A Bean By Any Other Color…

I’ve tried many new food items since becoming vegan: things I never thought I would eat much less like.  Things like pressed fermented tofu and seed cake, though seven-grain tempeh sounds more appetizing; and then there are all the beans.  My pre-vegan repertoire consisted of black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and the occasional lentil.  My post-vegan pantry has expanded to include all of those plus cranberry beans, anasazi beans, black, green, red, and black lentils, yellow and green split peas, Christmas lima beans, and so many more.  Some of the tastiest and most versatile beans I use are garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas.  They make excellent crispy snacks if marinated and oven-baked, star in chickenless salad, chickpea and noodle soup, and not-tuna salad.

My enthusiasm for new and interesting beans may have gone too far.  I was at an Asian market (since become a diner so I need a new source for black salt) and was going nuts at the prices of bulk lentils, spices, black salt, and green garbanzo beans.  The friend I was shopping with said, “um…green garbanzo beans?”  “Yep”, I replied; “aren’t they cool?”  My friend looked like ‘cool’ wasn’t the first word that occurred to her but she made no other protest and a bag of green garbanzo beans accompanied me home.

As summer takes over in Colorado I eat more salads and, at long last, the time came for me to soak and cook the green garbanzo beans in order to make not-tuna salad.  I admit, a lessons I’ve learned from previous cooking experience sprang to mind as I prepared the beans. Lesson one: soup mixes comprised of multiple beans and/or grains look pretty until they’re cooked.  Then, black beans or black rice color EVERYTHING else in the mix and the entire lot turns brown.  What would cooked green beans look like?  However, I’d purchased the beans and was committed.  How bad could it be?


Well…cooked and mashed green garbanzo beans are no longer green.  “Unappetizing” and other, stronger, words came to mind but I’m anything if not wasteful.  I mashed my beans, stirred in Just Mayo, mustard, chopped green olives, chopped celery, and 1/4 a sheet of nori, snipped into teeny pieces.  I was going to eat it no matter how it looked.

While the salad looked nasty; once I spooned it over a bed of red leaf lettuce and covered it with sliced Easter egg radishes, appearance was no longer an issue.


Taste was no issue at all.  There is no substitute for soaking and cooking my own beans.  Taste, texture, cost…there is no comparison, although I admit I use canned beans because they’re convenient.  The beans in my salad were smooth and creamy, which bore no resemblance to actual tuna salad but, this far into my vegan diet; that isn’t a bad thing.  The salad is filling, tasty, and easy to eat at my desk at work.  And, the green garbanzo beans?  I think that all future recipes will keep them whole rather than mashed.


A Frond For Me, A Frond For You

I go to the grocery store with the best of intentions.  I am enticed by the vivid colors of fresh, organic produce and always have a plan for what I buy.  More often than not, those plans go by the wayside as I get busy with my job and working on my manuscript.  Since I can’t bear the thought of all that lovely produce going to waste, my intricate plans become soup.

I like making soup.  I rarely need a recipe for it and I can have dinner done in the time it takes vegetables to cook: often a half hour or less.  My soups all start the same: sweat chopped onion in a stock pot, add garlic, add water or vegetable stock, add washed grains if I’m using them, add vegetables after grain has cooked, add canned or pre-cooked beans, heat through, eat.  Tasty and simple.  My last soup was created because I’d purchased some beautiful collard greens intending to make a lemon-chopped greens salad, didn’t get to it, and needed to use them up.  Why soup?  Well…

…I’m not that familiar with how to cook collard greens.  I tried the Sicilian Collard Greens from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet when I first became vegan but overcooked the greens.  The memory of the horrid bitter mass they became is still with me and I haven’t tried that recipe again.  My sister likes collard greens but, as she cooks hers with bacon fat, that recipe isn’t an option for me.  I perused my cookbooks and thought that a recipe for collard greens, wild rice, and black-eyed pea soup from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes sounded good.  I had to adapt it as I had rice and greens and very little of the other ingredients but that’s what I love about making soups: you don’t need to follow a recipe.  Throw everything in a pot and it’s very difficult to go wrong.  I made notes of replacements I could make with what I had on hand and read my new recipe out to my family.  They entered it into their Weight Watcher’s App and, finding the total point value satisfactory, dinner was planned.

