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Vegan Planet: February 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010


Comfort for Wintertime Blues

Sure, the snow was pretty…the first time. It was even quite magical during the second record-breaking storm of the season. But when a third storm — a blizzard no less — let loose in our area, I was no longer enchanted. I mean, Virginia isn't supposed to have weather like that!

Well, the good news is that at long last, the snow and ice are finally melting, although not without first bringing our rain gutters down with them.

The only comfort has been to keep on cooking, mostly making hearty soups, bread, and desserts. Anything that spells c-o-m-f-o-r-t. Here are a couple examples -- some quick herb bread and vegetable soup followed by a stack of peanut butter cookies. Can Spring be far behind?

Today the wind is howling. I think I’ll make a pizza..

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Variation on an Apple Cake

I wanted to make an apple cake that was a bit fancier than my usual go-to cake which is a basic tea cake that I serve either with a light glaze or just dusted with a little confectioners’ sugar. This time, though, I wanted to dress it up with frosting. Along the way, whether by necessity or inspiration, I made some tweaks to the recipe and I really like the way it turned out.

I began with the basic recipe for Apple Lover’s Cake in 1000 Vegan Recipes. When I’ve made this cake before, I noticed that if I use a small apple, I need to add a little extra liquid to make up the volume of moist ingredients. This time I decided to shred the apple in the food processor to catch every drop of juice. Since I was already using the food processor to shred the apple, I decided to mix the cake batter in the food processor as well. I didn’t have any dried apple in the house (an ingredient in the original recipe), so I added extra applesauce and a bit of apple juice instead. I used light brown sugar because that’s what I had in the house and included some cinnamon for extra flavor.

For a frosting, I combined tofu cream cheese, melted vegan butterscotch chips, and some confectioners’ sugar. After frosting the cake, I decorated the sides with some toasted sliced almonds. The recipe is below. I think this cake would also be good with a peanut butter frosting or a plain vegan cream cheese frosting.

Here's the cake after frosting and decorating with toasted sliced almonds:

Here's the recipe:

Triple Apple Cake with Butterscotch Cream Cheese Frosting
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 ounces vegan cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup vegan butterscotch chips, melted
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
Shred the apple in a food processor, then scoop out the apple and set it aside. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse until all the ingredients are moistened. Add the apple to the batter and pulse to combine. Do not overprocess.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, melted butterscotch chips, and confectioners’ sugar and process until smooth. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake. Garnish with almonds, if using.


Saturday, February 13, 2010


Easy Valentine Appetizer and Dessert... and a Cookbook Winner!

If you want to make something fun for a Valentine’s Day dinner but are short on time, try these: a simple appetizer and an easy dessert for a festive start and finish to your special meal.

The appetizer is Tapenade Pastry Hearts. Simply thaw a sheet of vegan puff pastry and use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to make little pastry hearts. I made two sizes for both one- and two-bite appetizers. For the larger ones, I pressed the smaller cutter partially into the dough of the larger hearts so that a “lid” would form when baked.

Just arrange the pastry on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove the smaller heart-lids from the larger hearts. For the tiny hearts, just carefully slice off the top layer of pastry and set aside. Carefully fill each pastry heart with a small spoonful of a red tapenade (made with tomatoes, red bell peppers, green olives, and capers). If you don’t have time to make homemade tapenade, you can use a store-bought variety. Arrange on a platter and pop the champagne!

For an easy dessert, try this simple ice cream cake with strawberries. Finely grind vegan chocolate cookies and mix with some melted Earth Balance. Press into a small springform pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Soften your favorite flavor of vegan ice cream and spread it evenly on top of the cookie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refreeze for a few hours or overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving time, wash, hull, and slice some fresh strawberries and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and set aside at room temperature to bring out their flavor.

When ready to serve, slice the ice cream cake and arrange on dessert plates. Top with a cascade of sliced strawberries and garnish with one or two whole strawberries. A drizzle of chocolate sauce or a dollop of vegan whipped cream are great additions to this quick and easy dessert. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cookbook Giveaway Winner: The winner of a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice is: Andrea of "Easy Vegan Cooking." Congratulations! (Andrea: Please e-mail me with your mailing address so I can get the book in the mail to you.)

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the ‘chili poll” — it was great to discover so many delicious ways to enjoy chili!

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Thursday, February 4, 2010


Chili in Squash Bowls and a Cookbook Giveaway

I love the flavor combination of spicy hot chili and sweet winter squash. Usually I’ll roast some peeled and diced butternut squash and add it to my chili. Only this time I had a buttercup squash in the house, which doesn’t lend itself well to being peeled, so instead of putting the squash in the chili, I served the chili in the roasted squash halves.

I think of buttercup squash as a “poor man’s” kabocha squash — similar in appearance on the outside, although the kabocha is darker orange on the inside with a richer flavor. Still, the buttercup is a nice squash and, as it happens, it makes a great bowl for chili, too. With each bite of chili, you can get a little taste of the edible “bowl” on your fork or spoon.

Which brings me to a question: How do you like your chili? Do you eat it with a fork or a spoon? In a bowl or on a plate? Do you like it saucy or not? Alone or with crackers, bread, or tortilla chips? On a bed of noodles or rice? Straight up or garnished with goodies such as avocado, onion, vegan sour cream, or something else?

Cookbook Giveaway: Just post a comment about your favorite way to eat chili for a chance to win a copy of Vegan Fire and Spice. A winner will be chosen at random in the next two weeks.

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