This Page

has been moved to new address

Vegan Planet

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Vegan Planet: November 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake is a Thanksgiving tradition in our house, so I make it every year without fail. I like to change up the toppings from year to year, just to keep it interesting.

This year I’m serving it with Cranberry Drizzle, from 1000 Vegan Recipes. For an extra nuance, I’ve also topped it with caramelized pecan halves. The cranberry drizzle is then drizzled onto each slice of cheesecake after plating. By “drizzle,” I mean just spooning about a tablespoon or so per serving onto the slice. That way, there’s just a hint of the sweet-tart cranberry flavor — if you put too much on, it will overpower the pumpkin flavor.

Other toppings we enjoy on pumpkin cheesecake (besides the caramelized pecans and/or cranberry drizzle) are:
- chopped toasted pecans (or other nuts) sprinkled over the entire top or just around the outer edge
- vegan whipped cream (can be flavored with rum extract)
- crystallized ginger (that has been ground to a powder) lightly dusted around the outer edge of the cheesecake
- chocolate curls

Different variations I’ve used on occasion include adding a teaspoon of rum extract to the batter or adding extra spices for a more deeply “spiced” flavor: a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves are good.

Sometimes, instead of a graham cracker crumb crust, I use crumbs made from vegan gingersnaps or shortbread cookies — or even chocolate cookies. (This time I used shortbread cookie crumbs.) Here's the cheesecake before adding any toppings:

I often get e-mails asking for tips on making cheesecakes, so I thought I’d include some here:

1. Bring cream cheese to room temperature before using. (Use non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese.)
2. For best results, make your filling in a food processor or use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, but don’t use a blender because the mixture is too dense to mix properly.
3. For the crust: I usually use about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs for a 9-inch cheesecake. If you prefer a crisp crust rather than a soft crust, you can prebake the crust for 10 minutes and let cool before adding the filling.
4. When making the crust, add the melted margarine to the crumbs a little at a time — you need just need enough to moisten the crumbs. Usually 1/4 cup of melted margarine is enough, but it depends on the amount of crumbs you use and also how “dry” they are. For example, when I use ground shortbread cookies (instead of graham cracker crumbs) I find that there’s more moisture in the cookies, so I need to use less margarine. Sometimes the crumbs are very dry and I need a little extra margarine.
5. Always grease your springform pan (either with margarine or nonstick cooking spray). Make sure your springform pan is properly closed before using. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven to bake.
6. For pumpkin cheesecake, I like to use light brown sugar (which packs tightly into cup). If you’re using a different sugar, you may want to add extra to make it sweet enough.
7. Before scraping the batter into the crust, taste it — you can add a little more spices or sugar if desired.
8. I usually bake cheesecakes for 45 minutes and then leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes to gently continue cooking. A few tiny cracks may appear around the edge. If it overbakes, you may get more cracks.
9. Cool the cheesecake at room temperature for at least an hour, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. I prefer to bake it the night before to allow for more chilling time.

Here's the cheesecake still in the springform pan:

If you're still looking for ideas for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out my menu and recipes on

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 20, 2009


Uttappam and Red Lentil Sambar

When I lived in Virginia Beach, we used to frequent a wonderful Indian restaurant that featured Southern Indian cooking. The menu was filled with a wide variety of idlis, dosas, and uttappams paired with a luscious vegetable sambar and a sublime coconut chutney. The menu also had a number of fragrant vegetable dishes including an addictively delicious fiery hot cauliflower appetizer that I still dream about. Although it was not a vegan restaurant, Peter, the owner, was vegan, so he was happy to prepare a vegan version of virtually everything on the menu. His kindness didn’t end there, for when I asked him to share some of his delicious recipes with me, he generously obliged, and I’ve included my variations of a few of his recipes in 1000 Vegan Recipes.

One of my favorites is uttappam, a savory Southern Indian pancake that was described on Peter’s menu as “Indian pizza.” As a nod to Peter’s playful menu description, I call my recipe Indian-style Pizza, although there’s really no similarity between them, except to say that both pizza and uttappam are round and delicious.

