Monthly Archives: October 2012

Vegan Caramel Apples

Just in time for Halloween, I have found a recipe for THE MOST AMAZING vegan caramel apples I have ever tasted. This vegan caramel is even better than the classic non-vegan caramel that I remember from my childhood… which is truly hard to beat! Vegan, soy-free, gluten free… this “caramel” is mostly made of brown rice syrup & coconut milk, so you could almost call it healthy, right?!  I will be making this vegan caramel again very soon to make  old-fashioned square candies, rolo-type candies & more! I can hardly wait to experiment! This stuff is GOOOOOOD!!!!

Vegan Caramel Apples

(makes 4 caramel apples)

  • organic apples
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (canned)
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • dash salt (about 1 tsp)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp earth balance vegan margarine (the soy free variety if you desire it to be soy free)

1) Wash and dry apples. Remove the stems. Insert a popsicle stick at the stem point. Cover a plate with wax paper or parchment paper and set aside.

2) Combine coconut milk, brown rice syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium heat  and heat until boiling. Whisk constantly to prevent it from sticking for about 10 minutes. It should thicken quite a bit.

3) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and margarine.

4) Start drizzling the caramel quickly over each apple with a spoon, and spreading it a bit around the apples as you go. (Feel free to sprinkle and press them into chopped salted peanuts or chocolate if you so desire!)

5) Let the apples sit in the fridge for a bit to harden. DEVOUR!

Thank you, Vegan Action, for this amazing recipe! It is magnificent!

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Pumpkin Penne Pasta

Jeepers… Halloween is fast approaching and I still haven’t made my vegan caramel apples… or picked my costume!  Zoinks! Time to get a move on!

We’ve been pretty busy over here the past week but we did manage to squeeze in a family favorite for our ‘Dinner and a Movie’ night!  We watched Disney’s “Cinderella” (which was finally just released on dvd) & we made some easy & delicious pumpkin penne pasta! Click on the link to view the recipe and read all about our movie night!

Practically Perfect (in every way) Pumpkin Muffins

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… you all know the song… Well, these muffins definitely just topped my list of a few of my favorite things! They are so tender and moist and… well, perfect… they are “practically perfect in every way”, just like Mary Poppins. (Hey, Julie Andrews – WHY  do these muffins keep reminding me of you?! Well, I’m can’t answer that! But I will name these muffins in your honor!)

You know, I really love how soft and delicate things baked with spelt flour turn out!  My sister & my niece were coming over to visit so it was the perfect reason for baking something… And since my sister steers clear of gluten (with the exception of spelt, which has a very low gluten content) it was the perfect reason to experiment! 🙂

*Please Note: I tagged this recipe as gluten-free, though spelt does contain a small amount of gluten. If you are 100% gluten intolerant, I would replace the spelt flour with a 100% gluten-free baking mix.

I had an idea these muffins would be pretty phenomenal since I got a few ideas from vegan baking goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Post Punk Kitchen website (www.theppk.com)…  I really liked her idea of using of coconut milk in her pumpkin bread for a nice moist bread so I decided to use that instead of soymilk. I also used spelt flour and added a little coconut in and on top of my muffins as well.  My conclusion can be stated in 3 letters… OMG!

Practically Perfect (in every way) Pumpkin Muffins

dry ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup sugar (I prefer fine raw sugar, not white)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • extra coconut for sprinkling over the top

wet ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin (canned is fine)
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk – (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1  1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1) Mix dry ingredients well in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well!

before baking

just out of the oven

cooling off

Distribute evenly between 12 greased muffin tins** and sprinkle coconut over the tops. Bake at 400 F for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The coconut on top should be done browning nicely at that same time 🙂 Cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the muffins.

** FYI: filling a muffin/cupcake tin over 2/3 full will cause your “muffin top” to spread and flatten out. These muffins are very delicate and you should know that the tops are prone to wanting to lift off if they aren’t cooled enough before removing from the pan or if the tops are too heavy… You can make the muffins a tad bit smaller (13 or 14) to help keep this from happening if you wish.

