Vegan Treats

I’ve found a new favorite cook book. I can’t guarantee everything in it is amazing because it’s still new to me and I’m just starting with the desserts, but every meal I’ve tried in it is awesome. Even my carnivore of a boyfriend has complimented each thing I’ve made from the book, and the recipes are surprisingly hearty while still being healthy. The book is called Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton, and I’ve just started on the dessert recipes. Some are a little risky I think, but several sound fabulous. I chose this one because I had all of the ingredients at home already, except for tofu…yes, tofu.

It’s an interesting idea-putting tofu in a dessert. I knew beforehand that tofu is a versatile ingredient. It absorbs whatever flavors you cook it with, and it will take on different characteristics and textures based on how you cook it. I’ve never had it in a dessert (that I’m aware of), so it’s been a new experience for me to taste it as a sweet topping. Layer it up with chocolate, vanilla extract, and almond butter, and the heck if I can tell the difference. Well, okay, I can tell the difference, but it tastes better than I thought it would. I can’t say I’d dive into another dessert made with tofu, but perhaps my palette just isn’t used to it. Everything is worth a try at least once, right?

Leslie’s Bad but Good Bars

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8 bars

For the Base

  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened if you want to be good)
  • 2 Tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3 Tbsp melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread
  • 8″ by 8″ pan
  • Parchment paper

For the Topping

  • 1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup silken extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp almond or peanut butter

How to Do It

  1. Line an 8″ by 8″ square pan with enough parchment paper that it hangs over the sides slightly.
  2. Mix together the base ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until everything is moistened with the rice syrup and butter. Place the mixture into the center of the pan, and spread out evenly using a rubber spatula or your (clean) fingers.
  3. Whip the tofu in a food processor until it’s smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and nut butter, and whip again. Scrape the sides of the bowl if you need to, and whip until the ingredients are blended and creamy.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. You can set up a small sauce pan of water over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Place the chocolate in a metal mixing bowl, and place the bowl on top of the pan. Continue to move the chocolate around with a wooden spoon until it’s melted. Remove from heat.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate into the food processor with the tofu mixture, and whip until the ingredients are blended. Pour the mixture over the base, and use a rubber spatula to smooth it over the entire area.
  6. Refrigerate for two hours or until firm, and slice into bars to serve.

Recipe from Dreena Burton’s eat, drink & be vegan

Baker’s Tip: If you want to make this recipe non-vegan, use regular butter in place of Earth Balance, semi-sweet chocolate chips in place of non-dairy chocolate chips, and cream cheese in place of tofu. It’ll be slightly unhealthy, but at least it’ll be delicious.

 

Every Classy Girl Should Treat Herself

This isn’t a post about dessert, but more about treating yourself to something delightful every now and then. As you know, I think wine and dessert are two of the most wonderful indulgences in life, and I think that every classy girl should know what her favorites are of each. Are you more of a rich, sinful dark chocolate vixen or a fluffy French vanilla fox? Are you a bold, spicy red kind of girl or a light and fruity white kind of lady? It’s important to know these things, especially if you’re over 25 (which I’m not…I swear…) because at this point in your life, you should have enough life experience to know your general likes and dislikes. Perhaps your specific preferences for certain fermented grapes will evolve in the next few years, and they will certainly continue to improve throughout your life. So it is with great pleasure that I show off my most recent birthday present to myself from myself…

24 bottles of the Greatest Wine on Earth

I discovered the Greatest Wine on Earth when I was 25 and living as a single girl in South Florida, and my mom came to visit me so we could do a mini road trip around the state. One of our stops was in St Augustine, the country’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s just south of the Georgia border so it’s filled with people who have a combination of southern hospitality and charm and the laid back Florida attitude. The city walls are bordered by nature preserves and Atlantic beaches, and the city itself sits on the edges of the Matanzas River, which is as turquoise as the ocean. It has a rich, and often tragic, history of British, Spanish, and American rule, and these influences are still present in the design and culture of the city. Several prominent historical tourist attractions, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the Fountain of Youth, the Old St Johns County Jail, Flagler College, and the Lightner Museum, exist there, and there’s even an inexpensive trolley that you can take from spot to spot. One of these spots included what’s become my favorite winery, the San Sebastian Winery, and it’s these city landmarks that inspire the names and tastes of the wines offered here.

