Birth, death, illness, divorce, and distance–the stuff of life–altered the guest list from year to year, but essentially our culinary tradition remained intact, alternating between traditional-with-a-twist and very non-traditional thematic feasts: Cajun, Thai, American Diner, and more.
Finally, though, my parents have gotten to the age (81 and 86) where neither the drive nor the flight from MS is comfortably manageable, though my father still works part-time as an engineer and just drove them to and from Texas where my mother’s siblings live.
Last November, Mama took a spill in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in North Carolina on their way home–I told them that place was dangerous!–and they ended up in the local hospital. She was fine, if shaken, but the writing was on the wall.
So, though it made all of us a bit sad–as my mother said, “You think things will always be the same”–I suggested that we meet in New Orleans, an easy 2 1/2 hour drive from their home and a not-too-terrible flight from here. Grateful and enthusiastic, my folks booked us into the Chateau LeMoyne, a family favorite, and I made Thanksgiving dinner reservations at Broussard’s, another family favorite since childhood. Joe is game–he thinks it’s the right thing to do– if a little skeptical, as it’s not “his” city in the way that it is ours; my sister and I were weaned on The Big Easy. And, though the decision was made too late for them to be with us this year, Joe’s sisters and our niece are hoping to join us every other Thanksgiving if our NOLA tradition continues.
Wherever you will be, whoever you will be with, and for whatever reason, my sincere hope is that you will find yourself deeply grateful for life’s gifts, even if, like us, they represent a “new normal.”
As a gesture of gratitude, over the next three weeks, I will serve up three new recipes–one per week–for a perfect, if slightly non-traditional, vegan feast. And I’m starting with dessert! Enjoy this moist, richly autumnal, and complexly flavored cake. It was a hit for a friend’s recent birthday and I’ve made it again for a small dinner tomorrow night for two girlfriends. Were we going to be at home, it would certainly be on our Thanksgiving menu.
Yield: 1 10-inch bundt cake
1 cup unsweetened or plain soymilk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1/2 cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
1-15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Spiced Espresso Ganach (recipe follows)
Garnish: chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a small cup, whisk together soymilk and vinegar and allow to curdle and thicken. Place all dry ingredients in a very large mixing bowl in the order given, and whisk to combine. Add remaining wet ingredients including soymilk mixture and whisk 50 strokes or until lumps disappear. Avoid overbeating. Transfer into prepared bundt pan and bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (65 minutes is perfect in my oven.) Allow to cool completely in pan, loosen around edges, top with serving plate, and and invert. Spoon ganache around the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the inside and outside edges and sprinkle with walnuts.
*Spiced Espresso Ganache
1/2 cup plain non-dairy creamer (soy or coconut)
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
1/48to 1/4 teaspoong round cinnamon (adjust to suit taste)
Heat creamer to barely bubbling. Add chocoate chips. Allow to sit a couple of minutes and then whisk together until smooth and completely combined. Whisk in instant coffee or espresso powder and cinnamon. Allow to cool until a thick pourable consistency.
*I like to double the recipe, using the whole bag of chips, and save half for another decadent purpose!
A recipe from Rick Bayless–the iconic American chef steeped in traditional Mexican cuisine which he serves up, with a modern twist, at his Frontera Grill restaurants in Chicago and cooks up on his PBS series–inspired my vegan version (which I submitted to the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck!).
I spotted the recipe in “Chefs’ Weeknight Dinners” in the July 2014 issue of Food and Wine while on an airplane and knew it would be one of the first new recipes I created once I got back home.
I followed his recipe and method except for the eggs and the chocolate. For the 3 eggs, I substituted 1/2 cup mashed banana, 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk, and an additional 3/4 teaspoon baking powder. I chose banana as I’m not a powdered egg replacement fan and the banana seemed both Mexican and compatible with chocoalte. (I think pureed pumpkin would also be a nice substitute.) And for the Mexcian chocolate, finely chopped, I simply subbed vegan mini chocolate chips. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla and a smidge more confectioners’ sugar for dusting.
The recipe is a cinch to make and very earthy due to the large amount of pumpkin seeds. It calls for just over a cup of sugar, but the pumpkin seeds are roasted and salted, so this unfrosted cak is not too sweet.
The result is deliciously different without being odd. The cake has a consistency somewhat similar to a blondie with chocoalte chips. But its flavor–with the banana virtually undetectable–is all its own, so I think you’ll love adding it to your repertoire.
