Vegan Starbucks Look-Alike Cranberry Bliss Bars
‘Gotta Love Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg!

So sorry this is too late for the just-passed holidays.  But there is always next year’s celebration…or no celebration at all, just a craving for a delicious, beautiful sweet. Thanks to one of my newest creations, I need no longer stare longingly at these bars in the bakery case at Starbucks every morning on the way to school:

While I have found that most of my baked goods don’t require an egg substitute, something told me that these might in order to get just the right texture.  And something told me to try Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg.  I think the results speak for themselves.


3/4 cup vegan butter, melted and still warm
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg (powdered substitute)
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
6 ounces vegan white chocolate chips


8 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
6 ounces vegan white chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Combine warm melted butter and both sugars in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, whisk together egg replacer and water. Beat into butter mixture on medium speed, along with vanilla, just until combined. Beat in half the flour, just until combined, followed by the remaining half of flour, plus baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate chips (the batter will be thick). Spread the batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 18 to 21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add half the melted white chocolate, beating until well-blended. Frost the bars, sprinkle with cranberries, and drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. I use a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip for this task.

Store, covered, in refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving. Remove from refrigerator and allow to sit, uncovered for about a half hour. Cut into squares and then triangles to serve.

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The VERY Best Vegan Brownie–Seriously!
“Bob’s Brownies”
The Perfect Hybrid of a Chewy AND Cakey Brownie

best-browniesAfter spending most of my vegan life trying to perfect a recipe for chewy, fudgy vegan brownies, along came Bob.  His preference is for cakey.

My tasty solution was to meet somewhere in the middle.  I have removed my other “best” brownie recipe because this one tops it by alot.  For the easy recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post.  For the backstory, keep reading.

I am so ashamed that I have seemingly ignored The Blooming Platter since August 12.  This is becoming the same-old-asking-for-forgiveness song.

However, you have been on my mind.  My latest excuse is a good one; I hope you’ll agree.  First, there was my art exhibiton, “Losses and Linkages” at the World Trade Center in Norfolk, VA, on which I had worked for a year.  It broke all records, I was told, opening with 250-300 people in attendance. What a beautiful, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing experience.

Second, though, you may recall that I had plunged into in July, a year after my husband’s passing, and the results were, well, we’ll just say “mixed.”  Indeed I met some very nice, handsome, interesting men–including some I knew or knew of outside of Match, but didn’t know were “available”–yet I experienced none of that magical chemistry.  Eclipsing all else, including what we’ll just call one “bridge” relationship, is the rejection dished out on both sides…wow.  Of course, I only remember what was served up to me, including ghosting which, I’m here to tell you, is a “thing.”

To make a very long story short–which I may decide to share at some point–I “found” Bob the Sunday night after my show opened (September 16) during a window of a few hours when he lost his mind and thought he might be ready for Match.  By Monday morning, he had realized that he wasn’t ready to date and had “hidden” his profile.  But he had responded to me, so we could still email each other through the site.  I had nothing to lose, so I asked if he had removed his profile because I had reached out.  He quickly responded that, no, it was not me, it was him, and–after I shared my frustration with men who verbalized their belief that I wasn’t “ready to date”–offered his real name and his cell phone number in case I wanted his male perspective on online dating.  I did send him a follow-up text which read something like, “Thank you for your kind offer, but I won’t be reaching out to you because you have made your position very clear.”  However, after school, I checked my phone, and there was another message from him.  Several days of intense texting ensued with my thinking all the while that we were just going to be texting “friends,” yet realizing I wanted to meet this man.

Within a week, we had decided that, indeed, we should meet, first schedulinlg a date for the next Sunday and then, because we couldn’t wait, later that Saturday after my evening plans with a girl friend.  After three dates in two days–including to The Chrysler Museum for an artist’s talk and an interview I needed to conduct (Bob busied himself elsewhere)–the rest is, as they say, history. We have been together every day since.  I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that we are in a deeply committed, loving, and fun–if fast forming–relationship.  Learning how better to love this amazing man is one of the great joys of my new life.  But it hasn’t left a lot of time for my beloved blog.

