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Hello everyone. It’s been a while. I am happy to say that I feel like I am back on the cooking track after a couple of months of floundering due to health issues. I had a procedure that should take care of the worst of my symptoms, and while I’m still slowly recovering, the recovery is progressing as it should and I am feeling a little better every day. So let’s talk about delicious, vegan food here again, shall we?

First, look at this BUCKET of guacamole.

This right here is almost exactly 3 kilograms (6.6 lbs) of homemade guacamole. We know this because we actually weighed it before digging in. Did I make this for a party or gathering of some sort? No. I made this because we were gifted practically an entire case of ripe avocados and my family and I are guacamole maniacs. The first night of this bowl’s existence we (the four of us) ate close to half of it in bean & Daiya “cheese” wraps while we watched the movie about Gandhi’s life. Yes, there was something oddly shameful about sitting there watching this amazing man starve himself in the name of human rights while we were cramming as much delicious, tangy, spicy, creamy guac into our gullets as we could; but it didn’t stop us. (The other half of the bowl was polished off over the course of the next few days.)

For Valentine’s day I generally make some sort of fancy dessert to share with the family. This year I was just one week post-op and didn’t have a real lot of energy or physical wherewithal to get jiggy with the sugar, but I did want to do something. A friend of mine keeps posting on FB about these cheesecake brownies she makes (non-vegan) and I just happened to have the ingredients on hand to try veganizing them, which is lucky because I hadn’t actually been to a store that carries Tofutti products in a couple of weeks. Anyway, I didn’t even bother looking at a non-vegan recipe for cheesecake brownies because I felt confident enough in my baking skills I could come up with something good. And I did!

That’s what I was talkin’ about, y’all. A nice fudgey brownie bottom and a super luscious, creamy cheesecake-style topping.  What I really like about this recipe is you get that cheesecake satisfaction without having to drop a money-bomb at the natural foods store on the fake cream cheese. I mean, when I make a vegan cheesecake I end up using four or five tubs of the stuff and at $5 to $6 a container – well, that there is some bourgeoisie dessert, y’know what I’m saying? But these brownies only use 1 1/2 tubs – which leaves 1/2 a tub for you to enjoy on your bagels or celery sticks or whatnot.

Hey, why don’t you try making these yourself?

Vegan Cheesecake Brownies

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Prepare a 9″ x 13″ pan by lining it with parchment paper.

“Cheesecake” Topping

1 1/2 containers of Tofutti’s “Better Than Cream Cheese”

1 box of firm silken tofu, pureed until smooth (about 12 oz)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp tapioca starch or arrowroot powder

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

pinch salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat the Tofutti with the sugar until well-mixed. Add in the tofu and vanilla and mix. Add in the starch, zest (if using), and salt and beat to combine. Scrape this mixture into a separate bowl and set aside.

You can clean your mixing bowl now if you like, but I don’t bother. Instead I mix up the brownie mixture. (If I did the brownie mixture first, I’d end up with chocolate-coloured cheesecake topping, which isn’t what I want.)

Brownie Bottom

2 cups dark brown sugar

2/3 cup oil (canola, corn, sunflower, something light-tasting like that)

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups whole grain flour (I used spelt, because I love the taste and texture, but anything will do)

1 1/4 cups fair-trade, organic cocoa (I use Cocoa Camino brand)

1/2 tsp salt

up to 2/3 cup of non-dairy milk

Beat the sugar & oil together until well-combined. Add the vanilla and beat. Add the flour, cocoa and salt and begin mixing on low speed. Once that’s incorporated, start adding the non-dairy milk a little at a time. This is where you have to use your judgment. The final consistency of the batter should be somewhere between a cookie dough and a cake batter. You shouldn’t be able to pour it out of the bowl, but it should be wet enough that it will slowly spread out when plopped into the pan. Once you’ve got it the right consistency, scoop the brownie batter into the prepared pan, reserving about 1/3 of a cup. Use a spatula to spread and pat the brownie batter out into the corners and get it nice and even along the top.

Next smooth the “cheesecake” topping over the brownie bottom, using a clean spatula to get it into the corners and spread it out evenly. Finally, take a butterknife and plop the 1/3 of a cup of reserved brownie batter into the cheesecake topping. Use the knife to create streaks, swirls and stripes of chocolatey goodness through the creamy whiteness of the cheesecake topping.

