Monday, September 30, 2013


Best Blog Tips

NOTE: The recipe has been updated to add the option of using agave nectar or maple syrup, or date puree instead of brown sugar.

I love using beans-- not only is savory dishes, but in desserts and salad dressings, and anywhere else that they add texture, flavor, protein, fiber, creaminess, etc..  If the beans can stand in for eggs or fat or flour, that's even better.

So, the other day I finally got around to trying the basic flour-less chickpea chocolate chip cookies that are all over the internet. There are small variations in the recipe, but, basically, the mix is 1 1/4 cups drained cooked or canned chickpeas in a food processor with 1/2 cup + 2 T. natural peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter), 2 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 cup packed soft brown sugar (some people use 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup), 1 tsp. baking powder (some use less), and a pinch salt, processed until smooth and mixed with 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

We were impressed by the cookies, but thought the flavor was a little flat and they didn't spread out enough for my liking. So, today I started playing around with the recipe (can't  help myself!) and here's what I came up with.  It's still a simple recipe, but we like the flavor and texture better in this version.

Homemade soy milk with both cookie versions.
Use natural peanut butter, not the sweetened, hydrogenated kind.
Make small cookies.
Let the cookies cool for several hours before serving (unless you like them a bit gooey!).

Printable Copy RECIPE UPDATED SEPT. 30, 2018

Makes about 22 cookies (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, no extracted oil)

NOTE: you can make bars or squares instead of cookies with this batter, by spreading the batter out on ONE parchment-lined 13 x 10-inch baking pan (with rim, like a jelly-roll pan).  Bake for 20 minutes  and allow to cool thoroughly on a rack before cutting into bars or squares.

1 cup rinsed and drained cooked or canned chickpeas (drain well and pat dry)           
1/2 cup natural peanut butter or other nut butter
3/4 cup soft, packed brown sugar OR date puree (see NOTE below)
OR use 1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 “flax egg” (see below)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
grated zest from 1 organic orange
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt      
1/2 cup dairy-free organic/fair trade chocolate chips (if you want to use less chocolate, use a dairy-free organic/fair trade chocolate bar, chopped small)

Add: 3 Tbs. organic/fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder to the processed batter AND add 1/2 cup chopped, lightly-toasted nuts of choice (roasted peanuts are good, but you can use walnuts, pecans almonds, etc.) by hand to the batter after scooping it into a bowl.
The orange zest and  chocolate chips are optional in this version.
**You could also add homemade vegan Peanut Butter Baking Chunks, recipe at this post, instead of chocolate chips and/or nuts.**

“FLAX EGGS”: In a blender mix 1 cup water and 1/4 cup golden flax seeds at high speed until white and fluffy and “gloppy”.  This makes 5 “flax eggs”.  1 “flax egg” = 1/4 cup of this mixture. The remaining mixture can be poured into a covered jar and refrigerated for about a week, or frozen in 1/4 cup portions for future use.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

In a food processor, mix the chickpeas, nut butter, sugar (or one of the syrups, or Date Puree), “flax egg”, vanilla, orange zest, baking powder and salt (and cocoa powder if you are making the chocolate/nut variation) until a smooth batter results. (If, for some reason, your batter does not look as thick as the picture, you can add about 1/2 cup of oatmeal and process again.)

With a spatula, scoop the batter into a mixing bowl.  Mix in the chocolate chips (and/or the nuts, if you are making the chocolate/nut variation) with a spoon, distributing them as evenly as possible through the batter.
Spoon small scoops of batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. (I used heaping 1/2 tablespoon measure.) I made about 22 cookies.  You can leave them the way they are, or flatten them down a little, depending on how thick you like them.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the bottom. Carefully lift them onto cooling racks and let them cool thoroughly before serving. ~~~~

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 86 calories, 37 calories from fat, 4.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 23.7mg sodium, 115.3mg potassium, 10.5g carbohydrates, 1.8g fiber, 4.8g sugar, 2.6g protein, 2.6 points.

NOTE: About using Date Puree instead of sugar (this is much cheaper than using date sugar)--
 The Date Puree can replace sugar using a 1:1 ratio, or it can be used in combination with a reduced amount of sugar in a recipe.
To make date puree, see this easy recipe:
Are dates really better than  sugar for diabetics or those with blood sugar issues?
Dates – are actually on the lower end of the GI. There are a variety of dates available and most of them have a GI of less than 55 (some with a significantly lower GI)." From:
(GI stands for Glycemic Index)
See this study:

Another Note: Just because dates have a lower glycemic load doesn't mean that you should eat them or use them in baking and cooking with abandon!


