Vegan 4-Ingredient Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream
(its base is frozen bananas!)

Yield: 4 servings

Calories: app. 130/serving (however, you can eat the whole recipe for  only 520 calories which is equal to or less than a small meal!)

This recipe was inspired by one making the rounds via video on Facebook.  A while back, lying in bed very early one morning, I watched how it was made with the sound off–Bob was asleep–and then just went for it last night, propelled by this oppressive heat and humidity.  Around here, we call the heat index the “misery index.”

The original recipe called for 4 bananas and what appeared to be 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 2 of cocoa powder.  I’m not a big peanut butter and chocolate fan.  My aversion dates from a childhood incident that resulted from eating way too many peanut butter-and-chocolate eggs out of my Easter basket on the heels of blueberry shortcake.  I nonetheless added one tablespoon thinking it might be necessary for texture.  It wasn’t.  For the chocolate, I used  Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder, but if you prefer a more reddish-brown color, then just use regular cocoa powder.

But whatever you do, peel your bananas before freezing them.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but when I pulled four banana-shaped ice cubes out of my freezer, I realized my mistake.  So, I thawed them, peeled them, cut them into chunks and refroze them.  The texture was still silky and glorious.

My two additions to the recipe are quick, easy, and absolutely necessary in my opinion.  After I tasted the ice cream, I felt it seemed a little flat or one-note.  I tend to like more complex flavors,though not fussy ones.  So, I added a hint of both almond and vanilla extracts and that did the trick.  However, I look forward to experimenting with other extracts like mint, orange, and perhaps rum or brandy.

If your summer promises to be as hot and humid as ours in Eastern, VA, this recipe is likely to become a staple.  A friend said that his daughter used to make a version and eat it for breakfast.  It is certainly more nutritious than most of what I see folks eating for breakfast.

Whenever you decided to enjoy a couple of scoops, I hope you will enjoy it as we do.

4 large bananas, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks and frozen

2 tablespoons regular or Special Dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional garnishes: walnut halves and mint sprigs

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy right away or freeze in an airtight container.  Thaw for two 30-second intervals in the microwave before trying to scoop.  Top, if desired with walnut halves and mint sprigs.

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Vegan Hazelnut-Orange Sandwich Cookies
with Chocolate Ganache Filling
a gorgeous gourmet gift from your kitchen

These stunning cookies are simple to make but will impress the most serious gourmand in both flavor and appearance.

I like to package them two to a cellophane bag, tied with raffia through a hole punched in my cute (if I do say so) business cards.

Vegan Hazelnut-Orange Sandwich Cookies

3/4 cup sugar (I use demerara)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

1 cup plus 6 tablespoons vegan butter, softened

3 tablespoons orange liqueur (like Triple Sec) or 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

6 ounces vegan semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Spread 1/4 cup hazelnuts in a skillet or pie plate and toast for about 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts with 2 tablespoons sugar intil finely ground. Add the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and pulse to combine well. Add 1 cup butter, broken into hunks, and orange liqueur and pulse until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured surface, working with half of dough at a time, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookie cutter, cut cookies out as closely together as possible. Place cookies on baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with remaining half of dough, gently kneading in scraps from first half. Gather scraps from second half, gently knead, and reroll scraps from second half.

Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly colored but the tops are still fairky light, rotating pans after 10 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and allow to cool.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, whisking until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.

Turn half the cookies over and spoon a small dollop of the chocolate in the center of each of those. Dip the remaining cookies halfway into the chocolate and position over the filled bottoms, pressing gently to seal. Sprinkle the remaining chopped toasted hazelnuts onto the chocolate, pressing gently if necessary, and let the sandwich cookies stand for about 30 minutes until the chocolate is set.  Chill if packaging or transporting.

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Vegan Nutella and Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

I can’t see Santa’s Forest for these adorable trees.

Apparently they are all the rage this year, but I was evidently a little late to the pastry tree party.  Make yours with pizza dough or puff pastry and spread with the sweet or savory filling you most crave. Just be sure to include a creamy base to adhere the layers together.

My version is sweet–but not too–uses only three ingredients and, after the pastry thaws, is ready to devour in under 30 minutes.  I left a Middle Eastern dinner and this tree last night for our dog sitters (yes, we are those dog owners) while we joined friends for their Christmas Eve Eve tradition: a salad and sip of wine followed by a Christmas light-lit walk over to the Naro, an independent film house, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The twins left some of the tabouli salad but not a crumb of the pastry. It was a huge hit with these 19 year olds.

My take on this new classic was inspired by its key ingredient: Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata Oraganic Dairy-Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread, generously sent to me for product review purposes. With a deeply nutty and chocolatey flavor–its richness undiluted by dairy–and a thick and creamy–but spreadable–texture, this product is tops in my pantry (it needs no refrigeration).  It is also gluten- and palm oil-free.

