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Vegan Planet: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Guest Post by Julieanna Hever + Book Giveaway!

Happy Leap Day!  I’m very excited to celebrate this extra day with a guest post by Julieanna Hever (aka The Plant Dietitian).  

The author of the bestselling book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, Julieanna is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking and the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine. Julieanna was recently featured on The Dr. Oz Show and has taught as part of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program, among other endeavors.

In honor of Julieanna’s guest post today, I’m giving away a copy of her book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.  Find out how you can enter to win this amazing book at the end of this post where you can also discover if you're the new winner of the Heart Healthy Pizza cookbook (the previous winner didn't contact me, so a new winner has been chosen.) 

Here now is Julieanna Hever, with her post entitled:

Oil Slick

Confusion prevails in mainstream media and in the minds of consumers regarding oil and its benefits or lack thereof. Commonly, there are questions about which types of fat are healthy, how much we need, and what the best sources are.
Due to the popularity of diets like the Mediterranean Diet, oil has become known as a health food….beginning with olive oil. However, olive oil is not the highlight of this successful historical health hint. Instead, there other multiple factors involved, including the fact that the population documented in the Seven Countries Study (the one that kicked off the olive oil myth) ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grain breads, herbs, and spices, and were physically active. Yes, they included fish and olive oil, but those components weren't the main attraction to the health achievements of these people.

For anyone trying to lose weight or moderate blood cholesterol levels, using oil in food preparation is not optimal. Remember that oil is 100 percent pure fat and that fat has more than twice the amount of calories per gram as do carbohydrate and protein. The other fact to consider is that you can attain all of the essential fats you need for optimal health by consuming a tablespoon or two of seeds (especially flax, hemp, or chia) or a quarter-cup of walnuts per day. If you compare whole olives and flaxseeds to their derived oils, you will see the difference in nutritional composition (see table). In the whole food version, you retain the healthy fiber, in addition to most of the vitamins, and minerals which are lost in the processing into oil.

Fiber (g)
Fat (g)
Olives (1 cup)
Olive Oil (1 cup)
Flaxseeds (1 TBSP)
Flaxseed Oil (1 TBSP)

The key to weight loss success is to focus on satiety. If you feel full, you will eat less and ultimately retain your ideal body weight. Satiety and fullness are the result of a diet high in bulk (fiber plus water). The reason it promotes satiety is because when food is bulky, it triggers sensors in your stomach which tell your brain you are full. If you compare an equal amount of calories of oil versus whole food sources, you can eat a lot more food, as you end up with a lot more bang for your caloric buck. There is even evidence that oil can harm the endothelial cells of the arteries, which can promote heart disease.

The good news is that preparing foods without oil is easy and difficult to detect the difference in taste. Here are some tips for oil-free cooking:

Find more information on eating low-fat whole food, plant-based on my website and in my books, The Complete Idiots Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking.

Now's your chance to find out everything you ever wanted to know about vegan nutrition! I’m giving away one copy of Julieanna's book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.  And because today is Leap Day, instead of answering a question to win, you get to ask it!  To win this amazing book, all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post that asks me a food question or asks Julieanna a nutrition question. (If you don't have a question, you can leave any comment you prefer.) The winner will be chosen at random and when the winner is announced, the winning question will be answered as well.

Here’s how to enter: Just leave a comment at the end of this post asking a vegan food or nutrition question. (If you don’t have a question, just leave any comment you choose!)

To increase your chances of winning, do any or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each one you do): 
This giveaway will close at midnight on Sunday, March 5.  A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, March 6. Enter now and Happy Leap Day!

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: A new winner in the Heart Healthy Pizza cookbook giveaway has been chosen.  The winner is: # 106 - KELLY G. -- who likes French Fries on her pizza!! Congrats, Kelly! E-mail me with your mailing address and Heart Healthy Pizza will be yours.

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Monday, February 27, 2012


Pizza Cookbook Giveaway Winner!

