BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Save Strummer!

The news landed in my inbox like a bombshell detonating upon impact. Cancer, that most insidious yet omnipresent disease, had struck again, wrapping its sickly fingers around yet another loved one. It’s one of the realities that I fear most, in my heart of hearts, so deeply that even saying the word feels like a punch in the face. I have experienced its destructive wake firsthand, losing someone so kind and compassionate that it seemed like the most perverse twist of fate. Let’s be honest, it still does, and it still stings bitterly. It still reams me out every time I think about it.

Hearing that this horrendous illness has touched another loved one, no rhyme or reason to its cruel selection, is difficult to process. Especially when that person is actually a dog; the smallest dog I’ve ever known or loved. Strummer, the endlessly loving pup cared for by Melisser, has the uncanny ability to connect with everyone she meets. It’s impossible to understand how such a terrible hand could be dealt to this gentle soul.

But cancer is not a death sentence, and I’ll be damned if the whole world isn’t fighting alongside this tiny pup. Small but mighty, she has the heart of a lion, handling treatment with grace thus far. To help pay for medical bills, Melisser has put out a call for assistance, offering up prizes as a thank you for contributing, although I get the sense that the prizes aren’t even a consideration for most donations. Stunningly, the goal of $3,000 was clobbered within 48 hours of opening up the fundraiser, and still the love and support continues to pour in. Any additional funds will be sent to an animal sanctuary, so there’s still a reason for kicking in a few dollars if you can.

Up for offer as one of the raffle prizes will be my Green Goodies. Wholesome dog treats for sharing with your own beloved pup, they’re made with power-packed spinach and green pea flour, among other more humble superfood ingredients.

We’re all rooting for you, Strummer! For those who can’t donate or don’t win these treats, the recipe is as follows. It’s worth the investment in time to share with the pup you love.

Green Goodies (Dog Biscuits)

1/2 Cup Fresh Spinach, Packed
1/3 – 1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter or Tahini
2 3/4 Cups Green Pea Flour
2 Tablespoons Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat.

Place the spinach and 1/3 cup of water in your blender. Blend on high until thoroughly pureed and as smooth as possible. Add in the applesauce, peanut butter or tahini, and pulse to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, mix together the green pea flour, ground flaxseeds, and parsley. Once all the dry goods are well distributed, pour the wet mixture into the bowl. Use a wide spatula to combine, and switch to mixing with your hands when the dough becomes too thick to stir. The resulting dough should be very stiff, but if you can’t fully incorporate all the dry ingredients, add the remaining water while stirring, one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle a generous coating of pea flour over a clean surface and pat out the dough to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Use small cookie cutters (approximately 1 inch wide in any shape you desire) to cut out the biscuits. If the dough is too sticky to manage, dip the cookie cutters in pea flour first, and then reshape the biscuits after removing. Transfer the shapes on your prepared baking sheet, placing them close together as the treats will not spread or rise. Repeat until all the dough has been cut into treats.

Bake for 28 – 32 minutes, until golden brown and dry to the touch. Let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container or sharing with your furry friend.

Makes 3 – 4 Dozen Small Biscuits

Printable Recipe


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Shell Game

Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s just the general summer attitude that’s disrupted the typical work routine, but focused, inspired opportunities to write have been far and few between. Grasping desperately for words that are sufficient at best and cramming them into confused, awkward prose, the irony of speaking at BlogHer PathFinder Day about becoming a published author is not lost on me. When there’s so much to share, from photos to recipes to review and beyond, but no words to tie them all together into one neat, professional package, what’s a blogger to do?

Surely you can relate. You might not be a blogger or a writer at all, but this frustrating state is universally understood across all disciplines, even amongst those terrifically passionate in their chosen field. An abundance of material sits unexplored, despite best intentions. Not even carefully laid plans could create a concise schedule when the words simply won’t flow.

These “lazy days” of summer have never been busier or more fulfilling. Projects are never-ending, and for a workaholic like myself, it’s a dream come true. All I can do is keep going, relishing every moment, and trusting that the words will come sooner or later. That’s why it would be silly to keep waiting for the perfect story to sum up this latest recipe, withholding something so delicious until its forgotten at the bottom of my archives. That analogy is rather fitting, however, since these vegan scallops became buried underneath bags of frozen vegetables and pints of ice cream, far into the depths of the freezer, all for lack of that “perfect” preparation. Instead of fearing that I couldn’t do these rare savory morsels justice, it was high time to just make what sounded best in that moment. And you know what? It was a decision that turned out pretty close to perfection after all.

Spurred on by my mother’s memories of Coquilles St. Jacques, my interpretation came out naturally lighter, brighter, and tastier, in my entirely biased opinion. Still plenty rich, a buttery base of mushrooms and shallot lend depth to the seafood-free scallop, elevating it beyond the standard cream sauce approach. A tangy splash of lemon and and subtly herbaceous parsley round out the flavor profile, ensuring that the last bite is every bit as irresistible as the first. There’s no shame in licking your plate here, especially if it’s a ceramic scallop shell. That could easily be chalked up to enjoying an “authentic” scallop experience.

Coquilles St. Jacques, Re-Imagined and Revitalized

2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Divided
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
1 Package Sophie’s Kitchen Lightly Breaded Vegan Scallops
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Large Shallot, Minced
8 Ounces Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Minced
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Dry White Wine
1 Teaspoon All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, Finely Minced
Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Heat 1 tablespoon each of the margarine and oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Once the margarine has melted, carefully place the scallops in a single layer on the pan. Don’t try to move or flip them for at least 6 – 8 minutes, to achieve a better sear. If they still appear to be sticking and look pale on the bottoms, let them continue to cook, undisturbed for up to 5 additional minutes. When the undersides are nicely browned, give them a single flip over to the opposite side, drizzle with lemon juice, and saute until similarly golden. Transfer the scallops to a plate and set aside.

Return the empty pan to the heat and add in the remaining margarine and oil. Gently saute the shallot for 2 – 3 minutes, until translucent and aromatic, before stirring in the mushrooms. Cook over medium-low heat until tender; about 5 minutes. Stir together the almond milk, wine, and flour, beating out any potential clumps, and pour the mixture into the pan. Simmer gently for 10 – 12 minutes, until thickened and creamy. Stir in the tarragon and parsley, and finally season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon a small mound of the mushroom mixture onto each serving dish and top with 3 – 4 scallops each. Serve right away while still hot.

Makes 4 Appetizer-Sized Servings

Printable Recipe


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Through Rose-Tinted Glasses

It was born from a backup plan; a plan B that was never needed. Planning for a photo shoot means preparing for the worst, and in this case, the “worst” translated to a late shipment of candied rose petals. Though only a small element of a demanding, detailed set, it was no small source of stress for the perfectionist in me. Destined for the cover of an ebook, the weight of its prominent placement and supreme visibility raised the stakes to dizzying heights. With all the hero dishes and supporting characters prepped to go, there was no stopping this shoot from barreling forward as planning, with or without those tiny crystalline flowers. Facing intense pressure not only to get it right, but to nail it on the first take, nothing else motives quite like the fear of failure. What else could have explained my mad dash to find unsprayed, organic roses at such a late hour, to paint them gingerly, one by one, with extra-fine granulated sugar? That dedication, bordering on obsession, has come to define my days of back-to-back photo shoots.

Of course, as luck would have it, the plan A roses arrived at the very last moment, just in time for their closeup. Crisis averted, the shoot went off without a hitch, leaving behind a wealth of sugared pink petals in its wake.

Incorporating my other ingredient excesses- namely, fresh strawberries as sweet as jam and the ever-present chocolate sandwich cookies that seem to have taken up permanent residence in my cupboard- that additional effort definitely didn’t go to waste. Fruity and floral, the resulting strawberry and rose tartlettes are personal portions of show-stopping desserts. Layered with a crimson strawberry curd at the bottom and a rich rose-scented pastry cream on top, each bite is accented by a crunchy chocolate crust containing the harmonious duo. Delicate, fragrant candied rose petals are truly the icing on the cake, or tartlette, as it were. Though technically an optional garnish, I wouldn’t dream if making these blushing beauties without them. They provided m initial inspiration, after all.

Strawberry and Rose Tartlettes

Chocolate Crust:

1 1/2 Cups Vegan Chocolate Cookie Crumbs (15 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies)
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted

Strawberry Curd:

2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Agar Powder
1 1/4 Cups Seedless Strawberry Puree*
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Rose Cream:

1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Raw Cashews
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Agar Powder
Pinch Salt
1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Rosewater

To Finish:

Candied Rose Petals (Optional)

*To make strawberry puree, start with about 1 1/2 pounds of fresh strawberries and thoroughly puree them in your blender or food processor, until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discard the seeds, and measure out the amount called for in the recipe before proceeding.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and placing four 4-inch springform pans on a baking sheet. Once finely ground, combine the cookie crumbs with the melted margarine in a large bowl, and stir well until there are no dry patches. Divide the mixture evenly between your ready and waiting tins, using lightly moistened fingers to press it evenly across the bottoms and up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes, turn off the oven, and set aside to let cool.

Meanwhile, to make the strawberry curd filling, whisk together the sugar and agar powder to combine. Place the two into a medium saucepan along with the strawberry puree and lemon juice, turning on the stove to medium heat. Whisk to break up any lumps of sugar, and continue whisking occasionally as it comes up to temperature. Once the mixture reaches a boil, turn off the stove and transfer the hot, liquid curd your baked tartlette shells. Fill each one halfway to the top with the mixture. Don’t worry that if it seems very loose and watery at this point; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Allow the curd to come down to room temperature before refrigerating the half-filled tartlettes. This step is very important, because tossing it in the fridge too early will weaken the gel, and you will end up with a runny filling.

Finally, for the pastry cream, toss the non-dairy milk, cashews, sugar, arrowroot, agar, and salt into your blender and let it rip. Blitz until completely silky-smooth, pausing periodically to scrape down the sides of the canister if necessary. Pour the resulting mixture into a medium saucepan over medium heat, and whisk frequently as it cooks. Be sure to continuously scrape the bottom and sides of the pot to prevent anything from sticking and burning. When bubbles begin to break on the surface, whisk in the rosewater and vanilla, and turn off the heat. Distribute the pastry cream evenly over the tartlettes, filling them all the way to the top. Smooth out the surface and let cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving. Top with candied rose petals at the last moment to prevent them from getting soft, if desired.

Makes 4 Tartlettes

Printable Recipe


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Stock Up on Strawberries

Nothing serves as better inspiration for new recipes than abundance, or if I’m the one grocery shopping, overabundance. With extra ingredients on hand, it’s easier to experiment a bit beyond your comfort zone, while still getting your fill of the classic preparations. Always wanted to try something new, but find the standby recipes irresistible? Well, you have no more excuses when piles of fresh produce are staring you down, demanding attention before they take over the kitchen. This is precisely the situation I’m expecting with strawberries as the star, because Whole Foods Markets across the country are gearing up for a blowout one-day sale tomorrow, Friday the 19th, on organic strawberries. At only $1.99 per pound, down from their regular price of $4.99, you would have to be crazy to walk out of that store without at least two or three punnets, minimum. I know I’ll be stocking up!

Maybe I’ll see you there, because at the Fairfield, CT location from noon to 2:00, I’ll be demonstrating one of my favorite pie recipes, a Roasted Strawberry Tomato Galette, along with some pie tips and tricks to help you make the most of your berries. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Whole Foods Market has very generously offered to include a voucher for 1 free pound of strawberries with the purchase of one of my books, or the pre-order of Easy as Vegan Pie. This offer is valid only at the Fairfield store, but if you’re in the area, that’s all the more reason to make a special trip and stop by.

Incredibly, that’s not the end of the exciting news. To celebrate berry season, and not just strawberries, Whole Foods Market is providing a $75 gift card for one lucky reader to go on a bonafide berry shopping spree. Just imagine- If it weren’t for volume limitations, that could cover enough strawberries to fill a small swimming pool! Since that’s more than any one person, or even a small army could consume, I’m dying to know what you would do with the cash if you won. To enter, tell me what you plan to buy with the gift card, and what recipes you’d like to make from the windfall. Simply enter your name and a valid email address in the appropriate boxes before midnight (EST) on July 25th. You must be a resident of the US to enter.

The almighty random number generator has spoken, and chosen commenter #3 as the winner of the $75 Whole Foods gift card!

That means gaiantlc, congratulations: You’re the lucky shopper about to be that much richer in bulk beans, grains, and nooch!

This is the perfect opportunity to use vast quantities of strawberries and create a stunning summer pie, which is why I know I won’t be able to stop rolling out the dough when I get home. My Strawberry-Kiwi Pie from Vegan Desserts has been a rare treat throughout the years, only emerging periodically, as the strawberries tend to be quite a splurge. Finally, I don’t need an excuse to indulge!

Though currently out of print, Vegan Desserts is being refreshed in paperback format as we speak, due for a triumphant return to bookstores this coming November. Since I would hate to leave you hanging without a copy, at the height of this strawberry sale, consider this pie a small taste of what’s to come.

Strawberry-Kiwi Pie
From Vegan Desserts

Crust:

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Margarine, Chilled
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
4 to 6 Tablespoons Ice-Cold water

Strawberry-Kiwi Filling:

3 Medium Kiwis
2 Cups Fresh Strawberries, Sliced
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Tapioca Flour
Pinch Salt

The crust for this pie is made like an traditional pie crust; Start by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the margarine into small cubes and add it into the dry mix, tossing to coat. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the margarine into the flour until you achieve a dry, crumbly mixture with lumps about the size of pebbles or peas. You can also pulse all of these ingredients in your food processor to speed the process along, if desired. Pour in the vinegar, and add the water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to mix or pulse until it just comes together into a cohesive ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about 30 minutes before working with it further.

Divide the dough into two pieces, returning half to the fridge for the time being and placing the other half onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle additional flour over the top to prevent it from sticking, and roll it out to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, making it into a round shape at least 10 – 11 inches in diameter. Carefully fold it into quarters, without pressing down, and quickly move it into a lightly grease pin tin. Place the point of the folded dough in the center, and very gently unfold the sides so that it fills the pan, using your fingers to press it in evenly. Cut the excess dough away from the sides and add it into the second half sitting in the fridge. Place the whole pan in the fridge as well.

Now you’re ready to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

The filling is very easy to make and comes together quickly. In a large bowl, combine the kiwis, sliced strawberries, and lemon zest. Sprinkle on the sugar, tapioca flour, and salt over the top and toss to combine, thoroughly coating the fruit. Move all of the fruit filling into your prepared crust and set aside.

Take the remaining dough out and roll it out to the same thickness, cutting it into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange it in a lattice design over the top of the pie and crimp it by pinching it to the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling away. Let cool completely before slicing or else the juices will run out.

Serves 8 – 10

*To easily peel kiwi fruits, cut off both ends with a paring knife and starting from one of the cut sides, insert a spoon just under the skin and twist the kiwi so that the spoon goes all the way around the circumference of the fruit. Repeat the process on the other end, and the “meat” of the fruit will simply pop out.

Printable Recipe


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Berry Curious

It just might be the greatest berry you’ve never heard of. Limited to very small regions of Europe and North America, the Jostaberry is a specialty fruit that you won’t find in supermarkets any time soon. Delicate to a fault, they’re difficult enough to pick by hand without crushing or bruising. Unsurprisingly, no machines have been invented to make them a commercially viable option. Moreover, their prime harvesting season passes in the blink of an eye, encompassing two weeks each July at the most. Perhaps this very elusive nature adds to their allure, but I’d wager that they’d fly off the shelves should they ever become as common as apples and oranges. Luck was simply on my side when I discovered that Lyman Orchards, supposedly the one and only source on the east coast, had them ripe for the picking.

In a class of their own, the Jostaberry is a cross between a black currant and a gooseberry, explaining some of their tart, slightly astringent qualities. Pronounced with a “Y” as a reflection of their German heritage, “Jostaberry” is a portmanteau that comes from a blend of Johannisbeere and Stachelbeere- The German words for both aforementioned varieties. When fully ripe, their sweetness develops further, blending in notes of blueberries, kiwis, and grapes, all into one tiny, juicy bite. Easily eaten out of hand, the real challenge is picking- and saving- enough to weave into recipes later. Their high pectin content makes them ideal for jams and jellies, but by the time I got back home from the fields, not even half the volume of berries I had intended for baking remained.

Jam was out of the question for this season, but my precious Jostaberries became the stars of the show inside classic crumb muffins instead. Moist and bursting with that unique berry flavor, it’s no secret that the muffins themselves are merely vehicles for consuming large clumps of the dark drupes at once. Moist, soft and lightly buttery, the surrounding batter provides a gently sweetened backdrop that allows the berries to take center stage. The only thing that might improve the combination is perhaps a quick jaunt through the toaster oven, followed by a thick smear of that jam I had dreamed about… But that pairing will just have to wait for the next limited harvest.

Jostaberry Crumb Muffins

Crumb Topping:

1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/3 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour Flour
1/3 Cup Almond Meal
1/4 Cup Melted Coconut Oil

Jostaberry Muffins:

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Medium, Ripe Banana
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Water
1/4 Cup Melted Coconut Oil
1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Heaping Cup Jostaberries

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and either lightly grease or line 12 standard muffin cups with papers.

Prepare the topping first by stirring together the brown sugar, flour, and almond meal in a small bowl. Drizzle in the melted coconut oil while mixing with a fork, until all of the crumbs are moistened and sticking together in coarse clumps. Set aside.

For the body of the muffins, pull out your blender or food processor, and toss in the sugar, banana, lemon juice, and water. Thoroughly puree, until completely smooth, before adding in the melted coconut oil, non-dairy milk, and vanilla extract. Blend once more to fully incorporate.