Much of my time has been spent trying to figure out how to feed vegan foods to this carnivore that he will actually like.  He could never be accused of eating the healthiest diet, so I started with daily vitamins.  But I also bake weekly treats.  Here, I offer “Bob’s Brownies.”  Even if they weren’t baked with a huge helping of love, as mine are–and yours too–they would be delicious.  Enjoy!

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat for everytihng)

I cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s dark chocolate variety; but use any unsweetened cocoa powder)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola, but any with a neutral flavor is perfect)

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened soy)

1 nteaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut; my favorite “nut” loves walnuts)

1/2 cup vegan semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)

1/2 cup coconut chips or shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  *Grease an 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray and, if desired, line with an approximately 4-inch wide strip of parchment paper, and spray again. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk, and extracts.  Stir or whisk to combine, about 50 strokes.  Fold in nuts and optional chocolate chips and coconut chips or shreds. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan, gently smoothing the top, and bake approximately 37-40 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Note: parchment is optional; you will have no trouble removing thee from the pan whether you use it or not.

These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.
These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.




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Vegan Valentine’s Medley–Sweet, Savory, Quick or More Involved, Choose from these 7 Favorites

Valentines Medley 2016Picking a favorite of my Vegan Valentine’s Recipes to post would be like picking a favorite dog.  So, I want you to pick.

From a breakfast of Red Velvet Pancakes to Red Velvet Brownies for kids or a little savory “Heart Tart” for lunch or dinner–plus lots of sweets, including mints and truffles that are perfect little heart-felt gifts from your kitchen–I think you’ll find something here to love.

Just click on the links.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Clockwise from top-left:

Vegan Chocolate Truffles–created when I was disappointed with other recipes I found online.

Vegan Red Velvet Pancakes (THE BEST!)–I created these when I was dissatisfied with all of the recipes I could find online.

Vegan Red Velvet Brownies–VERy popular on One Green Planet and, again, created when I couldn’t find what I wanted after searching online.

Vegan Peppermint and Chocolate Patties–peppermint and chocolate, a marriage made in heaaven, so pretty layered in a ribbon-tied box.

Vegan Chocolate Heart Cakes–the apricot-hazelnut ganache filling is sophisticated, but simple, and the espresso-cream cheese frosting a sweet dream.

Vegan Cocoa-Dusted Chocolate Truffles–bittersweet bliss.

Vegan Savory Heart Tarts–they look fancy, but are so flavorful and easy with prepared puff pastry (center).

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Vegan Layered Fudge and Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

Layered Fudge and Pumpkin Brownies--horizontalYield: 1-8×8″ pan of brownies

These are the perfect fall treat: chocolate always understands and pumpkin is just the perfect personification of everything appealing about autumn.


Brownie Layer:

1 box or bag of brownie mix that calls for only 1 egg, and contains no dairy products in the mix (I use Marie Callender’s “Restaurant Style” 10-0unce Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix, sold locally at our Dollar Tree)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee

1/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda


Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer:

3/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Ganache Layer:

1/2 cup non-dairy creamer (like soy or coconut)

4 to 5 ounces vegan chocolate chips

Spray a metal 8 x 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.  (Optionall: cut a 3-inch wide strip of parchment paper long enough for ends to overhang sides of pan, press into bottom and up and over sides, and spray again with non stick spray.)  Make brownie layer: in a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well-combined and then whisk for 50 strokes.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Make pumpkin layer:  place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Gently smooth pumpkin mixture over the top of the brownie layer, spreading to cover.  Using a skewer or a knive, make narrow zig-zag lines through both layers from side to side, turn pan one-quarter turn, and repeat to make perpendicular lines.  Bake for 25 minutes or until brownies are set and no longer glossy on top.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  In the meantime, make ganache: heat creamer in microwave or a saucepan until very hot or just begining to bubble (about 1 minute or so in microwave).  Whisk in chocolate until melted.  Allow to rest at room temperature while brownies cool; mixture will thicken as it cools (speed process by refrigerating for a few minutes, if desired).  Gently pour and spread ganache over pumpkin layer of brownies.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours or until set before slicing and serving.




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Vegan Twilight Brownie Bites with Peanut Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting (nuggets of Twightlight bars–think vegan Milky Ways–tucked inside the best brownies ever)

Twilight Brownie Bites

Yield: 2 1/5 dozen brownie bites

Voila!  My third recipe in the trio of treats I have created so far using Go Max Go vegan candy bars (no dairy, eggs, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, artificial ingredients, or cholesterol).

