Happy Mothers’ Day: Layered Eggplant and Tomatoes

 

“It’s snowing…?”

Today is Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, and yet yesterday, it snowed on and off all day. When I spoke with my father about it on the phone, he said, “Maybe Mother Nature has the corona virus, and it’s affected her seasons.”

As we are all too aware, the pandemic has definitely affected our lives over the past many months, and I know that one of the ways I have been impacted is that for the first time in a long time, I find myself tired of trying to come up with dinner plans each and every day. With the virus impacting my ability to shop for groceries, our menus have been more limited, and thus has become rather boring.

However, since this is Mother’s Day weekend, the family decided to rise to the occasion. One of my daughters and my son made chocolate covered strawberries, and I decided I really wanted something summery since the weather was not cooperating on that front. Fortunately, I was able to get some eggplant and a variety pack of heirloom tomatoes. Using fresh basil and a vegan parmesan, I created a layered entree which was quite tasty and well worth the work.

I share it with you in case, you too, are looking for inspiration to liven up meal-time during the pandemic.

Layered Eggplant and Tomatoes

Ingredients: Amounts will depend on how much you are making and the size pan you are using.

eggplant

olive oil

oregano

basil

salt

pepper

pear tomatoes

grape tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

minced garlic

vegan parmesan

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Slice washed and dried eggplant into 1/4 circles.
  2. Lay out eggplant circles on a large pan.
  3. Brush both sides of the eggplant circles with olive oil and sprinkle each side with oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
  4. Either grill or broil the eggplant a couple of minutes on both sides until browned.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. In an oven safe dish, lay out cooked eggplant circles to cover the bottom.
  7. Slice tomatoes into halves and layer on top of the eggplant.
  8. Slice the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes.
  9. Sprinkle minced garlic on top of the basil.
  10. Sprinkle the vegan parmesan on top of the basil.
  11. Repeat layers until you reach the top of your dish.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Holiday Happenings: Chocolate Peppermint Drops

“It’s how you look at it….”

I am always amazed by the zeal with which folks I know begin the new year. For them, January is a time for resolutions, and if not resolutions, at least new opportunities. Since I have operated on a school year schedule for so many years, that energy tends to come to me in September. By January, I am usually tired, and after putting things on hold for the holidays in December, January is fraught with playing “catch-up” to everything I am behind with.

This year, I am so behind due to health issues my husband has been having that the Christmas gifts I received are still sitting underneath my sideboard in the dining room, waiting to be put away, along with random other Christmas items which did not get put away with the Christmas decorations.

The positive to this problem is that one of the items which my daughter found was leftover candies from the gingerbread house decorating the children did in December – peppermint candies to be specific – and the lovely thing about peppermint candies is that their red and white coloring perfectly matches a Valentine’s theme.

So, my daughter decided to use those peppermint candies to make chocolate peppermint drops which added a special treat to this new month of February and provided just enough energy that two of my Christmas presents got put away!

Chocolate Peppermint Drops

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (we used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

1/4 cup Hershey’s unsweetened special dark cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegan butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg (a large egg equal to 1/4 cup)

2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled

crushed peppermint candies

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. Cream the vegan butter in a mixer and add the coconut sugar, blending well, scraping down sides as needed, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, egg and cooled, melted chocolate. Blend well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet.
  6. Roll level tablespoons of cookie batter in the crushed peppermints and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, about one inch apart.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have puffed slightly and begin to look drier and cooked.
  8. Remove the cookies to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool.
  9. Enjoy when they are done cooling.
  10. To keep them fresh, put them in a sealed tupper ware to store.

Happy New Year: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

“It has to be special….”

The ending of a year can generate different emotions. Sadness if the year was especially good. Relief if the year was especially difficult. Anticipation for the possibilities of a new year. Frustration about unfinished items. Guilt about lost opportunities. Joy for upcoming planned opportunities.

When the ending is also the ending of a decade (depending on how you count, that is), those emotions can sometimes be compounded because now we may be looking back at ten years instead of one and experiencing all the same emotions. For me, my husband and I celebrated a milestone this month – 25 years of marriage – so, for me, I find today holding all the joy, sadness, frustration, guilt and anticipation of and for two and a half decades.

As such, when the family talked about what food to have to celebrate tonight’s festivities, the word “special” kept coming up. A special dinner, a special dessert, special treats and snacks. The family wanted something we do not usually have and which would make tonight feel different and festive.