Saturday, September 21, 2013


Best Blog Tips

My father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina (photo below), was Peruvian, so I have "veganized" over 30 well-known Peruvian dishes-- several of them are in my last book, "World Vegan Feast"

The following recipe, from an earlier book of mine, "20 Minutes to Dinner", is loosely adapted from the well-known Peruvian dish, Arroz con Pato, which is very similar to the ubiquitous Spanish Arroz con Pollo, but without the tomatoes. It's also a little spicier, and I like the Peruvian addition of a dark beer as part of the liquid.

Peruvian food is unique and delicious-- a cultural mix of native Indian, Spanish, African, Italian, Chinese and, more recently, Japanese cooking.

(You can see photos of many of the Peruvian dishes I've "veganized" at this link-- and you don't need a Facebook account to see the photos!)

The affluent eat meat daily, but the poor eat a mostly vegetarian diet (except for the ubiquitous lard!) based on Peruvian staples: potatoes, peppers, peanuts, corn, squash, sweet potatoes, beans, and sometimes quinoa. (We were never served quinoa when we stayed in Peru for 3 months many years ago— only rice, which the Spanish introduced and which is served daily, even with potatoes!) If you are interested in the story of quinoa, the Inca "Mother Grain", which was banned by the Conquistadors, but is now making a “comeback”, here is an article to read.

PS: If you have heard that eating quinoa is hurting South American farmers, you might want to read this.

Peruvian cuisine is not only varied, but can be spicy. However, it's is not nearly as hot as Mexican (the Peruvian pepper sauce, ají, is usually served on the side).  A pepper used frequently in Peru is the “mirasol” (means “look at the sun” because of its yellow color). It is similar to the Caribbean “Scotch bonnet” pepper-- very hot. It is now much easier to obtain mirasol peppers and other Peruvian peppers and food staples in North America.

If you want to read more about Peruvian cooking (not vegetarian, though), read The Art of Peruvian Cuisine" by Tony Cussler. The introduction describes much of the international background to modern Peruvian cuisine.(There's also a Volume 2.)  Other books are "The Art Of South American Cooking" by Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, who was another Peruvian with an Italian mother, like my father, and "TheExotic Kitchens Of Peru" by Copeland Marks, which contains quite a bit of information on the Chinese and Japanese influence on modern Peruvian cooking.

Tony Cussler, writes  “When you sit down to a meal in Peru today, you may not know that you are experiencing the result of a fascinating evolution of foods and cultures. Many Peruvians themselves are only vaguely aware of the unique story of development and adaptation behind the bases of their favorite dishes.”

What I cook is a sort of "Novoandino/
New Peruvian"-style (the use of native ingredients, rescued recipes and innovative dishes), vegan-style.  

Here is an article about Peruvian cuisine :

NOTE: My loosely-adapted version of "Arroz con Pato" virtually omits the handfuls of fresh cilantro which are common in this dish, for the simple reason that my husband hates cilantro.  Add it, by all means, if you like it.

Printable Copy

Serves 6 (Can be GF and/or soy-free; can be fat-free)
From my book "20 Minutes to Dinner".            

NOTE: If you are not on a low fat regimen, you can sauté the 1st  four ingredients in olive oil with a bit of dark sesame oil (my substitute for lard), if you like.  Otherwise, proceed as per instructions.

1 large onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 T. minced fresh, pickled or canned hot peppers (such as aji amarillo, Peruvian yellow hot peppers-- it is sometimes available as a paste)
6 large cloves garlic, minced
2 T. minced fresh cilantro, or more if you really love the stuff! (I use Italian parsley instead because DH doesn’t like cilantro)
1 T. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups white basmati, or converted rice
2 c. dark beer, ale, or stout (can be dealcoholized) (See vegan beer, stout, ale directory here.)
1 cups boiling water with enough chicken-style vegan bouillon cubes, powder or paste for 3 cups broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
PROTEIN (Choose one): 
2 cans Chinese vegetarian "roast duck" (mun chai'ya) (also available in Asian grocery stores and some large supermarkets), rinsed, drained and cut into smaller chunks
2 cups reconstituted Soy Curls or commercial vegan "chicken" strips browned in a non-stick pan
2 cups seitan, or commercial savory baked tofu or tempeh, or other poultry substitute, cut into cubes and browned in a non-stick pan
1 can (or 1 1/2 cups cooked) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 lb. small whole small cremini (brown) mushrooms, browned
1 can (or 1 1/2 cups cooked) corn, drained

In a large heavy skillet or saute pan with a tight lid (can be non-stick), sprayed with oil from a pump sprayer, saute the onion, bell peppers, hot peppers, and garlic until the onion begins to brown a bit. Add water a squirt at a time to keep them from sticking, as needed. Add the cilantro, coriander, and cumin, and stir-fry for a minute. Add the raw rice and stir-fry briefly.  Pour in the beer and the hot water with the bouillon, and the peas, with pepper to taste, plus your Protein choice and any Optional addition you might be using.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Toss ingredients and taste for salt and pepper.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Best Blog Tips

This was a quick supper that I made a few nights ago-- no real recipes needed!  For the sandwich, I wanted to make a savory one using my new Slow Cooker Salted Caramel Pear Butter (it's so tasty that I'm trying to devise ways to use it other than on toast).  I had some Daiya Mozza Shreds in the freezer and also a chunk of frozen leftover homemade seitan "pork tenderloin".  So, here's what I did:

The ingredients: Bottom left to right-- slices of seitan "pork", DH's homemade bread (mostly whole wheat with some oats), fresh Italian parsley that grows in pots on my deck (you could use arugula instead); Salted Caramel Pear Butter, my homemade lowfat vegan mayo, Daiya shreds (or use any favorite vegan cheese), and, in the middle, my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah.

Heat up your indoor grill or panini maker. The mayo goes on both sides of the bread and the seitan slices (and freshly-ground black pepper) on one bread slice; the pear butter on another.

Over the pear butter goes the Daiya shreds (or any favorite vegan cheese), and then the sliced Italian parsley (or use arugula if you have it around).

Carefully turn the seitan-laden slice over the other one and carefully transfer to your hot grill with a wide spatula.  Grill until the cheese melts and the outside is golden brown.  Yum!

For a vegetable, I decided to roast a cauliflower that I wanted to use up.  I usually roast cauliflower with a little olive oil and za'atar (see this blog post), but I wanted to use some fresh sage from the herb garden. So, I placed the cauliflower-ettes in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with about 1/2 a cup of vegan "chickeny" broth in the bottom and drizzled the top with about 2 tablespoons of my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah .  I sprinkled them lightly with salt and about 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage.

I roasted this at 450 degrees F for about 30 minutes, turning once.  Mild-tasting, but terrific!

And there you have it-- a quick and delicious supper using leftovers, staples and herbs from the garden.


Sunday, September 15, 2013


Best Blog Tips

Last week our neighbors asked us to please come and pick some fruit from their trees, as they could not use it all.  We gratefully agreed and brought home some lovely pears and Italian plums.  The plums we have eaten, but we had more pears, so I thought I'd better do something with them. I decided to use the bulk of them for pear butter, made in the slow cooker.  An uncovered 6 qt slow cooker is ideal for making fruit butters because it holds alot and it will cook down the mixture slowly without any chance of scorching.  It saves energy, too.

Fruit butters are not as sweet as jam and have a rich fruity taste and texture. I am always nostalgic about apple butter on San Francisco sourdough English muffins from my youth in that city.

I also have an easy way of preparing the fruit for these preserves.  Instead of laboriously peeling, stemming and pitting the sometimes-odd-shaped fruit, I cut the whole fruit into chunks, cook it with a little water until it softens, and then run it through a mouli, or food mill. (The photo at the left of this page is the exact model I have.)  A nice puree comes through the bottom directly into your pot, and the peels, stems and pits stay behind at the top.  Easy-peasy!  There's a link below the recipe to another blog post (with pictures) about how to do this.

In any case, I saw some recipes online for Salted Caramel Apple Butter, Pear Butter, and Apple & Pear Butter.  This intrigued me.  Some recipes contained lots of spices, but I chose to use only a little nutmeg and vanilla.  Here's my personal version of this now-popular spread, which met with oh's and ah's from our brunch guests. This spread has a sensuous silky texture and the flavor is so rich that you don't need vegan butter-- the flavor just pops as it melts in the mouth.

Makes 4 pints

4 qts. pear sauce (see Note below for instructions) (don't drain it)
2 cups brown sugar (I used a fairly dark, but soft, type)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp. sea salt (fine)
Addition after cooking:
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Mix everything but the vanilla together in the ceramic insert of your 6 qt. slow cooker.  Turn to High.  To prevent spattering, lay two heat-resistant flat utensils across the top of the insert (one on each end). Place the lid over these, so that the liquid can evaporate.  (You might also want to drape old cloths over anything around the slow cooker, just in case.) Cook on high for about 4 hours, stirring with a wooden spoon now and then. 

After 4 hours, remove the lid and puree the mixture (carefully!) with a hand immersion blender.  Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 3 or 4 hours, or until the mixture is thick and brown and reduced by half.  NOTE:  If your slow cooker tends to be pretty hot (like mine), cook on Low for that last 3 or 4 hours.

When it's thick enough, add the vanilla and blend in well.  Ladle the mixture into 4 sterilized pint canning jars (or eight 1/2-pint jars, or sixteen 4-oz. jars), seal and refrigerate (will keep for several weeks), or freeze, or water bath can for 20 minutes.

Note: Easy No-peel, no-pit way to make pear (or other fruit) sauce:
See photos and instructions here. For larger fruit, just cut into chunks. No need to remove stems, either!  **For the 4 qts of pears, I added about 4 inches of water to the stockpot and simmered for about 30 minutes.


Friday, September 13, 2013


Best Blog Tips

Chanterelle season is here on Denman Island-- always eagerly awaited.  Here are some of the beauties on the cutting board:

Night before last I needed to make a quick meal for the two of us, and I had chanterelles waiting in a bag in the fridge, and some of my neighbor's pears needing to be used.  I thought pears and chanterelles (with some fresh tarragon from the herb garden) would work well together with a mild, slightly creamy white wine sauce, so this is what I came up with.  It was delicious on rice with some homegrown pattypan squash sauteed with tomatoes and peppers. (I would ordinarily use brown basmati, but I had already-cooked white basmati that just need to be heated up, so that's what's in the photo.)  Lucky me-- I get the leftovers for lunch today!

Printable Recipe

Serves 4
3 cups reconstituted Soy Curls®  (see here for info on Soy Curls® and how to reconstitute) 
OR 16 ounces [450 g] low-fat vegetarian chicken substitute strips  (Gardein; Yves; Morningstar Farms; Lightlife; or President's Choice)
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped tarragon, OR1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon 
freshly-ground black-pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon unbleached flour
2 tablespoons vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan "Buttah")
8 oz. firm but ripe pears, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
6 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed and sliced 1/4” thick
1  medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup dry white wine (can be non-alcoholic)
1 1/2 cups vegetarian chicken-style broth (see here for info on broths- I used Better Than Bouillon Vegan No-Chicken broth base)  
3 tablespoons unflavored, not-too-sweet nondairy creamer, such as So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer
Chopped fresh chives or parsley

In a medium bowl, toss the Soy Curls® or alternative with the tarragon, freshly-ground black-pepper to taste, and the flour. 

In a large (12”) non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan butter over high heat.  When it’s hot, add the strips and sauté them briefly, just until they start to brown.  Remove them from the pan and set aside. 

Add the remaining vegan butter and heat until melted.  Add the chanterelles and salt lightly.  Stir-fry them until they brown lightly.  They should exude their juices and then evaporate most of them.  Place the chanterelles in a bowl and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic back to the pan and sauté without fat (what I call “steam-frying”) over high heat, squirting a bit of water into the pan to keep them from sticking and burning.  Keep them moving!  When they soften a bit, pour in the wine and cook over high heat until the wine is reduced to a few tablespoons.  Add the broth and cook over high heat until this is reduced to about half. 

Add the “chicken” strips and the chanterelles back to the pan, along with the pear slices and simmer briefly over low heat.  Add the creamer to the sauce, stirring well.  Taste for seasoning and serve immediately over steamed brown basmati rice or quinoa, or with crusty bread.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Best Blog Tips

Just in case you missed it, I had the honor of being the first interview in Betsy Di Julio's inaugural monthly "Vegan Q&A Tuesday" on her blog, The Blooming Platter.  (More about that feature here.)

"Based on Actor’s Studio host’s James Lipton’s famous “Q & A”–after the Proust Questionnaire–“Vegan Q & A Tuesday” is The Blooming Platter’s new first Tuesday feature on a creative force in the vegan culinary world."

It's a brilliant idea (and challenging for the interviewee), and I can't wait to read the next one!

You can read the interview, and my recipe for a delicious Indian-Spiced Lentil Salad on Betsy's blog here:


Monday, September 9, 2013


Best Blog Tips

I've been making a fair amount of vegan ice cream, gelato and sorbet this summer, and, obviously, I'm still experimenting (we are having wonderful summer weather!).  Lately, I've been playing with the gelato recipe from my book "Nonna's Italian Kitchen". I wanted to add richness, as well as making it quicker and easier to prepare. One of the changes I made  early on was to use Instant Clearjel® (see Notes about this product here) OR guar gum or xanthan gum instead of the cooked tapioca flour mixture that I originally used. (These starches or gums prevent the mixture from crystallizing and improve texture.) This new method eliminates cooking the starch mixture, which means the whole thing takes less time, and it doesn't take as long to chill the gelato mixture before freezing.

This time, along with a couple of other small changes, I modified the recipe further by using lowfat coconut coffee creamer for the majority of the liquid and added just a little bit of vegan butter (including the "tub" version) to provide even richer flavor and mouthfeel. My husband declared this the best vanilla gelato he'd ever had (and vanilla is his favorite).

PS: This gelato would be fabulous with the Fresh Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from the previous blog post.  

Printable Copy

Servings: 12
Yield: about 1 1/2 qts. 
2 cups (1 pint) So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer or other not-too-sweet vegan creamer
1 1/2 cups plain "original" nondairy milk (I prefer Silk Original-- it's very creamy)
1/2 cup raw cashews or cashew pieces, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained  (OR use cut-up Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, or soaked and drained raw shelled sunflower seeds instead of cashews.)
3/4 cup grade A (light) maple syrup OR agave nectar
3/4 cup light granulated unbleached organic sugar
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted (try my homemade palm oil-free “Buttah”, which includes the "tub" version)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
a slightly heaping 1/8 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum OR 2 3/4 tsp Instant Clearjel (see Notes about this product here)
1/4 teaspoon salt  
Place the creamer and milk into a blender or Vita-Mix, along with the soaked, drained cashews, and blend until VERY smooth and frothy (make sure that it is not grainy at all).

Add all of the remaining ingredients, in order given, to this mixture and blend again until it is VERY smooth.

Chill the gelato mixture thoroughly, and then freeze according to directions for your ice cream machine). Scoop into a 2-quart plastic container, cover and freeze for several hours before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 182.2 calories; 21% calories from fat; 4.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 66.9mg sodium; 79.0mg potassium; 31.0g carbohydrates; 0.2g fiber; 27.9g sugar; 30.8g net carbs; 1.7g protein; 4.0 points.


Sunday, September 1, 2013


Best Blog Tips

Due to the fact that I am once again preparing for company and time is short, I'm finally sharing a recipe that I developed for my old newsletter, the Vegan Feast, and that has become a house favorite. Having developed a taste for fresh pineapple, I was determined to make a traditional-style upside-down cake, but with fresh pineapple instead of the usual canned variety. Fresh pineapple is sweet, but it has a pleasing tartness that adds more interest to this cake. I reduced the fat and sugar in this recipe as low as I could go while still keeping the traditional flavor. I also added some toasted large-flake coconut for a Hawaiian touch, but, if you prefer, you could add halved macadamia nuts to the pineapple topping before baking.  Enjoy!

Serves 10

Dry Mix:
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (do not substitute ordinary whole wheat flour or your cake may be tough)
1 cup light unbleached granulated organic sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Wet Mix:
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 Tbs oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Beaten Egg-Replacer Mixture:
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs Ener-G or Orgran egg replacer powder
2 Tbs vegan butter (try my palm oil-free vegan "Buttah")
2 Tbs agave nectar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 a medium fresh, ripe pineapple, sliced about 1/2-inch thick 
(**see videos below recipe for how to select, peel and slice a fresh pineapple with or without a pineapple corer/slicer**)
1/4 cup unsweetened large flake coconut, lightly toasted (How to toast coconut:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the vegan butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a 10-inch round baking pan (2 to 3 inches deep) or one that is 9 inches across the bottom and 11 inches across the top. (Do NOT use a pan with a removable bottom.) Stir in the agave nectar and brown sugar and spread even over the bottom of the pan. Place the pineapple slices over the mixture in a pleasing pattern, covering as much of the bottom of the pan as possible.

Beat the water and egg replacer in a stand mixer until like almost-stiffly-beaten egg whites (about 7-10 minutes). You can use the whip attachment on a Kitchen-Aid mixer, or any stand mixer-- it doesn't need a powerful motor to perform this task. (You could even use a hand-held electric beater if you don’t mind holding it for 7-10 minutes.)

While the egg replacer is beating, whisk together the Dry Mix ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the Wet Mix  to the Dry Mix and stir very briefly, just to mix. (Use a Danish dough whisk, if you have one.)

Fold the beaten egg replacer mixture into the batter using an over and under motion with a spatula, until you can't see the egg replacer anymore.

Gently spread dough evenly over pineapple slices. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool for at least 5 minutes, in the pan, on a cake rack; then loosen the edges and carefully turn out onto a large round cake dish or platter. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut flakes. Allow to cool before serving.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 289.9 calories; 20% calories from fat; 6.7g total fat; 0.0mg
cholesterol; 137.3mg sodium; 269.7mg potassium; 56.0g carbohydrates; 2.6g fiber; 35.1g sugar; 3.8g protein; 5.8 points.