Robin Robertson’s cookbook was one of the first I purchased when making the switch to a vegan lifestyle.  I figured I’d have all I needed with 1,000 recipes and have found this cookbook to be eminently useful.  The best tip is to either steam or simmer tempeh for 30 minutes before using it in a recipe as doing so takes out that bitter aftertaste.  I also appreciate these recipes are more of a guideline.  I’ve made some recipes while adhering to every jot and tittle but some don’t include enough herbs and spices for my liking.  I thought as much with this soup recipe and added a few of my favorites.  Most spices are free on my family’s diet plan so I can indulge my inner mad kitchen scientist.


My version of the soup was excellent.  The entire kitchen was filled with mouth-watering scents as the soup cooked and I adjusted the original recipe so everything was cooked in one pot.  This is a great idea if all the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting, not so much if you’re planning on leftovers.  I’ve found that greens left in soup overnight take on an unappetizing smell.  This happened to my delicious soup and I was reminded that I’d made this observation once already.  Hopefully, now that I’ve twice been left with no leftovers (something that annoys me), I’ll remember to cook only the amount of greens that can be consumed in one sitting.  If my greens are in such bad shape they won’t last while I heat leftovers, the freezer is always a viable option.

Nasty leftover greens aside, I can’t say enough good things about this soup.  It satisfies both senses of taste and smell, is soothing to the tummy, and-when paired with a slice of molasses cornbread-makes for a filling meal.  The cornbread is made from one of my mother’s recipes and I’m sharing it with her permission.  Since my recipe breaks enough from Ms. Robertson’s; I’m sharing it as well.  Two recipes in one post!

Side note: my mother uses Wholesome! brand organic stevia in her recipe.  If stevia isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute another sweetener.

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean soup with Molasses Corn Bread.

The cornbread takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook so make it first.  You will need:

1 Cup yellow cornmeal

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

3 tsp or 6 packets Stevia leaf herbal extract

1 cup unsweetened plant based milk (we use almond/coconut)

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups frozen organic corn kernels

1 TBSP ground flax seed meal

2 TBSP water

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and set aside.  Mix the flax meal with the water and set aside.  Rinse the corn and let drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, plant milk, molasses, and the flax egg.  Mix well and stir into dry ingredients.  Stir in the corn and pour the batter into the skillet.
  4. Bake cornbread until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Slice into 12 slices and serve plain or with desired topping.


Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean Soup.  You will need:

1 Bunch Collard Greens, stemmed and chopped

1 Medium onion, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 14 oz Cans Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans rinsed and drained or 3 Cups mixed cooked beans, drained

6 Cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup Wild Rice Blend (I like Lundgren’s), rinsed

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp thyme

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

A kitchen timer!

  1.  Place the chopped onion in a stock pot over medium low heat and let cook 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and let cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes more.  Add a small bit of vegetable broth if onions and garlic begin to stick.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, thyme, red pepper flakes, and wild rice.  Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped collard greens and cook another 15 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and heat through, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!  Can serve 8 people if the portions stay around 1 cup.

Note: Only chop all the greens and add them to the soup of all of the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting.  If not, chop the equivalent of one large frond per person and cook in a separate pot of boiling, salted water until collards are tender.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Drain the collards and divide them among the bowls when the soup is complete.  Stir and enjoy.






Don’t Forget To Smoke Your Weed

I follow blogger Shared Skillet and find her recipes useful as I too am living in a “mixed” family in that I am the sole vegan amidst omnivores who don’t mind eating strictly vegan meals a surprising amount of the time but who are not interested in giving up meat, eggs, and cheese.  In January, a recipe for Smoked Spinach and Artichoke dip was posted on Shared Skillet’s blog and I read the recipe as just that: smoked spinach and artichoke dip.

How does one smoke spinach? I wondered.  Does the spinach get crispy like when making kale chips?  Wouldn’t that be a weird texture?  Would the spinach stay crispy once the other ingredients were added?  Didn’t I read somewhere that spinach is referred to as ditch weed?  Ha Ha.  Smoked weed.  Especially apropos as I live in Colorado.  And that, my friends, is how a blog post title is born.