Sometimes I feel that my creations are gilding the lily since the candy bars are so good on their own–7 different and delicious varieties–but when the occasion calls for something different than a candy bar, I encourage you to give these a “go”!

These dark-as-midnight brownie bites conceal hidden nuggets of Go Max Go “Twilight” bars–think vegan versions of Milk Way bars–beneath sweet fluffy swirls of peanut butter and cream cheese goodness.

1/4 cup vegan butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar (I use demerara)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

3 Go Max Go “Twilight” bars

Vegan Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Garnish: Additional “Twilight” bars, whole peanuts, and mini vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line miniature muffin tins with 30 miniature cupcake liners.  Place butter, oil, and sugar in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for about 45 seconds.  Whisk together until sugar is almost dissolved, microwaving another 10 seconds if necessary.  Add all remaining ingredients except frosting and garnishes, whisk to combine, and then whisk an additional 50 strokes.  Spoon by heaping teaspoon into prepared mini muffin tins; each should be about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake for 10 minutes or until set.  Cut each Twilight bar into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife, place one piece on top of each brownie bit and gently press to partially submerge.  (Save remaining slices from third bar for garnish.)  Cool completely, frost with Vegan Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting using a piping bag, if desired, and garnish with “Twilight” bar pieces, peanuts, and mini chocolate chips.

Vegan Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons vegan butter

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese

2 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Approximately 2 cups powdered sugar

Approximately 2 tablespoons coconut or soy creamer

Combine butter, shortening, cream cheese and peanut butter in the bowl of electric mixer and beat on high speed until fluffy.  Add extracts, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon creamer, and beat until creamy-fluffy.  Repeat with remaining powdered sugar and creamer, adjusting amounts, if necessary, to achieve desired consistency.


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Blooming Vegan Brownies: My VERY BEST Moist & Fudgy Brownies

Very Best Moist Fudgy Vegan Brownies 5Yield: 1-8″ pan or 9 to 16 brownies (to double, I recommend baking in 2-8″ pans, rather than in a 9 x 13″ pan)


Stop!  Toss out any other brownie recipes. Seriously, this is the only one you’ll ever need!

Recently, one of my students brought the darkest, most beautifully textured brownies that I have ever seen to a meeting.  I resisted as long as I could and then took a tiny pinch for the sake of research and just about swooned.

When I remarked on how deep and darkly fudgy they were, she explained that it was her use of cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate.  But, in fact, it was the amount of cocoa powder, because my formerly “best” brownie recipe calls for cocoa powder, as well, and they are no comparison…and they have one-third less cocoa powder in them!

She was only too happy to share the non-vegan recipe, one she had found online that claimed to taste like “box mix brownies.”  That is nothing to brag about, in my opinion and, fortunately, these are vastly superior to a box mix.  I knew the recipe would include eggs and, indeed, it called for 2.  Normally, subbing other ingredients for eggs is no problem in cakes, pancakes, etc. But in something like a perfect brownie in which the texture is absolutely critical, it can be very tricky indeed.

My first attempt was an epic fail.  I created something sort of like oily fudge–not much like a brownie–and not nearly as good.  I ended up scooping up spoonfuls of the mixture which, even after cooking, was more akin to a truffle mixture, forming it into balls, inserting a pecan half, and rolling in powdered sugar.  Not bad, but not what I was going for.

So, knowing I would have to work harder on the egg substitute, I scanned a long list of alternatives, none of which sounded quite right, as I’m not a huge fun of Ener-G egg replacer, flax seed egg replacer, etc.  I also didn’t want to use an ingredient like applesauce, as I felt its tanginess would clash with the chocolate.  And, while I love banana and chocolate together–think banana split–I didn’t want that pronounced banana flavor.  But I liked the idea of the moisture and consistency of both applesauce and bananas, and it occured to me that pureed pumpkin might be perfect, as it’s mellow flavor wouldn’t be too assertive and its warm color would only enhance the deep, rich brown of the chocolate.

