Friday, November 26, 2010

Rum-Spiked Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pecans

Ok, ok, so I know Thanksgiving was yesterday and probably the last thing you want to think about is more pie...but hey, this one has rum in it.  If you need a little hair o' the dog for your food and alcohol hangovers, why not kill two birds with one stone and make this? 

A quick note on cooking with alcohol: there are some alcohol snobs out there who claim that you should never cook or bake with alcohol that you wouldn't enjoy drinking.  Now this might not phase anyone swilling Bankers Club vodka or wine in a box, but to others who fork out a little more money for the good stuff (or at least moderately palatable stuff) it creates a question: do I buy good alcohol if all I'm going to do is dump it into something I'm eating?  My answer is no.  Whether your making rum pumpkin pie, vodka sauce, or deglazing a pan with white wine, pretty much any old alcohol will do without sacrificing taste too much.  The only exception to this rule for me is using beer to make chili - I always use a good beer because the taste shines through the spices better - but pretty much anything else you can get away with cheap swill.  Of course, then you're left with the dilemma of what to do with the rest of the bottle if you only use a little bit of the liquor for whatever you're making, so just use your judgment.  I used Admiral Nelson spiced rum for this pie - the Admiral is Captain Morgan's lesser-respected but conversely higher-ranked shipmate.  This is pretty cheap rum, but now I have nearly a full bottle left over after my baking was through.  Not being one to be wasteful (there are sober people in 3rd world countries that would be happy to have that liquor), I do plan on drinking the rest of the bottle....probably this its entirety.  It does concern me somewhat that the last time I hung out with the Admiral, people's clothing came public...but drink it I shall, consequences be damned.  Sometimes you've just gotta make sacrifices for the sake of conservation and frugality.

But enough about my functional alcoholism....PIE!

Rum-Spiked Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pecans
*makes 2 pies

Note: if you're making both the pie and the whipped topping, you'll use an entire 16oz package of firm tofu, so once you measure out what you need for the pie, you don't have to measure what you need for the topping because it'll be whatever is left over)



2 Pie crusts (I'd post a recipe, but I'm still working out the kinks in mine so use a recipe you like; I recommend the cookbook The Joy of Vegan Baking for a good one, or use store-bought pie crust if you like)
1 15oz. can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix; just plain ol' canned pumpkin)
1 cup firm tofu, pureed (the kind packed in water; 1 cup is about 2/3 of a package)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter, melted (I use Earth Balance)
1 1/2 cups soy creamer or plain soymilk
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg (if you can get whole nutmeg and grate it yourself, it's great here)
pinch salt
2 tablespoons spiced rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Whipped Topping:

1/2 cup firm tofu, pureed
1 cup soy creamer or soymilk
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot
2 teaspoons spiced rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Candied Pecans:

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
1/8 t salt

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.  If you're making your own pie crusts, pre-bake them for 10 minutes in the oven - cover them with foil and put dried beans in them to make them hold their shape, or use pie weights.  If you're using store-bought crusts, follow the instructions on the package; dough crusts will need pre-baking; graham cracker crusts may not.  Remove crusts from oven.
Make the pie filling first.  In a large blender or food processor (a food processor works better), puree the 1 cup tofu and arrowroot/cornstarch.  Measure your tofu by breaking chunks off of the block and kind of squooshing it into a measuring cup until it's mashed down in there.  Try to be as precise as possible, but it doesn't have to be perfect.  After the tofu mixture is pureed and smooth, add the brown sugar and non-dairy butter and puree again.  Add the soy creamer/soymilk, spices, rum, vanilla extract, and canned pumpkin and puree until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the pie shells.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, and then without opening your oven or disturbing the pies, turn the heat down to 300 degrees and bake for another 35-45 minutes until the outer edges of the pies are lightly browned and set.  The middle of the pies may still be slightly goo-ey; they will set up more as the pies cool.  Cool pies completely.

While your pies are baking, make the whipped topping.  Using a small blender, puree all ingredients until very smooth and creamy.  Chill for several hours in the refrigerator.

To make the candied pecans, melt the butter and brown sugar, and salt over medium heat.  Add the pecans and cook for 5 minutes until the mixture gets clump-y and sticky.  Remove pecans from heat and dump onto a plate lined with aluminum foil and sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Spread the pecans out a bit so they will cool faster.  Cool completely.  The nuts may cool and stick into a single mass; just break them apart once they are cool enough to handle.  **These also make great candy for snacking on!

Once your pies are cooled, spoon dollops of the whipped topping onto your pie and sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Serve immediately or chill until you're ready to eat.  Eat while passing around the bottle of Admiral Nelson - classy!

