Trio of Vegan Valentine’s Treats: 1 Savory and 2 Sweets

Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow(!), I wanted to direct you to three oldies-but-goodies that I created in years past to celebrate the national day of love.  Just click on the title to be taken right to the post with that recipe.  Happy Valentine’s Day from the Blooming Platter!

Savory Vegan Sausage and Red Bell Pepper Heart Tarts









Vegan Chocolate Truffles










Vegan Peppermint and Chocolate Patties


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Heart Healthy Valentine’s Treats: Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Dried Apricots with Crunchy Coating and an Uncle Sam Cereal Product Review

Well, if our dog, Huff’s, national Superbowl celebrity hadn’t overshadowed almost all else, I would have made these for our Superbowl party last Sunday and posted the recipe as part of my “Crash the SuperBowl Snack Recipe” countdown during the week leading up to the big event.

But alas, I didn’t make them until Monday night to take to my AP art students’ critique on Tuesday. We call them Critique Treats.  However, I also had Valentine’s Day in mind.

These confections are as nutritious and delicious as they are beautiful.  And though each one looks like a precious gem, they are super-simple to make.  Another of  their best features is their texture contrasts: plump chewy dried apricots, silken dark chocolate and crunchy wheat berry flake and flaxseed cereal coating.

This recipe–which is more of a procedure than a true recipe–was inspired by a gift of Uncle Sam Toasted “Original” Whole Wheat Berry Flakes and Flaxseed Cereal from Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree, who also does some online marketing for Attune Foods.  When she asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of cereals, and invited me to choose which ones I wanted, she happened to mention that my choices were good “recipe cereals.”  So that got me thinking in terms of what I could do with the cereal besides eat it.

Though eat it I did.  I put a little in my mouth and closed my eyes to try to get in “tune” with its distinctive flavor.  I thought I detected the pleasantly subtle taste of barley malt, checked the box and, sure enough, there it was in the very short list of wholesome ingredients.  Otherwise, Uncle Sam is deeply nutty in flavor.  It just tastes wholesome, with pleasant texture contrasts.

So, next I poured a little unsweetened soymilk over it and tasted it before doctoring it up in any way.  I decided that–and this admittedly sounds odd–it would be tasty with a sprinkling of both nutritional yeast and natural sugar to create the same sort of savory-sweet appeal of Kettle Corn.  I loved it.   Be advised, though, that, even without the nutritional yeast and sugar, Uncle Sam’s is calorie dense. I recommend measuring out the cereal so as not too meat too much.  Because it is so healthy and tasty–10 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein with less than 1 gram of sugar per serving–it would be very easy to go overboard.

Not being much of a cereal eater–I get a little carried away with it in the house and don’t know when to stop eating–I opted for making the treats mentioned above.  Still thinking in terms of dried apricots and nuts from my morning hiking in Back Bay Wildlife Refuge/False Cape described in a previous post, and with a bag of vegan chocolate morsels in the pantry, I decided to dip the apricots halfway into the melted chocolate and then roll them in the cereal.  The resulting color contrast of shimmering translucent orange and dark ebony brown chocolate studded with lighter brown flecks was just beautiful.

I can scarcely think of a more appealing nor unique box of Valentine’s treats than these combined with my Peanut Butter Brown Rice Cereal Treats with a Dried Apricot-Almond Surprise.

Vegan Chocolate -Dipped Dried Apricots with Crunchy Coating

Yield: 24 confections

24 plump dried apricots

12 ounces vegan dark chocolate (you won’t need this much, but I like the melted chocolate to be deep so that dipping is easy)

approximately 1/2 cup Uncle Sam’s cereal

Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper and set aside.  in a small microwave safe mixing bowl or a 1 quart saucepan set over a double boiler, gently melt chocolate.  While chocolate is melting, pour cereal into a small bowl.  Holding each apricot between your thumb and forefinger, dip halfway up in the melted chocolate, gently roll in the cereal, and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Store in the refrigerator between layers of waxed or parchment paper in an airtight container, but allow to come to room temperature before serving.

For 150+ more recipes for holidays and every day, please check out The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.

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The Bloomin’ Best Red Velvet Pancakes

If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend, you’ll want to wake up your sweetie tomorrow with these not-too-sweet, but almost-too-good-to-be-true Red Velvet Pancakes.

The recipe isn’t in The Blooming Platter Cookbook (though 150+ mouthwatering recipes for special and not-so-special occasions are!), so just click here to go to the original post for the short back story and complete list of ingredients and instructions.

