Vegan Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
One of My Better Homes & Gardens
Test Kitchen Winning Recipes

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

Well, I blew it in terms of posting these not-too-sweet rubry red cookies for Christmas.  But, they would be just as lovely for Valentine’s Day. So, Happy Whatever!

Back in the day, when Better Homes & Gardens Magazine ran monthly reader recipe contests, these cookies won an award.  I brought them back tthis year for our Christmas Cheer Open House with a drizzle, instead of a dip, of white chocolate.  I think they are magically beautiful…add silver or gold nonpareils if you desire some sparkle.

 

1 cup vegan butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1-1 ounce bottle red food coloring (choose an organic, vegan version)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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

8 ounces melted vegan white chocolate (I order white chocolate chips online)

Optional: silver or gold nonpareils

Cream together in an electric mixer butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder.  Turn off mixer and add food coloring, extracts, and 1/2 cup flour, and incorporate into butter mixture on lowest speed so as not to splatter.  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.  Remove the cookie sheets to a wire rack and cool completely.  Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate (I use a pastry bag fitted with a small round tube for this task.)  Decorate with nonpareils if desired.

 

 

Print Friendly

Vegan Starbucks Look-Alike Cranberry Bliss Bars
‘Gotta Love Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg!

So sorry this is too late for the just-passed holidays.  But there is always next year’s celebration…or no celebration at all, just a craving for a delicious, beautiful sweet. Thanks to one of my newest creations, I need no longer stare longingly at these bars in the bakery case at Starbucks every morning on the way to school:

While I have found that most of my baked goods don’t require an egg substitute, something told me that these might in order to get just the right texture.  And something told me to try Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg.  I think the results speak for themselves.

BLONDIE LAYER:

3/4 cup vegan butter, melted and still warm
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg (powdered substitute)
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
6 ounces vegan white chocolate chips

FROSTING:

8 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
6 ounces vegan white chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Combine warm melted butter and both sugars in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, whisk together egg replacer and water. Beat into butter mixture on medium speed, along with vanilla, just until combined. Beat in half the flour, just until combined, followed by the remaining half of flour, plus baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate chips (the batter will be thick). Spread the batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 18 to 21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add half the melted white chocolate, beating until well-blended. Frost the bars, sprinkle with cranberries, and drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. I use a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip for this task.

Store, covered, in refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving. Remove from refrigerator and allow to sit, uncovered for about a half hour. Cut into squares and then triangles to serve.

Print Friendly

Vegan Taco-Fajita Chex Mix
It’s Dangerous!

I love healthy whole foods as much as the next gal, but I do have my guilty pleasures.  And my late mom’s “Texas Trash,” the 1960s version of “Original Chex Mix,” is one.  But I can never leave well enough alone and, over the years, I have experimented with various flavored iterations.  This Taco-Fajita version is worth sharing.  I can’t keep this stuff in the house, so I made it for contractors renovating my kitchen to thank them for helping beautity my home.  But I had my share of tastes to satisfy my craving before I bagged it up for gift-giving. The fajita seasoning adds a nice citrusy lime flavor, but if that’s not your jam, just use two packages of Taco seasoning.  However, don’t even think about omitting the “cheese” crackers.

6 cups (about 12 ounces) Chex Cereal: wheat, rice or corn (I actually used Cascadian Farms Organic Whole Grain Squares–wheat, rice and corn combined–from Whole Foods so that I didn’t have to buy several boxes of cereal and have leftovers, as I am not a cereal eater)

1 1/2 cups vegan butter (it sounds like a lot BUT this recipe makes a lot and this amount is needed)

5 to 6 cups pecan halves (a bit over a pound)

1-1 ounce package Taco seasoning (be sure it’s vegan)

1-1 ounce package Fajita seasoning (be sure it’s also vegan and substitue another taco seasoning packet if you prefer)

1-14 ounce box Cheerios

8 ounces pretzel sticks (any shape is fine, but I like this shape for contrast)

1-6 ounce box Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Flavored Squares (purchased at Whole Foods)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place butter in large roasting pan and place pan in oven for a few minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir in seasoning packets followed by pecans and toss well to coat.  Add remaining ingredients in succession, gently stirring after each addition to coat with the butter mixture.  Roast for 45 minutes, gently stirring up from the bottom every 15 minutes.  Turn off oven, leave door closed, and let the mix sit for a final 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir well, allow to cool completely–it will crisp even more as it cools–and package for eating or giving.  Note: I don’t find the mixture too buttery for an indulgent snack, but if you prefer to absorb a little of the oil, spread the mixture on brown paper bags or paper towels to cool.  