There's no doubt about it -- there are LOTS of pizza lovers out there!  Wow, what an amazing turn-out for this giveaway.  And so many great ideas for pizza toppings, too.

I want to thank everyone who participated, but as you know there can only be one winner.  The always reliable has chosen lucky # 85: Mandy, who lists "green olives or sun-dried tomatoes" as her favorite toppings.  

Congratulations Mandy! -- Please e-mail me with your mailing address so you can receive your copy of Heart Healthy Pizza by Mark Sutton.  (If I don't hear from you within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.)

COMING UP:  For those of you who didn't win, there will soon be another chance to try your luck because I'm hosting ANOTHER GIVEAWAY this week when you can enter to win a copy of  the best-selling book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever.  To add to the fun, this giveaway will be in conjunction with a special Guest Post by the Plant Dietician herself.  Check back on Wednesday (Leap Day!) for Julieanna's post and a chance to win her fabulous book.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012


Heart Healthy Pizza: Review + Cookbook Giveaway!

I first mentioned Heart Healthy Pizza: Over 100 Recipes for the Most Nutritious Pizza in the World on my blog last week. Now I want to tell you more about this breakthrough cookbook (and also give you the chance to win a free copy!)

Heart Healthy Pizza is the first and only cookbook dedicated to the fine art and science of making vegan pizza.  In this book, author Mark Sutton guides the reader on how to make a variety of innovative crusts, sauces, and toppings, with separate sections in the book dedicated to each component. Heart Healthy Pizza has been five years in the making – I know this because I’ve been in touch with Mark as he was developing his book, so I know firsthand how much effort he has put into it.

All of the plant-based recipes contain no added oil and many of the crusts are gluten-free.  The toppings and sauces are made with a wide variety of vegetables, grains, beans, and other plant-based ingredients and include many “cheesy” sauces in a variety of textures and flavors. Sauces include a Quinoa, Artichokes, and Dijon Mustard Sauce, shown in the top photo (photo by Valerie Wagner); as well as a Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, and Chiles Sauce shown here:

There is also a chapter devoted to innovative pizza creations made with different combinations of the crusts, sauces, and toppings.  Readers are encouraged to “mix and match” the various components, allowing for seemingly infinite variety.  The recipes are super-nutritious, cost-effective, easy to make, and delicious. 

If you like the idea of making delicious, inexpensive, no-added oil, plant-based pizza, then you’ll love Heart Healthy Pizza -- Mark Sutton's gift to vegan pizza-lovers.  You can buy the book direct at HeartHealthyPizza -- where you can also see more pizza photos (there are no photos in the book) -- or you can buy it through Amazon.  Below is a sample recipe from the book for the Millet, Sunflower Seeds, and Oregano Sauce shown in this photo: 

(Note: Recipe and photos ©2012 by Mark Sutton.)

Millet, Sunflower Seeds, and Oregano Sauce
For the sauce:
1 cup cooked millet
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 T. corn starch
2 T. dried crushed oregano
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup water

Pizza dough
Toppings of choice
1. Combine all the sauce ingredients except the sunflower seeds and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times, gradually adding the seeds and water until the mixture can be processed into a smooth and thick pancake batter-like consistency.
 2. Pour the sauce over prepared dough and pizza toppings, then bake at 425 to 450 degrees F. (depending upon your oven) for 15 to 20 minutes.
Recipe Notes:
• This recipe makes a very thick sauce. As blobs on top of the pizza, it is reminiscent of raw mozzarella slices on a Margherita-style pizza. Works well for one 12" to 14" pizza.
• Soaking the sunflower seeds for 2 to 4 hours, then draining, will make the sauce a bit more fluffy in texture.

And now one lucky winner will have a chance to win a copy of Heart Healthy Pizza.  Here’s what you need to do:  Leave a comment at the end of this post telling me what your favorite pizza topping is.  That’s it!

