Mini Deep Dish Apple-Pomegranate Pies

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Whether you’re into the whole Valentine’s Day thing or not, who can resist a sweet, miniature, piping hot pie, topped with a little bit of love? These little pies are the perfect treat for a special day. They’re fun to make, adorned with that bit of detail that comes only with homemade goodies, and best of all, everyone gets their own! I made these for my family of five and love was clearly in the air.

This recipe makes 6 miniature pies. I made four of mine in ramekins and the other two in deep, oven-safe glass dishes. Both worked out perfectly.

Whip these up as a sweet ending to a cozy meal at home with your loves, or consider serving them as a sweet surprise for breakfast in bed!

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the pie dough

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan buttery stick, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened soy)
  • non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening for greasing the ramekins
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter, melted
  • 1 tsp beet powder (be sure to save this for the last step of the recipe!)

For the filling

  • 3 medium apples, washed, cored and diced
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425 and grease your ramekins with the vegetable shortening.

In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and then set aside.

Next, make your pie dough. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tbsp sugar and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is somewhat crumbly. Stir in the milk until just moistened. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until well combined. Then break the dough into 13 even balls (yes, 13!).

Roll the first ball into a large circular shape and place it into the ramekin, pressing it down evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Do this with 5 more balls until each ramekin has a bottom crust. Take your melted butter and using a basting brush, coat each bottom crust.

Distribute your pie filling equally into the 6 ramekins.

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The pie filling atop the bottom layer of dough

Next take 6 more dough balls, roll them out into circles, and place them carefully atop each pie. Use the tines of a fork to seal the pies and give them that old-fashioned look.

Once you’ve sealed all six pies, take that last (thirteenth) dough ball and knead it together with the beet powder. It will have a sort of marbleized pink appearance. Roll out your pink dough and using a paring knife, hand cut six little hearts. If you’re not confident in your hand-cutting skills, feel free to use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Place a heart atop each pie and then cut venting slits around each heart. It’ll look like the hearts are bursting with love. : )

Use your basting brush to coat each top crust with more melted butter and then these little beauties are ready for the oven.

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Bake for 25 minutes or until the crusts are golden brown and the fruit juices have started to bubble to the surface. Serve piping hot, perhaps with non-dairy vanilla ice cream as we did!

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Out of the oven!

Minideepdishpies7Minideepdishpies9Minideepdishpies10Minideepdishpies11Happy eating and Happy Valentine’s Day!

xoxo,

Lauren

 

 

Chinese Red Bean Soup Dessert

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Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse — my year! To all the other horses out there: do you feel like you embody the traits of the equine zodiac sign? I feel like I do… sociable, witty, headstrong, independent, unable to stay focused on any one thing for too long… wait, what was I talking about again?

Ah yes, I was going to post a scrumptious vegan recipe in honor of Chinese New Year. Last year I presented you with Baked Nian Gao, a traditional sticky rice cake but in an easy, quick, baked version. It was a huge hit with my family and friends and this year I’ve made a quadruple batch of that recipe to bring in to all my kids’ classrooms so they can celebrate the New Year with their friends at school.

Today I give you another traditional Chinese recipe using sweetened red bean paste and once again, I offer you a simpler, faster way of preparing a classic. This soup is often served as dessert and like almost all Chinese desserts, it is subtly sweet and the perfect ending to a savory Chinese New Year meal. Even better, it’s simple to make! Instead of using whole Adzuki beans and waiting for them to cook down, I use a can of red bean paste… the same stuff I use for my Baked Nian Gao. So now a dessert that you normally need to start cooking the night before you want to serve it, can be made in a couple of hours. As a mom of three little kids, I rarely have the forethought to plan a meal, much less a dessert, 24 hours in advance so this quick(er) recipe is just the ticket. Using the bean paste also automatically sweetens the soup but you can add more sugar to taste if you’d like.

You’ll probably need to head to your neighborhood Asian market for most of these items.

Here’s the lineup:

  • one can of sweetened red bean paste (Adzuki beans)
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 strip dried tangerine or orange peel
  • 1/2 cup dried lotus seeds
  • vegan sugar to taste (optional)
Sweetened red bean paste

Sweetened red bean paste

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Dried lotus seeds

Dried tangerine peel

Dried tangerine peel

Place your dried lotus seeds in a bowl of room temperature water for a couple of hours before you’re ready to make your soup. Make sure the seeds are completely submerged.

In a soup pot, bring 6 cups of water and the strip of tangerine peel to a boil.

The tangerine peel lends a warm, citrus tone to the soup stock

The tangerine peel lends a warm, but bright citrus tone to the soup stock

Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the red bean paste and (drained) lotus seeds. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the bean paste has dissolved almost completely into the water. Use a wooden spoon to press the paste against the sides of the pot to aid in the dissolving  process.

Taste the soup and add sugar if desired. You can also add more water to make the soup thinner if you’d like. Serve hot!

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Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Eating!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

gfstrawberrychococupcakesOne of my favorite places to visit is the Whole Spice Napa Valley storefront in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. I could stare at their shelves for hours, row after row of glass jars filled with every spice you know and innumerable others you’ve never encountered. And then there are the flavor combinations they dream up; Italian pasta and curry rice blends, rubs for meat that work just as well on tofu, seitan and tempeh (I say this from experience!) and delightful sugars that make you want to hurry home and get baking.

My most recent trip there was on a date night with my husband. We came home with lots of fun spices to try and one of my favorites was their Strawberry Sugar. This sugar was the inspiration for these simple cupcakes.

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Doesn't this just spark your culinary imagination?

Doesn’t this just spark your culinary imagination?

