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Vegan Planet: December 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011


New Year's Eve Traditions

Once upon a time, New Year's Eve meant partying until the wee hours, but in recent years, it's a miracle if I can stay awake past 11pm.  One thing that hasn't changed is the kind of food and drink I serve on the last night of the year: hors d'oeuvres and champagne.

Whether you're serving a crowd, or just one or two of you, hors d'oeuvres are a fun way to ring out the old year.  Nibbling on tasty bites is a great way to make the night feel more festive, and if you are staying up late, it's better to nibble on a few small bites than to eat a heavy meal.  

I adore champagne and what better night than New Year's Eve to break out the bubbly.  You can find a list of vegan champagnes on  Other kinds of bubbly such as prosecco and spumante are good choices as well.  For a great non-alcoholic drink, combine seltzer with some white grape juice -- or a little cranberry juice for a festive blush.

As for how many kinds of hors d'oeuvres to prepare, a selection of at least 3 to 5 different varieties keeps things interesting.  I like to choose some kind of theme in terms of flavor so that everything is different but complementary. Having developed hundreds of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres over the years (80 of them in 1000 Vegan Recipes alone), it's sometimes hard to decide what NOT to make! This year I'm leaning towards Mediterranean flavors.  From Quick-Fix Vegan, I'm considering the Bruschetta with Sicilian Greens;Two-Tomato Pastry Purses; Provencal Stuffed Mushrooms; and Easy Artichoke Puffs.

Although, I'm still considering making some things from two of my all-time favorite "small bites" menus from Party Vegan, specifically the pastry-wrapped cherry peppers (photo above) from this New Year's Eve menu:

New Year’s Eve Noshes and Nibbles
Spinach Phyllo Cigars with Walnuts and Figs
Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms
Polenta Crostini with Eggplant Tapenade
Truffled White Bean Hummus
Pastry-Wrapped Stuffed Cherry Peppers
Go-withs: nuts, chips, crackers, breads, olives, champagne; punch

and I'm also tempted to make the Ajillo Mushrooms from this Party Vegan tapas menu as well:

Totally Tapas
Patatas Bravas
Orange and Red Onion Salad
Ajillo Mushrooms
Garlic Chickpeas with Spinach
Olive and Caper-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Go withs: sherry, beer, toasted bread, roasted almonds, olives, marinated artichoke hearts

Whatever I decide to prepare, I know it will be enjoyed with gratitude as I reflect on the past year and look forward wth anticipation to the next.  And I hope you do the same.  Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!


Sunday, December 25, 2011


Happy Holidays!

And wishes for a "Meowy Catmas" from Gary!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Vegan Eggnog Cupcakes

When I first got the idea to make vegan eggnot cupcakes, I had planned to use a prepared vegan eggnog for the liquid in the batter, but when I finally got around to making them, I didn’t have any eggnog in the house.  So I decided to make them with almond milk and other ingredients in the hopes that they’d still taste noggy enough.  I reasoned that I had been making my own vegan eggnog for years before the commercial products came out, and all that experience taught me that if you add enough nutmeg and Myers dark rum, it will taste like eggnog!

My first batch made with almond milk turned out fantastic, but I still wondered if the flavor would be even better (or maybe too intense) if made with a commercial vegan eggnog. Plus I hadn’t tasted real eggnog in over 30 years, so I wanted some other opinions.  I asked two of my talented recipe testers to try out the cupcakes before I shared the recipe with you.

Barbara Bryan made two versions: one with So Delicious Coconut Milk Nog and one with almond milk. She reported that both versions were excellent, but the version with the nog was more noggy than the almond milk one. Barbara used the optional cinnamon in her cupcakes; I did not. The cupcakes took 20 minutes to bake in Barbara’s oven. Here’s one of Barbara’s cupcakes:

Lea Jacobson made them with almond milk.  She made them as mini cupcakes and they took about 22 minutes to bake in her oven. Lea loved the decadently delicious frosting so much, it made her consider other things to put the frosting on — even pondering the idea of “frosting shots.”  Suffice to say it’s definitely a “lick the bowl” kind of frosting! Here’s one of Lea’s mini-cupcakes:

All three of us used the Myers Dark Rum in our cupcake batter and frosting, but the extract should work fine.  An extra sprinkling of nutmeg on top is the icing on the cupcake icing!  Here, then, is the recipe for Vegan Eggnog Cupcakes:

Vegan Eggnog Cupcakes
3/4 cup vegan eggnog or almond milk   
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt (more than 1/4 teaspoon but less than 1/2 teaspoon)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark rum (or 1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup Earth Balance
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum or 1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the eggnog and vinegar and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil, rum, and vanilla. Stir in the reserved eggnog mixture. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared tin and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Alternatively, process it in a food processor. Add the sugar, rum, and nutmeg and mix until thoroughly combined. Continue mixing for about 2 minutes until the frosting is smooth and stiff. Refrigerate until needed.
To assemble: When the cupcakes are completed cooled, frost them with the prepared frosting.

