Friday, November 26, 2010

Veganlicious Pomegranate Clusters

Since I know almost no one that is vegan, and certainly no one that I socialize with regularly it can be somewhat isolating.  I am  however, fortunate to have found a community of like minded people on social networking sites. That is where I met  Laura Jill

She recently tweeted about dark chocolate pomegranate clusters and I immediately knew I had to have them!  So, here I am the day after Thanksgiving with half a pumpkin pie, two thirds of an apple pie and a couple of pumpkin cupcakes leftover and running out to the store for pomegranates and dark chocolate!

I think about it this way. Pomegranates being a super food loaded with antioxidants and dark chocolate with it's heart healthy flavonoids and antioxidant properties make these little goodies healthy!

Thanks Laura Jill! I hope I can someday return the favor!

Veganlicious Pomegranate Clusters

10.5 oz good quality dark chocolate (I used endangered species supreme dark chocolate)
2 pomegranates worth of arils (pomegranate seeds)

In a double boiler heat the dark chocolate until smooth and melted.  Turn off the heat and mix the pomegranate arils into the chocolate.  Drop in spoonfuls on a sheet of wax paper and refrigerate until cooled. 

How easy was that!?!  Here's to your health!

Note: it is best to make sure the arils are dry as if they are wet and you put them into the chocolate it may seize.

Roasted Pear Salad

I really wanted to do a unique salad for Thanksgiving.  I thought about all sorts of veggie salads including roasted vegetables but in the end I decided on roasting fruit instead.  For some reason I never seem to think about roasting fruit but now that that I have tried these roasted pears, I am quite sure I will do so more often. The pears were so tender and flavorful and were a perfect topper to a simple bed of tender lettuce.

I am already thinking about roasting peaches, plums and whatever else I can find in the produce aisles of my grocery store or the Farmer's market when the weather warms up.

Roasted Pear Salad

2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 firm pears, halved legnthwise
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup figs, chopped
2 tbs lemon juice
8 oz Boston lettuce
Salt and pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a sauce pan. Heat on low until the sugar is just dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the pecans in a skillet and toast over medium heat until they become fragrant but not burned. Mix the figs and pecans together and set aside.

Scoop the center of each pear with a melon baller and dip each pear half in lemon juice. Fill each hole with the pecan and fig mixture. Drizzle the dressing over the top of each pear ensuring each is sufficiently covered reserving some extra.  Roast at 375 degrees until tender (about 30 minutes).

Clean and tear the lettuce and place it on a dish. Top with one pear half and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Sweet Potato and Walnut Pancakes

As a kid I would never eat the candied sweet potatoes that would show up on the Thanksgiving table.I thought I didn't like sweet potatoes. Years later I figured out it wasn't the sweet potatoes I didn't like it was the candied part I objected to.  I now love sweet potatoes and sort of lament that it took me well into my adult life to figure out how good they really are.  The fact that they are a nutritional powerhouse is a great side benefit!

I made potato pancakes for the first time a while back. I loved them. So, while planning my Thanksgiving menu I thought why not take the sweet potato, a traditional Thanksgiving side, and potato pancakes up a notch and use sweet potatoes ? They were not hard to make and added a little extra, unexpected flair to my Thanksgiving table. Plus, I realized I had grated way too many potatoes for the six  people that would be around the table so I took the extra and added a few ingredients to make a sweet potato loaf (I have not tried it yet but if it is good I will share in an upcoming post- stay tuned).

Sweet Potato and Walnut Pancakes

2 to 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes shredded (skins on)
1/2 large white onion chopped fine
1/2 cup walnuts chopped fine
1/2 cup parsley chopped
2 tbsp ground flax meal
2 tbsp boiling water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water and pour over the flax seed meal and set aside until it becomes a gelatinous mass. Mix the sweet potato, onion and walnuts together (I actually did all three ingredients together in a food processor). Add the lemon juice- this will prevent the potatoes from becoming brown.

Add the whole wheat flour, flax seed meal mix, salt and pepper.  Mix well ensuring the four and flax seed meal are thoroughly incorporated (I did this with my hands).

