The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Yield:  3-6 x 3.5 loafs

Sharon's Vegan Fruitcake 2Forget everything you thought you knew about fruitcakes, the cake everyone loves to hate…

To say this is the best fruitcake I have ever eaten would not be saying much…you’ve heard the joke about there being only one fruitcake in the world and it is just passed around year after year?

However, this indescribably moist cake may be one of the Top 5 cakes I have ever eaten, period.  Okay, maybe 10 ’cause there are a lot of delectable cakes out there.  But this one is like no other.

My dear friend, Sharon Tanner, an excellent cook, and her brother, with professional cooking experience, decided one year that, surely, there had to be a way to make a fruitcake that people would actually wanted to eat.  I mean, come on, why should fruit, nuts, flour, sugar, etc. not taste delicious in combination?  So they began experimenting and arrived at a recipe so intensely delicious–it packs a wallop as she says–that they even considered selling them at one time.  I, for one, would line up to purchase.

Instead, though, she generously shared her recipe with me and gave me permission to share with you.  Originally, the cake was not vegan, but she asked me how I would veganize it so that she could make me and a couple of other friends mini-loaves.  I recommended that, for every egg, she substitute 1/4 cup moisture of some kind, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  She did, using her homemade apple butter (apple butter contains no “butter”) as the moisture, though it is readily available in grocery stores.  Butter was never an issue because, according to Sharon, “eliminating butter makes the cakes better, denser and they hold their shape and slice much better.”  When all is said and done, there is no way the non-vegan version could be any better than this vegan one.

What’s the secret?  There are a few.  One is that this cake contains NO candied or crystalized fruit nor maraschino cherries.  Nada.  But it is chock full of dried fruits, which points to another secret: a combination of various dried fruits for subtle flavor notes.  And the second is the amount of nuts and, again, the variety of types.  Sharon recommends “Cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates, prunes, pineapple, blueberries, apricots in any combination. I think it’s best heavy on the cherries and should include pineapple.  Mixed nuts can be heavy on walnuts, but can include pecans, almonds and Brazil nuts.”

So, with no further ado…ta-da, a fruitcake that will have ‘em beggin’ for more!

3 cups dried (not candied!) fruit, finely chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups mixed nuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup flour
3/4 sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup apple butter with spices (prepared or homemade)
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons rum, divided
Note: fruit and nut pieces should be slightly smaller than a pencil eraser, according to SHaron.
Line 3-6 x 3.5″ loaf pans with greased parmchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine dried fruits and nuts.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Sprinkle over fruits and nuts, toss to combine, and then fold in apple butter and vanilla.  It will eventually all stick together, but you may sprinkle in a touch of water if needed to help all of the ingredients combine, as the batter is very forgiving.  Moisten hands with water and press 1/3 of the batter into each pan.  Bake 50 to 60 minutes; the cakes will puff a bit and then settle as they cool.  Once they have cooled enough to handle, remove them from the pans, and douse them with 2 tablespoons rum on all sides.   Wrap well in waxed paper, leave unrefrigerated, and in about 2 days, unwrap and douse them again with 2 more tablespoons of rum, making sure to soak the bottoms, as well.  If possible, 2 days later, unwrap and do a third and final dousing of rum, rewrap, and then serve the next day or shortly thereafter.  Delicious served at room temperature or slightly heated.  Note:  one of Sharon’s friend’s mother recommends using apple brandy instead of rum and keeping a slice of raw apple wrapped for a bit with each cake.
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Red and Green Snow Day SaladBaby, it’s cold outside!…and we are deliciously snowed in yet again.  So I made this simple, filling, and quite beautiful salad for lunch yesterday out of ingredients I had on hand.

I rarely allow myself Fritos, but they are vegan, make perfect little scoops, and I love that they contain no palm oil, just corn oil for that rich “corny” taste.  (They were “on hand” due to a Frito Chili Pie craving on Sunday night.)

The sald is best after the flavors are allowed to marry for a few hours or even overnight.  The onion becomes fairly pronounced, so if you are only but so passionate about onion, use 2 instead of 3 green ones.