I couldn’t help myself! I had to make another batch of these cupcakes using the last-minute emergency cupcake trick from my carrot cupcakes
For these, I combined a box of yellow cake mix (check the label to make sure it’s vegan) with 1 3/4 cup Silk Nog and 1/4 cup Myers Dark Rum and 1 teaspoon nutmeg.  The frosting recipe stayed the same.  The results were out-of-this-world delicious. 
Disclaimer: I do not recommend using the boxed cake mix as a general practice, simply because many brands (while still vegan) contain unhealthy ingredients.  I just want to share this a once-in-awhile trick to use for those times when you need to whip up a quick dessert at the last minute.

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 19, 2011


Vegan Quorn Review + Holiday Giveaway Winner

When I heard that Quorn was finally coming out with a vegan product, my first thought was "It's about time!" My second thought was, "I can't wait to try it!" So naturally, when the Quorn representative asked me if I'd like to sample the new product, I said yes.  With all the strides many companies have made in producing vegan products, it always baffled me that Quorn continued to use egg whites in theirs. So it's great news that they have produced their first vegan product: a vegan burger. (Please excuse the quality of my photo -- it was taken with a flash -- wintertime is not kind to food bloggers!)

The burgers come four to a box and weigh in at just over two ounces each. They are thin and cook up quite quickly, so quickly in fact, that you want to be sure not to overcook them so they don't dry out. In my first taste test, I wanted to sample them without any adornment so I could get the full impact of their flavor and texture, so I simply sauteed them in a little olive oil with sliced mushrooms and parsley and served them for dinner as cutlets rather than burgers. And I'm glad I did.  The texture is great - very firm and dense.  The flavor fairly bold, slightly smoky, but not overpowering.  Some people may find the these burgers to be too "meaty" for their taste, while others may like them just fine.

For the second taste test, I cut the remaining two burgers into strips and sauteed them with sliced onions. I then added some hot red pepper spread and melted a little Daiya on top.  Served in rolls, these were among the best "cheesesteaks" we've ever had. 

Bottom line: Jon and I enjoyed them, although we felt that their taste and texture made them better suited to be used as cutlets or strips rather than "burgers."  I prefer making my own burgers and usually defer to my homemade seitan for cutlets and strips. Still, I can see where keeping a box of these in the freezer would definitely come in handy.

A check of the Quorn website says the burgers are "making their way into stores now, so be on the lookout." I take that to mean they're not widely available yet, so if they interest you, you may have to ask for them to be carried.

12/26/11 UPDATE: I have recently been made aware that there is a controversy concerning Quorn and the fact that some people have had adverse digestive and allergic reactions to it. See Center for Science in the Public Interest for more info. I was not aware of this issue when I posted this review.

Now, on to the Holiday Giveaway!   I'm happy to announce that the winner of Party Vegan and 3 riotbars by sweetriot is #32:  Jessica Caneal.  Congratulations, Jessica!  Send me an e-mail with your mailing address and I'll get your goodies right out to you.

For everyone else who entered the giveaway: I hope you'll consider getting yourself a copy of Party Vegan.  It's a fun read and loaded with great ideas and recipes.  And if you're a chocolate lover, then you'll adore the sweet riot riotBars -- they're soooo good!

Coming up next time:  my recipe for Vegan Eggnog Cupcakes.  YUM!

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Friday, December 16, 2011


Holiday Giveaway: Party Vegan + sweetriot Chocolate!

Try as I may, I'm having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year, so I thought maybe doing a holiday giveaway would help.

Nothing says holidays like chocolate and the nice folks at sweetriot sent me samples of their new riotBars! Make from fair trade chocolate, these delicious bars are made with actual cacao beans.  I'll give one lucky winner three (count 'em: 3) of these amazing new riotBars, one each of pure 60% dark chocolate with crunch nibs, pure 70% dark chocolate, and pure 85% dark chocolate. And that's not all....

I'm also giving away a copy of my cookbook, Party Vegan.  It's a must-have book for every occasion that calls for good vegan food, including holidays, as well as potlucks, casual get-togethers, and even kid's birthday parties.  The recipes are also great for "anytime" meals and the book includes loads of tips from my days as a professional caterer.

For a chance to win Party Vegan + 3 riotBars, leave a comment at the end of this post. If you'd like to increase your odds of winning, here are 3 more chances to win:

1. Share a link to this Giveaway on Facebook.
2. Follow me on Twitter @globalvegan and tweet about this giveaway.
3. Subscribe to my blog.
(Be sure to leave a separate comment for each that you do, telling me which ones you did!)

Enter now, because the contest closes on Sunday, 12/18 at midnight.  I'll announce the winner on Monday 12/19.  

Guess what?  I feel more in the holiday spirit already!  

P.S. Try the Man-Sized Chocolate Chips from Party Vegan.  Recipe posted here on Facebook. (While you're there, please "like" and "share.")

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Sunday, December 11, 2011


Hummus Giveaway Winner

For your viewing pleasure is this photo of Gary and Mitzki.  They may look like best friends, but don't be fooled.  Most of the time, they ignore each other.  Although on cold afternoons these days, they can be found hanging out on the same patch of sun to keep warm.  Great minds think alike!