So, to celebrate, I made a dark chocolate cheesecake which is dairy and gluten free, and in case anyone decides they want something “special” in 2020, I am sharing it below. Happy New Year!

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 cups Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

3 pkgs dairy free 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener blend

1/2 cup dairy free sour cream, at room temperature

2 tbsp unsweetened Hershey special dark cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

chopped Enjoy Life chocolate

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch spring form pan with your preferred method and cover the bottom of the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Boil water, and get out a pan large enough to fit the spring form pan inside.
  2. In a microwave safe container, melt the chocolate chips for a minute and stir until the chips are completely melted and smooth. If you need more time, microwave 15 seconds at a time until you can stir the chocolate to smoothness. Then set aside to cool.
  3. In a mixer, blend together the cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Add the coconut sugar and blend well, scraping the bowl as needed.
  5. Temper the chocolate mixture by stirring in a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture. Then add all of the chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and blend well.
  6. Mix the sour cream with the cocoa powder until completely blended. Then add the chocolate sour cream to the cream cheese batter and mix well.
  7. Add the vanilla and blend.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping the bowl as needed.
  9. Pour the chocolate cream cheese batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
  10. Place the pan into the larger pan and place into the oven, pouring the boiling water into the larger pan to cover up to at least the halfway point of the spring form pan.
  11. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake the cheesecake for 50 to 65 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm with the center being still a bit jiggly.
  12. Turn off the heat and allow the cheesecake to finish cooking and cooling in the oven with the heat off and the door open for about an hour.
  13. Remove the spring form pan from the oven and remove the aluminum foil and put the cheesecake into the fridge to completely cool, at least four hours, preferably overnight.
  14. Put the dark chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl with the coconut milk and microwave for a minute. Stir until the chips are completely melted and chocolate begins to glisten and become smooth.
  15. Remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan and carefully pour the chocolate ganache over the cheesecake to your liking.
  16. Sprinkle the top of the ganache with chopped chocolate and enjoy!

 

 

Recipe Revamping: Peppermint Brownies

“Holiday indulgences….”

So often, people will tell me that they’re fine with the “regular, other time of the year” desserts they eat having no sugar and being low fat and healthy but that when the holidays roll around, that seems somehow “wrong”.

I hear you.

Holidays seem like the one time when you’re allowed to indulge, and when you look at the calender, there are no less than half a dozen events in two weeks, all of which expect you to bring something holiday-ish and decadent to share.

My thoughts are that, yes, it is okay to loosen up a bit on the “health” of your holiday desserts, but at the same time, I will argue that you don’t have to necessarily add back all the sugar and fat for something to be indulgent.

Recently, someone share a recipe for peppermint brownies with me. It called for 1 1/2 cups of butter, 1 1/2 pound of chocolate, 5 eggs, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup all purpose flour, 2 tsp peppermint extract, and six candy canes.

As you an imagine, I immediately tried to figure out if there was a way to revamp this recipe so that it would be at least a smidgeon less unhealthy and still decadently delicious. To do so, I reduced the butter by a third and replaced it with vegan butter. I reduced the chocolate to 20 oz and substituted Enjoy Life’s allergy friendly dark chocolate chips. I removed one egg, and since there was sugar in the chocolate, I reduced the sugar by three-quarters and swapped out monk fruit sweetener for the sugar. I reduced the flour by 1/4 cup and substituted a combination of cassava and garbanzo bean flours which are grain free flours. I then reduced the candy canes to four and used special brown rice syrup peppermint candy sticks instead of candy canes.

The result was a very tasty brownie which folks can feel comfortable sharing for the holidays.

Peppermint Brownies:

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan soy free butter

Two 10 oz packages Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips (divided: one pkg plus one cup; remaining chips)

4 eggs

1/2 cup golden monk fruit sweetener or coconut sugar

1/2 cup cassava flour

1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp pure peppermint extract

4 peppermint sticks (you can use regular if you can’t find the brown syrup version)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a microwave or over a double boiler, melt one 10 oz bag plus one cup of chocolate chips from the second bag with the vegan butter. Stir until smooth and let it sit to cool while doing the next step.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs with the monk fruit sugar until thick and blended.
  4. Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and blend well.
  5. Stir together the flours and salt and then stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until all the flour mixture is well mixed into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Melt the remaining chips, mix until smooth and add the peppermint extract.
  7. Spread the chocolate batter evenly into the prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of the peppermint chocolate onto the batter and swirl the drops into the batter.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes. While the brownies are doing their initial bake, crush the peppermint sticks. I just put them into a heavy bag and whack them with my rolling pin. Works very well. You can find a more refined approach if you prefer.
  9. Remove the brownies from the oven, sprinkle the crushed peppermint pieces evenly over the top, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. Remove brownies from the oven and allow them to cool completely before cutting them into bite size pieces and enjoying.