Ever since childhood, I have loved to have the occasional breakfast for dinner, especially in the winter.  So, since Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday this year, and since–if you’re like me–breakfast during the week is a soy-something-or-other from Starbucks, why not enjoy these beauties for dinner with a side of fruit and a glass of soymilk?

I plan to post retro-recipes from my blog for other Valentines favorites along with a brand new creation, but I encourage you to search “Valentine” to see what goodies pop up that might grab your interest.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Blooming Platter!

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Happy Vegan Valentine’s Day–Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Vegan Chocolate Truffle

Many recipes call for making a cashew cream of equal parts cashews and water which I find WAY too thin. These recipes also often call for melted chocolate which is luscious, but fairly high-fat. So, I make mine with cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Try them–you’ll LOVE them.

And, by the way, I hope this post isn’t too late to do you any good for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. This is the earliest I could get it done, so I apologize if you’ve no time left to make a batch. They are ultra quick to prepare and shape, though the mixture does need to chill for about 2-3 hours.

On the other hand, don’t feel you can only indulge on special occasions!

2 cups cashews halves or pieces (raw or roasted and lightly salted; if the latter, the truffles will have that “roasted” flavor and you will be able to taste the salt, but I love salt and sugar together)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup water plus up to 1 tablespoon more

optional: 1/2 teaspoon flavoring of choice, e.g. vanilla, rum, hazelnut, etc.

Coating: cocoa powder, colored sugar, very finely chopped nuts, etc. (I used red sugar for the one in the photograph)

24 mini-paper liners in Valentine’s colors/patterns (I purchased mine at a craft store) Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Place all ingredients except paper liners, of course, in the bowl of a food processor. Process for a few seconds and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Process the mixture for several minutes or until very smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. Add the additional 1 tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if needed to prevent stressing the motor of your food processor, as this is a very thick mixture. Scrape it into an airtight container and chill for 2 to 3 hours or until it is firm enough to handle very easily. (Believe it or not, the motor of your food processor working will have caused the mixture to warm slightly.) Scoop the mixture into 1-inch balls (I use a small scoop for this task), rolling each one between your palms quickly to shape, and placing it on the prepared baking sheet. Return the sheet to the refrigerator if necessary before coating the candies. Pour the desired coating into a small bowl, quickly roll each truffle in it to cover completely, and place it in a mini-paper liner. Store the truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Package as desired.

Yield: 2 dozen 1-inch truffles

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Red Velvet Pancakes–A New Vegan Valentine’s Breakfast Tradition

Yield: 8 pancakes

I love Red Velvet everything. Ever since childhood and the first taste of my Aunt Bessie’s signature cake of crimson layers swathed in fluffy white frosting with a Jackson Pollock-style drizzle of bittersweet chocolate, it has been my favorite. As beautiful as it is delicious, I chose it as the groom’s cake for Joe’s and my wedding, and I made an especially baroque one as the wedding cake for our good friends Donna and Art. Plus no one who saw “Steel Magnolias” could forget the Armadillo cake.

Over the years, I’ve created Red Velvet versions of anything I could think of from cookies to shortcakes. I even won a prize in a Better Homes & Gardens recipe contest with one version of the cookies.

Presuming I would create a menu and recipes for a romantic dinner for two for February’s “Veggie Table” column in the Virginian-Pilot, I immediately changed my mind when I learned that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday. Instead, I started thinking of family-friendly breakfasts, conceiving of and rejecting several ideas in favor of Red Velvet Pancakes. (But my Vegan “Sausage” and Red Bell Pepper Puff Pastry Heart Tarts would be a delicious savory accompaniment.)

First I conducted a little on-line research and, not surprisingly, there were a number of non-vegan iterations, including some from a couple of California restaurant that folks raved about, but none were right. Either they were pink, were too thin, or had an odd-looking texture. Quite honestly, only one that I found appealed: a very romantic and lovely photo with a recipe on someone’s blog, but they were not vegan. Still, it was the look I was after and I knew it could be done dairyless.

So, I turned to the go-to pancake formula that I developed, complete with some whole grain goodness, and then added the key Red Velvet ingredients. After a couple of adjustments, they were ready to cook and boy-oh-boy, can I just tell you: I ate all four from my photo shoot for breakfast. They are the exact shade of deep red that any self-respecting thing calling itself “Red Velvet” ought to be. And they have the characteristic flavor profile of a slight tanginess and an almost imperceptible, yet undeniable, hint of cocoa. Granted, there is more sugar in this recipe than in most of my pancakes, but it is needed to balance the tartness of the vegan “buttermilk” and the appealing bitterness of the cocoa powder.

I hope you and your loved ones, young or old, enjoy them just as much as I did. Happy Valentine’s Day!

