Don’t Toss That Pumpkin: Punkin’ Chunkin’ Topping

Yogurt Pumpkin Parfait

It’s funny how a recipe can remind me of something totally unrelated to food, which leads me to how I came up with Punkin’ Chunkin’ Topping as the name for this recipe. When we first moved to Delaware our neighbor told us about the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Competition that was held every fall. People would design large catapult or sling-shot devises that would propel pumpkins through the air. The team that launched the farthest was the winner. Last year a woman suffered a serious (but thankfully not life-threatening) head injury after being hit by a flying pumpkin and that was the end of any punkin’ chunkin’ in Delaware. Today’s recipe was prompted by some pumpkins on our back porch that managed to survive the first frost. I figured I should use them up before they start to turn soft. I thought about Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that for breakfast? Since I always have homemade soy yogurt on hand I would use that, laced with pumpkin butter, as the “creamy” element of this recipe. For the topping I cooked pumpkin cubes with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a non-stick skillet. The result was slightly sweet, delicately spiced chunks of pumpkin. Yes! You can can have pumpkin pie for breakfast. It’s even yummy enough to serve as dessert. So, don’t toss that pumpkin from your porch; use it to cook up some Punkin’ Chunkin’ Topping for yogurt, puddings or frozen desserts. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpkin Topping for Yogurt

1 baby pumpkin (about 8” diameter)
¼ to ½ cup brown sugar
Pumpkin pie spice to taste

If using a larger pumpkin, measure out about 4 cups of pumpkin cubes.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Peel the skin. Cut the pumpkin into 1” cubes. Place in a large non-stick skillet and toss with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Cook the pumpkin on medium-high heat until tender, adding water as needed to prevent sticking. You can turn the heat on high for a few minutes to caramelize the pumpkin. Let cool to room temperature and serve over non-dairy yogurt or frozen dessert

 

 

03 Dec 2017

Super Taster: Greek Gigante Beans with Tomatoes & Pasta

Gigante Beans & Orrechiette

I have to start out this post by saying that my husband is a super taster. I am somewhat envious because he can detect subtle flavors in foods that I can’t. As a cook and a lover of food, the sense of smell and taste play a significant role when preparing and enjoying food. Anyway, Bruce and I took his Mom out to lunch a few weekends ago. I had it all scoped out to go to a Chinese restaurant in a cute little Main Street town in New Jersey. I checked out their website the day before and was excited about their extensive menu. There was something for everyone! When we showed up for lunch, the restaurant was closed and looked like it had gone out of business. We decided to take a stroll down the block to see if there was another place to eat. Pizza, coffee house, Mexican, more pizza, Thai food, another coffee house, Irish pub. On one corner was an unassuming Greek restaurant. We took a quick look at the menu and decided to give it a try. What I love about the Greek restaurants I’ve been in is the white and blue decor that makes you feel like you’re in the Mediterranean. It’s both invigorating and serene at the same time. I ordered a dish that was made with gigante beans, tomatoes and pasta. It was aromatically seasoned and absolutely delicious. I gave Bruce a taste and he mentioned that he detected some tarragon in the dish. I thought it might have some marjoram. I didn’t think that tarragon was an herb that’s commonly used in Greek cuisine, so I asked the waiter how the dish was seasoned. He said that that they use oregano and dill in this particular dish. Before I left the restaurant I was determined to make this recipe at home. I consulted a few recipes on the internet and one of them added ouzo to the sauce. Ouzo is an anise-flavored liqueur that’s made in Greece. The taste of tarragon reminds me of licorice. I’m sure that what Bruce thought was tarragon was, in fact, a splash of ouzo. The recipes I used as reference had these ingredients in common: gigante beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. Since gigante beans are grown in Mediterranean countries I used large lima beans because they are easy to find in the US. As I mentioned, one of the recipes I found uses ouzo, but I opted to use anise seed. Many of the recipes called for chicken broth, so I used water “souped up” with one teaspoon of Better Than Boullion’s No Chicken soup base. The dish I had at the restaurant was made with “quartini” pasta, which means “little squares”. Since these are hard to find I used orrechiette (“little ears”) instead. I love, love, love this dish! The beans and pasta make for one substantial meal, yet the light sauce and delicate flavors make you want to come back for more. I went ahead and ordered authentic gigante beans and tried using crushed instead of diced tomatoes on my second attempt at this recipe. While the gigante beans tasted great, the crushed tomatoes made the dish too much like a heavy tomato sauce. If you do use gigante beans, you will need to increase the cooking time to about two to three hours. Whether you use lima or gigante beans, one taste and you’ll want to shout “Opa!” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pasta

