WARM, SWEET, AND SPICY PUNCH FOR HAPPY HOLIDAY TOASTING

Latin-Twist-cover-300Authors' photo

 

As a food blogger, my aim is to share those tasty bites and sips I think you will find as delightful as I do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two exceptional authors and food bloggers at a presentation at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles (Melissas.com). Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack teamed up to create a true thirst-quencher, Latin Twist, a gorgeous book filled with 97 traditional cocktail recipes from 18 Latin countries plus Spain.

At Melissa’s I was sampling five delicious “mocktails,” that is, the cocktails without alcohol. After tasting Ponche Navideno, I was enthralled with the flavors imparted by the exceptional combination of fruits, some familiar and some exotic. Not only did this festive beverage taste great, but it also emitted irresistibly sweet, spicy, and fruity aromas throughout the room. This was a recipe I knew I must share.

Don’t let the 20 servings discourage you from making this wonderfully satisfying punch. If you’re not serving a large group, you’ll have plenty for a cozy gathering of celebrants to enjoy seconds and thirds. You’ll need a large stockpot, about an 8- to 10-quart size.

PONCHE NAVIDENO

Ponche Navideno(Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

 Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked. Brandy or tequila can be added, making it Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting).

Makes 20 servingsCinnamon sticks

16 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

5 long tamarind pods, husk removed, and seededTamarind pods

1/2 pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole

6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks

2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 cup pitted prunespiloncillo

1/2 cup dark raisins

1 orange, sliced

8 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)

Directions:

Ponche NavidenoPlace the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.

Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.

Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange slices, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.

To serve, ladle into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.

*************************************

The two charming authors generously shared another warm, fruit-filled punch recipe from from Latin Twist that’s typically enjoyed at Christmas. Ponche de Frutas is similar to Ponche Navideno but has a few additional exotic flavors such as coconut, plantain, and a hint of ginger. Both can be sipped and thoroughly enjoyed with or without alcohol.

PONCHE DE FRUTAS

Makes 15 servings

16 cups waterhandful allspice berries

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole allspice

1-inch piece fresh ginger

5 whole cloves

2 (8-ounce) bags dried fruit mix

1 pineapple, husked, cored, and diced

1/2 medium papaya, diced

4 red apples, diced

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup prunesplantains

1/2 cup raisins

3 plantains, diced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark rum (optional)

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger, and cloves.

Add dried fruit mix, pineapple, papaya, apples, and coconut. Follow with prunes, raisins, plantains, and sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. When the fruit is cooked and sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and pour in the rum (if using).

Serve hot with some of the diced fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A PANFORTE TO DAZZLE CHOCOLATE LOVERS!

Chocolate Panforte

Panforte

CHOCOLATE PANFORTE

For those unfamiliar with this very special holiday treat, panforte is a divinely rich confection packed with dried fruits, nuts, and spices, baked in a 7-or 8-inch slab, and coated with confectioner’s sugar. The traditional Italian recipe contains glazed fruits, but I much prefer the sweet, tangy flavor dried fruits contribute to the recipe. When chocolate and lots of spice is added to the mixture, each bite becomes pure nirvana, delivering a delicious melt-in-the-mouth medley of fruit, nut, spice, and chocolate flavors all at once. In other words, all those heavenly flavors and textures you could possibly desire in a holiday candy.

This recipe is ideal for plan-ahead kitchen wizards who love to make their cookies and confections well-ahead of the holiday and freeze or refrigerate them. Then, when they need them, they can easily reach into the fridge or freezer and the muss and fuss is well behind.

Chocolate PanforteDuring the autumn season, I make several batches of panforte, wrap them in double layers of plastic wrap, and tuck them into the fridge. Knowing I’ll be entertaining and going to several parties during the holiday season, my early prep serves me quite well.

A homemade panforte also makes an fabulous gift that can be safely shipped to friends and family across the country without spoilage. Once they taste, the lucky recipients will send you messages filled with OMGs!

Panforte

Entertaining at home during the holidays, I like to serve the panforte as an extra treat. Several hours before dessert time, I remove the panforte from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for best flavor. Then, I unwrap a slab and put it on a colorful plate garnished with real or plastic holly. If the panforte is the only dessert, I’ll cut it into thin wedges like a pie. When serving it along with other desserts, I cut it into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch square. Because it’s quite rich, a little goes a long way.