Photo from Yelp.com

The grapes are grown in Clermont, a central Florida town, and the wine is made in St Augustine on the coast. You can take free tours of the winery and do free tastings seven days a week. I’ve been to 18 vineyards in Connecticut, and not one offers a tasting for under $7, let alone a tour. This just adds to reasons why San Sebastian is the Greatest Wine on Earth.

Photo from StAugustineInns.com

On my last trip to Florida last July, I bought 13 bottles to give out as gifts or take home with me (they’re also sold in the grocery stores there), but I’ve been wanting to order bottles to be shipped to my home in CT. However, you can only order by the case (12 bottles), and the shipping is around $25 for each case. I thought $150 was maybe a little too much to spend on myself for 12 bottles of wine that I know I could finish quickly, so I waited. On the weekend of my birthday, the Gods of Wine must have been smiling down on me, because San Sebastian had a “buy one get one” case sale…that’s 24 bottles for the price of 12. Holy Dionysus, I couldn’t resist that. So I treated myself to two cases of the Greatest Wine on Earth, which I’ve described in detail below.

  • Vintner’s Red-unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, it’s a sweet, chilled red wine made mostly of the Muscadine grape and has several berry notes. It’s best with pasta with red sauce, pizza, and barbeque. It can also be used in chocolate recipes and makes an amazing red sangria. It’s, without question, my favorite wine in the world. I’m afraid to open a bottle because I know that will be one less that I’ll have…
  • Vintner’s White-similar in sweetness to the Vintner’s Red, it has a very fruity taste, but it’s made of the Carlos grape. It also makes a delicious sangria, and it’s best served with spicy foods, especially spicy chicken (if you’re into eating that kind of thing).
  • Rosa-a rose wine that blows any other rose wine you’ve ever had out of the water. It’s sweet, but not sugary and artifical like many white zinfandels, and it’s light, but not dry like many rose wines. It’s incredibly smooth and easy to drink.
  • Blanc du Bois-similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, this is a semi-dry white wine with a slightly sweet finish, and it’s great with spicy foods and pastas with cream sauces.
  • Reserva-a slightly drier white wine with just a small hint of oak but a crisp finish. It’s somewhat similar to a chardonnay, and it’s best served with seafood or shellfish.
  • Castillo Red-this is for the occasional full bodied wine cravings I have, but it’s mostly for Brendan, my boyfriend because it goes well with meat. It has a small hint of oak and a spicy little kick to it.

I highly encourage you to stop at the winery if you’re ever in the area of St Augustine, pick up a bottle at Publix if you’re anywhere in Florida, or treat yourself to an entire case through the mail. All of San Sebastian’s wines can be found on their website, SanSebastianWinery.com.

Dessert to Serve to Your Naughtiest Friends

I’ve completely ripped off this recipe from another blogger, The Londoner, and now I’ve heard reports of it circulating Pinterest too. This is so easy and so naughty that it deserves its title, Slutty Brownies, and it should only be reserved for the naughtiest of your friends-people who couldn’t care less about calories. I love the idea of layering different desserts, and think it’s so brilliant to see a pie inside of a cake, or a piece of candy inside a cookie, or in this case, to see cookies layered inside other cookies and brownies. I’m getting inspired just thinking of all the possibilities that could come from such an innovative technique so I think I’ll play with that idea a bit from now on, especially if I’m too short on time to do anything fancier. I kind of like how excited people get to see the final product too. I brought some of these treats into work today, and they were gone before lunch. Clearly, no one told my coworkers not to ruin their appetites by eating sweets before a meal. Oh well, who lives by that rule anyway?

