Archive for February, 2011


Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

In college, I spent a semester abroad in Paris. Contrary to what I often hear about the French and their attitude towards foreigners, I found Parisians to be very friendly. I was there during the months leading up to the 2008 election, and when strangers heard my accent they would smile and say “Obama?” I wasn’t sure exactly what the question was, but I would answer, “Oui, Obama!” and we would give each other a thumbs-up. I never felt alienated for being an American in Paris…I did, however, feel alienated for being a vegetarian in Paris.

In traditional French restaurants, the only vegetarian meal is often a salad. When I would go to a bakery and ask for a vegetarian sandwich, I would usually get a dirty look and a suggestion of chicken or tuna. And that is the story of why I subsisted for four months on mainly baguettes and spreads to put on the baguettes.

My topping of choice for bread, crepes, and fruit was always Nutella, but I haven’t had any since I’ve returned to the States and to my healthier vegan diet. Today I decided to make a vegan version of my old favorite, adapted from a blog post by David Lebovitz. It won’t be perfectly smooth like Nutella from a jar, but it’s perfectly tasty. It’s Not-ella.

Makes about 12 ounces.


1 1/6 cup blanched hazelnuts

1/6 cup whole almonds

1/8 cup non-dairy creamer

3/8 cup plain soy milk

5.5 oz vegan dark chocolate

1 tbs maple syrup

2 tbs granulated sugar

pinch of salt

A note about the ingredients:

Try to find hazelnuts that have already been stripped of their skins; stripping them yourself is a pain. David Lebovitz suggested, in his post, that you can probably omit the almonds and use all hazelnuts instead. I like David Lebovitz and he’s probably right, but I also like almonds, so I left them in. For the non-dairy creamer, I used sweetened Mimicreme. I would have preferred Silk, but I couldn’t find it today at the store. Finally, though any vegan dark chocolate should work (including chocolate chips), I used a chocolate bar called Alter Eco.


Spread the hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.

Put the creamer, soy milk, and chocolate in a microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave until the chocolate is melted, stopping at 30 second intervals to stir.

When the chocolate is melted, add the maple syrup, sugar, and salt and stir to combine.

Once the nuts are lightly toasted, put them in the bowl of a food processor. Grind them as finely as you can.

Add half of the chocolate mixture to the nuts and process until smooth.

Scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula and add the rest of the chocolate mixture. Again, process until smooth.

Transfer the Notella to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. It will thicken a bit when it’s cold, so you might want to microwave it for a few seconds before serving it as a spread.

Wondering what to do with all this Notella? Stay tuned to Vegan Valentine!


Caesar(ish) Salad

Growing up, my favorite salad was always Caesar. Tangy and smooth, I never would have guessed that, at many restaurants, it includes tiny dead fish and raw or coddled eggs. It really doesn’t need either; chef Caesar Cardini’s original recipe did not use anchovies, and I found that a little Vegenaise and some nutritional yeast was a satisfying substitute for the egg.

Makes 4-6 servings.


3 tbs white wine vinegar

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp ground dijon mustard

1 tsp nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tbs Vegenaise

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Garlic toasts:

8-12 thin slices of a baguette

2 tbs olive oil

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

dash pepper


2-3 heads romaine lettuce

freshly ground black pepper


First, make the garlic toasts. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

I sliced my baguette to make little rounds; if you would prefer more traditional croutons, you could cut it into smaller pieces.

Combine the oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian Seasoning in a small dish.

Spread out the bread on a baking sheet and brush the top with the oil mixture. Flip the bread over and brush the other side.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, taking them out once to flip them over. When they get brown and toasty, take them out and let them cool.

To make the dressing, mix the vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire, mustard, nutritional yeast, and garlic. Add the Vegenaise and whisk well to combine. Constantly whisking, add the oil in a slow stream to emulsify.

Cut the romaine into small pieces and place in a bowl. Add the desired amount of dressing and toss to combine. To serve, top with fresh ground pepper and two garlic toasts.



Artichoke Ravioli

Everyone seems to love artichokes, but for some reason you don’t see them much in ravioli. They’re perfect for it, really, since it’s so easy to puree them. The tricky part is finding vegan wonton wrappers. If your supermarket doesn’t have them, you could always make the pasta from scratch, it’s just a bit more work.

