Archive | November 2011


That’s my boy!

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

After all my pre-Thanksgiving posts with new recipes for the holiday table, I actually ended up with a slightly revised menu than I had planned.  Since I had just made all those new dishes last week, when it came time to actually cook for Thursday’s big meal, it went something like this: When I told Jon I planned to make the pumpkin tiramisu, he said, “You just made that last week.  Can we have an apple pie instead?” So I made an apple pie which turned out to b the BEST apple pie I’ve ever had in my life.  The secret? Stayman apples!  I never used Staymans before and now I will never use anything else for pies.  Wow, what a flavor.

When I mentioned I was making the new green bean recipe, Jon said, “That was good, but you’re going to make the casserole with those fried onion rings, right?”  For my own part, I opted against the “en croute” part of the seitan roast, feeling that we’d have enough carbs without a pasty crust on the main dish.  Instead I glazed the roast with a cranberry-port glaze.  I made the loaded mashed potato casserole, the chestnut-porcini gravy, and roasted sweet potatoes with pecans and cranberries.  I used mango jam to make my cranberry sauce because I still didn’t replenish my supply of lime marmalade.

So there you have it.  Some old dishes, some new.  All delicious.  What did you have for Thanksgiving dinner?

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

On this day, as we reflect on what we are thankful for, I wanted to share this lovely piece that was posted on the Huffington Post and written by Ken White.  It’s called Thankful for the Animals.

Chestnut-Porcini Gravy

We’re in the home stretch of my Thanksgiving recipes from this year’s menu. All that’s left is the gravy!  I have a few favorite go-to recipes for sauces and gravies. One is the Madiera Sauce posted on my Vegan Thanksgiving Feast on  The other is a brown gravy posted on another Thanksgiving feature.

This year I decided to make a chestnut-porcini gravy.  Instead of making a homemade stock, I used a porcini bouillon cube for a rich broth.  I found them at an Italian market this fall when I was in Providence, and they have such a great flavor. The chestnuts I always get at an Asian market because they sell cooked chestnuts in vacuum-sealed bags for under $2 a bag.

To get a rich mushroom and chestnut flavor throughout I simmered the mushrooms and chestnuts in the broth along with onion, a little port, and some herbs, and a little gravy browner to enrich the color.  I then pureed it all in the Vitamix for a smooth and creamy gravy that is so good, I almost wanted to drink it. If you don’t have porcini bouillon cubes, any kind of mushroom broth or vegetable broth will work.  For the mushrooms in the gravy, you can use any kind of fresh mushroom (even regular white mushrooms) to balance the rich flavor of the porcini broth.  (I can’t get fresh porcinis anyway, and I discovered that I’m out of the dried ones!)

Chestnut-Porcini Gravy
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
2 tablespoons dry port, marsala, or white wine (optional)
1 cup cooked chestnuts (I used vacuum-sealed cooked chestnuts from an Asian market — $1.49 a bag!)
1 1/2 cups mushroom or vegetable broth (I used 1 porcini mushroom bouillon cube)
Salt and black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon gravy browner (Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet – available at any supermarket)
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft.  Stir in the mushrooms and cook until slightly softened, then stir in the thyme, sage, and port, if using.  Add the chestnuts and 1 cup of the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  
Transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender or food processor, add the remaining broth and process until very smooth. Transfer the gravy back to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until the gravy is hot and the flavors are blended. If the gravy is too thick, stir in additional broth or some almond milk.  If it isn’t thick enough, stir in a little cornstarch slurry over medium heat, stirring until thickened.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Another great thing about this gravy is that it’s soy-free, gluten-free, and very low in fat. (You can even simmer the onion in the broth to soften if you want to omit the oil altogether.)

Sorry I was so late getting this posted today.  It was too dark to take the photo last night, and then the batteries went dead this morning.  Better late than never.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Lime-Braised Cranberry Sauce

