Thursday, September 29, 2011


Best Blog Tips

Grown-Up Nanaimo Bars
I'd like to introduce you to a dessert recipe in my new book World Vegan Feast (scroll down the extreme right hand column of the page for updates on other places to buy my book online, in several countries) , a no-bake cookie bar (or square) with three layers: a chocolate-coconut crumb base, a sweet vanilla custard-flavored filling, and a chocolate top layer.

If you are Canadian, or live near the Canadian border, you'll know about the sweet gooey treat, Nanaimo Bars, which originated in the 1950's in the city of Nanaimo, just an hour south of where I live, on Vancouver Island (and where celebs Diana Krall and Kim Cattrall were born!). They are a wildly popular item in coffee bars and on dessert tables during the Christmas holidays.

As popular legend has it, a local housewife submitted the recipe to a magazine under the name "Nanaimo Bars" for a recipe contest. Her recipe won, giving it substantial publicity. It made its way throughout the province's communities. The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe "Nanaimo Bars" appears in a publication entitled "His/Hers Favorite Recipes", Compiled by the Women's Association of the Brechin United Church, in 1957.

Now there are many variations, including mint, mocha, and peanut butter. In Nanaimo, Mon Petit Choux on 120 Commercial Street (a great organic cafe/bakery) offers a light organic version with a French flair (not sure if it's vegan), and the Blue Jewel Bakery (at 3018 Ross Rd) and Tea Leaf Specialty Teas Cafe (at 13B Commercial St) offer vegan/gluten-free versions. (Oh, and if you aren't vegan and you like that sort of thing, you can get a deep-fried version at the funky Pirate Chips [at 1 commercial]!)

 A view of Nanaimo harbour and marina
Whatever the origin, they are extremely popular, but I have always found them too sweet. For years I have been meaning to make veganized, "grown-up" Nanaimo Bars, and I finally got around to it! The "secret ingredients" in the base give the bars a slightly bitter edge and extra crunch that counteracts the sweetness, as well as adding more fiber. A dollop of liqueur in the filling and the dark chocolate ganache topping adds sophistication. And since my filling contains only 1/4 of the usual "butter" called for (Earth Balance in this version, of course!), the whole recipe is lower in fat and calories than the original,  and the flavor is far less cloying.

(BTW,I compared my recipe with an ordinary Nanaimo bar and mine have less sugar, less fat, NO cholesterol, and twice as much fiber and protein, but they never fail to please!)

I hope you'll give it a try...Cheers!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Best Blog Tips

My Almond Cream Whipped Topping on the Lemon Tiramisu from my book, World Vegan Feast.
For many years (like most vegans, I suspect) I tried to make a tofu whipped cream that I really liked.  I finally came up with a version that was acceptable, but it was always evident that it was tofu.  While developing recipes for my subscription newsletter, The Vegan Feast (it ran for 5 years but I am no longer producing it), I developed a delicious, light, clean-tasting, not-too-sweet whipped topping made mostly from almond milk, and it remains my favorite still. ( I prefer not to use whipped coconut milk, which feels too heavy for my taste and is full of saturated fat.)

I tried making it with commercial almond milk, but it just didn't have the fine taste and the body of that made with homemade almond milk.  However, that's not really a deterrent because nut milk is really easy and relatively quick to make.  In fact, the whipped topping is very easy to make, especially if you use a microwave to do the cooked part. (Scared of microwave ovens?  No need to be-- here's some info I've collected and here's an article from The Sierra Club. And, in the book "Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen", author Kate Heyhoe tells us that microwaves can save up to 80% energy compared to doing the same tasks made on the stovetop or in a conventional oven-- so it makes sense to use it for little tasks like heating a cornstarch mixture.)

I'm sharing the recipe with you below (after some photos of the topping used on some yummy desserts), and I hope you'll enjoy it!