I developed the recipe from my scribbled notes, and, although it may not be 100% authentic, it’s a very close representation of the original, and it tastes great. It’s made with semolina flour, called sooji, available in Indian markets and gourmet grocers. But if you can’t find sooji, you can use half regular all-purpose flour and half chickpea flour, which will still taste good, but with a slightly different texture. And, of course, you can spice it up with more hot chile or ground coriander, if you like. I prefer a more moderately spiced uttappam, since I like to liberally douse it with a spicy vegetable sambar (or dal) and coconut chutney. For my most recent uttappam craving, however, I served it with a dollop of Pear and Apple Chutney (from 1000 Vegan Recipes), since that’s what I had on hand. (In the photo, the colors almost blend in -- the chutney is in the upper right corner and it was delicious.) Now if only I had some of that spicy cauliflower….

BOOK GIVEAWAY ALERT: Alisa, over at One Frugal Foodie, is giving a way a copy of 1000 Vegan Recipes — hurry over there (after you’re done reading this post, of course!) for your chance to win. The contest closes midnight tonight.

Here’s the recipe for my Indian-Style Pizza from 1000 Vegan Recipes, followed by the recipe for Anshu’s Red Lentil Sambar, from Vegan Fire and Spice.

Indian-Style Pizza
This recipe makes two “personal pan”-size uttappam, enough for a main-dish for two or appetizers for four or more. Recipe is from 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson © Wiley & Sons.

1 cup vegan plain yogurt
1 cup semolina flour (sooji)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 medium carrot, grated
1 hot or mild green chile, seeded and finely minced
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted cashews
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Place the yogurt in a medium bowl and warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and mix well to combine.
2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the 2 tablespoons of water. Blend well, then stir it into the flour mixture, adding the remaining 1/3 cup of water to form a thick batter.
3. Stir in the carrot, chile, onion, the 1/4 cup of cilantro, cashews, coriander, and salt, blending well. Set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Pour half of the batter into the skillet. Cover and cook until the bottom is lightly browned and the batter is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
5. Carefully slide the uttappam onto a baking sheet or heatproof platter and keep warm in the oven while you cook the second one with the remaining batter.
6. Invert each uttappam onto a dinner plate, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, and serve.

Anshu’s Red Lentil Sambar
This recipe is from Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson © Vegan Heritage Press. It’s based on a recipe shared with me by my friend Sangeeta’s aunt. Note: Sambar powder is available in Indian markets and online. Serve this flavorful sambar with uttappam or over freshly cooked basmati rice.

1 cup red lentils
3 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 hot green chiles, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons sambar powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup finely chopped eggplant
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Combine the lentils and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until soft, 30 minutes. Set aside, do not drain.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onion, garlic, chiles, and ginger and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the sambar powder, coriander, cayenne, cumin, salt, and curry powder. Add the carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and eggplant. Cover and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add the vegetable mixture to the reserved lentils, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cilantro and cook 5 minutes longer. (Note: For a “soupier” sambar, you can add more water or a little vegetable broth.)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 16, 2009


Tri-Color Rotini with Pesto Bianco

Can you love a recipe too much? When it’s this yummy pesto bianco, I’d have to say no way! For me, it was love at first bite when I first sampled a “white pesto” in Italy. I developed my own version as soon as I got home. Since then, however, I’ve made the recipe more times than I can count, changing it each time and loving it just as much with each variation.

I’ll begin at the beginning. When I first had it as a primi piatti, the “pesto” consisted of artichokes, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and salt, all ground to a paste (that’s where the “pesto” comes in), but with not a leaf of basil in sight (hence the “bianco” or white). The flavor is garlicky like a pesto but with a more sublime, wonderful flavor from the artichokes. I include some soy milk to give it a bit of creaminess and use a combination of pine nuts and cashews (instead of all pine nuts). My original version uses cooked frozen artichoke hearts, but I have since made it with canned artichokes and it tasted fine, so use whatever kind you have on hand. By the way, if you want more of an artichoke flavor to come through, you can add a few extra when you're making the pesto.