8 oz. dried gigante beans or dried lima beans

Olive oil (optional)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups (or more) water or vegetable broth (1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon anise seed or 2 Tablespoons ouzo liqueur
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
½ cup chopped fresh dill

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Place beans in large bowl. Pour enough water over to cover beans by 3 inches; let soak overnight. Drain beans; set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil or water in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans, 4 cups chicken broth, tomatoes, vinegar, anise seed (or ouzo), oregano, and crushed red pepper to pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, adding more broth by cupfuls to keep beans submerged and stirring occasionally,(about one hour for lima beans or 2 to 3 hours for gigante beans) depending on freshness of beans. You will need to keep testing the beans about every 30 minutes and adding more water as needed. When beans are done, uncover and cook until tomato mixture thickens and liquid is slightly reduced. (If you want to serve the beans without pasta, simply reduce the sauce longer.) Season beans to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place beans, pasta and dill into large serving bowl and toss gently.

DO AHEAD: beans can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm beans before continuing, adding more chicken broth by 1/2 cupfuls if beans are dry.

 

29 Nov 2017

All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Every trip to the grocery store is an adventure for me. Even when I have a list in hand, I enjoy perusing the produce aisle looking for something unusual that I’ve never eaten or a seasonal favorite that I’ve waited an entire year to get my hands on once again. Sometimes, when I spot a standard item that looks super fresh I just go overboard and buy more than I need. This was the case when I picked up a three pound box of extra large snow white mushrooms at a mushroom outlet in Pennsylvania. They were beautiful and perfect . . . and I was happy! Since a lot of my thinking is done in the car, I pondered how I was going to prepare those beauties the entire ride home. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I thought about a family favorite — stuffed mushrooms. And then I thought about the turkey stuffing we used to make with mushrooms, celery, onions and sage. Why stop there? Why not place dollops of mashed white and sweet potatoes on top? And while I’m at it, I might as well make it festive with creamy mushroom gravy. This is a complicated recipe, but one that is achievable with some planning. First, I placed the sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them until soft. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I boiled the white potatoes on the stove top. I made the stock using onions and the mushroom stems. Next, I made the bread stuffing using one cup of the stock. You can make the gravy at this point or wait until after the stacks are assembled. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t despair. Any or all of these elements can be done ahead of time depending on your time constraints and patience. You can use your own recipe for mashed potatoes. You can even use instant mashed potatoes; just use less liquid to achieve a stiffer consistency. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you prefer. You can simply place dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the stacks instead of using a pastry bag and decorators tip. You can even assemble the mushroom stacks ahead of time and bake the next day. These Stuffed Mushroom Stacks require some thought and planning but they are worth the effort. It’s like an all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner in every bite! You can serve them as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. You can plate them with green beans or shaved Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce to serve as an elegant entree. Any leftovers can be served on a slider bun and rewarmed gravy the next day. On Thanksgiving and on every other day, I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

3 lbs. large white mushrooms, stems removed and set aside

Mushroom Stock & Gravy

½ onion, thinly sliced
Reserved mushroom stems
2 Tablespoons red wine
4 cups of vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon No Chicken)
2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or corn starch
Black pepper

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until starting to soften and turn brown. Add red wine and cook until evaporated. Add vegetable broth (I use 1 teaspoon bouillon base to 4 cups of water for lower sodium). Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve one cup of the liquid to use in the stuffing. Remove from heat and let cool. When ready to thicken, add arrowroot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool. You can puree the gravy in a blender and return to the saucepan until ready to serve. You can alternately use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the gravy right in the saucepan.