Variations (If you dare mess with perfection): You can substitute almond or soy milk for the coconut milk if desired.  I think that lite coconut milk would also work just fine if you wanted a lower fat muffin.  Sometimes I replace half the oil with applesauce when baking, though I have never tried that with this recipe. The coconut can be omitted all together as well if you aren’t into coconut. You may also use regular unbleached flour if you prefer over spelt.

I would imagine that you could easily substitute pureed sweet potato for the pumpkin in this recipe… maybe you could even pop a vegan marshmallow down there in the middle! Mmmm! Sweet Potato Casserole Muffins! Sounds good to me! 🙂

Flaky Vegan Pie Crust… and Easy Apple Crostata

I genuinely LOVE this pie crust recipe. The original version is found in ‘The Joy of Vegan Baking’ , though due to my cabinets needing to be replenished, I  had to make a few small adjustments… much to my delight, the dough still came out wonderfully! If you are in a fix and feel like you don’t have time to make an entire pie, check out my recipe for a simple yet impressive apple crostata! There are so many things to be done with a good crust around the holidays, I would recommend having some dough in the freezer (or refrigerator) for when the baking mood strikes!

FLAKY VEGAN PIE CRUST

This makes enough for two 9″  pie crusts or one covered pie crust (a pie with a top & bottom crust). This dough freezes well or can be refrigerated until ready to be used.

TIP: I always put ALL of my ingredients into the freezer for about 30 minutes before making the dough. The easiest way to do this is to measure your dry ingredients in a bowl, put it in freezer. Cut up your shortening and butter into 1/2″ chunks and put in freezer in a small bowl. You want the fat to stay as cold as possible for the flakiest crust!

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup soy margarine
  • 1/3 cup ice water (plus a splash more if necessary)

(In the original recipe I mentioned above, the entire amount of flour used is unbleached all-purpose flour and the shortening to margarine ratio is 50:50. Feel free to use either version!)

MAKING THE DOUGH (use chilled ingredients)

1) Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Blend about 10 seconds to mix well.

2) Scatter the pre-cut shortening/butter over the dry ingredients and PULSE in little bursts until the fat is broken up into the size of gravel or peas.

3) With the machine turned off, slowly drizzle the ice water over the top. Now pulse  several times until no dry patches remain and it begins to clump. Squeeze a bit of dough in your fingers – if it sticks together, it is ready to be gathered up by hand… If not, add a touch more water and pulse again. Do NOT allow the ball to roll into a single mass (such as you would with bread or pizza dough). For a good flaky crust, you want it to hold together but you want it to look chunky, discolored/patchy and rough. You should be able to see little bits of butter or shortening here and there.

4) Divide the dough in half, pressing each into a flat round disc and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to several days) before rolling. The dough can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 6 months. (Thaw completely before rolling.)

Here is a shot of one of my dough discs (The recipe shown HERE will be posted later this week!)

ROLLING THE DOUGH

First lightly sprinkle your working surface with flour.  Personally, I like to roll my dough out right on top of the saran wrap it was wrapped in and use a lightly floured rolling-pin.  That way it won’t stick, it spins easily and it can be flipped right onto my baking sheet or into my pie plate when I am ready!

When rolling out dough, the trick isn’t to “roll”, but to “press” the dough outward from the middle. I roll my dough out from the center, turning the dough as I go so I am rolling outward from different directions. If you get a split in your dough, it may just be too dry… just gently “glue” it back together with a dab of cold water. Roll it out, big and nice – I’d shoot for 2-3″ wider than your pie plate. Most pies are 9″ so I’d say shoot for a circle close to 12″ across.

Rolled out & ready to flip into a pie plate… or turned into a delicious crostata!

TIP: To relax the dough and avoid shrinkage, chill the crust in your pie tin for 30 minutes before filling and baking. If you are making a crostata, just transfer your dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and go for it!… Making a crostata is an easy way to look like you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen all day… when in fact… you haven’t!

MAKING AN APPLE CROSTATA

This recipe is great for when you don’t have time to make a pie! I would imagine that you can really use any fruit for this simple dessert… I have used apples and peaches (both were a hit), though I would guess raspberries or blueberries would also work.   It appears that a lot of work went into it when you can literally throw it together and get it in the oven in about 15 minutes, start to finish – that is, if you already have pie dough ready!  Serves 4 (though it can be cut to serve 6). Eat it for breakfast… or dessert!