This recipe makes about 20 ravioli.

For the ravioli:

1 can artichoke bottoms or artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 clove minced garlic

2 tbs olive oil

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt and pepper, to taste

vegan wonton wrappers (I used ten 6″ x 6″ sheets)

For serving:

olive oil

lemon juice

fresh parsley


Sautee the artichokes, onion, and garlic in olive oil until the onion is soft and the artichokes start to brown, about 10 minutes.

Place almonds in a food processor and grind them as finely as you can. Add the sauteed vegetables to the almonds and puree. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, place a wonton wrapper.

Spoon approximately teaspoon-sized balls of the artichoke puree onto the wrapper. Leave at least an inch of space around each one.

Using your finger, spread drops of water on the wonton wrapper around each ball of puree. You should feel the wrapper become more sticky.

Place a second wrapper over the first and press the two sheets together around each ball. Try not to leave air bubbles.

Finally, cut around each ravioli with a knife, leaving at least 1/4 inch of wonton wrapper around each ball of puree. I cut mine into squares, but you could do any shape you like.

You can cook these immediately or you can store them in the refrigerator for a few days and cook them later. They also keep in the freezer for up to six months.

To cook, gently place the ravioli in boiling water. When it floats to the top, drain the water. Fresh ravioli takes 3-4 minutes and frozen ravioli takes 4-5.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and top with fresh parsley.


Chocolate Bread Pudding

Here at Vegan Valentine, we take Valentine’s Day very seriously. This represents Part Three: The Final Part of my Valentine’s Day installment.

When you want a rich, chocolatey dessert but you don’t have a lot of time, you can whip up this recipe with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. (…Do most people keep baking chocolate in their kitchen?) It makes two servings, so it’s perfect for a romantic dinner. If you’re just cooking for yourself, you can keep one in the refrigerator and heat it up the next day. (Or eat both. I won’t tell.) The best part is: if you have a 2 cup microwavable liquid measuring cup, you can prepare all of the batter in there. And you know what that means: fewer dishes, and my life’s goal is accomplished.



2-3 cups cubed bread, preferably a day or two old

1/2 cup plain soy milk or almond milk

2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Raspberries and/or seedless red raspberry jam (optional)

Soy whip (optional)

You will also need two ramekins or some sort of little dishes that you can put in the oven.



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut your bread into cubes that are no bigger than an inch on all sides. I used a day-old loaf of Italian bread, but any white bread should work.

In a microwavable bowl or liquid measuring cup, melt the chocolate with the soy milk, stopping to stir at 30 second intervals.

When the chocolate is melted, add the sugar and vanilla and stir until smooth.

Put one layer of bread cubes in the ramekins. Pour about 1/4 of the batter in one dish and 1/4 in the other. Try to make sure all the bread is covered in chocolate.

Put another layer of bread cubes on top of the first and repeat.

Fill a baking dish with about an inch of water and place the ramekins in the dish.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chocolate looks set. Be careful taking them out of the oven. The first time I made these, I dropped one on the floor. That was sad. Don’t do that.

(Don’t worry if yours looks more dry when it first comes out of the oven. The liquid goes to the bottom, so I just mixed it up.)

Serve warm with raspberries and seedless red raspberry jam for a Valentine’s Day -appropriate look, if you like that kind of thing. Personally, I prefer to keep fruit far, far away from my chocolate. Soy whip, on the other hand, I have no problem with.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


You Make My Heart Beet Soup


Here at Vegan Valentine, we take Valentine’s Day very seriously. This represents Part Two of a three part Valentine’s Day installment.

Beets are sweet, easy to work with, and oh so pretty. If they could challenge me and make me laugh, they’d be the perfect valentine themselves (da-dun TSH!). For this soup, I paired them with parsnips and garnished with soy yogurt.

Makes 4 servings.


4 medium-sized beets

1 medium white onion

2 parsnips

3 tbs olive oil

2 cups vegetable stock

1 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup plain soy yogurt


Cut the bottoms and the leaves off the beets. Drizzle them with 1 tbs olive oil and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. When they’re done, they should feel soft when you poke them with a fork.

Let the beets cool enough so that you can handle them, then take off the skins and discard. Cut them into smaller pieces.