Stuffing

1 large onion (thinly slice ½ for gravy and mince ½ for stuffing)
2 celery stalks, minced
8 slices of sliced bread, toasted
1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock
Dried sage, oregano, marjoram to taste
Black pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to skillet then add the onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and golden.
Cut or tear the toasted bread into small pieces, almost as if it’s shredded. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mushroom stock and seasonings. Toss until combined.

Mashed Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons (or more) soy yogurt or non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain well. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in enough yogurt or milk to make the potatoes stiff enough to pipe onto the mushrooms. I don’t recommend using an immersion blender to remove lumps as this can make the potatoes gluey. Set aside.

Sweet Potatoes

1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
¼ to ½ cup oat flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Remove the skin from the baked sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. If you want a stiffer consistency, add the oat flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if you like sweeter add the brown sugar. You can use an immersion blender to remove lumps. Set aside.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Press the stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps, then pipe on either the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree. Lightly coat the tops with non-stick spray. Place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Bake until mushrooms are tender and browned and potatoes are browned, about 45 minutes. You can turn on the broiler during the last few minutes to brown the tops. You can assemble the mushrooms ahead of time, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

12 Nov 2017

Think Outside the Can: “Roasted” Tomato Soup

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

I’ve often wondered what’s the appeal of tomato soup. After all, isn’t just like a can of tomato sauce? Maybe the appeal is that it’s a light accompaniment to a sandwich. “How about some soup and a sandwich for lunch” sounds appealing. I just hadn’t come around to liking tomato soup until now. It all started with a large basket of plum tomatoes that I picked up for a song at my favorite Amish farm stand. I decided to roast the tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, garlic and herbs. It sounds like a lot of effort, but most of the time is spent waiting for them to come out of the oven. I froze the roasted tomatoes in plastic pint-sized containers to use throughout the winter to make my Pasta with Roasted TomatoesThis got me thinking about making homemade tomato soup using roasted tomatoes. Now that sounds like something I could go for. I wanted to simplify the recipe and opted to replicate the flavor of roasted tomatoes by cooking canned tomatoes on the stove top. (Actually, I didn’t want to risk those beautifully roasted tomatoes on a potential flop nor did I want to spend the extra money on a can of fire-roasted tomatoes.) I cooked onions and garlic until golden, added drained tomatoes and cooked them on high heat to get everything to caramelize. I added a potato to impart a little creaminess and body to the soup. This soup is light enough to enjoy with a sandwich and substantial enough to fill the gap that a salad so often leaves you with. You could ladle the soup into a cup for an afternoon snack or serve it as a first course when company comes for dinner. Mmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Try this Roasted Tomato Soup and start thinking outside the can. Thanks for being Vegi-curious. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small potato, chopped (about ¾ cup)

For the Croutons:

1 whole wheat or multi-grain bagel, cubed
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried thyme or other herb

Drain tomatoes and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they start to soften and turn golden. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the drained tomatoes and sugar. Cook on high until the tomatoes start to brown and the bottom of the pot develops spots of caramelization. Add the tomato juice, vegetable broth and potato. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour contents into a blender container and puree until smooth. You could also use a hand-held immersion blender and puree directly in the pot. Return to stove to heat. Garnish with croutons or air-fried zucchini. You can also stir in a spoonful of soy yogurt or cashew cream.

To make croutons:

Mix the mustard, nutritional yeast and dried herb in a large bowl. Add the bagel cubes and toss to coat evenly. Place the cubes into the basket of an air fryer set to 250F. Fry until the cubes are crisp throughout. Remove from basket and let cool. If you don’t have an air fryer you can bake them in the oven at 250F until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned.

