An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked



For all their fussing, planning, and maddening preparation, hosts and hostesses across the country would have you believe that Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, but let’s be real: It’s a holiday built around pie. Although food historians now suggest that there was no pie on the menu for the first Thanksgiving, alleging that early colonists had no flour nor butter at their disposal, that simply strikes me as a terribly shortsighted judgement. What if they just went gluten-free and vegan for the final course? Or perhaps they simply went sans crust and opted to fashion impossible pies for the event instead.

Truly, a life without pie is one too dreadful to imagine, especially on this pie-centric holiday. One thing that scholars can agree on is that an assortment of native pumpkins could have indeed been found, so at least we’ve got the building blocks of a modern dessert in place right there.

My apologies to the pilgrims, but Thanksgiving is really more like Pie-Giving in my book, and I don’t make any concessions to tradition. My version of the holiday is filled with lavish sweets and a veritable parade of pies.

This year, I’m still stuck on marshmallows and pumpkins alike, so joining the two for a grand finale seemed all but inevitable. This rendition isn’t the typical baked custard affair, however. Aiming for a loftier consistency and cooler presentation, this chiffon filling is the dreamy antidote to even the most unimaginative, conventional Thanksgiving meal.

Celebrate the holiday to the fullest by gracing your festive table with these fluffy, ephemeral orange slices. Had any of the components been a glimmer in a wily baker’s eye, I have no doubt that the pilgrims would have definitely partaken in a generous helping or two as well.

Marshmallow Chiffon Pumpkin Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs (About 12 Full Rectangle Sheets)
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted

Marshmallow Chiffon Pumpkin Filling:

1 Cup 100% Pumpkin Puree
1 10-Ounce Bag Dandies Pumpkin Spice or Original Marshmallows
1 1/2 Teaspoons Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 (14-Ounce) Can Full-Fat Coconut Milk, Chilled

To make the crust, break up the graham crackers into smaller pieces before pulsing in a food processor until very finely ground.Drizzle the melted margarine into the crumbs, and stir thoroughly to moisten the ground cookies.

Transfer the mix to a 9-inch round pie pan, and use lightly moistened fingers to firmly press it down on the bottom and along the sides. Use the bottom of a flat measuring cup or drinking glass for smoother sides.

To prepare the filling, place the pumpkin puree, marshmallows, and coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir gently but frequently until the marshmallows completely melt and the mixture is homogeneous. This can can get sticky, especially at first when the marshmallows are reluctant to join forces with the pumpkin, so stir carefully and be patient. Once smooth, stir in the spices and salt. Remove from the heat and cool for at least 5 minutes before proceeding.

Meanwhile, open the can of coconut milk without shaking it and skim off the top layer of thickened cream. Place it in the bowl of your stand mixer and begin beating it on a low speed. Gradually increase the speed, whipping in as much air as possible. Continue whipping for about 8 – 10 minutes, until greatly increased in volume.

Using a wide spatula, gently fold the whipped coconut cream into the pumpkin mixture, trying not to knock out the air bubbles you just created. Transfer the resulting filling into your prepared crust and smooth it out into one even layer.

Place the pie in the fridge and chill for at least 4 – 6 hours before serving, but overnight is best. To serve, simply slice the pie into wedges and top with additional dollops of whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Makes 8 – 10 Servings

Printable Recipe


Tradition with a Twist

Thanksgiving purists, avert your eyes.

Truth be told, I can’t recall ever having a green bean casserole on the table at any of my childhood Thanksgiving celebrations. Perhaps there was one though, lovingly prepared by traditionalist grandmother, aunt, or uncle, but I sure never noticed. A holiday fraught with food complications even before I went vegan, there’s rarely been much on the expansive buffet table that got me excited, or even remotely hungry for that matter. Hunk of dry, bland turkey for you, my dear? How about a smidgen of mushy breadcrumbs swimming in a pool of their own tears? What about the gelatinous, can-shaped cranberry “sauce” that clearly has remained untouched up to this decade? No thanks, no thanks, and not on your life.

