Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great Debate: Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Cheesecake?

Which one should I make for the big day? Here are your choices...

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Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Pecan Crust

This pie is delicious, and no one will EVER miss the eggs. You can use this filling with your favorite home made pie crust, or store bought. I made this for Thanksgiving 2009 and made a home made cinnamon pecan crust (recipe below).  Because I didn't have clove, I used 1/2 tsp cinnamon PLUS from Pampered Chef, which has a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. I also used candied pecans for the top. From: Joy of Vegan Baking

Pumpkin Pie
1 pie crust (recipe below)
12 ounces silken tofu
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar, fimly packed
1/4 cup cornstarch or 1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon clove
16 toasted pecans, for topping

Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 55 mins

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 Blind bake your pie crust.
3 Blend together the pumpkin, tofu maple syrup, brown sugar, cornstarch, and spices until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
4 Pour into prepared crust, and smooth top of filling with a spatula.
5 Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and the outermost inch of the filling is set.
6 Don't worry is the center is still soft, it will continue to firm up as the pie cools.
7 Gently press the toasted pecan halves into the filling. I did 2 concentric circles.
8 Cool to room temperature and then chill until set, 1-2 hours.
9 Can be served chilled or at room temperature.
Cinnamon Pecan CRUST
This crust is magical! Perfect for pumpkin pie!! Also from Joy of Vegan Baking
3/4 cup pecan halves
3/4 cup quick-cooking oat
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 25 mins

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly spray a 9 inch pie plate with non stick spray.
3. Toast pecans on cookie sheet for 7 - 10 mintues, or until the smell of nuts fills the kitchen.
4. Combine oats, flour, toasted pecans, cinnamon and salt in food processor or blender, and pulse until mixture becomes a coarse meal.
5. Pour in oil and maple syrup and pulse until wet and dry are just combined.
6. (I used a blender to pulse the dry, and then mixed in the oil and syrup by hand in a bowl so it wouldn't get stuck in the bottom of the blender).
7. Press the mixture into a prepared pie plate. I like to use the bottom of a glass to press the crust down evenly on the bottom and sides.


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I tried this recipe out last Friday...

Pumpkin Cheesecake (basic recipe from the Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook):

1 ½ cups vegan graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full crackers)
¼ cup vegan margarine, melted (Earth Balance)

2 (8-ounce) containers tofu cream cheese
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract** (yum)
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
3⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly oil an 8-inch springform pan or coat with nonstick spray.
Place the crumbs directly into the pan, add the melted margarine and toss with fork to combine.
Press the crumbs evenly against the bottom and side of the pan and set aside.

Place the tofu cream cheese in a food processor or Kitchen Aid and process until smooth.
Add the pumpkin and process until blended.
Add the sugar, rum extract, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg and process until well blended.
Spread the filling evenly into the prepared crust.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until firm.
**Turn off the oven and allow cheesecake to cool in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour without opening the oven door. I really like this tip, NO Cracks on top at all!!
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
Refrigerate for several hours before serving. Great to make this the day before

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I really liked the RUM extract flavor in the cheesecake, but I really like the pecan crust from the regular pumpkin pie!  Maybe I'll combine the best of both? WHAT DO YOU THINK?? ^_^

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mock Chicken Seasoning

A delicious recipe from my dear friend Chef Sharon123 over at This dry mix is made from ingredients most folks have right in their pantry.  Perfect for making up a quick batch of 'chicken' flavored broth to use in recipes.

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1 cup Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
3 Tbsp parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp savory

Mix all ingredients together, and store in an air-tight container.  I use one (1) Tbsp of this mix for every one (1) cup of water.  *For the marjoram and savory, I used Herbs de Provence, but I think an all-purpose poultry seasoning would work well here too. (You can see the lavendar in the pic!)

