Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

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


Makes 6 to 8 servings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

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


Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

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

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

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


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

Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Cheeses

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

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

Vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

IMG_2784    These vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits are especially good.   If we follow a few simple guidelines, Southern biscuits are easy to make.  With the addition of mashed sweet potato whisked into the vegan buttermilk, these achieve a bit of nutrition, and a lovely golden color.  The sweet potato flavor is not pronounced, so don’t look for it.  These would make good vegan ham biscuits.  Other vegan biscuits on this site include Yogurt Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits by Nava Atlas, and plain Buttermilk Biscuits.


Makes about 6-12 biscuits depending on cutter size

2 Cups self-rising flour  (I used Gold Medal)
1/4 Cup Spectrum All-Vegetable Organic Shortening
2/3 Cup cooked finely-mashed sweet potato, chilled
3/4 Cup full-fat plain soy milk  (I used WestSoy)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, melted
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder  (no more)

Put rolling pin and pastry cutter in freezer.  Cut shortening into chunks and chill in  freezer.  In a mug, stir vinegar into plant milk and chill in fridge (this is your buttermilk).  Measure flour into bowl and chill in fridge.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a very small dish, stir garlic powder into melted vegan butter.

With pastry cutter, cut shortening into flour until lumps are pea sized or smaller.  Whisk mashed sweet potato into buttermilk until well blended.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour and stir with a wooden spoon just until dough comes together.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and gently fold dough over onto itself 4 or 5 times, adding more flour by the Tablespoon if the dough is sticky.  Folding the dough creates the layers.  Gently roll dough out until it’s 1/2 inch tall, no less.  Cut out biscuits close together with a biscuit cutter, using a straight up-and-down motion–do not twist cutter.  Lay each biscuit immediately upon the baking sheet.  Brush all biscuits with the melted butter.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown (not brown).  Remove from oven and immediately brush biscuits with butter again.

Notes:  If freezing biscuits, freeze the cut-out biscuits unbaked.  Then bake from frozen as normal.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can use an empty 15-oz. can.  If you don’t want to use parchment paper, make sure to use a greased shiny silver baking sheet, because dark baking sheets can over-brown the biscuit bottoms.   Here’s a good  video.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

IMG_1810    This is the 2nd delicious and easy recipe I’ve tried from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  I’ve eaten these Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia (see photo below), and this recipe replicates that experience very well.  My comments on the recipe are to make sure to divide your salt and pepper before you begin (I accidentally threw all the pepper into the sauce, which didn’t hurt it).  The sauce takes two minutes to make, so make that first and throw it in the fridge.  Cut the stems/bottoms well off the sprouts and discard.  I just used a knife to cut and shave the sprouts.  Make sure to cook the sprouts on high (as per the recipe) because that’s how you get the roasty bits.  Go easy on the sauce–a little goes a long way, and next time I would probably only make half of the sauce.  Out of the Vedge cookbook, I also made the Salt Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion, which is also an easy and super-delicious recipe.  It’s simple to make the components for both of these recipes ahead.  Once the sprouts are prepped, they take only a 5-minute sizzle in the pan before serving.   In short, I love this gorgeous cookbook.
IMG_1484  Here’s the dish we received at Vedge restaurant.  As you can see, lighting was super-low, and they used a very grainy mustard.  I just used organic whole-grain mustard from a jar, and it was still delicious.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey

IMG_1221  I meant to try this Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey last year, but never got to it.  This comes with gravy and stuffing, which I promptly discarded (see postscript at bottom).  I served this with homemade sides:  classic stuffing dressing with apples and pecans, baked stuffed potatoes, cranberry sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry, and Golden Gravy with chanterelle mushrooms.  We also had some delicious Treeline Scallion French-Style Soft Cheese as an appetizer, with some sparkling cider, and a salad.  For dessert, we had a choice of Pumpkin Pie with Streusel or Pear Crisp.  I basted the non-GMO vegan turkey with a glaze of vegan butter, a teensy bit of maple syrup and sea salt.  My review is that I was very happy with this soy turkey.  The “skin” on the outside does mimic turkey skin, and it could not be easier to make.  I rinsed it, patted it dry, baked it on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet for 45 minutes, with a basting after 15 minutes and again after 30 minutes.  The basting also helped the appearance.  I do recommend stuffing the turkey as it keeps the whole thing moist, but you will need to bake additional stuffing/dressing on the side, because you cannot fit much inside this bird.  I would guess it serves about 10 people and is a great solution for those transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Lars is vegetarian and really liked it.  It slices beautifully, and makes the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had, great for leftovers.  If you eat a bit by itself, there is a faint hint of soy flavor, but with the other sides, you don’t notice it, and in a sandwich, it’s non-existent.  I would definitely buy this again.  This turkey can be bought from Vegan Essentials online, and also from the Healthy Eating Catalog.  Sometimes they run out, so get your order in when you can.  Additional photos below.    Postscript:  Nov. 2014.  Lars requested this turkey again, so I made it and am just as happy.  However, I decided to try the stuffing and the gravy this time, for you all.  I simply sautéed chopped acidulated Fuji apple, and onions, and then used half the dry stuffing and followed all other directions, and it was decent.  About the gravy, it was TERRIBLE–don’t do it, make your own!
IMG_1230  Slices like a dream, and makes killer turkey sandwiches for leftovers.
IMG_1215  We really liked this cheese on crackers.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make little canapés with it either.

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.


Serves 8

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

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

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.

Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry

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


Makes about 2 Cups

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

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

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

Hashed Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Zest and Candied Hazelnuts

IMG_1037    Neither of us were crazy about Brussels Sprouts, until now.  I adapted this recipe from a non-vegan cookbook, and made some quick-candied hazelnuts.  These Brussels sprouts are still a bit crisp in texture, and bright with fresh lemon.  For me, the nuts added a missing element.


Serves 5 or 6

Juice of one medium lemon, plus grated zest of 2 lemons.
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons white wine or vermouth
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 Cup chopped raw hazelnuts  (or pecans)
1 Tablespoon vegan butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Place lemon juice in a large non-metal bowl.  Cut bottoms well off sprouts and discard.  Peel any less-than-perfect leaves off each sprout and discard.  Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise.  As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice.  When all sprouts are sliced, toss them well in the lemon juice with a non-metal spoon, and cover and refrigerate the sprouts for 15 minutes or up to three hours.

For candied hazelnuts:  in a very small skillet or saucepan, heat the butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt on medium heat.  Add chopped hazelnuts and cook and stir until you see a tinge of golden brown on a few of the nuts, this takes just a few minutes.  Set candied nuts on a clean plate.  Do not set them on paper towels, or they will stick.

When ready to serve, in a large skillet heat oil and butter over medium heat.  When hot, add sprouts, garlic and poppy seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add wine and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring for 1 minute more.  Turn off heat and stir in lemon zest, reserving a little zest for the top of the dish.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, sprinkle with some of the candied hazelnuts and the remaining zest, and serve.

Notes:  I recommend prepping some of the ingredients early, to save time, because the actual cooking is fairly quick.   I tried making them with vermouth but did not care for it.  When buying Brussels sprouts, look for fresh, green compact sprouts.  Wilted or yellow leaves are signs of age or mishandling.  Give them a sniff–old sprouts have a strong, cabbage-like odor.  Store up to three days in refrigerator.  The older they are, the less appealing their smell and flavor.  Overcooking also renders Brussels sprouts unappealing (in my opinion).

Vegan Yogurt Biscuits

IMG_0721    Vegan Mofo 2013.  These quick Vegan Yogurt Biscuits work out to about one gram of fat apiece, which means we can crack them open and slather them with some vegan butter!  They’re really Southern style, if you follow the simple technique below.


Makes at least 6.

1.5 Cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 oz. container So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt, Plain flavor only
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the one Tablespoon of vegan butter, stir the pinch of salt into it, and set it aside.
Whisk the 1.5 Cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl.
Add the yogurt to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
Sprinkle counter with extra flour, and turn dough out onto the floured countertop.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough and fold it in half 3 or 4 times, adding a bit more bench flour as you need it, but be sparing.
Pat dough until it’s no more than a half-inch-tall round.
Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out biscuits without twisting the cutter.
You can use a thin drinking glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter, no worries.
Place biscuits 2 inches apart on baking sheet, and brush them with the salty butter, do not skip this step!
Bake 10-14 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot.

Notes:  These are best served hot and fresh.  For me, nothing compares to Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.  My friend Jan hails from North Carolina, and years ago (before I went vegan) she taught me to brush Southern biscuits with a buttery, slightly-salt glaze, it makes all the difference.

Vegan Cheese Ball

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Rosemary

Here is a silky, cream-of-mushroom soup with a luscious  flavor and texture that would please any Polish Grandmother.  Rosemary is a common ingredient in homemade cream of mushroom soup, but here it’s steeped into a subtlety that adds complexity without being overwhelming.  I’ve bumped up the flavor with white wine (using Madeira because it’s traditional), and made a cashew sour cream for extra protein and richness.  Now that I’ve made this, it inspires me to go ahead and try again on the white spargle soup that I failed on last year.  This vegan bisque is soy free, gluten free, and tastes even better the next day.  This is so sophisticated, and tastes so Alsatian, that I would serve it to anyone, even a European chef.
Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup with Rosemary

Serves:  approximately 6  (I didn’t keep track too well)

For the Cashew Cream
3/4 Cup raw cashews
1/2 Cup filtered water
juice of half a lemon

For the Soup
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance organic vegan butter
4 shallots, minced very fine
16 oz. fresh, organic, pristine white button mushrooms, rinsed well and chopped  (I only use the caps)
2 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 Cup white wine of some kind  (I used Madeira)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 Cup coconut creamer, So Delicious brand
3 small sprigs fresh rosemary,  2-3 inches long each,  rinsed
plus one tiny sprig for garnish.  Rosemary is a key ingredient of this recipe, don’t omit it!

The day before, make the cashew sour cream:
Combine cashews, water and lemon juice in food processor and puree until very smooth.  Store in sealed container in fridge overnight.

