Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Special Vegan with a Vengeance Dessert

Last night, a couple we like but with whom we have rarely connected, invited us over for an impromptu dinner. They asked if I would mind bringing dessert. Would I mind? I spend half my waking hours thinking about dessert, so I was thrilled!

I had just one evening to decide what to make and seriously considered picking up something at my favorite local bakery, Sugar, Butter, Flour. But then I picked up Vegan with a Vengeance. This is a terrific book written by the reigning queen of vegan punk-dom, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It's filled with easy, appealing recipes and, so far, I haven't found a dud among them.

When I saw the recipe for no-bake black bottom peanut butter silk pie, I knew I had to make it. There's no dairy -- no cream, no eggs, no butter -- and you'll never miss it. It's a heady mix of peanut butter creme, chocolate wafer cookies, and semi-sweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger) that will send your taste buds soaring.

Here I am, the proud mommie...

And the Oscar goes to...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gracias Madre

There's nothing like a new restaurant to perk up my day and I recently got treated to one of the best!

Gracias Madre is a brand, spanking-new vegan restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco. Located on Mission St. near 18th, Gracias Madre is at the center of the Mission's hustle and bustle. But from the iron security grating to its spare but warm dining room, the place is an island of calm. At least, that's what we found when we arrived for an early lunch on the restaurant's second day.

The menu, which is the same at both lunch at dinner, offers Mexican food's greatest hits done up with the best ingredients and a vegan flair.

To start, we shared a plate of roasted cauliflower drizzled with a vegan nut-based cheeze and topped with crisp bread crumbs. Halfway through it, I was overcome by the desire to suck my thumb and curl up in a corner. Such comfort.

To go with it, we each had a mandarin orange aqua fresca. Gracias Madre's version was like drinking a ray of sunshine. Really. I was running very low blood sugar when we got there and this drink was exactly what I needed. Be forewarned: this kind of refreshment comes at a price, $7 dollars to be exact. If the world really, truly wants organic produce, then get used to things like a $7 dollar glass of juice. (Besides, it's no more expensive than a margarita -- something we definitely don't need in greater supply.)

My dish was a Mexican Christmastime favorite, a tamale. Gracias Madre's version was a handmade treat, filled with smooth butternut squash filling. Its mild flavor played well with the tasty pickled veggie salad, a Mexican restaurant staple that I usually avoid, but found irresistible here.

My husband, Mr. Veg, ordered his personal favorite, Chiles Rellenos. His take was two beautiful poblano peppers stuffed with a medley of fresh veggies and topped with a light-colored sauce. The mixture was delicious and mild in my mouth but left a spicy aftertaste.

I'd love to show you pictures of the meal, but -- nightmare of food bloggers' nightmares -- I was so caught up in the meal that I forgot to take pictures. 'Guess you just have to go there yourself to fully appreciate the attractive, unpretentious presentation (and the hand-pressed blue corn tortillas).

By the time we left, business had picked up considerably. Even when they're busy, Gracias Madre retains a sense of sanity -- something that's so often missing. The proprietors also own Cafe Gratitude, a terrific local raw-foods place with multiple Bay Area locations. Cafe Gratitude's positive vibe buzzes here, too, so on many levels, you'll be happy you came.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Waffles for Christmas Brunch

Christmas at our house is not generally a big affair. Aar and I exchange presents on Christmas Eve night and celebrate both Christmas and the day before with special meals. This year, that meant gingerbread waffles and winter fruit salad when we got home from the gym.

This is the first recipe I've tried from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's book, Vegan Brunch. If you've read the front matter in her other books, you know that she considers herself something of a legend for serving outstanding brunches to her friends when she lived in New York City. If these waffles are any example, her claims are true.

I'm no food photographer or stylist and even my best waffles look as though I studied at the Salvador Dali culinary school, but still, they're delicious.

The waffles are redolent of cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger, and molasses. They're not quite as crispy as waffles made with eggs, but I can assure you that the texture did not deter me from inhaling more than four of them (that's where lost count). Aar made a spectacular winter fruit salad containing apples, persimmons, pomegranate arils, clemintines, and banana and of course, the whole thing was doused in maple syrup. On the side, Lightlife's Smart Links. Every bit as good as their porky counterpart without laying a finger on a single pig. No cholesterol either! The whole thing adds up to a very merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wonderful World of Soy Crumbles

If you'd like to reduce the amount of meat in your diet, but aren't quite sure what to start with, try making a casserole using soy crumbles. As you might know, soy can take a lot of forms, including tofu, milk, burgers, and tempeh. Crumbles are just another permutation of this flexible, protein-rich bean.

Resembling ground beef in look and texture with a somewhat meaty taste, crumbles are a pre-cooked, no-cholesterol swap for the real thing that you can use in burritos, spaghetti sauce -- even shepherd's pie -- with absolutely no risk of E.-coli contamination.