I'm always able to find the vegetable broth flavored cubes, but never seem to find any "chicken" flavored ones that are vegan. Sometimes you just need a flavor other than palin old veggie broth to make a recipe really stand out.  I've used this mix for soup bases, flavoring seitan, coating tofu, and, most recently, as the broth for Chickpea Cutlets.  The possibilities are endless!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

I Do Like Pizza!

Although I was informed that Papa John's Pizza is vegan (crust, sauce, AND it can easily be ordered with OUT cheese) sometimes it's just fun to make it at home.

I give you our favorite pizza combo:


Whole Foods whole wheat refrigerated pizza crust
Vegan pepperoni
Banana peppers (key! the secret to all great pizzas)
Kalamata olives
Daiya mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil

Who needs delivery?! (Tips are greatly appreciated, though...) ^_^


As you can see, we HATED it...

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weeknight Dinner in 20!

It happens... Work late, get home after 7:00.  But let's face it, there are just some nights where (even I) don't feel like cooking.  I have a 50 minute ride home each evening, and on late nights, I often ponder stopping and getting and sandwich on the way home, OR playing Russian roulette with what's in my cubbords.

Last night, my frugal-self convinced me to: GO HOME, AND MAKE DO WITH WHAT'S THERE ^_^

So here we go:

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Mexican Rice - NO box :)

Mexican Rice - No box ;)
1 cup rice (Uncle Ben's converted)
1 tsp Earth Balance
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup medium tomato salsa
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (mine's from Atlantic Spice Co.)
*1 packet smokey fire sauce from typical Mexican chain restaurant (optional)

Sautee rice in earth balance over medium heat until golden; you'll be able to smell the nuttiness of the rice.  Add water, salsa, salt, and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. DONE!

Bean Burritos on the Fly

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While rice simmers, empty a can of vegetarian refried beans into a microwave safe bowl and add:
(this items were already in my fridge, so feel free to improvise)

1/4 of a red onion, minced (2 scallions would be nice as well)
1/2 lime, zest and juice
sprinkle or two of garlic powder
1 tsp taco seasoning (also from Atlantic Spice Co.)
Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until hot, stir and them add 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Add some of the beans to a tortilla or lavash, top with some Cheddar Daiya and microwave for 30 seconds or until melted.  Add some lettuce, chopped tomato, and a dollop of tofu sour cream! YUM
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Tofu Sour Cream

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Bean Burrito with cheddar Daiya, lettuce, tomato and sour cream

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cherry Almond Cookies

From Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar!

Cherry Almond Cookies - Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

I just have to say, I have not made a bad recipe YET from this cookbook. (I haven't even made a so-so recipe yet, they have all turned out fabulous!)

I have made this particular cookie recipe twice now, once with dried cranberries (yum), and once with the cherries (thank you, Trader Joe)!  Both times, the cookies have turned out delicately crisp on the edges, and soft and chewy in the center.  I must say, the combination of the slighly tart, cherries with the delicately sweet flavor of the almond cookie is just wonderful! I think I might try toasting the almonds next time, and I might add just a touch of cinnamon to the cookie as well...

Either way, this recipe is definitely in the running for my holiday cookies this year! I think I might try and drizzle them with a bit of powdered sugar icing, just for an extra touch. ^_^

Cherry Almond Cookies - Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Basic Hummus Recipe

I was recently given a food processor! Nothing fancy, but it does the job. ^_^

I have now unleashed a monster, and I can't stop making HUMMUS.

Traditional Hummus
Please believe me when I tell you how AMAZING home made hummus tastes compared to store bought brands!  Here's the recipe I use:

Basic Hummus Recipe
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1/4 - 1/3 cup tahini
1/2 lemon, juiced.
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chickpea liquid
1/2 tsp salt, corriander and cumin, or to taste

So, why so heavy on the tahini?  My (ONLY) favorite store bought brand of hummus is SABRA.  In an attempt to recreate this silky creamy goodness, I searched the web for a copycat recipe. I did not actually find one, but I read somewhere that the Sabra brand uses more tahini than most other brands, and that could possibly be the reason why I love it so!