1-15.5 ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced (a yellow or orange bell pepper would be lovely too–I used an orange one in the salad I photographed)

2 celery hearts, diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

3-4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh minced dill (or 1 teaspon dried)

1/8-1/4 teaspoon black salt (or sea salt, but you will not get the sulphery “boiled egg” flavor)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Gently toss together all ingredients in a medium bowl, check for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and enjoy with the chips or crackers of your choice.  It time allows, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

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Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache TartsYield: 4- 41/2 inch tarts

(Note: just scroll down a bit to skip the back story.)

Recently, I was longing after salted caramel and chocolate ganache tarts taunting me from the bakery case at Starbucks.  So when I read that coconut sugar–the last of the Navitas Naturals products I had the privilege of taste testing–is known for its caramel-like flavor, I knew exactly what I would make.  I just wasn’t sure how.

The ganache is, of course, simple with vegan chocolate chunks or chips melted with the non-dairy creamer of your choice.  However, the caramel and the chocolate crust were another matter.

I have a go-to no-fail recipe for caramel sauce, but this caramel needed to be firm enough to cut through without oozing all over the plate.  But not so hard or sticky that follow-up dental care would be required.

So, I veganized a caramel tart filling recipe I found online that called for sugar, cream and butter.  But the amount of sugar proved woefully skimpy and I could tell the filling wasn’t going to stiffen, so I added another 1/4 cup.  That still didn’t do the trick even after some refrigeration, so I decided to return the mixture to a saucepan and cook it to either the soft ball or firm ball stage.  Ultimately, I decided on the latter.  A good decision, as it turns out.

The coconut sugar is rich brown in color and definitely boasts a different flavor than either granulatedor brown sugar.  Instead of the molasses notes of the latter, coconut sugar really does have a distinct, if subtle, hint of caramel-like flavor, as billed.  And I liked it a lot.

For the chocolate crust, I didn’t want a cookie crumb variety but a bona fide rolled tart crust.  It’s a little more work, but worth it, according to one of my experienced tasters, who mentioned how tasty the crust was.  I found the perfect recipe online thanks to Martha Stewart, a longtime trusted source,  ex-con though she may be–ha!   I easily veganized it by substituting vegan butter for its dairy cousin, and the resulting dough was ideal: tasty, not too sweet (though I did add an extra tablespoon of sugar), and beautifully manageable.

I had planned to place a pecan half on top along with a sprinkling of Maldon flaky sea salt, but all I had in the freezer were pecan pieces, so a cashew half was the perfect buttery topknot.  I ordered my Maldon online, but any super flaky salt–like snow flakes–will do.  Coarse sea salt will work in a pinch.

Two of the tarts went to our vet and his wife, an LVT who also manages their practice because, together, they are responsible for saving the life of our beloved and food-obsessed 85-lb Great Dane X via text and phone call on Sunday, as she had swallowed a (vegan) burger whole when I had gone upstairs to get my camera to photograph it.  All would have been fine had said burger not been topped with a 3-inch red plastic toothpick speared through a dill pickle slice.  The purge “cocktail” they coached me through worked like a charm and all came up the way it went down.  The remaining decadence went to a dear friend, along with an arm-knitted scarf, whose birthday was on Wednesday.  All were delivered in the snow late Monday afternoon which, if a little dicey, was a lot of fun.

Both sets of recipients–one, a self-proclaimed salted caramel and chocolate afficianado and the other a foodie and outstanding cook in her own right–pronunced every morsel of these tarts utter perfection.  And, of course, I hope you will agree!

 

Chocolate Rolled Crust

2 cups flour

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or any granulated sugar; I typically use demerara)

3/4 cup cold butter, cut in small cubes

1 teaspoon espresso powder dissolved in 1/3 cup cold water (or 1/3 cup cold brewed coffee)

Place four, cocoa powder, sugar and butter cubes in food processor and pulse until butter resembles small peas.  Drizzle with coffee and pulse until dough comes together, scraping sides as necessary, adding a few more drops of coffee or water if necessary to make a pliable dough.  Turn onto a work surface lightly sprinkled with cocoa powder and knead a few times.  Press into a 1-inch thick rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 45 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator and let rest for 5 minutes.  Roll out to 1/8 inch thick between pieces of parchment paper.  Place however many 4 1/2-inch tart pans will fit on dough and, with a small paring knife, cut out circles around them, allowing enough width to fit in sides of pans.  Gather up scraps, kneading a couple of times, and rerolling in order to have enough dough for all 4 shells.  Fit each circle of dough into the tart pans, press onto bottom and sides and trim edges.  Lightly prick bottom and sides and, for extra assurance against puffing and shrinking, place a square of parchment paper in each, weigh down with raw rice or dried beans, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove paper and rice or beans and bake an additional 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

