Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin PancakesPumpkin makes yet another appearance on the menu. This time it’s in pancakes and I’m loving this recipe. Mom mentioned that she’s been seeing a Denny’s commercial advertising pumpkin pancakes and asked if I could make some. Always up for a culinary challenge, not to mention the shelf of  pumpkin puree in the freezer, I went to work.  And it really wasn’t too much work either. Any plant-based pancakes I’ve tried in the past came out gummy, so I was a little skeptical at first, but my reservations were quickly dispelled. I used a recipe that I found on the Huffington Post’s website and made a few changes. I used a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours, cut back on the coconut oil and added some baking powder to give the pancakes a fluffier texture.  The result? The pancakes came out light, fluffy and delicious. If you love pancakes, you’ve got to try these. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups almond milk, warmed to room temperature
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, plus extra for the griddle
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Whisk the flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large mixing bowl.
Heat a griddle over medium heat, and grease it lightly with coconut oil.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together vigorously the almond milk and apple cider vinegar until the mixture is a little frothy. Mix in the coconut oil, the pumpkin, and the vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix them until the batter is totally smooth. Allow the batter to sit for a few minutes. Use a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup to ladle the batter onto your griddle. Once you see bubbles at the top of your pancakes and their edges begin to turn golden, they’re ready to flip. Flip the pancakes and allow them to cook for a few minutes on the other side.
Serve the pancakes with maple syrup.

Serves 4 to 6.

23 Nov 2014

Baked Pumpkin Custard

Pumpking CarvingPumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin bread . . . these are a few of my favorite things at this time of year. For the past month or so, I’ve been buying small pumpkins at various farm stands. Small pumpkins, ranging in size from 8” to 12” in diameter, are perfect for homemade pumpkin puree. I prefer homemade over canned pumpkin because it has a sweeter, more natural flavor. The hardest part is cutting the pumpkin. This year, I bought some stubborn pumpkins. I tried a butcher’s knife, a large serrated knife and a cleaver and still couldn’t break through the outer skin. As I do anytime I have a dilemma requiring a specialty tool, I asked Bruce if he had any ideas. He suggested I try a saw used for cutting PVC pipe and boy did that make short work of those pumpkins. (Now why didn’t I think of that?) When you’ve successfully cut the pumpkins, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until the flesh is soft (start checking it after 30 minutes). Let the pumpkin cool, scrape from the skin and process in a food processor. You can use immediately or store in the freezer for about a year, which will bring you to the next harvest. By this point in the post you’re thinking that’s a lot of work, but I really do prefer the taste of freshly baked pumpkin puree. Don’t let this deter you from making my Baked Pumpkin Custard; you can always use a can of pumpkin puree.

This Thanksgiving, I’m making baked pumpkin custard instead of pumpkin pie. My recipe calls for silken tofu. Without any eggs or milk fat, I was concerned that the custard would come out grainy instead of creamy. I recalled making custards that involve using a technique called “bain marie”, which literally means “water bath”. By immersing custard-filled ramekins in a baking pan filled with water, the custard cooks gently and does not form a rubbery crust. See this video for a demonstration of this technique.
I used ½ cup ramekins, but you could use smaller or larger ones and adjust the cooking time accordingly. What’s nice about this recipe is that it’s simple enough to make any day of the year or you can dress it up for the holidays by garnishing with some spiced pecans. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpkin CustardBaked Pumpkin Custard

12 oz. extra firm silken tofu
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. molasses
¾ cup+ 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract or 2 tsp. bourbon
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice or any combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves

Prepare six ½ cup ramekins and bain marie by placing a clean kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish, then arrange ramekins on top of the towel. Puree all ingredients in blender. Pour into ramekins., then fill baking dish with boiling water being careful not to splash water into custard. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let sit in bain marie until cool enough to remove ramekins.
Makes six ½-cup ramekins.

19 Nov 2014

Mushroom Stuffing

Mushroom Stuffing“You say tomay-to, I say tomah-to”. I make stuffing, you make dressing. What’s the difference? Some believe that if it’s cooked inside the bird, then it’s “stuffing”. If it’s cooked outside of the bird, then it’s “dressing”. Some believe that it’s a regional thing; if you’re from the northeast, you call it “stuffing” even if you cook it outside of the bird; if you’re from the south, you call it “dressing”. Now that we have that all cleared up, let me get to the recipe.