Recipe

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions

4.5 to 5 ounces vegan Hazelnut-Cocoa spread (1/2 jar Nocciolata)

1 to 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On baking stone or parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, stack the two pastry sheets.  With a sharp knife, cut into a triangular tree shape with a 1-inch or so wide trunk at the bottom. Remove top sheet, spread bottom sheet with hazelnut-cocoa spread, replace top sheet, lining up edges, and press down gently.

Cut 1 star from scraps and whatever other shapes you like fir nibbling or to serve as croutons on salads. Place pastry shapes on a separate stone or lined baking sheet.

Make 3/4-inch wide horizontal cuts from outer edges of triangle toward the center, stopping even with outer edges of trunk leaving a 1-inch or so wide trunk up the center. Twist each long cut strip twice and the shorter ones once, pressing tips firmly against baking stone or sheet.  Brush very lightly with non-dairy milk, press star onto top point, and brush star with a tiny bit more non-dairy milk.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, but remove shapes cut from scraps after 10 or 15 minutes or they will burn. Remove baking sheet with pastry tree from oven, cool slightly, and slide tree onto serving platter. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Vegan GLUTEN-FREE Chocolate Cookies
with White Chocolate Chips

Yield: 1 dozen cookies (recipe easily multiplies)

I am not sensitive to gluten–at least not in any noticeable way–so I created these cookies for two reasons: 1) for folks who are, and 2) because I have a summer crush that is quickly turning into a long-term affair with brown rice flour.  It lends to these cookies and, presumably, other baked goods, an ever-so-slight “sandy” texture that reminds me of the commercial Pecan Sandy cookies of my childhood.

To create this recipe, I started with my late mother, Sallie Gough’s, recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.  I adored both my mother and her cookies.  The recipe scribed in her distinctive hand-writing on a badly stained file card is a testament to the central role Chocolate Crinkles played in my young culinary life.  When my cousin, Dan, would make his annual summer visit from Texas to our home in Mississippi, baking these cookies–dark, almost black, balls rolled in powdered sugar that baked up into flat-ish white cookies with dark rivulets through them–was always on the itinerary along with box sliding on Sewer Hill and epic neighborhood games of Kick the Can.

Note that, since I am not gluten-sensitive, the “trace” of gluten that “may” have been present in my vegan white chocolate chips did not pose a problem for me.  If you are baking for gluten-free cookie lovers, make sure a possible trace is not an issue or look for a brand “without a trace.”

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup apple sauce (this flavor is not detectable)

1/4 cup vegetable oil (canola or sunflower is fine)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup vegan, gluten-free white chocolate chips (may subsitute vegan, gluten-free chocolate chips)

12 pecan halves.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.  In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients except white chocolate chips and pecan halves.  Make a well in the center and pour in applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla.  Whisk together wet and dry ingredients until completely combined and the consistency of any other cookie dough.  Stir in chips.  With a small scoop or tablespoon, scoop up rounded tablespoons of dough and place about 3 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.  Top each with a pecan half, pressing down gently to ever-so-slightly flatten the cookie.  Bake 12 minutes or until completely set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on cookie sheet placed on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

 

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Vegan (Practically) Raw Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Gluten-Free)

Yield: 6 cookies

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup coconut flour
12 juicy dates
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs or chocolate chips (chips are not not raw)
1/4 cup broken pecans

In a food processor, process the cashews until a flour-like texture.  Add remaining ingredients except cocoa nibs or chocolate chips and pecans. Process until the texture of a nice dough, but not a nut butter.   Transfer the dough to a medium-size bowl and fold in the cocoa nibs or chocolate chips and pecans.

Shape the cookies by flattening six scoops of dough onto a foil-, wax paper-, or parchment paper- lined cookie sheet.  Freeze for 20 minutes and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.

Note: though these cookies are packed with wholesome ingredients, they are also packed with about 330 calories each. Make them half this size for a dozen cookies with a calorie count that may be easier to swallow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Betsy’s Best Vegan Blondies

Yield: 16 bars

Wanting to try a blondie or cookie recipe with the white beans in my pantry, I searched and searched online but couldn’t find a recipe that quite suited me: they had to look beautiful, contain basic wholesome ingredients, and be the ideal texture. So I decided to create my own.

These blondies are truly fabulous–everything you would want in the perfect Blondie–and get my very picky “omni” partner’s two thumbs up of approval.

I substituted 1/4 cup of mashed white beans + 1/4 cup of Bailey’s Almande liqueur, along with baking soda and baking powder, for an egg. But feel free to use another liquid, even non-dairy milk, or a different liqueur.
8 tablespoons vegan butter

1 cup demerera or lightly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup drained and mashed white beans

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup liqueur (I like Bailey’s Almande)

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (white or dark)

1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, black walnuts, pecans, or cashews)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch metal pan or spray with nonstick sray. Line in one direction with a 4 or 5-inch strip of foil or parchment paper folded over top edges for ease of blondie removal.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until blended. Add the beans, vanilla, and almond extract, and continue to beat until  smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and liqueur, and mix on low speed until fully incorporated.  Do not over beat. Add chocolate chips and nuts and blend on low speed to evenly distribute.

Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool completely and then cut into 16 bars.

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Vegan German Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

I hope my sweet, stubborn, late paternal grandmother, Mam-ma, is not “rolling over” at what I’ve done to one of her four iconic Christmas cookie recipes, mailed to us wherever we might be if not with her and Pap-pa, packaged in waxed-paper lined tins with the faint aroma of mothballs.

It is hard to improve on perfection and her roll and slice cookies were indeed perfect.  So, my version is not better, just different.  If you want to make Mam-ma’s, simply dispense with the chocolate, topping, and garnish, and enjoy plain, buttery, almond-infused cookies, perfect with tea.

Cookies:

1 cup vegan butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

Vegan Coconut, Pecan and Dried Cranberry Filling (recipe follows)

Pecan halves or large pieces

 

Cream together in an electric mixer butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder.  Turn off mixer and add extracts, and 1/2 cup flour, and incorporate into butter mixture on low speed.  Gradually add remaining flour on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Divide dough into fourths, roll into logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1/4-inch diagonal slices and place slices 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, preferably lined with Silpat or parchment paper.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (my family likes them a little more “done.”)  Remove the cookie sheets to a wire rack and cool completely. Top each cookie with a teaspoon of filling and garnish with a pecan half.

Vegan Coconut, Pecan and Dried Cranberry Filling:

1 cup unsweetened soymilk (plain, vanilla or vanilla lite would also be good)
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cognac or bourbon
Juice of one lemon
½-1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ cup water
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 ½ cups pecan pieces or chopped pecans
½ cup (generous) dried cranberries

In a medium saucepan, mix the soymilk, coconut milk, sugar, extracts, cognac or bourbon, and lemon juice and zest. Whisk the cornstarch together with the water and add to soy milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cook and stir for one minute after it boils. Remove from heat and stir in coconut, pecans and dried cranberries. Cool to almost room temperature before spreading on layers.

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Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate-Chocolate Chip,
White Chocolate Chip, & Dried Cranberry Cookies

gluten-free-chocolate-chocolate-chip-white-chocolate-chip-and-dried-cranberry-cookiesYield: approximately 2 dozen cookies

Just in time for the holidays are these handsome and festive cookies appropriate for even the most gluten intolerant on your guest list.

I am not a gluten-free baker but, occasionally, I make treats for my high school art students.  And, in my large Advanced and AP Studio class of 31 students, I learned that I have one girl with a gluten sensitivity.  So, feeling badly about her not being able to indulge in the treats I shared with them, I decided to experiment.

A few years back, I created a recipe for gluten-free cookies made with white bean puree and chickpea flour. They were delicious, but not as handy to make as if they didn’t call for the white beans.  And, I recently learned that my small neighborhood Kroger no longer carries chickpea flour, though they seem to stock every other kind of flour imaginable.  So, I chose one that was less expensive than most and that I thought might have a similar texture to the chickpea flour, namely brown rice flour.  Good decision.

Whie some gluten-free baked goods call for special flour blends, xantham gum, egg substitutes, and the like, I wanted mine to be straightforward and absent of ingredients that most bakers wouldn’t have on hand.  As a result, these absolutely delicious and beautifully-textured cookies were born.

I had found, through previous experiments with gluten-free cookies, that adding almond extract, in addition to vanilla extract, helps mellow any “off” taste that results from using flours that are stronger tasting than all purpose white or white whole wheat.  But, it occurred to me that a teaspoon of espresso powder might further counteract those sharper flavors of some of the alternative flours without lending a pronounced coffee flavor.  And I was right.

As for texture, these are a little crispy and ever-so-slightly sandy–like the commercial “Pecan Sandies” of my youth–which everyone who has tasted has found very appealing.  And I hope you do.

I served these with Prosecco to guests who stopped by after a concert.  It was a lovely pairing and a special way to end the evening.

 

1/4 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup demerera sugar (or 1/2 cup granulated and 1/2 cup brown sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon espresso powder (or coffee/instant coffee ground to a powder in a spice grinder)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown rice flour (I use white whole wheat when not baking gluten-free)

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (or up to 4)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips (I ordered these online) + 1/4 cup additional (optional)

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (I found a bag of pre-chopped ones) + 2 tablespoons additional (optional)

Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter and shortening until fluffy.  Beat in sugar and continue beating until well creamed.  Add extracts, espresso pwder, salt, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix on medium-low speed just until well-combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Mix in the non-dairy milk, adding an additional tablespoon or two if necessary, as the brown rice flour is very absorbant.  On lowest speed, mix in both typs of chips and dried cranberries.  Using a tablespoon or small scoop, arrange mounds of dough about 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten with your middle three fingers to about 1/2-inch thick.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.  Remove baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before removing to a serving platter.  If desired, drizzle with 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted; I use a pastry bag for this task.  If more color is desired, press a couple of tablespoons of dried cranberries into drizzled white chocolate, distributing among cookies.

 

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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 Match.com 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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