LET’S GET READY FOR A VEGAN THANKSGIVING DINNER

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

Vegan Thanksgiving yearns for a classic signature dish that becomes a cherished must-have for the Thanksgiving main course. Deliciously seasoned with flamboyant flavors, captivatingly aromatic, and visually appealing, this unique torte is a first-rate holiday entrée that delivers plenty of pizzazz. If you favor sauces to dress up the presentation, include the irresistible Roasted Tomato Aioli, an elegant complement to the torte. Both the torte and the aioli can be prepared a day ahead.

I’ve served this main-dish torte at other times during the winter and spring seasons and it’s always a hit. But mostly, I save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner–that makes it special, and I change it out with other main dishes so it maintains its special status.

I know the long list of ingredients makes it look scary, but it actually comes together rather well. I’ve even made it two days ahead because it keeps perfectly. And when I bring it to the table, it always gets a few WOWs–feels really nice to hear them.

Although I’ve specified shredded carrots as part of the garnish, sometimes I use sliced persimmons or half slices of oranges. The orange colors set this dish up for an eye-appealing presentation.

Important: Because there are ingredients that require advance preparation, read the recipe thoroughly well in advance of preparing it. That way, you can have the rice cooked and ready, the pistachios roasted and ground, and the frozen peas completely thawed.

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings

Torte

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

1 tablespoon plus 14 teaspoon white vinegar or rice vinegar

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons coarsely ground roasted pistachios

 

2 medium onions, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper

 

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 pound frozen peas, thawed

1 medium carrot, shredded, for garnish

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Aioli

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika or liquid smoke

TO PREPARE THE PAN, cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut away the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan, place it on a baking sheet, and set aside.

TO MAKE THE TORTE, pour 1 cup of the water and the cashews into a blender. Process on high speed until smooth and milky. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside to sour.

Combine the oats, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup of the ground pistachios.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of water, onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, poultry seasoning, fennel seeds, oregano, marjoram, turmeric, cayenne, and pepper in a large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked rice to the oat mixture and combine well.

Put the peas in a food processor. Process until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the peas and the soured cashew milk to the vegetable mixture and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan and spread to the edges, packing the mixture firmly. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of pistachios. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the torte is firm when gently pressed. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE THE AIOLI, put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and broil about 3 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning twice while broiling, until completely soft.

Meanwhile, put the water, cashews, and garlic in a blender. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Add the broiled tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and paprika to the cashew mixture. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Transfer the sauce to a 1-quart saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. To unmold, run a knife around the edge to loosen the torte. Carefully lift off the collar. Garnish the edge of the platter with the shredded carrot and minced parsley. Cut the torte into serving-size wedges and serve with aioli on the side.

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TIME TO DRESS IN GLEAMING AUTUMN COLORS!

HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD

FOR THE HALLOWEEN FESTIVITIES

A Halloween treasure hunt is always a fun adventure, and even more intriguing when the hunt is right on your plate. This autumn-inspired salad hides a delicious and highly nutritious little treasure that becomes even tastier when drizzled with a lively dressing made from a base of cooked sweet potatoes.

I prepared this salad for a banquet held in late October and was fortunate enough to hear some of the enthusiastic comments. I think it was the dramatic fall colors that sparked a few oooohs.

And I have to confess, I had fun concocting this salad course–the colors still dazzle me! I love the brilliant color contrast of those deep purple lettuces accented with the yellows and oranges that top the greens.

I thought the Hidden Treasure Salad made such an eye appealing presentation, why serve it just for Halloween. The salad would make a gorgeous first course for Thanksgiving, too! And, the ingredients are available throughout the entire autumn and winter season.

I hope you’ll give the Tangy Sweet Potato Dressing a try. It was the autumn season, my favorite time of year, that inspired me to cook up some sweet potatoes and create a unique and very tasty salad topping that shines a spotlight on these lovely spuds–they’re one of my favorite foods.

I’m aware I’ve strayed from my December holiday dishes, but how could I resist–this is a simple recipe that just wants to be shared for the fun of it. Enjoy!

HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD

FOR THE HALLOWEEN FESTIVITIES

Yield: 6 servings

Hidden Treasure Salad

12 mini white potatoes

6 yellow or orange mini bell peppers

 

12 ounces mixed baby lettuces

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

4 cups finely chopped purple cabbage

 

2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch long, thin julienne

1 cup pomegranate seeds

6 large pimento stuffed green olives (optional)

Tangy Sweet Potato Dressing (Makes about 2 3/4 cups)

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

3/4 pound yellow or orange sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and mashed

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

5 to 6 pitted dates, snipped in half

1 garlic clove

1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

TO MAKE THE HIDDEN TREASURE SALAD, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the mini potatoes and mini bell peppers on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes and remove the mini peppers. Set them aside to cool. Roast the potatoes 10 minutes longer for a total of 30 minutes. Remove them and set them aside to cool while preparing the remaining salad ingredients.

Combine the lettuces, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and purple cabbage in a large salad bowl and mix well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE SALAD, place 2 mini potatoes in the center of each salad plate. Heap the lettuce mixture over the potatoes. Place 2 or more carrot sticks on each plate and sprinkle the salad with pomegranate seeds. Top each salad with a roasted mini pepper and a pimento stuffed green olive. Serve the dressing on the side.

TO MAKE THE DRESSING, combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.

Using a funnel, pour the dressing into one or two narrow-neck bottles for easy serving. Use immediately or chill until ready to serve.

For convenience, the dressing can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerated, it will keep for up to 6 days.

Note:

For a tasty dressing variation, a add 3 tablespoons rice vinegar and 3 pitted dates and blend until smooth and creamy.

 

STUFFED EGGPLANT IN GRAND HOLIDAY STYLE

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

An elegant dish for the festive occasion, these stuffed eggplants not only make an attractive presentation but they also bring delicious pleasure to the lucky guests who have come for holiday dinner. If the guests are eggplant lovers–even better!

To save time during the busy holiday season, you can make this dish a day ahead and cover it in plastic wrap before baking. Then, next day bring the eggplants to room temperature and bake them shortly before serving.

To determine which size eggplants to buy, it helps to be a little familiar with your guests appetites. Very hearty eaters will be able to handle one-half of the large 1-pound eggplant. Once it’s stuffed, it’s pretty impressive in size.

Those with more average appetites will be very satisfied with one-half of a 1/2-pound eggplant. Keep in mind that the mushrooms, carrots, and the brown rice mixed with the eggplant make even this size a robust serving.

I’ve chosen pecans for the crusty topping because of their natural sweetness, but chopped cashews or walnuts would also make excellent choices to give the topping a pleasing crunch.

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

 Yield: 8 average servings or 4 very hearty servings

Eggplant Stuffing

4 small eggplants, about 1/2 pound each for average servings or 2 large eggplants (1 pound each), for very hearty eater

1/2 pound fresh button, mushrooms halved and thinly sliced

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 pinches cayenne

Topping

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely ground in a nut mill

1 tablespoon white miso

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a serrated grapefruit knife or paring knife scoop out the eggplant flesh, chop it into bite-size pieces, and set it aside in a medium bowl.

Brush the shells inside and out lightly with oil, put the shells on the baking sheet, and put them under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until the flesh is soft and golden brown. Remove and cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the chopped eggplant flesh to a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, carrots, water, and oil and cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice and cook another 1 or 2 minutes. Add the rice, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and cayenne. Adjust seasoning if needed. Mix well and stuff the mixture into the eggplant shells, filling them to the rim. Store extra stuffing in the refrigerator and see note for leftover suggestion.

Put the topping ingredients in a small bowl and use the fingers to mix it well. Spoon the topping over the eggplant and press gently to secure it. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and serve.

Note: Extra eggplant stuffing is delicious as an appetizer spread that can be spooned onto toasted pita wedges or crackers. These handy leftovers bring a delicious appetizer to the table quickly.

AMBROSIAL VARIATIONS ON A CHESTNUT BUTTER THEME

AMBROSIAL VARIATIONS ON A CHESTNUT BUTTER THEME

Chestnuts are certainly not a familiar food item in most households. That’s largely because our once flourishing American chestnut trees suffered devastating blight that killed them all. By the 1950s all the millions of chestnut trees growing along the slopes of the eastern Appalachian had died.

And no one was able to make a delicious Chestnut Butter!

Three cheers for The American Chestnut Foundation that’s making great progress to bring the trees back using plant pathology technology, but it will be several years before we will see commercial crops of chestnuts available from those trees.

There are a few growers in California and Washington whose trees were not affected by blight. Every year their chestnuts are harvested in September and become available for online orders in October. Scroll down to the bottom of the feature for links so you can enjoy making Chestnut Butter like I do every year.

The chestnut season is very brief–September through November. I like to place an early order and have some delivered in October and some delivered the week before Thanksgiving. They really add a special sweet touch to a savory stuffing. And they make a delicious Chestnut Butter.

Grocery stores, of course, will be brimming with imported chestnuts, mainly from China. Those will be available through the early spring months.

For cooking and peeling fresh chestnuts, visit my post for the visual, step-by-step process, so you can enjoy the pleasure of cooking and eating fresh chestnuts.

If you don’t plan to cook fresh chestnuts, there are definitely excellent alternatives. The markets will have jarred cooked and peeled chestnuts ready to eat. Many Asian and Middle Eastern markets will have vacuum-packed pouches of cooked, ready-to-eat chestnuts that you can put to work in your favorite recipes.

Now for the joy of Chestnut Butter and it’s many variations. The recipes are easy to make and will keep for up to one week in the fridge. Chestnut butter, so creamy and flavorful, makes a delightful spread on morning toast. It’s also great on crackers, but that’s not all. Consider putting a dollop on the dinner dish to dip into as a condiment, kind of like you might do with chutney.

My desire to create a delicious, low-fat, ultra creamy chestnut spread resulted in this awesome thick, satin-smooth spread that melts in the mouth. 

CINNAMON SPICE MAPLE CHESTNUT BUTTER

Yield: about 2 cups

2 cups coarsely chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts

6 tablespoons vanilla soymilk

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process for a full 2 minutes to create a silky smooth butter. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and provide a spreading knife. Enjoy!

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Quicker than making apple butter, this delicious fruity chestnut butter takes no more than 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish and offers a welcome change from jams and jellies for morning toast, bagels, pita bread, and even muffins. The standard PB&J tastes even better with this chestnutty spread standing in for the jelly. Throughout autumn and winter, when the weather brings us a few shivers, we crave hearty foods with zesty flavors. Count of this chestnut-based fruit spread to chase away the winter blues. 

APPLE CHESTNUT BUTTER

Yield: about 3 cups

3 cups dried apple rings, well-packed

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup organic sugar

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 rounded cup cooked, peeled chestnuts

1 teaspoon rosewater

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

1/2 to 1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  1. Combine the apples, water, sugar, and raisins in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and steam 10 minutes.
  2. While the apple medley is cooking, place the chestnuts, rosewater, orange blossom water, lemon juice, and cardamom in the food processor and set aside.
  3. When the apple medley is cooked, add it to the food processor along with all the liquid in the pan. Pulse and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You may have to stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the workbowl, and process until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with spreading knives. To store, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Keeps for up to two weeks.

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With the addition of a bit of kitchen sorcery and a whirl in the food processor, this chestnut butter leans to the savory side. Naturally sweet and starchy chestnuts become transformed into an irresistible creamy spread that stands out on any variety of bread, bagel, or cracker. Consider this buttery spread as a tasty accompaniment to any savory dish, and use as you would a relish or a spread on your favorite bread or rolls.

GARLICKY CHESTNUT BUTTER

 Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup water, divided

1 1/4 cups cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 sprig parsley, for garnish

  1. Cook and stir the onion, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of the water in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the chestnuts, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Process for 1 or 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the parsley if desired.

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A heavenly, light and buttery savory spread that makes eating bread shear delight. Quickly prepared, the chestnut-enhanced butter also serves as an appetizer spread on crackers or toasted baguette slices. Serve it over polenta or as a topping over other grains like rice, bulgur wheat, wild rice, or quinoa. Even baked potatoes will welcome a few dollops of the spread as a pleasant change from the familiar sour cream and chives.

SHIITAKE CHESTNUT BUTTER

Yield: about 2 cups

6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons water, divided

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup well-cooked chestnuts

2 teaspoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon lime zest

Pinch cayenne

  1. In a large, deep skillet combine the mushrooms, onion, soy sauce, olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the water, and garlic. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms and onions are softened, adding more water as needed to prevent burning.
  2. Transfer the mushroom/onion mixture to the food processor, add the remaining ingredients, and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and serve with a spreading knife. Refrigerated, the creamy spread will keep for 1 week.

 

A DELICIOUS STARTER FOR THE HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES


SMOKY GARLIC STUFFED ENDIVE

Hosting a holiday party can make one a little crazy during the busy month of December, when so many parties and events fill the calendar. I thought if I could make an appetizer or two a day in advance, it would take the squeeze out of getting ready for a pack of hungry invitees.

Turns out this little easy starter was perfect. In fact, it has many attributes on the plus side, aside from being very tasty. First, it’s not drippy, so it definitely won’t spill on the furniture or the floor. Second, it requires no special utensils–it’s finger food, after all, but better serve it with extra napkins–just in case. And last, it’s easy to make.

This well-seasoned smoke-flavored and bold garlicky mixture makes endive a delicious two-bite treat that can be prepared up to one day ahead. The filling is versatile enough to work as a stuffing for raw button mushrooms, celery, and hollowed tomatoes.

SMOKY GARLIC STUFFED ENDIVE

Yield: 2 1/2 cups filling for about 40 endive leaves

5 to 6 heads endive

1 pound extra firm tofu

3 to 4 cloves garlic

4 to 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoon water

2 1/2 teaspoons natural hickory seasoning (also called liquid smoke)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

 

2 green onions, minced

1 (15-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, cut into thin julienne, or 2 to 3 fresh red peppers, roasted and cut into thin julienne

3/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed

Paprika (optional)

  1. Separate the endive leaves and set them aside on a dish. To make the filling, rinse the tofu and drain well. Break the tofu into several chunks, and put them in the food processor.
  2. Add the garlic, lemon juice, water, hickory seasoning, dill weed, salt, and pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the green onions.
  3. To assemble, use a small spoon to fill each leaf with the smoky garlic mixture.
  4. Garnish each stuffed endive with a strip of red pepper and 3 green peas. Sprinkle the tops with paprika, if desired.
  5. Store leftover filling in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 1 week.

A PLATTER OF COOKIES FOR OLD SAINT NICK

Because so many cookies share common ingredients like flour, sugar, and margarine or oil, they need that little something unique to make them stand apart. With a generous measure of creamy pureed walnuts, these delicious cookies offer melt-in-the-mouth soft centers and delightfully crunchy outsides.

But giving them that extra-special touch is black walnut extract, a flavor that makes these cookies an outstanding treat for Old Saint Nick.

I wasn’t able to find black walnut extract at the grocery store but discovered JR Watkins an excellent online source for unique flavoring extracts.

Going to a cookie exchange party or a holiday potluck?  Bring along a batch or two of these little gems and reap the compliments.

OLD SAINT NICK’S WICKED WALNUT COOKIES

Yield: 4 1/2 dozen

2 cups raw walnuts

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/4 cups organic sugar

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)

2/3 cup vegan margarine

1 1/4 teaspoons black walnut extract, maple extract, almond extract, or an extra teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons flaxseeds or ground flaxseed meal

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts into small pieces and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, oats, raisins, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix well. Make sure the raisins are well coated with flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter. Set aside.
  3. Put the remaining 1 1/2 cups of walnuts in a food processor. Process until they become a creamy walnut butter, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the bananas, vegan margarine, black walnut extract, and vanilla extract and process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will become quite stiff.
  5. Pour the water and flaxseeds in a blender. Process on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes to form a thick slurry. Stir the slurry into the dough, mixing thoroughly to distribute it evenly.
  6. Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls and place them 1 1/2 inches apart of the prepared baking sheet. Flatten them slightly with your hands or the bottom of a glass and press a piece of the reserved chopped walnuts into the center of each cookie.
  7. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. If the cookies on the top rack need browning, move them to the bottom rack for another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack or plate and let cool completely.

 

THE FBI LOVES THESE THUMBPRINTS!

ALMOND THUMBPRINT CUTIES

If you’re hunting for a super-easy cookie recipe you can whip up in a hurry, this is your sweet treat–you and these little cuties will be best buds in a flash! But a quick assembly is not their only assets. These babies are delicious and make good keepers as well.

Traditional thumbprint cookies are filled with fruity jam, but these little treats feature centers filled with dates and almond butter, giving them an edge over jam because they deliver an appealing depth of flavor with more complexity that goes beyond sweetness from the jam.

You’ll know what I mean when you taste them. Admittedly, dates certainly are sweet, but their sweetness is strictly from nature and more subtle and satisfying–not like the extreme sweetness you get from processed sugar.

Yield: about 3 dozen

ALMOND THUMBPRINT CUTIES

Cuties

1 cup almonds

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegan margarine

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons organic sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

15 pitted dates, snipped in half

2 tablespoons almond butter

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make the cuties, put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are ground into a finely textured meal. Add the flour, vegan margarine, sugar, water, almond extract, and vanilla extract, and process until well blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.

3. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls and place them 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Use your thumb or finger to press a deep indentation into the top of each cookie. Use your fingers to smooth out any cracks in the dough. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops turn a light golden. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack or plate and let cool completely.

5. To make the filling, put the dates, almond butter, water, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a food processor. Pulse to break up the dates, and then process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.

6. Place heaping teaspoonfuls of the date mixture into each thumbprint. Set the cookies aside in a single layer for about 3 hours, or until the filling becomes firm and dry. Stored at room temperature in a covered container, Almond Thumbprint Cuties will keep for 1 or 2 days; refrigerated, for 1 week, and in the freezer, 3 months.