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!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pumpkin palooza

Armed with my case of pure, canned pumpkin, I am on a quest for every interesting way to cook and eat the stuff. This afternoon, I caught wind of a yummy-looking pumpkin latte on It rivals the Starbucks creation, packing fewer calories and containing real pumpkin. (Starbucks uses flavored syrup.) So have a look at this delicious pumpkin spice latte. Feel free to try it out and report back your impression of it. I'll do the same.

What's your favorite way to eat pumpkin?