Mercifully, being that the menu remained more or less the same no matter who prepared it or where we met to eat, it became easier to predict the horrors that awaited me on that fated day of celebration. Prepared for the worst, it was a much more survivable experience, like going into battle with a map of where the landmines were hidden. It was still rough going- Downright traumatic at times, depending on the mortifying family memories that might be unearthed yet again- But at least you’d make it out alive.

Best of all, everyone would be so sick of the typical Thanksgiving fixings the next day that in spite of the copious embarrassment of leftovers, it wouldn’t be too difficult to plead for a dinner of Chinese takeout. That was the true festive meal, for all I was concerned.

Now on my own and separated by every member of my family by over 2,500 miles, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’ve finally gotten my wish, freed from the obligations of the traditional dinner, and I’m not quite sure I really want to escape it anymore. Suddenly those old-school favorites seem ripe with potential, and even though I have no plans or guests to feed, I can’t help but go back and create pieces of the feast that I always wished might be on the table.

That means combining the standard green bean casserole with an infusion of spicy sichuan peppers, just hot enough to make your lips tingle but still keep the inherent savory soul of the baked dish intact. The twist might very well horrify those who expect nothing but the same menu, year after decade after century, but for anyone who’s wanted to shake things up just a bit, I can’t think of a better dish to start with.

Sichuan (Szechuan) Green Bean Casserole

1 Pound Fresh Green Beans, Trimmed and Halved
1 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Shallot, Minced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1-Inch Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Minced
1 Cup Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Roughly Chopped
1 Cup Unsweetened, Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Vegetable Broth
3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1/8 – 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Sichuan Pepper*

1 Cup Fried Shallots or Onions, Divided
3/4 Cup Crispy Fried Noodles or Wonton Strips

*Given that true Sichuan peppercorns can be difficult to hunt down at times, you can omit them for an equally delicious, if less tongue-tingling experience.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the sesame oil into a medium saucepan and heat over high. Once blisteringly hot, add the prepared green beans and saute while stirring briskly, until seared all over but still crisp; about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Return the pan to the stove, down down the heat to medium, and add the olive oil, shallot, garlic, and ginger. Cook until aromatic and just barely browned around the edges; about 8 – 10 minutes. Introduce the mushrooms next and cook until softened. If any of the vegetables threaten to stick or burn, begin adding in splashes of the non-dairy milk.

Shake up the vegetable stock and flour in a closed jar to create a slurry. Add it into the pan, stirring to thoroughly incorporate, followed by the non-dairy milk. Introduce the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper flakes and Sichuan pepper next, reducing the heat to medium-low and stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.

Remove from the stove and add the green beans back into the mixture. Mix to combine, folding in 1/2 cup of the fried shallots as well. Transfer everything into a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish and top evenly with the crispy fried noodles and remaining fried shallots. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe


Happy World Vegan Day!

What a time to be alive and veg-centric. Whereas otherwise progressive baristas would have laughed you right out of their cafes for requesting something so obscure as soymilk a scant few years ago, those very same establishments now offer not only soy, but almond and even coconut creamers as well. The tide is turning and finally, for the better. It’s safe to say that veganism has officially hit the mainstream, finding greater acceptance and understanding than ever before. World Vegan Day is a powerful reminder of just how far the movement as come, and in relatively short time; the term “vegan” is only 70 years old!

In spite of all the incredible progress we’ve seen recently, I don’t take the luxury of widespread vegan options for granted. It’s still a genuine surprise and delight to find esteemed chocolatiers advertising dairy-free truffles, steakhouses offering meatless options on their menus, or, in a more concrete example, finding a vegan chef doing a demo at the largest farmers market in San Francisco.

Recently, Kevin Schuder, chef of Citizen Fox, graced the stage that typically showcases all variety of animal products and broke the mold for this locavore audience. Deftly combining a mountain of vibrant green spinach with spices and an impossibly creamy cashew base, his take on paneer saag in dip format may very well have converted a few dairy addicts.

Having attended many similar performances alongside the bustling Embarcadero marketplace with nary a taste to be had, it was a delight to fearlessly wolf down that spinach-smeared piece of toasted baguette. Better than cream cheese and traditional spinach dip combined, the tangy base truly did evoke the gently acidic notes of paneer cheese, providing a rich foil to the mild greens.