Chop the onion and peel and slice the parsnips.

In a 3 quart pot with a lid, sauté the onion and parsnips in 2 tbs olive oil until they just start to get brown.

Add the beets, vegetable stock, red wine vinegar, and ginger to the pot and stir.

Bring to a simmer and cover. Let it simmer about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Take pot off heat.

Let the soup cool a little bit and then puree. I used an immersion blender, which is probably the easiest. If you don’t have one, you could use a regular blender or food processor.

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.

You can serve this soup immediately or keep it in Tupperware in the refrigerator and reheat it later.

To serve:

Ladle soup into a bowl.

I filled a pastry bag (fitted with a small round tip) with the soy yogurt so that I could pipe a heart onto the soup. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you could put the yogurt in a large plastic bag, twist the top closed, and cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag.

Squeeze the bag gently to make yogurt come out. You might want to practice piping the yogurt onto a paper plate before you try it into the soup.

Once you have the hang of it, pipe a heart into the soup with your yogurt.

Don’t worry if you mess up; you can just spoon the yogurt off the top and try again.

To make smaller hearts, I piped dime-sized dots of yogurt on the soup, then I dragged a toothpick through them once or twice to make them look like hearts.

Serve warm to your loved ones and be sure to mention the heart beet pun.


Spiced Almond Cream and Fig Crostini

Here at Vegan Valentine, we take Valentine’s Day very seriously. This represents Part One of a three part Valentine’s Day installment.

**Spiced Almond Cream Crostini with Figs and Balsamic Reduction.**

This little snack is unusual, it’s relatively healthy, and it’s mighty tasty, if I do say so myself. It’s also easy to do. You can make the different components ahead of time and assemble them before serving.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 French baguette, sliced thinly and toasted or grilled
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • dried figs- I used both Mission and Calimyrna figs
  • a couple tablespoons Earth Balance


Preparing the balsamic reduction:

This step takes the longest, so start it first.

Bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a simmer. Mine wasn’t particularly good quality, but if you have a nice one I’m sure it couldn’t hurt.

Add 1 tsp brown sugar and stir until it’s dissolved.

Let simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup.

Take off heat and let cool. It should thicken to a syrupy consistency.


Preparing the almond cream:

In a food processor, grind the slivered almonds as finely as you can.

Keeping the food processor on, slowly add the almond milk until the mixture has a smooth, creamy texture.

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and mix to combine.


Preparing the figs:

Normally I would use fresh figs, but since they’re not in season I experimented with dried ones and they were actually really good! I used the brand Sun-Maid, which I found at a regular grocery store, and I bought one package of Mission figs and one of Calimyrna.

Slice the figs thinly with a sharp knife. Sometimes they look like hearts when they are sliced- especially the Calimyrnas. If your knife gets sticky, rinse it off so that it will make cleaner slices.

Put a small pan over low heat with a pat of Earth Balance. Place the fig slices in the pan. After a couple minutes, the bottoms should deepen in color. Flip them over and let them sit for a couple more minutes so that the other sides deepen as well. Take off the heat.


Assembling the crostini:

Spread the almond cream on your slices of baguette.

Spoon a few drops of balsamic reduction in the middle of each crostini. It will spread out a little as it sits.

Place a fig slice in the middle of each crostini.

If you want to, you can also use the balsamic reduction to decorate a platter before you put the crostinis on it. Here, I spooned drops of the balsamic in two straight lines. Then I dragged a knife across the plate through the dots, which pulled a line of balsamic with it. I drew one line toward me and one away from me.


Julia Child’s –Where’s the Beef?!– Bourguignon




The best thing about having a food blog is that it encourages me to try recipes I wouldn’t normally try. I don’t eat a lot of stew, for example. Like many four-year-olds and autistic children, I much prefer the different foods on my plate to be separated and not touching. I wanted to try imitating a traditional meat dish, though, and I do love seitan, so I decided to adapt the beef bourguignon recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I’m happy to report that a vegetarian version of this classic works very well. I can’t personally vouch for its authenticity since I’ve never had the real thing, but my meat-eating boyfriend/taste tester assured me that it was on target. (And just so you know he’s honest, I’ll disclose that he called my fortune cookies “off the mark.”)