I always sprinkle the finished dish with fresh parsley to add color, but you don’t need to stop there. As you can see in the photo, this time I’ve also added pitted kalamata olives and chopped roasted red bell pepper. Other good additions are green peas, pieces of roasted asparagus, or even some chopped artichoke hearts. For a more rustic flavor, you can use walnuts in the pesto instead of cashews and pine nuts. And of course, adding extra garlic is always a good idea.

For a more elegant-looking effect, I’ve also made the pesto in the Vitamix (instead of the food processor) and added a little extra liquid to transform it from a coarse pesto into a smooth and creamy sauce that looks like an Alfredo sauce but packs much more flavor than one.

This is one of those fun recipes that you can play around with to get just the way you like it and so far I’ve liked it every way I’ve tried it. This recipe (and a few others) are featured on Amazon linked from the 1,000 Vegan Recipes page. If you try it, let me know what you think.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Vegetable Treasures

Since the shopping choices are limited where I live, whenever we travel to DC as we did this past weekend, we always include a stop for groceries in Centreville, Virginia on the drive home, where we visit the Trader Joe’s and a huge Asian market across the street.

I like to think I know my way around a produce department, but every time I go to the Asian market, I find something new and interesting. This time it was tindora, tiny finger-sized squash that look like miniature cucumbers. I also got some gorgeous Swiss chard, kabocha squash, baby bok choy, Thai chiles, and tiny purple eggplants. Oh yes, and a quince.

Half the fun of shopping for these treasures is discovering interesting ways to cook them. I asked an Indian man scooping tindora into a bag how he prepares them and he explained how his little girl enjoys them. I noticed a woman examining a quince with great care. She told me that she likes to use quince in a stroganoff-type recipe, and now I’m obsessed with trying it that way. Not present in the photo are some oyster mushrooms, beets, and arugula that I also brought home.

I decided to cook up the chard first and sautéed it with lots of garlic, onion, chiles, and some sliced vegan sausage. I tossed it with a grain blend I picked up at Trader Joe’s that included Israeli couscous, orzo, red quinoa, and baby chickpeas, which I cooked in vegetable broth. The combination was wonderful, very homey and comforting, but with lots of great flavors and textures. I plan to use the leftovers to stuff that kabocha squash, and I’m still trying to decide how to enjoy those adorable tindora, so stay tuned.

In the meantime....

Go to for not just one but five chances to win a copy of 1,000 Vegan Recipes. And while you’re there, be sure to check out my Thanksgiving recipes.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 5, 2009


What’s Cooking for Thanksgiving?

Is it just me, or is this year really flying by at record speed? I can’t believe Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. If you’re not sure what to make for Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve got some ideas to tell you about.

I already know what I’m making, and you can read all about it (and see a photo) at where I share my menu and recipes for the entire meal. Many of the recipes this year are from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, including Seitan en Croute with Madeira Sauce and Rum-Spiked Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranate Pecans).

For even more holiday dinner options, consider ordering a copy of A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving, an e-book compiled by Nava Atlas. It’s filled with holiday recipes contributed by several cookbook authors and bloggers. It includes my recipe for Thyme-Scented Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Garlic. Nava is donating profits from this e-book to charities concerned with global women's issues and world hunger.

Wait, there’s more... The editors at VegNews Magazine have just published their Holiday Cookie Collection. This little e-book is filled with all the flavors of the holiday season, from gingerbread and Chocolate-Orange Macaroons, to Pecan Pie Truffles and Candy Cane Whoopie Pies. (The e-book also includes my recipe for White Chocolate Oatmeal Spice Cookies.)

With all these options available, there’s no excuse for not making a great vegan Thanksgiving feast at your house and goodies throughout the holiday season.

Labels: , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]