Vegan Chocolate Chess Pie
with the Flavor and Mouthfeel of the Real Deal!

Yield: one 8-inch pieVegan Chocolate Chess Pie

I don’t know quite why I got such a hankerin’ for this pie, but I did and the first experiment was an epic fail resulting in an epic oven cleaning.

But this?  This is perfection!

Note: several hours before you plan to bake the pie, prepare the cashews:

1 cup roasted and lightly salted cashews or halves and pieces, covered with hot water in a small bowl and left to soak for 3 hours or until softened and most of water is absorbed, drained (you can use raw cashews, but I think the roasted have more of the desired rich flavor for this recipe)

1 1/2 cups natural granulated sugar (I like demerera)

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

4 tablespoons vegan butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons plain soy or almond creamer

3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like to use Hershey’s Special Dark)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 homemade or purchased 8-inch vegan pie crust, thawed (if frozen), and unbaked  (I used Marie Callender’s for the sake of time, but I much prefer homemade)

Optional accompaniments: powdered sugar, vegan whipped cream, or vegan vanilla ice cream

Optional garnish: whole cashew nuts or pecan halves

Preheat over to 300 degrees.  In a food processor, puree drawined cashews for 3 or so minutes until very smooth.  Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth and completely combined.  Scrape into thawed pie shell and gently smooth top.  Bake for 45 minutes or until set.  Cool on a wire rack, cover, and chill for a couple of hours before slicing and serving plain or with a drift of powdered sugar, a dollop of vegan whipped cream, or a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream.  Garnish, if desired, with a cashew nut or pean half.

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Vegan Spinach-Three Bean Dip and Enchilada/Bell Pepper Filling–A Hit with Non-Vegan Teens!

Tofutti Enchiladas

This dip has always been a hit with my National Art Honor Society students since I introduced it a few years ago, wanting to serve them something tasty, but nutritious at our after school meetings.  We had our first meeting of the year about 10 days agao, and the officers specially requested it.

There was some left over, as we had a LOT of food for the induction ceremony and kick-off.  So, I rolled scoops up inside tortillas and some inside a halved red bell pepper; spooned homemade, slightly chunky enchilada sauce over the top of each; and baked them about 20 minutes (30 for the peppers) for some of the best enchiladas around!

They are perfect for a family dinner, but they reheat beautifully for satisfying lunches.  All you need is a microwave.


Vegan Spinach-Three Bean Dip or Enchilada/Bell Pepper Filling:


1 1/2 cups Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream

1 1/2 cups vegan mayonnaise

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 envelopes (1 box) dry vegetable soup mix

2-9 or 10 ounce boxes frozen spinach, thawed, and moisture squeezed out

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 can white beans or dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Pinch coarse sea salt to taste

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients, separating strands of spinach with your fingers as you add it. Check for salt and add a pinch to bring out flavors if desired. Serve cold with your favorite dippers.  Or, roll up inside tortillas, place in an oiled pan, top with your favorite homemade or prepared salsa verde or enchilada sauce, bake about 20 minutes and serve topped with more Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream and the garnish if your choice.  I like a slice of lime and a few toasted pepitas.  Note:  you can use any beans you prefer, even all of one kind.  To make stuffed peppers, stem, seed, and half a red bell pepper, mound slightly with the filling, top with the enchilada sauce, and bake for about 30 minutes or until peppers are tender.  Cover with foil if sauce in the bottom of the pan starts to scorch.

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On the 6th Day of Christmas…Vegan Peppermint Fudge!

Peppermint FudgeThis is about the most festive–and tastiest, not to mention easiest–candy going!   Peppermint Fudge is so nice to have on hand in the fridge when friends and family stop by.  And it looks so beautiful on the fanciest of tables.  But, once the mixture is chilled, I’m guessing–though I’ve not tried it yet–you could roll the mixture in little balls and then into very finely crushed peppermint for an even more formal truffle.

What I have done when I was in a rush is add just a drop of peppermint extract to the chocolate mixture, forgo the peppermint topping and stand some peppermints up in a pretty glass next to the platter of fudge.

This year, I went to three stores and could not find those “chalky”  peppermint sticks (not the slick ones), but I needed to run into the Dollar Tree for a few things and there they were at the checkout.  So, if you have a Dollar Tree in your area, check there.

Cut the pieces small, this is some very rich fudge!  The secret?  (Vegan) coconut cream (available with cocktail mixers in the grocery store) replaces non-vegan condensed milk!  And I use a mixture of both melted vegan chocolate and cocoa.  Yowza!


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Vegan Cookbook Review: “Vegan Desserts in Jars” by Kris Holechek Peters

Vegan Desserts in Jars 2If you don’t have time to read this review, I’ll cut to the chase: I would certainly purchase for myself or as a gift this colorful little book of diminutive treats  baked and served in canning jars.  But, lucky me, I received a complimentary  review copy.  Available as a paperback or on Kindle, it will delight all the bakers on your holiday list.

Perhaps known best for her blog,, Peters is also the author of four cookbooks, including Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.  Her casual, peppy, and conversational writing style makes for a fun, quick read of  Vegan Desserts in Jars front material and both its chapter and individual recipe introductions.