1 3/4 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (any granulated sugar will work)
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
Optional: 1 tablespoon tequila
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup softened butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour (unbleached all-purpose flour would also be fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces vegan mini-chocolate chip (or chocolate/chocolate chips finely chopped)
2 tablespoons confecitoners’ sugar
Spray a 9-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Trace around the bottom of the pan on a piece of parchment paper and cut out just inside the line. Place paper in greased pan and spray again. Sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and 2 tablespooons of turbinado sugar. In a food processor, pulse the remaining 1 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds with the remaining 1 cup of turbinado sugar until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the banana, soymilk, optional tequila, vanilla, and butter, and process until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incoproated. Add the chocolate and pulse until well distributed. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan, gently smoothing to make an even layer over the pumpkin seeds. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean and edges are golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway though baking. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a plate and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Dust the cake with the confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
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.
These “Peeps” that I created–which I think look more like Toucans!–were inspired by “Ugly Ducklings” sold at a local Mediterranean restaurant called Azar’s.
I wanted to take the store-bought ones to an Easter dinner on Sunday, but the restaurant was closed and I could find no recipe, so I decided to “wing it,” so to speak. Fortunately, the ingredients are few.
I’m so glad I did, as they are super simple and so unique! I apologize for not having them ready to share with you in advance of Easter, but they are nice for spring in general, and certainly next year!
Resting in decorative cupcake liners and tucked, along with softly colored wooden eggs, into their straw nest, they looked peepin’ adorable and were also a rave in the taste department!
They seem especially appropriate for spring, but the ingredients are pretty season-less, so enjoy all year when a festive presentation and a little decadent bite is in order.
Approximately 1/2 cup (or slightly less) almond paste (I purchase it in a can on the baking aisle of the grocery store)
16 pitted dates, opened out (be sure to use fairly moist ones)
1-9 or 10 ounce package vegan chocolate chips
8 whole roasted and lightly salted cashews
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Using your fingers, mold a scant tablespoon of almond paste into an egg shape. Moisten your fingers if your paste seems dry. Then press into one of the dates, pressing another date over the top to encase the almond paste inside, forming an egg or bird body shape. Continue with all remaining dates and almond paste. Cover and refrigerate them for about a half hour. Melt chocolate in microwave in a narrow deep bowl for ease of dipping. (For 9 to 10 ounces, I have found that 1 minute on full power, a slight stir, and then 20 to 30 seconds at full power, followed by a good whisking works in my microwave.) Pierce each date-almond paste ball with a toothpick. One at a time, dip them into the chocolate, covering completely, and place on prepared baking sheet. Remove toothpicks and “patch” hole with a dab of melted chocolate if need be. Then, one at a time, dip half of each cashew into the chocolate and attach it to the top of each “body,” slightly toward one end, with the cashew “beak” curving into the body and touching at each tip–chocolate toward the center–so that it is secure. Refrigerate for a half hour or until chocolate is hardened. Arrange as desired and serve.
Note: you will have some chocolate left over, but when it gets low, it is difficult to coat the date-almond paste balls.
Yield: 1-8 inch square sheet cake (a 9 inch pan will make a cake that is too thin)
To make a 9 x 13 inch cake, double recipe and add a few minutes onto cooking time if necessary; avoid overbaking.)
I was introduced to the original version (vegetarian) of this cake at an Oscar’s party when I lived in Nashville. It is a winner for sure, to be enjoyed in moderation for the occasional splurge…of course.
My first attempt at veganizing the recipe was quite tasty. But the new and improved version is even more so: moister and fudgier.
When this year’s Oscar’s rolled around, I found myself craving this old-school favorite. Remembering that I had decided my recipe could use a good tweak, I looked up photos of the non-vegan original online and compared them to the photo of my first iteration. Yep, just based on appearance alone, I knew I needed to do better…and I did. I’m pretty sure this one can’t be improved upon!
Note: while you are welcome to use Coca-Cola or your favorite brand of traditional root beer, you might enjoy one of the natural brands.
This is the previous version…see the difference?!
For the next 12 days leading up to Christmas, it is my pleasure to share some of my most treasured vegan recipes, some old favorites and some brand new, perfect for this grand holiday.
I’m starting with dessert, as this recipe (from 2009) might take a little bit more preparation and planning than the others. However, when you present this beauty to your loved ones, the smiles on their faces and their oohs and ahs will make any extra little bit of effort entirely worth it.
Named after Southern Living Magazine’s annual cover cake for their December issue, “The Big White Cake” is a bit of a misnomer, for though the frosting is a luscious pillowy white, the cake is German chocolate. And between the rich layers is a festive–and lightly spiked–adaptation of traditional German chocolate cake filling with it’s nuts and coconut. Dried cranberries and citrus make it a true celebration of winter and gift of the season.
Sugared fruit guilds this delicious, impressive lily. And for all of its wow-power, “The Big White Cake” is really not difficult at all.
Honestly? You absolutely can’t believe how delicious the marriage of chocolate and the deep, fruity flavor of plums is in this quick and easy four-ingredient mousse (which can be served as a tart by spooning it into a pre-baked shell).