When I was growing up I thought I didn’t like cranberry sauce. I realize now that was because my mother, who otherwise was a terrific “fresh from scratch” cook, used to serve that awful jelled mass from a can that was cut into slices (!) to serve.  How anyone could think that stuff tastes like cranberries is beyond me. Needless to say, once I tastes fresh cranberry sauce, I never looked back.  And it’s so simple to make, too.
On the back of a bag of cranberries is the basic recipe: Just combine 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil; then simmer until the berries pop, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  It takes about 5 minutes and makes a good basic cranberry sauce.
There are, of course, many ways to improve upon the basic recipe, such as using fruit juice to replace the water (orange juice or cranberry juice are good choices).  Sometimes, I’ve added bits of orange; another time, ginger; another time, chopped apples and pecans.
This year I decided to skip the water and sugar entirely in favor of one of my latest food addictions: lime marmalade.  A good friend introduced me to the pleasures of a PB and J made with lime marmalade and it was the best PB and J I ever had.  I have since used lime marmalade in other recipes, such as a dipping sauce for spring rolls and in a glaze for tofu.  I’ve gone through jars of the stuff. Trouble is, I can’t find it locally and have to order it online.  But it’s worth it.
For the cranberry sauce, I had planned to combine the fresh cranberries with a cup of the lime marmalade, but discovered that I was on my last jar with only 1/2 cup remaining.  So I made up the difference with 1/2 cup of mango jam, and I’m convinced its even better than if it had been entirely made with the lime marmalade.  I braised the cranberries with the marmalade and jam for about 5 minutes, stirring as the jam and marmalade melted and the cranberries popped, releasing their own liquid.  At this point you should taste it.  If it’s not sweet enough to your taste, you can then add some sugar* or more jam.  (We happen to like a tart cranberry sauce.) Then transfer to a container and cool.  The cranberry sauce will firm up a bit after chilling in the refrigerator, but it will still give off some intensely delicious juice.
TIP: Strain off this juice and use it as a base for a sauce: it’s great in a barbecue sauce or use it as a base for an Asian-style dipping sauce or teriyaki sauce. I’ve even added a little to brown gravy.
If you don’t have lime marmalade, consider using orange marmalade.  And I do love the half and half of citrus with mango, although you could try peach, apple, or pineapple jam instead. As you can see in the photo, I garnished it with a little finely grated lime zest to bring out the fresh lime flavor.  If you think you don’t like cranberry sauce, you might want to give this a try! 

*I added about 1/4 cup of light brown sugar and it was still nicely tart.  

Thanksgiving Main Dish Ideas

We’ll be enjoying our traditional seitan roast on Thanksgiving, but it’s the vegetables that are the real stars in our house.  I love the way the vibrantly colored sweet potatoes, cranberries, squash, and green beans look like an autumn landscape on my holiday table.  Truth is, I’m happiest when I can make a meal out of what are commonly referred to as “side” dishes.

Still, a main dish “centerpiece” is a Thanksgiving tradition for most of us. If you’ve never make a seitan roast, it’s easier than you think.  If making a large roast is intimidating, you could opt for individual servings of seitan en croute, an especially good choice if you’re only feeding one or two people and you don’t like leftovers. Personally, I adore leftovers and the opportunities they present. (Stay tuned for some exciting post-Thanksgiving posts to see what I mean.)

There are lots of vegan roasts you can buy that are already prepared, such as the ones from Field Roast and Tofurky.  Another idea is to make a large stuffed squash (or several small individual stuffed squashes) that can be filled with grain or bread stuffing, depending on what you like.  Stuffed squash is a great choice because it’s colorful and delicious but can also be made gluten-free and soy-free.  For something different, consider making a Moroccan bisteeya (a pastry covered savory pie), a lentil shepherd’s pie (maybe topped with half mashed white potatoes and half mashed sweet potatoes), or even a nice pan of lasagna.

For an easy no-fuss one-dish meal, you could make my Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale Ribbons  — with or without the addition of the walnuts and dried cranberries — and to it, add some sauteed sliced sausage links (homemade or storebought such as Tofurky brand) for extra protein, or instead of sausage, add some cooked cannelini beans. You could also substitute diced butternut squash for the sweet potatoes, if you prefer. The colors and textures are wonderful together and if you season it with a little ground sage and thyme, it will taste like Thanksgiving. I especially like the crispy kale ribbons in this — it’s a fun way to employ the popular kale chip concept as part of the meal.  And if you’ve never had roasted sweet potatoes before, you’re in for a treat.

The countdown to Thanksgiving is getting down to the wire.  Still to come on my blog: a new take on cranberry sauce, an easy and delicious gravy, and another main dish idea. And for more ideas, check out my entire Thanksgiving menu (with recipes) on as well as the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus (and recipes) in my book, Party Vegan.

Pumpkin Tiramisu

After more than 20 years of making pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to break with tradition this year and create a new recipe: Pumpkin Tiramisu!  Since tiramisu is one of Jon’s favorite desserts, I thought it would be great to make a pumpkin-y version for the holiday.  But I also wanted to make something that could be prepared in one pan — not just assembled later — an important factor on Thanksgiving when things can get hectic in the kitchen.  It was also important to me that this could be made both soy-free and gluten-free if necessary, for people who might be at the table with such food sensitivities.
I’m happy to report that, after four tries, the recipe is a resounding success on all counts.  It’s made up of three layers: a bottom pumpkin cake layer, a middle layer of creamy pumpkin filling, and it all topped with a final layer of maple-rum cashew cream.  The recipe can be made in either and 8 or 9-inch springform pan or a 7×10-inch or 8-inch square baking pan.  It can be sliced and served on a plate so you can see the three layers, or spooned into pretty dessert glasses, as shown in the top photo (please excuse the flash photo).   
If you want to go all fancy-pants, you can, instead, bake each of the first two layers in separate pans, and then assemble all three layers in individual dessert glasses, allowing for the layers to show distinctly in the glasses.  Normally I might opt for that presentation, but I think that most of us on Thanksgiving just want something we can make and serve with as little fuss as possible.
I have to thank recipe tester extraordinaire, Barbara Bryan, for helping me test this recipe.  I’m especially fortunate that she took this on, because she worked for many years in the food industry as a recipe developer and more.  She did an amazing job and I’m especially grateful that I didn’t have to make (and eat!) all four of the test versions of this recipe — although I’m not sure Jon would have minded!  In addition to helping perfect the recipe, Barbara also weighed out each of the ingredients for those of you who use metric measurements. Here’s one of Barbara’s photos of a slice of the tiramisu she made in a springform pan:
Jon and I practically inhaled this when I made it and here’s what Barbara had to say about the final recipe: “The recipe works perfectly and it doesn’t matter whether you use vegan cream cheese or soaked/drained cashews+beans.  None of the layers were too sweet or too boozy or not sweet enough. Everything is perfect…textures are different in each layer, it tastes fantastic, and is beautiful to serve…a true symphony of texture, flavor, and eye appeal!”
…..Well, I guess that about sums it up.  Hope you enjoy!
Pumpkin Tiramisu
Recipe © 2011 by Robin Robertson
Pumpkin Cake Layer:
3/4 cup all purpose flour (100 g)
1/2 cup natural sugar or light brown sugar  (102 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (3 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder (6 g)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree (142 g) 
1/2 cup almond milk (120 g, 4 oz)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
Pumpkin Cream Layer:
1 cup vegan cream cheese [or 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hours or overnight and drained (110g)    + 1/4 cup cooked cannelini beans, rinsed and drained (65 g)]
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree (280 g)
1/2 cup natural sugar or light brown sugar (119 g)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (9 g)
2 tablespoons dark rum (27 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (3 g), plus more for dusting
Maple-Rum Cream Layer:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked 4 hours or overnight, and drained (276 g)
1/3 cup maple syrup (100 g)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (80 g)
3 tablespoons dark rum (39 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
Pumpkin Cake Layer:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.  Scrape the batter into a lightly oiled 7×10 or 8×8 baking dish or an 8 or 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 20 minutes. 
Pumpkin Cream Layer:
While the cake is baking, combine the cream cheese (or cashews + cannelini beans), pumpkin, sugar, cornstarch, rum, and the pumpkin pie spice in a food processor or high speed blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Spread the mixture onto the cake and return to the oven for 20 minutes, or until set.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
Maple-Rum Cream Layer:
In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the cashews, maple syrup, sugar, rum, and vanilla, and process until completely smooth and creamy. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
To assemble:
Spread the maple-rum cream onto the chilled pumpkin cream layer.  Sprinkle the top with a light dusting of pumpkin pie spice.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Serves 6

  • Instead of vegan (soy) cream cheese: you can use the option provided in the recipe for cashews + cannellini beans.  Note: if making my pumpkin cheesecake recipe, you can use this formula to replace the cream cheese in the recipe: 1 cup vegan cream cheese = 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hours or overnight and drained (110g) and 1/4 cup cooked cannelini beans, rinsed and drained (65 g), pureed in a high speed blender.
  • For a gluten-free version: use your favorite gluten-free flour blend.
  • For an alcohol-free version: use apple juice in place of the rum.