In answer to my most pressing question, no; spinach is not synonymous with ditch weed.  According to Wikipedia, wild spinach is wild spinach and feral cannabis is ditch weed.  In answer to all my other questions, I found it helpful to actually read the recipe.  It isn’t the spinach that’s smoked: “smoked” refers to the type of cashew cheese used.

I recently found myself with artichokes I needed to use and remembered the recipe.  I had enough ingredients on hand that, while I didn’t exactly follow the recipe, I didn’t make any weird substitutions.  The only big substitution I made was Heidi Ho brand smoked chia cheese for the Miyoko’s Kitchen  High Sierra Rustic Alpine cheese because Heidi Ho was on sale and Miyoko’s Kitchen wasn’t.  I used a package of frozen spinach instead of fresh and my artichokes were jarred rather than canned.  No worries: I borrowed my parents’ food scale and weighed out 14 oz of artichokes.

The recipe calls for olive oil and I don’t use oil to cook so I wasn’t vigorous when squeezing the water out of the defrosted spinach in hopes it wouldn’t stick when cooking.  The little bit of water and medium low heat was all I needed.

I wish I could say leaving out the olive oil makes this dip a healthy treat but it doesn’t.  A cup of vegan mayo and the entire package of chia cheese made this dip as rich and creamy as any I ever ordered as an appetizer in my pre-vegan days.  I admit that, while it was cooking, I wondered if it was something I was going to be interested in eating…

Hmmm…doesn’t look very delicieux

…but then the smells hit me and I started salivating.  When all the ingredients had heated through I could hardly wait to spoon some into a dish and set to.  The recipe suggests eating the dip with crusty bread which I would have done if I hadn’t eaten the bread I had with spaghetti earlier in the week.  I did have some Tres Madres purple corn chips-non GMO thank you very much-which I figured would do just as well.

I was not disappointed.  The dip is rich, creamy, and I could taste both the sweet and smoky flavor of the paprika.  My version might be a bit too smoky with the cheese I used as well as including a full cup of nutritional yeast.  I probably could have used a bit less nutritional yeast as the smoked flavor of this dip did hit me in the back of the throat.  I don’t mind strong flavors though and now my only question is; how am I going to avoid eating the entire pan by myself?

Eatin’ Broccoli

I know broccoli is good for me and that it should make up a significant portion of my diet: that’s not challenging.  What is challenging is finding unique ways to eat it.  One of my favorite ways is steamed and added to my spaghetti sauce along with beans and black olives but cooked tomatoes and I aren’t the best of friends so that meal, while tasty, isn’t one I can eat regularly.

I’ve had a recipe I copied down-I can’t remember where-when I first became a vegan I was excited to try but it got put in my recipe box and was forgotten.  That is, until I had a head of broccoli in my fridge that needed to be eaten.  I remembered the card and was pleased to find the ingredients and steps were simple.  My family was game and the plan to eat Broccoli Bisque Amandine was put into action.

Like most recipes I try, what’s printed on the page/recipe card is rarely what ends up in the pot.  My mother and I started making changes immediately.  She’s always been a fan of broccoli cheese soup and we happened to have a block of Daiya’s Jalapeno Havarti cheese.  Then, the question became how to make it a one pot meal?  The answer?  A can of organic cannelloni beans.

Broccoli was chopped and steamed, almonds were blanched and toasted in the oven, and beans were drained and rinsed.  I blended the broccoli, beans, and almonds in three batches with 1 cup of almond milk per batch and then poured it into a pot.  My mom added the cheese and we heated it through on medium to medium low heat.

The original recipe said to steam the broccoli until tender and suggested doing so for 12 to 14 minutes.  I usually steam broccoli only a few minutes, just until bright green, so was concerned such a long cooking time would make the broccoli smell like overcooked cruciferous veg.  It didn’t.  The soup did, however, look a little distressing while heating through.


Does anyone remember that TV show that was on in the (very) early 90’s, Swamp Thing?  Not that the soup reminded me of a muck monster at all, it was just green…and it would bubble from time to time…

It tasted ever so much better than it looked.  The soup wasn’t perfectly smooth but neither was it lumpy.  It was delicious, thick, and spicy.  A perfect soup for cold weather though I think it would be okay during the warm months as well.  The original recipe suggested retaining a bit of the toasted almonds for garnish but I blended them all into the soup.  Instead, I garnished with a slice of whole wheat bread spread with a little Earth Balance.