For extra chances to win, do any or all of the following and then leave a separate comment for each, telling me what you’ve done:
* Mention this giveaway and link to it on Facebook.
* Mention this giveaway and link to it on Twitter.
* Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.
* Friend me on Facebook.
* Subscribe to my blog.

The contest closes Sunday night 2/26 at midnight.  A winner will be chosen at random and announced on this blog on Monday morning. Enter now: What’s YOUR favorite pizza topping?

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Celebrate Mardis Gras!

I love any excuse to make something special for dinner and Mardis Gras is no exception.  In fact, there are almost too many delicious dishes that would be a perfect way to celebrate!

Maybe cook up a nice pot of Spicy Vegetable Gumbo from Vegan Fire & Spice. Or maybe the Cajun Style Tofu from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. From Quick-Fix Vegan you can choose from the Cajun-Spiced Dirty Rice, Muffuleta Pizza, or Jambalaya Bake.

You could throw a party and serve the Phat Tuesday Party menu from Party Vegan:
Or you could just kick back and snack on some cajun-spiced popcorn or kale chips!

Whatever you decide, laissez les bon temps roulez!

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Monday, February 20, 2012


Crispy Kale BLT

As a fan of crisp-roasted kale, I’m always experimenting with ways to season and use the deliciously crunchy leaves. Recently I’ve been seasoning them with a smoky mixture, giving the kale a bacon-esque flavor. They were especially good layered in the Tofu Benedict with Sun-Dried Tomato Hollandaise I made last weekend.

In the same way that I enjoy using fried dulse leaves as a bacon alternative in BLTs (see my Avocado, Dulse, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches recipe in Quick-Fix Vegan), I reasoned that crispy kale “bacon” would also be ideal in the iconic sandwich.

I especially like the addition of avocado in a BLT. When made with kale, I suppose we could call the sandwich a TALK -- for: Tomato, Avocado, Lettuce, and Kale. I made my TALK sandwich as a wrap and added a ribbon of vegan mayo and sriracha. At the risk of making a bad pun, this wrap was the “TALK of the town!”   (groan...)

Here’s the recipe I used for the crispy kale bacon. I’m still tinkering with this recipe – the smoky flavor is fairly mild, so I’m working on ways to amp it up a bit. But it’s still pretty good as is. If you like kale chips, then you’ll like this!
Crispy Kale Bacon

1 bunch kale, stemmed and cut into strips
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar or agave
Smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or spray it with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the kale, sesame oil, liquid smoke, and sugar, tossing to coat the kale. Sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika and salt and toss again.
Arrange the kale in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, then turn the kale over and bake until crisp but not burned, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.

IN OTHER NEWS: If you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you may not know that Gary had endoscopic surgery last week to remove a hairball.  He's doing great now.   I also want to thank all of you who expressed your care and concern during this ordeal.  Gary and I are extremely grateful and touched to know that so many people care.   Your good wishes helped make a tough week a bit easier.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Gifts that Keep on Giving

On a day that is overrun with chocolate, hearts, and flowers, I want to suggest a few gift ideas that are none of those things.  They are, instead, amazing (and diverse) books, two of which you can buy in e-book form for instant gratification! These gifts will keep on giving long after the flowers have wilted and the chocolate has been eaten. Happy Valentine's Day!

The first is a young adult novel that would be a great gift for any adolescents in your life. It's called The Adventures of Vivian Sharpe: Vegan Superhero.  Written by Marla Rose, it is a poignant and inspiring story. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it made me wish there had been a book like this available when I was that age.  Thank you Marla for bringing a vegan option to young adult fiction.


My next suggestion is for anyone you know who wants to explore a vegan lifestyle.  The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus is the ultimate bargain on Amazon.  At only 99 cents, it's less expensive than the cheapest Valentine's Day card, but packed with a king's ransom of information about vegan living, including nutrition, food shopping, nutrition, travel, dining out, and much more.