Ever since I can remember, my family’s stuffing recipe has been pretty consistent: sauteed onions and celery, toasted bread, eggs, water and seasonings. Every once in a while we’d throw in some mushrooms or breakfast sausage. When you cook a stuffed turkey, the flavor of the turkey gets infused into the bread and that’s something you can’t do in a casserole.  My remedy is to use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base in place of water. Since I eliminated the eggs from the family recipe, I added a small amount of black salt. Black salt is kind of interesting in that it’s pink in color, smells like hard cooked eggs and actually adds an egg taste to the stuffing. You can find it online or in an Indian grocery store. I also added some ground fennel to the mix. You’ll need to double or triple the recipe for a large crowd. We enjoyed the stuffing with a baked sweet potato and the leftover Brussel sprouts from my previous post. Looks like this is turning into a month-long Thanksgiving celebration. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bread Stuffing

8 oz. bread, cubed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup Better Than Boullion “No Chicken” broth
Garlic powder
Ground fennel seeds (optional)
1/8 tsp. black salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Place bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet and toast until dry. Transfer to large mixing bowl. You can opt to toast the bread in a toaster.

Coat non-stick skillet with a few drops of olive oil or non-stick spary. Saute mushrooms until brown and softened. Add to mixing bowl. Add onions and celery to skillet and saute until soft, adding stock as needed. Add to mixing bowl. Add stock and seasonings, mix well. Coat baking dish with non-stick spray and fill with stuffing. Cover with foil and bake about ½ hour. Remove cover and bake until top is lightly browned.

Makes about 2 to 4 servings.



17 Nov 2014

Krazy for Kale Salad

Krazy for Kale SaladThe title of today’s post can be misleading as I’m not crazy about kale. It’s a very tough-textured green that does well in soup or sauteed with garlic, but sometimes you don’t want to go through all that work to enjoy the health benefits of a food. So you might ask, “why not have kale chips?” The problem with kale chips is that they are coated in oil and usually sprinkled with salt. And after all that healthy undoing, they still taste pretty awful. According to WebMD, here are some of the  benefits of kale:

  • Nearly 3 grams of protein
  • 2.5 grams of fiber (which helps manage blood sugar and makes you feel full)
  • Vitamins A, C, and K
  • Folate, a B vitamin that’s key for brain development
  • Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. (While kale has far less omega-3 than fish, it is another way to get some of this healthy fat into your diet.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts
  • Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc

I wanted to come up with an easy, yet tasty way to get more kale in our diets. I started by finely chopping the kale to make the salad more like a slaw which allows the dressing to get evenly distributed.  I used honey, mustard and balsamic vinegar for the dressing and sprinkled on some dried cherries and sunflower seeds. The recipe is simply an ingredient list with no quantities, so make as little or as much as you need and adjust according to your taste. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Krazy for Kale Salad

One bunch of kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped
Red onion, chopped
Honey-Mustard dressing to taste (below)
Dried cherries
Sunflower seeds

Toss all ingredients in bowl and let sit for about 15 minutes to soften kale slightly.

Honey-Mustard Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (use agave for vegan)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Shake together in covered jar. Adjust ingredients according to your taste. Store in refrigerator.

13 Nov 2014

Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Lemon & Pine Nuts

Can you believe that Thanksgiving will be here in three weeks? I used to think it somewhat silly that some turkey would get a Presidential Pardon shortly before Thanksgiving. When I think of it now, what did the turkey do so wrong that he needed a pardon anyway? I think the correct term is “clemency”, an act of mercy.

As the holidays approach, you’ll start seeing magazine articles that offer holiday survival tips. They’ll suggest that you eat the crudité, sans the dip. Or have smaller portions. Or pass on dessert. Are they for real? Instead I ask, “Why survive the holiday season when you can celebrate it with delicious, healthy food?” Growing up in an Italian family, our holiday gatherings were more like feasts. Even after adopting a plant-based diet, I still approach any special occasion as if it were a feast. Over the next few weeks I will be working up dishes for your Thanksgiving table – Shaved Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Root Vegetables, Stuffing with Mushrooms, Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Pumpkin Custard. I like to make enough for me and Bruce to have as our main meal and still have plenty to go around as side dishes for everyone else. My hope is that they’ll see how tasty plant-based food can be . . . then maybe they’ll pass on the turkey this year . . . and pass along a serving of clemency to some lucky bird next Thanksgiving.

Today’s recipe is for Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Pine Nuts. We’ll have this for dinner tonight alongside baked white potatoes and yams. I bought an entire stalk of Brussel sprouts at Trader Joe’s, just for curiosity’s sake. I never really thought about how Brussel sprouts are grown, so this was kind of fun. The center stalk is as strong as a piece of lumber. You simply cut off the sprouts and throw the stalk away. The recipe calls for shallots, but you can use any strong-flavored onion. I put a light coating of olive oil in the skillet, but you can use one or two tablespoons if you like. Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving recipes. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Brussel Sprouts 003Brussel Sprouts 012Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Pine Nuts

1-1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced shallots or other strong onion
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Slice brussels sprouts by placing in feed tube of processor fitted with thin slicing disk or slice by hand using a chef’s knife.
Coat non-stick skillet with olive oil. Add shallots; sauté until almost translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add brussels sprouts; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons pine nuts and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon pine nuts and serve.

05 Nov 2014