 

Vegan Caramel Filling, Chocolate Ganache, and Garnish

1 cup coconut sugar (or any granulated sugar; I typically use demerara)

2/3 cup plain non-dairy creamer

1/3 cup vegan butter

Vegan Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)

4 whole or halved cashews

1/2 teaspoon Maldon Sea Salt (or the super-flaky sea salt of your choice)

Place coconut sugar, non-dairy creamer and vegan butter in a small saucepan (I used a non-stick pan) and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan with tip immersed in the caramel, but not touching the bottom of the pan, and cook to the firm ball stage (250 degrees) or just below (245 degrees).  Remove from heat and pour caramel into tart shells, dividing evenly.  Cool, spread a circle of Vegan Chocolate Ganache on top allowing caramel to show around hte perimeter, garnish with a nut and a pinch of sea salt, cover, and refrigerate.

 

Vegan Chocoalte Ganache

1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer (I typically use soy or coconut milk)

1/2 vegan chocolate chips or chunks (I like a dark chocolate variety)

In a small microwave safe bowl, combine creamer and chococlate.  Heat for 30 seconds, whisk, heat for another 30 to 60 seconds, whisk again, and cool.  Note: you may have some ganache left over.

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Chocolate, Cream Cheese, and Hazelnut PateThis recipe was born of some leftover ganache (unheard of, I know), some frozen cake trimmings from my Vegan Chocolate Heart Cakes for Valentine’s Day, and slick snow conditions on the road.  Read: what can I create that won’t require a trip to the grocery store so that I won’t simply tuck into this ganache with a spoon?

The answer proved to be chocolate pate, but one a little different from other recipes, as mine calls for some vegan cream cheese to prevent the chocolate from taking over–tang is a good ‘thang–and some chocolate cake crumbs for a nice textural contrast. Like most other chocolate pates, mine is not too sweet, which is also a good thing…sometimes.

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup chocolate ganache, room temperature (if you don’t have some on-hand, just melt together about 3 tablespoons vegan chocolate chunks or chips–I like dark chocolate–with about 5 tablespoons non-dairy creamer and allow to cool)

Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons non-dairy creamer (soy or coconut milk)

1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts

1 cup crumbled vegan chocolate cake or brownie crumbs

Acccompaniments: Ever-so-slightly sweet vegan crackers of cookies, like a shortbread and fruit

Line a pair of 1/2 cup ramkins with plastic wrap and set aside.  With a hand or stand mixer, whip together cream cheese and ganache until fluffy.  Whip in an additional tablespoon or two of non-dairy creamer if mixture is too stiff to be fluffy.  Fold in hazelnuts and crumbs; mixture will be firm.  Divide equally between ramkins, pressing firmly, and sealing the top with the “tails” of the plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for several hours or until firm.  Unmold, bring to room temperature, and serve with the cracker or cookie of your choice and, if desired, fruit.

Chocolate, Cream Cheese, and Hazelnut Pate--cut open

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GO Veggie! recently posted to their website two of my newest recipes made with their delicious vegan cheese products. Check out the cheesy goodness:

Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread

Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese

Go Veggie Smoky Cheddar Spread

 

Southwestern Mac-n-Cheese--horizontal

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Turmeric-Tamari Black Bean BurgerYield: 4 burgers

This delicious vegan burger was inspired by a “care package” from the good folks at Navitas Naturals filled with three items to test: Cacao Powder, Turmeric-Tamari Almonds, and Coconut Sugar.

(Note: these burgers would be equally delicious, albeit with a different flavor profile, made with other flavored almonds of your choice.)

All three products earned big thumb’s up from me when tasted separately and prepared as part of a specially-created recipe, including my Vegan Hot Chai Cocoa prepared with the Cacao Powder and my utterly decadent Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganach Tarts prepared with the coconut sugar which I will post soon.

