Banana-Toffee Pie

Pies are still unfamiliar territory for me. The crust, the filling — it’s all still intimidating. But this Banana-Toffee Pie (found in “Vegan Pie In The Sky“), with the help of a store-bought crust, was really easy to put together and it was really delicious.

The filling is a dulce de leche-like caramel that surrounds slices of banana. Whipped topping and shaved pieces of semi-sweet vegan chocolate are layered on top.

I had originally planned to make the coconut milk whipped topping for this, but I didn’t realize that you need to refrigerate the can of coconut milk a few hours before. So, for a substitute, I used a can of soy whipped cream, which was just okay. It’s very pricey for what you get and it deflated by the time I was ready to serve the pie, which was disappointing.

I will say, the next time I make the pie, in addition to making the topping from scratch, I’m going to double the filling ingredients because it didn’t seem to make enough. Of course, that also could be because I took some out of the pan to eat with a spoon. Yes, it’s that good.

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Masala Baked Tofu and Curried Cabbage & Peas

This dish reminded me that I really need to cook more from “Appetite for Reduction.” The recipes in the book are low-fat, but they certainly don’t lack the flavor. And I love that there is a lot of nutritional value to each recipe.

Both the tofu recipe and the cabbage recipe have very similar ingredients. For the Masala Baked Tofu, slices of tofu marinate in a mixture of soy (I used Bragg’s), vinegar, garlic, ginger and spices. The final result packed so much flavor.

The Curried Cabbage & Peas comes together so quickly. Sliced cabbage and carrots are simmered in a broth with curry, onions, garlic and more. The aromas coming off both dishes were amazing. (My downstairs neighbor even sent me a text from below commenting on how great it smelled.)

I could see serving this with a side of basmati rice if you want to bulk it up a bit, but it works just fine without it.

Chocolate Galaxy Banana Cheesecake

This is the third recipe I’ve made from “Vegan Pie In The Sky” and, like the others, it did not disappoint. It’s one of those desserts where you can’t help but make a noise each time you take a bite.

The cheesecake filling was thick and creamy and full of banana flavor, and the chocolate swirled into the filling was so decadent — and, yet, not too rich. While I will gladly eat (and enjoy) vegan cheesecakes made with vegan cream cheese, I love that the cheesecake recipes featured in the book are made with a cashew and tofu base. In my opinion, they taste more authentic. As for the crust, I used the classic Graham Cracker Crust, which is also featured in the book.

The recipe comes together really quickly. First you make the crust, bake it in the oven for 10 minutes, and then throw the rest of the ingredients into a food processor. The chocolate is mixed with a bit of the banana filling and then swirled into the rest of the filling with a knife. Bake for 50 minutes and then cool overnight (if you can wait that long). The top did crack a bit, but it still looked good to me. And, I have to say, the kitchen smelled incredible while it was baking. It was hard not to slice a piece right out of the oven.

Brooklyn Deli Macaroni Salad

This pasta salad recipe is an oldie but goodie. It was one of the first recipes I made when I first purchased “Veganomicon.” The base is made up of Vegenaise, white vinegar, sugar, salt and lots of cracked black pepper. Shredded carrots, radishes and peas are then tossed with the dressing and macaroni. The recipe makes a ton, so it’s perfect for a cookout or potluck alongside some barbecue-baked tofu and corn on the cob.

Food and a Feature: Shortbread and ‘Downton Abbey’

What goes better with a rainy, cold day than back-to-back episodes of “Downton Abbey,” shortbread cookies and tea? That’s how I spent my Saturday and it was awesome.

The shortbread recipe I got from “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar,” which, sadly, isn’t posted on the site. I’ve found sites that have the recipe posted on them, but I encourage you to buy the book if you haven’t already; you won’t regret it.