Fortunately, I have left-overs.  I anticipate this will reheat very well at work tomorrow although I may be fighting my parents for it.  We all liked it and votes about eating it again were unanimous.

Want to try it?

Broccoli-Almond Cheesy Soup

1/3 cup blanched whole almonds, ground

3 cups non-dairy milk (I used Simple Truth Unsweetened Almond Milk)

6 cups broccoli flowerets

1 7 oz package Daiya Jalapeno Havarti cheese, grated

1 15 0z can Organic Cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ground almonds in a thin, even layer on a dry baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, just until golden.  If desired, reserve 4 tsp toasted ground almonds for garnish.
  2. Steam broccoli until very tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Combine cooked broccoli, rinsed beans, almonds, and milk in batches in a blender.  Process each batch until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour the blended soup into  a large saucepan.
  4. Add the grated cheese and heat soup over medium to medium low heat until heated through and cheese is melted.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with almonds, if using.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Makes 6 One cup servings




Pizza Perfect

I’ve been spending a few months focused on my manuscript and haven’t been going out or experimenting with food.  My dinners have been tried and true meals I through together without need of a recipe: usually a bean and veggie soup served with a grain.  They’re easy to make, don’t require much planning, and my entire family likes them.  I can focus on my writing rather than spending a great deal of time planning dinner.  But then, the time comes when I’m ready to take a break from my manuscript and look forward to trying something new.

Last weekend, that something new was a chicken artichoke pizza.  Or chik’n, as there was no bird involved.  I had a package of Beyond Meat‘s Lightly Seasoned Strips and a jar of artichoke hearts.  I also had an Archer Farms brand thin pizza crust (no dairy or eggs!), a block of Daiya‘s Jalapeno Havarti, and half a bag of Daiya’s Cheddar Shreds.  I like making my own pizza because ordering a veganized pizza from a vendor costs me over ten dollars and a ready-made vegan pizza from the supermarket’s freezer section costs about as much.  Plus, if I make my own, I can have as many toppings as I like.

Most of my pizzas have olives on them as I am an olive addict.  Green, black, kalamata…you name ’em I love ’em.  This time, I decided to leave them off.  I only had green and black and I didn’t feel the flavor of black olives would compliment my pizza.  The pizza was going to be tart enough with the artichokes and I decided to leave the green off as well.  I gathered my ingredients, checked my instructions on the crust, and was ready to go.

The crust didn’t require pre-baking so got my oven ready, layered on my toppings, and slid my pie into the oven.  15 minutes later, I had a pizza that smelled delicious, the crust lightly browned on the edges.  The middle was a bit soggy but another five minutes did the trick.

How was it?  Wonderful.  The shreds of jalapeno havarti on the top of the pizza didn’t melt all that well but the cheddar shreds layered between the strips and the artichokes did and helped hold the pizza together.  Nothing was missing.  There was no layer of flavor I searched for while consuming way more pizza in one sitting than I should.  The thin crust was a bit fragile but once I folded the edges of a piece together, I didn’t deal with the crust giving way and all my toppings ending scattered on the plate.  The best part?  I had leftovers and my workplace has a toaster oven.  Delicious pizza, two days in a row.

So good!

Want to try it?

Vegan Chicken Artichoke Pizza

1 vegan pizza crust

4 TBSP organic tomato sauce

2 TBSP Italian Seasoning

2/3 package Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Strips

1 cup Daiya Vegan Cheddar Shreds

6 jarred artichoke hearts (equals about two cups once chopped)

1/3 block Daiya Jalapeno Havarti Cheese block, shredded

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, prepare Beyond Meat according to the package’s skillet instructions.  Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, chop into chunks.
  3.  Chop the artichoke hearts and press well to get rid of any excess liquid.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce on crust, coming close to the edge.  Top with the Italian seasoning, then the artichokes, the cheddar shreds, and the chicken chunks.
  5. Top with the jalapeno havarti shreds.
  6. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.  Check center of pizza and, if necessary, bake 5 minutes more.
  7. Cut into triangles with a pizza cutter.
  8. Makes 8 slices but only serves 2 unless paired with a salad.