For all the pizza lovers in your life, consider this brand new book by Mark Sutton: Heart Healthy Pizza: Over 100 Recipes for the Most Nutritious Pizza in the World.  Loaded with an astonishing array of sauces, crusts (many gluten-free), and toppings, these all-vegan pizzas contain no added oil and are made with a wide variety of vegetables, grains, beans, and other plant-based ingredients. (Note: this book is not yet available in an e-book format.)

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Sunday, February 12, 2012


One More Valentine Post

In case you didn't noticed I tend to get obsessed with "fun" food at various holidays throughout the year.  Case in point, are these heart-shaped comestibles for Valentine's Day: Red Quinoa Loaf; Watermelon Hearts; and Chocolate Cherry Truffles.

You'd think that would have been enough heart-shaped food for any rational person to make.  But I must admit to having a few more hearts up my sleeve.  

Just to show that Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about expensive dinners, or even chocolate and champagne (not that there's anything wrong with that, Jon...are you reading this, Jon?), I wanted to take a humble recipe and dress it up for V-Day.  So here is Red Flannel Hash:

Red Flannel Hash
This recipe is very flexible: substitute cooked rice or quinoa for all or part of the potatoes; use crumbled or finely chopped tofu, tempeh or seitan in place of the beans.  The little hearts in the photo are roasted potatoes, beets, and tofu.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked and diced
2 red beets, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
Salt and black pepper

1. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the cooked potatoes and cook until lightly browned, then add the beets, soy sauce, and beans.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix to combine well.  Cook until slightly browned, turning frequently with a metal spatula.  When hot, serve as is, or for a fancy presentation, pack the hash into ring molds and unmold onto plates.

Heart-shaped garnishes:
For beets: Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut out sliced cooked beets and set aside.
For potatoes: Cut a well-scrubbed russet potato into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut the potatoes into heart-shapes.  Arrange the potato hearts on a greased baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until soft and nicely browned, turning once, about 30 minutes total.
For tofu: Use a heart-shaped cutter to cut slices of tofu into heart shapes.  Saute until golden brown.

You thought I was finished with Valentine ideas, didn't you?  Almost...but I have to tell you about a couple more fun ideas for breakfast or brunch:
1. If you're into oatmeal or other hot cereal, spoon some red (raspberry or strawberry) jam into a heart-shape on top.
2. This is what I made for brunch today: Heart-Shaped Tofu Benedict with Blushing Hollandaise (made with sun-dried tomatoes) and Crispy Kale "Bacon."

This was really amazing, but I don't have the recipe written up yet, nor did I take photos because the camera batteries needed charging). Maybe I'll just save that recipe for NEXT Valentine's Day!

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Saturday, February 11, 2012


Here's My Heart Chocolate Cherry Truffles

If you have a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, you can transform your favorite truffle recipe into a special Valentine treat.  To make these, I adapted the Chocolate Cherry Truffle recipe from Quick-Fix Vegetarian to include bits of toasted almond and some cherry preserves. The truffles on each end in the photo are uncoated; the one in the center is coated with finely shredded unsweetened coconut.  I've included my recipe adaptation below, with instructions for making both heart-shaped and round truffles. The recipe is very flexible -- as are most truffle recipes -- use more or less of any of the ingredients to get the texture and flavor you prefer.

I plan to post a couple more Valentine's Day ideas between now and Tuesday, but in the meantime, check out my heart-shaped Red Quinoa Loaf on One Green Planet  -- (you can also see it on the Huffington Post).  And if you're in a location where watermelon is available, you can make some watermelon hearts with sweet mint pesto from a previous post.
Here's My Heart Chocolate Cherry Truffles
If dried cherries are unavailable, use dried cranberries.  Adapted from Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson (c) 2007, published by Andrews McMeel.