Panforte makes an impressive homemade gift. Before gifting, tie a holiday ribbon over the plastic wrap, make a large bow, and present the panforte with a happy holiday wish. I like to add a touch of holly to the wrapping–it does such a great job of conveying the holiday message and makes an attractive addition to the presentation.

Here’s the process: Line the pie pans with parchment. Roast the nuts. Cut the fruits, Combine the fruits. Add spices and nuts. Make syrup and add to mixture. Spoon and press into parchment-lined pans. Bake. Cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Ready to wrap.

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

 

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteCHOCOLATE PANFORTE

Yield: four 8-inch round slabs

Panforte

2 cups pecansChocolate Panforte

1 3/4 cups walnuts

1 1/4 cups almonds

1 cup dried dried apricots, diced (i used Melissa’s)

1 cup flour (oat, all purpose, or whole wheat pastry flour)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s from melissas.com)

Zest of 1 lemon or orange

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmegChocolate Panforte

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Chocolate Syrup

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup agave nectar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into several pieces

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready 2 large rimmed baking sheets and four 8-inch pie pans or cake pans lined with enough parchment to drape generously over the sides. Place 2 pans on each baking sheet. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE PANFORTE, spread the pecans, walnuts, and almonds on one of the baking sheets and toast them in the oven for 9 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a large platter to cool and turn off the oven.

In an extra large bowl, combine the apricots, flour, sugar, raisins, dates, cranberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and pepper.

When the nuts are cool, add them to the bowl and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE SYRUP, combine the sugar and agave nectar in a 2 to 3-quart saucepan and mix well. Put the chocolate in a bowl and place it near the stove-top. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Boil until the temperature reaches 225 degrees F., approximately 5 minutes. This can happen very quickly. Do not stir during the boiling.

Turn off the heat as soon as the mixture reaches 225 degrees F. and stir in the chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted.

Pour the chocolate syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and use a heavy-duty wooden spoon to stir and coat the ingredients completely. The mixture quickly becomes quite stiff and you’ll need to apply muscle power to combine the syrup and fruit-nut mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Use a metal spoon to distribute the mixture equally among the prepared pans, a heaping spoonful at a time, packing it down before adding another. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely for several hours before removing the panforte slabs from the pans.

Then, carefully, remove the parchment from each slab and dust each heavily with the powdered sugar on both sides, using your hands to coat them completely.

TO SERVE THE PANFORTE, use a sharp, heavy-duty knife to cut the panforte into very thin wedges or into 1-inch pieces. If not serving right away, double-wrap each panforte in plastic wrap. The panforte will keep for a month or two at room temperature or for 1 year in the refrigerator.

Panforte

TASTE THE OMG PIE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie 1APRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

Everyone has a favorite dessert they love to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. For some, it’s good, old-fashioned apple pie with plenty of cinnamon, for others it a rich, crunchy pecan pie. Some cling to cheesecake, while others just love a moist, two-layer dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting.

For me, the OMG dessert of the season (actually, there are several) is this awesome creation I assembled and served several years ago. Everyone loved it–said it was a keeper, their favorite dessert, the best dessert they ever tasted, couldn’t get enough of it, etc.! Reviews don’t get much better than that! So, naturally, I kept it and am excited about sharing it.

Something new I can add to the list of compliments is that this dessert won 1st place in a dessert contest at Melissas.com. Actually, it was a 3-way tie for 1st place and I was one of the top three.

Sticky Pie side

For that even when I needed 30 servings, I doubled the recipe and prepared it in a 9 x 13-inch pan. I pressed only one recipe of the crust  mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Sticky Pie close up 2

So what’s the big deal–why all the fuss? It’s just simply a great tasting pie with an exceptionally appealing texture and encompasses all the good stuff the holiday season has to offer.

And, really, any time you join together dried fruit, like raisins, dates, cranberries, and apricots, you’ve combined the seductive elements of an exceptional sweet treat. But, then, mingle the merry makings of those four fruits with the crunchy, roasted, chunky nuts, spice them up, bind them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!–a stunning pie for the festive holiday!

The pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, so be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. You’ll need to apply a little muscle when cutting into the pie because of its very firm, and rather sticky nature. It’s quite sweet and rich, so thin slices are best–and that makes the dessert go a little farther.

I’ve actually gotten 12 serving from this pie for several reasons. First, after a large meal, the guests are too full for big servings. Second, because the pie is super sweet, small servings are very satisfying. And, third, so many people are watching the waistlines, they’re happy to be served a small piece.

It’s also the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that’s a dinner host’s dream because there’s no last minute fuss and everyone loves it. For the best results, bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For best results, make the pie a day or two ahead, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. Then, bring the pie to room temperature several hours before serving. Refrigerating the pie adds a touch of needed moisture, while bringing it to room temperature makes it easier to cut.

 Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie pieceAPRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

 Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie; 8 to 12 servings

1 recipe Oatmeal Crumb Crust (recipe below)

1 1/2 cups blanched hazelnuts (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)Apricot, Date, and Hazelnut Sticky Pie 2

3/4 cup toasted pecans (I used Melissa’s pecans)

 

1 cup golden raisins (I used Melissa’s)

3/4 cup diced dates

2/3 cup diced dried apricots (I used Melissa’s)

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s)

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon minced orange or lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

 

Prepare the Oatmeal Crumb Crust and set aside.

To make the filling, pour the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the hazelnuts to a large bowl. Break the pecans into pieces and add them to the hazelnuts.

Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture.

Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the lime juice and maple extract into the syrup mixture and mix well.

Pour the syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and stir and mix thoroughly to coat all the ingredients. (The mixture will be very thick and sticky, and combining it completely will likely take the place of your daily workout.)

Spoon the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 4 to 6 hours to set completely. To store, cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

Oatmeal Crumb Crust

 Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnuts

4 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons organic sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the oats into a food processor. Pulse 15 to 20 times. Add the walnuts, oil, sugar, syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Process until the mixture becomes a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched. Scrape down the workbowl as needed. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water to help the mixture hold together.

Spoon the mixture into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm.

Sticky Pie Melissa's

 

A COMPOTE THAT MAKES SWEET MEMORIES!

Pear Walnut Compote/Choco WafersPEAR CRANBERRY COMPOTE WITH CHOCO-WAFERS

Holiday meals, whether at home or at my grandmother’s, always concluded with a small bowl of stewed dried fruits cooked until soft and perfectly sweetened and pleasantly laced with cinnamon. It certainly wasn’t a fancy dessert, and it’s  probably one of the most unpretentious desserts one can offer guests at the end of a special celebration. Yet, the memories continue to bring sweet thoughts. When I close my eyes, I can almost taste those dried prunes, apricots, pears, and raisins and remember fondly the definitive spicy aroma of cinnamon that made me appreciate this simple homespun dessert.

Because the compote was sweet and generously spiced with cinnamon, I remembered this dessert fondly and as a kid, I always looked forward to it. It became one of those tiny little treasures I knew Grandma would bring to the table without fail.

I thought it might be lovely to pass on those memories to others with a compote that’s just as easy to make, but with something special in addition that would elevate it to become a truly elegant treat. So I began with fresh pears and fresh cranberries rather than dried and spiced it with just enough cinnamon to add that nostalgic holiday aroma. But it was still just a simple compote. What else could I do to make it really zing?

Vegan Holidays lowresVoila! Homemade Choco-Wafers turned this delicious, unpretentious compote into an elegant, alluring dessert with a built-in convenience factor. These delicious little wafers can be made several days ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. They actually keep well for up to three months in the fridge. I might also mention this is one of the delicious holiday desserts in my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook!

The compote can be prepared two days ahead and tucked into the fridge until dessert time. But, to make this dessert extra special and give your guests that pampered feeling, bring it to room temperature on serving day and gently warm it at 350 degrees F. for about 10 to 15 minutes just before serving.

At serving time, spoon the compote into little dessert dishes and tuck two Homemade Choco-Wafers into the dish so they stand tall. Sometimes I place the wafers on the sides and sometimes in the center. Maybe you’ll come up with an even more dramatic way of presenting this dessert–there’s plenty of room for creativity!

Pear & Walnut Compote:Choco Wafers2 copyPEAR CRANBERRY COMPOTE WITH CHOCO-WAFERS

Yield: about 6 servings

Choco-Wafers

1 cup walnutsPear Walnut Compote/Choco Wafers

1 cup pitted dates, snipped in half

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons golden raisins

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Compote

2 fresh Anjou or Bosc pears, cored, quartered, and sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 cup black raisins

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons coarsely ground toasted, walnut, almonds, or hazelnuts, for garnish

  1. TO MAKE THE CHOCO-WAFERS, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put all the wafer ingredients in a food processor. Process until all the ingredients are well incorporated, the nuts are broken down to a fine, but slightly textured meal, and the mixture reaches a very thick, finely mashed, firm consistency, stopping occasionally to scrape down the workbowl.
  3. Spoon the wafer mixture into the prepared baking sheet and use the back of the spoon to form it into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle approximately 8 inches by 9 inches.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the wafer is set and almost dry to the touch but still soft. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. It will firm as it cools. When cool, cut into 2 or 3-inch squares and set aside until ready to serve or put the squares in a ziplock bag and refrigerate.
  5. TO MAKE THE COMPOTE, combine the pears, cranberries, brown sugar, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, and water in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately, decrease the heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes, or until the pears are softened.
  6. To thicken the juice in the pan, combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small cup or bowl and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering compote a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, or until thickened to desired consistency.
  7. To serve, spoon the compote into small dessert dishes and garnish each with the walnuts, if desired. Tuck 2 wafers into the center or sides of the compote.

I SAID CHEEZE! AND PUMPKIN CHEEZE-CAKE APPEARED!!!!

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake 2Recipe Below

First, allow me to whet your appetite with Laura Theodore’s delicious holiday dessert- PUMPKIN SPICE CHEEZE-CAKE. The recipe is one of many luscious dishes found in Laura’s new cookbook, Vegan-ease.Vegan-Ease by Laura Theodore

Let’s Take a Peek Inside the Cookbook

Vegan-ease:

An easy guide to enjoying a plant-based diet

By Laura Theodore

Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC

Hard Cover $26.95

No, it’s not the salad dressing Vegenaise! It’s a cookbook called Vegan-ease filled with well-crafted vegan recipes that won’t keep the home cook in the kitchen for hours. Laura Theodore, the Jazzy Vegetarian, has done it again by creating a colorful and charming cookbook that will wow her many fans and draw a crowd of newcomers to the plant-based kingdom.

Many TV viewers and radio listeners know the Jazzy Vegetarian and take delight in her programs and books.

Laura’s home cooking energies took off when she moved from the scurry-flurry of New York City to a quiet country spot in New Jersey. Without the convenient, close-to-home shops of the big city, she had to be resourceful and began to create her own tasty dishes and convert non-vegetarian standards into plant-based versions. She convincingly says, “If plant-based food looks and tastes scrumptious, everyone will welcome it!”

A quick browse through her colorful new cookbook with its abundance of delightfully SQUASH LAURA ZELenticing, full-color photos is attractive enough to bring curious folks to the table–even better–maybe, even lure them into the kitchen to cook.

The author makes a strong case for going “veggie” because she knows that decision supports the environment, reduces greenhouse emissions, protects animals, and enhances the health of the human species. She stresses the “ease” in finding ingredients, preparing the dishes, and making money go further. For those new to cooking or to the vegan kitchen, she covers basic ingredients and shopping guide, kitchen tools and equipment, and nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet.

The recipe section, the main part of the book, is an adventure for the senses beginning with Fast Appetizers and Fun Beverages that introduces starters that novices can confidently prepare. Appetizers like Raw Veggie Kabobs threaded in combinations of colorful veggies on a skewer or Mini Sweet Peppers sliced in half lengthwise and stuffed with Hummus appeal to experienced cooks, too.

Breakfast dishes like Oat and Blueberry Breakfast Cake and Spinach-Tomato Vegan Omelet are so eye appealing they sell themselves and the enticing Muffins, Quick Breads, and Baked Delights are seductive. The beautiful Giant Cookie-Coffee Cake, studded with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, is perfect for breakfast or brunch guests with its hearty base of rolled oats, bananas, and whole wheat flour. If not that recipe, then perhaps bake the Walnut-Orange Quick Bread with its rich, dark color and spiced whole-grain ingredients.

The Quick Sweet Potato Soup is definitely quick to fix with its bright chunks of sweet potatoes, celery, and cabbage. The Quick Red Lentil Curry Soup is truly vegan-ease where everything is added to the soup pot at once and simmered until the veggies are tender. Both make delicious and satisfying meals during cold-weather season along with the remaining eight recipes in the Soup section.

Vegan-ease is filled with an abundance of mouth-watering salads, dressings, pastas with flair, creative pizzas, and innovative main dishes that become a feast for the eyes. The beautiful Oven “Fried Rice” Casserole, for example, lets the oven do most of the work.

 The dessert section is divided into two parts–first come the “easiest desserts ever” like mousse, puddings, bars, and cookies followed by Fancy Finishes with fussier sweets like Blueberry Cheeze-Cake Squares and Lemon “Buttermilk” Cake with Maple Glaze.

Stress-free Holiday Recipes include all categories featuring breakfast items, soups, salads, mains, and desserts and bring the book to conclusion with menu-planning tips and a dozen special-occasion menus comprised of recipes in the book.

Vegan-ease succeeds in making vegan cooking uncomplicated. Novice cooks and old timers will find this compendium of recipes an inspiration for making colorful and tasty meals.

 Laura Theodore is truly a master of making home cooking easy on the cook, yet she doesn’t shortchange on featuring wholesome, unprocessed ingredients. Throughout the pages are simple-to-make recipes perfect for everyday meals and slightly fussier dishes for company or holiday feasting with a bright splash of color.

About Laura

Laura Theodore is an award-winning jazz singer and songwriter and actor who became interested in vegetarian cooking over 20 years ago. She is the on-camera host and co-producer of the Jazzy Vegetarian Cooking Show on PBS, a show in its third season where she dishes up gorgeous plant-based recipes. Laura also hosts a weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio on Blogtalkradio, sharing tips, recipes, and celebrity interviews with a touch of upbeat jazzy music to give it verve.

Laura is the author of exceptional cookbooks; Jazzy Vegetarian and Jazzy Vegetarian Classics that contain recipes featured on the Jazzy Vegetarian Television Show. She shares a delicious holiday-ready Pumpkin Cheeze-Cake recipe from her new cookbook Laura Theodore’s Vegahn-ese. The beautiful cookbooks are truly a feast for the eyes with a blast of full-color photos, jazzy tips, and menu plans.

To discover more information about Laura’s television show, radio podcasts, recipes, and cookbooks visit http://www.jazzyvegetarian.com.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake 2

PUMPKIN SPICE CHEEZE-CAKE

Makes 8 to 10 servings / Ease Factor 3

This delicate yet rich-tasting cake makes the perfect dessert for any winter holiday event. Served with a generous dollop of Vegan Whipped Topping (page 201), this cheeze-cake will be dressed to impress!

CRUST

1¾ cups cookie crumbs (ginger cookies work well)

¼ cup vegan margarine, melted

FILLING

2 tablespoons rolled oats

14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu

1 can (about 16 ounces) unsweetened pumpkin purée

2⁄3 cup dark brown sugarPumpkin Spice Cheesecake 1

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

TOPPING

3 tablespoons cookie crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat a 10-inch round springform pan with vegan margarine.

To make the crust, put 13⁄4 cups cookie crumbs and the melted margarine in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork until well combined. Pat the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.

To make the filling, put the rolled oats in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Add the tofu, pumpkin purée, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and allspice and process until smooth and creamy.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes, then carefully run a table knife around the perimeter of the cake to ensure it does not stick to the side of the pan.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of cookie crumbs evenly over the top of the cake, gently pressing them into the top, so the crumbs adhere. Release the side of the springform pan to unmold.

Cover the cake very loosely and refrigerate 3 to 24 hours before serving. Serve with Vegan Whipped Topping (page 201) on the side, if desired. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, leftover cheeze-cake will keep for about 2 days.

Nutritional Analysis: Amount per serving, based on 10 servings: 154 Calories; 7g Fat; 1g Saturated fat; 5g Protein; 62mg Sodium; 20g Total Carbohydrate; 15g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe © 2015 Laura Theodore, published by Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC, reprinted by permission.

I BROUGHT A GHOST TO THE HOLIDAY TABLE!

GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

White pumpkin 2My idyllic vision was to make a dramatic presentation of a tasty, savory stew served inside a plump white pumpkin. I could even picture the dramatic moment I would lift the lid of the pumpkin, stand back, and let my dinner guests watch in amazement as the giant plume of steam rose up from the steaming stew.

After several experiments, I found it impossible to prevent the pumpkin from totally collapsing or half the stew from oozing out the bottom of the cooked pumpkin. Neither was a pretty site. I was glad I hadn’t experimented on guests.

It would have been a beautiful holiday dish and a magnificent presentation–would have–but—–

I tried the experiment about three times and just gave up in frustration! Yet, somehow I hoped to bring a rich, flavorful stew to the table that included scooping up some of that delicious, delicately sweet pumpkin flesh as I was spooning out the stew.

White Pumpkin RagoutMy instincts led me to cook and serve them separately and allow the two to meet up in the soup bowl. That worked like a charm! Here’s a little detail about ghost pumpkins:

Ghost pumpkins, also called albino, Snowball, Casper, Lumina, Baby Boo, Cotton Candy Pumpkin, stand apart from the familiar orange jack-o-lanterns in many ways. Their flesh is considerably thicker and shows off a gorgeous hue of brilliant golden orange. The texture is pleasantly firm and delightfully moist.

White pumpkin 1The white pumpkin’s best-kept secret is its pleasantly sweet flavor, though not as sweet as butternut or kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. White pumpkins are still less common than the jack-o-lanterns but are becoming more available at chain groceries and farm stands.

A perfect marriage, the white pumpkin is the ideal mate to enhance this celebratory ragout that needs little else to bring pleasure and satiety to a holiday meal.

To give this flavorful ragout its moment in the sun, I served it in a wide, shallow soup bowl and heaped the serving into the center. Serve the stew with plenty of hearty whole-grain bread to mop up any bits of delicious sauce that remains in the bowl.

 GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

 Yield: 12 to 14 hearty servings

1 medium or large ghost pumpkin or 2 large butternut squashes

5 cups waterWhite Pumpkin Ragout

2 cups dry red wine

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks cinnamon

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

3 medium carrots, angle sliced

2 to 3 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and thickly sliced

2 medium yams, cut into bite-size pieceswhite-pumpkins

1 pound baby white rose potatoes, scrubbed

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1/2 small cauliflower, chopped

2 small beets, diced

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 cup red lentilsWhite pumpkin 2

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

1/4 cup natural sesame seeds

1 pound frozen peas, thawed and held at room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash the pumpkin and dry it. Using a firm paring knife, cut a 5 or 6-inch diameter hole in the top and gently lift it out by the stem. Use a large spoon to remove the seeds and stringy matter from the pumpkin. Set the seeds aside to roast separately. Place the pumpkin on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft when gently pressed, yet still firm.
  2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch chunks, peeling the skin as you go. Set the chunks aside.
  3. While the pumpkin is roasting, combine the water, red wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, cinnamon sticks, thyme, and bay leaves in a 12-quart stockpot.
  4. Add the carrots, leeks, yams, potatoes, onion, cauliflower, beets, green beans, mushrooms, and red lentils. Cover the stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened.
  5. Before serving, add the lemon juice to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  6. To serve, spoon some of the pumpkin pieces into wide soup bowls. Spoon the ragout over the pumpkin and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. The finishing touch is a generous sprinkling of plump peas over the top.

Note:

Butternut squashes make the perfect stand-in if ghost pumpkin is unavailable. Bake them at 400 degrees F. til tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away!

roasted-pumpkin-seedsRoasted Pumpkin Seeds

Clean the stringy flesh clinging to the seeds by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Put the seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Use your hands to mix the seeds and coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the tops lightly with salt and pepper and toss with a spatula. Put the pan in the oven and roast at 200 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. I let the seeds roast overnight.

MEXICAN FLAG GRACES THE HOLIDAY TABLE WITH PANACHE!

Chiles en NogadaCHILES EN NOGADA

This gorgeous dish was actually created in 1821 in Central Mexico to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, which occurs on September 16, 1810. I came across this recipe when a local library asked me to do a vegan demo on regional Mexican cooking to celebrate Mexican American Heritage month. At first glance, you’ll see the bright colors of the Mexican flag–red, white, and green.

The finished dish is actually stuffed poblano chiles with a sauce made of walnuts.  I think you’ll agree it makes a sensational presentation.

I found the recipe is so appealing and so festive looking, I felt it deserved a place at the holiday table from Thanksgiving through New Years. There’s just one little hitch that’s easily solved. Peaches, which are featured in the recipe, are no longer available in November or December, but sweet fruits like persimmons and pears stand in quite well.

Chiles en NogadaThe other challenge–the original recipe was quite fatty and contained meat, milk, and cheese. No problem–I replaced the meat with beans and created the filling from a composite of several recipes. I’ve added diced zucchini and fresh fruits like diced apples and Fuyu persimmons in place of the candied cactus.

Also, I’ve not battered and fried the stuffed chiles, because I wanted to offer a healthier, less fatty option.

My recipe contains no sugar, but uses the fruits as delicate sweetening. For the Walnut Sauce I use vanilla soymilk and non-dairy cheese made from pea protein to replace the traditional dairy products.

The dish is said to have been created by Puebla nuns for a visiting dignitary, emperor Augustin de Iturbide, a Mexican military chieftain who was instrumental in the Mexican independence movement.

That man didn’t realize how fortunate he was. Chiles en Nogada was not a quick and easy dish to make because it has several components that each require special attention. One recipe I encountered contains 40 different ingredients! Don’t worry, it’s not this one!

In those historic days, there no blenders. To make the creamy Walnut Sauce, they had to use a grinding stone called mano and metate that works like our mortar and pestle.

I’ve created a simplified version of the recipe, but it still involves 3 components–charring the chiles on the stovetop and peeling them, making the filling, and blending the sauce.

Once all the chiles are charred and cleaned and the fruits and vegetables are chopped, the recipe comes together quickly and can be prepared in stages.

For guests who are not fond of chiles, here’s an alternative presentation. Instead of stuffing Chiles en Nogada Nakedthe chiles, I used them as a border surrounding the filling. That way, guests at the buffet table can simply take a helping of filling and side-step the chiles. The topping is slivered almonds.

Don’t side-step the sauce, though. It’s delicious! Just serve it on the side.

 Chiles en Nogada

CHILES EN NOGADA

Yield: 8 servings

8 fresh poblano peppers

FillingChiles en Nogada

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 to 4 tablespoons water

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

1 bay leaf

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground cloves

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium apple, cored, and diced

1 firm fresh peach, persimmon, or pear, cored and diced

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup sliced or slivered toasted almonds

Chiles en NogadaSauce

3 cups vanilla soymilk or plain soymilk with 2 teaspoons organic sugar          added

2 cups walnuts

3/4 cup non-dairy shredded mozzarella

Pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

8 large romaine lettuce leaves

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds or 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

4 green onions, green part only, chopped

  1. Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  2. TO PREPARE THE CHILES, put the poblano peppers directly over a gas flame, using several burners simultaneously. Working with long-handled tongs, turn the peppers frequently until blistered and blackened on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Put the blackened peppers into a bag or wrap them in a towel and set aside for about 5 to 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Alternatively, plunge the blackened peppers into a bowl of water. Rub off the skins under running water to clean the charred chiles.
  3. Carefully cut a vertical slit in each chile and cut out and discard the core and any stray seeds. Arrange the chiles on the baking sheet and set aside.
  4. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the onion, garlic, and water in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the onions and prevent burning.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes, zucchini, fresh tomato, bay leaf, salt, cinnamon, cumin, and cloves and cook about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the black beans, apple, peach, raisins, and almonds and cook about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the fruits are just softened.
  7. Open the slits in the chiles and spoon a generous portion of filling into each of them, filling them fully. Close the slits, enclosing the filling completely. Put the chiles in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes to warm through.
  8. TO PREPARE THE SAUCE, put the soymilk, walnuts, mozzarella, salt, and pepper in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.
  9. TO SERVE, line each person’s dish with a lettuce leaf. Put one stuffed poblano on each dish and spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the top and sides, coating each one completely. Garnish with a generous sprinkle of pomegranate seeds or chopped red bell pepper and green onions.