The next day:
In a smaller stock pot, heat vegan butter on medium heat.
Add minced shallots and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped mushrooms and cook until they begin to give off their liquid, about 10 minutes, adding a little stock if it begins to dry out.
Add all remaining vegetable stock.
Add the salt and white wine, and stir until blended.
Add the cashew sour cream and stir until blended.
Add the coconut creamer and stir until blended.
Remove from heat, add the sprigs of rosemary and cover to steep for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, stir soup and discard rosemary sprigs.
In a blender, puree 3/4 of the soup until very smooth.
Add pureed soup back into the pot with the un-blended soup.
Re-heat and serve, or refrigerate until the next day.
Heat before serving, but do not boil.
Garnish with a tiny sprig of rosemary.

Note:  I would not use soy creamer here, because it has a distinct flavor that would take away from the purity of these simple ingredients.

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.
Vegan Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Servings:  8 to 10

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)

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.

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%.

Thanksgiving Turkey Art Project

Here is the only turkey that we’ll be having at our house this year!  Our talented six-year-old nephew Douglas made this for us, and it brings such color and whimsy to the dining room.  The feathers are easily created by tracing around the child’s hand, making this project easy enough for littler ones too.  If you look at the photos below, you can see the three-dimensional features of the turkey, made by cutting out and gluing on the wattle and beak.  I suppose you would start with a circle to create the turkey’s body, and then just go from there.  Easy and charming, this would make a great craft project for the kids in the house and could be supervised by an older child too.  I also like the limited number of supplies one would need,  some markers or crayons, some paper and glue, and perhaps something to protect the tabletop.  And don’t forget to photograph and share online with those who can’t be with you for this Holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

These Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes can be made ahead to save time before dinner.  This protein-packed dish would be lovely for any Autumnal meal, or even Thanksgiving.  The Middle-Eastern ingredients are lightly spiced, and the raisins add chewy sweetness as a foil against the savory broth.  Instead of ground beef, I used chopped walnuts.  Walnuts provide not only extra protein and omegas, but a rich meatiness that pushes this into the main-dish arena.  For those who are avoiding gluten, you could easily substitute quinoa for the bulgur.  You could also add a cup of Beyond Beef Crumbles, or other vegan protein, if you want to.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

Serves 4

2 small Acorn squashes
1/2 Cup bulgur wheat  (or cooked quinoa)
1 Cup vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/3 Cup golden raisins
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, chopped fine
1/2 Cup raw walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat one Cup of vegetable broth.
Put bulgur in a small bowl, pour in only 3/4 Cup of the steaming broth over the bulgur, and cover and wait 30 to 45 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1/4 Cup of hot broth over the raisins and set them aside to plump.

You will now pre-bake the squash so it’s easy to cut into.
Wash acorn squashes and set them in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.  Find the place where you will cut each squash in half and then pierce along that invisible line several times, to let steam escape.
Bake squashes for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and carefully slice along your previous perforations with a sharp knife to create a continuous slit.
Bake 30 more minutes and then remove from oven to cool.

In a pot, heat oil and add onion and cook about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, spices and salt, and cook another minute or so.
Add hydrated bulgur and cook until any excessive moisture (if there is any) is gone, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add parsley and walnuts and stir well.
Drain raisins and fold them into the bulgur mixture.
Scrape out the cooled squashes, forming squash bowls, and fold the squash meat into the bulgur mixture in the pot.
With a spoon, mix gently but well, and fill each squash bowl with stuffing.
You can now refrigerate these to bake later, if you want to.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place stuffed squashes side by side in a baking dish and bake until warmed through and tops are browned, about 20 minutes or so.  If squashes have been chilling, it might take longer.

Notes:  I used Bob’s Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Quick Cooking Bulgur.  All I had in the house were regular raisins, so the photo reflects that.

Squash Curry Soup

Here’s a beautiful Fall soup with warming Indian spices for the cold weather.  It takes advantage of the early Butternut squashes, and it makes 4 pints,  so some can go in the freezer.  I originally saw Padma Lakshmi making this soup on the Martha Stewart show back in 2006 (video here).  I made her version but we could not take that level of heat and spice, so this is milder and does not obliterate the taste of the squash itself.  Use my easy method of baking-before-cutting, and you won’t have to struggle with a knife and a fresh, rock-hard squash.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Squash Curry Soup

Makes about 4 pints, serves 6-8

2.5 lb. Butternut squash, baked and seeded (yields 1.3 pounds, supposedly)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 Bay leaf
1.25 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups vegetable broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1 Tablespoon palm sugar  (or brown sugar)
15 oz. can low-fat coconut milk

Wash and pierce squash, and set in a glass baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.
Cool squash, and discard seeds.
Peel, and chop squash meat into a bowl.
In a Dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat, heat oil and cook onions for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add ginger, garlic, cayenne, curry, and turmeric, and stir another minute.
Add squash, salt, vegetable broth and Bay leaf, and cook 5 more minutes.
Add palm sugar and coconut milk, and cook 5 more minutes.
Remove Bay leaf from the pot.
Now you have a choice; you can use a potato masher or immersion blender to make the soup however chunky or smooth you like.
Or you can cool the soup and then puree it in a blender for later.

Garnish with curry leaves, chives, pumpkin seeds, croutons, etc.

Notes:  I would prefer 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, but Lars doesn’t like it that hot, so I just use a little Sriracha at the table.  If making this for kids, definitely keep the cayenne and ginger light.

Armenian Lentil Apricot Soup

IMG_1948    This easy soup has had a little food buzz lately, and I was intrigued because the idea of lentil soup had never appealed to me before.  I found three recipes online, one being from The Armenian Kitchen.  I took what I wanted from each recipe and the result is really good.  I switched out the green bell pepper for a red bell pepper, but this soup is very versatile and you can do whatever you like.  The key here is the sweet and chewy dried-apricot flavor and texture, in contrast with the heat and spice and hearty lentils.  The bonus is that lentils are so nutritionally dense; very high in protein, fiber, iron, folate and other goodies.  And Red Lentils are hulled (decorticated), so they cook relatively quickly.  I added the turmeric just because it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it gives a golden glow, but you don’t really taste it (it’s optional).   This is a pretty soup for Vegan Mofo 2012!
Armenian Lentil Apricot Soup

Serves 6

1.5 Cups dried red lentils
6 Cups water
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon  (or some other bouillon)
1/2 Cup chopped dried apricots
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon paprika

Add water and bouillon to a stock pot.
Rinse lentils, add them to the pot and bring to a boil.
Skim off any foam.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Watch the pot, because mine almost boiled over!
Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the onion in the oil until it’s translucent.
To the onion, add the bell pepper, spices and salt, and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir the sauteed vegetables and the chopped apricots into the lentil soup and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Taste the soup to make sure the lentils are done.
Garnish with any of the following:  croutons, toasted almonds, a drizzle of vegan cream, finely chopped mint, etc.

Sprouted Almond Feta Cheese Spread

IMG_3004     I made two different tofu feta recipes and did not like either one.  This recipe, however, is delicious and worthy of any buffet table or dinner party.  Although you have to plan ahead, it’s easy and doesn’t take much hands-on time.  I adapted and simplified my easy version from an Editors’ Pick from Vegetarian Times magazine.  I skipped the cheesecloth/chilling, which saves a bunch of time and trouble.  I skipped the herbed oil topping because it interfered with the tangy, cheesy flavor of this spread.  I also added a bit of mild white miso for more umami.  If you don’t care about a whiter appearance, you don’t have to blanch the almonds.    Note: I made this one time using an entire 6-ounce bag of Diamond Blanched Almonds, and it worked great (see photo below).

Almond Feta Cheese Spread

Serves:  10

1 Cup whole almonds
1/4 Cup lemon juice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon mild white miso
1/2 Cup water (not the soaking water)

Place almonds in a quart glass jar and cover with 2 Cups of water.  Let soak 48 hours in refrigerator, changing the water at least once.  Drain and rinse well.  You will see that the almonds may have started to sprout a tiny bit.  Squeeze each almond between thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand and the brown skin should slide off pretty easily.

Puree lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, miso and the 1/2 Cup of fresh water in blender (or food processor) for up to 1 minute, until creamy.  Add almonds and blend for about 5 minutes.  You will probably have to finesse the blender several times–sliding a spoon down into it, and using the blender on lowest setting, and increasing speed slowly.

Spoon almond mixture into a ramekin or small casserole dish.  At this point, you can chill it and eat it raw on crackers, fold it into recipes, or whatever.  Or you can bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled, on thin slices of buttered toasted baguette, or crackers, in Greek salad, etc.

Notes:  I did make this in my Vitamix, but I guess in lieu of that, i would try a food processor, unless you have a powerful blender, not sure.   This vegan feta can be used in a myriad of dishes, such as vegan Spanakopita, or my Greek Phyllo Squash Tart.  Or for a party, simply spooned into little store-bought phyllo cups and topped with something else in contrasting color and taste.  Here’s a YouTube video showing how to blanch almonds, or you can buy them already blanched.   You can also make this with rejuvelac if you’re so inclined.  I tried making it with almond meal but did not care for the slightly-pasty texture.  The original recipe calls for baking the cheese at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes, but I haven’t tried that yet.  Pier One has great larger ramekins for about $5 and they mimic the white ramekins from Cordon Bleu.

  I tried the original method before, but it didn’t make much of a difference to me, so since then, I’ve skipped it.

This bottom photo is using a six ounce bag of Diamond Blanched Almonds, so it’s quicker if you want to save the time.