Slutty Brownies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 1 8″ square pan of brownies, portion sizes are up to you

  • 1 box of chocolate chip cookie dough mix
  • 1 box of fudge brownie mix
  • 1 package of double stuf Oreos
  • Ingredients to make the cookie dough/brownie batter-usually one egg, 1/3 cup of canola or vegetable oil, and 2 Tbsp of water per package
  • Square cake pan-either 8″ or 9″
  • Parment paper (optional)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven between 350 and 375 degrees F if you have the option. If you don’t, preheat it to 375 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s large enough to cover the bottom fo the pan and still have 1-2″ paper hanging over the sides.
  2. Follow package directions to make the chocolate chip cookie dough, and line the bottom of the pan with the dough.
  3. Create a single layer of double stuf Oreos across the cookie dough. There should be a few left over in the package for you to snack on, but don’t go nuts. It takes almost an entire package to cover the cookie dough if you’re not stingy.
  4. Follow the package directions to make the brownie batter, and pour it over the layer of Oreo cookies. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly if it doesn’t cooperate.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a fork or wooden tester comes out clean when stuck into the middle of the batter.
  6. Remove from the heat, and let cool in the pan slightly. If you’ve used parchment paper to create handles, you can pull it out of the pan to cut. If you haven’t, you can cut pieces from the pan while it’s still warm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream to make them really fabulous.

Tip: Be creative with this if you want. I’m going to try additional attempts at this, but there are so many different brownie and cookie batters, that you can’t possibly go wrong.

The Only Cake I’d Request for my Birthday

So since it was my birthday last week, I requested that my friend Michelle make me my favorite cake, a flourless chocolate number with a few hints of Kahlua and espresso. Lucky for me, she complied. It’s actually difficult for me to write about it right now because I have a piece waiting for me in the refrigerator, but I’ll try my best to write a full post without salvating too much. Actually…hold please while I just have a little bit…

…okay, fabulous, now I’m feeling perfectly inspired to write. 😉 Michelle made this cake for me last year for my birthday as well and even gave me the recipe, but I only cashed in on it being in my custody once. It was the recipe I was searching for when I made a lesser version, the mini flourless chocolate cake. Though, since finishing the large slice I cut, I’m remembering why I made a mini version…flourless chocolate cakes are the Trumps of dessert. (They’re really rich…get it?). Anyway…

While taste and ingredient quality are important in making this cake, technique is substantial. If you’ve ever baked creme brulee, traditional cheesecake, or custard, you’ll recognize the importance of baking the cake in a larger pan filled with hot water. It may sound odd if you’ve never tried it before, but you’ll need a large roasting pan or cake pan that’s big enough to contain a springform pan and still have additonal space on the sides. I apologize for not having photos of this because I didn’t bake the cake, but they would have been helpful! I’ll describe the technique more below in the “How to Do It” section. Also, on another note, other than Michelle, I’m not sure where this recipe originated from so I apologize for not giving the proper shout-outs to the brilliant baker who came up with the concoction.

So enjoy, with a glass of bold red wine of course, and remember not to take too big of a slice.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 1 8 or 9″ cake

  • 1 lb semisweet chocolate, chips or bars
  • 8 oz or 2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 nip of Kahlua or other coffee liquer
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Springform pan, 8 or 9″
  • Large roasting or cake pan
  • Optional garnishes like confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, whipped cream, strawberries, or chocolate syrup

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and grease a springform pan with butter. Grease and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cover the pan underneath and along the sides with aluminum foil, and set inside a larger roasting or cake pan. Set aside.
  3. Set up a double boiler by bringing a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Combine the chocolate, butter, Kahlua, and espresso powder in a metal mixing bowl, and place it over the boiling water. Stir the mixture constantly as it begins to melt, and continue until it’s smooth and creamy. Set aside to cool.
  4. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl, and mix with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment until the mixture is frothy and almost doubled in volume.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate with a rubber spatula. Repeat twice more until all of the egg mixture is folded completely into the chocolate.
  6. Pour the batter into the springform pan. Pour enough hot water into the larger roasting pan so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  7. Bake until the cake has risen slightly and the edges are just beginning to set, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan, and cool the cake on a wire rack until room temperature.
  8. Remove the foil and the sides of the springform pan, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  9. Remove the cake from the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes before serving to soften, and garnish with any of the optional garnishes. Or enjoy alone. 🙂

Tip: When filling the pan with water, be careful not to get any water in the batter. The water will keep the edges and bottom of the cake from overcooking while the rest of the cake bakes evenly. This is the same technique used to bake traditional cheesecakes and individual custard desserts, like creme brulee or pots de creme. It will be easiest (and cleanest) to slide the top oven rack out a few inches, and place the pan (without water) on it. Pour the water in the pan, and carefully slide the rack back into the oven. You’ll avoid spilling water and ruining your batter this way.