Slide this into the pre-heated oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes. The sides should look firm and dry but the middle should still seem a bit jiggly (don’t bother with a toothpick test on these babies). Turn the heat off the oven, crack the oven door open a bit, and let the brownies cool to the touch. Remove them from the oven and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Once they are completely chilled, you can use the parchment to lift the entire batch out of the pan and cut them into appropriately-sized bars. (I’ll leave it up to you to determine what an appropriately-sized bar is.)

Yum, right? We vegans are so deprived.

Next up….warm, soft, delicious, freshly-baked “cheese” and onion bread.

When I have the energy, I just love making bread by hand. There is something so meditative about it and the feeling of accomplishment, when the bread rises as it should and bakes up into something so soft and warm and delicious is arguably unmatched. The really nice thing about baking your own bread is you can flavour it and shape it anyway you like. Last night I was planning to make something with these giant beets I  had lingering in the bottom drawer of the fridge. Normally I would make a borscht – it’s a favourite soup around here – and so when I still felt like I was gonna do that I realized a nice, freshly baked bread would complete the meal perfectly. Of course, I changed my mind about the borscht, but not before I’d already started on making the bread. Anyway, here’s the recipe.

Vegan “Cheese” and Onion Bread

This is a fairly quick-rising bread – you’ll be savouring it within a couple of hours of  mixing the first few ingredients together.

This recipe yields one large loaf, but I usually double it because it goes so fast and makes excellent toast and sandwiches the next day.

3 – 4 cups whole grain flour

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (this is, in fact, optional – but really brings out the ‘cheesy’ flavours if you do use it)

1 tbsp dry, active yeast

2 tbsp dry sweetener

1 tbsp dried parsley flakes

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup warm water

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion

1 bag (227 g) Daiya cheddar-style shreds (or other vegan “cheese”)

Mix 1 cup of the flour with both the yeasts, the sugar, the parsley, garlic powder, cayenne, and salt.  In a seperate bowl, whisk the water with the olive oil and vinegar. Add this to the flour/yeast/spice mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to make a slurry. Let this sit for about 15 minutes to allow the  yeast to activate.

Next, stir in the chopped onion and shredded vegan “cheese”.  Then begin adding the rest of the flour, first stirring with the wooden spoon, then switching to your (clean) hands once it gets harder to mix. As soon as the dough reaches an earlobe-like consistency, turn it onto a wooden board and knead it for at least five minutes, maybe more like ten. This is the part where you sing songs and/or meditate and get all zen thinking about the simple pleasures in life.

Transfer the kneaded lump of dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise for about 30 minutes. Take it out of the bowl and knead it a few times, then shape it into a loaf on a baking sheet, or put into one large or two smaller loaf pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes to an hour, or until it’s nearly doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 350F and bake your bread for 25 – 30 minutes, until it’s golden and sounds hollow when you tap it. Let stand for ten minutes before slicing, even though I know that’s hard.

So, if I didn’t serve this scrumptious, savory, warm fluffy spelt loaf with borscht, what DID I end up serving it with? Well, I was in the mood for roasted beets, see? But roasted beets and bread don’t a meal make; that’s more like two side dishes than a main course. So I thought and thought  about how I could incorporate the beets into a main dish without making them a soup or salad, and then it hit me. I could try stuffing them!

Oh hell, yes.

Sexy Stuffed Beets

Plump and pink and full of it. Just like this vegan food blogger.

6 medium- large beets, whole and unpeeled

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 cups)

4 large carrots, coarsely grated

1 cup coarsely ground walnuts (I actually used raw sunflower seeds because I realized at the last minute I was out of walnuts)

1 cup minced fresh mushrooms

1/3 cup nutritional yeast (optional, but really. It adds so much. Don’t skip it if you can help it).

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp dry, rubbed sage

salt and black pepper to taste

1/3 cup vegan “cream cheese” or “sour cream” to garnish (optional)
Scrub your beets. Bring a huge stock pot of water to a full boil. Drop the whole, unpeeled beets into the boiling water and let them burble away for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a sharp knife can slide into the side of one with little to no resistance. Drain them, then fill the pot with cold water and add them back in. Let the sit in the cold water while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

In a large skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add in the carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring occassionally, for a few more minutes. Add the garlic, vinegar and all the seasonings and mix well. Stir in the ground nuts and remove the pan from the heat.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, rub off their skins and cut off their tops and tails. Cut them in half . (Because beets can vary so much in size and shape, I’ll let you decide which way to halve them – lengthwise or widthwise. Basically you want to cut them in whatever way will maximize the cup-shape you want in order to stuff them.) Use a soup spoon or melon baller to hollow out the beet halves, leaving at least an inch of beet flesh all around the sides and bottoms. Reserve the flesh you remove to be used in other recipes*.