More desserts heaped with this delicious (and fairly low-fat) homemade vegan whipped topping:

On Scottish Trifle, from my book, World Vegan Feast.
On a Blueberry Shortcake

On  Mango Trifle with Indian Spices, from my book, World Vegan Feast.
In Tiramisu from World Vegan Feast

On a peach shortcake
Troubleshooting: This cream is not as stiff as whipped cream and cannot be used for an icing. But, as you can see from the pictures, it is whipped enough for topping a shortcake or pudding or fruit. 1.) You need to follow the directions exactly, 2.) use the homemade almond milk-- don't try using commercial almond milk beverage; it's not creamy enough-- and 3.) make sure that the agar powder is cooked properly (the microwave method works best, IMO). It MUST be translucent (not white). 4) Also, do not substitute agar flakes for powder-- you would need to use 6 times more flakes than powder and flakes must to be cooked longer. 5.) Chill for AT LEAST 3 hours. That's all I can think of-- I've made it many, many times with no problem.

Printable Recipe


Makes about 2 cups, GF (Recipe from my book, World Vegan Feast.)
This is my all-purpose whipped topping – rich, creamy, and light, with a lovely, subtle almond flavor. It can be the perfect shortcake topping when made with a little less agar powder (1/2 teaspoon) because traditionally, the cream for shortcakes is not whipped to stiff peaks, but left soft. PS: This topping is NOT stiff enough to use for a cake icing!

For best results, make the topping at least 4 to 6 hours before serving, but it can be made several days ahead of time. (The recipe is easily doubled.)

1 cup blanched, slivered raw almonds
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons unbleached organic sugar (light-colored)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (you can choose an organic one) or  wheat starch (which is GF) OR 3 tablespoons white rice flour
3/4 teaspoon agar powder NOTE: Do not use agar flakes (Agar powder is actually less expensive than flakes if you compare by weight!)
1/4 cup firm silken tofu (NOTE: if you prefer to leave this out, use 1 tsp. agar powder instead of 3/4 tsp.)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1.) To make the Almond Milk (this just takes a few minutes):
In a blender, combine the almonds and hot water and blend until very smooth. Be patient and let it run for several minutes. Strain the resulting almond milk through a cheesecloth-lined colander over a clean pot, measuring pitcher or bowl. Use 2 layers of fine cheesecloth from a fabric store (or use a nut milk bag). Gather the cheesecloth up to make a “bag” and twist and squeeze the “bag” to squeeze out as much of the almond milk as possible. You can use the almond meal for a facial scrub. NOTE: Do NOT substitute commercial almond milk beverage for the homemade almond milk-- the recipe will not work with the commercial stuff.

2.) In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the almond milk with the sugar, agar and cornstarch. Stir the mixture over medium heat until thickened and translucent. Or use the...
Microwave Option: Mix in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl (with room for the mixture to rise up) and cook 30 seconds on 100% power (default setting), whisk and repeat 3 more times or until thickened and translucent. (See note about microwave cooking in the text above the recipe.)

3.) In the blender, combine 1 cup more of the almond milk, the silken tofu, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract, if using. Scrape the cooked mixture into the blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for about 1 hour, then beat the mixture briefly so that it is creamy. Chill again for at least 3 hours.

Nutrition Facts:
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup): 133.4 calories; 58% calories from fat; 9.3g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 47.3mg sodium; 149.0mg potassium; 9.7g carbohydrates; 2.0g fiber; 4.2g sugar; 7.7g net carbs; 4.6g protein; 3.0 points.

Enjoy on your favorite desserts!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Best Blog Tips
Seitan Steak au Poivre

This is a French steak dinner for vegans! It's a simple but elegant menu from my new book "World Vegan Feast" and, though it was meant for a "Father's Day" menu, it makes a marvelous special occasion menu any time of the year, especially with a bottle of vegan red wine!.