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Cupcake

I think I like Valentine’s Day baking better than holiday/Christmas baking. All the desserts are pink and red and heart shaped…just so darn cutesy. I know Valentine’s Day can be slightly nauseating for some, but if you start focusing on the treats associated with that holiday, you won’t feel so queasy. I promise.

Take these cupcakes, which I’ve often baked in heart-shaped silicone liners (awwwwwww), for example. They really have nothing to do with all the love stuff on Valentine’s Day, but I associate them with the holiday because they’re pink and I often garnish them with sliced strawberries or hot pink sugar, which makes anything festive. So that helps. Some of my favorite techniques are used in this recipe too-doctoring a boxed cake mix, baking the cupcakes with a surprise filling, and using one of my favorite frostings-strawberry cream cheese. They’re perfect for anyone who adores vanilla or strawberry flavors, and you can even make them with chocolate cake mix for the chocolate lovers. They’re so fluffy and heavenly that even Cupid would be tempted. 😉

Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 box of French Vanilla or yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 oz cream cheese (Philadelphia makes a small square package that’s perfect for this), cut into 24 small squares
  • 3 Tbsp strawberry jam or preserves
  • 2 cupcake/muffin pans and some cutesy Valentine’s Day liners with little hearts and Cupids all over them

For the Frosting

  • 2 8oz packages of strawberry cream cheese, softened
  • 10 Tbsp or 1 stick plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Hot pink sugar or sliced strawberries

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake/muffin pans with your cute little liners.
  2. Mix the cake mix, sour cream, canola oil, water, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until the lumps have smoothed. The batter will be thick. Fill the liners 2/3 of the way full.
  3. Lightly stir the strawberry jam with a fork until it’s smooth and free of large strawberry pieces.
  4. Gently press a small cream cheese square into each cupcake so that it’s just below the top of the batter. Put a small spoonful (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) of strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese.
  5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, and rotate the pan halfway through baking time. Remove from heat, and cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, cream together the butter and strawberry cream cheese using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract.
  7. If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to the whip attachment, and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time, whipping throughly between each addition. Continue to whip the frosting until it’s smooth and at desired consistency. Add more confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time if the frosting is too soft.
  8. After the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost them with a pastry bag and round tip or with a cake spatula. Garnish with hot pink sugar, pink sprinkles, sliced strawberries, or whatever pink and red decorations your little heart desires.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Just Cupcakes.

Tip: When you put the cream cheese into the cupcake batter, resist the urge to push it all the way down to the liner. You don’t need to. The batter will bake around the filling, and this goes for putting candy or other fillings in as well. Cupcake batter rises and will cover the filling, even when it’s close to the top of the batter.

Winter Winesday

I apologize for the delay in this week’s Winesday post-I had technicial difficulties so it had to be delayed! Enjoy!

 

Another week, another Winesday. Except that this is the week of my birth, so I will actually be celebrating this week’s Winesday on Thirstday, but I’ll be happy to update you on another (almost) vegan-friendly Winesday plan. I’ll introduce you to one of my favorite go-to wines, talk about a delightful risotto dish, and revisit one of my most irresistible desserts so far. So enjoy, and eat, drink, and be merry! And don’t forget that my birthday is tomorrow.

The Wine

  • Cupcake Red Velvet. This is a versatile and fabulous wine, but you have to enjoy red wine to love it. It’s initially dry when you take your first sips, but it leaves an irresistibly sweet, chocolatey finish with several dark berry notes. Kind of like a red velvet cake…weird, right? It’s not at all what you’d expect from Cupcake Vineyards and certainly not what you’d expect with a title like “Red Velvet”, but it’s perfect for enjoying with rich chocolate desserts. Like I said before though, if you’re not fond of red wines, you may not be fond of this. The sweet finish is wonderful, but you have to endure a more bold, dry taste first.