So... add the above list of ingredients to your food processor and blend, blend, BLEND... scraping the sides down as you go. If the tahini-ness scares you, feel free to start off with maybe 2 TBSP- 1/4 cup of tahini, and taste as you go. 

Traditional Hummus

Once you get the basic hummus recipe down, you can experiment with all sorts of flavors:

Add one roasted red pepper:  
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (bad pic)!
OR... add a handful of chopped scallion and cilantro:

Scallion Hummus
Scallion & Cilantro Hummus
Or if you like it SPICY, add a little less tahini, one roasted red pepper and 1/2 jalapeno WITH seeds!
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeno Hummus
SPICY - Red Pepper and Jalapeno!
What is your favorite hummus recipe?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Build Your Own Falafel!

Falafel Night!

Most Friday nights, my friend and I get together to COOK, and although she is a member of the International Chili Society and a die-hard carnivore, she glady comes to my kitchen and we cook VEGAN food!  Each Friday, we usually pick a cuisine such as Mexican, Indian, Italian, BUT our all time, common ground is: THE HUMBLE FALAFEL

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If you've never had the honnor of eating one of these delicious Middle Eastern treats, falafels are fried balls or patties of spiced chickpeas, wrapped in a pita pocket or flat bread, and served with a variety of condiments or dipping sauces.  When I make falafel from scratch, I use THIS traditional recipe from Tyler Florence. Unfortunately, you DO need to plan ahead with this one, because it involves soaking dried chickpeas overnight. This week, we decided way too late for that recipe, so I had to resort to the box:

For a box, this stuff is NOT BAD...  I do add a little fresh garlic, chopped scallion and fresh cilantro to spruce it up a bit, but overall, (in a pinch), I like it!

Fryin' Falafel!

Now for the toppings!  We set ours up like a "make your own" falafel bar:  Romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, thinly sliced red onion, roasted red pepper strips.  Two kinds of homemade hummus:  Garlic and scallion, and then a spicy red pepper and jalapeno (recipes tomorrow)!  For an added cool touch, I mixed some chopped cilantro and scallion into my basic tofu sour cream recipe.  And for the wraps, we had whole wheat pitas and lavash flat bread!

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gardein, or... The Cooking Channel Veganized

If you're going to try Gardein for the first time, you're going to need a recipe that actually uses MEAT. I, however, fall quite short in that department.

I thought "beef stew" was kinda obvious, and shish kabab (which these look like) are rather difficult without a grill, BUT I had a package of the Gardein Beefless Tips in my freezer that I, at least, wanted to TRY.

One day, I had the Cooking channel on in the background, and this adorable Asian chef came on the screen, with a lovely Brittish accent.  Her show was called Chinese Food Made Easy, and her cullinary point of view was to debunk the myth that Chinese food was the greasy, fried, take-away we all see here in American, (and apparently in England too, which is where this show is from). She wanted to teach her viewers that authentic Chinese cuisine is fresh, quick, delicately balanced in flavor, and totally accesible to cooks at home.

So, I looked to tried this:  Spicy Beef Stir-Fry Topped With Scallion and Coriander

Adapted and veganized from Cooking Channel's Chinese Food Made Easy.  I used Gardein frozen beefless tips for this, but I imagine pieces of seitan would work wonderfully here as well. Serve this with wasabi mayo (recipe below) over some warm flatbread or tortillas...DELICIOUS and spicy!!

Cumin is not a spice one might expect to find in a Chinese dish. There is a large population of Muslim Chinese in Beijing. They came from western China and brought with them a unique cuisine that calls for the use of spices such as cumin and fennel, which found their way to China along the Silk route. The spices in the dish are distinct and extremely flavourful, and pair amazingly with the fresh scallion and coriander. Please, if you can, take the time to freshly grind your cumin from the whole seeds. I used a mortar and pestle, and it made ALL the difference!