Vegan “Steak Dinner” Menu:
Seitan Steak au Poivre
Oven-Fried "Patate Frite"
Green Salad with a simple vinaigrette
Chocolate-Hazelnut Praline Lava Cakes (with your favorite non-dairy vanilla ice cream)

The main dish, a French pepper steak, utilizes my homemade seitan steak recipe, which is also provided in the book. (You can make a batch of 16 and freeze the remaining steaks for future meals.) I've worked and re-worked my seitan recipes over the years to improve upon taste and texture, and this is one of our favorite "beefy" seitan recipes. It's easy to make and versatile, as it can be used for not only steaks, but roasts, stews and kebabs.

The "steaks" before cooking

The "steaks" after cooking, ready to use in a recipe or to freeze for future use.

The "steaks" coated with the pepper mixture before browning.

This dish is a successful vegan version of a French classic. It’s quick to make and quite impressive. I serve it with a simple green salad and the traditional “patate frite”, but I oven-fry the potatoes (directions in the book). In the interests of keeping fat even further to a minimum, I tried the wine glaze without the Earth Balance, but it just didn’t have the glossiness and richness that’s needed. It’s worth it for a treat now and then! However, I did use far less than the butter called for in classic recipes. (The seitan steaks are low in fat to begin with.)

After such a delicious main course, one must serve an elegant and equally impressive dessert. Chocolate-Hazelnut Praline Lava Cakes are incredibly decadent and moist individual chocolate cakes.  They have a soft center of melted hazelnut praline filling that erupts from the cakes when you dig into them. Originally, “lava cakes” were French egg-based, flourless cakes that formed a molten center when the cakes were deliberately under-baked. More often than not, these days (due to concerns about under-cooked eggs) a rich cake batter containing flour is used and a frozen chocolate mixture is placed between layers of batter before baking. This is the type that I started with to make my original all-chocolate vegan version. My batter has very little fat in it, yet it is rich, moist, tender, and dark. The hazelnut praline filling contrasts perfectly with the dark chocolate cake, and the result seems rich enough that half a cake is plenty for one serving, especially when served with a scoop of your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream on top of or alongside.

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Best Blog Tips   
I have a recipe for you at the end of this post-- you're going to love it! Sparkling Peach Sorbet with fresh-picked blackberries from our backyard.

The Fab3, VidaVeganCon founders and organizers giving their welcome address
 — Janessa Philemon-KerpJess Scone and Michelle Truty

VidaveganCon Sugar Beet Sponsor, VegNews, Rep Colleen Holland

It's taken me a long time to process the VidaVeganCon and I'm having difficulty writing about it-- partly, it was the "overwhelmed" factor (I know what you mean, Susan!) and partly it was just having company on and off for 2 weeks! (Wonderful company, my family, my loved ones-- my daughters and grandchildren, stepson, cousins! Loved having them here, miss them dreadfully, but didn't get much blogging, writing or even thinking done!)  But, I will plunge in, finally... 

I had a leisurely train ride from Vancouver to Portland on the Amtrak train and arrived Thursday afternoon to be plunged into the relative whirlwind of VidaveganCon (I do live on a small, quiet island, after all). My good friend Julie Hasson, the wonderful chef, author (of "Vegan Diner", and Portland's Native Bowl food cart co-owner, picked me up and whisked me off to a large brew pub for a vegan quinoa bowl that was filling, healthful and tasty, but couldn't rival Native Bowl's! Then we went to Vendetta for the casual "Meet-and-Greet" in the back patio, where I met the 3 brilliant ladies who launched (forget "ladies that lunched"!) VidaVeganCon, was practically incoherent meeting Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero for the first time, and met Dynise Blacavage (author of "Urban vegan") for the first time.  It is a bit of a blur with all the new faces!

Julie's husband Jay met us there just as we prepared to troop off to enjoy a sneak preview of the new documentary film "Vegucated". The charming and funny director, Marissa Miller Wolfson, introduced the film and fielded questions afterwards. I thought it was a great little film.  It featured 3 ordinary people who agreed to go vegan for 6 weeks and knew very little about what they were letting themselves in for. The situations and difficulties they faced were everyday-real-- no sugar-coating or romanticizing. I was happy about that because some folks make it sound just too easy, and for most people it's not.  They may have uncooperative family members to deal with, a big learning curve when it comes to nutrition, cooking, finding ingredients, etc., the temptation to just throw the whole thing over and revert back to familiar patterns.  In the end,  it was seeing how farm animals (even on organic farms) are treated that reinforced the determination of our 3 brave subjects (and the 2 children of one of them).  I won't say any more-- see it if you can!

Julie and Jay, despite the demands of busy lives, hosted me in their home for the whole weekend and it was great to catch up with them, their kids, and their dog Bruno (possibly the cutest dog in the world!).  And I got to meet the new dog in the family, daughter Syd's little Schnauzer puppy, Zelda, too.



On Friday, I helped a bit in the kitchen for the filming of Urban Vegan Dynise Balcavage cooking for a segment of EverydaydishTV.  She always looks so glamorous, even in the kitchen, but she's a down-to-earth gal!

Later there was the VegNews-sponsored Champagne & Cupcake reception in the Columbia Falls Ballroom at the University Place Hotel where the VVC was taking place. Here we saw the scope of the conference-- so many vegan bloggers all in one room!  (And so young, so many tatoos!  My granddaughter would have felt quite at home there.)  It was quite exciting, even breath-taking. I kept seeing people (mostly women) who looked so familiar... and then I would see the name tag and it would not be anyone I had ever met before, but someone who's words and recipes I had read and enjoyed.

Vegan cupcakes to live for!

I could go on for hours, but that's just not possible (and you'd probably go to sleep!) So here are some of the highlights for me:

1.) Meeting again with vegan buddies whom I very seldom get to see in person:
Besides my friend Julie Hasson:
Susan Voisin, the extraordinary woman behind fatfreevegan
Gail Davis of she's a bundle of vegan energy and a good friend to vegan authors and entrepreneurs!
Fran Costigan, NYC vegan pastry chef extraordinaire
Kittee Berns, a vegan force of nature!

 Me, Fran Costigan, Dynise Balcavage, Julie Hasson and Bianca Phillips

 Having lunch at Native Bowl-- Julie(with Zelda), Dynise, Me, Fran

 As Dynise says: "4 VFF in LBD"--At the Galarama Saturday night (Dynise and Julie in the back, Gail and me in front)

 Susan Voisin with Gail Davis-- 2 wonderful vegan women!

 Kittee Berns and Joanna Vaught

 Ginny Messina with Julie and Susan Voisin

2.) Meeting new friends and famous vegans! (In no particular order)
Ginny Messina
Hannah Kaminsky
Jasmin Singer
Isa Moscowitz
Terry Romero
Sarah Matheny
Dynise Balcavage
Bianca Phillips
Christy Morgan
Allison Rivers Samson
Marti Mïllër Häll
Shaun Haney
Joanna Vaught
Amey Mathews
Wendy Gabbe Day
Gena Hamshaw
Grant Butler
Gabrielle Pope
Joni Marie Newman
Ryan Patey
Mo Martin
John McDevitt
Kelly Peloza
Michelle Schwegmann
Amber Shea Ford
ChicaVegan-- a vegan Peruvian chef from Pacha Vegan Peruvian Cuisine in Hollywood
and, of course, the valiant VVC organizers:
Jess Scone
Michelle Truty
Janessa Philemon-Kerp

 Amey Mathews and Joanna Vaught

 Julie with Amey Mathews and Joanna Vaught

3.) Being on the Publishing Panel with Isa Moscowitz, Terry Romero, Ryan Patey, Julie Hasson and Joni Marie Newman

(I think we trampled on some rather romantic dreams of budding authors when we all told them that we hadn't quit our day jobs!)

#4) Being on the Nutrition Panel with the likes of Ginny Messina, Gena Hemshaw, Wendy Gabbe Day and Grant Butler!

#5) Going out to an authentic, inexpensive Mexican restaurant (Taqueria Los Gorditos) and being able to choose from a VEGAN menu, with vegan chorizo, vegan sour cream, vegan Daiya cheese, and vegan SoyCurls!

#6) Dynise Balcavage's "Extreme Food Writing Makeover" (Disclaimer-- this blog post is not an example of what I have learned from her-- I'm too tired.)  I promise to censor my exclamation marks.  Dynise packed SO much information in that short period.  

Best of all, It was an amazing experience and very uplifting to see and hear and experience all that passion, dedication, expertise, creativity, energy, entrepreneurship, humor, and compassion all in one room!

 The 3 tired organizers, Jess, Michelle and Vanessa, ready to collapse as we all took our leave!


Okay-- here's that recipe I promised you!  Made it for a company dinner on the weekend.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 cups: 12 servings
Elegant, light and fresh-tasting, this sorbet makes peach season worth waiting for. The Instant Clear-jel (or xanthan gum) makes the sorbet very creamy and prevents it from getting rock-hard in the freezer.

You will need a home ice cream maker for this recipe. If you don’t have an electric version, an inexpensive hand-cranked version (the type that uses a metal cylinder which is kept frozen in the freezer until used), such as the Donvier, works just fine (and you only have to turn the handle 3 or 4 times every few minutes).

2 1/2 cups fresh ripe peaches, peeled and cut-up (about 6 medium peaches) (or 16 oz. frozen unsweetened peaches, almost thawed)
1 cup sparkling apple or pear juice, or sparkling wine (can be non-alcoholic), or hard or dry peach, pear or apple cider
1 cup water
3/4-1 cup light unbleached organic sugar (I used 1 cup)
(or use 6-8 tablespoons sugar, plus 3-4 tablespoons agave nectar)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Instant Clear-Jel, OR 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan gum or Guar gum

1 1/2 teaspoons grated organic orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons almond liqueur (such as Amaretto), rum, Grand Marnier or peach brandy (optional)

Place the peaches, sparkling wine, juice, or cider, and water into the blender container along with the sugar, lemon juice and Instant Clear-Jel. Add the optional orange zest and liqueur, if desired.

Puree the whole mixture in the blender until very smooth. Chill the mixture, then freeze it according to directions for your machine. Pack the frozen mixture into freezer contains and freeze for several hours before serving.

Serving Suggestions:
For a “Peach Melba” frozen dessert, top each serving with thawed frozen raspberries.

For a delightful color contrast, serve the sorbet with fresh, ripe blackberries.

Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving): 84 calories; 1% calories from fat; 0.13g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1.6 mg sodium; 20.0g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 15.7g sugar; 0.3g protein.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Best Blog Tips

Dinner with Grilled Peach Salad, baguettes, a vegan cheesey spread and Vegan Liverwurst from my book "World Vegan Feast".

I wish this could be a long and leisurely post, since it has been 2 weeks since I last posted!  I was in Portland at the VidaVeganCon (1st Vegan Bloggers' Conference-- more about that great event next time!) for almost a week, and then had daughters and grandchildren visiting as soon as I got home, so not much time for experimenting or writing.

My two younger daughters: Sarah on the L, with her youngest daughter, and Justine on the R, with her son, at the Denman Is. Blackberry Faire on Sunday.

I did lots of cooking, but quick things and mostly dishes that I know well and don't have to think much about! Salads were a staple, and we were finally able to pick something besides kale and chard out of the garden, since the weather has decided to be hot and sunny at last.

The very 1st tomato from out garden, with a colander-full of fresh basil from the pots on our back deck.

Cherry tomatoes, both red and black, are coming now, along with yellow pattypan squash.

A salad that we enjoyed for dinner one night was simply fresh, crispy lettuce leaves, topped with grilled peach slices, toasted walnuts (I would have used pecans if I had had some in the house) and fresh blueberries, with a vegan "Blue Cheese" dressing.  I pitted and cut the washed peaches in half and grilled them on my indoor grill after brushing the cut sides with fig balsamic vinegar and spraying with olive oil from a spray pump.  I used the highest ("sear") setting and they cooked very quickly.  Then I sliced each half into 4 slices and arranged them over the salad.  The Dressing recipe is below.  We thought the dressing contrasted very well with the peaches.

Printable Recipe

Yield: about 3 cups
I've been playing with this recipe for years. It's never going to be just like blue cheese dressing, but this is good! Try it on a classic Ruby grapefruit and avocado salad on baby organic greens-- it makes a great change from sweet dressings on a salad like that!

1 (12.3 oz.) box extra-firm SILKEN tofu, crumbled
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soymilk (or other nondairy milk)
12 little cubes white Chinese fermented beancurd, gently rinsed (see Cooking Tips below for info and where to buy)
3 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
2 1/2 Tbs tahini
4 tsp cider vinegar
1 Tbs light miso
1/2 tsp salt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp white pepper

Blend everything in a blender (or with an immersion blender) until smooth, scrape into a covered jar, and refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 2 Tbs): 26.3 calories; 49% calories from fat; 1.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 235.6mg sodium; 41.7mg potassium; 1.5g carbohydrates; 0.2g fiber; 0.3g sugar; 1.3g net carbs; 2.0g protein; 0.6 points.

Cooking Tips
To achieve the full "punch" in this dressing you need Chinese fermented or preserved bean curd (white doufu-ru) for it. This is a very inexpensive Chinese condiment that has a kind of "bleu cheese" flavor . (The cubes are very strong-tasting when eaten by themselves, which you aren't meant to do.)

It comes in little jars (you can see little white cubes of tofu in a clear liquid) and you can get it in Asian stores or the Asian section of large supermarkets (I have never NOT been able to find it in a Chinese store, but I'm having a hard time finding it online! It keeps forever in the fridge, so you can get a few jars when you find it, if you like this dressing.

There are several varieties of this product and may be referred to by different names, but the jar is clear glass and you can see little white cubes in an almost clear liquid. If the liquid is reddish, it's got chile in it (you can get this kind on amazon-- you could try gently rinsing the chili brine off of it if that's the only kind you can get). You want the kind with just soybeans, salt, water and wine, but if all you can find is the one with sesame oil in it, that will do.  SEE MORE ABOUT THIS PRODUCT AT THIS POST.


Another salad that we enjoyed was made totally spur-of-the-moment, after perusing the inside of my freezer for inspiration.  I seized upon a package of Gardein  breaded "chickn" tenders, placed some in the oven on a tray to brown, while I decided on the dressing.  I decided to do "traditional" Southern and opted for a "Honey-Mustard" one, but using agave nectar for the honey.  The crispy lettuce leaves were topped with diced cucumber, julienned carrots and garden-fresh tomatoes.  I lay the crispy vegan "chickn" tenders on top of the salad and drizzled it with the Dressing (recipe below).  Didn't take us long to devour! (PS: You could use my homemade "Breast of Tofu", instead of the "tenders".)

Vegan "Fried Chickn" Salad with Agave-Mustard Dressing
Printable Recipe

Makes about 7/8 cup

1/2 cup vegan reduced-fat mayonnaise (such as Bryanna's Eggless Low-Fat Mayonnaise or Reduced-Fat Vegenaise)
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or bottled organic lemon juice)

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, agave nectar and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until using.

  Nutrition Facts (using Reduced-Fat Vegenaise): 
 Nutrition (per tablespoon): 31.3 calories; 77% calories from fat; 3.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 78.3mg sodium; 5.5mg potassium; 2.0g carbohydrates; 0.1g fiber; 1.1g sugar; 1.9g net carbs; 0.1g protein; 0.9 points.

  Nutrition Facts (using my homemade low-fat mayo are as follows:
Nutrition (per tablespoon): 18.6 calories; 54% calories from fat; 1.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 79.9mg sodium; 5.5mg potassium; 2.1g carbohydrates; 0.1g fiber; 1.1g sugar; 2.0g net carbs; 0.3g protein; 0.4 points.

Ringo and Sadie waiting for their dinner.
Until the next post-- soon, I promise-- Enjoy!