The Entrée

  • Butternut Squash Risotto. Who doesn’t love butternut squash meals when it’s cold outside? Late fall and winter seem to be the perfect time to enjoy this vegetable because it’s in-season, and it’s so fulfilling. This dish was warm and comforting without being heavy, and it’s made of (mostly) healthy ingredients.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 servings

  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine-1/2 cup for the meal, 1/2 cup to sip on while you’re cooking
  • 1 10 oz pkg frozen butternut squash puree, thawed (1 1/2 cups). You can also use fresh if you feel like doing the work to get it.
  • 2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped or 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (omit if you’re trying to make it vegan, or replace with vegan-friendly parmesan shreds)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Medium & large saucepan with covers

How to Do It

  1. Heat the vegetable broth in a medium sauce pan until hot but not boiling. Reduce heat to low, and cover to keep warm.
  2. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until softened but not browned, around 6 to 8 minutes. Add the rice, and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine (not the one you’re drinking of course), and simmer for two minutes, stirring constantly until absorbed.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth. Simmer the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed. Continue to add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, and allow each addition to absorb into the rice before adding more broth, approximately 30 minutes.
  4. When all the vegetable broth has been incorporated and the rice is tender, mix in the squash, sage, most of the cheese, and the salt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowls, and top with remaining cheese.

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens excerpt from Ellie Krieger, “Comfort Food Fix”.

The Dessert

  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares that I could not stop eating. These go wonderfully with a meal that isn’t heavy because they’re so rich, so a light grain dish or salad are just perfect. You’ll never be able to eat just one…unless you don’t like peanut butter and chocolate, in which case, what’s wrong with you?

The Adult Fluffer Nutter

Happy short work-week for most! I enjoyed my long weekend, and somehow I was able to bake, even though I was swept up in The Hunger Games series. Seriously, I haven’t been able to separate myself from my Kindle for the last week. I think I was even reading while baking. Anyway, I found this lovely recipe while searching for a bite-sized dessert recipe for my friend Michelle’s birthday party. It took slightly longer than I’d planned for, but then again, that could have been my Kindle distraction. The steps in the original recipe seem a little overwhelming because it requires a bit of technique (you make your own marshmallow fluff), and because there are several steps to make this one little sandwich. I’ll do my best to break it down and make it seem as easy as (moon) pie.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Moon Pies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 1 dozen moon pies

For the Dough

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus a little more for rolling out the dough
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Rolling pin
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • Parchment paper

For the Fillings

  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup good quality chunky peanut butter (I used Nature’s Promise Natural Chunky Peanut Butter-it was SO delicious)
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting (optional)
  • Small saucepan
  • Stand mixer, or a good quality electric hand mixer

How to Do It

  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in 1 tsp of the vanilla extract and 1 whole egg.
  2. Gradually add the flour and salt, and beat until a soft dough forms. When the ingredients are just blended, remove the dough from the mixer, and knead with your hands until the dough is uniform and the texture is soft. Divide the dough into two mounds, and wrap each mound in plastic wrap. Flatten each mound slightly until it’s less than an inch thick, and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. On a floured work surface, roll each mound of dough until it’s uniform and 1/8″ thick. Use a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter (or if you have neither, use the lid of the peanut butter jar like I did 😉 ) to make 24 equal circles. Use the scraps of dough to roll out and cut additional circles. Place the circles on the cookie sheets, and place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator for another ten minutes while they firm up.
  5. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned, and rotate the pans 7-8 minutes into baking time.
  6. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool slightly on the pan before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely
  7. Cover half the cookies with the melted chocolate by using a spoon and pouring a small amount on each cookie. Use the spoon to spread the chocolate close to, but not touching, the edges of the cookies. Refrigerate the cookies to allow the chocolate to set for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Spread the chunky peanut butter on the other half of the cookies.
  9. Begin whipping the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt at medium-high to high speed until the stiff peaks of a meringue form.
  10. Heat the corn syrup in a small saucepan until boiling, and gradually temper the meringue by slowly pouring the hot corn syrup in a steady stream. Continue to whip for another two minutes, or until the mixture is glossy.
  11. Beat in the remaining vanilla extract and 1 cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar at medium-low speed until the mixture thickens and has the texture of marshmallow fluff. Congratulations, you just made your own fluff :-).
  12.  Let the marshmallow fluff cool completely, and then fill a large plastic        resealable sandwich bag with it. Make a small cut at the corner of the bag, and pipe the cookies covered in peanut butter. Be sure not to get too close to the edges as the marshmallow tends to be messy.
  13. Top the cookies with the chocolate halves, and refrigerate for several minutes to set.
  14. Let the cookies soften for up to two hours, and top with sifted confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder and cinnamon.