Handling Holidays: Grain Free, Vegan Pumpkin Pie

“It’s just one more thing….”

The song tells us that “it is the most wonderful time of the year,” but all too often it is also the most stressful time of the year. On top of the usual routines and busyness, we add having to prepare for festive dinners and company, present shopping, holiday recitals and business gatherings, and a myriad of other events and preparations which are squashed into a six week period of time.

If you add on top of all that having to make sure that the food you prepare can accommodate Uncle Bob’s dietary restrictions and little Susan’s food allergies, it can become overwhelming – as one mom mentioned to me this week. She needed to know how to make a pumpkin pie which was grain free, vegan, and nut free. She figured the nut free part she could do, but she didn’t know what to do about the grain free and vegan parts.

So, I went to work. Instead of wheat flour and butter for the crust, I used Cassava flour and vegan butter which are grain free and vegan, but decreased the butter from 16 tbsp to 10, which was more than enough. For the pumpkin filling, I used flax milk and arrow root flour to substitute for the evaporated milk and egg, both of which are grain free and vegan. Because this would affect the silky, custardy texture, though, of the pie, I added a small amount of oil to the filling to increase the fat content but which added good fats instead of bad. For both the crust and the pie, I omitted sugar, using only a small amount of agave and some monk fruit sweetener for the filling so folks could really taste the pumpkin. For added flavor for both the crust and filling, I used spices and orange peel. The result was a tasty pie which the whole family could enjoy.

Vegan, Grain Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients for the crust: (will make two crusts)

2 1/2 cups cassava flour

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp grated, dried orange peel

1 cup plus 2 tbsp vegan butter

1 tbsp vinegar

6 to 10 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for filling: (filling is for one pie; double for two)

2 3/4 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin

1 1/2 cup unsweetened flax milk (can use soy or almond milk if you prefer; just make sure it has no grain starches added)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp grated, dried orange peel

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp agave

1/4 golden monk fruit sweetener blend

1 tbsp arrow root flour

1 tbsp extra light olive oil

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients for the crust: the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel.
  3. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or grate cold butter squares with a grater into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add the vinegar and cold water, beginning with 6 tbsp and adding one tablespoon at a time as needed until the doug is moistened and holds together well for rolling.
  5. Form the dough into two balls and then pat into disc shape. Roll one of the balls between two pieces of wax or parchment paper dusted with flour to fit 9 or 9.5 inch pie pans. (If making two pies, do the same with the other ball. If only making one pie, wrap the disc tightly in plastic wrap twice and put into the fridge. Will last for a couple of weeks. Just be sure to let it sit at room temperature before rolling for use.)
  6. Shape the crust in the pie pan and set aside.
  7. Combine the pumpkin, flax milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, orange peel, salt, agave, and monk fruit sweetener until well blended.
  8. Add the arrow root flour and olive oil. Mix well.
  9. Pour into the prepared crust.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes until the filling has puffed a bit and only jiggles in the center.
  11. Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 15 to 30 minutes, before placing in the fridge to cool and set completely.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Hints: Allergy Friendly Ice Cream Cake

“Don’t be people who destroy hearts….”

I watch as Yoko Kawashima Watkins, author of So Far from the Bamboo Grove, explains to a group of 7th graders that the Japanese Kanji for “busy” is a combination of the characters for “heart” and “destroy”. At 83, her body is frail but her voice is strong as she leans in closer to the children.

“Never have I told anyone that I am ‘busy’,” she says to them. “I don’t want to destroy anyone’s heart, and neither do you, right?”

Her gaze takes in each individual child as they vigorously nod their heads. They’ve already promised to thank their “honorable” parents for all that they do to take care of them (without letting their parents know that Yoko told them to do so, of course), so what could it hurt to agree with Yoko on this, too?

Later after I drive Yoko home, I think about the Japanese Kanji for “busy” and how interesting it is to me that being busy is seen as something that destroys one’s heart. Here in the States, being busy means you’re being productive, getting things done, not slacking off. When we’re “too busy”, then maybe it is something which can destroy one’s heart, but being just plain busy?