Vegan Whipping Cream – Healthy Top by Mimic Creme

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

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

Purple Mashed Potatoes

This is not really a recipe, I just wanted to show these outrageously beautiful purple potatoes i found at Whole Foods a few days ago.  i was debating what to do with them, but in the end, I wanted to make them look like the little lavender sea urchins I used to see when I snorkeled.  So I whipped them and then piped them through a bag into a  casserole dish.  They were a vision in lavender on the table and delicious to boot.  Dr. Seuss would be proud.  These are just as pretty as my green cauliflower.  Additional photo below:

Classic Cranberry Sauce

This is my favorite cranberry sauce that I’ve been making for many years.  It creates an instant atmosphere of the holidays as it pops audibly on the stove top, and scents the air with spice.  This would also be a great little recipe to have older kids make, because it’s so easy and quick.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site; Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry  and  Holiday Cranberry Sauce from the Veganomicon cookbook, and Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry.  That’s how much I believe in making your own cranberry sauce.
Classic Cranberry Sauce

8 ounces organic cranberries
1/3 Cup agave syrup
3 Tablespoons brown sugar  (or white sugar is OK too)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 Cup water
Optional:  the zest of one orange

In small saucepan, combine all ingredients.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat.
You may wish to place a lid halfway onto the saucepan, because the cranberries will splatter a bit as they burst.
Cool and transfer to a bowl.
May be made two days in advance and refrigerated.

My Life as a Turkey – a PBS film

The kitchen remodel here is moving along pretty well, so some days I haven’t had water in the kitchen, and tomorrow I may not have electricity or heat sometimes (if the HVAC guys finally show up), so cooking posts have been a bit light lately.  However, we are planning to feast on Thursday, regardless.  I want to remind everyone that there’s a special Thanksgiving category on this site, as well as  categories for side dishes, appetizers, desserts, football food, etc.    In the meantime, here’s a link to a great little PBS film called My Life as a Turkey.  There’s also a Home Page for this film and story.  Turkeys are intelligent and affectionate, and each is unique in their own way, just like people.  There are some youtube videos of turkeys reaching out to communicate, understand and show love to us.  They celebrate life and make an effort to live in harmony with others, as we all should do!

Cranberry Pumpkin Cake a la Maida Heatter

This dark, rich cake studded with walnuts and fresh cranberries just screams Thanksgiving.  If you’ve never heard of her, Maida Heatter is a James-Beard-award-winning baker with nine cookbooks to her name.  I adapted this recipe from Maida Heatter’s Best Dessert Book Ever.  I was looking for a serious, elegant dessert for Thanksgiving, and chose this Cranberry Pumpkin Cake.  I was wondering if it would turn out, due to the four large eggs called for in the original recipe.  The heavy spice amounts made me think twice, as did the fact that I did not have an 18-cup capacity tube pan.  I do however, have the cheapest Bundt pan known to woman; a pale-green, 12-cup, paper-thin aluminum Nordic Ware pan that I seem to remember buying at a grocery store.  I put the tube pan on top of a sheet pan, in case it overflowed (it didn’t).  This finished cake, sitting on the plate like a dark crown, only needs a dusting of confectioners sugar or a drizzle of icing glaze that you could flavor any way you want.  This would consist of about two cups of confectioners sugar with a few tablespoons of fresh orange juice, and some zest.  You could adorn it further with minced candied ginger, or sprinkle with dragees or edible glitter, etc.  Maida promises that the nuts and berries don’t sink in the batter, and they don’t.  This could also be brought out at breakfast the next morning and served with coffee or hot tea, with or without the icing drizzle.  Notes at bottom will tell you how I simplified this recipe.  More photos below.
Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Cake a la Maida Heatter

12 portions

5 ounces walnuts, chopped fine
7 or 8 ounces of fresh cranberries
3 Cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (this is my addition)
1 15 oz. can of 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 Cups granulated sugar
1-1/4 Cup vegetable oil (safflower or canola)
4 Tablespoons flax meal plus 3/4 Cup of water
    (this is your eggs substitute)
Cooking Spray with flour (such as Pam brand)

Adjust a rack one-third up from bottom of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash and drain cranberries, and set them on a towel to dry.
Combine flax meal and water, whisk with a fork and set aside to gel.
Generously spray with flour-infused cooking oil, a one-piece 10×4.25 inch tube pan with an 18 cup capacity and no design.  I used the store-brand cooking spray from Giant grocery store, but make sure it has the flour in it.  I used a 12-Cup capacity tube pan and it was just barely big enough.
Put sprayed tube pan in refrigerator while you prepare ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and allspice, and set aside.
In a really large bowl, mix with an electric mixer the pumpkin, sugar, oil and vanilla.
Add the flax meal and water mixture, and mix again.
On low speed, gradually add the whisked dry ingredients, beating only until smooth.
Fold in the nuts and cranberries.
Turn batter into the prepared tube pan, and smooth the top.
Set the tube pan on a baking sheet if your tube pan is less than 18-cup capacity.
Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake, all the way to the bottom, and make sure it comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes.
Cover the cake with a baking rack and invert the pan and rack upside down.
Wait for cake to gently fall down onto rack, and remove pan.
Leave cake to cool while it is right-side up.

Notes:  I did not wish to toast the walnuts, or bake a chocolate cake so that I could coat the bundt pan with cake crumbs, both of which the original recipe calls for.  The original recipe calls for up to 12 ounces of fresh cranberries and 6 ounces of chopped walnuts.  I only had a 12-cup capacity Nordicware bundt pan, and the cake did not overflow in my accurate, electric, non-convection oven.  See more photos below.

Vegan Pumpkin Gnocchi with Chanterelles and Sage

Rolling gnocchi off an antique butter paddle.  The whimper in the background is my dog Ipo letting me know it’s time for her mid-morning snack, not kidding.

I veganized this recipe from an old Martha Stewart show.  You can watch the video here.  The famous chef says this recipe is hundreds of years old.  I had never made gnocchi before and this combination sounded so good.  And, it is.  There’s a line in one of the Isabel Dalhousie novels where she says something like, “I think chanterelles just elevate a dish, don’t you?”  They sure do, and their golden color and flavor are so simpatico with the pumpkin and this time of year.  It wasn’t hard to veganize this.  I lightened it up by substituting cheesy (and vitamin packed) Nutritional Yeast for the parmigiana, and then used rich soy creamer and vegetable stock.  I also couldn’t see using two Tablespoons of salt.   One thing I ran into was that I needed a lot of bench flour, like more than an extra cup of it.  The dough was so sticky.  Watching the video helped, and I noticed that the chef used a lot of bench flour too.  I had never cooked with sage leaves in this way before, and was surprised at how wonderful and mild the flavor was.  With the golden chanterelles and the squash flavors, it was like a little Fall symphony!  p.s.  My gnocchi look a bit clumsy, but they taste great.  There are also some good videos on youtube where they show the old method of rolling the gnocchi off a fork to get the sauce-catching ridges in them.  Like this one.  These gnocchi freeze very well too.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms

Serves 4

1 small sugar pumpkin (1.5 to 2 lbs.), stem removed, halved lengthwise and seeded  (or use my easier baked pumpkin method) (I bake two un-cut pumpkins since I’ve got my oven going)
2 Cups “00”  (zero zero) flour, plus more for work surface (or all-purpose flour, which is what I used)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt in the flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt in the water
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for serving
1/2 Cup Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Stick)
2 shallots, finely chopped
20 medium chanterelle mushrooms, well rinsed, and sliced or trimmed
6 fresh sage leaves
1 Cup vegetable stock (I like Better Than Bouillon stock base, some are vegan)
1 Cup soy creamer  (I used Silk brand)
1 teaspoon dry sherry (totally optional)

Use my easier baked pumpkin method, or do the following:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place pumpkin halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and fill each with one Tablespoon of water.
Cover with foil.
Transfer to oven and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.  Let cool.
Scrape pumpkin flesh from skin, and discard skin.
I like to puree my pumpkin flesh now.
Reserve 1/4 Cup of pumpkin puree (for the sauce).

Mound flour in center of a large work surface; add 2 teaspoons salt and the nutmeg. Using a fork, mix until well combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Add up to 2 cups pumpkin and the Nutritional Yeast to the well.
Slowly incorporate flour, beginning with inner rim of well.
Note;  I used another whole cup of bench flour to get rid of extreme stickiness.
When flour is incorporated, gather dough together to form a rounded mass; knead mixture until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.
Divide dough into 6 equal pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 1 inch in diameter; cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces.  My knife kept sticking to the dough, so I switched to a plastic pastry scraper and it worked great for cutting the gnocchi.
Transfer gnocchi to a baking sheet and cover with a clean, wet/damp towel.
Repeat process until all the dough has been used.

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
Add last teaspoon of salt to water, and return to a boil.
Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the top, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat and add butter and shallots.
Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until shallots are golden.
Add stock, mushrooms and sage; cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup pumpkin, vegan creamer, and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.
If you want to, you can add an extra Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast here.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet and toss to combine.
Serve immediately with freshly grated nutmeg.
Everyone can season with salt and pepper at table.

Notes:  You can make the pumpkin a day ahead, as I did.   Note that once you begin to add the mushrooms, sage, etc., the sauce should be done in a couple of minutes.  If you overcook it at that point, it sort of turns into a loose pumpkin puree, instead of a creamy sauce.  I was surprised at how pleasant and mild the sage leaves were.  The second time I made it, I put the mushrooms in a couple of minutes earlier, and added 1 teaspoon of dry sherry, and we really liked it.  Be sure to rinse the chanterelles really well as they can have teensy bits of grit in them.  You could use cheaper mushrooms, but now that we’ve tasted the chanterelles in this dish, I wouldn’t even make it without them.  Their golden meaty flavor is just perfect here.  These gnocchi freeze very well.

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.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake
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
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.

Cauliflower Puree

I found this gorgeous green cauliflower at the grocery store.  The label says Carnival Multi-Color Cauliflower and it apparently comes in other colors too, such as purple or orange. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I used to make a cauliflower puree that was good, and so I veganized my old recipe.  I wanted a hint of cheesy-ness and not so much fat, so I added the Vitamin-B-12-rich “nooch” or Nutritional Yeast.  I tried making this in my steel Waring blender without a lot of success, so I scraped it into my Vitamix and got such a silky puree that it’s almost a soup.  If you do want a soup, it’s easily achieved simply by adding more liquid, by the way.  One last note is that I photographed this in different lights on different surfaces, trying to relate how green the color is.  Please know that this photo is several shades duller than the true celadon-with-a-hint-of-yellow green.  If you want a splash of elegant color on your plate, this is it.  Oh yeah, and it’s delicious too.
Cauliflower Puree
Yield:  4 to 6 servings
1 head of cauliflower
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (ground)
1/4 Cup soy creamer (such as Silk brand) (non-flavored)
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast flakes
up to 1/2 Cup of the steaming water from the pot
Trim the cauliflower and cut off all florets for steaming.
Bring water to a low boil.
Cover and steam florets for about 10-15 minutes, until easily pierced with a sharp knife.  Do not over-cook or the taste will become too strong.
Place about a third of the steamed florets into a Vitamix, food processor or blender (a blender would be my third choice).
Add the butter, and salt and pepper.
Add 1/4 Cup of of the steam water and the soy creamer, and process.
Scrape the sides down and add 1/3 more cauliflower, and process.
If you need to, add up to 1/4 Cup more of the steam water.