Once all the halves are hollowed out, place the them in a well-oiled baking dish. Sprinkle them generously with the balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper. Put them in the hot oven and let them roast for about 10 minutes. Turn them over and roast another 5 minutes. Remove them from the oven and reduce the oven temp to 375. Turn the beet halves back to cut-side up, and fill with the stuffing mixture. Top each of them with a dab of vegan “cream cheese” or “sour cream” and then put them in the oven to bake just until they’re hot all the way through – about 15 – 20 minutes.

Serve on a bed of dressed or undressed greens, with a side of that freshly baked “cheesy” onion bread and you’ll be sitting in the catbird seat.

Until next time, my little puddings.

*I put the beet flesh into a container with a little oil and more balsamic vinegar and salt and let them marinate in the fridge. These are really nice just on their own or tossed with a big green salad.


Sorry about missing some posts this weekend. I did actually take pics and stuff – I just didn’t have a chance to sit down and write entries. This is Saturday’s entry (so, Vegan Mofo entry number 5 for me). We had dinner plans with some friends to consume vast quantities of idli and dosa at our favourite (pure vegetarian & vegan-friendly) Indian restaurant, but I knew from past experience that there wouldn’t be anything on the dessert menu for us vegans, so I decided to bake up a tray of one of my fave desserts,so that we’d have something to nom on during our post-meal Rock Band 2 extravaganza. It’s actually amazing that we had any room for anything in our bellies after that meal – I ate so much idli 65, gobi manchurian and palak dosa I thought I was gonna burst! But we made room. We almost always do.

Towering Sweetness

Revani is the Greek name for a semolina-based dessert that is actually found in many other cultures. In Arabia it is called basbousa or hareesa, and in Egypt, ma’mounia. There are as many variations on the flavours you can use in this dense, sweet cake, but they all have one thing in common – they are made with semolina and soaked in a syrup for a few hours before serving. They are also all amazingly delicious. There’s something about that texture that semolina provides – grainy but soft, almost like finely ground nuts. And of course soaking any dense cake in a flavoured syrup, while it’s still hot, makes for a delicious, meltingly sweet treat unmatched by any other dessert.

My vegan version of revani isn’t as fluffy or light as a non-vegan version. That’s because traditional revani relies a great deal on the use of beaten eggs as the main leavening agent. You can’t really replicate that with vegan egg substitutions or chemical leaveners, but honestly, the vegan version stands on it’s own as a beautiful, delicately flavoured sweet to be enjoyed with a strong cup of tea, coffee or chai. And while revani is technically a dessert that comes from the Middle East, the use of semolina and the technique of soaking the finished cake in a rose-scented syrup is reminiscent of several of my old favourite East Indian desserts, like halavah and gulab jamun.*

One tip: be careful when baking this cake as it is fairly easy to overbake (as I did, slightly) and to end up with a more crumbly than dense texture. It’ll still taste great, but the texture will be off. Not a big deal unless you happen to be a total perfectionist. Ahem. Regardless, my guests all loved this dessert and the recipe was requested. Here you go, Anita!

Apricot & Almond Revani with Rose-Scented Syrup

Try alternating the types of tried fruit & nuts and syrup flavourings. Suggestions: Mango & Coconut with Vanilla Syrup; Candied Lemon & Pistachio with Pomegranate; Red Current & Toasted Sesame with Ginger


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp rose water (or try orange blossom water)


1 cup vegan butter substitute

1 cup sugar

1 cup semolina (aka Cream of Wheat cereal – uncooked)

1 cup all purpose, unbleached flour

2 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp ground cardamom

1 tsp sea salt

1 cup apricot juice (or apple juice, in a pinch)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely ground

1 cup finely chopped dried apricots

First, prepare the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally, then remove from heat. Stir in the rose water and let cool to room temperature before pouring over the cake. (If you pour hot syrup on a hot cake you’ll end up with a hot mess.)

To make the cake, first beat the vegan “butter” with the sugar until it’s fluffy and smooth. Add the apricot juice and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, cardamom and sea salt and mix until just combined. Spread evenly into a 9 x 13″ baking dish and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle the cooled syrup over the entire cake. Let rest until at room temperature, then cut into squares or diamonds. Store covered in the fridge, but serve at room temperature for best flavour and texture.