The holidays are probably a good example of what Yoko meant, though. Often the busyness of preparing for the holidays eclipses the amount of time actually spent just being with family members. For this reason, I’ve always tried to keep food prep to a minimum in favor of more time with my family, and as we think about yet another “special” dessert for New Year’s, I thought I’d share the fastest dessert recipe I have – allergy friendly ice cream cake.

You simply buy two flavors of your favorite pint size ice creams, a package or two of your favorite cookies, and a container of a chocolate frosting – all of which can be found in allergy friendly options- and within ten minutes you can assemble a dessert which will be both pretty and delicious. Below I will post the version which is pictured above.

Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:

2 pint size containers of allergy friendly vanilla ice cream (I used So Delicious coconut milk version)

8 to 10 oz package of allergy friendly chocolate sandwich cookies (I used KinniToos)

2 cups of allergy friendly chocolate animal crackers (I used K-Kritters)

2 pint size containers of allergy friendly chocolate ice cream (I used Cados avocado version)

one cup chocolate frosting (I used Simple Mills)

Sprinkles (optional)

Assembling Instructions:

  1. Take out the four pints of ice cream and let them sit on the counter while you crush the cookies.
  2. Crush the chocolate sandwich cookies into bit size chunks and set aside.
  3. Crush the chocolate animal crackers into medium-sized crumbs.
  4. In a large bowl, scoop out the vanilla ice cream, and using a rubber spatula or wide wooden spoon, mix the chocolate sandwich cookie chunks into the ice cream until well mixed.
  5. Spread the ice cream evenly into a 10 inch spring form pan, making sure to level the ice cream flat.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate animal cracker crumbs evenly over the layer of ice cream.
  7. Scoop out the chocolate ice cream into the large bowl and mix until the ice cream is soft and spreadable.
  8. Drop the ice cream gently in scoops to evenly cover the animal crackers. Then carefully spread the ice cream evenly over the chocolate crumbs and level the ice cream flat.
  9. Put the ice cream cake into the freezer for a few minutes while you’re working on the frosting.
  10. In a small bowl, stir the chocolate frosting until it is soft and spreadable. Spread it evenly over the ice cream cake.
  11. If desired, decorate the top of the ice cream cake with sprinkles.
  12. Put the cake back into the freezer and freeze until ready to eat.
  13. To cut the cake, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and remove the side of the spring form pan. Run a large knife under hot water and cut the cake into wedges to serve.

 

Holiday Hints: Finger Treats

“Mercury is in retrograde….”

It began shortly before Thanksgiving. One of my daughters started having mysterious hives. My other daughter needed to come home for health reasons. The microwave wouldn’t work. The blender broke. My back went out. The drama scripts didn’t arrive as they were supposed to have. The Christmas cards fell into the mud. One of the ears of my glasses fell off. The printer went on the fritz. A gift disappeared. My mother lost a long time friend unexpectedly to undiagnosed cancer. The rice cooker became temperamental. My husband’s sleep apnea increased. BJ’s called to say my newly ordered glasses’ frames were no longer in stock.

Within the past couple of weeks, the universe seemed to be sending me a message, and when I told a friend about my experiences, she said, “Well, you know mercury has been in retrograde.” I laughed because that certainly explained it!

None of the experiences above are unusual. They are a part of life, and they happen all throughout the year, but at the holiday time, they can feel extra overwhelming because we have so many other things we are trying to do… buying presents, attending holiday parties, going to the children’s winter concerts and recitals, planning for family gatherings. And when we have food allergies and need to bring goodies to share, the pressure can sometimes feel like it’s too much.

That’s why I have some easy finger treats which I fall back upon for holiday treating of folks, and when I received an email yesterday asking about what someone could easily make for a party, I decided I’d post some ideas for anyone else who might be wondering the same thing.

One of my favorite easy treats is Chocolate Truffles because they only require two ingredients, are quick to make, and if you put them into little cupcake liners and put them on a plate, folks think you’ve worked hard when you haven’t.

Another simple treat is what I have pictured above which are cheesecake bites. When I make cheesecake and have leftovers, I turn those leftovers into the bites to bring to parties by scooping out tablespoons of the cheesecake and rolling them in gluten free graham cracker crumbs. For the holidays, using Cranberry Cheesecake or Ginger Spice Cheesecake are always good choices. If you haven’t made any cheesecake recently, you can use store bought cheesecake (Daiya makes an allergy friendly version which you can often find in the freezer section of grocery stores) which you bring to room temperature and then roll into the bites. What’s great is you can vary the crumb coating by also using your favorite cookies which you crush. Then, when you put the bites into muffin liners with the different types of coating, they look pretty.