It’s My Party and I’ll Fromage if I Want To

I have friends and family that are interested in my vegan lifestyle but I invariably hear; “I could never go vegan-I could never give up cheese”.  I understand.  Cheese was an important part of my life before becoming a vegan.  The sharper the Cheddar the better, Stilton; Gouda, Gruyére, Brie…yes, I did eat a great deal of cheese.

I haven’t missed cheese; not with brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao slices by Field Roast taking care of most of my needs.  There is no denying the texture is not the same and, excepting Daiya’s Gouda style farmhouse block, I haven’t found a vegan cheese substitute I like sliced and eaten with crackers.  Cheese and crackers along with grapes or a sliced apple is one of my favorite simple snacks and one I was willing to drop the cheese portion if I had to.  And yet, I couldn’t help holding out hope that I’d find a cheese substitute I’d find tasty with a cracker.

It turns out, I don’t have to give up my snack.  My local King Soopers has a vegan/vegetarian section that carries some Tofurky and Field Roast products, some Tofu, some cheese options, and something new.  I found Treeline brand cheese: a non-dairy product made from cashews.  King Soopers carries the Chipotle Serrano Pepper, Scallion, and Herb-Garlic flavors.  I’m always willing to try something new and, hoping it would prove delicious, I purchased a carton of the Scallion and took it home.

I was not disappointed.  Treeline’s product is smooth, creamy, and spreads easily onto a cracker so there’s no worry of breakage.  The flavor is pleasant as well.  Despite being made with cashews it doesn’t take at all like cashews.  Treeline isn’t heavy on the spice either.  I liked the Scallion so much that, when I was ready for another treat, I purchased the Herb-Garlic and didn’t find the flavor too strong.  I am looking forward to trying other vegan substitutes as they come to hand, especially that made by Miyoko’s Kitchen, but I am thrilled to have access to Treeline.  Now, I only have to find a place that offers the other flavors.


My favorite cracker for cheese and crackers indulgence used to be Triscuit crackers.  Unfortunately, despite releasing new and interesting flavors-including a pumpkin spice-Nabisco has not sought 3rd party non-GMO verification for their Triscuit crackers.  Fortunately, Back to Nature makes a Harvest Whole Wheat Cracker that tastes exactly like a Triscuit but sports the non-GMO butterfly.  My snack life is saved!


I don’t mind purchasing a product like Treeline as an occasional treat but there’s no denying it’s a bit expensive so I’m scouring my cookbooks for recipes I can try at home.  A few make-at-home cheese recipes will be ideal for the Holiday Season.  Have a favorite?  Let me know.  I’m always up for cheese and crackers and perhaps a little wine.

Comfort and Pasta

My workplace had a Halloween potluck earlier this week and were planning a chili competition.  I thought I’d bring something different and decided to make a corn chowder.  An added inducement to the corn chowder was that I could make it with ingredients I had on hand and any time I can avoid the grocery store I will choose to do so.

I used the recipe in The Part Time Vegan as a template, adding a few tweaks of my own, and ended up with a chowder that wasn’t bad.  Wasn’t bad isn’t usually what I go for so my corn chowder recipe needs work before it can be posted.  Having a recipe not turn out as I’d hoped is always a little bit of a downer so I decided to drown my sorrows in comfort food.  Enter pasta and, fortunately, the McDougall diet allows me to eat as much as I like.

With both comfort and temperance in mind, I decided to try a new pasta.  I got sucked into one of those sample stands at Costco which introduced me to Explore Cuisine’s Chickpea Pasta (which is not on the website but other tasty products are).  The woman at the sample stand assured me the pasta kept a chewy texture despite re-heating and I was persuaded to buy a box.


I have tried other gluten-free pastas.  I like quinoa pasta but have found brown rice pasta ends up too mushy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boiled water and measured out the pasta.  I was concerned with taste as the pasta smelled well, beany, as it cooked but all my worries were for naught.  The pasta has a slight flavor that didn’t remind me too much of chickpeas and kept a perfect al dente texture.  My family liked it as well.  Though I don’t know this will replace quinoa pasta for me, I’m definitely interested in trying more of Enjoy Cuisine’s products.

Wondering what to eat with the pasta?  Here’s my Mom’s recipe for chunky vegan pasta sauce.  Neither she nor my step-father are vegan and they both choose this one over sauces laden with meat.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Sue’s Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup minced onion

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 jar Classico Traditional Favorites Pasta Sauce, Tomato & Basil

1 jar Prego Light Smart Traditional Italian Sauce

2 TBSP Hunts Tomato Paste

1 14oz can Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes, Diced, No Salt Added

1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce

1 15 oz can Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Organic Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed

6 oz Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles

Cook onions and garlic until onions begin to sweat.  All all other ingredients except beans and crumbles.  Cook 1 hour.  Add beans and crumbles and cook 15 minutes.  Pour over cooked spaghetti.

Prep and Cook time = 75 min

Serving Size = 2 cups

Serves = 8

A Special Cake for that Special Occasion

I made my step-father the most amazing cake for Fathers’ Day.  I prefer to make cakes rather than buy them as grocery store cakes are one, not vegan; and two, made with white sugar.  I swear the longer I don’t eat white sugar the more sensitive to it I become.  I can hardly tolerate desserts made with it any more and am shocked at how sweet I used to like my treats.  I prefer to make my own white sugar free vegan treats.

Fortunately, my step-father loves of vegan treats.  He’s been heard to say the vegan desserts are the best and he gets a light in his eye when I suggest baking a cake.  He requested chocolate for Fathers’ Day so I hauled out my go-to baking book.  It’s The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.  Ms. Holechek doesn’t exaggerate: these are the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted.  She has a recipe for The Blackest Forest Cake that I made before and my notes say it’s amazing.  I took a look and thought I’d make it again but the contents of my cupboard convinced me to try an experiment.  Twenty minutes of prep and forty minutes of baking later I ended up with something I’m going to call Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.  I’ll have to come up with something shorter but that works for now.

I have had past experiments tank.  My baked goods usually turn out okay although I’ve had a few I wouldn’t make again and, though the cake layers smelled good while baking, I doubted the wisdom of attempting an experiment on a holiday.  I’d committed and it was chocolate after all…how bad could it be?

The answer?  Absolutely fabulous.  This cake is incredible.  I added chocolate chips to the batter just before baking and they add a fun contrasting texture to a rich, moist cake.  I put a layer of strawberry fruit filling on top of the fudge frosting between the layers, then topped the cake with the rest of the strawberries.

I did cheat here: I used canned strawberry pie filling rather than making my own fruit filling.  If I hadn’t decided on this recipe on the fly I would have made my own fruit filling/topping as I think it would have resulted in a stronger strawberry flavor.  You can’t beat fresh, right?  Not that I’m complaining: this cake is amazing.  I’m surprised at how good it is.  The secret might be the coconut sugar.

I use coconut sugar in most of my recipes.  It can add a toffee-like flavor to cookies and I believe that, because it isn’t overpoweringly sweet like white sugar, it lets the chocolate shine in this cake.  Coconut sugar can be a bit expensive but I find deals on Amazon.com or Vitacost.

Want to try it?  The recipe is below.  These ingredients aren’t the cheapest but are well worth using for a special treat.  Try it.  Make changes.  If your changes are tasty, let me know!

Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, sifted

3/4 cup Hungarian High Altitude Flour (if you don’t have to worry about altitude, use all-purpose flour), sifted

1 1/2 cups organic coconut sugar

3/4 cup organic cacao powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP plain non-dairy yogurt

1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut blend milk

1/2 cup oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup boiling water

2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and then line the bottoms with wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and thoroughly mix.  Add boiling water and mix to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Cook cake in pans 20 minutes and then run a thin knife around edges and turn onto a cooking rack to cool completely.  Note: I find baked goods usually take 10 to 15 minutes longer than the original recipe directs.  I baked for 30 minutes and then checked every five until the cakes were done.
  4. Make fudge frosting.

Fudge Frosting

2/3 cup chocolate chips

6 TBSP Earth Balance vegan margarine

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/8 tsp salt

6 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine chocolate chips and margarine in a saucepan and whisk over low heat until completely melted.  Resist the urge to dip fruit in the melted chocolate and scrape into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla.  Put frosting in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set before using.

Build the cake.  Put the bottom layer on the cake plate and cover the top with a layer of fudge frosting and 1/3 of the strawberry filling.  Place the second layer on the top.  Frost cake with remaining icing and top with remaining fruit.  Carefully cover cake and put in refrigerator until ready to eat.  Store cake covered in refrigerator.

Tip:  Put the layers on separate cooling racks.  It will be much easier to turn them out on the cake plate.

If you have the time and a star tip for cake decorating, run a border around the bottom and top of the cake.  It will frame the fruit topping and keep it from running off the sides of the cake.  Here’s an article on making your own piping bag.



What’s In This?

My diet contains all sorts of tasty foods based on vegetables, grains, and beans but, sometimes, all I want is dessert.  In an attempt to stick to my way of eating, I’m always looking for healthier forms of desserts: ones based on whole fruits, high fiber grains, and beans.  Yes, that’s right, beans.  I didn’t believe it either but having tried desserts based with beans, I’m becoming a convert.

My first bean based dessert was black bean brownies.  I was skeptical but the result is a dense, fudge-like brownie that’s well worth blowing a diet on.  True, they do have to be eaten within a few days or they get really dry but a pan of brownies doesn’t last all that long around my house anyway.

My second bean based dessert was chocolate chip cookies that had tofu as the secret ingredient.  I’d had some bad luck with tofu-based desserts, was again skeptical, and was again proven wrong.  I prefer chewy cookies and these were perfect.

With both experiments going so well, I was ready to try something new.  I found a recipe for a Great Northern Apple Cake in my Vegan on the Cheap cookbook and the secret ingredient is in the title: Great Northern Beans.

Great Northern Beans are not my favorite.  I find them rather tasteless which I suppose is desirable trait when they’re being used in dessert.  Beans don’t contain a great deal of liquid so I couldn’t help wondering if any cake made with them was be too dry.  There was no way to know but to make it so I gathered the ingredients, hauled out my food processor, and got started.

This cake might be cheap but it’s definitely not quick.  Walnuts must be toasted and chopped; apples cored, peeled, and sauteed in vegan butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice; oats ground to flour, the pan to be lined with apples…there’s a lot of steps, setting bowls aside, reserving liquid…it’s not a recipe I would recommend unless you have a great deal of time and energy.

So…I made this cake twice.  The first time I made it, I got the baking powder out of the cupboard and completely forgot to add it.  I thought the cake looked a little flat when I got it out of the oven but, what did I know?  Maybe a cake made with beans doesn’t rise.  Well, one without baking powder doesn’t and is certainly dense.  I don’t want to say the cake was inedible but it certainly isn’t a dessert I’d crave.  I knew I wanted to try it again but, with the amount of prep time, I put it off.

Then there was a snow storm here and and the weather was perfect for baking.  I dug a can of Great Northern Beans out of the cupboard, collected everything else, and mixed the cake making sure to include the baking powder.

The cake already looks better than my first attempt

The cake rose!  Who knew!  This one looked much better than the first.  The real test was taste and it isn’t bad.  The apples, brown sugar, and walnuts make a nice caramel-apple topping and the cake is nice and moist.  However, it is missing something.  I don’t know what it is but the cake itself is missing a layer of taste: it’s subtle but it’s missing.  If I’m going to continue to make this cake, some experimenting is necessary.  Maybe cardamom, or chili pepper, or ginger…

An upside-down apple/white bean cake

On a health note: I ate a piece of this cake with a scoop of cashew milk salted caramel ice cream and woke up with a weird headache the next morning.  I’ve been reading about sugar sensitivity and, while there are a myriad of reasons why I could have a headache; I wondered it was because I’ve been cutting way back on my sugar intake and cake and ice cream were a bit much.  Perhaps, indulging in dessert isn’t such a great idea after all.

Cake and Ice Cream
Is “healthy dessert” an oxymoron?

Cold Comfort Food

Does every meal I make turn out a celebration of wonderful vegan options?  No!  In fact, I’ve been having a week.  Recipes aren’t turning out or I’m forgetting important ingredients (a cake fiasco post is forthcoming): it’s enough to drive a person back to eating canned chili beans which just so happen to be on the menu tonight with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.  I need a break.