1/2 cup dried cherries 
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons cherry preserves
1 tablespoon almond butter 
1/2 cup high-quality unsweetened cocoa 
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Coating of choice: cocoa, crushed toasted almonds, toasted coconut, or melted vegan chocolate

Combine the cherries and almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the cherry preserves and almond butter and process until smooth.  Add the cocoa and confectioners’ sugar and process until well combined.

For heart-shaped truffles: Transfer the mixture to a sheet of waxed paper, film wrap, or parchment on a flat work surface and flatten evenly to about 1/2-inch thick. Top with another sheet of waxed paper, film wrap, or parchment and use a rolling pin to flatten evenly to about 1/3 inch thick.  Remove the top paper and refrigerate or freeze until firm. 
Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the truffle mixture into heart shapes and arrange on a plate. Refrigerate to firm up again, if needed.  Roll the remaining scraps from the cut-outs into balls (for a few round truffles) and refrigerate.

For round truffles: Shape a small amount of the mixture into a ball, rolling with your hands into a 1-inch ball.  Repeat until the mixture is used up.   

To coat truffles: Place the truffles on a shallow plate containing cocoa, coconut,  almonds, or melted chocolate.  Roll the truffles in the coating to cover completely. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until firm.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Creamy Picatta Orecchiette over Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

The sprightly flavor of picatta sauce has long been a favorite of mine, harkening back to my dark pre-vegan days when as a restaurant chef I sautéed many decidedly nonvegan picatta dishes.  So strong was my affinity to the lemony caper sauce that vegan picatta recipes using seitan or tofu were among the first that I developed after going vegan.

Recently I wondered what could make a picatta sauce even better and the answer was so simple, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before:  make it creamy!

Riffing off the lemon sauce in this recipe, I added the picatta-like notes of capers and white wine and then it occurred to me that it would make an amazing pasta sauce.  I decided on orrechiette since I knew the “little ears” would do a great job of holding the flavorful sauce.  To keep the dish on the light side, slabs of roasted cauliflower served as the base for the sauce-cloaked pasta, resulting in a harmonious symphony of flavors and textures. (I already knew I loved the flavor combo of cauliflower + picatta from this recipe.)

You can serve the creamy sauce over sautéed seitan, tempeh, or tofu, ala classic piccata, or simply serve it over roasted vegetables.  I could even see doubling the sauce and using it for a lemony mac and cheese variation.  But I do hope you’ll try it the way I made it -- tossed with pasta and served over roasted cauliflower -- because I found this combination to be, quite simply, perfection.

Creamy Picatta Orecchiette over Roasted Cauliflower Steaks
1 head cauliflower, cored
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (optional)
1 to 2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
4 scallions, chopped (optional)
Olive oil, for cooking
6 to 8 ounces orecchiette or other bite-sized pasta
Creamy Picatta Sauce:
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned cannelini beans, drained and rinsed if canned
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup dry white wine (see note)
1/4 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon fresh minced basil, parsley, or chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, cored side down and cut it into 1/2-inch slices, as if you were cutting a loaf of bread.
Arrange the cauliflower slices on a lightly oiled baking pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until tender and nicely browned, about 30 minutes, turning once with a large metal spatula about halfway through. If using tomatoes, mushrooms, and scallions, add them to the roasting pan at this point. While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the pasta and make the sauce.
Add the pasta to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until just tender.  Drain and return to the pot.
Creamy Picatta Sauce:
In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine the white beans, wine, broth, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne and blend until very smooth.  Pour the sauce into the pot with the cooked and drained pasta.  Add the capers and basil and toss to combine
To serve, arrange the roasted cauliflower and other vegetables if using on plates and spoon the pasta and sauce on top. Serve hot.

Note: if you don't want to use wine, just use more vegetable broth (in the same amount).

Recipe by Robin Robertson © 2012

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Monday, February 6, 2012


Vegan Queso Pizza

Guess what I discovered?  The White Bean Queso Dip from the previous post also makes a fantastic pizza topping (and I imagine it would be great in quesadillas as well).