I planned to bake these cupcakes for a gathering of friends and then remembered one of them requires her baked goods to be gluten-free. I always watch this friend’s face fall with disappointment when she sees a yummy treat that she can’t dive into. I wanted to make sure this time was different.

This is a classic vegan chocolate cupcake (compliments of Chef Chloe) with some pretty strawberry flair, and the added bonus of being gluten-free while not tasting like it is. Serve it up for friends or even a birthday party or baby shower. These would also be the perfect treat for your Valentine’s Day Party! Your gluten-free guests will be thrilled and all your guests will feel great knowing it’s vegan and cruelty-free!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cups gluten-free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose g-f flour. Feel free to use what you have but I highly suggest this brand as I think it gives you the fluffiest, grit-free cupcake!)
  • 3/4 tsp guar gun
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk. I used soy. For a list of soy milk brands that are officially g-f, see here.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp beet powder

For the garnish:

  • strawberry slices (washed and patted dry)
  • sprinkling of strawberry sugar (if you can’t find this, consider pulsing freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor and then mixing it together with coarse sugar)

Preheat your oven to 350 and line two cupcake pans with 16 liners. 

In a large bowl, combine the gluten-free flour and guar gum. Then whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk until just combined.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full and bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

While you wait for them to cool, prepare your frosting. Using an electric mixer, cream together the vegan butter and soy milk. Add half of the sugar and beat well to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat the mixture until light and fluffy.

Frost your cooled cupcakes and then garnish with the strawberry slices and strawberry sugar. 

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Happy eating!

Panko-Stuffed Baby Bella Mushrooms

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Mushrooms and I have a sort of complicated past. As an omnivore, I avoided them completely stating that fungus grows between your toes so why would I want to eat something from the same family? As a vegetarian, I forced myself to incorporate them into my diet but dreaded the standard portobello mushroom burger or grilled portobello mushroom sandwich that every restaurant offered as their veggie option. That was just too much mushroom for me. Now, as a vegan, I have learned to make fungus my friend.

There are so many varieties of mushroom, each with its own distinct flavor, texture and aroma (my current favorites are shiitake, enoki and oyster). Mushrooms translate into so many dishes from so many types of cuisine and lend a hearty, deep richness that will satisfy meat-eaters and vegans alike. This recipe makes a perfect appetizer or side dish, is super easy to prepare and presents itself beautifully. Try it the next time you’re entertaining or whip it up for a healthful, belly-warming dish for your family.

Here’s what you’ll need for about 12 stuffed mushrooms:

  • 12 baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, cleaned with a damp cloth
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • dash of thyme
  • dash of paprika
  • dash of garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

I sometimes make this dish with an optional “cheesy” garnish. If you like the sound of that, then also grab:

  • 1.5 tbsp Earth Balance buttery stick
  • 1.5 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of thyme
  • black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • dash of paprika

After you’ve stemmed and cleaned your mushrooms with a damp cloth (be sure not to submerge your mushrooms or run them under water; it will make them retain too much water), set them upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet for your convection oven. Drizzle some olive oil over them and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the other ingredients and then spoon the mixture into the well of each mushroom.

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Bake in your convection oven at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until the mushrooms start to turn dark and moist and the panko filling has browned. Watch your oven carefully as the temperatures and cooking times can vary greatly depending on your oven.

Test their readiness by stabbing the center of a mushroom with a small fork or skewer. If it slides in easily then it’s ready.

Serve piping hot.

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stuffedmushrooms3For the cheesy sauce to be used as a garnish, simply heat the Earth Balance and the flour in a small saucepan until it forms a thick paste. Gently whisk in the soy milk and bring the sauce just to a boil. It will be creamy and thick by this point. Reduce the heat to simmer and then add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is well combined, place a dollop atop each mushroom or drizzle it over the entire plate. Sprinkle some paprika on top for color.

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Happy eating!

 

 

Banana Persimmon Bread with Toasted Coconut

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Persimmons have always held a special place in my heart, but not because I grew up eating them or because they’re my favorite fruit. It’s because of poetry.

I was a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College in Ohio, with an emphasis on poetry. My favorite poet became so when he visited Oberlin and offered a reading of his work. Li-Young Lee and I share quite a bit in common. We are both Chinese Americans and children of Protestant ministers. We both share a bicultural upbringing and we both understand the beautiful intricacies of being in a biracial marriage. And of course, we both find ourselves in love with the written word.

It was Li-Young Lee’s poem Persimmons that taught me that life themes as vast as bloodline, culture, sexuality and mortality can all be delicately tied together by an object as simple, as ordinary as a piece of fruit.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself here.

My Dad likes to bring Fuyu persimmons over to my house for my kids. Each of them when they were really little, would call them “percinnamons.” Extremely cute and somewhat accurate since the fruit does seem to have a cinnamon-like speckling when cut open. Hachiya persimmons tend to be a less popular variety because of their bitter, moisture-sucking quality when eaten before fully ripe. These Hachiyas are the ones my neighbor has been bringing over since her father has a tree. I waited patiently for one of them to get ripe enough (it’s skin should be so soft and wrinkly that it almost looks rotten) and then added it into this delicious recipe. Even if your Hachiya isn’t fully ripe and still has a slightly bitter bite to it, the baking process will sweeten it right up.

The combination of banana and persimmon in this bread is simply beautiful. The toasted coconut on top puts it over the top. Every time I take a bite, I hear poetry.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup if you prefer a very sweet bread)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • one ripe Hachiya persimmon, skin peeled, center removed and mashed
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and sugar using a handheld mixer. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and combine well.

In another bowl, combine the mashed bananas, mashed persimmon, soy milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.

Pour into a greased bread pan and smooth the batter out into an even layer. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on top and then bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

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Happy eating!