My week of ruined recipes started with an attempt at making tempeh with potatoes and cabbage.  I didn’t start out wanting to make this.  I first intended to make a tempeh recipe from my Macrobiotic cookbook but then Julianna Hever posted a health benefits of cabbage photo (which I can’t find again) so I decided to try sweet and sour cabbage with tempeh and fried rice-substitute the rice with barley.  Then a blizzard hit and sweet and sour cabbage didn’t sound comfort foody enough so I perused my cookbooks and found the afore mentioned recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  The dish was supposed to be reminiscent of Hungarian goulash and I thought that sounded like it would bring comfort while I was buried under 2 feet of snow.

I gathered my ingredients, found I didn’t have Hungarian sweet paprika, and subbed Spanish paprika.  I cooked the dish according to instructions and, after 30 minutes, my potatoes hadn’t cooked.  At all.  They remained raw.  What happened?  Did I not cut them small enough?  Had I used some kind of mutant potato that refused to cook?  I stirred my meal and let it cook another ten minutes.  No softening of the potatoes.  Another ten minutes and nothing.  Meanwhile, the carrots and cabbage were cooking into mush.  I threw in the towel, turned off the fire, clapped a lid on the pan to keep the heat in, and made myself a sandwich.

Why aren’t the potatoes cooking?!


I left my meal to cool, hoping the potatoes would soften and found they did so.  Now what?  The meal didn’t taste bad.  There weren’t a ton of flavor layers in it but it wasn’t unpleasant and, while I only had a few dollars of ingredients in it, I hate wasting food.  What could I do with it beyond scraping it out of the pan into the trash?  I wasn’t sure but I decided to save it and come at it another day.  Once I had it in a refrigerator dish, I had the thought that it looked like filling for something.  What, I wasn’t sure but I decided to let that thought mull.

A couple of days later, I had it.  Runzas.  I hadn’t had a Runza in years.  For one, they’re made with ground beef and, two, I don’t think the restaurant exists outside the state of Nebraska. My meal already had cabbage and the tempeh had cooked up soft enough it could almost substitute for ground beef.  All I needed was a dough recipe.

I found one, veganized it, and put my Runzas together.  They didn’t look too bad when I pulled them out of the oven: while the  dough seams had separated in places I didn’t have any filling explosions.  The recipe I’d veganized wanted me to make 16 squares with 3/4 of the dough.  I was using all the dough so decided to separate it in half and make large hand pies with half the dough and smaller hand pies with the other half to see which I preferred.  I chose one of each and was ready to see whether I’d salvaged my tempeh meal or not.

I think I did.  The larger pie had (of course) a large dough to filling ratio.  The dough baked up a bit sweet so, with the larger pie, the filling needed more spice.  If I’d planned on making Runzas from the beginning, I’d have used smoked paprika and cumin.  With the smaller pie, the taste contrast wasn’t as strong.

Not the best picture, but I was tired 🙂

All in all, I think I did manage to salvage this meal.  I ended up making enough Runzas to freeze for work lunches; something that makes me happy because it saves me money in the long run.  Still, they weren’t amazing so my vegan Runzas still need work.

The dough doesn’t though.  The dough is fabulous.  While I was eating my cabbage stuffed hand pie, I couldn’t help thinking the filling should be dark chocolate, cherry, and a touch of cayenne.  An idea for the next blizzard.

Need a recipe for vegan runza dough?  This the original recipe I found: my veganized version is below.

Vegan Runza Dough

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)

1/3 cup sugar

1 stick Earth Balance

2 flax eggs

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together 2 TBSP flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flax Meal) and 6 TBSP water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the 2 cups milk and heat to lukewarm (105 degrees).  Pour the liquid into the dry mixture.  Beat with a mixer until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add the flax eggs and the remaining flour.  Mix with a dough hook or knead by hand (great to vent frustration!) until all the flour is incorporated.  The dough will be a bit sticky.
  6. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface.  Cut into squares.  Spoon filling onto the center of each square and fold the dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal.
  8. Place on the cookie sheets and let raise in a warm place for 25 minutes.
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.  The large squares did best at 30 minutes-the smaller ones were done after 25.
  10. Let cool and enjoy.