Thanks to everyone who left such nice comments about my carrot cupcakes.  I hope you all try the neat little trick with the carrot juice -- if you do, let me know what you think.  I already have some more ideas in mind for quick and easy 2-ingredient cakes, so stay tuned.

It's time to announce the winner of the Tribe Hummus Giveaway. chose lucky number 8: Michelle W.  Congratulations, Michelle! Send me your address and I'll get the coupons for two containers (either 8-ounce or 16-ounce) of Tribe Hummus in the mail to you. Thanks to all who entered this giveaway.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Quick Carrot Cupcakes + Giveaway

Living in the middle of nowhere, (which to me translates to: no Thai restaurants, no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no Asian market, and no natural food store) I remain grateful that my local grocery store at least carries almond milk, two kinds of tofu, decent (if not fancy) produce, and carrot juice — which is where this story begins….

When I went shopping last week, I had this sudden craving for carrot juice. Sure, I could juice my own from whole carrots, but I was in “instant gratification mode” and that large bottle of bright orange elixir looked mighty good.  My carrot juice craving then morphed into a carrot cake craving, and that’s when inspiration struck.  You know those recipes that combine a box of cake mix with a can of soda and — presto — you have a cake with no oil or other things the box instructions call for, like eggs?  Of course, the down side is, you’re still using soda.  So I thought, why not see if I can make a carrot cake using the same method, but with carrot juice instead of soda.

As you can see by the photos, it worked!  I combined about 1 1/2 cups of carrot juice with a box of carrot cake mix and made these adorable cupcakes.  The flavor was extremely delicious and carrot-y, the texture was tender and moist, and the color, as you can see, was vibrant orange. And best of all, they’re vegan with no oil added.  I made a quick cream cheese frosting using vegan cream cheese, sugar, and a little vanilla extract.

Now I’m not one to shy away from scratch cake recipes — I’ve even grown my own carrots to use in my carrot cakes!  But I must admit that this shortcut method turned out a cake that tasted every bit as good as the best scratch cake I’ve had. I garnished the cupcakes with little carrot coins that I made by simmering some carrot slices in a little simple syrup until the carrots were softened and glazed.

As for the mix, as you may know many boxed cake mixes are vegan (as long as you don’t add the eggs, etc.) but read the label to make sure.  If you have access to healthier boxed mixes from a natural food store, even better.  In addition to making the cupcakes, I had enough batter left to make this adorable little cake in a 5-inch springform pan.  I cooled the cake and froze it to use later on.

When you don’t have time to bake a cake or cupcakes from scratch, you might want to keep this 2-ingredient carrot cake trick in mind!

In case you missed it…

and now… A Giveaway:

 As I mentioned above, my local supermarket isn’t exactly “super.”  One of the items it doesn’t carry is Tribe brand hummus, which is a shame because the nice people at Tribe Hummus sent me two coupons for free containers of their product.  But my loss can be your gain: 
I’ll give both of these coupons for Tribe Hummus to one lucky winner chosen at random.  All you need to do is leave a comment at the end of this blog post. How easy is that?  Enter now to win!

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Friday, December 2, 2011


Krazy for Kabocha

If you hang around my blog long enough, you’ll soon find out that I love kabocha squash, a wonderful winter squash with a dark green skin, deep orange interior, and more flavor than you’d ever think could be possible in a squash. I can’t find them locally, so every time we travel to the Asian market (an hour away) I stock up on a few — where they’re also less expensive than in a regular supermarket anyway.In previous posts, I’ve used the roasted squash in a variety of ways including this luscious soup:

Because it has a large cavity, the kabocha squash is also ideal for stuffing with your favorite bread or grain stuffing:

 One of my favorite ways to enjoy the kabocha is to transform it into a rich, creamy (and colorful!) sauce for pasta. Last year, I tossed the sauce-cloaked pasta with chestnuts and cranberries for an amazing autumn meal.

For another take on the pasta-kabocha sauce combo, I tossed the sauce with some cooked gnocchi and used it as a topping for cooked lentils and kale as shown in the top photo. Wow! Talk about a powerhouse of nutrients. And of course, there are all those wonderful flavors and textures going on that complement each other perfectly.Here’s how to make it:

1. Roast the squash: cut the kabocha it in half, scoop out the seeds and then place it in a shallow baking dish, cut side down. Add a small sliced onion or a few quartered shallots to the pan, along with a little water. Cover and roast at 400 degrees until very soft.
2. Make the sauce: Scoop out the roasted squash and transfer to a food processor, along with the roasted onion or shallots, and salt and pepper to taste, and some ground dried herbs like a little sage and thyme. Process until smooth, adding a little almond milk or vegetable broth to achieve the desired consistency of a creamy sauce. Transfer to a saucepan and heat it, stirring. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
3. Cook the lentils and steam the kale, then heat a little oil in a skillet and add some minced garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the cooked lentils and kale season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat with the garlic.
4. Cook the gnocchi (or pasta). Drain well and return to the pot. Add as much of the sauce as needed to coat.

Is anyone else a fan of this amazing squash?

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