Sift the flour into a large bowl along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the jostaberries and toss to coat with the dry goods, which will help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins while baking. Pour the liquids from your blender into the bowl, and stir lightly with a wide spatula, just to combine. Don’t go crazy about getting out every last lump; a bit of unevenness is just fine.

Equally distribute your batter between your 12 prepared muffin cups, mounding them up slightly towards the center, and then do the same for the crumb topping. It may seem like a whole lot of crumb, but don’t be shy and pile it on! Bake for 5 minutes, and then without opening the oven, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for an additional 13 – 16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool completely before enjoying.

Makes 12 Muffins

Printable Recipe


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Yay or Nay?

Freed of a decade-long mayonnaise aversion, the unctuous white condiment may not be the first thing on my grocery list, but certainly has earned its keep as a refrigerator staple, thanks to its irreplaceable contribution to my very favorite chocolate cake recipe. Thus, I’m probably not the ideal judge of a new take on the classic spread, but the offer to taste Nasoya‘s latest contribution to the category was irresistible. Curiosity fueled my investigation, since the original Nayonaise and I have a considerable history. It was the first time I ever tasted vegan mayonnaise, which sadly but quite frankly reinforced my original bias against it. Somehow a bottle of the stuff found its way into my fridge, likely after a photo shoot had wrapped and left the extra behind, and I couldn’t seem to get rid of it for the life of me. Eventually I became desperate, attempting to pawn it off on any friends who visited. It was convenient that each and every one “forgot” the glass jar when it came time to depart…

Revitalized and reformulated, my hopes were high for a surprise comeback. In addition to the previous offerings of their Original Sandwich Spread and Light (which I didn’t get to sample), there is now the option of Whipped, which is said to approximate the taste of Miracle Whip more closely. Let’s not beat around the bush here: I do not like Nayo Whipped, Sam I am. It strikes me as being too sweet, pulling my taste buds in the opposite direction of what they would desire in a savory dish, all with a beany undercurrent that muddies up the flavor. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I feared when I signed on for a sample. The jar of Whipped may be around for quite some time, wedged into the farthest reaches of the fridge, unless anyone would care to drop and take it off my hands.

The outlook isn’t as bleak for the Original, however. Despite an inauspicious appearance of a broken, greasy emulsion, the mixture does genuinely feel smooth and creamy on the tongue. The leading and finishing note is one of mustard, with a gentle touch of vinegar and salt chiming in. Appropriately rich and just slightly sweet, I do believe it’s an improvement over the first version that turned me off so many years ago. Is it my favorite mayonnaise option? No. But is it a perfectly serviceable alternative? You bet! The odds of success only improve once it’s mixed into a recipe with more complimentary flavors to enhance that baseline taste.

For my first trick, I thought I would turn the classic BLT sandwich into a fun summer hor d’oeuvre, taking out the bread and stuffing the contents into hollowed out tomato shells. BLT bites, so simple that a formal recipe would be overkill, are nothing more than seeded roma tomatoes filled with shredded romaine lettuce and chopped chives, tossed with Original Nayonaise, and finally topped with coconut bacon. Serve thoroughly chilled for the best eating experience, especially on a hot day.

Where Nayonaise really shines, however, is in baking, just as I had predicted due to the success of my experimental chocolate cake so long ago. Churning out a batch of chocolate chip cookies in record time and only seven ingredients all told, this recipe is reason enough for me to always keep a jar on hand. Amazingly, the mustard flavor mellowed significantly in baking, becoming nearly undetectable when paired with the right ratio of sugar and chocolate. The combination shouldn’t work, couldn’t possibly be delicious, but somehow, it really is. The best part is the texture- You would be hard-pressed to find a chewier, gooier, or more lusciously toothsome treat for so little effort. For that incredible contribution alone, Original Nayonaise gets the official thumbs-up from me.

Miraculous Mayonnaise Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheet with parchment paper or silpats.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the mayonnaise, vanilla, and both sugar. Stir until smooth and homogeneous before adding in the flour, baking soda, and chocolate chip. Begin the mixer on low speed to prevent any of the dry goods from flying out, and allow the machine to gently combine all the ingredients. Be careful not to over-mix to prevent the cookies from becoming too tough. Stir just until the dough comes together and there are no remaining pockets of unincorporated flour.

Use a medium cookie scoop or large spoon to portion out about 3 – 4 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Place them about 1 1/2-inches apart on your prepared baking sheets, and use lightly moistened hands to flatten them out slightly if domed.

Bake one sheet at a time for 11 – 13 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Immediately pull the silpat or parchment paper off of the hot baking sheet to allow the cookies to cool completely.

Makes 20 – 24 Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Spice Up Your Life

Black pepper, an ingredient whose ubiquity is matched only by something so elemental as salt itself, is so much more than the one-note spice that it’s frequently written off as. Few cooks play up the unique flavor profile of pepper as a feature in and of itself, as it deserves to be celebrated, and I’d venture to guess that even fewer realize the fine nuances between peppercorn varieties. Pepper is not just pepper, and especially not if it’s Kampot pepper.

Found in colors of the peppercorn spectrum, Cambodian-grown Kampot pepper has different distinctions depending on how it’s harvested and cured, but the overall flavor profiles are similar. I only had the opportunity to sample the black pepper, but found it a fascinating departure from the standard spicy but flavorless seasoning. More floral, gentle, and subtle than the miscellaneous black powder kept in kitchens the world over, this is one unique variety worth seeking out. Immediately detecting a vague natural sweetness, it seemed perfect for brighten up desserts. Black pepper has always struck me as an ideal match for fresh fruit, so why couldn’t the same pairing work as successfully for other sweet treats?

One can never go wrong with soft, chewy sugar cookies, especially when there’s icing involved, but these are not your average childhood snack. Enlivened with Kampot pepper’s warm bite, the contrast between sweet and spicy makes it impossible to stop at just one cookie.

Of course, the savory applications are near endless, considering how easily pepper can slip into every dish of any cuisine. Seeking to really highlight this unique ingredient, starting with a straight-forward formula seemed like the best approach. Made with only five ingredients and a minimal amount of labor, it’s hard to imagine that such an addictive appetizer could really be simple. Cheese straws are an easy sell at any party, and these in particular will fly off the plate. Bold, zesty, buttery, and crisp, lemon-pepper cheese straws made with Kampot pepper are crowd-pleasing snacks that will make it difficult to save room for dinner.

Lemon-Pepper Cheese Straws

1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry, Thawed According to Manufacturer’s Instructions
1/2 Cup Pepper Jack-Style Vegan Cheese Shreds
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Teaspoon Kampot Peppercorns, Coarsely Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher or Coarse Sea Salt

Lightly flour a clean, flat surface and roll the sheet of puff pastry to an 1/8th of an inch in thickness. Try to keep it approximately the shape of a rectangle for smoother edges.

Sprinkle the vegan cheese, lemon zest, ground pepper, and salt evenly over the long top half. Fold the ungarnished bottom half over, gently pressing the two sides together to seal. Use a very sharp knife to cut 1/2 – 3/4 inch wide strips.

Handling one strip at a time, take one end in each hand and carefully twist them in opposite directions to form a tight spiral. Place them on a parchment paper- or silpat-lined baking sheet, pressing the ends down firmly to discourage them from uncurling. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the twists about 1 inch apart. Move the entire batch into the freezer and let rest for 30 minutes before baking.

Once the straws are nearly done chilling, begin preheating your oven to 425 degrees.

Move the frozen baking sheet immediately into the oven and bake for 13 – 16 minutes, until the straws are golden brown all over. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely before eating.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Dozen Cheese Straws

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Pommes d’Amour

Botanically incorrect but poetically true, the French demonstrated great wisdom when they named tomatoes “love apples.” What savory fruit is more beloved than the tomato, across all continents with favorable growing climates? Watching their vines twist upwards towards the sky, reaching out for the sun’s warmth, it’s only a matter of time before flowers come, begetting tiny green globes. Initially sour, unpromising at first glance, they slowly swell larger, growing juicier and sweeter with every blush. Even if you’re not a gardener and don’t watch your own tomato babies mature from seed, it’s impossible not to fall for them.

Now that real tomatoes have returned to markets, little by little, it’s about time I shared my recipe for tomato pie. Though initially created only for looks to fulfill a photography assignment, and inspired by a less than attractive recipe with highly processed ingredients, it didn’t take much work to create something worthy of the fresh tomatoes that fill it.

Brightened up with additional herbs and garlic, subtle seasonings make a world of difference in banishing blandness, all while still allowing the tomato to take center stage. It’s the kind of recipe that’s so simple that only the best ingredients will do, because you taste each and every one of them. Don’t even dream of whipping this one up in the middle of January- A winter tomato is nowhere near as lovable.

Tomato Pie

2 Unbaked Classic Crusts (page 36 of Easy as Vegan Pie, or Your Favorite Recipe), 1 Lining an 9-Inch Pie Pan and 1 Unrolled

1 8-Ounce Package Vegan Cream Cheese
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
3/4 Teaspoon Dried Parsley, Divided
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch, Divided
3 – 4 Firm, Slicing Tomatoes
3/4 – 1 Cup Vegan Mozzarella-Style Shreds

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and thoroughly mash in the garlic, zest, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir until the cream cheese is smooth and all of the seasonings are well-distributed. Smear the mixture evenly across the bottom of your crust-lined pie pan, smoothing out the top as best you can. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch over the exposed surface.

Slice your tomatoes to about an 1/8th inch in thickness, and remove the watery seeds. Arrange the slices over the cream cheese layer in concentric circles, overlapping and fitted together as closely as possible. Continue stacking them until they reach the brim of the pie pan. The final amount will depend on the size of your tomatoes and how seedy they are. Sprinkle the final tablespoon of cornstarch over the tomatoes, and then top evenly with your cheesy shreds.

Roll out the second piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut a few vents in the center. Gently drape the dough over filling, and trim so that there’s still about 3/4-inch of dough overhanging the edge. Fold and roll the excess under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp decoratively as desired.

Tent with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, uncover the pie so that it can brown, and bake for a final 25–35 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before digging in. The pie can be served at any temperature, but best when warm.

Makes 8 – 10 Servings

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Salsa By Any Other Name

Typically conjuring up images of a raw, spicy, tomato-based condiment (or a spirited dance step, if you’re more of an active sort), salsa by any other parameters can be somewhat difficult to swallow. Divorced from the traditional fixings entirely, nouveau renditions may rely on unexpected bases such as corn, mango, or even coconut- Not a tomato or jalapeño in sight. Are these oddballs really salsa, or just another cold relish? Where is the line drawn, and where would my latest crazy concoction fall?

Composed of rich, creamy chunks of avocado, contrasted by crunchy cubes of jicama, the departure from traditional salsa is further reinforced by the herbaceous, acidic bite of chimichurri. Bold flavors define this gloriously green amalgamation; peppery, lemony, and vinegary all at once, the cooling vegetable backdrop proves to be an excellent canvas on which to paint the Argentinian marinade. It’s the Swiss army knife of toppings, perfectly suitable as a dip with chips, crowning soups and salads, or an hors d’oeuvre in and of itself. Filling the curved interior of endive leaves, a more elegant summer snack could not be served.

Thankfully, it turns out the “salsa” can be literally translated to “sauce” in Spanish, so it looks like anything goes for this expansive category. Although, I have to wonder how sauce-like my creation here is, considering the chunky texture and lack of liquid… But I suppose that’s a discussion for another day.

Chimichurri Avocado Salsa

1 Clove Garlic
2 Scallions, Roughly Chopped
1 (3-Ounce) Bunch Fresh Parsley
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3 Ripe, Firm Avocadoes
1 1/2 Cups Finely Diced Jicama*

*To prepare jicama, first slice it in half, pole to pole. Peel the tough brown exterior away and cut it into 1cm slabs. Dice and toss into acidulated water (1 tablespoon of vinegar in about 3 – 4 cups of water should do the trick) to prevent browning. Rinse, drain, and dry thoroughly before using.

Pull out your food processor and toss in the garlic, scallions, parsley, and lemon zest. Pulse a few times to begin breaking down the herbs, pausing as need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure that everything reaches to blades. With the motor running, stream in the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, until well-combined. Add in the pepper flakes and salt, and continue processing until the herbs are extremely fine, but not completely smooth.

Peel, pit, and dice the avocados, placing it in a large bowl along with the prepared jicama. Toss it with all of the herb mixture until evenly coated and distributed. Serve immediately, or chill for up to a day to allow the flavors to meld. The avocado may darken slightly when held overnight, so place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the salsa before sealing it in an air-tight container in the fridge to mitigate those effects.

Makes About 3 Cups

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Wild About Frozen Blueberries

I’ve been feeling blue lately… And rather happy about that! Blueberries are abundant once again and my appetite for the sweet, mildly tart and tangy berries is insatiable. For as many punnets as I plow through, my cravings remain unsatisfied. Even as we reach the peak of growing season, the produce on offer left something to be desired. The solution turned out to be just a few steps away, hidden in plain sight. A more intense blueberry experience lay not in the produce aisle, but the freezer case. Frozen Wild Blueberries, grown in Maine and Canada but available worldwide and year-round, are a whole lot more special than you may realize.

Oh sure, frozen Wild Blueberries boast considerable nutritional advantages over conventional, cultivated varieties, such as an unbeatable antioxidant levels just for starters, but that’s not what first lured me over to the wild side. It’s all about the flavor, and they sure do pack a giant punch of it into such tiny packages. That means that you’re getting about twice as many berries per cup, each with less water and more concentrated sweetness than fresh. For a baker concerned about runny pie filling or “bleeding” muffins, such a vast advantage over the competition is invaluable.

Considering the sudden an unpredictable heatwaves rippling through the east coast lately, my thoughts were focused squarely on cooler, more refreshing treats. Referring back to Vegan a la Mode for inspiration, cheesecake sounded like a luscious pairing that would best highlight these indigo gems. Bumping up the intensity with a bold pop of citrus, lemon zest turned the simple flavor pairing into a legitimate flavor party. Enjoying a slowly melting scoop in a fresh waffle cone, the jam-like Wild Blueberry swirl shaking up the creamy confection with the periodically bite of a whole berry, it was exactly the summer-loving taste I had been missing

And yet, that still wasn’t enough. What could possibly take this simple, sweet delight to the next level of dessert perfection?

How about sandwiching it between two thick squares of graham cracker cookie bars, adding more cheesecake character back into the equation while incidentally creating more portable treats? Yeah, that might finally do the trick.

If you should find yourself at a loss for how to dress up your very own frozen Wild Blueberries, and are hungry for a slightly less indulgent sort of refreshment, a good place to turn is Cooking Light‘s latest cookbook, Chill: Smoothies, Slushes, Shakes, Juices, Drinks & Ices. Though not a specifically vegan cookbook, most of the recipes are “accidentally” vegan, and all the rest easily veganizable. Though it may seem like a random tip to throw into the ring, now is the perfect time to check it out and potentially win your very own copy. See the details over at the Wild Blueberry blog ASAP! After all, the only thing better than a Wild Blueberry ice cream treat might be one paired with a tall glass of ice-cold Blueberry-Ginger Juice (page 125.)

Wild Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Wild Blueberry Swirl:

5 Ounces (About 3/4 Cups) Frozen Wild Blueberries, Thawed
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Cornstarch

Graham Cracker Cookies:

3/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
3 Cups Finely Ground Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 Tablespoons Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Vegan Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt

Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream:

1/2 Cup (4 Ounces) Vegan Cream Cheese
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
Pinch Salt

Prepare the blueberry swirl first since it will take the longest to cook and fully chill. Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan, stirring well before turning on the heat to break up any possible lumps of starch. Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes up to a full boil. Turn down the heat slightly so that it stays at a lively simmer, and cook for 1 minute longer, until thickened.

Remove from the stove, cool to room temperature, and then place in the fridge to chill until cold; about 2 – 3 hours.

Moving along to the graham cracker cookie, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch rectangular baking pan.

Place the margarine and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer, and cream the two together using the paddle attachment. Once thoroughly beaten and homogeneous, pause the mixer and add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground flaxseeds, salt, cinnamon, and vegan sour cream or yogurt. Starting at the lowest speed, allow the mixer to gently incorporate the newest addition, and continue stirring until the entire mixture is moist will stick together when pressed.

Transfer to your prepared pan and spread it out evenly over the bottom. Press it firmly into a smooth layer, using your hands or the bottom of a flat measuring cup.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before turning the whole cookie sheet out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to slice it cleanly down the middle, forming two equal pieces. Trim away the dark edges so that it measures about 8 inches wide and 5 – 6 inches long.

Line an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, and carefully place one of the squares inside, fitting it snugly against three of the four edges. Pull the foil up against the remaining side that comes up slightly short. Place the pan and the remaining square of graham cracker cookie in the fridge.

Meanwhile, the ice cream itself comes together very quickly. Simply pile all of the ingredients into your blender and puree briefly, just until smooth. Blend no longer than necessary to prevent the mixture from warming up.

Pour the ice cream base into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pull out your square baking pan and spoon the soft ice cream on top of the graham cookie sheet inside. Smooth out the ice cream to evenly cover the cookie. Spread the blueberry swirl mixture on top, and use a spatula to swirl both components together. Finally, place the remaining rectangle of graham cracker cookie on top, and press down gently. Immediately move the pan into your freezer and let rest until solidified; at least 8 hours and ideally 12 or more. Slice the large ice cream sandwich into smaller rectangles and enjoy.

Makes 9 – 12 Ice Cream Sandwiches

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This post was written for and is sponsored by Wild Blueberries, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.

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