Vegan Alchemy: Crème Fraîche Edition!

Aw yeah! Crème fraîche!

Berries, creme, agave, good lawd.

 

I say it so enthusiastically (I’m basically shouting “crème fraîche!!!” to no one in particular, at 5:00am, much to the confusion of my dog), but until adulthood, I didn’t actually know what it was.

It’s hard to talk about my food roots without acknowledging my formative years as a member of relatively low socioeconomic status.  We were entrenched in what I now refer to as the “generic cereal” class strata, characterized by those industrial-sized bags of puffed sugar that somehow managed to contain at least six phases of corn in a single package, and also never tasted as good as the cereal they ripped off (probably because name-brand cereals had cooler mascots hocking their corn-derived black-holes-of-nutritional-sustenance).

To put it another way: Velveeta, the processed cheese food, was my Loch Ness Monster: an elusive thing of beauty that I longed only to possess, but that was, tragically, reserved solely for special occasions and company.

So, no.  I didn’t know what crème fraîche was as a kid.

In fact, it only recently came to my attention that dairy-based crème fraîche is ridiculously easy to make: heavy cream, a little buttermilk, let it sit around for 12 hours, and that is it.  How is this the food of rich people?  Shouldn’t rich people food be really labor-intensive (for your live-in servant), and not the natural result of, essentially, forgetting to refrigerate your dairy for a few hours?

But I digress.  My point is, maybe I haven’t had crème fraîche before.  But that won’t stop me from veganizing it.

After finding out how easy it was to make nonvegan crème fraîche, I thought: usually, vegan buttermilk substitute is made by whisking soymilk with apple cider vinegar; and coconut cream works the same as heavy cream in a lot of capacities; so, why wouldn’t I be able to combine and ferment these foods to produce similar results?

Naturally, I consulted Spice, Food Genius Extraordinaire, who gave me some tips (among other things, she recommended that I use unrefined coconut oil, which is structurally similar to butterfat. I happily obliged, because I would never argue with the addition of more fat to a recipe).

It’s hard to call what follows a recipe, because there is basically nothing to it: you whirl a couple ingredients in a blender, pour it in a jar, ta-da.  But I’m going to give you all a little instruction anyway, because 1. It’s so easy, I want to inspire you to make it for yourself; and 2. We dairy-eschewers love fancy fermented foods as much as anyone, right?  Right.  So! You’ll need:

So clearly, this is going to be a low-fat condiment.

So clearly, this is going to be a low-fat condiment.

1 can of coconut milk (or about 1 ½ cups)

½ cup unrefined coconut oil [mine was a scant ½ cup because, initially, I was bashful about using that much oil—but you have no reason to be bashful. Embrace that delicious fat!)

2 tablespoons of soymilk

1 capful (a teaspoon? Ish?) apple cider vinegar

1 capsule of vegan probiotic [not pictured, because that came later.]  (Sidenote! My probiotic is actually human origin, so I’m sure some will argue that it isn’t vegan, but whatever: humans can consent and the inert ingredients are vegan.  That’s good enough for me.)

Coffee cup optional.

Coffee cup optional.

Directions:

1. Mix together your soymilk and ACV and allow to curdle.

You didn't need to know what curdled soymilk looked like, did you?  Oh well, you're getting it anyway.

You didn’t need to know what curdled soymilk looked like, did you? Oh well, you’re getting it anyway.

2. Next, give your coconut milk a whiz in the blender and, while running, add the unrefined coconut oil.  Make sure it is emulsified.

That's what she said.

Just shove it in there. It’ll fit.

3. While the blender continues to run, add the soymilk mixture.

4.  This is where the original recipe ended: I poured the emulsion into a jar, covered, put a Barry White album on repeat, and left those friendly bacteria to reproduce.

Pouring like a champ!

But then.

Around hour twenty, I was annoyed. According to various people on the internet, dairy-based crème fraîche takes about 12 hours to reach desired consistency.  My vegan version had an additional 8 hours, and it had neither thickened enough, nor developed the pleasant fermented tang that I expected.  It was bubbling a little, which I took as a good indicator of bacterial multiplication, but I was still a little perplexed: why wasn’t my nondairy version performing? I bet that nonvegan crème fraîche didn’t even listen to Barry White.

Can't get enough of your love, baby.

Can’t get enough of your love, baby.

Finally, I remembered—around the time that I was finishing my morning pot of coffee–that borderline-zealot coconut oil proponents are always touting its antimicrobial properties.  So, the coconut oil, essential for its contribution of butterfat-like structure, was likely to blame! (My hypothesis is that, although the apple cider vinegar contributed good bacteria to the recipe, but there probably wasn’t enough to overcome the antimicrobial property of the coconut oil.) I had a lightbulb moment: why not add some probiotic strains?  It would function like a starter for the fermentation process. Thus came Step 5:

5.  Empty a capsule of vegan probiotic  into your crème, and stir until you’re reasonably confident that it has been incorporated.

After I added the probiotic capsule, I closed the jar and left my apartment for about twelve hours.  When I got home that night, it looked like this:

I really want to put that in my mouth.  (Inappropriate!)

And I was like, I really want to put that in my mouth. (Inappropriate!)

It had a nice, sharp tang reminiscent of sour cream!  Even the coconut-y notes present in the original emulsion were mostly gone (maybe just present enough to lend a little backbone to the crème), but the fatty richness remained assertive.  Success!

All told, my crème fraîche had approximately 32 hours to ferment, but I suspect that the majority of that was achieved in the twelve or so hours after I added the probiotic capsule.  In my completely unscientific opinion, I think that if you add the capsule at the beginning of the process, it will ferment at about the same rate as dairy-based crème fraîche–or about twelve hours.  But I would recommend just keeping an eye on it, and moving your jar to the fridge when it gets to be about the consistency of whipped cream.  After twelve more hours (or so) of refrigeration, you’ll have this incredible, peak-having substance on which you can put everything ever:

Hey, baby!

Magic!

Disclaimer: This probably does not taste just like dairy-based crème fraîche (after all, the ingredients you start with are completely different) but I wholeheartedly endorse pairing it with berries and a drizzle of agave (pictured above), and am so excited to stir it into soups/top roasted vegetables with it/ad infinitum.  Make this so you can join me in my fancy-fermented-food enthusiasm!

Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Redux

Some of you readers may remember my old blog back on NotPopular.com (Thanks to Josh Highland for the hosting space!) on which I posted a bunch of recipes and ramblings back in the day. One of my favorite entries on it was my Oatmeal Raisin Hell cookie recipe. Raisin haters be damned! (Fine, I’ll give you some tips on how to substitute them. Punks.) These cookies are my go-to when I need cookies in a flash and don’t have time to shop for new ingredients since pretty much everything in it is stuff you most likely already have in your pantry anyway. They’re always a hit wherever they show up, and a batch makes quite a few of them. Sometimes I even make bags or tins of them as gifts for the dudes in my life that enjoy food more than gift cards. And the best part is since they’re egg-free, you can eat tons of the (DELICIOUS) dough without a worry that Salmonella is going to ruin your whole cookie-inhaling experience. My grandma clipped this recipe out of a newspaper in the ’50s or ’60s, and made these cookies for many decades. I’m proud to carry on the tradition, with a somewhat updated and veganized edition!

A few notes:

  • These babies are a tad on the salty side of your average cookie, and I think it gives them a little somethin-somethin’ since these are also nice and sweet and spiced, but you can take it down to 3/4 teaspoon if you like. Try it with a full teaspoon the first time and see what you think.
  • A #40 cookie scoop (completely full and then scraped against the side of your mixing bowl) works great for these. You want smallish cookies, no bigger than a rounded tablespoon or so.
  • I like mine soft so I find that 10 minutes at 375 F is pretty much the sweet spot in my oven. You can go higher, up to 12 minutes (and even turn the heat up to 400) if you’d like crispy cookies to dunk in your tea or something, but I really love these chewy and they can burn pretty easily if you don’t watch them.
  • I also really like using my little mini measuring cup plunger for measuring out the molasses. That way you really get every drop out. I use mine anytime I’m doing syrups or other thick sticky liquids. Not necessary, but nice to have!
  • If you don’t dig on raisins, you lamewad, then any other chopped “plump” dried fruit like chopped dried apricots, craisins (crazy raisins!), cherries, or even chopped nuts or chocolate chips will work just fine.
  • In my old recipe I used Ener-G egg replacer, but over the years I’ve swapped it for flax eggs. Ground flaxseed works great in this crunchy oaty cookie, but I wouldn’t use it in a lighter cookie or cake. I haven’t gotten on the chia egg train yet but I bet it would work great here too.
  • As to rolled oats, you can use whole or quick-cooking (which I prefer just because it’s a bit smaller and makes for easier mixing and more even cookies), but not instant.
  • This is one of those easy-ish recipes that you can actually mix entirely by hand. I use my stand mixer to cream the shortening with the sugar just because it goes faster, but it’s totally not necessary if you have a good sturdy mixing spoon and a strong bicep.
  • You can easily double this recipe! I’ve done it many times. You’ll be in the kitchen swapping out sheets a lot more frequently, but you’ll have dozens and dozens of amazingly chewy gooey hearty cookies at a moment’s notice.

Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Cookies

makes about 3 dozen cookies (give or take how much dough you eat)

Cat not included.

Cat not included.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 6 T dark molasses
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed meal
  • 6 T water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 c rolled oats
IMAG1984

Note the all-knowing visage of Her Veganness Isa Chandra Moskowitz looking on in the background. She watches over us all. May she bless every batch of cookies.

Place rack in center position of oven and preheat to 375 F. Grease (or attack with nonstick spray) 3 cookie sheets. (You can use 2 but it just means you’ll have to re-grease one of them after the first batch is done.)

In a small bowl, mix together flaxseeds and water with a small whisk or fork. Set aside while you mix other wet ingredients. Give it a couple of minutes to sit and get funky and weird.

IMAG1990

Girl, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

In a large bowl, with either a stand mixer or a mixing spoon, cream together shortening and sugar as much as possible, then add molasses and vanilla extract. By now the flaxseed sludge should be thick and gooey and pretty much a solid mass. Add it to the other wet ingredients and mix well.

In a separate medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon with a whisk until well-combined. (This is a great sifting shortcut! I only use my sifter when I’m working with powdered sugar or cocoa since it’s such a pain to clean. This works just as well for airing out the flour and mixing the dry ingredients.) Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined, then add the rest. Add in the raisins and stir to mix, then the oats one cup at a time. Stir to make sure everything’s well-distributed and no oats are left lonely and dry at the bottom of the bowl.

Drop dough by the rounded tablespoonful (see note) onto greased cookie sheets at least an inch or two apart. These won’t spread too terribly much if you keep them small.

IMAG1991

All the little cookies say ah-ah, I want to

Pop in the oven on the center rack and bake for 9-11 minutes one tray at a time. Let each batch cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Store covered in a cool, dry place. Serve with a few shots of almond milk and a smile.

IMAG1992

Best beer/whiskey/almond milk glass ever.

Sorry We Party.

I recently went back to school, like Billy Madison.  Not like Billy Madison in the sense that I’m fighting five year olds for their snack-paks, but like him in the sense that I’m about ten years older than other students and regularly suppress the urge to pinch their youthful faces and scream, “Stay here!  Stay as long as you can!  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHERISH IT.”

(Unlike them, and seemingly half of my professors, I have held an adult job.)

Basically: school (or at least my school—shout out to UC Berkeley, GO BEARS!!!, et cetera) is a time-sucking vortex, and the void remaining where my time once was is now filled with books and learning and producing papers in a flurry of caffeine and confusion. Whereas my Friday nights of yesteryear used to at least vaguely resemble raging parties (raging, one-lady parties with Prince records and bloody marys and nail painting), they now look like this:

Astutely notes that reading this book on a Friday night is my sadness threshold.

Astutely notes that reading this book on a Friday night is my sadness threshold.

It’s pretty bleak.

But I have to bring the party somewhere.  You can’t just hold party in.  It’s bad for your kidneys.

So this Friday evening, I brought the party to my wok and deep-fried hearts of palm in pure love (in stores it’s sometimes packaged as “canola oil”).

Hi I love you.

Hi I love you.

It was like Woodstock, but with more calories and more people you probably wouldn’t mind seeing naked (um, nevermind).

Since this post is being written in posteriority, the recipe that follows is an Unsolved-Mysteries-esque dramatization of true events.

Step 1: Clutter your counter with ingredients.  You will need:

Hearts of palm, cornstarch, soymilk, flax meal, panko, and ranch (because you always need ranch, duh).

Hearts of palm, cornstarch, soymilk, flax meal, panko, and ranch (because you always need ranch).

Step 2: Turn your stove to medium/medium-high heat and add an inch of oil.

Step 3: Whisk together some soymilk (or, you know, whatever unsweetened nondairy beverage you have) and flax meal*.  I haven’t a clue what the proportions are, except that it’s more milk than flax, but just do it (a ½ cup of milk and a couple tablespoons of flax meal ought to work).  Whisk with conviction; you’ll want it to thicken a bit, as this will function as an egg wash.

Step 4: Make like Henry Ford (minus that whole “being profoundly racist” thing) and create an assembly line.  First, you’re going to log-roll the heart of palm in a thin coat of cornstarch. Tap off any excess.  Second, you’re going to dip it in your flax/soymilk wash.  Finally, you’re going to roll it around in crunchy, wondrous panko—and then you’re going to deep fry it.**

Dip in each bowl from left to right.  (Pretend that there is something in that middle bowl, like in Hook.)

Dip in each bowl from left to right. (Pretend that there is something in that middle bowl, like in Hook.)

Step 5: Gently drop your battered heart of palm into your wok and then repeat with those remaining.  I wouldn’t fry any more than four at a time for the sake of quality control.  After they have been saturated in hot oil (mmm) for a couple minutes, flip with a pair of tongs.  When they’re uniformly golden brown, transfer to a plate with a napkin on top to drain.

Step 6: Nomnomnom.  I served these like I would mozzarella sticks–with vegan ranch and marinara (duh).  But I bet aioli, or a sriracha mayo, or really anything else that is normally paired with fried things would be a good bet.

 

Andrew WK-level party.

Andrew WK-level party.

* It has recently been brought to my attention that Bob’s Red Mill is evil/not a friend to our adorably furry counterparts (I mean, not furries.  Well. Maybe them, too?).  I didn’t realize this when I purchased these products, but I hereby dis-endorse them.  Now moving on.

** You don’t know how to deep fry things?  What are you, a health food enthusiast (a communist)?  I don’t trust you.

To ensure that your oil is the proper temperature, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into it.  If bubbles form around it slowly and lazily rise to the surface, raise the temperature or give it an extra minute or two to heat up.  If they’re frenetically forming and bouncing off of your handle, then your wooden spoon is beginning to fry.  Resist the urge to eat it, and turn the heat down.  When bubbles form and rise to the surface of the oil at a brisk but comfortable pace, you’re golden (and soon those beautiful hearts of palm will be, too!)

 

 

Drink Your Vegetables (And Your Vodka).

Sometimes, you just need a drink.

Now.  Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that when I say “you”, I mean “me”, and when I say “need”, it’s akin to a pre-teenager “need”ing to wed Justin Bieber.

So basically, “you” (I) never “need” a drink.  But doesn’t it sound refreshing?

It is not my intention to extol the virtues of functional alcoholism to the Internet masses (I’d like to think that results speak for themselves).  Rather, it is to express that lately, I have found myself in a near-perpetual state of needing bloody marys.

Bloody marys! The unsung heroic beverage of brunch.   While mimosas have their place—usually preceding a Sunday afternoon nap—bloody marys can be enthusiastically consumed at every hour (except business hours.  Or so I hear).  They’re savory, spicy, and, best of all, contain vodka—an essential nutrient that sometimes eludes those of us with day jobs. (Seriously though, I drink bloody marys for dinner sometimes.  You can’t argue with multiple servings of vegetables as your evening meal.  It’s health food.)

You probably wonder what this has to do with veganism.  You are probably thinking, “Yes, Sugar, I already knew you were a lush.  Clearly, all of your posts were penned [typed] in a state of mild inebriation.  Why would I care that you decided to start adding tomato juice to your liquor?”  But dear, loyal readers (all two of you): I have perfected the vegan bloody mary, and it tastes like some unprecedented genius [i.e., me] pureed a delicious gazpacho and spiked it with booze.  And making a vegan mary is no small feat, given that Worcestershire–key in omnivorous marys–is an impermissible ingredient.  So, without further hesitation, here it is: my perfect vegan mary.

To get down like the vegetable-loving lush you are, you will need:

Tito's, Tapatio, fancy salt, white pepper, V8, and lemon (I like meyers).

After amassing your ingredients, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Do I want to salt the rim of my glass, like a fancypants mixologist?  (The answer to this question is yes). To do so, you 1. Rub a lemon wedge along the rim of the glass; then 2. Invert your cup into a shallow container of salt and move it around to ensure even distribution.

You’ve been so patient.  Let’s make the actual beverage.

1. Coat the inside of your glass with Tapatio (You could experiment with other hot sauces here, but it’s my suspicion that Sriracha would be too sweet and Tabasco would be too vinegar-y.  Besides, how can you say no to a man in a sombrero?).

(Also! Traditionally, vegan/bloody marys are made in a highball glass; if you’re using one, you would still coat the inside of your cup with the hot sauce.  I just used a martini glass because I like to pretend that I have class.)

2. Add a dash (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of white pepper, a pinch of salt, and ice.

3.  Pour your delicious, delicious vodka into that cup for about 1.5 seconds.  Or use a shot glass to measure, if you want to be like that bartender you hate because (s)he makes weak drinks (do you not want to be tipped, people?)  P.S. Tito’s is Barnivore-approved and delightful.  And cheap!

4. Add V8*, another squeeze of lemon, and give it a stir.

5. It’s ready for your binge-drinking pleasure!  I recommend garnishing with a celery stalk or carrot stick, if available.  Right now, I need to go grocery shopping, so.

*If you are reticent to use V8, I understand.  But: 1. I think V8 is delicious; and 2. It adds complexity (and sodium) that might be absent if we were using an organic vegetable juice.  Still.  I’ll try to get a little more creative in the future, okay?

The Sexual Politics of Indian Summer (Now With Vegan Potato Salad!)

I went to the market today dressed like an off-duty Parisian prostitute: black lace bralette, sheer shirt, and high-waisted black shorts, my hair piled atop my head in a suggestive knot (it was cute, but borderline inappropriate for my local Trader Joe’s).  This ensemble was constructed not to attract potential johns to my lurid, pay-by-the-hour clutches, but rather as a means of mutiny against this oppressive Indian summer heat.  Seriously, San Fernando Valley: this weather is almost as unforgivable as that time road construction on Canoga Boulevard made my 2-mile lunch hour trip to Follow Your Heart take 45 minutes (what’s a girl to do when she needs a vegan Reuben even more than her hourly wage?).

The bright side of the Southern California Indian summer (which tends to stretch well into fall, making my apartment an official no-pants zone from early June to mid-October) is that there is still ample time for outdoorsy affairs.  And more to the point: outdoorsy foods!

Bringing a people-pleasing vegan dish to a backyard soiree can prove challenging, particularly if the majority of guests are staunchly omnivorous. Cupcakes and other baked goods are generally welcomed, but being holed up indoors, baking, when the outside world approaches oven-like temperatures is neither environmentally nor pragmatically desirable.  (Also, if you lack fellow vegan company, there is a chance you will be unable to eat anything but your item, and should you find yourself with a hangover at 4 p.m. because you’ve been drinking diligently since your timely arrival and now have nothing to eat but a semi-melted chocolate chip cookie, well.  Your bloodsugar will not appreciate your lack of foresight.)

Luckily, many of the dishes traditionally served at barbecues can be easily veganized: potato salad, bean salad, macaroni salad, green salad, fruit salad, and even non-salad items(!) like kebabs.  Last summer, I brought skewered, rum-and brown-sugar-glazed pineapple to grill in various backyards, mostly because I was too lazy to devise anything more elaborate.  But this year, my poverty-induced ingenuity yielded what may be the best potato salad recipe ever.  I know the season for this dish has technically passed, but really, kids: it’s never too late for potato salad.  So come on! Bid adieu to skin cancer’s favorite season with obesity’s favorite side dish:

 Gringo Potato Salad

 ¾ lb waxy potatoes (I like fingerlings), chopped into bite-sized chunks (Sweet potatoes would also be great here, making this an ideal dish for the summer-fall transition!)

2 jalapenos, roasted, seeded, diced

4 green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup Vegenaise

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Bacon Salt (Bacon Salt is always vegetarian, and sometimes—blessedly—vegan.  I use the Applewood flavor.  If you disagree with my use of Bacon Salt, or if you have difficulty finding it, chipotle powder also works nicely–but be aware that it will elevate the heat of an already moderately spicy dish. And remember to add salt!)

½ tsp granulated garlic

¼ tsp cumin

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this potato salad is assembled in roughly the same manner as its more basic counterparts:

1.  Bring water to a boil.  Add potatoes and boil until easily pierced with a fork.  Transfer to a colander and rinse with cool water.

Before shot (the equivalent of wearing a bikini, bloated and frowning in a Hydroxycut ad).

2. Now is a good time to prep the rest of your veggies (all two of them): chop your green onions and roast/seed/dice your jalapenos.  Don’t know how to roast a jalapeno?  See below for a tutorial.**

  

3.  Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add chopped veggies.

Potato, green onions, roasted jalapenos.

4.  Next, make your sauce. You can mix it in a separate bowl if you would like—that will ensure that everything is well combined.  I didn’t here because…hard work.  Anyway, add Vegenaise through cumin and stir to incorporation.

Nomnom.

5.  Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.  Think it’s absurdly salty?  Well, yeah it is—you just put in two teaspoons of salt and then you added mustard.  But don’t worry: the assertively salty flavor mellows out.  Besides, mmmm.  Hypertension.

Photographic proof that eating potato salad is inherently unsexy.

6.  Refrigerate for a few hours; preferably overnight.

7.  Bring to your next barbecue, place it next to the conventional potato salad, and gloat over its culinary superiority.

The final product, moments before I devoured it.

 

 

**Okay, so, wait: you’ve never roasted a pepper?  What were you doing in your early twenties, going to college and playing beer pong?  Fair enough, you educated lush.

Time to play with fire!:

  1. Wash your pepper.
  2. Grasp it with tongs and heat it over open flame. (A gas oven range is the most conventional way to do this—but hey, if you feel compelled to set fire to your ex’s Magic the Gathering card collection and roast jalapenos over the flaming pyre, who am I to judge?).

Let's ignore how messy my stove is.

3.  When the skin on the pepper blisters and blackens over most of the surface area, toss it into a bowl covered with saran wrap.

Voila! Blackened.

4.  After about 15 minutes, remove the pepper from the bowl and peel the skin.  It should come off easily.  (It’s wise to wear some kind of hand protection while you do this, lest the capsaicin of the pepper embed into your cuticles.  On that note, avoid touching your face while handling these, too: I once inadvertently snorted a jalapeno seed during an ill-fated green sauce experiment, and I suspect my nasal passage has never fully recovered.)

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Filling

I have a reputation for making deliciously fucked up vegan cupcakes (and note that when I say “reputation”, I mean among the three vegan patrons of the Munchie Machine food truck–who used to sell my goods–and the friends and coworkers unfortunate enough to fall victim to my force-feeding tendencies).   But. Anyway. These really take the cake…and the pie.  So if you feel like settling into a diabetic coma this holiday season, feast upon this orgiastic confection of holiday flavors.

You’ll need:

For the gingerbread (This is just a veganized version of a standard southern gingerbread recipe.  If you have your own, feel free to use it):

  • ¼ c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (non-hydrogenated because, really, we don’t want Dear Readers suffering an expedient death by heart failure)
  • ¼ c.  Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1 c. hot water
  • 1 c. molasses
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. each ground ginger and cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 ¾ c. flour
  • ½ c. of plain or vanilla soy yogurt + 2 tbsp. cornstarch, whipped together until you determine it “well-beaten” (it should be somewhat stiff—relative to the viscosity of normal soy yogurt, at least–and hold a few air bubbles.)

For the pumpkin pie filling (this makes way too much, so if you’re feeling mathematically ambitious, feel free to halve this recipe):

  • 1 15-16 oz. can of pumpkin
  • ¾ c. coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. plain soy yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. each cinnamon and ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch

As good as this, but less humiliating.

Steps!

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and fill two muffin tins with 18 paper liners.
  • Prepare the pumpkin pie filling first: combine all ingredients in a blender and give it a whirl.
  • Pour the contents of your blender into a shallow, oven-safe bowl and bake for about 10 minutes—just give it enough time to solidify a little bit.
  • Time for the gingerbread: Turn down the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine ingredients through spices in a medium saucepan.  As the fats begin to melt down (mmm), whisk everything to incorporation. Heat mixture over medium flame until it comes to a boil, then turn off the heat (removing it from your oven range if necessary) and give it a stir.
  • Sift together the remaining dry ingredients.  Create a well in the center of it.
  • Pour molasses into the well of sifted dry ingredients to create a calorically dense volcano of deliciousness.
  • Stir all of the ingredients together, and then add soy yogurt/cornstarch mixture.
  • Fill muffin tins 1/3 of the way with gingerbread batter, and then place 2 tablespoons (or so) of pumpkin pie filling on top of that.  Add a final layer of gingerbread batter—enough to cover the pumpkin pie filling.  The tins will probably be ¾ full at this point. (These cupcakes are probably going to erupt over the top of the liner mid-baking; they’re a little insecure about their muffin top, so resist the urge to make fat jokes at their expense, please.)
  • Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool, and then refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, top with non-dairy whipped topping.
  • Groan with pleasure.

Rumnog Cheesecake Squares with Pumpkin Pie Swirl! (On a Graham Cracker Crust!)

These taste exactly how you’d think they would (i.e., amazing).  If you lack gustatory imagination, know that they basically taste like heaven, if heaven were populated with individuals recently released from the earthly shackles of Type II diabetes.  They’re ideal for potlucks, holiday parties, and eating out of the pan with a fork, by yourself, while you watch bad romantic comedies.

So, ready to eat your (delicious) feelings?  Awesome.  You’ll need:

The Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups crushed cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (one package in a box approximates the amount you need)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 stick (So, eight tablespoons—yep.  Eight) Earth Balance buttery sticks, melted

The Rumnog Cheesecake (P.S.: If this portion of the recipe looks familiar to you, it’s because I stole it from the side of a Silk Nog carton.)

  • 1 tub of Follow Your Heart Non-Dairy Cream Cheese (‘cause Tofutti is for suckas!), softened
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp. dark rum
  • ½ tsp. of vanilla
  • ½ c. Silk Nog
  • ¼ c. plain soy yogurt, whipped with 1 tbsp. cornstarch (This is my go-to egg replacer, and I highly recommend it for most things that would normally require eggs to bind and add moisture.  Just whip the two together in small bowl with a fork; it should be free of lumps and have a few air bubbles in it when done.)

The Pumpkin Pie Swirl

  • 1 15-16 oz. can of pumpkin
  • ¾ c. coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. plain soy yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. each cinnamon and ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch

Steps:

First! The Crust:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • If you have not already done so, pulverize your graham crackers until they have a fairly fine crumb.
  • Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add sugar.  Give it a stir.
  • Melt Earth Balance.
  • Mix everything together.  You should essentially have greasy graham cracker crumbs at this point (mmm).
  • Transfer the crumbs to an 8×8 casserole dish, or cake pan, or whatever.  Press crumbs into your pan, going up about ¾ inch on the sides.
  • Bake the crust for about 5-7 minutes to eliminate a little of the greasy quality.

Now!  The Cheescake:

  • Mix ingredients through salt with a fork until it’s fluffy-ish.
  • Beat in rum and vanilla.
  • Add nog carefully, since your mixture will be pretty liquid-y at this point.
  • Add beaten soy yogurt mixture.
  • Set aside while you make the pumpkin pie swirl.

And then! The Pumpkin Swirl:

  • This is delightfully easy: Combine all of your ingredients together and give it a whirl.  Bam!

Finally!  Assembly:

  • Pour the entirety of your cheesecake mixture into your baked graham cracker crust; it should be between ½-¾ full.
  • Next, drizzle in pumpkin pie mix evenly across the cheesecake mixture until the filling is precariously close to the edges of the crust.  You won’t use all of the pumpkin pie filling; sorry for being wasteful (pumpkin pie shot time?).  Stick a fork into the mixtures and swirl around to make pretty designs.
  • Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until the center is no longer jiggly (okay, a little jiggle is okay, but you don’t want your cheesecake looking like an extra in a Ludacris video, youknowwhatImean?)
  • Turn off your oven and crack it to allow your cheesecake to cool for about 20 minutes, then transfer to a counter top to cool to room temperature.
  • Then refrigerate!  These can be served room temperature, but they do taste better cold.  Also, I’d recommend refrigerating them for storage purposes.

* Note: If you do not care about cheesecake cracks, or if you decided to bake this at 5am and have work in three hours, or if you are lazy, just transfer your cheesecake dish directly to the refrigerator/freezer (depending upon how time-pressed you are).  The taste and texture should be the same.

Even Godard wants to nom on these.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATO SOUP!

I know what you’re thinking: “Tomato soup?  Eh.  Next post, please.”

But you are wrong.  So unbelievably wrong.

Because this isn’t just an accompaniment to your grilled cheeze sandwich: it’s a solution to most of life’s problems, beginning with, “What should I make for dinner?” and ending roughly around, “How can I make him/her love me again?” (with a, “What the hell am I going to do with this can of whole peeled tomatoes?” thrown in the middle somewhere).

And it only takes a modicum more effort than it would to peel open that carton of Imagine Tomato Bisque!

Are you sold?

Great! You’ll need:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (chopped as finely as your patience will allow)
  • ½ teaspoon each of: rosemary, oregano, and thyme (crushed in a mortar and pestle so you can feel like a member of a marginalized ethnic group that now runs casinos)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne
  • One 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • One 28-ounce can of tomatoes (whole, crushed, fire-roasted, whatever.)
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth or soymilk
Rawrrrr. I’m DELICIOUS!

Ready?  Let’s do this.

1.     Heat a wok (or a high-walled pan) on medium heat and add olive oil.

2.     Once the oil has coated the bottom of the pan, add the garlic and crushed herbs.  Once the garlic is translucent and fragrant, add the cayenne.

3.     When the garlic is toasted, add the cannellinis.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until they begin to brown in spots.  I’m bad at time estimation, but I think this takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

4.     Add the entire can of tomatoes with juice, and then sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.

5.     Let everything simmer, stirring occasionally, until it can be easily broken down with the back of your spoon.  This will probably take around 20 minutes.

6.     Transfer the contents of your pan into a blender.  This is a messy process, especially if you are clumsy (I transferred the majority of it with a measuring cup before pouring the remainder directly into my blender). Make sure you close the lid tightly afterward (if you don’t, it will explode; consequently, your kitchen will look like a CSI crime scene, and you will be sad).  Blend on a low setting at first, and then gradually increase speed (that’s what she said).

7.     Once everything is fairly well blended, remove your lid and pour in your vegetable broth or soymilk.  Replace lid and blend until everything is smooth.

8.     Bring to your ailing gentleman caller or ladyfriend, knowing that if bringing them delicious homemade soup doesn’t get you laid, they probably didn’t really like you all that much to begin with.