Add the rest of the cauliflower and finish processing.

Note:  If you want a soup, add more of the steam water, a little at a time.

Vegan Pot Pie

In my misspent youth, I ate my share of frozen chicken pot pies–those scalding, gluey things that one eats because of hunger for some hot comfort food.  These vegan potpies are a big step up from that.  Adapted from this recipe on VegWeb, I was surprised at how quickly this filling came together.  We enjoyed it, and it makes enough filling to freeze some for a rainy day. I used my own pate brisee pie crust, but you could also use puff pastry for the top, just check the label on the box because some are not vegan.  You can add in faux meats, such as Butler Soy Curls or Beyond Chicken for those who want it, but I would cut them into smaller pieces.  To save time, make your pie crust in the morning or the day before, or pull a prepared one from the freezer the night before.  The pate brisee can be made in 15 minutes and then popped in the freezer, in two single crusts for times like this.  If you roll one single crust out to 1/8 inch thickness, it should make enough crust to cover three individual pot pies.


Serves: about six pot pies (each single pie crust will cover 3 individual pot pies)

3 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 large onion diced fine
1 medium carrot diced fine
2 celery stalks sliced fine the short way
A handful of white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 russet potato, diced fine (like ¼ inch dice)
½ Cup flour
2.5 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast flakes (not brewer’s yeast)
1 cup soy creamer (such as Silk brand)
¾ cup peas
One mini can of corn (approx. 8 ounces)
1/4 cup sherry
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper or black pepper
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire Sauce
faux meat (optional)
One single pate brisee pie crust, or one 17 oz. box of vegan puff pastry (many are accidentally vegan)

Make pate brisee dough and let it rest for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge (or pull from freezer the night before).  Put your rolling pin(s) in the freezer.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pot, melt vegan butter (Earth Balance).    Add onions, carrots, celery, potato and mushrooms, and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Measure out flour and nutritional yeast into a cereal bowl, and add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to it and stir to make a smooth slurry.   To the pot, add the rest of the stock, vegan creamer and sherry or juice, and simmer for 10 more minutes.
To the pot, add Add parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and Worcestershire.
Add flour slurry and cook and stir for a few minutes until mixture thickens.
If adding vegan meat, do it now.    Stir in corn and peas, and gently stir.
Turn off the stove burner.

If using puff pastry, see notes at bottom.
Roll out the dough as per directions. Roll out and cut dough slightly larger than the shape of your pan(s).  For example, if  using round ramekins, cut the circles at least ½ inch larger than the top of your ramekin.  I flipped my ramekins upside down onto the rolled-out dough, and cut loosely around them with a butter knife, and then used a spatula to lift the circles.    Fill ramekins to 3/4 inch from top, or put filling in a casserole dish. (The original recipe calls for a 9×13 inch pan).   Place, fold and crimp the dough/crust edges.   Vent the crust with a decorative design or some simple slits of a knife.   PLACE CASSEROLE OR RAMEKINS ON A BAKING SHEET, AS THEY WILL DRIP.   Bake 30-35 minutes, until crust begins to get golden with some slightly-brown edges here and there.

Note: If using puff pastry, place the puff pastry on top of the filling, brush some melted butter over it, and cut a few slits to vent.  If the puff pastry is browning too fast, cover it with some foil until cooking time is done.

Vegan Shepherds Pie

This delicious Vegan Shepherds Pie is traditional comfort food.  I went to my old Joy of Cooking and it said to add the Worcestershire and also “1 cup of leftover gravy.”  I feel the gravy, while it does enhance the dish, is not critical, so no worries.  I’d say by the time you make the casserole and wash the dishes,  you’ll have at least an hour in the kitchen.  I’ve made this with Boca Crumbles, Beyond Beef Crumbles and Yves Meatless Ground, and all of them worked well.  I also make this in individual casseroles for special occasions, as shown above.


Serves: about 6

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 Cup vegan mayonnaise  (I like Reduced Fat Vegenaise with the yellow lid)
1/3 Cup soy milk  (I like WestSoy Organic Unsweetened)
3 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese   (substitute vegan sour cream if necessary).
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter (I like the organic one)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 carrot diced fine
2 stalks celery diced fine
6 mushrooms chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire (I like Wizard’s brand)
2 cloves garlic pressed or chopped
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. bag of Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble, or  Boca Meatless Ground Crumbles, or Yves Meatless Ground, etc.
Optional: 1 Cup of leftover gravy is nice to add in, but only if you have it hanging around in the fridge or freezer.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fill large pot with cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt.   Place peeled and diced potatoes into the pot of cold salt water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain.   Place drained potatoes back in empty pot and add mayonnaise, soy milk, cream cheese and sea salt. Mash or whip until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Heat vegan butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add in the onion, carrot, celery, and (optional) mushrooms. Heat until softened, about 15 minutes.   Turn heat down one click.  To vegetables, add tomato paste, Worcestershire, garlic, pepper and salt.  If you have it, add the optional gravy here.   Cook at least 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add in the meatless ground, and stir to mix well.   Cook three more minutes and add a bit of water or broth if the mixture looks at all dry (1/4 Cup or so, if needed).

Spray a 3-litre casserole dish with cooking oil.  Pour Boca/vegetable mixture into the casserole dish and spread mashed potatoes on top.  Spray top of potatoes with cooking oil and then dust with paprika.   Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until edges are bubbling.  Serve hot.

Cranberry Cornbread Muffins

These fruited cornbread muffins are delicious with chili or soup, but are also fancy enough to grace the Thanksgiving table.  Drizzle them with a bit of Suzanne’s Just Like Honey Rice Nectar, and/or simply serve with a pat of Earth Balance vegan butter.  While you won’t taste the pinch of turmeric, it makes the muffins brighter in color.


Makes 12 muffins

1 Cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 Cup brown rice flour (or use all-purpose again)
2/3 Cup yellow cornmeal (not coarse)
1/3 Cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 stick Earth Balance vegan butter, melted and then cooled
Ener-G Egg Replacer  (2 eggs worth) (3 teaspoons Ener-G powder mixed or frothedwith 4 Tablespoons of water)
1.5 Cups soy milk (I like whole organic unsweetened but any is fine)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/2 Cup dried cranberries
1/4 Cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour soy milk into a tall glass, stir the vinegar into it, and set aside (it will now curdle into vegan buttermilk).   Generously grease muffin tin(s), and dust with flour, shaking off any excess.   In a large bowl, stir together flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and (optional) turmeric.   In a smaller bowl, stir together melted vegan butter, frothed egg replacer and vegan buttermilk, until well combined.   Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.   Fold in dried fruits.

Divide among 12 muffin-tin cups.   If using 2 six-muffin tins, bake them one at a time, for 25 to 26 minutes each, until tops are golden and just a hint of darkness appears at the edges (see photo below), and a tester comes out clean.   Cool in pan 5 minutes.
Run a butter knife around the muffins to loosen them and then invert the pan onto a cooling rack, or lift the muffins out with a teaspoon or the butter knife.   Let cool.
Serve with Suzanne’s Just Like Honey and/or Earth Balance butter.

Vegan Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes

IMG_3042     These vegan Twice-Baked Stuffed Potatoes are one of those classic things you can prepare the day before and even take somewhere (as long as you can use the oven at your destination).  I developed this potato one Thanksgiving when 30 people were coming for supper, and I knew the last-minute scramble before serving would be a nightmare if I had to mash potatoes too.  This is not the gloppy, cheddar-cheese-filled concoction of the 1990’s, but (while still rich) a lighter, creamier addition to the plate.  It’s forgiving, in that the final baking can be done in the oven alongside anything else, on almost any temperature, for varied lengths of time.  I like to use only onion, and some vegan sour cream to make the texture silky.  A perfect dusting of paprika is achieved when you put a bit in a very fine sieve and hold it high above the potatoes and tap gently with one finger.  Here, I did pipe the potatoes through a pastry bag, but these look strikingly rustic when you simply fork the whipped potatoes into their little jackets any which way.  You can also rake the fork over the top of the potatoes (like plowing a field) to make little ridges that will crisp, and little swales that will hold that pooling pat of Earth Balance vegan butter.  I leave the salt out of the recipe, because you can taste it better if you put a finishing sprinkle of sea salt at table.


Makes 8 generous servings, and they freeze well too.

4 white baking potatoes,  such as Russets or Idaho
One white onion  (or yellow, or shallots)
4 Tablespoons vegan sour cream

Wash potatoes well.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place potatoes directly on lower-middle oven rack, and bake 30 minutes.
Dice the onion fine, and place into a large mixing bowl.
When 30 minutes is up, pierce each potato (deeply) twice with a dinner fork, along one long sideIt’s important where you poke it, because when you slice the baked potatoes open to hollow out the jackets, you’ll run your knife along the horizontal fork perforations on the one long side.

Put pierced potatoes back into hot oven and bake 30 minutes more, and then remove all from the oven.    Let potatoes cool only slightly, maybe 15 minutes.
Measure out the vegan sour cream into the onions bowl (this will allow the sour cream to soften slightly while you do the rest).
Using a potholder or clean dish cloth to protect your hand, slice potatoes open the long way, along the fork holes.   Taking care to reserve the empty potato skins intact, scoop out the potato innards into the onions bowl.