*By the way, if anyone has successfully veganized my beloved gulab jamun, please let me know. I’ve tried it a couple of times, replacing the powdered milk with powdered soy milk and powdered coconut cream and I’ve never been able to get the texture quite right. You’d be my vegan hero!


I took really nice photos today (in natural light!) of the toasted sesame & apple cider vinegar hummus I made for the catch-up gab session I had with my BFF of 10+ years, but I forgot to put my the memory card back in my camera for them and because I don’t have a camera cord anymore I have no way of getting them off the internal memory. You’d think there’d be a function for that, but there isn’t. I will try and recreate the look of the lovely platter I put together tomorrow but honestly, I have such a short attention span for that stuff – the moment has passed, you know?

But that’s okay! Because I have some nice pics of tonight’s delicious dinner, which I have just decided to call “Hippy Cake Stacks”, because it is very funny. Maybe only to me.

Hippy Cakes stacked on perfectly crisped roasted potatoes, with layers of rainbow 'slaw

Honestly, though? This recipe is an old standby in our house, that I’ve been making since waaaaay back in the day, back before I was even vegetarian and these patties were in meal rotation simply because they are easy, and cheap (emphasis on cheap), to make. And I was being fed these kinds of Hippy Cakes as a kid in the 70s and 80s, because I was raised by a single mom who was broke a lot of the time and who understood the finer points of feedin’ a kid on the cheap without using a lot of convenience/fast food. I was lucky to have this experience as I grew up because it gave me an appreciation for how relatively simple it is to make wholesome, delicious and filling food even when you work a full time job and go to university full time, and have a very, very limited budget. My mom did that; and she taught me how too.

I bet you are wondering how to make perfectly crisped roasted potatoes. There is a trick to getting them jusssst right. First of all, use organic potatoes and leave the skins on. Then you cut each potato into quarters, and par-boil them for 5 – 7 minutes, until they are just soft on the outside and beginning to get slightly tender in the middle. Drain them, toss them back in the pot you parboiled them in, put the lid on and shake them around over the still-hot burner, just to rough up the edges a big and dry them off some. While they have been boiling you want to have placed a large casserole dish with a generous coating of oil  on the bottom of it into your oven and preheated it all to 425F. The oil should almost be smoking by the time the potatoes are parboiled. Carefully transfer them into the hot oil in the casserole dish, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and pop them in the oven for about an hour, turning them every twenty minutes or so. At the end of that hour, they’ll be absolutely perfect. Crunchy skins, golden and cripsy edges, soft, hot, velvety insides. Mmmm. My family can devour an enormous quantity of these.

The coleslaw was leftover from our Dia de Los Muertos feast, which is why it’s looking a little pale pink all over here. The beets soaked into everything else. It doesn’t pop with colour the way it did two nights ago, but dayum, it still tastes great.

For dessert, I threw together a super easy chocolate chip snackin’ cake. It is kind of wild to me to think that I have been baking so much and for so long that I don’t even really need a recipe for things like this anymore. Luckily for you I remember exactly what I did.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Snackin’ Cake

1982 called, it wants its dessert back.

Dry mix:

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I like Cocoa Camino brand)

Wet mix:

1 cup non-dairy milk whisked with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup canola, corn or sunflower oil

Line a 9×13″ pan with parchment, or grease & flour. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Stir the dry into the wet until everything is well combined, but do not overmix. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden around the edges and tests done when you poke a toothpick in the centre. Let cool 15 minutes before slicing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, if it lasts that long; longer if you keep it in the fridge.

Just to be clear, I haven’t abandoned my “I Cook the Beatles” project. In fact I’m hoping to incorporate some of it into the Vegan Mofo 2010 thing I’ve got going on this year. But that may just prove to be a little too much intersectionality, even for me, so for now I’m not even going to pretend to have a theme.

This is my first VeganMofo, by the way. Despite having kept track of my vegan food expliots for many, many years on the internet (see: VeganMania, Kreeli’s Tasties, Hey Christa What’s for Dinner?, this blog and various and sundry vegan food topics on various and sundry message boards – both vegan and non-vegan) I have somehow avoided the whole vegan food blog craze. I kind of took myself out of the “vegan online” loop back in 2004/2005 when I quit participating on pretty much any message board that had veganism as a focus. I quit in a huff. I was a flouncer. I will talk about that more another time, but suffice it to say, I was completely disillusioned with the online vegan community, especially as my own my own feelings about radical anti-oppression politics expanded and grew. So, when I quit my once beloved Veggieboards, and Kittee implored me to join the PPK, I declined. I was still too burnt out and too stung. I was also in the very early stages of starting up my own vegan food business, which took up enormous amounts of my time and energy. After working on that all day, plus homeschooling my two kids – I had very little left for online shenanigans.