One of my favorite ways to use soy crumbles is in Hungry Girl's Hot Tamale Pie. (Scroll a bit; it's the third recipe down.) It uses several convenience foods to their best advantage, delivering a delicious, quick casserole.

These days, most grocery stores, including Trader Joe's, sell soy crumbles. Among the makers are Morningstar Farms, Boca, Yves, and LightLife.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Health Magazine's Easy Granola

Making holiday sweets for my friends is something of a tradition for me, but one close friend, A., is diabetic. I don't want to interfere with her regimen by presenting her with sugary treats, so this year, I'm making her some granola. The oats, nuts, and seeds metabolize more slowly than straight white sugar and flour, so even though it is sweet (mine contains maple syrup, dark agave syrup, and dried fruit), it won't cause her blood sugar to spike.

I am a rabid recipe clipper and I found this granola recipe in Health magazine's October 2009 issue. It was contributed by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and you can get it here.

The beauty of granola is that no two batches are alike. This time, I put in walnuts, chopped almonds, and pecans. I also added sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds to the mix and a couple bags of mixed dried fruit. But you can use any fruits, nuts, and seeds you like. Pine nuts, hazelnuts, poppy seeds, raisins, dried apricots -- the sky is the limit and Jamie's recipe allows for improvising.

Granola isn't the only healthy sweet you can make for your loved ones. Bran muffins and banana bread made with whole wheat flour have also been a hit with my friends. And who wouldn't enjoy a gift card to Jamba Juice or Whole Foods? Have an oatmeal lover in your life? Make them a gift basket with a couple different kinds of oats (for example, steel cut and thick cut), a variety of sweeteners such as agave syrup and apple butter, and a sampling of exotic dried fruits. 'Healthy' and 'treat' don't have to be mutually exclusive terms!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Roasting Brussels Sprouts

If you don't like Brussels sprouts, you haven't tried them roasted. On the West Coast, they're a real taste of the season. Here's how to roast 'em:

1. Preheat your oven to 425F.

2. Select the best Brussels sprouts you can find. We found this beautiful stalk -- about three pounds worth of perfect, tight-leaved, deep green mini-cabbages -- at the farmers' market. To remove them, just pop them off the stalk. No sweat.

3. Prep them. To do this, first I slice off 1/16" off the bottom stem. Be careful, though. You don't want to completely slice off that stem because it holds all the leaves together. Having trimmed the stem, cut an X into the bottom. Two reasons for doing this: first, it allows you to clean the inner leaves. Second, by exposing the inside, it helps the sprouts to cook faster.

Once you've trimmed and X-ed the sprouts, wash them. Usually, I'm pretty lax about washing my fruit and vegetables; just a quick rinse and I'm done. Recently, however, I found Environne fruit and vegetable wash and now I swear by it. Environne can coax out the finest grit and the tiniest bugs without leaving any residue, taste, or smell.

So put a small squeeze of Environne into a large bowl. Fill with water and drop in the sprouts. Let them soak for around 15 minutes, then rinse well.

 4. Oil and season them. This step is simple and even fun! Put a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large Ziploc bag. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill bag with roughly a dozen sprouts, close the zipper, then mush it around to coat those precious little globes of green.

5. Place the sprouts on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat. Put them into your preheated oven.

6. Bake for about half an hour, til the outer leaves have browned. Don't fuss over them. Just let them roast in peace. You'll be richly rewarded.

If you don't love 'em roasted, then you're incapable of appreciating this humble but delicious vegetable. Fortunately, you can use this method on any cruciferous vegetable. On Friday night, I'll be roasting some broccoli and cauliflower.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hey Butterfly - You Won!

Congratulations to Butterfly, who won the Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals recipe deck. The deck has 50 recipes organized by season. Here's the dish, cranberry bulgur pilaf, I made to accompany the stuffed squash I made for Thanksgiving. It's tasty, high in fiber, and has a lower glycemic index than most starchy holiday side dishes.

Cranberry Bulgur Pilaf
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 c chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
dash of salt
1 orange, plus juice to make 1/2 c
1/2 tsp. crumbled dried rosemary (1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh)
1 1/2 c medium to light bulgur
1 1/2 c water or vegetable broth
1/2 c dried cranberries, currants, or raisins, chopped
1 T soy sauce, more to taste
1 T lemon juice, more to taste
2/3 c chopped toasted pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional)

In a saucepan on medium heat, warm the oil, add the onions and garlic, sprinkle with salt, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. While the onions cook, grate the orange peel and juice the orange.

