Best Vegan Salted Maple Brandy (or Bourbon) Pecan Pie
(Custardy Texture)

I got inspired AFTER Thanksgiving to experiment with pecan pie. The one at our repast was not vegan, so I couldn’t partake.

On a recent trip to Duck, NC, Bob had a scrumptious pecan tart with bourbon ice cream and salted caramel sauce which I had to taste for research purposes. I felt the caramel sauce was overkill. And I knew I wasn’t going to make ice cream just due to time, so I added the booze to the pie and served the slices with purchased vegan vanilla ice cream. Yes, please.

The question for vegan pecan pie bakers is silken tofu or no?  I say yes, as I was never a fan of syrupy pecan pie. So, I like the slightly more custardy texture of this one, which slices beautifully.  I hope you do too.

As I mentioned, this pie is addicting served with softened vegan vanilla ice cream. And while I deemed the caramel sauce too much of a good thing, everyone will look the other way if you drizzle a hint more brandy or bourbon over the top.

  • 1 prepared vegan crust
  • 3 cups whole pecans
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 cup demerrera sugar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons brandy or bourbon
  • Juice of half a medium-large lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup soft silken tofu
  • Optional: a few vegan chocolate chips
  • Flaky or coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If pie crust is frozen, remove from freezer.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, spread pecans in a single layer on sheet, sprinkle very lightly with sea salt, and roast in oven for 3 minutes.  Set aside, but leave oven on.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vegan butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, corn starch, flour, and sea salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in brandy or bourbon, vanilla, and almond extract.
In a food processor, process the silken tofu until smooth. Add the maple syrup mixture and pulse again well combined. Reserve 28 of the pecan halves, add half of the remaining pecan halves, and break up the temaining ones as you add. Use a spatula to gently swirl them into the filling. Transfer filling to pie shell. Arrange the reserved pecans on top of the pie in two concentric circles. Dot with chocolate chips if desired.
Place pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for about one hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the edges of the pie are set. The center might still be a very slightly jiggly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with just a hint of flaky sea salt like Maldon or just a nice coarse variety and allow to cool completely before serving.
Serve with softened vegan vanilla ice cream (I like So Delicious No Sugar Added) or vegan whipped cream.
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Why Whole Foods Vegan Cornbread Should NEVER
Be Used to Make Stuffing

Image result for whole foods vegan cornbreadIt looks harmless enough, doesn’t it?  But don’t be fooled…

Happily tasked with contributing several items to this year’s Thanksgiving repast, I thought I might reduce my cooking time–though I love to cook almost as much as anyone–by purchasing prepared cornbread for the stuffing. I applaud virtually everything about Whole Foods, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong.  But, I was wrong.  Bad wrong.

As Bob opened each cellophane wrapped hunk, I thought the moist crusts looked very similar to poundcake.  I tasted it and, as best I could tell, it was poundcake–and a very moist one at that–made with cornmeal.  Who would want a bread that sweet with their chili, lentil soup, or any of the rest of the WF family of soups next to which this alleged “cornbread” is sold?  I don’t even care for cake that sweet.

But, I like savory and sweet combos as much as the next gal, so I soldiered on.  Still, this cornbread was so sweet that I was dubious about how compatible the celery, onion, and sage was going to be with these cakey crumbs.  Yet, I didn’t have time to stop and make cornbread from scratch, so Bob persisted, crumbling the cornbread and one baguette into a huge bowl.  And I proceeded with my recipe, adding the aforementioned plus lots of beautifully toasted pecan halves.

As I poured the vegetable stock over the mound of ingredients, I watched in horror as it dissolved into what can only be described as a cookie-dough like consistency.  Desperate, I added the half cup or so of Panko bread crumbs that I had on hand, but it was of no use.  I decided to go ahead and bake it, hoping that science and physics might work some kind of magic in the oven.  But, alas, I pulled it out, tasted it, and my response can only be described as disgust at what was a dense, heavy, pasty, unpleasant-tasting mass.

In a last-ditch effort, I sprinkled some sliced green onion over the top and slid it back in the oven for about 10 more minutes.  There was no appreciable change to the unappetizing mass. I briefly considered melting vegan butter over the top for some salty goodness, but then came to my senses:

I marched straight out the front door, across the little Japanese bridge over our dry river bed, and into the woods where I unceremoniously dumped the whole lot of it into the deep carpet of leaves.  We live on Buchanan Creek which feeds the Chesapeake Bay and I  know from my freelance writing about eco-issues that residents are not supposed to dump fatty ingredients down the sink or onto the ground.  However, I wanted that glob out of our house–I didn’t even want it in a sealed bag in the garage–and fast.