05 Nov 2017

Never Stop Improving: “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

My approach to a healthy lifestyle is to never stop improving. I developed this recipe while making my Vegetable Paella. We had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant in the Poconos over the weekend. Ohhhhh, they had Paella Mariscada on the menu. It stirred up memories that I couldn’t get out of my head. I used to order paella every time I went to a Spanish restaurant. Paella is such a special and impressive dish that I came up with my own version some time ago. My original recipe included rice, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, red peppers and peas. What’s missing is the flavor of chorizo, a spicy Spanish-style sausage made with pork. My plan today was just to add some type of large bean to the paella. Luckily I had a bag of large lima beans on hand. I thought I would cook the beans with some garlic, but then my imagination ran wild. Could I infuse the beans with the flavor of chorizo? I looked up a recipe for real chorizo to see what other seasonings go into it. Oregano, thyme, allspice and cloves. I added crushed red pepper, black pepper, brown sugar and vinegar to the mix. After quick soaking the beans, I placed them in a pressure cooker with all the seasonings. They were done in five minutes. I boosted the chorizo flavor by reducing the excess liquid. Oh, boy! These came out tastier than I expected. These “Chorizo” Beans are tasty enough to eat right out of the pot but they were destined to join the party going on in my paella pan. I added the beans at the point in the recipe when the mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and peas are arranged on top of the rice. Do they taste like chorizo? It’s hard for me to say since I used to eat chorizo only when I ordered paella and that was over five years ago. What I can say is that they are deliciously different than any other bean dish I’ve had. If you’re not up for making paella you can try smashing them into a crusty Italian roll, include them in a burrito or serve with rice. Try these “Chorizo” Beans on their own or add them to my improved Vegetable Paella and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Paella with “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

The recipe is intended to be included in the paella, you might want to double or triple the ingredients if you want to enjoy the “Chorizo” Beans on their own.

1 cup dried large lima beans, soaked

6 oz. water
4 garlic cloves, whole
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of ground cloves

Drain beans. Add the beans and remaining ingredients to pressure cooker. Cook on high for 5 minutes and quick release pressure. When safe, remove lid. If you have an Instant Pot, you can set it to “saute” and reduce any excess liquid. If using a stove-top pressure cooker reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid has cooked down. You can make these without a pressure cooker, just allow additional time for the beans to cook. Enjoy as is or add to Vegetable Paella.

 

 

18 Oct 2017

Kitchen Kids: Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowl

Breakfast Quinoa Bowl

Like many first-born children, my oldest brother, Tom, was very independent. I remember Mom telling the story of waking up one morning to find him making breakfast on the stove. He was about five years old. Luckily there was no harm done. I remember during my brief stint as a high school Home Economics teacher having my students make pancakes. It was a mess. After that experience, I’m not so sure I’d trust a five-year old in the kitchen. All kidding aside, there are some recipes that children can tackle under the watchful eye of Mom or Dad. My Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowl is one of them.

I was in the mood for rice pudding this morning. What I like about rice pudding is that it’s creamy, sweet and sultry all at the same time. I also woke up very hungry today and didn’t want to wait for a pot of rice to cook. I happened to make a batch of quinoa for dinner last night that was idling in the fridge. This was starting to sound interesting . . . creamy, sweet, sultry and . . . nutty. Why not? I added some quinoa, soy milk, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla and cinnamon into a ramekin and cooked it in the microwave for about 1-1/2 minutes. I added the arrowroot to help thicken the milk and give it that “pudding” mouthfeel. I had some cooked apples and raisins in the fridge and decided to spoon that over the pudding just before serving.  Some chopped banana or mango would be a nice addition as well. This was so simple to make that I just might trust a five-year old to make this. (Place the bowl on a plate before putting in the microwave and make sure they use oven mitts when removing it.) It is also so tasty that I trust your family will enjoy it. The nice thing is that it comes together so easily that you can make it as a quick weekday breakfast, a last-minute dessert or even a late-night snack. Make a few Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowls this morning and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Breakfast Quinoa Pudding

¼ cup cooked quinoa
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk (see note)
½ teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Few drops of vanilla extract
Cinnamon
Favorite fruit for topping

Place all ingredients in a one-cup ramekin or bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and serve with chopped fruit.

Note: You can use more milk as desired. For every 2 tablespoons of milk, use ½ teaspoon of arrowroot and adjust sugar as you like.