Don’t be surprised by how thin this little paperback is.  At only 124 pages, it nonetheless serves up some 75 tempting recipes and lots of tantalizing color photos.  I, for one, appreciate a small focused cookbook.  Over my years of cooking, I have found that it is the rare cookbook from which I have made more than a handful of recipes.  And, other than my Joy of Cooking, which fit the bill as an introductory cookbook covering all the basics when I was a kid, I tend to shy away from encyclopedic tomes.

With nine chapters, from no-bake treats to cakes, pies, pastry and much more, it was difficult to decide what to bake first for this review.  Ultimately, I decided to go fairly basic with ingredients I had on hand and chose chocolate cakelettes.  Many of the adorable sweets in this book are made with fresh summer ingredients like berries and peaches.  Sure, they are available year-round in grocery stores, but as a seasonal cook, I will make myself wait until summer rolls around again.

I found the “Basic Chocolate Cake” recipe to be a  keeper.  *It makes 6 cakelettes in 4-ounce canning jars that rise up nice and high begging for a swirl of frosting on their perfect little domes.  I had recently purchased a set of 12 canning jars for a few dollars at my local Kroger so I was ready to go when the mood struck.  I plan on giving this first batch of festive little treats to the office staff at the high school where I teach.  BUT I plan on asking for the jars back so that I can reuse them in the future.

If I were serving these individual cakes at home, I would make as is.  However, if making them again to give as gifts, I would probably fill the jars half-full–and make a dozen instead of six–so that I could fit the lids on.  They would still be ample  desserts, but would be more easily transportable, staying fresh to boot.

Also, my oven seems to bake pretty true to temperature, but I found that I needed to cook the cakes just a couple of minutes longer than the longest baking time specified.  The simple wooden pick test will make sure yours are perfect.  Perhaps, though, I needed to bake mine a bit longer because I can’t leave any recipe alone, including my own!  To this batter, I added 1/4 cup of the new PB2 (powdered, lower fat calorie peanut butter that you mix with water) to the batter and a glug of Creme de Cacao (maybe 1 to 2 tablespoons).  Though the recipe was just lovely as published–I tasted the batter, of course–my additions were a delicious twist.  So you might keep that in mind when you’re making this (or any) chocolate cake recipe!

Under “About the Author” in the back of the book, I read that Peters “practices lots of yoga.”  She’d have to in order to “balance” the calorie damage done from testing the tantalizing treats in this book!

*Note that I just used the book cover as a photo to accompany this review because the lighting for photography is catch as catch can this weekend and my cakes baked up just as shown on the back left, only mine puffed up even higher.

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Review: New Reformulated Nayonaise and Nayonaise–Whipped Vegan Mayo

NayonaiseRecently, the kind folks at Nasoya–whose tofu I purchase frequently–generously sent me samples of their newly reformulated Nayonaise and Nayonaise–Whipped vegan mayo/sandwich spread.

I refrigerated it for a couple of days so that I could conduct a taste test, enjoying it as I would actually eat it.  During that test, because I wasn’t mixing it with other food, I took TINY tastes, but I took quite a few in order to accurately compare these products to my standard Grapeseed Vegenaise (Note: when I reference Vegenaise below, it is the Grapeseed variety.)

If, as a cookbook author (The Blooming Platter:  A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes, 2011), I have learned anything, it is that people’s palates are as different as the people themselves.  So, I would be very hesitant to suggest that one product tastes “better” than another.  Rather, I prefer to share what I perceive as differences, and encourage you to taste and decide on a preference for yourself.  Plus, I think where one was brought up has more than a little to do with one’s preference!

All three products have a list of benefits as long as your arm!  So, please visit the Nasoya website for complete nutrition information on Nayonaise as well as recipes.  One benefit on the Nayonaise scorecard worth mentioning here is that it contains 10% of the recommended daily allowance of B-12 and is a good source of Omega-3 ALA.

Nayonaise--WhippedBut, in general, I focused on color, taste and texture in my informal test.  However, those of you counting calories might appreciate knowing that Nayonaise has less than half as many calories as Vegenaise: 40 vs. 90 per tablespoon.

In terms of color, Vegenaise is the whitest.  So if pure color is important to your recipe, I would recommend it.  Both Nayonaise varieties have a pale warmth to their color, with the Whipped version having the most.  This is likely due to the inclusion of turmeric, paprika and garlic powder in the ingredients of both Nayonaise products.

In terms of taste, I found Vegenaise to be the most neutral.  Again, the turmeric, paprika and garlic powder no doubt give the Nayonaise a more distinctive flavor.  Distinctive is not necessarily better–or worse– just a little more pronounced, so I would make a decision based on how I planned to use it.

To my palate, Vegenaise has decidedly tangy-salty notes (though the lowest amount of sodium), while I found tanginess with just a hint of sweetness to be the most pronounced characteristic of Nayonaise and tangy-sweetness to be the most pronounced of Nayonaise–Whipped (which has just 5 more mg. of sodium than Vegenaise).    The differences in “tang” can no doubt be explained, in part, by the fact that apple cider vinegar (a fairly mild vinegar, as vinegars go) is the 4th ingredient listed on the Vegenaise label, while plain vinegar is the third ingredient listed on the Nayonaise labels.