Print Friendly

Crispy Vegan Fan Potatoes (Faux Hasselback Potatoes)

Not to be cliche, but I am not quite sure where the time has gone since Christmas when I intended to post a number of scrumptious new recipes.  I guess snow storms, work, new love (!), and just life intervened.

As most of your know by  now, my husband unthinkably passed away July 30, 2015, and my dog and mother–all adored–within the next two months.  I have been figuring out a lot of things–including the holidays–since then.  And, I’m grateful for the new insights and perspectives gained.

To celebrate Christmas 2015, I suggested that I meet my father and sister–who live together in MS–in New Orleans, a richly idiosyncratic city passionately loved by my family.  And we did.  I was as blissfully content as I could have bee, wandering the streets of the historic French Quarter.  But my father and sister, both more sedentary than me–as an octogenarian, he has a good excuse–were restless and a hint malcontent, only leaving the room in our favorite hotel with its exposed brick walls, lovely courtyard, and newly renovated interior for meals (some disappointing) and a modicum of site seeing.  We visited the Roosevelt hotel with its magical Winter Wonderland of a lobby.  And the Monteleone Hotel–where my parents honeymooned and where we hosted their 50th wedding anniversary–with it’s slowly rotating bar.

So,while it wasn’t entirely a bust, I didn’t feel we should attempt a repeat.  Plus, in September, Bob and I feel in love and wanted to spend the holidays together.  He went with me to a wonderfully warm Thanksgiving in MS and LA (at close friends’ gracious home in Covington, just outside of New Orleans), so I felt we should spend Christmas in VA where much of his family lives.  I invited Papa and Gin, they readily accepted, and then they both took ill, my father, too ill to travel.  So my sister, of course, chose to stay with him, as I encouraged her to do.  It was nothing too serious; just a combination of maladies that, together, didn’t lent themselves to plane travel.

Before we realized they wouldn’t be making the trip, I had quickly set about planning our celebration, having not spent Christmas in my own home for the entire 26 years I have lived here.  Joe and I had always hosted Thanksgiving but then, without children, went to spend Christmas with each of our families, he in PA, me in MS.  With no frame of reference, I was so surprised at how many of our friends were available over the Christmas weekend and, pretty soon, a restaurant brunch was planned with friends for Christmas Eve Day and invitations were sent for a Christmas Cheer Open House on Christmas afternoon followed by Christmas Dinner with Bob’s and my families at  my house on Christmas Night.

Shortly thereafter, I was suddenly faced with wrapping my arms around the fact that my family wouldn’t be here–the first time in my entire life I had not been with them on Christmas–so I threw myself into merry making of a different sort, keeping all of our plans in place, just with a bit of a void created by the absence of Papa and Gin.  I had done my usual minimal, but sparkly and special, decorating with the help of my beloved friend and house guest, Donna Reiss, for my annual Christmas, Channukah, Curry & Cakes Party in mid-december.  That left concentrating on friends and food for Christmas weekend.

Here I share a favorite dish from Christmas Dinne 2017.  These potatoes are as delicious warmed and served the next day as when fresh and crispy out of the oven.  But don’t expect many leftovers.  And don’t wait for a holiday.  These spuds are striking, but easy enough for a weeknight provided you use a mandolin for slicing.

All of my recipes were easy this year, as I was all about low-stress, high times in the form of a tasty and festive new traditions. Though I cooked all day on Christmas–both the open house cookies and the dinner dishes had to be finished before the open house began–it was a very comfortable, perfectly balanced, unharried pace.