So I made up my own substitution using pumpkin plus leavening.  For each egg, up to 2 in a recipe, substitute 1/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon bakng soda.  My addition of a  pinch of Cream of Tartar helped activate the baking soda.  I don’t know if the Cream of Tartar is really necessary, as it is actually an ingredient in baking powder which I also use in the recipe.  But, the brownies were so good that I hesitate to make any changes.  One day I will probably try it without the Cream of Tartar and will adjust the recipe if that ingredient seems superfluous.  The cornstarch, called for in the original recipe, absorbs mositure, prevents baking soda and acids from reacting too quickly, and lends tenderness to baked goods.

The results were spectacular!   I have removed my old brownie recipe here on The Blooming Platter and hereby pronounce Blooming Brownies my go-to most-favorite brownie recipe of all time.  And I hope you agree!

6 tablespoons vegan butter

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I use demerara)

5 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola for its neutral flavor)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips, small chunks, or a combination (you may use about half semi-sweet chocolate and half dark chocolate if desired)

Optional garnish: powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray and line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.  In a microwave-safe bowl, heat butter with sugar just until butter melts.  Remove from the microwave and whisk to combine.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then whisk in oil, vanilla, cocoa powder and baking soda.  Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) and, on low speed, mix in pumpkin puree, just until combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and Cream of Tartar. Add to chocolate mixture and mix on low, againt just until no flour pockets remain.  Remove bowl from stand and fold in chocolate chips and/or chunk.  *Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake about 28 minutes or until brownies are set (begin checking at 25).  Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 45 minutes before cutting or serving.  Sift powdered sugar over the top before serving, if desired.  Store any leftovers well-covered, but not refrigerated. Note that because of the pumpkin in the batter, after sitting, the powdered sugar will turn slightly yellow, so it’s best to sprinkle only what you are serving.

*Important note: when I make these brownies, a thin “slick” of moisture seems to separate and rest on top prior to baking.  Simply press a paper towel onto the surface of the batter to absorb it before baking.  Discard paper towel.

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Countdown to Valentine’s Day 2015: Day 4–Vegan Red Velvet Brownies

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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Raw Vegan Ya Ya Bars (dried plums, nuts, coconut, and melted chocolate, oh my!)

Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone
Photo Credit: Bryanna Barone

Yield: 24 squares (they are rich and dense, so I cut them smaller than usual)

If you are in need of a healthy bite for graduation parties, these are your ticket!  They are non-vegan male teenager approved (and meatatarian husbands love them too)!

These bars were inspired by my inimitable yoga instructor, Angela Phillips’, scrumptious “La La Bars.”  (Her nickname is La La.)  I call mine Ya Ya Bars after the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

But “brothers” love them too, as noted above.  Having taken the bars to enjoy as soon as my AP Art students got their portfolios assembled on May 9, I suddenly remembered that I didn’t have any pictures of them, so Bryanna snapped this photo before they were all devoured.

When Angela gifted me with the bars, I didn’t ask for the recipe.  So, since I love a culinary challenge, so I just made mine up as I went along.

She uses dates in hers, but my grocery store was out.  So, I substituted pitted dried plums, as I have had great success with my Vegan Plum Delicious Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies and my Vegan Chocolate-Plum Butter Mousse.  Who knew those two flavors were so compatible?  While I have not tried my recipe with dates, feel free to give it a whirl.  My assumption is that they will taste more pecan pie-like and slightly less fruity than my dried plum variety.  Very good, just different.

However you decide to make them, you are sure to love them as much as everyone else.  And thank you, Angela, for the inspiration!

1 cup nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and pecans)

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

18 ounces pitted dried plums (make sure they are very moist in a sealed cardboard canister or bag)

9 to 10 ounces vegan chocolate chips, melted

Pinch sea salt

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil.  In a food processor, finely chop nuts and coconut and transfer to a medium size bowl.  Add plums to processor and pulse until finely chopped.  They will tend to mash together but avoid making a puree.  Transfer to bowl with nuts and coconut.   Using fingers, combine well without compacting.  Pour melted chocolate over the mixture along with a healthy pinch of sea salt, and continue to combine with your fingers until all ingredients are completely incorporated.  Press evenly into prepared pan, cover, and refrigerate several hours or until cold.  Cut into squares and serve.  If you prefer, invert them onto a cutting board, remove foil, and then cut.

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