For the Wasabi Mayo

1/2 tablespoon wasabi powder
4 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (I use Veganaise) 
1 pinch powdered sugar

For the Spicy Coating

2 tablespoons cumin, freshly ground
2 tablespoons dried chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the Beefless Stir-fry

8 ounces seitan (I used 8oz package Gardein Beefless Tips)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon rice wine or 1 teaspoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced

  1. To make the mayo: In a small bowl, mix the wasabi powder with 1 teaspoon water to make a paste.
  2. Mix the wasabi paste, remaining water and vegan mayonnaise together. Season with some sugar, and set aside.
  3. To make the spicy coating: Grind your cumin seeds in a mortal and pestle.
  4. Once ground into a powder, add dried chile flakes, black pepper, and salt.
  5. Heat a wok or pan over high heat and add the peanut oil.
  6. Add the beefless tips or seitan and stir-fry for less than 1 minute.
  7. Add spicy mixture and stir to coat pieces in spice and oil.
  8. When spices become fragrant, pour in the rice wine or sherry, and season with the soy sauce.
  9. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro, and spring onions. Serve immediately on warmed bread of choice with wasabi mayo.

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Spicy Beefless Stir-Fry with Scallion and Coriander

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

In honor of the temperature going down to 28 degrees tonight, I thought I'd share a warm and comforting Autumn soup!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

This soup is adapted from a recipe I found in Fitness Magazine. The hint of curry, as well as the sweetness of the apples give this soup a really unique and delicious flavor. The addition of the white beans adds some depth and creaminess as well. Perfect for a cool Fall night! This soup is really nice served with some toasted crostini, spread with some fresh roasted garlic. 


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (optional)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.  In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
2.  Add the onion and curry powder and cook 3 minutes.
3.  Add the butternut squash, apples, thyme, white beans, salt and vegetable broth and the 2 cups of water - bring to a boil.
4.  Reduce heat and cook until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
5.  Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender until almost smooth.  (I like to let the soup cool a bit OR work in VERY small batches if soup is still hot).

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mint and Chocolate, the Perfect Pair

So, I went a bit overbaord with the Halloween cupcakes, but hey, Halloween's my birthday, so I should go overboard.

This batch was CHOCOLATE!

Here they are naked, fresh from the oven ^.^ I dripped the batter everywhere!!

Naked Chocolate Cupcakes!

As always, I used my "go-to" recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.  This recipe is a little different from the golden vanilla in that it uses canola oil for the fat instead of Earth Balance, but believe me, it is equally as yummy.

I did find that many of my friends do not like "chocolate" cupcakes, and much rather prefer the vanilla.  I'm not exactly sure why there's this bias against chocolate cupcakes, but that's ok... more for me!

I thought I'd try something different with the buttercream frosting for these, so I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of mint:

The result: Chocolate and Minty goodness:

Chocolate Cupcakes with Minty Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Minty Frosting

Tomorrow's post will NOT be about cupcakes, I promise! ^_^

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes! (Vegan Style)

Trick or Treat!  A few fun sprinkles plus some white and black vegan buttercream make these delicious sweet little treats!

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For the cupcakes, I used my go-to recipe from the cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  As far as I'm concerned, this is the most wonderfully, perfect vanilla cupcake recipe (vegan or NON).  Recipe can be found here, reprinted with permission. Vegan buttercream frosting is a must as well.  My hints for the frosting: Use Earth Balance brand shortning and buttery sticks, and beat in a Kitchen Aid mixer for the full 3 mintues and then 7 minutes!  It's like a cloud :)  Then, go to town with sprinkles!!

The only one of its kind! White buttercream and shiny orange glitter sprinkles!

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Frankenstien Style! (black and green ^_^)

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All purpose Halloween-y Colors!

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And... my FAVORITE:  Black frosting with BONES!!

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I made the full batch of buttercream, left half of it white and then added BLACK food coloring paste to the remaining half until it went from a purple-y grey to a nice dark black.  I think I added about three tiny "scoops" of the black gel until it was dark enough.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT check to see what this food coloring gel "TASTES" like.  A small miscommunication in the kitchen made L's tongue (and saliva) black for a good three hours!! (no pics, sorry)

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And... the inspiration for all the fun:
On sale at A.C. Moore!! (thanks Mom!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guide to the Perfect Smoothie

Think you need a recipe to make a smoothie? Think again!

Follow these basic tips to make deliciously fun, fruity smoothies everytime ^_^

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Most of the smoothies I make are simply a combination of my favorite fruit, milk or juice.  I have listed a basic smoothie recipe below, and then below that, are some specific options for different ingredients:

1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen)
1/2 - 1 cup frozen banana
1 - 2 cups of liquid
1 - 2 tsp natural sweetener or nut butter
1tsp - 2tbsp supplement (optional)

Frozen: bananas, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, peaches, cherries, or a mix of any!
Fresh: honeydew, cantaloupe, mango, peaches, oranges, blueberries, strawberries

Liquid Options (or the blender's not gonna blend)
Non-Dairy Milk (I love almond milk, but soy, rice or hemp work well too)
Non-Dairy yogurt or silken tofu
100% citrus fruit juice (orange, pineapple, mango) apple juice
Water (if you're doing RAW)

Nut Butters/Natural Sweetners:
Almond butter, all natural peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini, pure maple syrup, evaporated cane juice

Vegan protein powder, ground flax seed, fresh ginger

Helpful Hints: 
  • Instead of making banana bread with those over-ripe brown bananas, try peeling, slicing, and keeping them a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Frozen bananas for smoothies anytime!
  • Trader Joe's has amazing, resonably priced bags of frozen organic fruit like strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, pineapple, and a tropical mix that's really yummy!  I have these in my freezer at all times for whenever I'm out of fresh fruit
  • Be creative! There are really no "bad" mixes of fresh or frozen fruit: strawberry/banana, strawberry/banana/blueberry (pictured above), Pinapple/banana/OJ, rasberry/peach,
  • 1 TBSP ground flax seed is a great way to add thickness to a smoothie, and boost your Omega 3s.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vegan Cookies are Invading...

A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me her copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and I went to town baking!

Oatmeal Raisin

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Amazing recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! I think I like this oatmeal cookie recipe even better than the one from Joy of Vegan Baking (which I really, REALLY love). There is actually less sugar in this one, but it is all BROWN sugar so the flavor is really amazing! Original recipe in VCIYCJ called for soy milk, but I always use unsweetened almond milk. Baking time: 10 minutes = chewy, 12 mintues = crunchy. I like CHEWY :)

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I actually used half raisin and half dried cranberries, since I only had a half cup of each...

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles!

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Do yourself a favor: Make these NOW!!  You can actually find the recipe on the PPK blog here.  These cookies had the perfect blend of soft, crunch and chewy... I was a wimp, and cut the cayenne a bit, but I think next time I will make as written. 

I actually bought a bottle of chocoate extract for the express purpose of making these cookies, and it really, REALLY makes a difference in the intensity of the chocolate flavor.

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AND... last but not least in any way... 

THE chocolate chip cookie!!

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Again, these are the perfect blend of crispy and chewy!

Please, do NOT be tempted to over cook your cookies.  If they look done, they're OVER-done.  Just be patient and let them cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet then carefully move them to a rack to finish.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Artichoke Olive Salsa

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This recipe came in the weekly emails I receive from the Meatless Monday website. It sounded so delicious I just had to try it. It's really easy, and looks gorgeous.  Perfect as a starter to an Italian or Mediterranean themed meal. Serve with crusty bread or pitas, or as a topping for bruscetta.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

1 (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons red onions, minced
1/4 cup kalamata olive, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 -2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Prep Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 10 mins

1. Mix the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, red onion, olives, garlic and basil together in a medium sized bowl.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add enough olive oil so that the salsa reaches desired consistency.
4. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before serving.
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