That's it for now; hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

<3 The Fur Ninja

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick and Easy Chickpeas and Veggies with Balsamic Sauce, and musings on Thanksgiving

Hey there, fellow veg-heads!  Now I know most food blogs would be posting all sorts of decadent, time-consuming recipes right now because of the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, but...well....this isn't "most" food blogs.

I tend to have issues with Thanksgiving, and not just because of the usual reasons of celebrating the destruction of indigenous culture that most socially-conscious people have.  Frankly, I find it rather disturbing that we choose to celebrate "being thankful" for what we have by making gluttonous pigs of ourselves while there are people in our own neighborhoods who don't have enough to eat on a daily basis.  Then there's the purely pragmatic issues - the fact that I basically have to cook my own meal in its entirety every year, and then figure out how to package it, transport it, and re-heat it at whatever location the annual family Thanksgiving dinner is taking place.  It's time consuming, complicated, and kind of stresses me out.  So I was actually pretty pleased when my family kind of bailed on me in favor of doing things with various in-laws and step-children that don't really include me.  Instead of stressing about how the hell I'm going to manage packing a main course, stuffing, side dishes, and dessert into my car for an hour drive, I'll be spending my Thanksgiving with an Amy's cheeseless frozen pizza and a pint of Turtle Mountain soy ice cream.  I'll still be making dessert (rum-spiked pumpkin pie) for a later-in-the-day meetup with my brother and sister-in-law though, so be on the lookout for that recipe soon :)

So on to the's a nice, quick and easy main dish that you can whip up without much time or effort at all.  Feed yourself with this on a night when you're freaking out about not having enough dinner rolls for guests or thinking about how much you're dreading back-handed comments from your in-laws...holidays are stressful; it's the perfect time for some easy, tasty food.

Chickpeas and Vegetables with Balsamic Sauce

Super quick and easy and really versatile - try it with whatever fresh veggies you have on hand.  Add "crunchy" veggies like onion, carrots, snap peas, etc. when you'd add the broccoli, and add "softer" veggies like summer squash or leafy greens when you add the tomatoes.  Get creative!


3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant, being careful not to burn it.  Crush the dried thyme in your fingers a bit and then add it to the skillet and cook 30 seconds.  Add the mushrooms and increase the heat to medium.  Cook the mushrooms for 4 minutes or until they begin to brown.  Add the chopped broccoli and white wine/vegetable broth.  Cook for 6-8 minutes - the broccoli should be bright green and tender, but not mushy.  Add the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle everything with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook for another minute more.  Add the chickpeas and cook for another minute. 
Meanwhile, in a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and arrowroot/cornstarch with a fork until the lumps are dissolved.  Pour over vegetables in skillet and stir everything around to coat all the veggies and beans in the sauce.  Raise heat to medium-high and continue to stir everything around until the sauce begins to gently simmer.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.  Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Serve with a grain like brown rice, couscous or quinoa for a well-rounded meal.

Tips and Tricks:

1. If you're super pressed for time, or just really, really lazy, try using pre-sliced vegetables.  You pay a bit more, but getting pre-sliced mushrooms and pre-chopped broccoli allows you to throw this together really fast because there's almost no prep time.

2. Three words: jarred minced garlic.  Even if you're the type that relishes chopping your own veggies, get minced garlic in a jar to save you lots of time and stinky fingers.  Make sure you get the kind in water (not oil); you can usually find it in the produce section.  The flavor is just as good and it stays fresh in the refrigerator long after fresh garlic cloves would have gone moldy.  When I use garlic in a recipe, 99% of the time it's from a jar.  Substitute 1 teaspoon of the jarred stuff for 1 clove.

3. I'd recommend against using frozen broccoli for this because it'll come out mushy and the flavor won't be as good.  This is a recipe where you really need to use fresh vegetables so that the flavor can shine with the balsamic.

Well, that's it for today then.  Hopefully this meal will be at least one thing in your day that isn't stressing you out amidst all the holiday hubbub.  And if you're disappointed that I don't have recipes for a huge feast posted, my apologies.  I will have a pumpkin pie recipe posted next week, and I'll try to make it up to you at Christmas :)

And this Thursday, whether you're at a huge meal with lots of family, or happily noshing on frozen pizza and beer while snuggling with kitty cats, remember to be thankful for what you have....and more importantly who you have.  Happy Thanksgiving with love from Lucy, Skye, and The Fur Ninja <3

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First recipe, yay! Tropical Banana Bread/Muffins.

So here's my first recipe.  It's banana bread....but it's tropical.  And we all know that anything to do with the tropics is automatically awesome.  It's easy to make and super-delicious, and for anyone giving a crap about various expanding body-parts, the only fat it in it is from the coconut and the flax seeds....there's no oil in this whatsoever.  Not like the health factor will be foremost on your mind as the super-moist, orange and pineapple-spiked banana bread with flecks of coconut melts in your mouth or anything....enough of me - onward!