Crispy Vegan Fan Potatoes

2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed, and sliced about 1/4-inch thick (I used a mandolin for this purpose and microwave the small ends for gnoshing or potato salad)

1/4 cup (or more!) melted vegan butter

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 taspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspooon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Smoked paprika

Spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9 x 13″ pan or therabouts.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place the melted butter, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, and add the potatoes, a handful at a time, tossing as you go to coat them completely.  “Shingle” or “fan” the potatoes in rows in the prepared pan, overlapping them fairly closely. No one will tell if you drizzle just a hint more butter over the top.  Cover the pan tightly with foil or an oven-safe lid and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the foil–potatoes should be cooked through (the tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the potatoes)–and roast, uncovered, for another 25 minutes or more, until potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges.  Even, or maybe especially, a little overly brown is scrumptious.  Sprinkle the top with a bit of smoked paprika and let the potatoes cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a spatula.  Use the knife-edge of the spatula to cut into sections, and then lift each section out with the flat surface.

 

Print Friendly

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, trhrough 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 occured 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 in texture–like the commercial “Pecan Sandies” of my youth–which everyone who has tasted themhas  found very appealing.  And I hope you do.

I served these with Prosecco to guests who stopped by after a concert.  It was 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 almon extract

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

1/8 teaspoonsalt

1 cup brown rice flour (I use white whole wheat)

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 3530 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 lmedium-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. Flaten with your middle three fingers to abotu 1/2-inch thick.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until desired doness 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.

 

Print Friendly

Vegan Pumpkin Ale Spice Cake
with Salted Pecan Caramel Glaze

pumpkin-spice-cake-with-salted-pecan-caramel-plus-slice

If gingerbread and pumpkin cake got together on a booze-infused evening, this “baby” is what they would conceive.

Moist and deeply spiced, it is a carnivore-approved hit with one and all, regardless of dietary preference.  I adapted a favorite spice cake recipe of mine that called for natural cola, substituting pumpkin ale, adding pureed pumpkin, and otherwise tinkering.  I enjoy it with a little dollop of Coco Whip as a fluffy contrast to the richness of the cake.

Pumpkin Ale Spice Cake

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

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup granulated sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/2 cup molasses (dark or light, but not blackstrap)

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk (plain would also be fine)

1 15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin

1 cup canola oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

1 cup pumpkin ale or hard cider (I used Harpoon Pumpkin cider)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

Salted Pecan Caramel (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, except baking soda, make a well in the center, and add all wet ingredients, except ale.  Whisk to completely combine.  In a small bowl or cup, whisk soda into ale.  It will fizz up.  Quickly whisk into batter until completely incorporated.  Transfer the batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove to a wire rack, and cool for about 15 minutes.  Loosen around all edges with a knife, being careful not to slice into the cake.  (I use a plastic knife, as my pan has a non-stick surface, but I still grease and flour it!)  Place serving plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake onto the plate.  Let cool and then glaze if desired.  I recommend letting the glaze soak into the cake overnight before serving.

Salted Pecan Caramel

 1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

6 tablespoons vegan butter

1/2 cup plain soy creamer (or your favorite non-dairy creamer)

1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Optional: 1 tablespoon rum, brandy, favorite liqueur

1/2 cup pecans

In a heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium-high.  Whisk vigorously as it begins to melt.  Once the mixture is boiling and amber colored (if you use demerara, it starts out amber colored), whisk in butter until melted.  Remove pan from heat, count to three, and slowly whisk in the soy creamer, salt, and optional alcohol.  When smooth, allow the caramel to cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a small cup or bowl and let cool until a thick pourable consistency.  Drizzle or spoon over the cake.  You may either stir the pecans into the mixture before drizzling or sprinkle them over after the cake is glazed.

pumpkin-spice-cake-with-salted-pecan-caramel

Print Friendly

Vegan Smoked Cheese Grits
(with the topping of your choice)

cheese-gritsYield: approximately 4 modest servings

The last couple of months finds me joyfully experimenting with vegan dishes my new partner, Bob–a meatatarian–and I can share.  Though there are some dishes with which we enjoy tinkering together, these grits were a hit, though Bob topped his with something we will not mention on this site. 😉

Bob is very into balanced flavors and it was his idea to drizzle with the maple syrup, though though this is a savory dish. His suggestion was genius.

As for cheese, use any you prefer for a total of 8 to 9 ounces.  I love the smoky flavor, but it’s not necessary for a delectable finished dish.