Tip: These get very messy so try to set the layers between each addition. The cookies themselves are more like shortbread than sugar cookie so the addition of confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder and cinnamon at the end helps sweeten the deal.

Recipe from Delish.com.

Hawaiian Pumpkin Bread

I know it’s not technically pumpkin season anymore…and technically this is a breakfast recipe, not a dessert…and techinically, I don’t care because it’s delightful. This recipe is vegan-friendly, but you can make it with real eggs if egg replacer freaks you out or if you can’t locate it. The bread is really soft and moist so I feel the addition of real eggs may toughen it a little…but again, if you can’t handle the idea of egg replacer, by all means, give it a shot. Don’t alter the chocolate though. Milk chocolate won’t enhance the pumpkin flavor but instead make it too sugary while semisweet or carob chocolate chips will give it a rich, sinful taste. I’m not even sure how this is a (healthy) breakfast recipe because it feels like I’m cheating every time I indulge in it early in the morning.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 cans pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, or 2 eggs’ worth of egg replacer
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup safflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups spelt flour
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup semisweet or carob chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional, but lovely)
  • 1 13″ x 9″ cake pan

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly grease a 13″ x 9″ pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips, and the macadamia nuts in a large mixing bowl, and set aside. Whip the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract in a separate mixing bowl until the ingredients are blended.
  3. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, and spread evenly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips and the coconut flakes over the top of the batter.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
  6. Remove from the heat, and cool in the pan for 15 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack.

Recipe adapted from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.

Tip: The ingredients are the key to this recipe. Spelt flour is much finer than all-purpose flour so it produces a softer product than the same amount of white flour would so don’t try to replace it with an equal amount of all-purpose. Plus it’s healthier with fewer carbs. 🙂

Extra Tip: For a little extra indulgence, add some whipped cream or ice cream.

Vegans Love Winesday Too

Happy Winesday! It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve written about a Winesday, and it’s a new year, which means a whole new range of possibilities for Winesday meals. The evenings are becoming quite a bit cooler here in Connecticut which makes me crave more hearty, comforting meals. This has been a bit more of a challenge while trying to stick to my veganism resolution…but lucky for me, things like peanut butter and pasta (my two ultimate favorite comfort foods) are animal product-free. Yipee.

The Wine

  • Yellow Tail Moscato. Ordinarily I may not have chosen this wine, but when I stopped at the store (which, ironically, said WINES! across the top of it), I had very little to choose from in the already-chilled section. I wanted something white and subtly sweet, but I found the choice difficult when I had nothing but Chardonnays staring back at me. I asked the clerk for a recommendation, but he pointed me in the direction of a dry Riesling…nope, still not cutting it. So I had to settle for a blatantly sweet Moscato. Sweet is never a bad characteristic in wine for me, but on that evening I was hoping for something slightly more mild. This wine isn’t that. It has very strong peach and apricot flavors, and a sweet citrus nose. It’s fruity and delicious with such a sugary taste that it slightly resembles a sparkling wine. That might sound odd, but very sweet wines always remind me of sparkling wines…Anyway, it’s much sweeter than most Rieslings, and it’s best served with fruit, cheeses, and to balance spicy foods.

The Entrée

  • Rustic Pasta by Alicia Silverstone. This is absolutely my favorite pasta dish. I could eat it for a week straight and not be sick of it, and what’s perfect about it is that it’s HEALTHY and satisfying and doesn’t make you want to take a nap after dinner. It’s a combination of flavors and textures that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of piecing together either-like carmelized onions, soy sauce, tomato sauce, and crunchy cabbage. Even thinking about it is making me drool a little bit…just a little though. It’s warm and comforting and versatile and healthy. What isn’t there to love about it?