Things have changed a lot for me over the last five, six years, though. My kids are both in public school. My business grew and grew and grew…and then I stepped away from it. I still don’t regularly participate on an vegan-ccentric message boards (though I have signed up at the fledgling abolitionist board on Gary L Francione’s site); but I surely do appreciate the vegan food blog culture that has arisen as a result of them and I am feeling ready to jump into that particular fray. As far as spreading the good vegan word, talking about the food we eat is definitely the safe, least controversial way of doing it and it’s something that we can all relate to. Also, food is my passion. I love to eat. And coming from an art school-cum-housewife background, creating delicious, enticing and family-friendly meals is a way for me to at once take care of those I love, and express myself creatively. So here I am…one more Vegan Mofo to add to the list of 700 of you out there. I feel so grateful that so much good information is being shared about vegan cooking and food so easily nowadays. When I first started, waaaay back in the mid-1990s, the pickins were slim online and there weren’t a tenth of the commercially available cookbooks we can buy now. Way to go, fellow MoFos, way to go. I’m really excited to be taking part.

Without further ado, I present to you my family’s vegan Dia de los Muertos feast.

Vegan "Mexican" Food

We enjoy a Mexican feast of this calibre every year around this time. I normally try to prepare it on November 1st bur this year neither my daughter nor I felt well enough to enjoy such luxurious magnificence, so we delayed it by a day. It turned out that the actual Dia de los Muertos was November 2nd this year, so it was probably our ancestors way of telling us we were doing it wrong to begin with.

I have been making vegan enchiladas for years but they aren’t particularly authentic. First, I have a hard time sourcing corn tortillas locally. Second, I use a tomato-based sauce, knowing full well that real enchilada sauce has no tomato whatsoever, but derrives it’s red colour from pure chili peppers alone. In some ways, you could almost call these a casserole dishes filled with non-traditional ingredients my attempt at making a Mexi-style lasagna. But you know what? I’m not Mexican, nor do I have Mexican heritage. I also put tofu in my “ancient grains” hippy tortillas.

Tofutti "Better Than Cream Cheese", refried pinto beans, black olives, on whole grain tortillas

Baked tofu, broccoli & hot pickled banana peppers in a creamy concoction

We’re not going for authenticity here, folks – and that may be for the best, since I’m not super fond of pork fat in my beans.

Guacamole should never be a homogenous green paste!

I am, however, fond of guacamole on my pseudo-enchiladas.

Adding to the non-authenticity are these incredible polenta fries.

Just cornmeal, water, seasonings, oil and an oven!

Polenta isn’t Mexican. But it sure is delicious! Especially cooled, cut into sticks, baked until crispy and then dipped in a chipotle-Vegenaise aioli.

And since we have gone all over the globe procuring ingredients and flavours from several different cultures, I figured why not bring the Germans into it, with this delicious coleslaw.

cabbage, carrots, beets, green onions & a lime-chili vinaigrette

By far, my kids favourite part of the annual Dia de los Muertos feast we prepare is the Pan de Muertos (literally translates to “Dead Bread”) and the spicy hot chocolate I brew up for us to dip it into. Normally I make up a big loaf, shaped into a skull, with little bread “bones” stuck all around the edges, but this year we decided to try something new and made, instead, 16 individually-sized skull-shaped buns. It was a fun way to get the kids involved in preparing the meal and we got some very creative skull-and-bones bread sculptures out of the oven. The only sad thing was, I realized too late that the yeast we were using in this batch of bread wasn’t filled with the joie de vive that I needed it to feel and the bread didn’t really rise. Oddly enough, it still produced some very edible and dare I say delicious – if dense – little skull biscuits, that tasted juuuust fine. Especially dipped in our cups of chili-and-cinnamon laced thick hot chocolate.

Pan de Muertos & Spicy Hot Chocolate

There were no actual complaints; though the perfectionist in me was sorely tempted to chuck the whole batch out and start anew, even if it meant we wouldn’t be eating dessert until 3am. This is progress for me, people!