Mix all with an electric mixer a minute or two, until a thick-but-creamy mixture is attained.    Determine here if you wish to add another tablespoon or two of the vegan sour cream, and complete mixing.    Pipe or stuff the whipped potatoes into the empty potato jackets.    Dust with paprika from on high, through a fine mesh sieve.
Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to do the second baking.
Put any extra, stuffed potato boats in the freezer (they freeze well).
When you’re ready to do the final baking, place stuffed potatoes in the oven on a baking dish, and heat to whatever temperature you are using for your main dish.  You’ll know when they’re done by their golden  appearance.  A guideline would be 35 minutes on 350, or 30 minutes at 400, etc.  No worries, just as long as they’re good and hot.
Don’t forget to serve with a pat of Earth Balance Organic Whipped Butter, and a sprinkling of fine sea salt.

Easy Mushroom Gravy – I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Gravy!

     I found this recipe on VegWeb and it’s good and quick, and I’m guessing it makes half the amount of the Golden Gravy also on this site.  So, it’s better for a one-time meal where you just need a quick gravy, as opposed to a lot for Thanksgiving or a crowd.  I did change a couple of minuscule things and I added the mushrooms because it’s a great chance to use fresh mushrooms and they make this gravy more delectable and elegant.  This is versatile and you can make it how you like.  p.s.  I forgot to take a photo, but it came out pretty!

Easy Mushroom Gravy – I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Gravy!

1 vegetable bouillon cube, or 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon
2 Cups water
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ tsp Tamari sauce, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ C flour (any kind) (use all-purpose for omnivores)
1 Tablespoon vegan butter
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Fresh mushrooms, one 8 oz. package or less, washed and sliced.

Wash and slice mushrooms and set aside.    In a cup, mix flour with some of the water until a smooth “slurry” is formed, and set aside.    In a saucepan, mix everything else (except mushrooms and slurry).    Cook on medium low heat until hot and slowly pour in the flour slurry as you stir.   Raise heat a click so it simmers (not boils), and stir constantly until thickened to your liking, maybe 5 minutes.   Add washed and sliced mushrooms now and heat until hot through.    If the gravy is slow to thicken, you can raise the heat to Medium.

Notes:  Be sure to save a cup of this gravy to freeze, for when you make the Shepherds Pie on this same site, it’s a killer dish to serve omnivores.  To make onion gravy, brown the chopped onion in the vegan butter first, and then proceed.

Spiced Ginger Cashews

I made these this afternoon to take to a Christmas party, and they’re quick, easy and really good.  The original recipe calls for an egg white, but once again Ener-G egg replacer saved the day!  I also eliminated the extra sugar and the fresh ginger.  This is spicy enough and it just takes the ho-hum salty nuts and kicks them up a notch.  Perfect for a party.

Makes 2 cups

3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt  (use any nice coarse salt you like)
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Ener-G egg replacer to equal one egg
one 9.75 oz. can of Planters cashews (about 2 cups of nuts)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together sugar, coarse salt, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.

Froth with a latte frother (or whisk) 1.5 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer with 2 Tablespoons of water together in a glass until very frothy.
Stir roasted cashews into Ener-G egg replacer and toss to coat.

Sprinkle sugar-and-spice mixture over nuts, and stir to coat. Arrange nuts in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake, 15 minutes and stir.
Bake another 15 minutes and stir.
Bake final 15 minutes, and remove from oven (for a total of 45 minutes).
Mixture will seem glue-y but don’t worry, it will dry and crisp up as it cools.
Once cool, separate any stuck together clumps, and put in a pretty bowl.
Voila!    p.s.  An added tip is that if you’re bringing these to a party, you can transport them in their original can, and just ask the host(s) to provide a bowl for them.

Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas

This is a popular recipe from the Veganomicon cookbook.  I used a recycled 28 oz. tomato  can as my cutter to make perfect circles in the dough, and just crimped them with a fork.  Lest you think I did it perfectly, I rolled the dough too thick the first time.    They were still very good.  I found this youtube video of this woman deftly rolling the empanadas in five different ways, and I will try to do the 2nd technique she uses.  This filling is surprisingly delicate and delicious.  At first, I was afraid of the spice amounts, but I shut my eyes and threw them in there, and they were perfect.  I folded the coriander seeds into a sheet of parchment paper, and pounded on them with a rolling pin.  Because I don’t like struggling with sharp knives on tough squash, I devised a simple way to do the acorn squash, much in the same way that I do spaghetti squash.  Just wash it and poke four evenly-spaced holes along the indentation of one rib with a turkey truss pin, and a small hammer.  Place in a shallow glass baking pan in one inch of water.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minues.  Remove from oven, cut along the holes with a sharp knife to make a big slit.  Return to oven and cook another 30 minutes.  In this way, I had my squash ready for the oven in two minutes, and then I just read the Sunday paper while the squash cooked.  This dough is very easy to make and work with, but I prefer my own dough to theirs.   This makes a LOT of filling, so I froze half, for a quick dinner in future.  My first time making empanadas, and it was pretty easy.  Veganomicon suggests serving with their own Tropical Avocado Salsa Fresca, guacamole, or Sour Cilantro Cream, etc.  Lars put a bunch of stuff on his, but I liked it with just a touch of vegan sour cream, so i could really taste the filling.  Buen apetito!   p.s.  To make my empanada dough, simply use my pate brise recipe and substitute one half cup of the all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of fine (not coarse) corn meal.  I just use a pastry cutter with this dough and don’t bother with the food processor.

Vegan Turkey Roast

This is the Vegan Turkey Roast from Everyday Dish TV.  As a new vegan, I no longer want a dead animal in the middle of the table, but there was still a bit of angst as to how my husband would like a veganized version of such an iconic meal.  Before I get into the details, I’ll sum it up.  We felt this Vegan Turkey Roast was underwhelming as a centerpiece dish and would not have it again for that purpose.  However, the next day, we sliced it up and had it for “turkey” sandwiches and it was really good!  I had some excellent lemon/rosemary bread.  We mixed some Vegenaise with homemade cranberry sauce, added some baby romaine lettuce for crunch and it was so good.  In this sandwich, it tasted like turkey.  So, back to the beginning; I was waffling about what to make for a main dish, and had my eye on several amazing looking recipes that I’ll definitely be making sometime.   I was wavering between several entrees for this Thanksgiving meal.  There’s the Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas from Veganomicon.  Tal Ronnen came up with Sage and Pumpkin Seed Battered Cutlets with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce.  But, I made this Vegan Turkey Roast instead and don’t regret it.  It was a good way to further experiment with seitan, it was quick and easy, and in the process, we found a really good homemade lunch meat that has no chemical taste whatsoever!  While versatile and loaded with protein, seitan is not the prettiest food, so I did use the phyllo dough to gussy it up.  Lars felt the thyme was too strong, so next time I’ll cut that in half.  Also, I substituted Tamari sauce for the soy sauce.  Tamari is just vegan soy sauce anyway.  Here’s my amended recipe below, with half of the thyme.
VEGAN TURKEY ROAST – single batch

Serves 8

Also makes great sandwiches!

1 gallon water
2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1/2 tsp thyme (original recipes calls for 1 tsp but we felt it was too strong)
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable broth (if using homemade broth, you may need to add salt to this recipe)
1/4 cup light olive oil (I used canola for this high heat)
1 tbsp soy sauce  (or Tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos)
Cheesecloth (one double thick 24-inch by 16-inch piece)
2 6-inch pieces of string
1 batch uncooked stuffing (optional)

1) In a large pot, bring 1 gallon of water to a low boil.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the gluten, yeast flakes, thyme, onion powder, and salt.
3) Add the vegetable broth, oil, and soy sauce, stir just until combined.
4) Form into a loaf shape (making sure your loaf is shorter than your stock pot width).
5) Place gluten loaf on cheesecloth and roll up (not too tight). Tie each end with a piece of string.  (video shows four string ties spaced evenly apart)
6) Place in simmering water, covered, for 1 hour (2 hours for a double batch).  (you can make stuffing while it simmers)
7) Preheat oven to 325.
8) Take roast out of water and remove cheesecloth. Place in baking dish with prepared stuffing, if desired.
9) Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.

Variation: Vegan Turkey with Puff Pastry
After turkey is done boiling, remove it from the water and remove cheesecloth. Roll out a piece of puff pastry so that it will cover your turkey. Cover turkey with puff pastry. Brush puff pastry with a mixture of half ketchup and half water. Sprinkle with a little bit of thyme. Bake turkey, uncovered, at 400º F. for 25 minutes.

Copyright © 2008 Brian McCarthy

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.

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.

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

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 Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

This is a takeoff of a Daniel Boulud recipe.  A simple, elegant little spread for crackers and I was thinking it would be fabulous on tiny cucumber sandwiches, such as for a formal tea.  You could fancy it up for canapes; spread it on crostini, the possibilities are many.  You can make this a  day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  At Thanksgiving in Maryland, we still have lots of herbs in the garden; flat-leaf parsley and chives among them, so it’s a nice thing to do!

Vegan Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

8 oz. container of Tofutti cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 tsp fresh chives, minced finely
2 tsp flat-leaf parsley, minced finely
1/2 tsp fresh French tarragon, minced finely (optional)
1 T olive oil
3 tsp Sherry or sherry vinegar

Bring vegan cream cheese almost to room temperature.
Mix all.
Spray a round cereal bowl or other small round bowl with olive oil.
Pack cream cheese mixture into this bowl.
Cover and chill for a few hours.
Remove from fridge, run knife around edge and upturn onto a plate.
Smooth surface of cream cheese with back of a spoon.
Garnish with a sprig of the flat-leaf parsley or a chive or two.
Surround cream cheese with crackers.

Thanksgiving – Poetic Justice

Here is a roadside display someone down the road from our house created.  As a vegan, my first thought was, “poetic justice.”  Of course, animals are not violent, as this scene would suggest, but maybe it will make a few people think, while they’re chuckling.  You never know.  One of the main things I’m thankful for this year, besides friends and family and health, is going vegan!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I’m guessing it’s the farmer who’s in the pot.  p.s.  Slept too late, now I must finish cooking, will blog the meal at some point!