The recipe was super easy to follow and came together very quickly. The wedges of shortbread were buttery and dense without being too rich or too sweet. Next time I make it, per the book’s suggestion, I’d like to add rose water or lavender to the recipe. A cup of warm black tea with a touch of almond milk was the perfect finishing touch.

As far as the feature, I had heard wonderful things about the Masterpiece Classic series “Downton Abbey,” but never got around to watching it — that is, until yesterday. Netflix has the first season on Watch Instantly. I’ve gotten through the first three episodes and I’m hooked.

The series is set in the early part of the 20th century, right before World War I. It tells the story of the Crawley family and their servants, who all live the Edwardian country house of Downton Abbey. It’s primarily a drama, but there’s humor and suspense woven in with the characters and storyline. I can’t recommend it enough.

Vegan Food Happenings — Holiday Edition

Happy holidays! This season is flying by, isn’t it?

We’ve had a pretty low-key holiday season, which is fine by me. It’s been very low-key in the kitchen, too. We had grand plans of making an elaborate meal for Christmas Eve, but decided at the last minute to keep it very simple, which was nice. Here’s a quick breakdown of just a few of the dishes (mostly sweets) I made over the past week or so.

Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles (from “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar“)

These cookies have become a favorite in our household. They have a wonderful rich chocolate flavor, a crunchy outside texture and a chewy middle. A pinch of cayenne adds a touch of heat that is a nice surprise.

Caramel Pecan Bars (also from “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar”)

These bars are really easy to make and taste just like their pie cousin. So good.

Monkey Bread (from “Sweet Vegan“)

If Paula Deen were vegan, this would be her go-to recipe. You add butter to the dough, then you dunk each dough ball into melted butter and then you pour more melted butter on top once you’ve formed them in the pan. This was the first time I’ve made this recipe and I have to admit, I found the directions hard to follow, which I’ve also found to be true for a few other recipes I’ve made from this book. But despite my frustration with the recipe, it turned out beautifully and was delicious. It was the perfect breakfast for Christmas morning.

Great Smokey Mountain Cheeze (from “Vegan Diner“)

This spreadable cheese was so easy to make and was really, really good. The smoked paprika gave it a wonderful flavor that matched up really well with the sliced apple. I’ll definitely be making this again for a game night snack or for a light lunch of fruit and crackers.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’m planning to make a few new dishes this week while I’m on vacation, so I will post those soon. I’m also planning to make a vegan brunch on New Year’s Day, and I’ll post that, too.

I hope everyone is well!

Gingerbread Waffles and Sage Sausages

Vegan Brunch” is one of my favorite cookbooks and, yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to trying all the recipes. These Gingerbread Waffles have been on my list of recipes to try and they did not disappoint. I was worried that they would turn out too sweet when topped with maple syrup, but the waffles contained just the right amount of spice to cut through any of the sweetness.

The homemade sausages featured in the cookbook have also been on my list. I’ll admit that I was intimidated by the idea of making them, but let me assure you, these sausages are so easy to make and are really tasty.

The original recipe calls for dried cherries, but I didn’t have any on hand. I decided to use raisins as a cheaper alternative and they worked out perfectly. Also, the recipe makes four large sausages, but after making one large sausage, I decided to make them smaller. And I’m glad I did because they turned out much firmer than the larger one.

At the end, my links weren’t very pretty when I took them out of the foil; I definitely need more practice shaping them. But per her suggestion, I cut them into slices after they steamed and browned them in a cast iron skillet, which added a nice texture to the outside. I will definitely be making these again.

Vegan Thanksgiving 2.0

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, everyone!

Well, we pulled off our second all-vegan Thanksgiving and, I have to say, I’m pleased with the results. A few weeks back, I had mentioned that I was going to make a spread featured in an issue of Vegetarian Times, but, true to form, I ended up changing my mind. It was mostly because it was going to be really expensive to make.

So, this year, we decided to veganize very traditional dishes, some of which I made last year, but I was able to improve upon this year. Here’s a breakdown of the dishes you see on the table:

Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

These mashed potatoes were taken from the Vegetarian Times spread I originally wanted to make. They aren’t the prettiest mashed potatoes (they look a lot different than the picture in the magazine), but they were tasty. The cumin and cayenne added a nice kick to the buttery Yukon Gold potatoes.

Green Bean Casserole

This is my take on the traditional green bean casserole. I first sautéd the onions and garlic in olive oil and a little Earth Balance. I then added the mushrooms and a little vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. After everything was browned and caramelized, I removed them from the pan so that I could create the cream base. I started by making a roux. To do this, I melted more Earth Balance in the pan and added flour. I then added the cream.

This year, I thought I’d try a new (to me) product, Unsweetened MimicCreme. My only complaint was that, out of the container, it had a very sweet, almost marshmallow-like smell despite being unsweetened. It made me a little nervous, but once I incorporated it into the roux and the sautéd onions and mushrooms, it took on a much more savory aroma. I’ll definitely be using this again for anything that calls for heavy cream.

Once I had the mushroom cream base, I added frozen haricot verts and warmed them a bit in the pan. I then added some of the fried onions to the green beans and then transferred the entire mixture to a casserole dish. I baked uncovered for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees and then topped it with the rest of the fried onions. I put it back into the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Sage and Apple Stuffing

My stuffing last year wasn’t all that great, so I wanted to make up for it this year — and I think I succeeded. I used a little help by picking up a couple of packages of vegan stuffing from Whole Foods that already contained some seasoning.

I started by sautéing onions, celery and carrots in olive oil. I then added a clove of garlic and cooked the mixture a bit longer. After that, I added two Honeycrisp apples, chopped into small cubes. After sautéing a little longer, I added the stuffing mix, a couple of teaspoons of sage, and salt and pepper. From there, I started ladling in the vegetable stock until it was at the desired consistency. I then scooped it all into a buttered casserole dish and baked it alongside the Greenbean Casserole.

Sweet Potato Balls with Caramel Sauce (sauce not shown)

It would not be Thanksgiving in my family without this decadent sweet potato dish. My mom makes these every year. My husband doesn’t quite understand my family’s obsession with them, but he’s just weird. How can you not like mashed sweet potatoes wrapped around a marshmallow, rolled in crushed corn flakes, then baked until the marshmallow melts and topped with a rich caramel sauce? It’s like dessert for dinner. Does it get any better than that?

But, needless to say, the original version of these little beauties is not vegan. So, for a Thanksgiving potluck with friends last year, I set out to make them my own. Last year’s effort turned out well, but I made a few tweaks to make them even better this year. For example, I opted to make them a little smaller and I made sure to stick with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, instead of the Whole Food’s brand I used last year. The Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are lighter and make for a crispier coating.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

3 lbs sweet potatoes
3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp almond or soy milk
3 cups crushed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Dandies Vegan Marshmallows
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into even cubes. Boil until soft. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg replacer and water until frothy. Mash the cooked sweet potatoes with a potato masher and then add the egg replacer/water mixture and the milk to the potatoes.

Take two marshmallows and mash them together so that they stick together. Form the mashed sweet potatoes around the marshmallows, then roll in the crushed corn flakes. Place into a lightly greased pan. Repeat until all the mashed sweet potatoes are gone. I made my balls a little larger than a golf ball and I was able to get exactly 15 of them out of the recipe. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until you see the marshmallow oozing out.

To make the sauce, simply combine the brown sugar, MimicCreme, flour and vanilla into a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until combined and the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Spoon the sauce over the sweet potato balls. Try not to eat too many in one sitting. I dare you.

In addition to the recipes above, we included a Field Roast Celebration Roast. I also made a delicious brown gravy recipe that I got from “Vegan Diner.”

And what Thanksgiving feast would be complete without the cranberry sauce? I like my cranberry sauce the old-school way: out of a can. I’m not sure if the canned kind normally contains gelatin, but the Whole Foods brand does not.

And now for the best part: dessert.

Pumpkin Cheesecake With Pecan Crunch Topping

This is the second recipe I’ve made from “Vegan Pie In The Sky” and it did not disappoint. The cheesecake was really, really easy to make and turned out beautifully. Oh, and it was delicious! Each bite brought hints of pumpkin, banana and a touch of orange from the extract. The pecan crunch topping added the perfect flavor and texture to the cheesecake. I cannot recommend this dessert enough.

So, that wraps up our vegan Thanksgiving. It turned out really well and we have tons of leftovers, which is my favorite part.

If I can offer any tips, it would be to make the cheesecake the night before. Thanksgiving day, make the greenbean casserole, stuffing and sweet potato balls first and don’t bake them until close to the end. Make the gravy and caramel sauce next. Finally, while the potatoes are boiling for the mashed potatoes, go ahead and put the greenbean casserole and stuffing into the oven. After about 20 minutes, put the sweet potato balls into the oven too. And, if you can fit them, throw in the Celebration Roast (I put mine in a dish with vegetable stock to keep it moist) and the rolls last.

Enjoy!

Cosmos Apple Pie from ‘Vegan Pie In The Sky’

It was a cold, rainy day yesterday (which explains the poorly lit picture above) and the perfect day to make the Cosmos Apple Pie from “Vegan Pie In The Sky.” This was my very first experience with making a pie. I’ve always been intimated by the idea of rolling out the crust (especially since I have zero counter space), but this was a lot easier than I had expected.

I opted to use the Olive Oil Double Crust recipe. And while I think I could use a little more practice, it still came out really buttery and flaky, almost like a strudel crust. It wasn’t a super-dense crust, which I actually liked. (I’m more of a “team cake” person than a “team pie” person.)

Anyway, if you’re new to pie making or looking for a quick and delicious recipe for a good, old-fashioned apple pie, I highly recommend it!

Vegan Doughnuts and Thanksgiving Plans

So, who travels across the country to San Francisco and comes home with a doughnut pan as a souvenir? Why, I do, of course.

I had to go to San Francisco for work last week and stayed an extra couple of days for fun. My friends and I ventured over to the Ferry Building, which has tons of gourmet food and wine shops, including a  Sur la Table.

My husband and I have been wanting a doughnut pan so that we could try out the vegan doughnuts featured in “Vegan Yum Yum.” For some reason, our Bed Bath & Beyond doesn’t carry doughnut pans, so I couldn’t resist when I came across one in Sur la Table. The pan I purchased is for full-size doughnuts and her recipe is for mini doughnuts, but it wasn’t an issue.

I didn’t have any chocolate chips to melt, so we stuck with basic powdered-sugar doughnuts. They were so easy to make; I had fresh doughnuts in about 20 minutes. And it only took about 5 minutes to devour them all.

On another note, I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Last year, my husband and I put together our very first 100-percent vegan Thanksgiving meal. We stuck with the basics and I was so pleased with the results.

This year, we’ve decided to step it up a few notches and try a spread that was featured in the November/December 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. The recipes come from the book, “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by Bryant Terry, which I don’t have in my collection, but I’m planning on purchasing soon.

I’ve been wanting to make this meal for a long time, so I’m really excited to give it a shot. The menu includes:

Butternut Squash-Bartlett Pear Soup
Citrus Collards with Raisins
Smothered Seitan Medallions in Mixed Mushroom Gravy
Carrot-Cranberry-Walnut Salad
Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

The only thing I’m changing is the dessert. The spread in the magazine features a delicious-looking Chocolate-Pecan Pudding Pie, but I’m going to switch it out for the Pumpkin Cheesecake With Pecan Crunch Topping in the new “Vegan Pie In The Sky” from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

If all turns out well, I hope to have lots of pictures (hopefully better than the blurry shot I took last year) and lots of comments about the food.

I hope everyone is well!