You will need:

  • one pie crust (for one 9″ crust) rolled out into a 10-12″ circle
  • 2 fresh apples (or 2 peaches, if you prefer… I only used one apple in these pictures, but I would recommend two)
  • splash of lemon juice (if using apples)- optional
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp  sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy margarine
  • 1 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling over the top
  • soy milk for the “egg wash”

1) Simply cut the apples into thin slices. Put in a bowl and drizzle a tiny bit of lemon juice over them and toss to keep from browning. I’m not really sure how necessary the lemon juice is, since it’s all getting baked in brown cinnamon anyway! But, do as you wish!

2) Roll out your pie dough and flip it onto a parchment covered baking sheet.

3) Dump apples into center of pie dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg over them. Dot all over with butter.

Roll out dough, pile on the fruit… believe it or not, this is only ONE apple!

Almost ready to bake!

4) Fold up edges gently and carefully around the center, pinching closed slightly if & where necessary. Brush the dough with soy milk and thoroughly sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar over the top.

Bake at 425 F for 16-20 minutes or until golden! Let cool 5 minutes before sliding it right off the parchment onto a serving dish. Serve to the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of those awaiting!

An impressive yet simple dessert!

Cut into 4 or 6 slices! Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired! Eat for breakfast or dessert!

(I would like to note that I have made this crostata using spelt flour as well and though it was more delicate, it turned out delicious!)

Creamy Pumpkin Pancakes

I’m ready for the change of seasons.  I happily welcome Fall… and all its wonderful seasonal produce! Not to mention the color of the leaves… the crisp autumn air… the promise of gathering with family… even just the idea of an enticing aroma being emitted from a warm kitchen on a chilly day fills me with – for lack of better words – the spirit of the season!

Today is October 1… also known as World Vegetarian Day. Celebrate all walks of life by eating a meatless meal tonight, whatever it may be!  (Earn extra good karma points by having a vegan meal!)

If you haven’t noticed, my family likes breakfast foods a lot! Pancakes aren’t just considered a breakfast food in our home… sometimes we even eat them for dinner.  I usually throw some tempeh or soy-sage on the side for some added goodness. Pancakes are one of those meals that I can count on my kids more or less cleaning their plates, so anything I can mix into the batter to give some added nutrients is a plus.  (That reminds me – I recently read somewhere that recommended making pancakes using fresh carrot juice instead of milk.  I want to try that!)

October always puts me in the mood for cooking with pumpkin. Maybe because they are orange, or because of Halloween, or maybe cause I know we’ll be watching ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’  soon. And since we’re talking about it, I don’t blame Linus at all for believing in the Great Pumpkin.  After all, pumpkins are full of vitamins that help healthy vision, bone growth, reduce the risk of cancer & signs of aging, and offer protection against heart disease. They are loaded with vitamin A and antioxidants; they are also a good source of vitamins B, C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, pumpkins were found to be so prized by Native Americans for their nutritional value that pumpkins were often buried with the dead to provide them with sustenance in the next world. So… what’s not to believe in? Come to think of it, maybe they should’ve named that movie “It IS the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – and don’t you forget it!”

These pumpkin pancakes are so creamy they literally melt in your mouth.  I like to use almond milk and top the pancakes with chopped pecans. They are best cooked silver-dollar size… and eaten immediately, of coarse!

Creamy Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar or liquid sweetener
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • < 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 cup or more pumpkin puree… I like to use 1/2 can of pumpkin (one can = about 2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pecans for topping (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl. Mix wet (including pumpkin) in small bowl. Mix wet into dry. Cook silver dollar size pancakes on a hot griddle.  Top with chopped pecans & maple syrup! Devour!

It’s easy to turn a simple pumpkin pancake into a Halloween-inspired breakfast if so desired!

(To make a super easy pumpkin face, you could draw curved lines down the pumpkin from top to bottom using a chocolate chip.  I threw these “pumpkins” together in a real jiffy, hence the simple banana jack-o-lantern face… You could also easily make a face using chopped nuts or cut pieces of dried fruit – like apricots or mangos – or even small triangles of dark chocolate! Mmmm!)

If you are more of a waffle person, try these delicious pumpkin waffles!