Kale Quinoa Salad with Spiced Lime Vinaigrette

This salad is so delicious and pretty and healthy; packed with fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, etc.  Kale is lower in oxalates than spinach, making the calcium it supplies easily absorbed.  Kale is one of the Dirty Dozen, so it’s important to buy organic.  Of course, the vinaigrette could be used on lots of other salads or even cold steamed vegetables, such as beets or green beans, etc.  And it’s flexible; you can use whatever vinegars or whatever you have in the house.  However, I think the spices and ingredients lend themselves to paler vinegars, as opposed to dark heavy ones.  To save time, I toasted the almonds and made the dressing the day before.  I washed and spun the kale, and made the quinoa in the morning, and it was a snap come dinner time; I just had to do the chiffonade.  p.s.  Keep in mind that you will only use 6 tablespoons or so of the vinaigrette, for two people.  You will have leftovers if only making salad for two people.  I’ll just make more salad tomorrow, and use any leftover kale in the juicer.
Kale Quinoa Salad with Spiced Lime Vinaigrette

Serves 2

1/4 C of dried cherries, chopped coarsely, rehydrated with water for 15 minutes, and then drained.
3 cups chiffonaded fresh, raw organic kale, rinsed, spun-dry and chilled
1 C cooked quinoa, chilled or room temperature
1 or 2 ounces of sliced almonds, toasted

For the Vinaigrette:
juice of one lime
3 T sherry wine vinegar
2 tsps fig-infused white balsamic vinegar, such as Alessi brand (inexpensive and available in my local grocery stores) (or any white balsamic)
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or 1/4 tsp, to taste)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder

Whisk vinegars together in a medium bowl.
Slowly whisk in each of the oils.
Whisk or froth in all seasonings and spices.
Chill in a glass jar.
When you remove it from the fridge, whisk or froth again, and it will hold together better once chilled.

Toast sliced almonds under the broiler for a few minutes (watch closely).

Plunge organic raw kale in cold water and swish, and let drain.  If you have a salad spinner, spin it dry.  Dressing will cling a bit better if it’s dryYou can also put the kale in a clean cotton pillow case and swing it dry.

To chiffonade the kale, cut the thicker parts of the ribs out of kale with a sharp knife.  Then stack and roll kale leaves and slice thinly, so you wind up with thin ribbons of kale.

Note:  I think dried cranberries would also be good in this.

Stuffing – Dressing

This is an easy and delicious stuffing made with onions, celery, apples and pecans.  Sometimes I make my own cornbread for stuffing, but here I’ve used a 10 oz. bag of Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing Mix.  This classic recipe makes enough for about 10 people, so you can freeze some (stuffing freezes beautifully).    I was a little worried about over-seasoning, because the Arrowhead Mills stuffing bread cubes come already seasoned, but when I tasted one out of the bag, it was very mild.  Even after adding all my own spices, the stuffing was decidedly NOT over-seasoned.  And this was quick to make.  I was trying to put myself into the shoes of a working parent, who still wants to put a good homemade stuffing on the table.  I diced up some of the vegan sausage I made yesterday, since I had it on hand, but you really don’t need it.  I only had MacIntosh apples in the house, and they’re good, but Granny Smith apples might be the best for this recipe.  Remember that we are not using fatty chicken broth (even the “fat-free” chicken broth is very oily), so use the vegan butter in there.  I also sprayed the top of the stuffing with some olive oil, just to be sure it got the maximum golden crust on top.  Really good and you can easily halve this recipe.  p.s.  There’s a photo on bottom to show the raw dice size before adding bread cubes or nuts.
Vegan Stuffing Dressing

Serves about 10

6-7 Cups stale bread cubes, or a 10 oz. bag of stuffing bread cubes
The juice of one lemon
2 small Granny Smith apples, diced fine (do not peel if they are organic)
4 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
2 large onions, or 3 medium onions, diced fine
4-5 ribs celery diced fine
2 links vegan sausage, pan-fried and diced (optional)
3/4 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning or Bells Seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt or Hawaiian salt
1 teaspoon sage (I like rubbed sage)
16 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth  (I like Better Than Bouillon)
4 ounces chopped pecans  (at least 1/2 Cup)

In stock pot, fry vegan sausage (if using), drain, dice and set aside.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a small mixing bowl.
Dice apples fine, toss them in the lemon juice (prevents browning), set aside.
In a stock pot, melt the vegan butter and saute celery and onions until soft.
Add apples, salt and seasonings and saute a minute more.
Add in chopped pecans and stir.
Add in the bread crumbs and optional sausage, and stir to combine.
Add vegetable broth, stir well, and put in greased, covered casserole.
Bake in 450 degree Fahrenheit oven, for 30 minutes.

Note:  I spray the top of the stuffing with olive oil and bake it uncovered another 10-15 minutes to get a nice brown on top.  For the Better Than Bouillon, I like the Vegetarian or No-Chicken flavor for this.

For the non-U.S. readers, this is a classic American stuffing or dressing.

Vegan Sweet Potato Biscuits

Veganized from a recipe by Nava Atlas, no one would ever guess these delectable biscuits are vegan.  Quick and easy, these have that “baking powder biscuit” flakiness, and are surprisingly tender.  I love the tiny bit of pecan nuttiness and the pretty flecks of sweet potato inside the biscuit.  With their pale orange color, they’re a rustic addition to the Autumnal table.  Serve with a pat of Earth Balance butter, of course.  Next time I might try rolling them out and cutting them with a straight-up-and-down motion, with a biscuit cutter, just to see what happens.  You could also try these easy Yogurt Biscuits.
Vegan Sweet Potato Biscuits

Makes 16

1-1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C unbleached white flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (iodine free)
3 T Earth Balance vegan butter
1/3 C apple juice or apple cider
1 C well-mashed, cooked sweet potato (about one medium to large sweet potato)
3 T Lyle’s Golden Syrup (in the green can)
1/3 C finely-chopped pecans or walnuts (I like the pecans)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
Work in the vegan butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add apple juice, mashed cooked sweet potato, Golden Syrup and chopped nuts, and work them quickly into the soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead in just enough extra flour to make the dough lose its stickiness.
With floured hands, divide dough in half, and again, until you have 16 equal parts.
Shape into small balls and arrange on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.
Pat them down just a bit to flatten slightly.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
Transfer to a plate and serve hot, with vegan butter on the side.

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.


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.

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

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).


Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

So I had these pumpkin seeds left after cooking a pie pumpkin but I hadn’t roasted pumpkin seeds in years.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t save our pumpkin seeds when we carved our Halloween jack-o-lantern this year.  If I had tasted these Chat Masala Pumpkin Seeds before we carved the pumpkin, we would have saved the seeds.  The word “chat” (also spelled chaat) in modern-day Hindi means snack, derived from the word chatna, which means tasting.  I ordered my Chat Masala online (see photo at bottom) and it was not expensive.  Chat Masala is a very popular spice blend in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and sweet fresh fruit can also be dipped into a little dish of Chat Masala.  This makes sense to me, since I remember that as kids we would sometimes sprinkle salt on fresh watermelon, or crisp apples, or make our pickled mangoes extra salty by marinating them in shoyu.  We’d bring the long slices of green mango to high school in recycled glass mayonnaise jars, floating in Kikkoman soy sauce.  And then of course, we would “share share.”  We’d also eat Li Hing Mui or crack seed and it was incredibly salty.  My girlfriend Shandra, when she was pregnant, would even take a salt-encrusted dried plum and press it into into the center of a lemon half and suck the seed and the lemon juice simultaneously.  My mouth would pucker just to see her and I would involuntarily shudder.  But no worries, these Chat Masala pumpkin seeds are baby food compared to that.   So I looked around online and hybridized a couple of cooking times and amounts and then added my own spices and some lime juice.  I was a bit worried when I smelled the Chat Masala, that the end result would be too pungent, but the baking with the vegan butter and lime juice mellows them out and they are zingily delicious.  They would be perfect before an Indian-inspired meal, or with a cold glass of something, or a hot cup of plain tea.  Make sure to share them with someone.  p.s.  Here’s my super-easy method for baking a pie pumpkin.
Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 Cup raw pumpkin seeds, stringy stuff removed
I did not rinse or dry my pumpkin seeds, feeling that the minute bits of pumpkin flesh on them would only add flavor and give the spices something to cling to.
2 tsps melted Earth Balance vegan butter.
1 tsp Chat Masala ground spice blend
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
2 tsps fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl, melt Earth Balance vegan butter.
Add spices and lime juice to melted butter and stir with fork to blend.
Add pumpkin seeds to butter and spices and stir to coat seeds.
Spread on rimmed baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir seeds all around.
Return to oven and bake 15 more minutes.
Cool and enjoy, or store in a covered glass jar.

Easy Baked Pumpkin – Sugar Pie Pumpkin

You know those big pumpkins we turn into jack-o-lanterns?  Well, those are not the best pumpkins for baking and eating, as it turns out.  These cute little pumpkins are smaller than the large ones, and they’re called Pie Pumpkins, or Sugar Pie Pumpkins, or Baking Pumpkins, etc.  I found that even at my local grocery stores, produce clerks were not sure of the difference.  Supposedly, one pound of Sugar Pie Pumpkin equals one cup of pumpkin puree, and the puree is usually what you bake with, make soups with, etc.  I took a photo here with a coffee mug so you can see the approximate size of this very-small Sugar Pie Pumpkin, and of course, they can be larger or sometimes even smaller.  I got exactly 2 cups of cooked flesh out of this little pumpkin, but many bigger Sugar Pie Pumpkins will yield at least 4 Cups (one quart) of cooked flesh.  Here below is my super-easy method of cooking a raw pumpkin.


Use a pumpkin big enough for your recipe.  One pound of Sugar Pie Pumpkin will equal one cup of pumpkin puree.  So if you need two cups of pumpkin puree, buy a two-pound Baking pumpkin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put Sugar Pie Pumpkin in a baking dish or casserole, in one half inch of water.  Note, I do not cover with any foil or anything, and it works just great.

Bake for 30 minutes, and then pierce the pumpkin in several places with a sturdy, sharp knife.  Doing this will prevent the pumpkin from popping or exploding in the oven.

Bake 45-60 minutes more, until tender to the touch.

Cool and scoop out the innards, setting seeds and stringy matter aside (do not discard if you want to roast the seeds).  An ice cream scoop may come in handy here, but a large metal spoon is fine too.

Scoop out good flesh down to the skin, and process in a food processor.   If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash the pumpkin meat with a potato masher until it’s really broken down, or leave a few chunks and mash for soups, as desired.  I found a blender did not work well because we are not adding any liquid.

Freeze in one-cup portions.

These are less watery and stringy than ordinary jack o’ lantern pumpkins, and sweeter and meatier.  See photo below, so you can see that the flesh can be light golden instead of the dark russet color of canned pumpkin.  Every fresh pumpkin is different so the color of the flesh will vary.  Also, it can be smoother or as stringy as this.  I could have baked this a bit longer, but I figure it’s going to get pureed and cooked in a dish anyway.

    This photo is after baking but before pureeing.

Don’t throw away those pumpkin seeds!  Once separated from the stringy guts, rinse them (optional), pat them dry (optional) and toss them with 2 tsps melted Earth Balance, and the spices of your choice, or just a pinch of salt and bake them in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.  Stir them around on the baking sheet and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Pumpkin seeds are nutritious, with plenty of potassium and magnesium and some zinc, folate and iron too.  See my recipe for Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook by Nava Atlas.  It’s very simple to make, having only three ingredients.  It calls for port or sherry, but what I had on hand was Amontillado sherry.  This cranberry sauce came out lovely; simple and with just a hint of the Amontillado left once it’s cooked.  Subtle.  You’ll never want that canned stuff again.  p.s.  I cut the measurements down to fit an 8 oz. bag of cranberries.   p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Classic Cranberry SauceHoliday Cranberry Sauce,  and Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry.
Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry

approx. 6 servings

8 oz. bag of organic cranberries
1/2 Cup packed light-brown sugar
1/8 Cup sherry

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.    Cook over low to medium heat, covered until cranberries have burst and the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes or so.   Smash some of the cranberries with a potato masher, or the back of your wooden spoon.    Let cool, then refrigerate or freeze.    Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note:  You can double this.

Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits with White Lily Flour

Generations of American women have taken pride in their biscuits, especially in the South.  I mentioned to my girlfriend Debby that I wanted to learn to make real Southern biscuits, and she did me a wonderful kindness.  While on a trip home, she and her mother drove way out into the Tennessee countryside to buy me two bags of White Lily Self-Rising Flour.  They bought the flour at St. John Mill in Watauga (Washington County), Tennessee.  White Lily flour is made from a soft winter wheat, especially conducive to making high, light and fluffy biscuits.  There’s a recipe on the bag for Buttermilk Biscuits and I decided to try veganizing them.  And . . . they turned out fantastic!  They taste exactly like the best buttermilk biscuits you ever ate, as good as the classic Angel Biscuits, better than Popeye’s biscuits.  Lars said, “Side by side with regular biscuits, you’d never know these were vegan.”  I’ve done some reading about how to make Angel Biscuits and there are some easy tips for success.  Here is a video called “Baking Perfect Biscuits” from the White Lily web site that shows how simple it really is.  One tip that is not on either of these videos is that one should NOT twist or turn the biscuit cutter, ever.  You may be tempted to twist the biscuit cutter as you go into or pull out of the dough, but don’t, because doing so can sort of seal the outer wall of the biscuit and prevent it from rising as high as it otherwise could.  I forgot this because I had not made biscuits in a while, and so mine could have been a bit higher.  Just use a straight-up-and-down motion when cutting the biscuits.  Lastly, here is another video from youtube, and I put this here to show yet another way to fold and knead the flour.  Also, you can see again how little one should work the dough.  So, you can make biscuits like your great grandma made, in 15 minutes.  Also, supposedly, you can make the dough and keep it in the fridge.
Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits with White Lily Self-Rising Flour

Makes 8-12 biscuits, depending upon cutter size

2 C White Lily Self-Rising Flour  (or other self-rising flour)
1/4 C Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening, chilled, or Earth Balance
2/3 to 3/4 C vegan buttermilk (see below)

2 Tablespoons melted vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

-Please note that at any time you need to do other things, put your dough ingredients in the fridge to keep them cold.  Place your shortening or Earth Balance vegan butter in the freezer shortly before you begin,  to really chill it.
-Heat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Spray a shiny metal baking sheet with cooking oil.  Do not use a dark colored baking pan as this will over-brown the bottom of the biscuits.
-Put 3/4 C of cold soy milk or rice milk into a drinking glass, and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to it, stir and let it sit to curdle a bit (this is your buttermilk and it’ll help make a tender crumb).
-Measure flour into bowl.  Do so by spooning the flour into the measuring cup lightly, and then level it off with the back of a knife.
-Cut shortening into flour with a pastry cutter until lumps are the size of peas.
-Blend in just enough vegan buttermilk with a fork, until dough leaves sides of bowl.
-Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface.  Knead gently about 3 times, folding the dough upon itself each time.  This will create the flaky layers.
-Quickly roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness.  At this point you have the option of docking the dough with a floured dinner fork.  Supposedly this releases steam and helps them rise straight.  Yes, you would dock the dough before cutting.
-Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter, dipping the cutter in flour each time, and do not twist the cutter–go straight up and down.
-Place biscuits on baking sheet one inch apart for crisp sides,  or almost touching for soft sides.
-Brush with melted butter and garlic-powder mixture.
-Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown (not brown).
-Brush with melted butter and garlic-powder mixture again.

TO FREEZE.  Place uncooked biscuits on a tray and freeze them.  Then place frozen (uncooked) biscuits in a freezer container and place back in freezer.  When ready to bake, place frozen biscuits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-18 minutes.  Glaze before and after baking.

p.s.  I’m a sucker for vintage kitchen items, so I use this old cookie cutter as my biscuit cutter.  Well, for all I know it is a biscuit butter, not sure.

p.s.  I found this other little tip online:
Place the pieces on a greased baking sheet upside down. This ensures a taller, lighter biscuit by making sure any edges crimped by the pressure of the cutting don’t interfere with the rise. (The French use the same trick when making French pastry.)  Note:  I have to wonder how this affects the docking, so I’m putting it here instead of into the body of the recipe.

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

This recipe is from the Veganomicon cookbook.  It was a good excuse to try a vegan thickener that acts just like gelatin but unlike gelatin, it has no animal bones, skin or hair in it.  It’s called agar agar, or the Japanese call it kanten, and it’s made of seaweed and sea vegetables, but it does not impart any salty flavor, and is used in the most delicate of Asian desserts and salads.  Vegetarians and vegans have long known about agar and it’s readily available in health food stores.  Agar has an indefinite shelf life, so although it’s a bit expensive, it lasts a long time, perhaps years in your cupboard.  This photo is of the cranberry sauce cooling in a bowl, and it set up nicely but was not overly-jelled like the canned stuff.  Then I put it in the freezer because it was delicious enough for Thanksgiving.  I do this at the beginning of every November when the organic cranberries are at peak perfection; make several batches.  Cranberry sauce freezes beautifully, and sometimes as you near the end of November, the cranberries in the supermarket look a bit worse for wear.  There’s a note at the bottom of the recipe, adjusting the measurements in case you only have a 7.5 or 8 oz. package of cranberries.  p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and CherryClassic Cranberry Sauce,  and  Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry.
Holiday Cranberry Sauce
makes about 5 cups, per the cookbook

1-1/2 C apple cider
2 T agar flakes (if using agar powder, 2 tsps would be equivalent)
3/4 C sugar
12 ounces fresh cranberries (a little over 3 cups)

Pour apple cider into small pot and stir in the agar.
Let soak for 10 minutes to soften up the agar flakes.
Skip the soaking step if using agar powder.
Cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add cranberries and sugar.  Lower heat to medium.
Mixture should be at a steady simmer.
Cover, leaving a little gap for steam to escape and simmer for 10 minutes.
At this point, cranberries should be popping and juice should be red.
Use your wooden spoon to crush cranberries against side of the pot to help them along.
Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes.
Cranberries should be mostly popped and crushed and juice should be thicker and red.
Let cool, and then transfer to a container and refrigerate.
It takes about 3 hours for it to be completely chilled and slightly jelled.

Note.  If you only have 7.5 ounces or 8 ounces of cranberries, use the following measurements:  1 C apple cider, 1T plus 1 tsp agar flakes, and 1/2 C sugar.  (If using agar powder, then use only 1 tsp plus 1 rounded 1/4 tsp)

Golden Gravy

This rich, easy gravy recipe is supposedly from the The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. It’s perfect over Chickpea Cutlets (also on this blog), but also great over lots of other dishes too.  I first heard about this gravy from another vegan blogger and she said she uses it especially during the holidays.  It really tastes just like any good, homemade gravy, except without all the carcinogens!  I did reduce the oil.  It freezes beautifully.  If you want to add fresh sliced mushrooms, add them with the onions.  I only changed a few little things.

½ Cup nutritional yeast
½ Cup whole wheat flour
1/4 Cup canola oil  (I use only 2 T)
½ Cup chopped onions, or one half of an onion, chopped
(I also add one 8-ounce package sliced fresh mushroom caps)
2 tsp pressed or grated garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
1.5 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)
1.5 teaspoon fresh sage,  chopped  (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)
4 Cup water  (I use broth made from Better Than Bouillon)
¼ Cup tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire
½ tsp sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 OR 3 Tablespoons of vegan creamer at the end)

Stir nutritional yeast and flour in a heavy skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.
In a stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion (and optional mushrooms) and sauté for 10 minutes or until tender and beginning to turn brown.
Add garlic, thyme and sage, and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Whisk in flour mixture thoroughly and then whisk in water, tamari, Worcestershire if using, salt and pepper.
Bring to simmer, whisking frequently and continue to simmer until gravy is thick and creamy.  If using, add a few Tablespoons of vegan creamer now.