09 Oct 2017

Turning into Fall: Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

I love this time of the year because there’s still a lot of fresh produce at the farm and with cooler temperatures creeping in I get to turn on my oven. It’s like I’m turning a corner and I still get to enjoy the good things about where I’ve been and where I’m going. I picked up some beautiful plum tomatoes and zucchini earlier in the week and put together this Pasta with Roasted Tomato and “Fried” Zucchini recipe. It’s quite simple. Just roast plum tomatoes with garlic and herbs, either air- or oven-“fry” thin slices of zucchini and toss with your favorite pasta. This recipe is what I like to call a “have-it-your-way” recipe because you can easily adapt it to your liking. I used a combination of fresh oregano and marjoram, but you can use any fresh or dried herbs you like. I used one-half pound of Barilla’s campanelle, which is a cut pasta that looks like a curled lasagna. You could probably get away with using more pasta. If you’re thinking about using this recipe as a side dish you might use a small cut of pasta, like orzo, and chop up the zucchini after it’s “fried.” This dish is fancy enough to serve on a special occasion and simple enough for a quiet family dinner. Any way you choose, you’ll have a fresh, delicious and healthy meal. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

8 very ripe plum tomatoes
olive oil to coat the pan
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh or dried oregano and marjoram (or any herb you like)
salt and freshly cracked pepper

2 small zucchini

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

  1. Lightly coat a large baking pan with olive oil. (Use one that’s just large enough for a single layer of tomatoes.)
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally then use a sharp knife to remove the stems. Lay them cut side down in the pan, then distribute the garlic, herbs and seasonings on top. Bake the tomatoes for two hours, or until they are completely softened and wilted and start to wrinkle. Remove from oven. Use a fork and a knive to break up the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce.
  3. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and thinly slice on a diagonal. Place the zucchini in a bowl, add one-half to one teaspoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Set an air fryer to 400F and cook the zucchini until they start to soften and get spots of brown. (See note on how to make the zucchini in a oven.) Remove and add to the pan with the roasted tomatoes.
  4. When pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomatoes and zucchini. Toss gently and serve.

Note: To cook the zucchini in the oven, raise the temperature to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer. Bake until they start to soften and turn brown.

 

02 Oct 2017

Sin-lessy Decadent: Hazelnut-Date Truffles

Hazelnut-Date Truffles

I love getting out of bed on Sunday mornings before anyone else wakes up. It’s my time for making lists, planning my week or simply clearing my head. This morning I’m sitting on our front porch enjoying some solitude and a lovely hydrangea whose blooms are turning to rust. And a cup of coffee. (Note to self: make it a point to spend more time out here.) It’s also the perfect time for me to share my recipe for these Hazelnut-Date Truffles that I made last week. I was in the mood for a decadent, chocolate treat that was easy to make using items I had in my pantry. I also wanted to keep the refined ingredients to a minimum to make these truffles as guilt-free as possible. Since my favorite chocolate candy is Perugina’s Baci (“little kisses” made with milk chocolate and hazelnuts) I decided to go with those flavors in mind. The truffle centers are made with hazelnuts, dates, cocoa powder and hazelnut liqueur. (I use my Blendtec Twister Jar in order to get a super silky texture.) I melted some dark chocolate with coconut cream for a glossy chocolate coating and rolled a few in cocoa powder. All I can say is WOW! The result was part truffle, part caramel, total decadence and no remorse. I paired the truffles with a glass of Frangelico liqueur, but a glass of red wine or port would also be nice. Treat yourself to these Hazelnut-Date Truffles and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Hazelnut-Date Truffles

½ cup dates
½ cup hazelnuts
2 Tbsp. regular or dark cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur

2 oz. non-dairy dark chocolate
1 Tbsp. coconut cream or full fat coconut milk

Place dates, nuts, cocoa powder and liqueur in food processor or high-powered blender. Process until smooth. Remove and portion out into 1” balls. Place on parchment paper. Set aside

Melt the dark chocolate and coconut cream over low heat. Dip the truffles in the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper. (See note below.) Refrigerate until cooled.

Note: You could also roll the truffles in cocoa powder.

24 Sep 2017

The Great Pumpkin: Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfait

When he came up the story line of The Great Pumpkin I wonder if Charles Schultz knew that someday millions of people would develop a “Linus Alter-Ego”? I, along with a host of others, look forward to all things pumpkin during the harvest season.