There would be no stuffing this year, but there was more than enough delicious food.  And I didn’t tarnish my reputation as one of the family’s inspired cooks.

I hope your Thanksgiving was earmarked by culinary successes or, at the very least, culinary lessons learned well.  Happy Holidays!

 

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Countdown to Your Best Vegan Thanksgiving
Five Dishes Everyone at Your Table Will Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year to be vegan. Though I am thankful every day that I chose many years ago to live more compassionately, it is during this season that I celebrate my favorite tastes and textures…and share them with you.

The mouthwatering menu I have selected for you features two entrée-like dishes, both meals in themselves because of the balance of ingredients: greens, grains, veggies and more.  So delightfully pretty, filling, and creamy are these dishes that the only side dish I recommend is a fresh bright salad that sounds some special autumnal notes in the form of dried fruits and smoked nuts.  All that remains to round out this bountiful fall feast is my late mother’s Double Cornfingers which I recommend serving in place of stuffing.  For dessert, I offer a recipe I developed for Tofutti a few years back that is a perennial favorite.  These pumpkin cheesecake bars with their streusel topping are super quick and easy but doesn’t look like it, especially when sliced and served on frilly paper doilies.

Each item listed in the menu below is linked to its recipe, and following the menu are captioned photos that will help you envision how your beautiful table will look as everyone gathers around with gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, I am so grateful for all of you who make my platter bloom throughout the year.  With nurturing wishes to you and yours during this holiday season and always.

~Betsy DiJulio

Blooming Platter Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2017

Butternut Squash Lasagna (with Smokey Marinara Sauce and Kale Pesto)
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Sallie’s Double Corn Fingers
3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
Vegan Butternut Squash Lasagna
Vegan Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale-Salad-with-Pomegranate-Balsamic-Marinated-Figs-and-Dates-Topped-with-Smoked-Almonds1
Vegan Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Marinated Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Vegan Double Corn Fingers
Vegan 3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
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Vegan Pumpkin Flan with Pepitas–
A Twist on Thanksgiving Tradition

pumpkin-flan

After my husband, Joe passed away, I joined with friends–old and new–to create a number of new traditions, among them in–home dinners with all-in gourmet cooks, Juan and Barbara Gelpi.  How fun to, as of September, fold my extraordinary new partner, Bob, into the mix.

Most recently, we convened at the Gelpi’s lovely home to cook and consume a delightful fiesta of homemade pico, guacamole and chips with Coronoas shots of tequila (for Juan and me–my first in my entire life, late bloomer that I am), tortilla soup with roasted pepitas–veganized from a recipe my mother got from the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas–Juan’s seitan mole over herbed rice, homemade tortillas, and, for dessert, Barbara’s apple-oatmeal crisp and my flan.

I adapted it from a recipe I found online, adding the pumpkin, spice, and more agar to make sure it set properly with the additional liquid from the pureed pumpkin.  I also tinkered with the caramel to make sure my preferred sugar–demerera–dissolved.  The results were a huge carnivore-approved hit: absolutely delicious with an incredible texture.  The genius of this recipe, for which I cannot take credit, is to create a cold custard that sets up beautifully, rather than a baked one which is very tricky when no eggs are used.

Betsy’s Pumpkin Flan

For the Caramel:

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 to 2 tablespoons water

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and let dissolve  for a few minutes. Then place over medium heat, stirring until melted. The demerera will already be golden in color, but if using granulated sugar, cook until golden. Pour into the bottom of 6 ramekins.

For the Custard:

2 cups plain soy milk
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon agar-agar flakes
1/2 cup firm or extra-firm silken tofu (I used firm)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt

Pour the soymilk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle with the agar flakes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved.  Don’t worry if the milk breaks and separates. It will come together in the food processor.

Place the tofu, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and soymilk-agar mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into the ramekins over the syrup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours.To remove from the ramekins, run a knife around the edge of each and dip the bottom in hot water for about 15 seconds.  Invert a desert plate on top and turn out.

pumpkin-flan-partially-eaten

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Vegan Stuffing Cakes
(Addicting even if it’s not Thanksgiving!)

Stuffing Cakes

I woke early this morning as I always do and felt almost “called” to make something for my neighbor–a retired fella who helps me out with guy things, e.g. changing lightbulbs in security fixtures atop a tall ladder–who had a tooth removed last week and still has a sensitive mouth.  The package of stuffing in my pantry called out and these baked Stuffing Cakes were born.

They are seriously simple–as they start with the aforementioned dried stuffing mix–and seriously addicting.  The stuffing mix I recommend is vegan and I had to read the back of every package to identify it, so save yourself some time by using it.  Although, if you have another favorite brand you know is vegan, by all means, use it.  I am always astonished at what manufacturers slip milk into.

Forming this as a cake allows for more exposed surface area and, hence, and more of that ever-so-slightly crispy exterior we all love.  The amount of vegan butter may seem like a bit much, but I like this amount not only for flavor, but for aiding in a beautifully lightly browned surface.

Enjoy these cakes as a side or with something piled on top.  Be imaginative…and please share your ideas.

They are best eaten as soon as they come out of the oven or reheated for just a few minutes in a 350 degree oven rather than in a microwave, though the latter will do in a pinch.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 to 2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1- 8 ounce package Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing

1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons flax seed meal

4 tablespoons vegan butter, butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat (like Silpat) or parchment paper.  Heat olive oil in a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high.  Add onion, celery, and salt and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Stir in stuffing mix and herbs until well combined and then begin stirring in stock a little at a time. until a moist but firm consistency is achieved.  Whisk flas seed into melted butter, drizzle over mixture, and stir to completely incorporate.  Divide into 8 equal scoops on prepared baking sheet.  Flatten each into a 3/4-inch disk and bake for about 15 minutes or until set and enticingly crispy on the exterior.  Serve immediately.

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Vegan 3-Layer Savory Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Kale, Pepita and Sage Pesto Ribbon–The PERFECT Use for Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes! (A Tofutti Exclusive!)

Savory 3-Layer Mashed Sweet Potato and Kale Pesto Cheesecake

Yield: 8 servings

This elegant-but-easy (stupid easy!) dish is the perfect way to use leftover mashed sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving or any time.  Though leftover sweet potatoes are almost unheard of in our house, we did have a little remaining after a recent dinner party, and this luscious cheesecake was the result.  It is perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, or sliced thin for an appetizer.

For the recipe, just click HERE!

 

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Countdown to Thanksgiving 2014–The Side Dish: Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Kale-Salad-with-Pomegranate-Balsamic-Marinated-Figs-and-Dates-Topped-with-Smoked-Almonds1When I was imagining what to serve with my “throwback Thursday” Thanksgiving main dish of  Vegan Pumpkin, Kale, Mushroom and Tempeh Casserole with Sweet Potato Chip Topping, I reviewed the recipe and just about the only one of my favorite Thanksgiving ingredients that was missing was sweet potatoes.

However, because the entree is a pretty all-inclusive one-dish wonder and very creamy-chewy-crunchy, none of the sweet potato dishes I could dream up would provide the necessary contrast.  Instead, a salad seemed the perfect fresh, raw burst that was needed for a beautiful and bountiful meal.

So, I’m bringing back my Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette from last year.  Dried figs marinated in Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette and smoked almonds combine with the fresh kale for a light fall salad bursing with flavor and texture.

If you love cranberry sauce, it would be a lovely addition in terms of both color and sweet-tart flavor and delicious alongside the casserole.  I recommend my sister-in-law’s Cranberry-Clementine and Walnut Sauce.

For dessert, it has to be my Vegan Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bundt Cake with Spiced-Espresso ganache!

If you want to spend more time relaxing and less time in the kitchen, yet still present a meal to truly be thankful for, this year’s 3-course mostly-make-ahead menu is for you.

But feel free to peruse The Blooming Platter for many more options from Thanksgiving pasts.  Just search “Thanksgiving” or your favorite ingredients.

I am so thankful for all of you and I hope you have a very special holiday, with plenty of friends, family and fun on the menu!

Pumpkin, Kale, Mushroom and Tempeh Casserole with Sweet Potato Chip Topping
Pumpkin, Kale, Mushroom and Tempeh Casserole with Sweet Potato Chip Topping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry-Clementine and Walnut Sauce
Cranaberry-Clementine and Walnut Sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bundt Cake with Spiced Espresso Ganache
Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bundt Cake with Spiced Espresso Ganache
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Vegan Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Dressing (+ Thanksgiving 2013 Menu)

My Handsome 84-Year Old Father, Byron Gough; Huff; and My Beautiful Sister-in-Law, Terri Ann Lindelow
My Handsome 84-Year Old Father, Byron Gough; Huff; and My Beautiful Sister-in-Law, Terri Ann Lindelow

Ever since the year after we were married, Joe and I have enjoyed the annual privilege of hosting Thanksgiving for our respective families.

The venue has changed from our small first house to the roomier home we built 13 years ago as have the number of people gathered around the table, for family members and friends have come and gone through death, divorce, relocation, engagement, or just scheduling conflicts.

Everyone misses Joe’s now deceased parents and, this year, an engagement and a work schedule prevented one of our nieces and our nephew from coming.  But, my parents and sister all joined us this year.  (Impending knee surgery had kept my sister and mother home last year and my father, especially, felt guilty for coming without them, though they encouraged him.)

Both of Joe’s sister’s, one niece, and his married sister’s husband all were able to come, which made for a convivial group of 9 plus two hungry Great Danes.

I loved having my sister stay at our house, but I also loved visiting our parents at their beachfront hotel, and taking long (like 7 miles long) walks on the boardwalk with Joe’s younger sister from his families’  beachfront hotel.

There were lunches and dinners both in and out, movies, a couple of exciting football games (MS State vs. Ole Miss and Auburn vs. Alabama), dog walks, a bit of shopping with my mom and sister–we had to get Mom something pretty to wear for the holidays and she no longer drives (words I thought I would never utter)–planning for an SPCA fundraiser (more on that later), and lots of conversation, teasing and laughter.

Our tasty dinner–we usually eat around 6 p.m.–consisted of the following vegan dishes:

Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Marinated Figs & Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds

Lemony Parsnip Puree

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Shallots

Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Dressing (see below)

Morel Mushroom Gravy (no real recipe)

Pear Chutney (not yet posted)

Apple, Pear and Dried Apricot Crisp with Chai-Scented Streusel Topping

 

Double Corn Finger, Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Stuffing--Thanksgiving 2013Everyone seemed to love it all, but the dressing was a particular favorite.  I had found a recipe for Double Corn-Cornbread Dressing in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  I was excited that it incorporated spinach in a great enough amount that each serving included a healthy serving.  So, I basically followed their recipe (substituting a vegan broth for their chicken broth).  But, as a child, I loved my mom, Sallie’s, Double Corn Fingers, so I decided to use my veganized version of that recipe in place of the cornbread and it was absolutely scrumptious in this teen-to-adult-pleasing stuffing!

Vegan Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Stuffing

Serves 8-10 (with other side dishes)

1 cup vegan butter, divided

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 1/4 cup self-rising flour

1-15.5 ounce can creamed corn (which is vegan)

3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 large red onion, halved, and cut into thin wedges

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 cups fresh baby spinach

2 to 2 3/4 cups no-chicken broth or vegetable broth (I think the no-chicken broth has a richer flavor)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place1/2 cup butter in a 9 x 13″ metal baking pan and slide into oven just until butter melts. Remove pan and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium size mixing bowl, combine self-rising flour and cornmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in creamed corn and the melted butter. Stir together with a fork until completely combined. Dough will be a little sticky. Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.  (Can be made a day ahead up to this point.)

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter in large cast iron skillet over medium high.  Add corn, onion, and salt,  and cook, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes or so, until butter begins to brown and corn and onion begin to caramelize.  Stir in pepper.  Adjust heat as necessary.  Remove from heat.

In a very large bowl, break up cornbread into bite size pieces.  Add corn and onion mixture and spinach.  Toss to combine well.  Drizzle with broth to moisten and lightly toss to combine.  Spoon into a greased 3-1uart baking dish and bake, uncovered for 40 minutes or until dressing is heated through and lightly browned on top.  Serve warm.  (Alternatively, dressing may be made up to to the point of baking, covered, refrigerated for up to a day, placed in a cold oven, and then baked at 325 degrees, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 25 to 30 minutes.  Recover if it appears to be browning too fast or drying out.)

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Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day #2: Vegan Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage Pesto (Delicious with Any Pumpkin or Squash)

Turks Turban Squash with Pepita-Sage PestoWho knew that those pumpkins and squash at the farmers market–with their fanciful forms and all of their beautiful color, strips and spots–were not just for decoration?  Many, if not most, are seriously good eats.

What better to top my roasted version with than my Pepita-Sage Pesto?  I make a lot of pestos out of all kinds of ingredients, but this glistening version  is an all-time favorite!

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