This is a four-seasons treat since it is made with plum butter instead of fresh plums. (Incidentally, fruit butters are misnomers, as they contain no dairy.) But, since it is mid-summer, you might garnish it with fresh plum slices along with the mint, whipped topping, and hazelnuts.
That is, if you don’t consume it all before it makes it into the glasses!
10 ounces vegan dark chocolate, melted (I used chocolate chips and melted them in two 1-minute increments in the microwave, whisking after each)
1/4 box extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1/2 cup vegan soy creamer (I used French Vanilla)
1/2 cup plum butter (I used Bauman’s brand–which may be ordered online–made in small batches in Pennsylvania Dutch country from only plums, sugar or white grape juice, lemons, oranges and cinnamon)
Optional garnish: your favorite vegan whipped topping and/or chopped nuts (I like hazelnuts for this dessert) + mint sprigs
In a food processor, combine all ingredients, processing until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. After about a minute, the mousse will be light and fluffy. After about another minute it will become somewhat denser and darker, yet still silken and fluffy. Choose our preference. Divide the mixture among 4 stemmed glasses or small ramekins and enjoy immediately or chill until serving time.
Note: For individual baked crustless tarts, divide mixture among 4 ramekins coated lightly with non-stick spray and bake in the center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until set, but still glossy. Check after 15 minutes, as tops should not be dry and starting to crack. Allow to cool before serving, or cover and place in refrigerator until serving time. Serve chilled. Garnish if desired.
Okay, don’t even try to convince me that every once in a while you aren’t dying for a tiny taste of something sinful, and wish you could make a miniature little confection that is quick, easy, and not a killer in the calorie department.
Well, now you can!
NPR was where I first heard about these microwaved brownies-in-a-mug, so I certainly didn’t invent them. But I do think I have perfected a recipe that needed a little somethin’-somethin’. I heard the program weeks ago, but I was having a powerful craving last night, so I did a little internet research and gave it a whirl.
I inadvertently overcooked my brownie a little–it keeps cooking for a bit even after you remove it from the microwave–so go easy. But, even so, I wasn’t 100% sold, despite the fact that the recipe I tried had something like 5,000 “likes.”
I sent the recipe to my sister, Ginny, and she made one for our brownie-loving Papa, but he thought it was a little too rich in the chocolate department. So, back to my kitchen I went this evening, this time armed with some ideas for how to improve the brownie’s taste and texture, along with some So Delicious Almond Milk Ice Cream (vegan) and a fresh strawberry to perch on top.
YUM! A winner! All I needed was a name. My dear friend Sonya Harmon calls our “little” Great Dane (she’s smaller than her mate, Huff!) “Minnikins,” and I think that is the cutest name for our little gal. So, since these “mini” brownies are almost as cute, I thought they should be called “Brownikins.” Thank you, Sonya-kins!
Whatever you call them, you will love them!
And, by the way, you can certainly bake them in a mug as intended, but this recipe doesn’t begin to fill the mug, and I don’t like the brownie batter smeared on the sides after whisking the ingredients together. So, I whisk it up in a small cup and then transfer into a mini-ramekin (about 1/3 cup) for the cutest presentation ever with a melon ball size scoop of ice cream and baby strawberry. What’s one more mug to wash?
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegan butter melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
2 tablespoons natural sugar
2 teaspoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon or less sea salt (I love that little crunch of salt with the sugar. You won’t need much if you use salted vegan butter, but don’t omit, as it is needed for flavor.)
Accompaniments: vegan ice cream, a fresh strawberry, plus optional vegan chocolate sauce and vegan whipped topping
In a small cup (microwave safe if you plan to cook the brownie in the cup), whisk together melted butter or oil, water, and vanilla. Then whisk in all remaining dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth. If desired, transfer to a ceramic mini-ramekin and cook in a microwave oven on full power for 45 seconds or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or ever-so-slightly moist. Let sit for a couple of minutes before garnishing and serving.
Photo Note: Sorry about the quality of the photo. I was so excited with my creation, that I just snapped it with my phone sitting on the kitchen counter at 8 p.m.: no waiting for optimum lighting conditions!
More searching turned up a vegan recipe, but it called for applesauce along with the mayo, and I don’t keep applesauce around. What I really wanted was a recipe that could be made from a standard baker’s pantry.
Vegan Grasshopper Pies are a varied lot. Refrigerated, frozen, made from mint ice cream…made from spinach(!), they cover the gamut.
My brand new recipe created in celebration of St. Pat’s Day is as much like the traditional icebox pie as I could make it, complete we Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao (don’t worry: both are vegan!).
Happy St. Pat’s Day!