Tropical Banana Bread/Muffins
Makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins


1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup soy milk
1 3/4 cup all purpose or white whole wheat flour (or use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed well
3/4 cup pineapple canned chunks in juice (make sure it's the kind in 100% pineapple juice, not syrup)
3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon orange juice
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional; if you don't have this, just use more vanilla)
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a standard-sized loaf pan with cooking spray or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Mix the vinegar/lemon juice and soy milk in a small cup or bowl and set aside.  Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Put the pineapple chunks, orange juice, and flax seeds in a blender or small food processor (the "bullet" type thingies work great for this) and whip until the pineapple is pureed and the whole mixture is slightly thickened and creamy from the flax seeds.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix the mashed bananas, soymilk mixture, pineapple/OJ/flax mixture, and extracts until well-combined.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well until combined.  Add the coconut and mix again.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.
If you are making muffins, fill the muffin cups almost to the top and bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the pan to cool on a wire rack as soon as possible.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating so the muffins won't stick to the paper liners.

Tips and tricks:

1. Make sure your bananas are VERY ripe to the point where you definitely wouldn't eat them on their own due to extreme mushy-ness.  This is a great way to use up fruit that's kind of gross.  I love it because I have a severe phobia of flawed produce (no lie) so putting smooshy bananas in bread allows me to eat them without being skeeved about it.

2. You can use 3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks too, but seriously, who among us isn't too lazy for that?  Makes sure your canned/jarred pineapple chunks are in 100% juice though (the label should list pineapple and pineapple juice as ingredients only); if you get the kind in syrup or with added sugar your bread will be overly sweet, not to mention that pineapple is plenty sweet on it's own, thanks.

3. Make sure you get UNSWEETENED coconut.  The only ingredient should be (wait for it....) COCONUT.  This can be challenging to find - you're probably not going to find it in the baking aisle of the grocery store with all the bagged coconut there.  That stuff is almost always sweetened.  I manage to find mine either in the natural foods aisle (most major grocery chains have one now) or in the produce aisle, wherever they keep the nuts and trail mix.  Trust me; this stuff is worth the extra effort it takes to seek it out; the reason most commercial coconut is loaded with sweeteners and artificial flavors is because it's crappy-tasting coconut and that's how they cover up the fact that they're duping you into buying an inferior product.

4. I used a glass pan for this.  If you use non-stick (I ABHOR the stuff and avoid using it at all costs, but if that's what you've got, more power to you) or a dark steel pan, you may have to adjust your cooking time.  Darker pans tend to cook things faster, so if you're using one, start checking for done-ness at around 45 minutes and every 15 or so thereafter.  It's done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Hope you enjoyed; comments welcome and more recipes to come :)

<3, The Fur-Ninja

Welcome to my blog!

Hi, my name is Star...ok, it's not my real name, but that's what you can call me.  I'm here to share recipes and food talk with any and all like-minded individuals.  So whether you're a veg*n, foodie, domestic goddess, fellow fur ninja, or whether you're just sick of not having any kickass drunk munchies for those Saturday nights swilling whiskey in your apartment....come in, try my food, bullshit with me; I guarantee a good time, or at least a full stomach and happy taste buds!

I've been vegetarian since 1996 and vegan since 2005, and started creating my own recipes a couple of years ago and decided I wanted to start sharing them, because while I have some cookbooks that I think are truly amazing (as evidenced by the many, many food stains on their well-loved pages), I'm really displeased with the quality of most recipes on the internet, especially when it comes to vegan food.  I'll be posting lots of original recipes on here and would love feedback!  If a recipe is so good it put you into a week-long food coma - tell me!  If it was so vile even your dog wouldn't eat it - let me know!  I'm especially interested in feedback from non-veggies and people who don't have tons of experience cooking, so even if you don't know what deglazing is or how to season a cast-iron pan, please don't be afraid to try stuff out, ask questions, and post comments :)  I cook only with whole, non-pre-packaged foods (no trying to pass off Boca crumbles as a legit ingredient or any nonsense like that) and I try to include easy-to-find ingredients and substitutions whenever possible...hey, I live in the middle of nowhere, so if I can find it, chances are you can too.

I'll also be reviewing vegan cookbooks, various vegan/natural products, musing and/or ranting about life, and probably talking an inordinate amount about my kitties.  I love my kitties.  This is them, by the way:


and Skye:

I aspire to someday reach the pinnacle of spoiled laziness that both of them have attained.

So, hopefully even if you don't care about my thoughts or veganism or fur-ninja-ness, the cute kitties will get you to stay on a while.  Welcome :)