A treat I just made last week are what I call “butter melts”. You take your favorite “butter” as in peanut butter or almond butter or sunbutter or cashew butter… whichever you prefer and fits your allergy needs, mix it with some vegan butter and a little bit of powdered sugar, and roll them into balls and put them into the freezer on wax or parchment paper for about ten to 15 minutes until they’ve hardened and you can coat them with chocolate. The recipes you will find online use crazy amounts of real butter and powdered sugar. I cut the amounts considerably, and for 1 cup of sunbutter, I use a tablespoon of vegan butter and just enough powdered sugar to make the “butter” rollable, which is always less than the cup to two cups called for in regular recipes. I also don’t dip the balls into the chocolate. I simply drizzle chocolate over the top, put them into the freezer for a few minutes, flip and drizzle the other side and put them back into the freezer for another couple of minutes. Much easier, neater, and quicker than dipping! For the chocolate coating, just melt allergy friendly chocolate chips with a tsp or two of a fat like coconut oil or avocado oil or vegan butter or shortening until the chips melt when you stir them. I usually do this in 20 second intervals.

A final finger treat idea I offer is making your own chocolate bark. This is fun as well as quick. Simply put 10 to 12 ounces of your favorite allergy friendly chocolate chips into a large microwavable bowl with 2 to 3 tsp of your favorite fat (coconut oil, vegan shortening, vegan butter, a plant based oil) and melt in the microwave in 20 seconds intervals until stirring the chips completely dissolves them. Put wax paper or parchment paper in a 10 x 15 pan and spread the chocolate mixture to cover the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate with whatever you want (peppermint candies, nuts, chocolates, pretzels, m & m’s, cookie chunks, etc…) and put the pan into the fridge until the chocolate hardens. Then you break them up into bite size pieces and arrange them in muffin liners to look pretty.

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Easy Roasted Vegetable Medley

“Do you have a go-to recipe..?”

For the past couple of weeks I have been posting some thoughts for different dishes folks could consider making for Thanksgiving, and this week someone wrote in, asking whether there was anything “easy” I tended to always make.

The answer is, “Yes.” My go-to for any occasion, not just Thanksgiving, is a medley of roasted vegetables. It’s easy to do, looks pretty, and can be “jazzed” up. I use frozen, chopped vegetables, which cuts both the roasting and prep times, and once the vegetables are roasted, it takes just minutes to “adorn” them. Once that’s completed, the vegetables can sit in your fridge until about thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat them, at which point, you simply warm them at 300 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.

If I am making the medley for Thanksgiving, I try to make them a bit more “special” by caramelizing onions and adding it to the vegetables or roasting garlic and adding slivers with freshly chopped herbs. Sometimes I make a gluten free bread crumb topping and top the vegetables with it. Other times, I make it “au gratin” and add vegan parmesan. Any of these options makes for a delicious side dish.

For folks who are wondering about the turkey which may go with the roasted veggies, I did a post a couple of years ago which you can find at Turkey Talk and which provides some tips for tackling turkey.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Ingredients:

olive oil

frozen vegetables of choice (baby carrots, butternut squash, baby brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc…)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Arrange vegetables of the same size in an ovenproof pan and drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil. Mix and roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning every four to five minutes, until the vegetables are to the desired tenderness.
  3. If you have vegetables of different sizes, you may need to do a couple of rounds of roasting, by size, until all your vegetables are done.
  4. Arrange all the vegetables in a pan that fits them well. Top with your desired method of flavoring: mixing with freshly chopped herbs and black pepper; caramelizing onions and mixing them in; roasting garlic and mixing in slivers; making a bread crumb topping and sprinkling it on top; shaking parmesan on top.
  5. If serving immediately, you’re good to go. If serving at a later time or day, simply allow the vegetables to cool, cover well, and then thirty minutes before meal time, heat the dish at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until warm.

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, Two Ways

“But pie….”

After posting the black bean-kale soup recipe, I received a question about pies. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving tends to be about the pies. Pumpkin, apple, cranberry-pear, and mince meat tend to be the more traditional pies associated with Thanksgiving, but I have seen people put out other types like lemon meringue and chocolate pies as well. For today’s post, I’ll focus on the question asked which was for a vegan pumpkin pie, but below are links to other pies I’ve posted about in the past.