This year I skipped making the molé; normally I do that up with some Mexi-rice on the side, but I kept the gathering low-key since my husband was working in the evening and I wasn’t going to be feeding as many people as we usually do. As it is, I’ve got an entire tray of mixed enchiladas in my freezer just waiting for the next evening I’m too wiped to prepare something from scratch. Anything fiddly like that, that involves a lot of rolling and stuffing, I try to make extra of. It’s the housewife in me – she knows that it’s the chest freezer, and not Valium, that’s really mother’s little helper on the roughest of days.

I bet you thought I’d completely abandoned this project, right? Right? Wrong, darlings. But I do work in the vegan goodies business, and the holiday season tends to be rathah bizzay, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Despite the radio silence, I did in fact make a couple of items for this blog, it’s just been a matter of finding the time to sit down and write about them! Since I’ve been working through the list of desserts in the Savoy Truffle song in order, that’s how I’m going to finish the song up – one by one – until the grand finale, which will of course be the Savoy Truffle itself. (I actually haven’t a clue about what to do for the savoy truffle but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.)

This installment is all about the cool cherry cream.

vegan cherry mousse

It’s really a sort of vegan mousse. I had planned on using frozen cherries I’d stashed away back in the summer, but those were hijacked for the trifle I put together for family and friends on Christmas Day. So I was reduced to using a can of bing cherries bought from the supermarket. They weren’t organic, and they were packed in a mixture of their own juice and corn syrup. Had I been using pitted, fresh or frozen cherries, I would have made my own syrup with them, which is what I recommend you do. I’ll include a little note at the end telling you how to do this. It’s quite simple, really; which is an adequate descriptor for the remainder of this recipe, actually.

Vegan Cherry Mousse

14oz can of cherries, drained and liquid reserved (about 2 cups pitted cherries)
1 cup sugar
1 box firm, silken tofu, pureed until smooth
1 tub vegan cream cheese (about 8oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp agar powder
dash salt
toasted and crushed pistachios as garnish (optional)

Mix cherry liquid, sugar, agar and salt together in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil, whisking all the while, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Place the vegan “cream cheese” in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add in the pureed tofu and mix. With the beaters still working, slowly add the cherry syrup until it is completely incorporated and you have a nice pink creamy mixture. Refrigerate this for an hour, stirring occassionally, until it has thickened. Add the vanilla extract. Take the electric beaters to it a second time, on high speed, to incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture. Gently fold in the reserved cherries, keeping four aside as garnish.

Spoon the mousse into 4 serving dishes. Top with a cherry and toasted, crushed pistachios, if desired. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

To make a cherry syrup:
Place 2 cups of fresh or frozen cherries in a saucepan with 4 tbsp each water and liquid sweetener (maple syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar). Bring to a low boil and cook, uncovered, until the cherries release their juice. Let cool.

This mousse was a HUGE hit with the family, and I loved it because it was so simple to prepare.

This is probably my favourite from the desserts in the Savoy Truffle so far. It was the perfect mixture of dark chocolate and strong coffee flavours, with a firm crust and dreamy creamy topping. I think next time I make it I’ll firm it up a little more by using more agar and letting it simmer a bit longer but it was lovely as-is.

coffee dessert, yes you know it's good news

A Coffee Dessert (Yes, You Know It’s Good News)
Mocha Dream Bars

3 cups finely crushed cookies, any kind (I used Country Choice organic chocolate creme cookies)
1/4 cup finely ground chocolate covered espresso beans
1/2 cup chocolate syrup (storebought or homemade)

2 packages (about 16 oz) vegan cream cheese substitute
1 box firm, silken tofu, blended smooth
1 cup sugar
30 grams bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup espresso or VERY strong, black coffee, room temperature
1 tbsp agar agar powder/granules
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

cocoa powder and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish

To make the crust, line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with a piece of foil or parchment that is long enough that it extends over the short sides slightly. Mix the ground cookies and chocolate covered espresso beans with the chocolate sauce and press firmly, in an even layer, into the prepared pan. Set in the freezer.

To make the filling, pour the espresso or coffee into a small saucepan and sprinkle with the agar agar powder. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes, then place over low heat and cook just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Set the chopped chocolate to melt in a double boiler. While it is melting, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until it is creamy. Add the whipped tofu, the coffee-agar mixture, and the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Mix in the vanilla and salt. Pour this over the prepared crust, and let set in your fridge for four hours, or overnight.

To serve, carefully grasp the extra foil or parchment you have left hanging over the edges of the pan and lift the uncut bars onto a cutting board. Chop into 16 squares and garnish with cocoa powder (tapped over the chopped bars with a sieve) and some extra chocolate-covered espresso beans.