It has been many years since I tasted non-vegan mayo but, based on my best recollection, I would suggest that Vegenaise perhaps has more in common with Hellman’s mayonnaise while Nayonaise with a sandwich spread like Miracle Whip.  I always felt that Miracle Whip tasted like it contained pickle relish, and I detected the same hints from, especially, the Nayonaise–Whipped.  I love pickle relish, but not necessarily in every recipe that calls for mayonnaise, so I would choose accordingly.

And, finally, in terms of texture, while all were creamy, I would say that Vegenaise is fluffier than Nayonaise, including the Whipped variety, which I didn’t find appreciably different in texture than the non-whipped.  Nayonaise contains Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum which probably accounts for what I can only describe as a consistency similar to a condensed canned soup before it is heated, a texture I didn’t perceive in Vegenaise.

So, that’s it: the results of my quickie taste test.  Thanks, again, to Nasoya for sharing their new take on Nayonaise with me so that I could share it with you.  We now have two new options for slathering on our fresh tomato sandwiches this summer!

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Classic Vegan Gingerbread Cake

DSCN0753Yield: 1 9-inch bundt cake

I think  I am obsessed with veganizing Cook’s Country/Cook’s Illustrated recipes!

My latest redux is their Classic Gingerbread Cake.  And it is special!

It may well be the moistest and most deeply  and complexly flavored cakes you will ever enjoy.  I credit the Guinness Stout and the fresh grated ginger, among other things.

Find my recipe HERE at One Green Planet!

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The Blooming Platter Now Offers a New Print Friendly Feature for Each Recipe

Printing any recipe from The Blooming Platter just got ridiculously easy!

I am excited to direct your attention to this brand new feature in case it has escaped your attention.  Just look for the green “Print Friendly” button at the bottom of every recipe.

It’s simple to use, looks great, prints great, and gives you some nifty options as you can see in the photo: creating a pdf, emailing it to a friend, choosing a point size for the text, and printing without the photos to save ink.  Plus, “The Blooming Platter” name and the recipe’s url are both included at the top so you can remember where you found it.

I hope you’ll enjoy using this new convenience ad much as I enjoyed making it available.

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Vegan Dog Bone Sugar Cookies…for Humans

Yield:  approximately 25 cookies

Yesterday  morning, a TV crew from WVEC Channel 13 came to our house to interview “Team Huff”:  all of the good folks, including our Great Dane, Huff, responsible for “Man’s Best Friend” becoming a Top Five Finalist in the “Doritos Crash the Superbowl” commercial competition!  (Click on the link to watch the commercial, the blooper ad reel, see the Huff Pics of the Day and VOTE to put them in a Top Two slot which will mean the commercial will be aired on the Superbowl!)

I wanted to serve everyone a little something, though I knew no one would want food stuck in their teeth on camera.  My pal and vegan cookbook author extraordinaire, Bryanna Clark Grogran, recommended sugar cookies in the shape of dog bones.  Perfect!

Since my Blooming Platter Cookbook focuses on seasonal ingredients, there are no plain sugar cookies in it.  However, I have a vegan sugar cookie recipe that is very good, but calls for vegan cream cheese.  That’s not a problem except that I had little time and wanted something as streamlined as possible.  An online search turned up a recipe from The Decorated Cookie blog.  It was terrific and I recommend it highly!  Just click on the link for the easy and tasty recipe.  I wanted my cookies to suggest dog treats so I didn’t ice them, but the frosting recipe looks like a winner too.

Here’s a quick helpful tip: I was completely out of powdered sugar.  I knew a substitution could be made from granulated sugar and cornstarch so I searched on line for the proportions.  Finding two different ones, I split the difference, using 1 cup natural sugar to 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  I simply blended the mixture it in the blender to make a find powder.  (The directions I read said that a food processor wouldn’t work, so I didn’t experiment.)  The result was just right.  Be sure to scrape down the sides and blend a few times or granulated sugar will remain at the bottom of the blender.

As it turned out, everyone was too busy to eat while the taping transpired, but our guests were happy to take doggy bags of cookies with them.

Many thanks to The Decorated Cookie!




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A Flood of Storm Preparedness Tips and Recipes in Vegan Unplugged

I hope this recommendation isn’t too late for those of you who, like us in Southeastern, VA, are staring down Hurricane Irene.  However, this book is good to have on hand year-round for all kinds of disasters.

Vegan Unplugged is a manual/cookbook, written by Jon Robertson, with recipes by his wife, well-known vegan cookbook author, Robin.  It is an indispensable resource for folks who want to eat well when the lights go out!

There are loads of indispensable general tips in addition to meat- and dairy-free gourmet “pantry cuisine” recipes based on the ingenious “Five Day Meal Box” complete with a shopping list and a photo of how to pack it all in.

With this handy, helpful and very readable guide, you can treat yourself to upscale dining when the power lines are down!

Be safe!

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