For best results, use the queso dip after it has been chilled or at least come to room temperature.  Spread it on your favorite pizza dough and top with your favorite toppings.  I used halved and pitted kalamata olives and pickled jalapeno slices.  After it was baked I sprinkled on shredded romaine lettuce for some cooling and crunchy greens.  It was so good: spicy and creamy from the queso; salty from the olives; more spicy from the jalapenos; and totally yum from the pizza crust!

Other toppings that would be good are crumbled vegan chorizo or other crumbled vegan sausage; minced scallions; or bell pepper strips.  I could also see finishing it off with some chopped cilantro in addition to (or instead of) the lettuce.


Friday, February 3, 2012


Easy White Bean Queso Dip

Perfect for Super Bowl snacking or anytime you want a cheap, easy, healthy, and delicious snack.

A couple weeks ago we got the craves for a queso-y dip for chips.  I wanted to keep it as low-fat as possible and didn't want to use any commercial products.  I also wanted it to be quick, simple, and inexpensive. Here's what I came up with:

Easy White Bean Queso Dip
I like to use the Rotelle brand tomatoes with chilies because they deliver a nice amount of heat. If unavailable, your favorite tomato salsa (well drained) can be used instead. Serve with your favorite chips.

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained, rinsed, and blotted dry
1 (10-ounce) can Rotelle tomatoes with green chilies, well drained
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
Sliced pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice and jalapenos in a blender or food processor, and process until very smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until hot, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Transfer to a bowl and garnish with sliced jalapenos. Serve hot.

Note: You can spice this up however you like by adding more heat from the optional cayenne or adding some jalapenos or chipotles right into the dip. A little cumin or minced scallions make nice additions as well.

BTW, the cornstarch is added to thicken the dip, but if you don't mind a texture that is a little thinner (though still creamy and smooth) you can omit the cornstarch.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012


Pina Colada Balls

For someone who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, I've certainly been on a roll lately with dessert recipes. After a sweet ride with Carrot Cupcakes, Pumpkin Tiramisu, Eggnog Cupcakes, and Tiramisu for Two, I had planned to go down a more savory path. That's when I became obsessed with making an easy and efffortless dessert that tasted like pina coladas.

I blame my obsession on the gray winter days and the fact that I just bought a container of dried pineapple.  With unsweetened coconut and dark rum in the house, my fate was sealed.  I daresay these pina colada balls are one of the best things I've ever tasted in the category of "small bite desserts."  The flavor is so decadent, that I'd rather call them "truffles" than "balls" but they're not technically truffles.  So balls it is!  You could even shape them into little footballs and serve them on Super Bowl Sunday (the rum gives these beauties a manly kick).  Or make them for Valentine's Day.  Or even better:  make them TODAY!!!

Here's the recipe:

Pina Colada Balls
These balls aren't too sweet as is, but be sure to use unsweetened coconut or they may become too sweet.  If you don't want to use confectioner's sugar, then substitute 2 to 3 tablespoons of sweetened coconut for part of the unsweetened coconut and omit the confectioner's sugar. If you don't have dark rum, you can use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rum extract and make up the rest of the liquid (to equal the 1 tablespoon) with pineapple juice or a little water or almond milk. Also, be sure you use dried pineapple pieces (not fresh or canned -- they will be too wet!)

1 cup dried pineapple pieces
1/2 cup raw cashews or slivered almonds
1/2 cup old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more to coat
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon Myers dark rum

Combine all the ingredients (except the additional coconut) in a food processor and pulse to chop, then process until finely chopped and well combined.  The mixture should hold together easily.  Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in additional unsweetened shredded coconut to coat.  Arrange the balls on a plate to serve.  They can be eaten right away but taste even better if allowed to sit at room temperature for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

Makes about 20

Recipe by Robin Robertson (c) 2012.

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