Add the rosemary, orange zest, and bulgur to the onions and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the orange juice, water or broth, and dried cranberries, cover, and cook on low heat until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. If the bulgur is still crunchy, add 1/4 c of hot water and cook a few minutes longer. Remove from heat. Stir in the soy sauce and lemon juice. Add the nuts if you like, and more soy sauce and/or lemon juice to taste.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quorn and Moosewood Giveaways

I like to keep the holiday spirit alive throughout the winter holidays, not just on the big eating days. Because I don't eat animal flesh or drink milk and limit how much yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and eggs I eat, I can party-up my meals without gaining a lot of weight. Sort of. (OK, so I'm dangerous around candy, ice cream, and baked goods.)

Anyhow, you'll find that going meatless during the holidays -- even at just one meal each week between Thanksgiving and New Year's -- offers infinite variety as well as a tasty, humane change of pace. Here's a 'chik'n' dinner I made recently that celebrates the season without going overboard on fat and calories.

Chik'n Nuggets by Quorn. I don't actually know what McNuggets taste like, but Quorn nuggets are simply delicious. The taste and texture is remarkably like chicken and the breading belies the fact that they're baked in the oven rather than fried. At 180 calories for 4 nuggets, this delightful little finger food is a calorie-watcher's pal. As to the dipping sauce, we ditched the ranch dressing, substituting jalapeno chutney for a more grown-up taste.

Cranberry bulgur pilaf. Bulgur (aka cracked wheat -- the stuff you use to make tabouli) plays an unexpected but welcome supporting role in this meal. The dish is seasoned with orange, rosemary, and dried cranberries. The rosemary is aromatic and a good foil for the sweetness of the berries. Note, though, that if you're making the dish ahead of time or serving it cold, you should add the rosemary immediately before serving. The flavor doesn't stand up to reheating or refrigerating.

You can have them both! I'm thrilled to offer one lucky reader an assortment from Quorn that includes a sample of every product they make! On the blog, I've reviewed their chik'n tenders, turk'y burgers, and now the chik'n nuggets and my taste buds stand behind every one. One lucky person will receive a sample each of their 12 products, shipped in coolers with ice packs to keep them cold. (BTW, Quorn products are meat free and soy free, but not vegan.)

I'm also happy to be giving away Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals recipe deck, a package containing 50 of the Moosewood collective's newest recipes for every season. This is where I found the bulgur recipe. You'll also find dishes like sweet potato-stuffed eggplant, mediterranean orange and olive salad, and brussels sprouts with chestnut beurre blanc.

To have a chance at winning one of the prizes, simply register as one of Ms. Veggie's followers, then post a comment indicating so (don't forget your name, too). I'll choose two random numbers using and the writers of the corresponding comments will share in the loot! I'll take entries until Saturday, December 5 at noon Pacific time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The grand finale

Before the moment is lost for good, I have to tell you about my third and final Thanksgiving dinner.

We had originally planned to work and eat at Cafe Gratitude, who was putting on a free dinner in exchange for helping out that day at the restaurant. It sounded like fun, but cut into our gym schedule (shallow, huh?), so we were staying open to other possibilities, too.

On Wednesday night, to celebrate the four-day weekend, we went to a favorite place of ours, Merit Vegetarian, in Sunnyvale. The owner, Sam, recognized us from our many previous visits and came over to say hello. We told him about Cafe Gratitude and he mentioned that a friend of his in The City also owned a vegetarian restaurant and that he had been helping her prep for the Thanksgiving blow-out she was putting on.

Golden Era Vegan Cuisine -- located in the Tenderloin, just a short walk from our beloved Millenium -- offered a four-course vegan meal for just $25 dollars (that's half of what Millenium was charging)! And it was terrific!

We started with a savory pumpkin soup, flavored with a little curry and a lot of hot pepper. It was as smooth as silk. Non-dairy cream soups such as this one this never cease to amaze me -- how do they achieve such a glorious texture with no butter or cream?

From there, we enjoyed an entirely serviceable dinner salad with field greens, shredded cabbage and carrot, and a nicely tart vinegarette.

The third course was simply beautiful:

Faux meat fascinates me the same way that dairyless cream soups do; how do they do it? Nancy, Golden Era's owner, gave us a rough overview of how they made the faux turkey, but all I took away from it is that the outer skin, which tasted remarkably like the skin of a turkey, is made from tofu-skin wrappers. On my own, I surmised that the 'meat' was seitan (she said tofu, but it really didn't taste like or have the texture of tofu) and that the stuffing was regular old stuffing that would have been happy on just about any Thanksgiving table, vegan or otherwise.

Seitan, if you're interested, is the base of a lot of faux meat. It's made from something called wheat gluten. What that is and where one buys it I don't know, but it makes for mighty tasty fake flesh. But back to the dinner...

Being as I'm never one to shy away from dessert, I gladly took on the fourth course, a pumpkin cheesecake. It had the same tanginess of a dairy-based cheesecake and the spiciness of a traditional pumpkin pie. I feel certain that an omnivore wouldn't have felt that he was missing a thing.

Actually, there was one thing missing for me: the weight gain that invariably accompanies the day after Thanksgiving. My weight stayed exactly where it had been the day before. I didn't miss a thing!

BTW, we asked Nancy if they were planning a dinner for Christmas. She said they were considering it, but hadn't reached a final decision. So make a point of calling her (415/673-3136) and telling her to do Christmas dinner, too!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: Part Deux

The great thing about living in the SF Bay Area is that everybody is represented. People come in more colors, speak more different languages, and eat more different food than in just about any other part of the country that I've lived or visited (the exception being New York City).

In Palo Alto, the macrobiotics are represented by the Peninsula Macrobiotic Community (PMC). I'm no expert about macrobiotics, but from my observations, it's a very yin-yang lifestyle, balancing hot and cold, sweet and sour, heavy and light. Before I joined the group, I imagined the macrobiotic diet to be mainly seaweed, fish, and brown rice, eaten by terminal cancer patients. And that's not an entirely incorrect picture.

A lot of sick people do turn to this easily digested food and brown rice is a staple in this diet, but the PMC at least also enjoys a lot more of what you might think of as just good old vegan food. And for 22 years, they've been able to attract 100 or more diners to their Monday night dinners. Here's what we ate in celebration of Thanksgiving:

* Sparkling punch
* Savory sage broth
* Bread basket with miso tahini sauce
* Tempeh vegetable cutlets w mushroom gravy
* Cornbread stuffing (a favorite)
* Mashed sweet potatoes
* Green bean casserole
* Green salad
* Orange ginger cranberry sauce
* Mince 'meat' pie w tofu creme

It was divine and many of the dishes were really no different from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And like a traditional T'day repast, the servings were large enough that I was able to take home leftovers to eat the following day for lunch.

The only thing dinner was missing was pictures. I completely forgot to take pictures -- ARGH!

Still, you can learn more about the PMC at their web site or their chef, Gary Alinder's, blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving: Part Une

Aaron and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving three times this year. This past weekend marked our first nod to the holiday with a glorious stuffed butternut squash for the main course. I found the recipe in a new book called Gather by Georgeanne Brennan.

The squash was stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory ingredients, including fresh sage, dried peaches, sauteed onion, prunes, and rustic whole wheat bread cubes. It was not a fast dish, but it wasn't difficult either. First I had to bake the squash for an hour, then let it cool another hour, prepare the stuffing, fill the squash cavities, and heat it through.

It was a very rich and savory dish that contrasted well with the tangy cranberry chutney I served with it. I found the recipe in a 1980 edition of the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Being vegetarian, I don't turn to this book on a regular basis because it's too meat-centric. But every now and then, when I need a good, standard recipe -- like cranberry sauce -- it's a terrific resource. (My other go-to books include the Joy of Cooking and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.)

It was a great way to kick off Thanksgiving; I can hardly wait for part deux!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin shortage -- and solution!

I'd like to say it isn't true, but the pumpkin shortage I mentioned in early autumn appears to have returned. Hungry Girl reported it in this morning's broadcast e-mail and backed it up with a press release from Libby's. So if you can find canned pumpkin, buy it. Stock up because it could be another year before you see it again.

There is another answer to the shortage: substitute any other winter squash. How to substitute other squash for pumpkin: 1) Bake the squash til it's soft (bake it whole at 350F for about an hour, randomly puncturing it with a knife to allow air to escape), 2) Cut in half and scrape out the seeds, 3) Puree the pulp in a food processor. 4) Proceed with your recipe as usual, substituting your pureed squash for pumpkin. Your guests probably won't notice the difference and they may actually prefer the change. One of the best 'pumpkin' pies I've had was made with kabocha squash.

For a Southern twist, bake up a sweet potato pie. There's a terrific recipe for it in Oprah's circa-1990s book, In the Kitchen with Rosie. If that book isn't on your shelf, just Google "sweet potato pie" and you'll find more versions than you could eat in a lifetime. I also found -- but haven't yet tried -- a neat-looking sweet potato pie with coconut crust on Gary Alinder's blog, macrochef.

BTW, my favorite sweet potato is the garnet yam. Is there a difference between sweet potatoes and yams? I don't know and truthfully, I don't care. All I know is that I use garnet yams and ONLY garnet yams and I'm always happy with the results.

So not to worry. Either you'll get to the grocery store before the pumpkin is depleted or you'll try something new, be it a different winter squash or garnet yams.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Congrats to Zucchini Breath!

The winner of Jennifer Cornbleet's flashy new book, Raw for Dessert, is Zucchini Breath from Klamath Falls, OR. Please contact me at your earliest convenience so I can arrange shipping for your book. Stay tuned, because more give-aways are in the making!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Raw for Dessert Give-away!

Jennifer Cornbleet got wind of my making the Greek dates in her most recent book, Raw for Dessert, and has generously offered a copy to give away to a lucky reader. This book took me by surprise; I was expecting not to like it, but having tried the dates last week, I'm already planning my next raw 'baking' session!

On my list is her mince pie -- which I'm planning for Thanksgiving -- and the apple compote with golden raisins and pistachios. You can learn more about Jennifer and raw cuisine on her web site. In the meantime, to get a chance at winning the book, just leave a comment with your favorite Thanksgiving dessert. (Why do I think pumpkin pie will be the hands-down winner?)

We'll take entries through Thursday, November 12 at midnight Pacific Time. Good luck everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chocolate-covered Katie give-away

I love give-aways and one of my fellow bloggers is having one where you get to choose your prize. For more info, take a look at Chocolate-covered Katie's blog.

Sublime Stuffed Dates

So I volunteered to bring dessert to a pot-luck I attended recently, but my oven went on the fritz. Having very little time, I wanted to come up with something show-stopping using only ingredients I had on-hand. In every crisis, lies an opportunity; for me, the silver lining is that my broken oven got me to try out ahead of schedule a book I just received called Raw for Dessert. Jennifer Cornbleet's book is filled with glorious photos of hot-looking goodies, but frankly, I've had a mental block about making anything out of it.

If you're unfamiliar with the raw food scene, raw foodists are vegetarians (vegans really) who eat primarily unprocessed, uncooked foods -- fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and beans. They believe that cooking food destroys beneficial enzymes and therefore, don't employ traditional cooking and baking methods. Whatever you think of the diet's efficacy, preparing raw dishes has always struck me as very time-consuming: soaking nuts for hours, 'cooking' with dehydrators, and chopping into oblivion. I've enjoyed all the raw dishes I've sampled, mostly at Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley and San Francisco, but it's easy to like because someone else has done all the work!

Good news! My first raw dessert took just minutes and was brilliant! Cornbleet's Greek dates taste like baklava encased in an exotic, sweet date shell. I couldn't stop eating them and neither could my friends. Theses are a no-brainer to make. In the food processor, pulse some nuts, agave syrup (see What is agave? below), and orange peel. Stuff generously into dates and refrigerate. Such bliss! For my money, it's the orange zest that makes this dish click.

What is agave? Agave is a desert plant whose sap is used in making tequila. It's also a wonderful sweetener that I've found to be interchangeable with honey and maple syrup. It's low on the glycemic index, which means it's a good choice for diabetics; what's more, it doesn't produce a sugar rush and subsequent crash. If you haven't tried agave, Madhava is a Colorado company that produces both the light (similar to honey) and amber (think maple syrup) varieties. While I haven't found agave in traditional supermarkets, I have gotten it at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Talking turk'y

The best thing about blogging is that I occasionally receive unexpected packages containing interesting food or books. Yesterday, my friends at Quorn sent me a package of their new turk'y burgers. If you haven't come across Quorn already, they make meat substitutes from mushroom protein (who knew?). Vegans beware: turk'y burgers also contain egg whites, so they're not entirely plant-based; however, if your diet allows, you should give them a go.

These burgers are a little on the small side; think oversized slider. Each one has just 90 calories and 4 g fat, so if you put two on your burger bun, you're still safely below 200 calories. We had ours between two slices of Trader Joe's sprouted barley bread (only 70 calories per slice with 2 g fiber) and a dollop of TJs apple-cranberry chutney (mmm!!). They taste remarkably like poultry and cook up easily on the grill pan.

On the side: baked sweet potato "fries."

Tutorial Sweet potato fries are a cinch to make. Just cut a sweet potato into wedges the size of your index finger. Put the wedges into a zippered plastic bag into which you've put a tablespoon of olive oil and a few shakes of salt. Toss to coat, then place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 425F oven for 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Apple Bread for Your Holiday Sideboard

Pumpkin pie is a holiday staple and I know that I, for one, would be disappointed to leave the Thanksgiving table without having had a large slice of it. I would never, however, turn down additional dessert offerings and this fresh apple bread is a terrific complement to any harvest celebration.

The recipe is from Ken Haedrich's now-out-of-print book, A Passion for Bread. If you're lucky enough to find a copy of this hand-lettered gem, pick it up. You'll find more than 30 recipes for yeasted breads, 20-plus quick breads, and half a dozen unyeasted breads. In the almost 30 years I've owned it, I have never had a recipe fail.

While you can make this bread in either a regular, standard-sized loaf pan or three mini pans, it bakes more evenly in the smaller pans.