I admit, it isn’t in the least bit rational, but all of my life I have avoided eating nougat, or anything that claimed to contain nougat. It’s the word…it just sounds so UGLY to me. Newwwwww-gat. It causes one to shudder. It didn’t matter how many times I heard how delicious it was or how many people insisted I try it, I steadfastly refused out of sheer stubbornness. It was childish and closed-minded and absolutely ridiculous and I knew I was being a poo. I still would not let nougat (shudder) pass my lips.

And so after I did a little research into what George Harrison was singing about when he sang “Montaelimar,” in his totally adorable nasal accent you can imagine how dreadful I felt when I discovered Montelimar is a place in France, famous for it’s nougat (shudder). Interesting to note is that unless a nougat is actually produced in Montelimar, and it contains certain specific percentages of almonds and lavender honey, it can’t actually legally be called Montelimar nougat. Much like only sparkling wines made from the grapes of the Champagne region can be called Champagne. Oh, those proprietary French.

The history of nougat is long…dating back to Ancient Egypt and Greece, where it was common to make sweets from honey and nuts. The almond tree was imported to France from Asia during the 17th century and thus replaced other nuts in the “nux gatom” (nut cake) or “nugo”. This treat was generally brown in colour and rather crunchy. Sometime around 1650 or so they began producing a softer, white nougat (shudder) by incorporating egg whites into the mixture.

Now, as you know, and I know, vegans don’t eat honey and we certainly don’t eat eggs, so the challenge I faced with creating this particular Beatles-themed treat was triple fold. Replace the honey, replace the eggs, and make something that I instinctively find repulsive. Greeeeeat.
However, I gritted my teeth, and got down to work, because you can call me a procrastinator and you can call me close-minded but you cannot, simply cannot, call me a quitter.

And you know what? I’m glad I did it.

From the Duchess of Kircaldy

From the Duchess of Kircaldy

I admit that it is yummy, okay? I admit that nougat (shudder) is tasty, yummy, sweet, nutty goodness. But I still think it’s poorly named.

Now it’s time for the secret confessions of the recipe. I wasn’t exactly sure how to replace the eggs. Having never actually eaten nougat (shudder) before I didn’t know what the eggs would provide to the recipe in terms of flavour or texture. I knew from the reading I did that Montelimar nougat was supposed to be chewy but firm. I understand enough about candy-making to know that whatever temperature you cook your sugar mixture at determines how firm the resultant candy is, but clearly the eggs had some role to play. Also, since the hot sugar is poured into the whipped egg whites in the original recipe, I understood that the egg whites would likely cook in the bowl, as the hot sugar was incorporated. I tossed around a few ideas but finally decided to try melting down some vegan marshmallows to replace the eggs. Next time, I am going to use a mixture of tapioca starch and water, though. And I’m also going to reduce the cooking temperature and time on the sugar syrup. Because while my nougat (shudder) is tasty and delicious and a wonderful treat….it’s also far crunchier than I believe Montelimar nougat (shudder) is supposed to be. So, go ahead and follow this recipe if you like a nougat (shudder) that’s crunchy when you first bite it but then gets softer as you chew it, or try my suggestions (in brackets) if you want a nougat (shudder) that’s less firm.

Montelimar Nougat, vegan-style
An egg- and honey-free version of the French classic. Delicous and sweet. Toothbrushes at the ready?
Inspiration gleaned, as usual, from The Savoy Truffle, by the Beatles.

3 cups granulated sugar (don’t use raw or brown sugar in this, unless you want brown nougat…ewwwww)
1 cup light agave nectar
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water
5 ounces or 140 grams of vegan marshmallows + 2 tbsp warm water (alternate: 1/3 cup tapioca starch whipped with 2/3 cup warm water)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla
3 drops pure essential lavender oil (optional)
2 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds, toasted at 300 F for 10 – 15 minutes
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 tsp salt

Melt the marshmallows with the 2 tbsp water in a double boiler. Keep warm. If you’re using tapioca starch, do not bother with this step.

Combine the sugar, agave nectar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once this mixture boils, stop stirring and reduce heat to medium. Insert a candy thermometer and cook to 295 degrees Fahrenheit, exactly (285 F if you want a softer nougat). This can take quite a while, and the progress will seem slow until the thermometer hits about 250F, at which point it will heat very quickly. While it’s going slowly you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and work station. Have a 9 x 13″ baking sheet doused liberally with icing sugar all over the bottom. Get your stand mixer set up with it’s whisk attachment. When the thermometer hits 275F you want to put the warm, melted marshmallows into the bowl of your mixer and begin whisking. If you’re using the tapioca starch you’ll want to get it whisking at this point, too.

