or some other sweetener, please let me know the results.

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks

I usually take candy to my sister Nancy, so I was looking for something vegan.  I found Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks at my local health food store, and then I saw them at one of the grocery stores in town.  I bought the Summer Strawberry flavor, but there are three other flavors (berry patch, citrus and tropical).  When I tried them, I liked the flavor a lot, even though they are just ever so slightly softer than gummy candies of the ursine variety.  Yes, these are a GREAT alternative to Gummy Bears.  Gummy Bears taste good, but they’re also made of skin and hair and bones, and suffering and enslavement (gelatin).  Sooooo, anyhoo.  These are great for kids, of all ages, with ingredients like tapioca syrup, organic cane sugar, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin (instead of gelatin), and black carrot juice, etc.  Thumbs up.  

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

I was kind of stuck without much prepared for dinner last night, so I headed for the freezer.  We found these the last time we were at Whole Foods, and so I decided to go for it.  I just baked them per package directions and served them with sweet-and-sour sauce (not included).  And . . . they were great!  I think kids would absolutely love these.   They coating is crispy and slightly sizzling when they come out of the oven and they’re a great size for finger food.  I haven’t had a McD’s chicken nugget in 10 years, but these taste like what I remember.   These take only a short time to bake, and there are 10 crispy tenders per bag.  The nutritional information is pretty great too, with 2 tenders having 9 grams of protein and only 1.5 grams of fat.  Makes you feel like a kid again.

Vegan Hot Dogs

OK, so I was at a charity dog walk, and they were grilling  hot dogs in the park.  What’s wrong with this picture?  But yes, they smelled good.  Just because I’m now vegan, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my old favorites sometimes.  But, I’m learning that your taste buds do catch up with your ethics and you can still have your old favorites!  Hot dogs are such an iconic food for Americans, showing up at BBQs on holidays such as 4th of July, and always in summer, and kids love them.  So I thought, why can’t we have hot dogs at home once in a blue moon?  And after trying a couple of brands, I found one that really is tasty when you do it right.  Now, I have always been of the Chicago Dog persuasion; liking a good strong mustard in contrast with sweet relish, and the tang of onions.  So, here it is, ta da,  the Smart Dog indulgence we had for lunch.  And damn, you get 8 grams of protein, and even a little potassium and iron, and no fat, and no cholesterol.  OK, OK, I did fry them in a cast-iron skillet and I put my Dad’s own Hawaiian salt on them, but still, zero cholesterol.  A lot of people do not realize that cholesterol only exists in animal products.  And I did brush the buns with a tiny bit of olive oil and fried them, and drizzled one teaspoon of olive oil in the pan for the hot dogs.  So, all in all, not a bad indulgence.  I’ll sleep OK, especially since nobody got hurt.  I have to tell you that the instructions on the Smart Dogs package call for boiling or microwaving the hot dogs, and do not mention pan frying.  But we’ve always liked our dogs fried, so that’s what I did, on medium heat. Now that I’ve read the Wikipedia description, I think I’ll add a dash of celery salt next time.  Also, I used my very own pickled red onions, and they make a difference.  But any chopped onion would do.

Crispy Tofu Slices with Orange Dipping Sauce

This recipe is from The Kind Diet cookbook by Alicia Silverstone.  And the tofu part is OK, but the sauce is growing on me for several reasons.  It’s versatile; could be used on any Asian savory snack, like little egg rolls or samosas, or even vegan chickn nuggets, for example.  Not only is it pretty, but it’s a lot healthier than store-bought sauces.  I found a jar of Asian Gourmet Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce in my fridge, and it’s got 27 ingredients in it, and I don’t exactly know what all of them are.  This simple orange/maple dipping sauce has 3 ingredients, one of which I added, and could be made more complex by adding a pinch of cayenne powder, or a half teaspoon of tamarind concentrate, or whatever.  I also think this would be great for little children, and you would skip the cayenne for them, of course.  When I looked online, the main complaint about this recipe was that the sauce was too thin.  So I thickened it with some corn starch and voila, a nice little quick sauce.  As for the tofu, the cookbook says if you don’t have the corn and rice flours on hand, you can just use an all-purpose or whole wheat flour.  I also call for cutting the tofu into thicker slices because the first time I made it, the thinner slices (1/4″) were overwhelmed by even this light coating.  And next time, I’m going to just use plain tofu that I press at home.
Crispy Tofu Slices with Orange Dipping Sauce

Serves 2 or 3 (depending upon side dishes)

1 (8 oz.) package savory-flavored baked tofu
1/2 C corn flour
1/2 C brown rice flour
safflower oil

2/3 C fresh orange juice
1/3 C real maple syrup
2 tsp corn starch mixed with one tablespoon of water

Cut the baked tofu into slices at least 1/3 or 1/2 inch thick.
Mix flours together in a shallow bowl.
Pour enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer, and heat over medium heat.
Dip each tofu strip into flour mixture and gently shake or remove all excess flour.  Otherwise, it tastes too floury.
Place tofu strips in skillet, and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Transfer tofu strips onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

In your smallest saucepan, stir together orange juice and maple syrup.
Stir over medium heat until starting to simmer.
While it’s heating, mix 2 teaspoons of corn starch into 1 tablespoon of water, and stir with a small fork into a smooth slurry.
Pour corn starch slurry into orange/maple mixture and keep stirring over medium heat as it comes to a simmer and thickens.  This will take about 5 minutes or so, if I remember correctly.
You can make this sauce a day ahead or hours ahead, and it will thicken slightly more as it chills in the fridge.

Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is all over the internet.  It’s adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.  I first made this in February, and what it taught me is that it’s super easy to make a really nice sauce without buying inferior-tasting bottled stuff that has additives. You can dress this any way you like, but it’s great as it is.

I use organic tomatoes (you can find them in most regular grocery stores now).  Quite a few bloggers have raved over this recipe, so I emailed it to my amazing friend Laurel on Kauai, and she replied that it was fantastic.  Enough of a recommendation for me!  So, with a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, one onion, and some pasta, you can make a lovely lunch or supper.  I served this to our friends Jim and Jan, and Jan commented that the tomato sauce tasted so fresh.  That’s what it tastes like, in a nutshell; it doesn’t taste like it comes from a can, and it’s got the subtle, delicate umami of the unmasked tomatoes.  The simplest version of the original recipe that I could find is here on epicurious.  All I did was switch out the butter for Earth Balance, and it still did have that buttery taste.  I reduced the fat in half as i just couldn’t see five whopping Tablespoons of butter in only one can of tomatoes.  Also, I have a problem with throwing away an onion, just couldn’t do it.  In fact throwing away an onion seems to be slightly bizarre behavior, and possibly a mortal sin.  So, I diced the onion and kept every bit of it in the sauce.  And yes, it is delicious, and simple, and quick to make.  I like to add some Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs into the pot with the sauce, for some extra protein.  Afterthought;  OK, OK, I guess for picky little ones, you could just cut the onion in half and then remove it at the end, as the original recipe calls for, but don’t tell me about it.
Vegan Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions 

Serves:  4 as a main course, at least.

-28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano tomatoes are suggested but I don’t worry about this as long as they’re organic)
-2 tablespoons Earth Balance
-1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved (I chop mine fine)
-Salt to taste

Put tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit well in a 3-quart) over medium heat.
Bring sauce to simmer, then lower heat to low, to keep the sauce at a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes.
Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with pasta of your choice, with or without grated vegan parmesan cheese to pass, but, it’s better plain.  For pasta, I like penne, or vermicelli, or capellini. 

I’ve also made this with crushed tomatoes (which saved the crushing of the tomatoes in the pot), and another time with a can of tomato puree, because it was all I had.  Both of these also worked well, despite having slightly less texture.   Note:  The leftovers are great for meatball subs!

Macaroni and Cheese

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sometimes you just need to throw a simple dish on the table.  Or feed some kids or grand kids or something.  I got this recipe off VegWeb.com which is an AMAZING resource of recipes and feedback.  It’s a very mild-flavored recipe, and so it would be great for kids and picky eaters.  You should definitely dress it up with chopped garden tomatoes, salsa from a jar, Tofutti sour cream, etc.  I show it here with a big slice of avocado, chopped heirloom tomato, shredded lettuce and Daiya cheese.  If you’ve never worked with TSP before, it’s just Textured Soy Protein, and it’s kind of magical.  I like the one from Bob’s Red Mill because it’s organic and made from non-GMO soybeans.  TSP comes dehydrated and then you re-hydrate it with your recipe’s liquids and spices and it soaks them up like a sponge.  TSP comes in different textures.  The TSP from Bob’s Red Mill ends up looking like ground beef, although paler in color (like ground turkey). And once you add your taco seasoning or Manwich or whatever, it tastes like your old favorites.  You keep a bag of this in your fridge and the possibilities are endless.  Lars likes this taco mix on a plate of nachos too.  1/4 Cup of TSP has only 1.5 grams of fat, zero cholesterol, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, damn!

Easy Vegan Tacos

1 C dried TSP, such as Bob’s Red Mill Organic Textured Soy Protein
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 t cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne
¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste
2 teaspoonsTamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons vegetable or coconut oil

Measure chili powder, cumin and cayenne into one small dish to have at the ready.
Chop onion.
Set small saucepan to boil with one cup of water.
In skillet, sauté chopped onion and salt in oil over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes.
Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about one minute more.

Add dried TSP to the one cup of boiling water.
Quickly add spices and soy sauce to TSP mixture and stir until water and spices are absorbed.
Add TSP mixture to the onions in the skillet and stir.
Makes enough filling for about ten taco shells.
Add chopped garden tomatoes, vegan cheeze, lettuce, salsa, avocado, Tofutti sour cream and whatever else you like.  Ole!