In a large saute pan heat oil over medium heat. Drop dollops of the potato mixture into the hot oil spreading them with a fork or wooden spoon until they are thin. Allow to brown well and flip. Continue cooking until both sides are crispy and brown.

I ate mine with some vegan sour cream. You don't really need it- they are good all by themselves!

No Cheese Spanakopita

In planning my Thanksgiving menu I decided that we needed something made with phyllo dough.  As I have said in the past, everything tastes better wrapped in phyllo!  And, dishes made with phyllo just feel festive to me. I suppose this is a result of growing up in a Middle Eastern family where gatherings often featured dishes made with phyllo.

Though it is a bit of work, phyllo is pretty forgiving and seems always to come out looking as beautiful as it tastes.This is no exception. And, my favorite part of this dish is that my daughter helped me make it. I love cooking with my kids and am glad they are interested.

I used a mixture of frozen and fresh spinach only because I wanted to use the frozen spinach I had  the house. You can adjust quantities of spinach to make the filling layer as thick or thin as you want.

No Cheese Spanakopita

2 10 oz  packages frozen spinach thawed; moisture removed
15 oz oz fresh  organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
5 green onions finely chopped (use both the white and green part)
1/4 cup fennel fronds finely chopped
24 phyllo dough sheets
3/4 cup +2 tbsp olive oil
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In  a large skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add fresh spinach, frozen spinach, dill, parsley, and fennel until the fresh spinach is thoroughly wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Brush the pan you will be baking the spanakopita in with oil.  I used the equivalent of a 9x13 pan.  Lay the phyllo sheets one at a time in the pan leaving some overlapping the sides.  Brush each sheet with oil before adding the next one. Repeat until you have laid 12 sheets.  Add the spinach mixture and spread evenly.  Fold the overlap over top of the mixture. Repeat with the next twelve sheets.  Tuck the overlap into the dish.  Score the top into serving size squares.  Wet your hands and shake the excess over the top of the spanakopita.

Bake at 350 on the rack just below the middle of the oven for one hour. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Potato Lasagna

I guess I am on a lasagna kick! Two posts in a row dedicated to lasagna, and this is too good not to share.  It reminds me a bit of a dish my Mom used to make sometimes when we were younger as well as potato and onion pieroges (which I have had NO luck finding prepackaged and vegan).

Anyway, this is a filling comfort food and as a result of the preparation of the potatoes I believe I have found a new (and believe it or not even easier) way to make awesome mashed potatoes.  You could easily add vegan cheese or other vegetables to this to dress it up. I like it's simplicity but may toy around with some variations.

This recipe makes either one large 9x13 pan or two smaller 8x8 pans. I chose the two smaller so that I could freeze one for my husband to warm up on one of the many days I am traveling and not home to make a meal for the family.


Potato Lasagna

1 large white onion chopped fine
10 medium red bliss potatoes peeled and cubed
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
1 package cooked lasagna noodles
1 stick Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
2 cups water
2 cups non dairy milk (I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut)
salt  and pepper to taste
Cooking oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot (a dutch oven works well) heat the oil over medium and add the onions until they are soft and translucent (about ten minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1/2 stick of Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread and stir until melted. 

Add the potatoes, water and non dairy milk. The potatoes should be just covered. Adjust as necessary.  Raise heat to high.  Cover and cook until the potatoes start to become tender (about 15 minutes).  Remove cover and continue to cook over medium heat until the potatoes begin to break apart.  You may help this process along by using a potato masher.  Stir often until potatoes are completely broken down.  Turn off the heat, add the rest of the Vegan Buttery Spread and stir until melted.  With a hand mixer beat the potatoes until smooth.  Stir in the parsley.

Spray each of the 8x8 dishes with cooking oil.  Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom and top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Layer on more potatoes and then noodles until the noodles are gone.  Finish with a layer of potato. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Uncover and allow to bake another fifteen minutes or so until the edges are browned. Allow to cool ten minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When my son Max was little, starting at about age 3, he always wanted to help me in the kitchen.  We cooked together for years and when his sister Camille got old enough she joined us as well. Over the years, she seems to have maintained her interest in cooking. She is eight, and has mastered some dishes that she can cook all by herself! Max, however, hasn't been as enthusiastic about cooking as he once was.