If I made this recipe again, I would change one thing. I felt there was too high a seitan-to-everything-else ratio. I made enough for about 4 servings. If you try making this recipe at home, I would recommend either cutting the seitan recipe in half to make 2 servings or doubling the sauce and vegetables to make about 6 servings. (But, to be clear, I wrote the recipe down exactly as I made it.) If anyone tries this at home, please let me know how it goes!

Here is what you’ll need:

For the seitan:

•       2 cups vital wheat gluten

•       1 tsp garlic powder

•       1 tsp smoked paprika

•       1 ¼ cups vegetable stock

•       2 tbs soy sauce

•       1/4 cup pan-searing flour (all purpose is ok)

•       1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the sauce:

•       1 1/2 cups full-bodied red wine (I used a Chianti that I found in a half bottle size)

•       1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

•       1 tsp tomato paste

•       2 cloves pressed garlic

•       1/2 tsp thyme

•       1 bay leaf

•       salt and pepper, to taste

For the sides:

•       10-15 small white onions

•       2 tbs Earth Balance

•       1/4 cup vegetable stock

•       1 tsp salt

•       1/2 tsp sugar

•       2 sliced carrots

•       16 oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms

•       2 tbs olive oil

•       fettucini or your preferred type of pasta (optional)

•       fresh parsley, for garnish


To make the seitan, combine the wheat gluten, garlic powder, and paprika in a mixing bowl. Combine the vegetable stock and soy sauce in a separate bowl and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

Mix with a spatula until it becomes too difficult. Then press and knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth. It shouldn’t take too much kneading and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Rip the dough up into small pieces. They should be a little smaller than you want them to be in the end, because they will expand when they cook in the stew.

Just a note: if you’re short on time, you could try buying premade, uncooked seitan, which is available in many grocery stores, and skip all the directions up to this point. I’ve never tried it though, so I can’t guarantee it’s any good or vouch for particular brands.

Sprinkle the seitan pieces with flour and toss to coat.

In the bottom of a large pot with a lid, heat the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil on medium heat. Place a piece of seitan in the pot. If the oil is hot enough, it should sizzle. Once you know it’s hot enough, add the rest of the seitan to the oil, being careful not to splash any hot oil on yourself.

Let the seitan get brown on the bottom, and then flip it so it can brown on the other side. This adds a skin-like outside layer to the fake meat.

Don’t pile the seitan up or the pieces will stick together. If your pot isn’t big enough, just do a few pieces at a time.

Here is what the browned seitan should start to look like:

If you were browning your seitan a few pieces at a time, now you can put it all back in the pot. Pour in the wine and the vegetable stock. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir gently to combine.

Bring the pot to a simmer, then put its lid on.

The stew should remain at a simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, so keep an eye on it and adjust the heat if you need to.

Now is a good time to take a break! Ideally, the vegetables will finish sauteing around the same time that the stew finishes simmering. I waited about an hour and a half before I started the next step, and the timing worked out pretty well.

When you’re ready, the next step is to brown braise the onions. You’ll have to peel them first, which is annoying. Sorry. It’s easier, though, if you blanch them first.

In a large skillet with a lid, sauté the onions in Earth Balance until they’re lightly browned.

Then add 1/4 cup of vegetable stock, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp sugar. Mix them around.

Put the lid on and let the onions simmer for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft.

They should look like this:

Note: if you’re planning to serve your seitan on a bed of pasta, now would be a good time to start boiling the water.

Add the carrots, mushrooms and olive oil to the onions. Season with salt and pepper.

When the veggies have cooked and the seitan has been simmering for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turn the heat under the skillet to low.

Using a slotted spoon, take the seitan out of the sauce and add it to the veggies. Also remove the bay leaf and discard. Leave the sauce in the pot.

You should have about 1 ½ cups of a thick sauce. If it’s too thick, you can add some more vegetable stock. If it’s too thin, you can boil it down a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the sauce is ready, pour it over the seitan and veggies.

Serve this dish alone or on a bed of noodles. I think potatoes would also be good, but I didn’t try it. Garnish with fresh parsley.

EDIT 10/14/2011: Please be advised that some readers have had problems making this recipe at home. See the comments for more details. It’s a time-consuming recipe, so I don’t want anyone to be unhappy with the results!








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