Once the sugar mixture reaches 295 F (285 F if you want a chewier candy), immediately pour it into a heat-proof measuring cup to stop the cooking. Then begin adding it to the whipped mixture in the bowl. DO NOT POUR HOT SYRUP OVER THE MOVING WHISK, as it will simply fly all over the sides of the bowl rather than incorporating. Instead, quickly pour it into the whisked mixture by thirds, switching the mixer off with each addition, beating the syrup in completely, then adding the next third.

Once all the syrup has been added, stir in the lemon zest, vanilla, and lavender oil (if desired…be careful – too much of this can ruin the batch!). Switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer and mix this on low speed for about 10 minutes, or until it’s cooled slightly. Add in the toasted almonds, chopped pistachios and salt, and mix. It will be very thick and hard to move it around the bowl as it cools, so you want to transfer it to the prepared pan as soon as you can touch it without it burning your precious little fingers. Press it into the pan to a uniform thickness. Let this cool for several hours or overnight before slicing into bite-sized squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot for up to six months.

Since it was “The Savoy Truffle” that originally inspired me to begin this blog, it only makes sense that I begin with my vegan interpretations of all the delights George Harrison crooned over (and warned us about). What’s nice about this particular selection is, depending on the cookie you use, it could be completely sugar-free, since I call for the use of agave nectar as the main sweetening agent.

An interesting and fun fact about the song Savoy Truffle is that Harrison penned it as a way to rib his friend Eric Clapton about Clapton’s sweet tooth. Apparently all of the treats in the song were actually selections from a box of chocolates Clapton had been gnoshing on, except for the “cool cherry cream” and the “coconut fudge”. But don’t worry, I’ll be re-creating those in due time.

Cream Tangerine
A luscious whipped orange-scented cashew cream layered with tangerine sections and cookie crumbs. Inspired by the first verse of the song Savoy Truffle, by the Beatles.

1 cup “raw” cashews (in quotation marks because the skins of cashews are toxic and must be boiled off; just don’t use toasted/roasted cashews and you’ll be fine.)
1 small can tangerine slices in their juice (not syrup) (mandarin oranges will do in a pinch)*
2 cups white grape juice
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp agave nectar, divided
2 tsp pure orange extract, divided
sea salt
cookies of your choice
tangerine-agave sauce (see below)

Drain the can of tangerine sections, reserving the juice in a measuring cup. Add white grape juice. If necessary, add water to make 4 cups of liquid, total. Pour this into a saucepan and add the cashews. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for until the cashews are soft, about 10 minutes. Cover the pot and let cool enough to handle.

Drain liquid off cashews and reserve it in a measuring cup. Add cashews to your blender or food processor. Add melted coconut oil and begin whizzing. While the blender is still working, slowly add the warm cooking liquid through the top until a thick, smooth cream is formed. Add 1 teaspoon of the orange extract, 2 tablespoons of the agave nectar and a pinch or two of sea salt and blend again. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover, and let sit in the fridge until completely chilled.

While this chills, make the tangerine-agave sauce. Put the juice back into the saucepan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of agave nectar and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, uncovered until the liquid has evaporated off, leaving you with about a cup of juice. Remove a few tablespoons into a mug, let cool slightly, then whisk in 2 tsp of cornstarch. Add this mixture into the boiling reduction, along with the remaining teaspoon of orange extract, and whisk until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

When the cashew cream is completely cold, whip with your stand mixer’s whisk attachment, or use your electric beaters. It should increase in volume by nearly 50% or more. The more the better, really. When you feel it’s fluffed up enough, bust out two of your favourite fancy glasses. I used wine glasses but this would look equally impressive in martini glasses or margarita glasses.

Crush your cookies of choice and place a layer in the bottom of each glass. Top with a layer of tangerine sections, then a generous layer of cashew cream. Repeat, using a piping bag on the last layer of cashew cream for that fancy flourish you see in my photo. Garnish each glass with a half a cookie, a section of tangerine, and a scant drizzling of the tangerine sauce. Chill until ready to serve.

*You are welcome to use fresh fruit in this dish, though I’d recommend getting fussy and removing as much of the pith (white stuff and strings) from the tangerine sections as possible. They tend to be bitter, and detract from the texture. Your call, totally.

O-bla-di O-bla-da, Life Goes On

September 2020