Vegan Cheesy Grits (with the topping of your choice)

4 cups water
1 ccup stone ground yellow grits
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
*2 ounces grated vegan Parmesan
*3 ounces vegan cheddar
*4 ounces vegan smoked gouda
1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos
2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Accompaniment: Sauteed vegetables of your choice (I sauteed shredded zucchini and yellow squash and a little kale in olive oil with minced garlic)

Garnishes: maple syrup and roasted and lightly salted nuts or seeds, e.g. pumpkin seeds

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring lightly salted water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir in grits and garlic. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. During the last 5 minutes or so, stir in remaining ingredients except sauteed veggies and garnishes. Serve topped with those veggies and the optional drizzle of maple syrup plus a sprinkle of roasted nuts or seeds.

Note: I purchase the cheeses at Whole Foods.

Print Friendly

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

Print Friendly

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.

 

 

 

Print Friendly

Tomato Jam–Simple as (Tomato) Pie!

Tomato Jam

Yield: 2 pints (4 cups)

Please forgive me for ignoring my precious blog and all of you.  You’ve been on my mind…

As the year anniversary of my husband’s death approached (July 30), I found myself struggling a bit emotionally.  It didn’t help that, right about the 11-month mark, I began to feel a deep longing for a romantic connection, a concept that had been repulsive up until that point.

There were signs–if you believe in that kind of thing–that it was time to move on in my romantic life [I literally found heart shaped items on the ground in front of me (jewelry, a red felt pouch, etc.)] and, at the suggestion of a friend, joined Match.com.  That could be the subject for many posts, though probably not on a recipe blog.  But, suffice it to say, I have been more than a little distracted for a month, though a vacation last week provided some much-need perspective.

So, instead of a treatice on my looking-for-love life, I offer my tomato jam.

Of late, all of my gardening friends are sharing what appears to be their bumper crops of tomatoes this year: golden pear, cherry, big boys, heirlooms, and more.

Finding myself disappearing under the bounty, but not wanting the fruits of their labors to spoil and go to waste, I wanted to make a batch of something that would use a lot of the tomatoes, produce a manageable quantity–perhaps that I could give as gifts–and not require a lot of my limited time.  So, salsa was out.  I love it, but way too much chopping.  And I rarely eat pasta, so tomato sauce wasn’t the answer either.

Since my husband passed away (and since I joined Match!) I’ve lost 12 pounds and my appetite has gone on holiday.  So I find myself mostly snacking these days–healthy snacking–and love pretty little bites of contrasting tastes and textures.  You know, layers and dollops of this and that.  In the mix there has to be something that packs a little punch, like squirting mustard on a (vegan) hot dog.  So, the idea of a tomato jam occured to me, different than a catsup or a chutney.

I simply tossed tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the food processor and then transferred that mixture to a saucepan with sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and smoky paprika (for an extra layer of flavor), simmered it for about a half hour, and added about a tablespoon of fresh basil for a hint of freshness at the very end.  A little bit sweet, it is outstanding served with something a little salty and tangy like a Treeline or Heidi Ho brand vegan cheese on a crunchy cracker or crispbread of some type.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of a recipe in which I hadn’t cleaned the rim of the serving vessel, but I had forgotten to photograph it at home, traveled yesterday evening to another town for a picnic with it, and realized I needed to snap a quick shot just as we were about to dine, so this is the best I could do.

I didn’t properly “can” it using a water bath–no time for that–instead, I simply put it in a clean jar, wrapped a strip of salvaged wrapping paper around it to hide the label–not time to remove it–and tied it with a bit of twine for a cute, casual gift presentation.

Enjoy one of the tastiest gifts of summer!

4 pints (8 cups) tomatoes of any color, including mixed (grape, cherry, larger tomatoes cut into chunks–whatever you have!)

1 small white or yellow onion, quartered

4 large cloves garlic, halved

1/2 cup natural sugar (I like demerera)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a chianti variety)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (or try another spice like curry powder)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh basil chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled, and very thinly sliced)

Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until pulpy, but textured.  Transfer to a saucepan and stir in sugar, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Simmer on medium-high for about 30 minutes, stirring more frequently toward the end to prevent sticking or scorching, until almost all moisture has been evaporated.  It will cook way down to about half the volume.  Remove from heat, stir in basil, and store, refrigerated, in jars or cartons.  Perfect for gift-giving.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Print Friendly