Max is now twelve and in seventh grade.  As it turns out they still have "Home Economics" (though they no longer call it that- it is now "Family and Consumer Science" but to me that just sounds like code for "Home Ec").  Anyway, it is all good because it has renewed his interest in cooking.  Today he told me that he was supposed to make something over his Thanksgiving break and asked if he could make it all by himself.  Absolutely!  He said he wanted to make vegan brownies- man, I love that kid!

We searched the Internet and found the recipe below. The original calls for white sugar but we had Turbinado so we used that.  He really did the whole thing by himself (I only did the plating for the photo). They are really wonderful brownies. Soft, moist and chocolaty! Thanks, Max!


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups turbinado sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp organic vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Pour in water, vegetable oil and vanilla.  Mix until well incorporated. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish ensuring the mixture is spread evenly.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is no longer shiny and a a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the brownies. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Veggie Pot Pie

It is Sunday and I have had a really lazy day after a very late but great night out with dear friends.  I did not feel like going to the store today, or for that matter even getting out of my pajamas. So, today I had to do the best I could with an admittedly bare cupboard.  After looking at all I had on hand (both fresh and frozen), and given that it is Football Sunday which requires easy, hearty food I decided it was pot pie. You could modify this recipe to accommodate whatever you have on hand. For a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants meal, this was pretty darn good!

Veggie Pot Pie

1/2 red onion chopped fine
4 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
1 acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup vegetable stock divided
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup frozen corn
1 12 oz package frozen mixed vegetables
1 10 oz package frozen baby peas
1 10 oz package frozen baby lima beans
1 1/2 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (or other non dairy milk)
2 cups Bisquick Pancake mix
3 tsp EnerG Egg Replacer
4 tbsp water
3 tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chipotle chili pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the filling:
Over medium heat saute onion and garlic in the Earth Balance butter until soft and translucent.  Add the acorn squash and 1/4 cup of vegetable stock. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is cooked through. Add frozen vegetables and heat until warmed through.  Add thyme,  salt and pepper.parsley, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make the creamy base:
In a separate pot put the rest of the vegetable stock, flour and 1/2 cup of Coconut milk beverage and heat over medium heat, continually whisking. When mixture is smooth and bubbling add it to the vegetable mixture.

Pour the vegetable mixture into a large casserole dish that has been sprayed lightly with cooking oil.

For the topping:
In a bowl combine 2 cups Bisquick pancake mix, 1 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage. Add the EnerG egg Replacer to the water and whisk.  Add to the Bisquick and Coconut Milk. Stir to incorporate.

Place the Bisquick mixture on top of the vegetables in the casserole. Sprinkle with the chipotle chili pepper and bake for approximately 40 minutes until the top is browned and the vegetable mixture is bubbly.

Allow to cool before serving.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

This is one of my favorite things to eat. In my Middle Eastern family we always called them Sarma but many people refer to them as Dolma.  As I understand it Dolma means to stuff or fill and Sarma means to wrap. No matter what you call it you may certainly call it delicious!

My Mother, my Father's sister and sisters in law, my cousins and Metzmama (that's Armenian for Grandmother) and I am guessing her mother and mother's mother many generations back made this recipe the exact same way.  I have never seen another recipe for stuffed grape leaves quite like this one and it is by far my favorite.

I will warn you that this is time consuming and requires some technique as well as lots of love. I made these with my eight year old daughter today; and so the tradition continues. I love cooking with my kids and I am glad they have an interest in learning.  My daughter did a great job at rolling up these grape leaves. I hope she enjoys the fruits of our labor as much as I know I will.

Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

1 large jar of grape leaves (approximately 100 leaves)
2 large onions thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 15 oz can of chick peas (rinsed and drained)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry long grain rice
3/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2-3/4 tsp allspice (ground)
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Water- to cover (or Sumac Tea)
Juice of 3-4 lemons

Rinse grape leaves in a colander and drain well. Over a medium heat olive oil and add onions. Cook until very tender but not browned. Turn off heat, add the chick peas, tomato paste, parsley, walnuts, rice, allspice, paprika, salt and pepper and mix until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

Lay grape leaves on a flat surface vein side up.  Trim stems. Place about a teaspoon of the filling onto the center of the grape leaves and wrap  into small cigar shapes.  To do this roll from the bottom with the stem portion closest to you. Fold the stem portion over the mixture and then fold the two sides of the leaf in toward the center and continue this process until you reach the point of the leaf.

Layer the stuffed grape leaves in a large pan (a dutch oven works well).  Fill with water or sumac tea until just covered. Add lemon juice (use more or less according to your taste).  Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower to simmer, cover and  continue to cook for about two hours until the rice is cooked.

Cool and serve at room temperature with thin lemon slices or wedges.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuffed Artichokes

My whole life my Mother and Grandmother made stuffed artichokes.  They often showed up on holiday dinner tables as well as during family dinners. Even though my Grandmother is not here anymore to make them, my Mother still makes them often. My Mom even makes "special" ones for me- without the Romano cheese, which is the only change needed in order to make these vegan. Honestly, I do not even notice the difference without the cheese.

Even though my whole family likes them. I have only made them once before, a very long time ago, and honestly, they just did not turn out like my Mom's.

I decided to give them a try again this weekend.  I am not sure why, but I always thought these were especially complicated. Not the case! Actually, quite the opposite. Very few ingredients, nothing to be done on the stove top and they can actually be cooked pretty quickly in the microwave.

These are sure to impress as they do give the appearance of slaving in the kitchen all day.  It can be our secret that these are very simple and easy to make!

Stuffed Artichokes

6 artichokes
2 1/4 cups breadcrumb
1 cup minced parsley
1 medium onion minced
1/2 cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp
3 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

If cooking in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Trim artichoke stems so that they may stand upright.  Cut the pointed end of the artichoke to flatten the bottom.  Trim pointed leaves with a scissor. Spread leaves apart to ready them for stuffing. Dip cut side in lemon juice to keep from darkening.

Mix the breadcrumb, parsley, onion, 2 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir to moisten. Stuff artichokes with mixture by spreading leaves and filling.  Tamp down and continue to stuff.  Place artichokes stuffed side up in a pan.  Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil, ensuring each artichoke is sufficiently moistened. Fill the bottom of the pan with about 1/4 inch of water.

Stuffed and ready to go!

If cooking in the oven cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until tender.  If using the microwave, cover with plastic wrap folding back one corner allowing the steam to vent while cooking. Microwave on high for 13-15 minutes or until tender (note: microwave cooking times can vary greatly so adjust for your particular microwave).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

I love the start of the holidays.  Crisp fall weather, brilliantly colored leaves on the trees, the smell of fireplaces burning and  inside the kitchen the smells of holiday baking.  There really is nothing better than kitchen aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. And of course, with fall, comes the harvest of pumpkins- both nutritious and delicious.

I wish I knew who to credit this vegan pumpkin  bread recipe to.  It came to me from my sister who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend, etc. So, I am not exactly sure whose brilliant recipe this is but it's a keeper. Even me, a self proclaimed non- baker, was able to turn out some of the most delicious pumpkin bread I have ever tasted!  And, since it makes two loaves, there is one to eat now and one to freeze for later!

This is really simple to make and is terrific! I served it as desert for my (non-vegan) parents and family last night and they all said it was great.

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup Turbinado raw sugar plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 15 oz can pureed pumpkin (I used Libby's)
2/3 cup  vegetable oil
2/3 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix all all dry ingredients together and create a well in the center. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients until incorporated. Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Split the mixture between two greased loaf pans.  Sprinkle each with about a tablespoon of Turbinado sugar.  Do not overfill as the bread will rise during baking. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes (tenting with foil after an hour if needed) or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and tent with foil for ten minutes.  Remove the bread from the pans and transfer to a cooling rack (still tented with foil) and allow to cool completely.