Fresh Apple Bread
from A Passion for Bread
by Ken Haedrich

2 large apples, cored and chopped
2 1/2 c whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour (preferred)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 T cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 c apple juice
1/2 c honey or maple syrup
1/3 c oil or melted butter
handful raisins
handful chopped walnuts

Prepare the apples and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the apples, raisins, and walnuts. (Tossing them with the dry ingredients prevents them from sinking to the bottom.)

Blend liquids in a separate bowl and add to the dry. Stir just until smooth.

Pour batter into three greased mini-loaf pans or one regular-sized pan. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick emerges dry.

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Jami, the winner of Nava Atlas's ebook, A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving! Please contact me with your e-mail address so I can send you the goods. Thanks to everyone who commented; all this talk of Thanksgiving makes my mouth water. More soon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nava Atlas Give-away!

I am thrilled to be having my first give-away! Just in time for the holidays, I'm offering a free copy of Nava Atlas's A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving. This exciting e-book has 65 festive, plant-based recipes. You'll find appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, main dishes, stuffings, cranberry sauces, desserts and more -- everything you need to celebrate in a healthful, conscious way. All you have to do is respond to this post with your name and your favorite Thanksgiving food. I'll select a winner using a random number generator. Please respond by Tuesday, November 3 at 9 pm Pacific Time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's apple time

On our way home from a short trip to Lake Tahoe last week, we stopped in Placerville, a cute gold-rush town along highway 50. In addition to having a fun downtown, Placerville is also the home of apple hill, a collection of 50-some apple orchards. After one false start at an orchard with seemingly no employees, we found an apple-pie perfect orchard called Larsen's Apple Barn. There were cars in the parking lot (good sign), a working water wheel (better), and an on-site bakery (best). I could feel the promise in the air as we entered the apple showroom.

Just inside the doorway stood an outgoing young woman, paring knife in hand, ready to teach us the difference between a Delicous and a Jonathan by means of free samples and friendly apple banter. "My dad and his brothers run the place," she said. "Each one of my uncles grows different varieties; that's how we can have so many kinds."

My husband, Aaron, decided quickly that he wanted to take home a bag of Winesap apples. I liked the Mutsus, but I had more in mind than just eating them out-of-hand. I wanted to make homemade applesauce and apple butter. For these, first-quality apples are unnecessary, so I began peeking behind the displays, looking for the seconds bin.

Our friend the apple sampler noticed me prowling around and approached me. "Are you by chance looking for seconds?" she queried.

"Uh, yeah," I said.

"Follow me," she replied, leading us into a walk-in refrigerator the size of our living room. In back was box after box of less-than-perfect pommes. She located a 40-pound box of Mutsus -- a steal at $12 dollars -- and we were on our way.

What's followed has been sheer bliss.

I've made a slow-cooker apple "pie"...

Four pints of applesauce (recipe at the end of this post) and four of apple butter...

...As well as half-a-dozen baked apples which we have with breakfast or for dessert, and a carmel apple crisp that I'll be sharing tonight with friends.

Still to come are another batch of applesauce and a wonderful fresh apple bread that I've been making since I was in college.

Here's the applesauce I made. I found it years ago on the inside flap of a box of Celestial Seasonings
peppermint tea. They call it a chutney, but it doesn't have that sweet-tangy tension chutney provides. It's delicious just the same and contains no sugar or other sweetener. I had no idea that tea bags could deliver this much flavor!

Cinnamon Apple Chutney
from Celestial Seasonings

(Note: I made a double batch.)

6 Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice tea bags
2 c water
6 c chopped apples (no need to peel or core - not that I ever do anyway)
1/4 c raisins
1/2 c chopped walnuts
other dried fruit or nuts that sound good, optional (I used a bag of dried fruit bits)

Place tea bags in a heavy pan, add water and bring to a boil. Steep over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove and gently squeeze tea bags over pot, then discard.

Add chopped apples and all dried fruit and nuts to the pot. Simmer everything over low heat for at least 1 hour or as long as all day. Chutney should be thick and chunky.

Storagewise, I put up four pints of this to enjoy later in the winter and put a couple more in the fridge to eat immediately.

Topmost image of apples courtesy of the US Apple Association.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vegan Dad's yeasted pumpkin bread and rolls

If you've never visited Vegan Dad's blog, now is the time. Vegan Dad has great ideas, the perspective of a family man with sometimes-finicky kids, and a terrific sense of humor over negotiating a plant-based diet in a meat-based society.

So Vegan Dad's most recent post is for a quite-nice-looking dinner roll made with -- you guessed it -- pumpkin! Unfortunately, I can't fire up the oven tonight to try a batch (we're on a little get-away in Lake Tahoe), but you can. He doesn't provide a recipe so much as a technique that involoves replacing the recipe's liquids with pumpkin puree. So if you have a favorite dinner roll recipe, read Vegan Dad's thoughts, then give 'em a try. If you start now, you'll have them down pat by Thanksgiving! Be bold!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin curry

Lest you think I've finished my pumpkin phase, aha -- a really wonderful, mild curry comes on the scene! It's from Colleen Patrick-Goodreau's recent book, The Vegan Table, and it's mighty tasty. Unlike the dairy-filled, calorific curries in Indian restaurants, this one is dairy- and oil-free, with just 177 calories per serving. The pumpkin taste is subtle; if you didn't know it was there, you might not pick up on it. But you will pick up on its satiny, smooth texture and the fetching flavors of coconut, chiles, and curry -- seductive and exotic.

The dish is built around pumpkin, coconut, and lentils (she wants you to use red lentils, but I only had the conventional brown ones and they worked out fine). I can't share the recipe with you (yet), but I can show it to you in all its pumpkinny orangeness.

Fresh ginger, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and dried red chiles are a few of the aromatics that build the taste of the dish. Personally, I get kinda shy around the bolder flavors, like cayenne and dried chiles, so I erred on the side of restraint and I wish I hadn't. For the chiles, I used two pasilla peppers, where she had called for five of unspecified variety. Because pasilla peppers are mild (chiles rellenos is often made with pasillas), I could've gone all the way, but wimped out. Next time, I'll be a real woman about this.

This dish has a special guest-star quality that's important even though we don't always discuss it: fiberwise, Colleen's pumpkin curry is off the charts. By the book's calculation, a serving has 13 marvelous grams of fiber -- that's close to half of what an adult should consume each day. It's delicious and good for you, too!

So I can't print the recipe yet because I haven't obtained the necessary permission, but stay tuned for details. Or better still, go buy the book; it's only $13.57 on Amazon. It's a very friendly volume, with Colleen's easy, conversational tone dozens of gorgeous pictures, and 199 other mouth-watering recipes. At the very least, make a visit to her web site, Compassionate Cooks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jamba Juice's pumpkin smoothie

I'm a Jamba Juice fan from way back (like, when they called themselves Juice Club). Jamba is a special treat for me; even the lowest-calorie smoothies pack a lot of calories, so I only go when the occasion warrants.

Going to the dentist is one of those occasions.

Monday, I had a tooth pulled. What a way to start the week! Because I availed myself of my dentist's sedation dentistry services, I had to fast for 12 hours prior to the appointment. So Monday morning, I took the little blue pill they gave me then watched the world disappear like fragments of a dream. It was wonderful, but not in the same giggly way that nitrous oxide is.

With the little blue pill, I was able to be an ideal patient -- no anxiety, no gagging, able to keep my mouth WIDE open for an entire 90 minutes. And I don't remember a thing.

But boy, was I hungry by the time it was over. Definitely time for a stop at Jamba Juice. With my darling husband acting as interpreter between me and the sober world, I ordered a power-sized Pumpkin Smash.

Granted, I was coming off of one heck of a trip when I drank it, but I loved it and feel certain that I'll still love it when I go back. With a satin texture and a hint of pumpkin pie spice, it's a winner.

The stats (original size, 22 ounces): 510 calories, 0.5 g fat, 3 g fiber. Like I said, the calories quickly add up at Jamba, so it's not an everyday thing, but perfect for pumpkin season!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A pumpkinny twist on chocolate chip cookies

In a pumpkin-induced craze, I baked almost 9 dozen of these delectable goodies!

I’m having so much fun with the pumpkin theme that I think I’ll stay with it a while. Pumpkin nut and chip cookies are a superb way to add fiber and Vitamin A to your diet. Did you know that half a cup of pumpkin contains 5 grams of fiber and 300 percent of the suggested intake of Vitamin A? Sneaking some into chocolate chip cookies is brilliant!

I picked up this recipe at BlogHer Food, a women’s food blogging conference held in San Francisco recently. I find that these taste better the second (and third) day, as the pumpkin pie spice melds with the pumpkin and the chocolate.

Pumpkin nut and chip cookies
California Milk Advisory Board
Makes about 4 dozen

1/2 c butter, softened (I used Earth Balance margarine)
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c milk chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
3/4 c walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

1.         Preheat oven to 350F.
2.         Sift dry ingredients into bowl; add chocolate chips and walnuts, stirring well.
3.         In a separate, larger bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy; add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, beating well after each addition.
4.         Gradually add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture until well blended.
5.         Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto lightly buttered cookie sheets.
6.         Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
7.         Cool on wire racks and store in airtight container.

Vegan pumpkin cake and cream cheese frosting

Here at last are the recipes I described in my October 8 posting for the pumpkin cake from Veganomicon and the cream cheese frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Both books are extremely – to borrow a term from the 1980s – user friendly. They’re upbeat and accessible, even if you’re new to vegetarian/vegan ingredients. You’ll never miss the artery-clogging butter, eggs, and milk used in traditional baking. I own every one of Isa Chandra and Terry's cookbooks, so you can plan on seeing more where these came from!

Pumpkin cake
Adapted from Veganomicon

1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin
3/4 c milk (I used almond; Isa recommends soy)
3/4 c canola oil
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 T light molasses
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 2/3 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 c chopped, toasted pecans (my addition)
1/2 c raisins, softened by soaking briefly in boiling water (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13” baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, soy milk, oil, granulated sugar, molasses, and vanilla. Mix well. Add roughly half the flour, the baking powder, salt, spices, and nuts and use a fork to fold everything together. Add the remaining flour and mix gently until combined. Add raisins. Don’t use a hand blender for this, as pumpkin can get gummy if it’s mixed too aggressively. Blending with a fork helps maintain the texture.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and spread it out with a spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted through the center comes out clean.

From the book Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2007.

Vegan cream cheese frosting, 2x

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

1/2 c nonhydrogenated margarine, softened
1/2 c vegan cream cheese, softened (dairy cream cheese would probably work fine, too)
4 c confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream together margarine and cream cheese until just combined. Use a handheld mixer to whip while adding the confectioners sugar in 1/2 c batches. Mix until smooth and creamy, then mix in the vanilla. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use. (This also freezes very well.)

From the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2006.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pumpkin trivia

Even Annabelle loves pumpkin!

DID YOU KNOW... that some veterinarians recommend feeding cats pumpkin to help keep them regular? Our girl Annabelle -- who is very regular, thank-you-very-much -- discovered pumpkin on her own and ate  it with great gusto. Who'd a thunk it?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Great newsletter from Nava Atlas

I've been a fan of Nava Atlas for years. She's the esteemed author of several veg cookbooks, including three that I have: Vegan Soups and Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet, and The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. She also writes a monthly newsletter and maintains an information-filled web site, In A Vegetarian Kitchen with Nava Atlas.

This month's newsletter is particularly interesting. She includes a recipe for apple streudel, a bulghur salad with fruit and nuts, and a link to her e-book containing 65 vegetarian recipes for Thanksgiving. Be sure to have a look at her newsletter.

...and be sure to try that delectable pumpkin spice latte I mentioned earlier!

Pumpkin latte from

Remember the pumpkin latte I mentioned a couple days ago? Well, I made it last night and it's fabulous. GO MAKE IT NOW! It's that delicious.

You might remember that the recipe is available on Made with real pumpkin (as opposed to pumpkin flavored syrup), this latte one-ups Starbucks by light years -- and I like Starbucks!

The recipe is a little bit of spice heaven. In addition to the pumpkin, espresso and milk, the drink features whole cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, orange zest, and vanilla. I streamlined things by not straining it or frothing the milk. I'd give you the recipe here, but I really want you to go visit neversaydiet's web site!

You know you want to taste this stuff. So hey -- it's the weekend. You can afford to mess around in the kitchen for an extra five minutes...go do it. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Isa Chandra's Pumpkin Cake

What a happy coincidence that I procured a case of canned pumpkin just days before the annual Sukkot potluck dinner my husband's congregation puts on every year. Briefly, Sukkot is the annual harvest festival celebrated by Jews. A sukkah (hut) is erected and we all get together in it to thank God for the plentiful harvest and to share food with friends. This year's turn-out was good with about 20 of us there. The hut was solidly constructed, which kept us warm, and enough people brought lanterns that we weren't completely in the dark by 7 p.m.

The buffet was ample and satisfying with lots of noodle dishes, including kugel, lasagne, and pasta salad, and there was a lot of good crusty bread. Is it me or do potlucks generally lack in green vegetables? Maybe next time I'll get gutsy and bring a platter of sauteed spinach or steamed broccoli.

But not this time. This weekend, I was itching to get into that pumpkin. I wanted to make a pumpkin cake. Not muffins or bread. Cake. The difference is subtle and some would say there is no difference, but I find that whether it’s made with carrots, pumpkin, bananas or some other fruit or veggie, a cake typically has a softer crumb than its related bread or muffin.

I ended up finding what I was after in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book, Veganomicon. I made her Pumpkin Crumb Cake with Pecan Streusel on page 255, with a couple of alterations. First, I omitted the streusel, instead using vegan cream cheese frosting (from one of her other books, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). I also added 3/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 cup softened raisins (softened by soaking them briefly in boiling water before adding to the batter).

I had originally planned to serve the cake

at the dinner, then bring two big pieces to Leona and Larry, new friends who live down the street. This is the gorgeous jewel of a cake I brought to the dinner...

And this is what I brought home…

Sorry, guys; I promise, you’ll have first dibs on the next baked good I create!