I decided to incorporate the almonds into one of my no-fail burgers.  For The Blooming Platter Cookbook, I developed a formula for a chewy, moist burger that holds together beautifiully and can be adapted a multitude of ways.  And it took several tries to get it right!  The key ingredients are cooked beans or legumes, nuts, vital wheat gluten, and raw oats plus onion, celery, and bell pepper (or,in this case, winter greens) for flavor and mositure, and the spices of your choice.  All of the ingredients go into the food processor and in minutes a beautiful burger is born.

For this recipe, I served the patty open-face on a toasted pretzel roll (so perfect with a slight tang from vinegar baked into the dough), a “schmear” of vegan mayo, some baby kale leaves, a slice of GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Pepperjack Cheese, a fat round of Roma tomato, a dollop of Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo inspired by the almonds, and a dill pickle slice speared on top.

Our beloved 85-lb. Great Dane mutt, Minnie, and I loved them: she ate the first one that I had staged for a photo while I had run upstairs to get my camera, red plastic spear and all.  I’ll spare you all of the disgusting details, but a frantic text to our vet resulted in my making a special “cocktail” involving 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide that would bring it all back up and prevent that 3-inch red plastic spear from doing any intestinal damage.  It worked like a charm and, if interested, you can read about it here.

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion

1/3 cup coarsely chopped celery

1/2 cup coarsely chopped winger greens (I used mustard greens)

1/2 cup Navitas Naturals Turmeric-Tamari Almonds (or another similarly flavored almond of your choice)

1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

1 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil (I typically use canola)

2 Pretzel Rolls, halved and toasted

4 tablespoons Vegan Mayonnaise

1 cup baby kale leaves (or another lettuce or green)

Optional: 4 slices vegan cheese (I use GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Pepperjack Slices

4 thick slices Roma tomato

Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo (recipe follows)

4 dill pickle slices

In a food processor, combine the garlic, onion, celery, winter greens, and almonds.  Pulse until minced. Add the beans, oats, vital wheat gluten, tamari, olive oil, water, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Process until well combined, but avoid over-mixing as the vital wheat gluten can toughen. The consistency should be similar to a very stiff cookie dough, so add another tablespoon or 2 of water if necessary.  Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 3/4-inch thick, and transfer to a plate. Heat a thin layer of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high and cook the patties for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil if necessary.  If including cheese, place a slice on top of each patty during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking on the second side. To serve, spread each toasted pretzel roll half with 1 tablespoon of mayo, top with 1/4 of greens, a burger patty, a slice of tomato, 1/4 of the Turmeric-Tamari Mayo, and a folded dill pickle slice speared through the top.

 

Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1 teaspoon tamari

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Whisk together all ingredients in a small cup or bowl.  Taste and adjust with more tamari or turmeric of desired.

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Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms and Water ChestuntsYield: approximately 6 cups

Baby, it’s cold outside!  At least it is here in Eastern VA where we are expected to experience the southern edge of the winter storm headed for New England.  A warning is scheduled from 7 p.m. this evening until 4 p.m. tomorrow.  Yippee….Snow Day!

When snow is on it’s way, there is only one thing to do: make sure there is delcious, nutritious, body-and-soul warming food ind the house.  And this dip (which is darn tasty in a baked potato) fits that bill.

Inspired by the Super Bowl–you have to have dip during that game of games, no?–and by a bountiful box of GO Veggie! vegan cheeses kindly sent to me to test, I incorporated three kinds of cheesiness to achieve the flavor and texture I was after.

I am a new fan of GO Veggie! cheeses, having only discovered that the company makes vegan products (look for the purple label) when they contacted me recently, as the Kroger where I shop only stocks the vegetarian varieties.  With nice mild flavor, texture, and meltability, all they lack is “stretch,” and I can live with that.  Find a store near you.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced (or 1/2 medium onion)

Sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1-8 ounce carton GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Chive and Garlic  Cream Cheese

1/2  to 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or dried oregano)

2-14 ounce cans artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained well, and chopped

3 cups coarsely chopped and lightly packed fresh mustard greens (feel free to use the greens of your choice, e.g. kale, spinach, Swiss Chard, etc.)

1-7 to 8 ounce cansliced  mushrooms, drained (I almost always use fresh everything, but canned are perfect for this)

1-8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained

1-8 ounce package GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Mozzarella Shreds

1/2 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping, divided

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Garnish: smoked or plain paprika

Accompaniments: chips  or crackers of your choice (I bought the beet tortilla chips in the photograph in T. J. Maxx–tasty and such a pretty contrast with the green dip!)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add, garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Add the cream cheese and Italian seasoning and stir until melted,lowering heat at any point if necessary.  Stir in artichoke hearts followed by greens, one cup at a time, allowing each cup to wilt before adding next cup.  Then stir in mushrooms, water chustnuts, mozzarella shreds, and 1/4 cup parmesan topping, stirring until mozzarella is completely melted.  Season to taste with additional sea salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.  At this point, you may transfer into a greased casserole dish if you like, but I baked it right in the skillet.  Sprinkle the top with remaining parmesan and sliced almonds.   Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with smoked or plan paprika and serve hot with chips or crackers.

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Hot Chai Cocoa--Navitas Naturals

Though my Countdown ended yesterday, I promised a “Beverage Bonus” recipe today.  Enjoy it while you are preparinig your Valentine my Red Velvet Pancakes, or anytime tyou need to warm body and soul.

When Navitas Naturals kindly sent me their Cacao Powder to test, I thought to myself, “Really?  How much difference can there be between their product and my grocery store variety?”  The answer is “Considerable.”

My hunch is that when cocoa powder is one of a number of ingredients in a recipe, the difference is less pronounced.  So, I decided to conduct a side-by-side informal taste test of the pure powder.

I moistened my finger, dipped it into my Kroger brand cocoa powder and put it straight in my mouth, closing my eyes and trying to really analyze its flavor.  Then I drank a little water and repeated my test with Navitast Naturals Cacao Powder.  There was a notable difference.  My go-to cocoa powder was extremely mild in terms of chocolate flavor, a bit chalky, and pretty one dimensional in terms of flavor.  The Cacao Powder, on the other hand, had a more intense chocolate flavor of greater complexity and depth without the same chalkiness, not to mention more nutrition and a darker color.

So, Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder?  I’ll drink to that.

And here’s how I drink it:

Hot Chai Cocoa

1-1 1/2 cup serving (easily multiplies)

Note: I have also made this hot cocoa with other tea, like a Chocolate Hazelnut variety that I like, and it was delicious, with the tea imparting a subtle earthiness.  Use any tea that seems compatible with chocolate: mint, orange, raspberry, etc.

1/2 cup water

1 Chai tea bag (or any flavor you wish)

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 1/2 tablespoons Navitas Natural Cacao Powder (or, okay, your favorite brand of cocoa powder)

1 cup unsweetened or plain soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk; I prefer soy for its protein content)

Place water and tea bag in a large mug and heat on hi in microwave for 30 seconds.  Lift out tea bag, add remaining ingredients, whisking after each, replace tea bag, and microwave for an additional 1 1/2 minutes.  Squeeze tea bag over cocoa mixture, discard bag, whisk mixture again, and enjoy.

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I thought that breakfast for your Valentine would be the perfect note on which to wrap up my Countdown to Valentine’s Day 2015.

And for that, nothing beats my Vegan Red Velvet Pancakes for real Red Velvet Cake flavor–not just color!–texture, and spectacular presentation.

If you would like a little savory side for your plate ‘o cakes, you will love my vegan sausage “Heart Tarts”: simply beautiful heart-shaped puff pastry tarts with a vegan “sausage”  and bell pepper filling.

Stay tuned, for tomorrow I offer a breakfast bonus…just have some flavored tea bags, cocoa powder and soymilk on hand…

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Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Layer 2My Vegan Red Velvet Brownies recipe garnered over 1,000 “likes” last year on One Green Planet!

As you’ll read in the back story, my online research produced nothing that was quite what I wanted, so I set about making my own 3-layer confection with a cream cheese-like swirl.  There were quite a few trials and errors—lots of errors (probably about 1,000 “licks”-ha!)–to arrive at just what I wanted.  But I hope you’ll agree that I finally got it.

When you click on the link above to visit the OGP site, you’ll also notice that there was a bit of controversy from folks who didn’t read the fine print about NATURAL red food color.  But, eventually, they were able to calm down and brownie on. :)

Red Velvet Brownies

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