The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure in whom only Linus van Pelt believes. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to turn up, but a humiliated but undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween. I can relate.

I really look forward to this time of the year. I’m in the habit of buying a few baby pumpkins every time I go to my favorite Amish farm stand. I bake them and freeze the puree to use in baked goodies all year round. I use pumpkin puree in place of applesauce and bananas because it doesn’t impart a fruity flavor to brownies and chocolate cake. I do like pumpkin scones and, now, these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. This recipe was inspired by one that I saw on Facebook . The filling is made with pumpkin, cream cheese, whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk and frozen whipped topping; and the crust had graham crackers, butter and sugar. Yikes! It looked so creamy, spicy and decadent. How could I not try to make this work for me?

It was actually easier than I expected. For the crust I used a mixture of graham crackers and pecans. The fat from the pecans allowed the crust to clump up so that it could stick together in the bottom of a glass. No extra sugar is necessary as the graham crackers are sweet right out of the box. The filling was made with pumpkin, raw cashews, extra firm tofu, brown sugar, lemon juice/lactic acid and pumpkin pie spice. The combination of cashews and lemon juice are what I use as a cream cheese replacement and the tofu gives it a lighter feel. Lactic acid is similar to lemon juice as it adds to the tangy flavor of non-dairy foods. (The one I use is made from sugar beets. You can omit this and simply add more lemon juice.) I used brown sugar on my first go-around. My second attempt was made with dates. Both came out equally delicious, so the choice is yours to use sugar or dates. I processed the filling in a high-powered blender to get a super smooth texture. I can’t say that I would trust a regular blender or a food processor to get these same silky results. The pecan-graham crumble adds a nice textural contrast to the dreamy, creamy pumpkin filling. You can really have fun by dressing up these parfaits by sprinkling candied pecans, granola, crystallized ginger or more graham cracker crumble. It’s all good.

So, the moral of the story is to be like Linus and never give up. Adopting a plant-based diet over five years ago was certainly a challenge for a foodie like me. I’ve had a few disappointing meals and several melt-downs since. I’ve learned to walk away from those recipes that just won’t work for me and move on to ones that do. It’s what keeps me going down this path to wellness. Feed your Linus alter-ego with these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits

Filling:

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
8 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed
1 cup pumpkin
½ cup brown sugar (3/4 cup dates)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lactic acid (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt

Crust:

1 sleeve of graham crackers
1 cup pecans

Place all filling ingredients in high-powered blender and process until smooth. Remove to covered container and refrigerate.

Place graham crackers and pecans in a mini-chopper or food processor. Process until the crackers and nuts are finely ground and begin to clump.

Assembly:

Place one or two tablespoons of crust into a small glass or ramekin. Press down with an espresso tamper or your fingers. Spoon or pipe the filling into the glass until the glass is full. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 

 

18 Sep 2017

Dessert for Breakfast? Apple Pie Ala Mode Yogurt

Apple Pie Ala Mode Yogurt

Who says you can’t have dessert for breakfast? When it’s soy yogurt and baked apples you can have dessert any time your heart (and yearnings) desire. I’m going to deviate from my routine of publishing a recipe and just share some ideas that hopefully will inspire you to create your own recipes.

I took two Gala apples, a handful of raisins and a sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon and cooked them in a non-stick skillet. If the apple variety you choose doesn’t let out too much liquid, you will want to add water a little at a time until the apples are soft but not mushy. Likewise, if you use a tart apple, like a Granny Smith, you might want to add more brown sugar. You can even omit the sugar if desired. When the apples are almost done I like to turn the heat up high to get them caramelized and syrupy. I spooned the warm apples over home-made soy yogurt and sprinkled some walnuts and granola on top. Two apples make enough for three to four servings of yogurt. If you want to make a larger quantity to enjoy all week long, I recommend baking the apples in the oven in a square or oblong glass baking pan. If you want to make your own soy yogurt, see my previous post. With all that goodness going on you can have dessert whenever you like. Now you can enjoy dessert for breakfast with this Apple Pie Ala Mode Yogurt. Thanks for being Vegi-curious day.

 

 

 

13 Sep 2017

%d bloggers like this: