ANYONE READY FOR DESSERT?

CINNAMON PEANUT BUTTER TORTE

You’ve planned a delicious appetizer for your holiday gathering and decided the entrée will be a savory dish–a cherished old family favorite. You’ve added a few well-loved side dishes and everyone’s favorite roasted potatoes. Now, what to do for an awesome dessert that doesn’t take too much fussing, yet looks sensational?

Here’s what I noticed over the years after preparing and serving many a holiday dinner: The appetizers and entrée may be exceptional, and perhaps even lavish, but most likely it’s the dessert that everyone remembers. And it’s no surprise–sweet memories linger longer.

If you loved peanut butter since you were a kid and could never get enough of it, you’ll find this well-endowed peanut butter torte easy to ravish. This torte is deliriously rich in flavor, densely packed with peanut butter, and perfectly accented with cinnamon to bring out its sweetness. The list of ingredients in this dessert relies mostly on simple, whole foods, yet, the dessert gives the impression of a much more complex preparation.

The bonus for the host is that this tantalizing treat can be prepared several days ahead and left in the freezer until shortly before serving. That’s such a bonus for a crazy-busy holiday season when you really don’t have lots of time to spend on each course. I consider it a blessing when I can make the dessert well ahead and tuck it out of site until serving time.

CINNAMON PEANUT BUTTER TORTE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Crust

1 1/2 cups whole almonds

1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries

4 to 5 tablespoons water

 

Filling

1 1/3 cups pitted dates, snipped in half

1 cup smooth or chunky unsalted peanut butter

3/4 cup well-mashed firm tofu

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/4 cup organic sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Garnish

2 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries

1 tablespoon coarsely ground dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

6 to 8 sprigs fresh min

TO MAKE THE CRUST, 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 off the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan and set aside.

Put the almonds into the food processor and process until they become a coarse, slightly chunky meal.

Add the cranberries and water and pulse and process until the cranberries are broken down into tiny bits and the mixture holds together when gently pressed. You may have to stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the crust mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and press the mixture firmly with the back of a spoon to distribute it evenly. Set aside and wash and dry the work bowl.

TO MAKE THE FILLING, put the dates, peanut butter, tofu, soy milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in the food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Transfer the filling to the springform pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread the filling evenly over the crust.

Sprinkle the cranberries and peanuts over top and gently press them into the surface. If desired, sprinkle them in a design of your choosing. Freeze the torte until firm, about 8 to 12 hours. Remove it from the freezer about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the torte. Place the pan on a large serving platter. Carefully lift off the collar. Decorate the platter with the mint and cut the torte into wedges.

 

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A HOMESPUN DESSERT–DELICIOUS AND FESTIVE!!!

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

To some, an old-fashioned bread pudding may not seem special enough to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. But they haven’t tasted THIS delicious bread pudding. Admittedly, it’s still a simple dessert, but with the addition of fresh cranberries and fresh pears, spiced to the max and sweetened just right to take the tart edge off the cranberries, it will taste just as elegant as any fussy dessert.

Add a ladle full of rich, creamy Crème Anglaise to each serving and who wouldn’t love this dessert that’s a bit old-fashioned, but never outdated.

And with plenty of servings for a large gathering, this colorful, homespun dessert delivers Vegan Holidays lowrespleasing bursts of juicy, divinely sweet and tart flavors with each delicious spoonful. Credit the blend of tasty fruits that are so special to this cold-weather season. Many people think of bread pudding as comfort food–I call it just plain delicious! And it just so happens to be one of the tasty recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook, a cookbook packed with autumn and winter recipes perfect to carry you through the whole holiday season.

This dessert is a good keeper, so you can actually prepare it as much as two days ahead and keep it refrigerated until shortly before you’re ready to serve.

To spoil your guests completely, bring the bread pudding to room temperature and gently warm in a 350-degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Warming the bread pudding has a magical way of elevating the fruity flavors.

If you take the bread pudding directly from the refrigerator, put it in a cold oven. Set the temperature at 350 degrees F. and check the pudding in 15 to 20 minutes to see if it’s gently warmed through. ALTERNATIVELY, you can simply serve the desert at room temperature.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

 Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Bread Pudding

3/4 cup whole blanched hazelnuts or slivered almonds (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)

8 slices whole wheat bread

1 pound fresh cranberries

3 large Bosc or Anjou pears, cored, and sliced

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticksHazelnut Cranberry Bread Pudding

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup vanilla or plain soymilk

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Crème Anglaise

2 cups unsweetened soymilk

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

Fresh mint sprigs

TO MAKE THE BREAD PUDDING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingPour the hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break them into coarse pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds, measure them and set aside.

Break the bread into 1-inch pieces and put them in a very large bowl. Add the cranberries and pears.

Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes to create a syrup. Let cool and add it to the bread mixture.

Add the raisins, soymilk, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.

Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and stir the mixture to break up the cranberries. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts, cover with the foil, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

TO MAKE THE CRÈME ANGLAISE, combine the soymilk, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and decrease the heat to medium.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering soymilk mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Stir gently before using. Tightly covered and refrigerated, Crème Anglaise will keep for 5 days. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

TO SERVE, spoon the bread pudding into dessert dishes and ladle a generous spoonful of the Crème Anglaise over each serving. The finishing touch is a small sprig of mint to make it look extra special. Pass the remainder of the sauce at the table.

 

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.

SOUTHERN PECAN PIE–PERFECT FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Pecan Pie copyDOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Pecans are native to the American South, and you can bet those creative Southerners put them on the menu every chance they could find. Those delicious little pecans even made the South famous for its pecan pie, an irresistible dessert that makes ex-pat Southerns very homesick.

Many Southern families have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even some handed down from grandma’s or great-grandma’s secret recipe. Years ago, family recipes were so cherished many were kept secret.

I have great respect for those delicious heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holidays. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. But I must admit that veganizing the recipe was one heck of a challenge.

My first 8 attempts–yes, it actually took 9 tries to get it right–came out too runny or totally soupy. It was maddening and totally frustrating, but I was one determined gal. The goal was to find a way to thicken and bind the ingredients, as eggs would do in the traditional recipe. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly, and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no! As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.

NutGourmet cover copyTaking the place of the eggs in my successful recipe is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture. The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal. The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

There are many ways to arrange the pecans on the top. Some people simply sprinkle broken pieces over the filling, but I wanted a pecan pie that was pretty darned eye appealing. If you have the time, start by sorting out beautiful pecan halves of similar sizes for the topping. Then arrange them side-by-side in concentric rings beginning in the center of the pie.

At serving time, make way for those wild and crazy pecan lovers. There’s bound to be a mad scramble for a piece of pie!

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flourPecan Pie copy
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons cold water

Pecan Filling
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup regular soymilk
1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

5 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 1/4 cups pecan halves

  1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
  4. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.
  5. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  6. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
  7. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.
  8. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

TARTS FOR DESSERT? YOU BET!!!

Raw Gingerbread Tartlet1 LR 1500px RAW GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE TARTS

oliverioPlant-fueled since 2011, Annie Oliverio writes, runs, and cooks in the heart of Cattle Country. An enthusiastic “home chef,” Annie started her blog, An Unrefined Vegan, to share her passion for creating cruelty-free, unprocessed, whole food recipes that are delicious, healthful, and simple to prepare. Annie’s dishes contain little or no oil and her desserts are sweetened with fruit, dates, or stevia. It’s all about nurturing body, brain, and conscience.

Through her project, Virtual Vegan Potluck, she invites both vegan and non-vegan bloggers to share a twice-yearly online potluck, demonstrating how food can bring people together. Annie is currently writing and photographing her first cookbook, crave/eat/heal.

She has been fortunate to have as participants, cookbook authors Kathy Hester, Robin Robertson, Natalie Slater, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Bryanna Clark Grogan. Read more about that event on her website, Virtual Vegan Potluck. Annie is also a recipe contributor to One Green Planet and a featured chef on Raw Food Recipes.

 RAW GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE TARTS

 Makes 9

Crust:
1/2 cup pecans

1 tbsp. crystallized ginger
1 tbsp. cacao or cocoa powderRaw Gingerbread Tartlet3 750px LR
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 dates, chopped
1 tsp. dried ginger
1 tbsp. water

Chocolate layer:
4 tbsp. low-fat coconut milk
1 tbsp. cacao or cocoa powder
1 tsp. agave nectar
4 tbsp. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

Filling:
1 banana, cut into chunks
1 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours, drained & rinsed
1/8 cup molasses
3 tbsp. low-fat coconut milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
pinch ground cloves

~18 thin strips of crystallized ginger, for decoration
9 whole pecans, for decoration

Make the crust:
Have a 12-cup muffin pan at the ready.

In a food processor, combine the pecans, ginger, cacao powder, chia seeds, coconut flakes, dates, and dried ginger. Process until the nuts and dates are broken down into very small pieces. Add the water and process until the mixture starts to come together. The mixture should stick together when pinched.

Put 1 tbsp. of the mixture into each of 9 muffin cups. (You could probably eke out 10…) Press the crust firmly and uniformly down into each tin. Set aside while you prepare the chocolate layer.

Make the chocolate layer:
In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and melt over medium heat. This does not take long – so watch carefully so you don’t burn the chocolate. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then remove from the heat. Carefully pour the chocolate over the crust. Tap and tip the pan so that the chocolate completely coats the crusts. Place pan in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling:
In a high-speed blender, combine the banana, cashews, molasses, coconut milk, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and spices and process until very smooth. You’ll need to tamp it down a few times to get a really smooth mixture. You want it silky with no little chunks of cashews. You can do this in a food processor, but it takes a long time and you won’t get that silky smoothness.

Once the filling is smooth, scrape it into a small bowl. This just makes working with it a little easier. Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and divide the filling between the cups. Place two strips of crystallized ginger on each tart and gently press in one pecan per tart. Refrigerate for several hours.

Pecan Lovers Scramble for a Piece of Pie!

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Because pecans are native to the American South, they frequently turn up as pecan pie on Southern dessert menus in homes and restaurants. And many home cooks have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even one handed down from grandma’s cherished blend of pecans, sugar, and spices. pecan downhomeI have great respect for those heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holiday season. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. Taking the place of the eggs that usually bind the saucy ingredients together is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture.

The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal.

So when is it the perfect time to serve pecan pie? All throughout the holiday season and any time you can buy gorgeous pecans. The new crop of nuts are harvested in early autumn, around September, so they’re fresh and flavorful. My family tradition is bringing a pecan pie to the Thanksgiving table along with the traditional pumpkin pie.

Converting a conventional recipe to a vegan version can often be an easy swap-out of ingredients. Sometimes, though, it’s just a bear of a task. Pecan pie was my biggest challenge and it took 9 tries with different methods to get the pie to bind together. Many of the versions ended up as too soupy. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no. As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.NGcover8 copy 2

The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

You can also create an irresistible, love-at-first-glance pecan pie by taking the time to sort out beautiful pecan halves for the topping and then arranging them side-by-side in concentric rings.

Down Home Pecan Pie

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

 

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup almond meal

2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1/2 cup organic canola oil

2 tablespoons cold water

 

Pecan Filling

1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

 

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine

1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

1/2 cup regular soymilk

1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

 

5 tablespoons flaxseeds

1 1/4 cups pecan halves

 

  1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  1. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  1. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
  1. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.
  1. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  1. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
  1. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.
  1. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

Vegan Porcupine For Dessert. Yum!

Polenta PorcupinePOLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

I’ve only encountered polenta in a savory form, usually served as a side dish. But I often wondered if it would be possible to turn it into a delicious, gluten-free dessert. And with the wonderful array of freshly dried fruits available throughout the season, I began to ponder how I could incorporate the two ideas–polenta and dried fruits.

Well, the best way to bring an idea into fruition is to just plunge in when the opportunity of time and need arises, and indeed it did.

When a friend invited me for dinner and asked me to bring dessert, she created that perfect momentum for a wildly  new experiment. I decided to make the dessert polenta with the dried fruits I had on hand. For color, I tossed in some carrots that I shredded on the coarse side of the grater. And for texture, I thought pine nuts might be a nice contribution.

To sweeten this little gem I prepared a simple date paste in the food processor. And to make the polenta a little more like a holiday dessert, I added cinnamon, cardamom, and a touch of cloves.

Porcupine moldAfter combining all the ingredients, I pressed the mixture into a large, shallow jello mold about 10 inches in diameter and spread it to the edges to avoid any holes and air spaces. Then I chilled it in the fridge and began to think about how I would garnish it. At that point, the porcupine idea hadn’t occurred.

Shortly before leaving for my friend’s house, I unmolded the polenta onto a huge platter that would fit the mold. I stared at it for a few minutes, pondering some sort of topping to bring it to life. And then that magic aha bell went off and I reached for the almonds.

I poked in a few of the almonds–it didn’t look like much, so I kept going until it took on that finished appearance. Don’t ask how I knew it was finished–I think we kitchen elves just know when something looks pleasing to the eye. The final touch was a flower or two from the garden and then, it was done!

It was a delicious surprise that also looked wonderfully enticing. When my friend asked what to call this dessert, I hesitated only a moment–and out popped the amusing name. Because of the bounty of fruits, small servings make this dessert go a long way. I cut the “pie” into thin wedges and on that day I squeezed 16 servings out of it.

Polenta PorcupinePOLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Fruit Mix

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup black raisins

1/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots

1/4 cup pine nuts

Date Paste

2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half and lightly packed

1/2 cup water

Polenta

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal

 

1/2 cup whole almonds

  1. Line a large, shallow mold, about 9 to 11 inches in diameter, or a 2-quart ring mold with plastic wrap large enough to drape over the sides and set aside.
  2. To make the fruit mix, combine the carrots, golden and black raisins, apricots, and pine nuts in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE DATE PASTE, put the dates in a food processor. With the machine running, add the water and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Measure 1 cup of the date paste and set it aside for the recipe. Save the remainder for another use.
  4. TO MAKE THE POLENTA, put the water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the cornmeal and return the mixture to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the reserved date paste and mix well with a wooden spoon to incorporate it thoroughly. The mixture will become very thick.
  7. Add the fruit mixture a little at a time, stirring continuously, until well mixed.
  8. Working quickly, spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and spread it to the edges. Let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  9. Before serving, invert the polenta mixture onto a large platter and remove the plastic wrap. Poke the tips of the almonds into the top surface, gently pressing them in just enough to secure them.

Note:

Commercially packaged pitted dates, may contain one or two date pits that have evaded the pitting machinery. To avoid damaging the food processor blade, use a kitchen scissors to snip the dates in half before adding them to the processor. The date paste makes about 1 1/3 cups.