Day 4: Vegan Apple Peanut Butter Streusel Pie–Cooking “The Blooming Platter Cookbook” Julie & Julia Style

Valentines Pie(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)


I decided to pick a dessert to celebrate Valentine’s Day so I chose the Apple Peanut Butter Streusel Pie. It was this and a clean garage for my man – strange how “gifts” evolve over 22 years of marriage!

I started reading through and it mentions the use of a food processor. Now it is a widely known fact in my home that I absolutely HATE my food processor. Just can’t stand it. My husband feels like I am totally irrational on this point. I admit my first excuse is lame. I tell him there are so many pieces to wash. He points out that we have a dishwasher. Ok true. Then I show him how I can’t seem to ever lock it in without a huge fight. He says…and I love this…”you’re doing it wrong”. So fine…you do it, I say. I cannot tell you the amazing sense of satisfaction I had watching him repeatedly try to lock it into place!! Ahhhhh!! Point made.

When I was very young, my mom taught me how to bake. Basic baking ingredients were affordable and it’s amazing what you can create with flour, sugar, powdered milk and imitation vanilla. If we found a great looking recipe with an ingredient we didn’t have, she would save up and get it for me. So I love to bake for the memories; and for this reason, I am really old school about it. So long story short, it’s a no on the food processor.

This recipe called for coconut oil. Ok that would be under the bathroom counter. I always thought it wWedding Ringsas for making great body scrubs. It never occurred to me to cook with it! I didn’t have enough so I went shopping. While I was standing in front of the overwhelming choices of coconut oils (refined, medium heat, virgin, unrefined) I was so tempted to text Betsy for advice. But seriously, did Julie have an option of texting the great Julia Child? Nope. I’m on my own here, so I chose the virgin, unrefined. It just sounded more vegan to me.

When it came time to make the tart dough, I was skeptical. Coconut oil instead of butter? Surprisingly it really did have the consistency required and it came together perfectly. I pressed it into a heart shaped pan but the sides kept slipping down so I gave up on that and just stuck it in the oven.

With the coconut oil out I just couldn’t resist giving my dry winter hands a spa treatment so I made a quick lemon sugar scrub in the palm of my hand. What could be better? Baking and a spa treatment!! Instant stress relief.

Everything else was a breeze and I was in my element. It was beautiful right out of the oven. I even sprinkled some red sugar over it for a more festive look.

Even though I was super careful to hide the coconut oil and the organic peanut butter, my men were circling it like a pack of wolves – going in, examining it, sniffing it and backing out again. What the hell guys! It’s just heart shaped!! Do they per chance suspect vegan?? Has my cover been blown so early in the game??

So here are the results. My husband kept shaking his head saying it needed more peanut butter (seriously I think he just meant it lacked Jif, his favorite), but he liked the crust saying it tasted like the apples. My son will eat anything and gave it a thumbs up on his way out the door. I, unlike my husband, tasted tons of peanut butter, but I must confess I really missed the butter in the crust and the topping. I do love the fact that the apples were sautéed before going into the oven. Overall thumbs up but sorry, I have to use butter next time. I sure will miss my hand scrub though.

~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Love My New GSD Haushaltsgeräte 30 000 Mandolin

MandolinOne of our many culinary wedding gifts was a mandolin made for home use, which I used early on, just about sliced my finger off, and promptly gave away.

It’s been many years since then and, with all of the cooking I’ve done, I’ve never felt I needed or wanted another mandolin.  But something I saw–probably on a cooking show–had me thinking about them again.  And, this winter, I abruptly decided I had to have one.  So I popped into our local kitchen shop, asked for their best recommendation, and emerged with the GSD Haushaltgerate 30 Mandolin for under $70 which you can purchase on ebay here if you are unable to find one in your area.

Love it!  It comes with few (illustrated) instructions because few are needed: it couldn’t be quicker or easier to operate.

Be sure to use the guard to protect your fingers well before you think you need it.  The little prongs pierce the food and hold it in place so that you end up with few remnants that aren’t perfectly sliced and diced.

As for cleaning, just rinse with warm water, as instructed, lest you wound yourself.

Stay calm and slice on!

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Product Recommendation from Vegan Cookbook Author: Calphalon’s Stainless Steel Roasting Pan

This roasting pan was a Christmas gift I requested from my dear parents at their insistent urging.  After conducting some research, I chose Calphalon’s Stainless Steel Roasting Pan with Rack (16 x 13.5 x 3.75″), largely based on a Cook’s Illustrated recommendation.

I place a lot of “stock” in anything Cook’s says, such as:  “Stainless steel is attractive, nonreactive, lightweight, and relatively durable. It’s also a poor conductor of heat, making it no surprise that our two top-performing pans featured an aluminum core inside the stainless steel.”  The pan’s outstanding conductivity means perfect and consistent browning.  And the pan’s highly reflective interior means  changes in the food being roasted are easy to discern so that the cook can achieve precisely the desired color.  Though I will never brown a turkey or a roast in this pan, I still love having it for seeds, nuts and veggies.

I intentionally purchased a pan without a nonstick coating and, as its maiden voyage proved today, with a good slick of olive oil, nothing even thought about sticking to it.  It cleaned up easily and brilliantly with a non-abrasive sponge and liquid dishwashing soap.  While it is dishwasher safe, it would take up a lot of room.  Note: Avoid using non-stick spray, as it will discolor the pan and is purported to be nearly impossible to remove.

One minor drawback is its size in regard to storage.  My current collection of cookware and the height of this pan’s handles prevented it from fitting in our cabinets.  But, no worries: it slipped between the fridge and upper cabinet neatly and with room to spare.  And because it is so handsome, I don’t mind a bit of it showing.

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Crash the SuperBowl Snack Recipe #1: Vegan Smoked Paprika and Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (+ a Product Recommendation for Calphalon’s Stainless Steel Roasting Pan)

Previously, I posted my favorite stove top recipe for toasted pumpkin seeds, but this kicked-up oven-roasted version is just right when you need to serve a crowd, make a large batch for gift-giving or, in my case, both.

Every day from now until the SuperBowl (aka Supper Bowl) next Sunday, February 5, I am delighted to post a vegan recipe ideal for snacking during the big game.  Some will be from my Blooming Platter Cookbook, some will be new, and some, like this one, will have been previously posted, but worth highlighting perhaps with a ‘coupla changes.

We’re feeling particularly “bowl protective” about this year’s game because, as some of you know, our dog, Huff the Great Dane, co-stars in a locally-produced commercial by our friend, Jonathan Friedman, that earned a Top Five Finalist status in the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” competition!  TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO VOTE to make “Man’s Best Friend” a Top Two Finalist, thereby earning it air time during the bowl game.  (Click here to vote.)

We abandoned plans for a huge bash when we learned that Frito-Lay would not be announcing the winners, even to some of their own employees.  Rather, everyone just has to watch and see.  Jonathan and Matt, his brother and assistant director, will be watching from the Frito Lay sky box on the 50 yard line!  So, just in case our boy doesn’t win, we decided to have just a few close friends over for a potluck.  And these seeds will be perfect for healthy snacking.

But, these addicting pepitas are also serving another purpose:  the busy winter holiday season came and went without my preparing a gift from my kitchen as I do every year for my freelance clients.  So, with two weeks of grueling exams over last Friday–grueling for teachers AND students–this was the weekend I promised myself I’d get them made for delivery early in the week as more of a New Year’s gift.

Before I share the recipe, though, I want to put in a plug for the world’s best roasting pan: Calphalon’s Stainless Steel Roasting Pan.  See what I have to say here if interested.

Vegan Smoked Paprika and Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yield; 6 pounds

This recipe is easily cut to one-third or two-thirds.

Generous 1 tablespoon of olive oil

6 tablespoons vegan butter (my choice is Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

6 pounds raw pepitas or pumpkin seeds (I purchase Trader Joe’s brand in 2-pound bags)

Plenty of sea salt to bring out all the delicious flavors

6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Coat a large (16 x 13.5″) roasting pan with the olive oil, add butter, and place the pan in a cold oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and allow the  butter to melt during the preheat.  Mix together the garlic powder and smoked paprika.  Remove the pan from the oven, add the seeds, the spice mixture, and a sprinkling of sea salt.  Roast the pepitas for 25 minutes total, removing the pan from the oven and stirring well in 5 minute intervals.  I recommend adding a pinch of salt and tasting at each stage, building up the layers of perfectly salted goodness to your preferred level so that you don’t over-do it.  After 15 minutes, add the nutritional yeast, stir well, and return the pan to the oven for the remaining 10 minutes, remembering to stir after 5.  The pepitas should be light golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven, place it on a rack, and allow to cool.  Store the pumpkin seeds tightly covered at room temperature.  If you accidentally let the seeds get a little more roasted than you intended, pour them onto a baking sheet to cool, so that the residual heat from the pan does not continue to cook them.

Note, if you bake a smaller batch, you might need to adjust the cooking time down, as they will likely cook more quickly since the layer of seeds will be thinner, unless you use a smaller roasting pan.  My seeds were about  1-inch deep.

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Vegan Cookbook Author Loves Eco-Friendly Bamboo Cooking Utensils

The truth is that I actually loved my wooden spoons and cooked with them almost exclusively.  That is, until Minnie, the miniature Great Dane destroyed them. 

I came home one afternoon to find splintered wood in a small pile in our den.  There was one piece that puzzled me: it was perfectly cylindrical and smooth as could be.  I didn’t figure out what it was until I went looking for my wooden spoon and it was nowhere to be found.  That one belonged to my late paternal grandmother.  Irreplaceable.  My mother had tied it onto the top of a Christmas package years ago and I treasured it. 

When I told Mama what happened, she gave me one of hers.  But I didn’t learn;  Minnie destroyed that one too.  She apparently retrieved them off the dish drainer where, I suppose, though washed, they still had a residual aroma and taste of something delectable to her, though her palate isn’t very discriminating.

Incidentally, yesterday I heard a strange sound, like something had fallen, but I couldn’t find whatever it was until this morning when I encountered another splintered mini-pile of wood.  Years ago in a sculpture class, I made a wall relief piece out of tea boxes.  Our power has gone out several times this week due to storms and perhaps the humidity caused the two boxes to come apart sending them plummeting to the floor.  Once again, I suppose they still gave off a residual aroma or taste.  See the photos at the bottom of this post for the before and after.  Have I mentioned that Minnie is a brat?  Loveable, but a brat just the same.

So, alas, I was in T. J. Maxx yesterday and snagged a very inexpensive bag of bamboo untensils ($3.99 for five) which I “test drove” last night.  I love the way they “handled,” and I LOVE that they are made from a sustainable plant.  If yours ever need replacing, I highly recommend bamboo!

"Order" Tea Box Wall Relief by Betsy DiJulio
"Order" Tea Box Art after Minnie "Reordered" It
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