Apple Pies

Struesel Cranberry Pear Pies

Peach Pies

Chocolate Pies

Making a pumpkin pie vegan is easy. For the crust, folks can simply substitute vegan butter, vegan shortening or coconut oil for the butter or shortening in any pie crust recipe without anything else needing to be done to the recipe.

For the pumpkin filling, the first ingredient which makes pumpkin pie non-vegan is the eggs, and in pumpkin pie, the eggs simply act as a binder, which is simple to replace. To make a pumpkin pie which is just like regular egg-filled pumpkin pie, the easiest substitute for the eggs is a flour or a starch. Most recipes you’ll find use cornstarch. Many folks, however, are allergic to corn, and I personally like to add protein and/or fiber if possible when I can, so I opt to use a gluten free flour like oat or millet or sorghum.

The other ingredient in pumpkin pie which is dairy is the milk, whether it’s evaporated milk or heavy cream which is used. To substitute for milk in a pumpkin pie, one can choose a plant based “milk” like almond or soy or hemp or flax or any other type on the market which you prefer.  Usually 1 1/2 cups of a “milk” is equivalent to a can of evaporated milk.

For folks who might want a slightly different pumpkin pie and who are not allergic to soy, I also make a pie using tofu which tends to be a heartier, more protein filled pie. Pureed tofu then acts as the binder which eliminates the need for flour, and the pie also does not require any “milk” at all.

For both types of pumpkin pie, I reduce the “sugar” amount substantially and use an alternative to refined white sugar – coconut sugar for the more traditional type of pumpkin pie and agave for the tofu pumpkin pie. Folks who have eaten my pies never say it’s not sweet enough and always comment on how the pumpkin flavor really shines.

Below are recipes for both versions.

Pumpkin Pie Recipes

Ingredients:

Pie crusts (click the link for tips on making Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts)

Version 1 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works, too)

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

I 1/2 cup plant based “milk” (I prefer to use flax or soy milk)

1/4 to 1/2 cup gluten free flour (use the lower amount for a more silky pie; the higher amount for a sturdier pie; I like to use millet or sorghum or GF oat flour to add some protein and fiber)

Version 2 Filling:

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (canned works too)

1/2 cup agave (I like to use the maple flavor agave for this pie; if you can’t find it, you can mix 2 tbsp of maple syrup with enough agave to make 1/2 cup – this gives you the flavor but substantially reduces the amount of calories you’d get from using 1/2 cup of maple syrup)

2 tsp spices (I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and/or cardamom)

16 oz silken tofu, pureed to be smooth and creamy

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the pie crust and put into a 9.5 inch glass pie pan. Set aside.
  3. Choose which pumpkin pie filling to make, and mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  4. Pour into the prepared pie crust.
  5. Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminium foil, leaving the center of the pie uncovered.
  6. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes until the pie is set and the center only jiggles a bit.
  7. Put into the fridge to completely cool. Best to cool overnight but at the very least, several hours. Without the eggs, the cooling is what solidifies the pie.

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Black Bean Kale Soup

“It is wonderful that she can see other people eat like this….”

I had a workshop last weekend where a mother brought her entire family. She explained that she wanted her daughter to see that they were not the only family who had to eat the way they did – meaning allergy friendly. Over the course of the two hour workshop, I watched the daughter enjoy treat after treat, surprised that her mother had told her she could eat anything she wanted from the table.

Too often the holidays are difficult for folks with health and/or food allergies because we know that much of what is on the table we can’t eat. At Thanksgiving, this can be especially depressing since Thanksgiving is celebrated largely through food.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to post Thanksgiving ideas which are not as traditional, just to give folks something new to consider. From the emails I’ve received, it seems folks liked the the notion of vegan, gluten free cornbread stuffing and vegan, gluten free butternut squash swirled cheesecake. Today I’m going to suggest a hearty soup for folks who like to serve a soup course for Thanksgiving.

For any traditionalists who may have people with food allergies or health needs coming to dinner, making a roasted vegetable soup is a good way to go. The Roasting Vegetables post shares how to roast vegetables in a quick and easy way. To make what you’ve roasted into a soup, simply add to the roasted vegetables your favorite no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth, herbs, garlic and onions and puree to the consistency of your choice. Then on Thanksgiving day, just put it into your crockpot and let it cook until your guests arrive. Serve with allergy friendly crushed croutons, “cheese”, “sour cream”, and/or sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Anyone who may be looking for something a bit heartier and different, though, I offer a black bean, kale soup, just as easy to prepare as the roasted vegetable soup but which adds not just another flavor to the meal, but which can be a more “filling” soup for vegans who have come for dinner.