You can strain the gravy if you like, or toss it half of it in the blender to get it smooth.
I didn’t bother straining or blending the gravy and it was rustic and delicious.
Gravy will keep for 2-3 days, covered and refrigerated.  Or you can freeze the leftovers.   Also, leftover gravy could be used in the Shepherds Pie to give it an extra depth of flavor.

Chickpea Cutlets

This recipe from the Veganomicon cookbook reminds me of chicken-fried steak.  These cutlets come out meaty and crusty and dripping with savory Golden Gravy.  I followed the recipe to the letter, and instead of baking them, I fried them in a minimal amount of oil in a cast-iron skillet.  They came out steak-y and had a nice crispy crust on the outside.  And the best part–no cholesterol, no guilt, no violence, no heart attack.  You can make the gravy the day before, to save time.  Some mashed potatoes really authenticate the meal.  Online, some people mentioned adding a bit of jerk seasoning to the cutlets, or cutting them into chickn nuggets and serving with a dipping sauce.  I can tell this recipe is pretty versatile, a real winner.  Just before we get to the cooking instructions, a word about gluten:

Alicia Silverstone says, “Wheat has gotten a bad rap lately because–like corn and soy–some form of wheat appears in almost every processed food, so our bodies have been bombarded and overloaded with wheat, sometimes creating a mild intolerance.  Some people have a hard time digesting just the gluten found in wheat (and barley, oats and other grains).  True gluten intolerance is a genetic disorder called celiac disease, and it’s relatively rare.  If you think your body is not digesting grains properly, you can have your doctor order a blood test that will determine if you have celiac disease.  For most people who consider themselves “allergic” to wheat, white flour is often the culprit.  Highly processed, often rancid and commonly overeaten, white wheat flour can cause problems that feel like allergies.  Cut out all flour for a while–to give your intestines a rest–eat healthy, and you may be able to tolerate whole wheat flour products after a few months.”

Here we go with the recipe:
Chickpea Cutlets from the Veganomicon cookbook

Makes:  4 cutlets
Time:  30 minutes

1 C cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
2 T olive oil
1/2 C vital wheat gluten
1/2 C plain bread crumbs (I use Ezekiel Bread and process)
1/4 C vegetable broth or water (I used Better than Bouillon, but only the vegetarian ones)
2 T Tamari sauce (fish-less soy sauce)
2 cloves garlic pressed or grated
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried thyme (I only had fresh)
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp dried sage  (I found rubbed sage at my local grocery)
olive oil for pan frying

In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas (I used a potato masher this time) together with the oil until no whole chickpeas are left.   Add remaining ingredients and knead for about 3 minutes, until strands of gluten have formed.   Preheat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Meanwhile, divide cutlet dough into four equal pieces.  To form the cutlets, knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each one into a roughly 6×4 inch rectangular cutlet.  The easiest way to do this is to first form a rectangular shape in your hands and then place the cutlets on a clean surface to flatten and stretch them.

Add a moderate thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of the pan.  Place cutlets in pan and cook on each side over medium heat for 6-7 minutes.  Add more oil if necessary (in cast iron, it’s not necessary).  They’re ready when lightly browned and slightly firm to the touch.  I just waited until a nice seared crust formed on parts of the outside, and didn’t really worry about it.

Notes:  I’ll probably add some onion powder next time, and use a food processor for the bread crumbs,  and the chickpeas, for a more uniform texture.  The recipe says you can bake these too, and that baking gives them a toothsome, chewy texture and firm bite.  Due to online reviews, I did not bake mine, but here are the directions to do so.  Maybe next time, I’ll bake one and see what happens.  Preheat oven to 375, lightly oil baking sheet.  Brush both sides of each patty with olive oil, place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Flip patties and bake another 8-10 minutes until firm and golden brown.

Roasted Beet Salad

I got this bunch of organic golden beets on the last day of the St. Michaels farmers market.  Found this recipe on epicurious, and gave it a try.  It’s delicious, and I recommend you do as I did; make the beets the day before and marinate them in the dressing, for a deeper flavor.  Then you can put the beets on top of the greens and sprinkle with the almonds.  I also eliminated the Asian pear, because vegetables are best absorbed into the body without fruit, and with all these other flavors going on, you don’t need it.  I made the recipe several times and found that sherry vinegar really added something special.  Other than that, I didn’t deviate from the recipe.  Beets have a healthy dose of folate, which helps prevent fatigue and depression.  Beets also supply a fair amount of magnesium and potassium for better blood pressure, along with some vitamin C and iron for healthy blood and stronger immunity.  And as you can see by this salad, they’re gorgeous.  Of course, red beets are fine for this salad, and you could also substitute canned beets to save time!   p.s. If the fresh beet greens/tops are in good shape, you can wash and cook them as you would any dark leafy greens.  I put a photo of the trimmed beets at the bottom of this posting, so you can see that you should leave about a half inch of the greens stems, and this way the beets will bleed out less nutrients as they cook.  Healthier and it makes less of a mess.  p.s.  If you have any leftover salad fixings, including the beets and the nuts, they are super excellent in a wrap with some hummus and sliced, sweet bell peppers.

Serves 4

1 bunch beets (3/4 pound without greens or 1 1/4 pound with), trimmed
1/4 cup sliced natural almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 minced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (my preference here)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups mâche or baby arugula (3 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Wrap beets in foil and roast in middle of oven until tender, 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. Unwrap beets and cool.

While beets are roasting, cook almonds in oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden. Cool almonds in oil (nuts will get darker as they cool). Transfer almonds with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and season with salt.

Stir together shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, and oil from almonds in a large bowl.

Slip skins from beets and halve large beets. If you decide to chop your beets, remember to reserve four pretty beet slices; one to garnish the top of each salad.  Otherwise, cut beets into 1/4-inch-thick slices and add to dressing, tossing to coat.  Now you can marinate the beets in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your salad.

Arrange mache or arugula on a platter and top with beets and then sprinkle with almonds.  Drizzle with any dressing remaining in bowl.

Note:  Beets may be roasted and tossed with dressing 1 day ahead, then chilled and covered. Almonds can also be made the day before, and then chilled.  Bring almonds and dressing/beets to room temperature before using.

Sweet Potato Puree with Brown Sugar and Sherry

Last Thanksgiving, I was looking for a recipe for sweet potatoes that did not involve marshmallows.  I know many people love that dish but I just can’t imagine liking it.  Anyway, I found this recipe on Epicurious.com.  The Epicurious recipe serves 6-8 and I have cut it in half and modified it below.  For one thing, I find once you blend in the butter, even the ungodly amount of 1.25 sticks, the buttery taste gets a bit lost in the dish.  However, if I put a pat of butter on top of the hot sweet potatoes, I really taste it.  Also, sweet potatoes are, well, sweet, so we don’t need that much sugar in them.  The creator of the recipe says the hint of sherry is intriguing, and it is.  And it’s a bit elegant; fancy enough for company (but quick enough for a weekday meal).  Finally, this recipe is easy, and you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven, or reheat it on the stove.  Don’t forget a sprinkle of sea salt over that pat of butter, to finish it off on the plate.
Sweet Potato Purée with Brown Sugar and Sherry

adapted from Bon Appétit,  November 1999, by Janet Fletcher

Serves 4 to 6 

– 2 pounds medium-size red and/or tan sweet potatoes (yams)
– 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, room temperature
– 1 tablespoon  (packed) golden brown sugar, or brown sugar
– 1-2 tablespoons dry Sherry

Preheat oven to 425°F. Pierce all sweet potatoes in several places with fork. Bake until tender when pierced with knife, about an hour. Cool slightly.  If potatoes are really big and round, I bump up the heat to 450.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a metal soup spoon, scoop potato pulp into large bowl. Add butter and brown sugar to potatoes. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Beat in Sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or let people season on their plate). If serving within a couple of hours, transfer to saucepan.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead and left to stand at room temperature.)  Rewarm sweet potatoes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Notes:  This dish freezes great.  If cooking for two, put half in the freezer for another day.  You can also make this a day ahead and put in a small casserole dish and re-heat in the oven the next day.  For anyone watching their blood sugar, you can just leave the brown sugar out, and the dish is still very good!  And you can double the recipe back up for a crowd.

Butter Bean Canapes

This quick appetizer recipe is adapted from the cookbook “More Fast Food My Way” by Jacques Pepin.  The good news is that a lot of mainstream recipes are already vegan,  and we don’t have to modify them!  The only changes I made were to reduce the oil, salt and pepper.  I also used my own pickled red onions, but regular red onions are just fine.  I sliced a mini baguette thinly, brushed it with olive oil and crisped it in the oven.  Jacques Pepin just slices an unheated baguette and lets it soak up the juices, which sounds good too.  When I first saw this recipe, I thought to myself, “What is a butter bean?”  After looking online, I’m guessing that butter beans are simply large lima beans in a creamy color.  You can buy them organic if your local health food store carries them.  If not, I’ve tried two different supermarket brands of butter beans.  Bush brand beans are not quite as pretty as Hanover brand. I like the Hanovers because they are more uniformly cream in color.  Bush brand tends to have some gray-looking beans, although I’m sure they are perfectly edible.  You can make this recipe a day or two ahead, and it can sit out on the table for hours very well, and just tastes better as it warms up to room temperature.  Technically, this is also a type of salad and can be used as such.  Anyway, you can see the original recipe and watch Jacques Pepin actually making this dish here.

Vegan Butter Bean Canapes

1 15 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1T Dijon mustard
2 T fresh lemon juice, or the juice of one small lemon
3 T onion, chopped fine (I like to use my pickled red onions)
2 T fresh parsley, chopped fine
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
2 T extra virgin olive oil
¼ t salt and ¼ t pepper

Put everything but the beans together in a non-metal bowl, stir well.
Add beans, and gently toss in the mixture.

Option One:  Mound bean mixture on thin, unheated baguette slices, and let the bread soak up the juices.

Option Two:  Slice a baguette thinly, approx. ¼” wide. Lay slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

Makes enough appetizers or side dish for 4-6 people.

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.