Recipe in hand, I was only able to restrain myself from snatching a second helping knowing that I could make a full batch all for myself.

Saag Paneer Dip
By Kevin Schuder of Citizen Fox, made possible by CUESA

Saag Paneer Spice Blend
½ Cup Whole Coriander Seeds
¼ Cup Whole Cumin Seeds
3 Tablespoons Whole Cardamom Seeds (Removed from the Pods)
3 Tablespoons Whole Black Peppercorns
4 Teaspoons Whole Fennel Seeds
2 Teaspoons Whole cloves
2 Teaspoons Mustard Seeds
1 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric

Spinach Dip
2 Pounds Spinach, Washed
1 Medium Yellow Onion
½ Cup Canola Oil
¼ Cup Minced Garlic
¼ Cup Saag Paneer Spice Blend (Above)
2-3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1½ Pounds Thick, Slightly Fermented Cashew Cream
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, if Desired

Grilled Bread, for Serving

To make the spice blend: Toast the whole spices in a skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, but not burned. Grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Add the cayenne pepper and turmeric and mix together.

To make the dip: Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water, then chill in an ice bath. When cool, squeeze out excess moisture from the spinach and chop it finely. Julienne the onion and sauté in canola oil over medium heat. When softened and slightly caramelized, add the garlic and at least 1 tablespoon of salt, and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add at least 2 tablespoons or up to ¼ cup of the spice blend and all of the chopped spinach. After a minute, add the lemon juice and turn the heat up to high. Place the cashew cream in a medium bowl and add the hot spinach mixture, stirring rapidly to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, lemon, olive oil and/or saag paneer spice blend to taste. Slather the dip over grilled bread slices.

Makes About 12 Appetizer-Size Servings with Additional Spice Blend Leftover

Printable Recipe


Simply Bananas

Does the internet need another recipe for banana bread? It’s a reasonable question, given the millions, if not billions, of hits that Google will pull up from the most cursory of searches, and one that I grappled with when deciding to share today’s post. By the strength of sheer facts and numbers, I would have to reason that one more dissertation on the blue and black / white and gold dress would probably be more innovative than yet another darned loaf of baked banana puree, and yet here I am, quick bread in hand.

Statistics don’t tell the full story of the banana bread, as far as I’m concerned. There are easily hundreds of solid, superlative formulas out there that have stood the test of time, but the rest of those recipes? Redundant, untested, or simply repugnant. So I suppose I must clarify and say that the internet definitely doesn’t need any more crappy banana bread recipes.

Packed with soft chunks of whole banana and crunchy pecans, this particular rendition relies more on the inherent sweetness of the fruit itself than additional sugar. Some may look at that crumb and cry out that it’s under-baked, criminally banded with a sad streak almost as thick as the slices themselves, but that’s exactly what I look for in a good banana bread. If it’s not dense and moist to a fault, it’s not a recipe worth keeping. So for all the fellow banana bread lovers looking for a genuinely reliable formula that offers a bit more banana goodness than the norm, this one’s for you.

Simply Banana Bread

5 Large, Very Ripe Bananas, Divided
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat or All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Whole Chia Seeds
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted and Coarsely Chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan; set aside.

Toss four of the bananas into your blender along with the non-dairy milk, agave, and molasses. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, and then transfer the liquid into a medium saucepan. Set over moderate heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. You may want to pull out your splatter shield if you have it, or keep the pot partially covered to help prevent splatter. Cook until the mixture has thickened and darkened to a toffee-like, amber brown hue. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chia seeds, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make sure that all of the dry goods are equally distributed throughout the mixture before chopping the final banana into small chunks and tossing in the pieces. Coat the banana chunks evenly with flour to ensure that they won’t just sink to the bottom of the loaf during baking.

Mix the vinegar, oil, and vanilla into the banana puree before introducing all of the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry. Stir with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together. Add the pecans last, being careful not to over-mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly. Let cool completely before turning out of the pan, slicing, and enjoying.