Black Bean-Kale Soup 

(serves 6 to 8, depending on size of bowls)

Ingredients:

14 oz can no salt, no sugar added lentils

one tsp olive oil

minced garlic to taste

chopped onions to taste

crushed thyme leaves to taste

ground cumin to taste

black pepper to taste

one to two cups frozen or fresh finely chopped kale

1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced yellow pepper

14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup finely diced vegan ham

32 oz no salt, no sugar added vegetable broth

salsa to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, empty the contents of the can of lentils and puree/blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large-width pan shallower (not a narrow soup pot) which has at least 2 inch sides, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, thyme, cumin and black pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for a minute to release the flavors, stirring so nothing burns.
  3. Add the kale and yellow pepper and saute for another couple of minutes to release the water from the vegetables.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed black beans and vegan ham bits, and saute for a minute, mixing them well with the herbs and vegetables.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and salsa to taste, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over low heat until the soup has reduced a bit and is thicker.
  6. Serve with allergy friendly sour cream and “cheese”, if desired.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirl Cheesecake

“Why not?”

A few years back, a cousin of Tim’s brought chocolate cupcakes to a Thanksgiving dinner, and when asked, “Why?”, she responded, “Why not?” Since we knew her fondness for chocolate it made sense, but of course the traditionalists of the family thought it was odd to not bring pie. As someone who is not fond of making pies, I was silently in her camp about a different type of Thanksgiving dessert being okay.

Where I did differ, though, is that I felt if you’re going to upset the apple cart, so to speak, then you might want to keep the “new” dessert in line with Thanksgiving flavors. With that in mind, I looked around for different types of desserts folks tended to make for Thanksgiving and noticed that cheesecake was actually the number one “non-pie” dessert eaten. I found many recipes for swirled cheesecakes using pumpkin which seemed interesting.

I picked one to use as a base and immediately realized that it needed work. The original recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs for the crust, mixed with 1/2 cup of butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tsp molasses. The filling was 3 packages of cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 3 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 eggs, 2 cups sour cream, 1 tsp spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger), and 1 cup of pumpkin. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know how I reacted to all that “sugar” in the recipe and that I was figuring out how I could cut the fat to at least some degree.

To revamp the crust, I cut the sugar and molasses completely from it. All graham crackers, whether they are wheat based, gluten free and/or sugar free, have sweeteners of some sort in them. There is no need to add any more. I also reduced the butter to 5 tbsp and swapped a vegan butter because you just need enough to moisten the crumbs so they’ll stick when baking. For the flavoring, which is what I presumed the extra molasses was for, I added 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.

For the cheesecake filling, I swapped Tofutti dairy free cream cheese for the regular, and for the sweetener, I mixed 1/4 cup agave with 1/4 cup maple syrup. This kept the maple taste but with much less calories and sugars. I cut the white sugar out completely and reduced the molasses to 1 tbsp which would keep the molasses flavor but also reduce the sugars. To do something about the fat, I reduced the sour cream to 1 1/2 cups (a 12 oz container) and eliminated the eggs entirely so vegan folks could eat it, using instead 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch. Instead of the vanilla I opted to use 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice plus 1/4 tsp cloves which tend to be the flavors of Thanksgiving pies.

My final swap was to use roasted, pureed butternut squash but that simply was because I didn’t want to make a pumpkin cheesecake when there was going to be pumpkin pie, but folks can always choose to make it a pumpkin cheesecake, should you desire to do so.

Vegan, Gluten Free Butternut Squash Swirled Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For Crust:

2 1/2 cups gluten free crushed graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

5 tbsp melted vegan butter

For the Filling:

Three 8 oz dairy free cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup agave

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

12 oz (1 1/2 cup) dairy sour cream

1 tbsp molasses

1/4 cup arrowroot starch

1 cup pureed roasted butternut squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)

Baking Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap aluminum foil around the base of a 10 inch spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

  1. Mix together the graham crumbs and pumpkin pie spice. Mix in the melted vegan butter. Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the spring form pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is puffed and golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a mixer, blend the dairy free cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Mix the maple syrup with the agave and slowly pour it into the cream cheese mixture while the mixer is on low, until all is incorporated into the cream cheese.
  4. Add the pumpkin pie spice and ground cloves and mix.
  5. Add the dairy free sour cream and molasses and mix.
  6. Add the arrowroot starch and mix until it is fully incorporated and the filling is smooth.
  7. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cheesecake filling and mix that with the pureed butternut squash.
  8. Dot the top of the crust with half of the cheesecake filling, using a spoon to drop spoonfuls onto the crust. Then using another spoon, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling to fill in the holes of the cheesecake filling.
  9. Using the second half of each of the fillings, drop spoonfuls of the squash filling on top of the first layer of cheesecake filling, and drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake filling on top of the layer of squash filling.
  10. Once both batters are completely in the pan, use a knife to swirl through the layers and then smooth down the top of the cheesecake to make sure the batter is even.
  11. Put the spring form pan into a larger pan, pour hot water in the pan until it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the spring form pan.
  12. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm and just jiggles a bit in the center.
  13. Turn off the heat, open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to cool for an hour and a half, before removing to the fridge to cool overnight.
  14. Before you are going to serve it, run a knife around the edges to loosen it. If you want to garnish it, to make it prettier, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon or decorate with dairy free whipped cream or do both as I did in the picture.

 

 

Holiday Happenings: Holiday Dried Fruit Cake

“I just don’t understand why….”

Recently I picked up a Cooking Light magazine which had slow cooker recipes. (If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love my crock pots!) To my disappointment, the recipes only proved how crazy this world is when it comes to healthy eating.

Cooking Light is a magazine which focuses on healthier eating, so can someone explain to me why their recipe for apple cider, which has a lot of natural sugars from the apples, tells you to add brown sugar?! Or why a recipe for green beans calls for sugar in the balsamic glaze when balsamic vinegar is usually used by chefs precisely for its sweetness?! Or why a pork chop recipe uses a can of Coke?! Coke!!

This is a perfect example of how the world falls into the trap of compartmentalizing. Cooking Light‘s idea of healthier eating is focusing on reducing fat and introducing more whole grains, which does add to healthier eating but it’s not the whole story. Similarly, folks who buy store bought products will find reduce fat food with higher levels of sugar or sugar free foods with higher levels of fat.

Healthy eating is about moderation in all respects. That doesn’t mean giving up all foods which might not be the best for you. It just means doing what you can to make those foods healthier for you when you do eat them.

Several weeks ago, someone asked me about fruit cake. She wanted to know if it was possible to make one without all the sugar usually in fruit cake and whether it could be made “vegan” and gluten free. Since she asked, I decided to try, and the result was actually such that a person at a recent workshop I came up to me at the end and said, “You shouldn’t call it fruit cake.”

“Why,” I asked, “it is fruit cake.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t going to try it because it said, ‘fruit cake,’ but I did and it’s so good.”

And it is good. For folks who like fruit cake or for folks who would like to try a vegan, gluten free, reduced sugar fruit cake, the recipe follows below. This version has no added white refined sugar because the fruit and peel mix has more than enough! It does use natural sugars from bananas and other dried fruit to give it a sweetness which is just enough but not overpowering. In addition, I chose some higher fiber and protein flour to add to its nutritional heft to help counter some of those natural sugars, and I reduced the fat to just 1/2 cup and used a healthier plant based oil at that.

Holiday Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups ripe, mashed bananas

1/2 cup avocado oil

3 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp of water

16 oz pkg of Paradise Old English Fruit and Peel mix

1/2 cup currants

3/4 cup dried chopped dates

2 cups boiling water

2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

1 cup gluten free oat flour

2 tbsp Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line eight 4 x 6 pans with parchment paper so you have wings on all four sides to pull the breads out at the end.
  2. In a large bowl mix the mashed bananas and oil.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ground flax seed and water.
  4. In a medium bowl mix the Old English mix, currants, dates, and boiling water.
  5. In another medium bowl, mix the gluten free flour, oat flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  6. To the large bowl with the bananas and oil, add the flax seed mix, the dried fruit mix and the dry ingredients, along with the vinegar, and blend really well until everything is moist and incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the eight pans and put them onto a cookie sheet large enough to hold all eight pans.
  8. Slide the cookie sheet into the oven and bake the breads for 20 minutes. Then turn them around and bake for another 20 minutes. When the breads are done they’ll be slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  9. Remove the breads to a cooling rack by pulling them out of the pans by the wings you created.
  10. Let the breads cool for about 15 minutes before removing the parchment paper and allowing them to cool completely on the wire racks.
  11. The breads can be stored by wrapping them well in plastic wrap and putting them in the fridge. They also freeze well if you then wrap them again in aluminum foil and put them into the freezer.