Monday, January 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie (no tofu here!)

I first made this recipe a couple of years ago, when I hosted my very first ThanksVegan. I ambitiously decided to have 8 people over for a full Thanksgiving meal (albeit a couple days after real Thanksgiving) made completely vegan. Most of the recipes I was making were tried and true favorites, but one thing I had never been able to get quite right was a vegan pumpkin pie. If you google "vegan pumpkin pie" you will encounter probably a hundred different recipes, and nearly all of them will include some kind of tofu. I've tried some of these recipes and sadly, never had any success. I love me some tofu, but something about the taste and texture never really worked for me. I am also very partial to the mix of spices I grew up eating in my mom's pumpkin pie, and no other mix would do for me. Thankfully for my adventurous friends, I managed to cobble together several different recipes, including the spices from my mom's version, and came up with what has become my go-to vegan pumpkin pie recipe. I made it again this holiday season for a little get together of friends and remembered to take a couple of pictures so I could post the final recipe here.

First make your single pie crust (or buy one I suppose). I'm a Betty Crocker girl when it comes to my pie crusts. Yum, shortening! Mix 1 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 tsp. salt. With a pastry blender or fork, blend in 1/2 cup shortening and 3-4 Tbsp. cold water. This is important. Put an ice cube or something in your bowl of water to cool it down. Work the dough as little as you possibly can to get it to stick together in a ball. Roll the dough out, then roll it up on your rolling pin loosely to transfer it to a 10-inch pie pan. Finish the edges however you like.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and gather the ingredients for the pie filling:
2 15-oz. cans of pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
1 1/2 cup plain soy creamer (Silk makes a good one)
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
scant 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
scant 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and mix very very well
with an electric mixer. Bake the empty pie crust for about 15 minutes, until it is beginning to cook. Fill with the pumpkin mixture and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. I cover the crust completely until the last 10 minutes with these neat little silicone things, but you can also make a ring of tin foil to protect the crust from burning.

Your pie filling will still be jiggly when you take it out of the oven, but don't fear. Let the pie cool completely on a cooling rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. Don't worry that the color is a bit darker that the usual color of pumpkin pies. You probably did not overcook it, that's just the coloring with the spices and all. Enjoy!

Perfect Vegan Lasagna

I know, vegan lasagna might sound like an oxymoron to most people. Usual lasagnas contain serious amounts of meet and at least several different kinds of cheeses. But if you step back and open your mind a little bit, I promise that this lasagna really will remind you of the way grandma used to make it (but minus pretty much all of the fat and entirely all of the cholesterol).

I've been toying around with lasagna for a number of years now. It was always a favorite of mine when I was a kid and it surprisingly easy to recreate using a tofu-based filling. The key is to dress up the tofu with lots of sprices and seasonings and to include hearty vegetables. You won't miss the heavy, greasy quality found in most lasagnas, and despite how warm and comforting this recipe is, it is one of the lightest winter meals I make.

Start by preparing the noodles and sauce. This is not a gourmet recipe and I'm using bottled sauce. You could definitely make homemade sauce, but this way is just so easy!

Cook 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles until
tender but not completely cooked. Rinse them in cold water and set aside.

For the sauce:
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 jars of your favorite plain spaghetti sauce
1 package brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Saute the onions, mushrooms and garlic over medium heat, then add fennel seeds and saute a minute more. Add the spaghetti sauce and heat through. Set aside.

For the filling:
1 bag frozen spinach, defrosted and drained well
1 package firm tofu, pressed
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, crumble the tofu with your fingers until no large clumps remaine. Add the drained spinach and all remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spread half of the sauce in a 9x13 pan and place 4 noodles over the sauce. Cover the noodles with half of the tofu mixture and top with another layer of noodles. Repeat. Spread remaining sauce over the top of the noodles and cover pan with aluminium foil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes until the whole thing is cooked through and the sauce on the top is starting to get a bit crusty.

I love love this recipe. I can't even really remember what regular lasagna tastes like and I don't think I will ever crave it again. This recipe makes a whole lot of food...but trust me you'll need it. Even if you are not vegan, give this recipe a try and you won't be disappointed.