Makes 8 – 10 Servings

Printable Recipe


Meals of the Millennium

It’s truly the end of an era as Millennium closes its doors for the final time in downtown San Francisco. After more than two decades of sharing space with Hotel California, this eminent establishment of vegan fine dining has outgrown its original outpost and is ready to leave the nest. Relocating to Rockridge in preparation for a June re-opening, it won’t be long before San Francisco will be treated to Chef Eric Tucker’s unique take on fresh, seasonal produce once again. I’ve had the incredible fortune and privilege of eating my way through a serious portion of the ever-changing menu, each dish a thoughtful composition of flavors and textures, sparkling under the romantic, warm lights. I’d like to think that this first twenty years is only the very start, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of the new East Bay kitchen.

Some of the specifics may have fallen victim to my terrible memory, the details lost in time, but the flavors and experiences are all utterly unforgettable. I, for one, am looking forward to a brand new Millennium.

Dyan’s “Whole Lotta Lovage” Limeade (left); cucumber, lovage, mint, lime, soda. Steve’s “Wanna Meet that Dad” BBQ Negroni (right); mezcal, gran classico & sweet vermouth, aged with oak and chipotle chile, fried onion

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Healthy Decadence

There’s a real art in finding the delicate balance between want and need, sweet and savory, austere and indulgent. All too often battling cravings that fall on the more hedonistic side of the scale, reaching some semblance of middle ground is especially important for this constant snacker. Grazing through my day with the greatest of ease, finding that ideal combination that will satisfy both my sweet tooth and my hunger is always the goal, but rarely the result of endless pantry raids throughout the day.

Inspired by yet another excellent new protein powder kindly provided as a sample by Ka’Chava, rather than just drink my superfoods straight, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get in the kitchen and play around. Energy bars were a natural first though, but too obvious, too easy to get excited about. Healthy, protein-packed fudge, though? Now that’s a wholesome treat one could lust after.

Rich, but not overwhelmingly so, crunchy cacao nibs punctuate the soft texture, much like chocolate chips strewn through unbaked cookie dough. A thin sheet of dark, slightly bitter chocolate caps off each small square with just the right extra dose of decadence, although it’s strictly optional if you’re more of a protein purist. Eaten straight out of the fridge, there are few tastier yet still healthy tidbits out there that can power me through a long day.

Protein Fudge

1 Cup Raw Cashews, Soaked for 4 – 6 Hours
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil, Melted
1/3 Cup Coconut Sugar
1 Packet (58.5g) Ka’Chava Chocolate Protein Powder
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Cacao Nibs

To Finish:

3 Ounces Dark Chocolate, Finely Chopped
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil, Melted

Thoroughly drain your cashews before tossing them into your blender. A high-speed blender is recommended for this recipe to ensure the smoothest texture possible, but as long as you’re patient with a lower-powered model and let it process for a bit longer, the recipe shouldn’t suffer. Add in the melted coconut oil, coconut sugar, protein powder, vanilla, and salt, and start the machine on the lowest setting to begin breaking down the cashews. Slowly increase the speed until you reach the highest setting, using the plunger to keep the contents of the blender all moving towards the blade, or pausing to scrape down the sides of the container, as needed. It may take some time for everything to combine smoothly, without any residual cashew pieces or graininess to be found.

Meanwhile, line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with foil, lightly grease, and set aside.

Once your fudge mixture is thoroughly blended, stir in the cacao nibs by hand to evenly distribute them throughout. Transfer everything to your prepared pan and use a wide spatula to smooth out the top. Place the pan on a flat surface in your freezer to begin solidifying.

To finish off your fudge, place the finely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe dish and heat for 60 seconds. Stir thoroughly until all of the chocolate is melted and no pieces remain. If necessary, continue microwaving at intervals of 30 seconds, stirring well after each one, until perfectly smooth. Retrieve the fudge from the freezer, pour the melted chocolate all over the top, and spread it out evenly so that it covers the entire pan. Return the pan of fudge to the freezer and let rest, undisturbed, for at least 3 hours.

Using the foil as a sling, pull the fudge out of the loaf pan and slice into small squares with a very sharp knife. To make cleaner cuts through the chocolate topping, first run the knife under very hot water and dry thoroughly before making your first incision.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes 16 – 20 Small Squares

Printable Recipe


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