1 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk less 1 ½ tablespoons (plain or vanilla soy milk or lite soy milk would also be good)
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
½ cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
½-3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1-1 ounce bottle (2 tablespoons) red food coloring
Vegan butter and/or vegetable oil for frying
Vegan Sour Cream-Maple Syrup (recipe follows)
Optional Garnish: additional vegan sour cream, orange zest, vegan chocolate chips
Optional Sidecar: fresh or frozen thawed fruit

Preheat oven to warm. In a small bowl, whisk together soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle. In a medium mixing bowl, place next 6 ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in soy milk and food coloring. Stir together with a fork until well combined. In a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan butter, oil or a combination. Using a 1/3 cup measure, make pancakes, one at a time if using a skillet, as this batter tends to spread, but it rises nicely. Cook a couple of minutes on the first side until quite a few bubbles appear and the edges appear set. Gently flip and cook another couple of minutes on the reverse. Add butter and/or oil to keep skillet greased as needed. If pancakes are cooking too quickly, lower heat to medium, especially for second side. When cooked through, remove pancakes to plates or a serving platter, keep warm, and repeat with remaining vegan butter and pancake batter. Note: for smaller pancakes that allow you to cook two at a time in a skillet and more on a griddle, use a ¼ cup measure. Serve warm with Vegan Sour Cream-Maple Syrup, an extra dollop of vegan sour cream, and a garnish of a little orange zest and/or a very few vegan chocolate chips, along with a sidecar of fresh or frozen thawed fruit.

Vegan Sour Cream Maple Syrup:
4-6 tablespoon vegan sour cream
4-6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
a squirt of lemon juice (optional)

Whisk together and, if desired, heat gently in microwave for a few seconds. Note: you can make as much syrup as you like; just whisk together equal parts vegan sour cream and syrup and adjust lemon juice accordingly.

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Vegan Peppermint and Chocolate Patties (A Valentine’s Day Must-Have)

Yield: 30 candies

I was a fan of York Peppermint Patties in my vegetarian days. Recently, I’ve been coveting the pretty heart-shaped pink variety that Helen Cox, our beloved IB Coordinator, keeps in her candy dish. So, I decided to make her a well-deserved box of vegan ones for an early Valentine’s gift…and, of course, sample a few in the process.

I’m sold! I found a very fine recipe at The only changes I made were to 1) dry them longer than instructed and flip them during the process; 2) add a little vanilla in addition to the peppermint extract for a more nuanced flavor; and 3) spread chocolate on the top of each patty, rather than dipping them, as dipping can be hit-or-miss for me in the make-a-mess department. I also think they’d look snazzy drizzled with the chocolate Jackson Pollock-style.

Oh-so-pretty in pink, these can also be tinted green for Christmas or even St. Patty’s Day. To give as gifts, layer them between pieces of waxed paper in a colored tissue paper-lined box, tied with a ribbon.

4 tablespoons vegan butter, softened (I use Earth Balance)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
two drops of red or green food coloring
4 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet vegan chocolate

Line baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper or Silpat. Cream together first three ingredients. Beat in powdered sugar, 1/2-1 cup at a time, then beat in extracts until mixture is uniform in color, very smooth and quite stiff, but not in danger of cracking. Using a very small scoop, make 30 balls a couple of inches apart on lined baking sheet. With the oiled bottom of a glass, press balls into a disk about 2-inches in diameter. (Using two fingers, hold down the baking sheet liner as you lift the glass away to help prevent sticking.) Let patties dry, uncovered, in a cool place for 2 or more hours. When fairly firm, flip patties to help dry the other side. Melt chocolate at 30 second intervals in a small bowl in the microwave or over simmering water on the stove top. Whisk between intervals until very smooth. Allow to cool somewhat, but remain spreadable. Spread tops of each patty with 1/2 teaspoon or so of chocolate, or drizzle decoratively across surface, Jackson Pollock style. Allow to dry/harden a couple more hours in a cool place and then refrigerate for a few more before packaging. Note: you may add sprinkles or other decorations while chocolate is still soft. I like the minimalist approach, but I think it looks nice to choose a few to embellish, sort of like Harry and David includes one gold foil-wrapped pear in each of their gift boxes.

Source: Slightly adapted from

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Vegan “Sausage” and Red Bell Pepper Puff Pastry Heart Tarts (Perfect for a Vegan Valentine’s Breakfast or Brunch)

Yield: 20 small tarts

Why not serve these savory heart-smart tarts to your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? They are simple, special, quick and delicious, and they only look and taste like you labored for hours.

When I realized that Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, I began brainstorming brunch ideas for my vegan column, “The Veggie Table,” in The Virginian-Pilot. For it, I ultimately decided on unforgettable Red Velvet Pancakes. (I’ve posted a teaser with a photo, but will post the recipe as soon as it appears in the Pilot, as per my agreement with them.)

But these little morsels were one of my ideas and they are scrumptious. So if you prefer a savory to a semi-sweet breakfast, then I encourage you to whip up a platter of these heart tarts and serve them with a side of fruit for a very beautiful and satisfying start to the day.

The flecks of red bell pepper make them especially fitting for any of the “red” holidays, so you might cut the pastry out in the shape of stars and make tarts for a Christmas breakfast or brunch. But simple squares or circles would make them suitable for any day of the year.

Though they are especially fitting in the morning, they would also make delicious hors d’oeuvres on an afternoon or evening buffet.

Vegan Pastry:
1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (removed from box and thawed 40 minutes on counter)

Vegan “Sausage” and Red Pepper Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
8 ounces tempeh (I used the “garden” variety–no pun intended–with flecks of vegetables)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Amino Acids
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 “squirt” of lemon juice
1 “squirt” of Liquid Smoke
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (white would also work)
4 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk (plain would also work)
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add bell pepper and saute for about a minute or two until it starts to soften. Add garlic and saute another couple of minutes or until garlic softens and just barely begins to develop golden color. Crumble tempeh into skillet, stir well and add next 8 ingredients, sauteing and stirring until tempeh is uniform in color, fennel seeds release fragrance, and mixture is warmed through. Sprinkle with flour and immediately add milk, cooking and stirring until flour no longer tastes raw and mixture begins to bind together. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and remove from heat.

Cut puff pastry into 20 hearts, 10 per sheet and place on a lightly oiled or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Using a spoon or small scoop, place approximately 2 teaspoons of filling into the center of each heart. Bake on the center oven rack for approximately 16-17 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot, warm or room temperature.

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Vegan Red Velvet Valentine’s Pancakes–A Teaser

With MLK Day off from school, I had some time for morning experimentation in the kitchen. For my February “Veggie Table” column in The Virginian-Pilot, I thought I would make a special Valentine’s Breakfast since the holiday falls on a Sunday. My aunt, Bessie Weed’s, red velvet cake has long inspired my love of Red Velvet everything causing me to transform her cake into cookies, shortcakes and, now, pancakes.

First I checked online and, not surprisingly, there were a number of non-vegan iterations, including some from a particular restaurant that folks raved about, but that were unappetizingly pink. Others were thin and otherwise not what I was after. Quite honestly, only one appealed: a very romantic and lovely photo with a recipe on someone’s blog, but they were not vegan. Still, it was the look I was after and I knew it could be done.

So, I turned to the go-to pancake formula that I developed and then added the key Red Velvet ingredients. After a couple of adjustments, they were ready to cook and boy-oh-boy, can I just tell you: I ate all four from my photo shoot for breakfast. I’m off to go walk and dance them off (I have a lesson today)!

They were so pretty that I had to post the photo and a brief enticement. As soon as The Virginian-Pilot publishes my February column, I will post the complete recipe. So stay tuned!

Happy MLK Day!
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Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Yield: approximately 14 truffles

I am posting this recipe at the request of my good friend and realtor Jonell. She and her husband came to our Valentine’s Day dinner party this year from which I sent each couple home with a little box of homemade truffles. There is a funny story here but, don’t worry Jonell, your secret is safe with me!

6 tablespoons chocolate or lite chocolate soy milk
9 ounces vegan chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark, but dark is a little overpowering)
Optional: 1 ½ teaspoons liqueur
1/3-1/2 cup cocoa powder

In a small microwave safe bowl, heat soy milk in microwave for a minute or two. Whisk in chips until completely melted, adding optional liqueur toward the end. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Using a small scoop (about 1-inch in diameter) with a release lever, dip out balls of chocolate and place onto a waxed paper- or foil-lined plate or tray.

If firm enough to handle, roll in cocoa powder and place on serving tray or, preferably, place into individual candy papers (like cupcake liners, but much smaller) and then on a tray. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. If not firm enough to handle, cover and refrigerate for several more hours or overnight. Mixture may be a bit sticky, but once you drop the balls into the cocoa powder, they are simple to shape. You may also dip your fingers into cocoa powder to reduce stickiness.

Note: if the brand of chips you purchase is sold in 12 ounce bags, use ½ cup chocolate soy milk and 2 teaspoons of optional liqueur.

Source: Vegetarian Times Magazine (no author on my clipped recipe, but whoever you are, you’re a genius)

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