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb whole wheat angel hair or spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 6 Tbsp marinara sauce

How to Do It

  1. Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain, and put aside. Whole wheat pasta cooks faster than white pasta so be sure not to overcook it.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok, and saute the onions for 7 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, and cook another 3 minutes or until the onions are transparent and browning.
  3. Add the celery to the pan, and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sea salt, and garlic powder, and mix thoroughly into the ingredients already in the pan. Add the cabbage slices and saute for another 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and marinara sauce to the pan, and toss the ingredients together. Cook for another 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat until the ingredients are heated through.

Tip: Thinner slices of cabbage will cook more easily, and they’ll be delicious in the pasta. They’ll give a slight crunch to the dish, which will add the different textures, but they won’t be too stiff.

Extra Tip: This dish is exceptionally delicious with white wine. The Moscato mentioned above was good, but try something a little drier, like a Sauvignon Blanc, to really get the best of all the flavors.

Recipe adapted from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.

The Dessert

  • Cherry Chocolate Almond Strudel. This dessert was light enough to serve after a hearty pasta dish, and it was sweet enough to serve in small pieces. Oh, and it’s warm, gooey, and chocolatey, which is perfect for a cold evening.

Cherry Chocolate Almond Strudel

It’s been too long since I’ve written! I needed a little hiatus from baking; well, not needed, but had to take. Life has been busy in the new year, and I’m focused on my new diet…not a dessert-free diet of course! I couldn’t possibly go without that. However, I’m trying on a vegan diet for size to see how it feels. This doesn’t mean I’ll be baking any less of course. I’ll cover that more in a different post.

For now, let’s get to the yummies. I found this recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking when I borrowed it from my friend Michelle. Everything in there just looked so delicious, and I’m amazed when something can turn out beautifully without eggs and butter so I decided to take a gander at the pages. This seemed easy and exquisite with the combination of fresh cherries, chocolate, and almonds wrapped up in a neat little flaky, buttery package. If you feel too unsure about using a butter replacement, then stick with unsalted butter. You’ll get the same browning effect either way, and the taste won’t change. It may just be slightly greasier than the vegan-friendly version.

Cherry Chocolate Almond Strudel

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 strudel rolls, 6 small slices in each

  • 12-16 sheets of filo dough
  • 1/3 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs, honey or cinnamon flavored
  • 1/2 cup slivered or ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup nondairy semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, rinsed, pitted, and sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery sticks, melted (or 1/2 cup unsalted butter for you dairy lovers)
  • Granulated sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon for sprinkling on top
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Pastry brush

How to Do It

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line cookie sheets with a single sheet of parchment paper.
  • Mix the cherries, chocolate chips, almonds, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl until evenly blended. It’s better to use your hands than a spoon or whisk because the cherries are sticky and difficult to blend with the other ingredients.
  • Place a sheet of filo dough directly on the parchment paper on the pan, and brush generously with the melted butter. Layer another sheet on top of this one, and brush again with melted butter. Continue to layer them until you’ve got 6-8 sheets (use 6 if you haven’t used much butter, use 8 if you have), and do not brush the top sheet. Repeat the process on the second cookie sheet.
  • Split the blended ingredients in half, and spread each half across the a buttered filo dough. Start by placing the filling in the center of the dough, and leave at least two inches of space from the edges on all sides.
  • Fold the bottom edge of the dough up so it partially covers the filling, and brush the edge with a little melted butter. Fold the top edge of the dough over the filling, and gently roll the dough until you have a compact log. Seal the edge you’ve folded over by brushing a little melted butter on it. Place the strudel seamside down on the pan, and brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until the strudel is golden brown. Remove, and cool on the pan before slicing.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredient Tip: I never buy boxes of graham cracker crumbs because it seems like a waste. I always crush the graham crackers themselves, often while they’re still in the individual packages. One package in a standard-sized box yields about one cup of crumbs, and if you crush them while they’re still enclosed in the package, you can just pour them out all at once. The whole crackers seem to keep longer than the boxes of crumbs so they’re easier to keep in the cabinet. Oh, and you’ll have snacks while you’re baking.

Tip: Keep the sheets of dough you’re not using wrapped in a slightly damp cloth. It will keep them from drying out while you’re working.

Extra Tip: If you’re not able to serve the strudel immediately, keep it refrigerated, and nuke it for 30 seconds or so before enjoying. They’re delicious when the chocolate is all melty. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: