Favorites from the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck

As always, this past weekend’s Virtual Vegan Potluck was a ton of fun, with so many tantalizing dishes and beautiful photos to peruse!

It’s an honor to participate but selfishly I also LOVE the VVP because I always discover so many new blogs and come away with dozens of new, amazing recipes to try!  In case you didn’t have a chance to browse the 85+ dishes that were presented this weekend, I’ve collected some of my personal favorites for your viewing pleasure.  It was tough but I narrowed it down to two from each course (except in courses with less than seven submissions, in which case I chose only one favorite).

Please note that all photos are the property of the bloggers whose dishes they show.  I am reposting them ONLY so that you can appreciate the talent and hard work of the bloggers, and in the hope that you will give them a visit to check out the recipes for yourself!

Appetizers
Lemon-Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms from Seasonal Veg Head
Vegan Dilled Ceviche from Veggie Inspired
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Beverages
Festive Spiced Tahini Hot Chocolate from Bunny Kitchen
Cranberry-Grapefruit White Wine Spritzer from Glue and Glitter
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Salads
Tropical Fruit Salad with Raspberry Dressing from Parsley in my Teeth
Rosemary Infused Grapefruit and Kale Salad from The Glowing Fridge
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Breads 
Rosemary and Meyer Lemon Focaccia from Yup, It’s Vegan
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Soups/Stews
Creamy Lemon Asparagus Soup from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen
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Sides
Lentil Sweet Potato Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Crispy Shallots from Veganizzm
Cranberry Pomegranate Pear Sauce from A Journey with Tiffany
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Mains
Mushroom Duxelle Ravioli in Cashew Cream Sauce from Astig Vegan
Seitan Marbella from Fried Dandelions
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Desserts (aside from my own Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp of course!)
Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffle Tart from My Darling Vegan
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Pretzel Frosting from Veggies Don’t Bite
Lemon Curd Tiramisu from Marfigs’ Munchies
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Okay…I couldn’t pick just two desserts…

Another VVP in the books.  Now, off I go to get started on recreating some of these delights!

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Virtual Vegan Potluck: Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp

Welcome!  I hope you’re enjoying the December 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck so far.  Thanks for stopping by A. Cook in the Making!
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For the dessert course of this year’s VVP, I’m bringing a Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp.
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Featuring tastes and aromas that evoke late autumn and the holidays, this not-too-sweet dessert is warm and familiar but still a little unique.  Plus, you can feel good about eating it because it’s technically made from a vegetable 🙂  Leftovers heat up very well and make a terrific breakfast too!

Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp
Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free; gluten-free option
Serves 8-12

Ingredients
For squash:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled well and sliced into thin half moons (think apple slices)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablepoons Earth Balance buttery spread (optional…use soy-free blend if necessary)

For topping:
1/3 cup flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)
1 cup rolled oats (certified gluten-free if needed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or Earth Balance

For serving:
Non-dairy vanilla ice cream (I use So Delicious Vanilla Bean coconut ice cream and it is divine)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a 9 x 11 baking dish and set aside.

Place butternut squash slices in a large bowl.  Add cornstarch, orange zest, orange juice, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and stir until well coated.  Add mixture to prepared baking dish.  At this point, if you wish, add Earth Balance on top, like so:
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To make the topping, combine all ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Spread evenly over squash mixture.  Cover baking dish with tin foil, poke a few holes in the top with a fork, then place in the oven and bake for 40-60 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a fork.

To serve: I recommend stirring this before serving, because a lot of the sweet gooey stuff tends to collect around the bottom.  Once stirred, place in a bowl, top with vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

If you would like a sweeter crisp: sprinkle an additional 1/4 cup of granulated sugar over the crisp while still warm and stir to incorporate.
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To move on in the potluck and see what dessert Apsara has brought, follow this link to Eating Well Diary.

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To go back and revisit Koren and Alana’s submission, follow this link to She Makes Magic.

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This Sweet Tooth Is Real

These days it seems that Baby H’s main interest, besides somersaulting, is sweet treats.  According to the Old Wives’ Tale, this apparently means I’m having a girl.  Of course, the latest poll of 16 of our nearest and dearest, collected at my baby shower on Saturday, reveals that only 4 (including H and me) think we are having a girl.  We’ll find out for sure in about 10 weeks!
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That belly don’t lie…

In the meantime, I’m trying to moderate how much I’m actually taking in, but also make sure I enjoy the indulgence whenever I do decide to treat us!

And fortunately, I’ve had access to some of the best vegan sweet treats in existence.

A couple weeks ago, H and I took a quick trip to NYC.  We both knew that we wanted to visit the Cinnamon Snail food truck while we were there, so on Saturday morning, we checked their facebook page and learned that they would be at the monthly Vegan Shop-Up in Bushwick that day.

Some of you may already know this, but the Cinnamon Snail is very close to my heart.   Before he started the food truck, I used to visit Chef Adam’s booth each week at the Red Bank Farmer’s Market, about 3 miles down the road from the town I grew up in, to sample some of his vegan donuts, raw pizzas, and other incredible vegan fare.  His astonishing success has been hard-earned, and honestly, is extremely well-deserved.

The Cinnamon Snail is, quite simply, amazing.  They have all kinds of food but their baked goods are especially outstanding.  When H and I visited the truck a few weeks ago, we stocked up!
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Double-Chocolate Fudge donut (this is H’s all-time favorite!)

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Thai Basil Coconut donut (an incredible flavor combo if there ever was one)

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Pistachio donut (with tantalizing hints of cardamom)

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Gluten-free Peanut Butter blondie (great texture and not overly-sweet)

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And my absolute favorite…the Vanilla Creme Brulee donut

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You guys…seriously. This thing was soaked in gooey caramel and had the most delicious, crunchy, sugary crust.  I was in heaven eating it.

This past Sunday, my sister Marley and I headed down to the annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.  Initially I didn’t plan on going inside, because it’s usually crowded to the point of not being able to move, and that is something I’m not comfortable with in my present condition.  However, we got there right when it opened up so I managed to make one good round and pick up some coupons and samples.  And then I got in line for Vegan Treats.

Vegan Treats is based out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is the highlight of the VegFest for me every year.  Their peanut butter bombs are one of the best and most decadent things I have ever tasted, vegan or not.
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It’s basically a layer of dense chocolate cake, topped with fluffy peanut butter mousse, and then the whole thing is covered in a chocolate shell and a peanut butter drizzle.  Ah-maz-ing.

I got two (the third was for Marley, I swear!).
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I also snagged a black and white donut, a white chocolate key lime cheesecake for my parents, and a pumpkin cheesecake on a stick (!) <–it’s the candy corn looking thingy in the middle–so cool, right?!

Then we went outside to patronize the fabulous Like No Udder vegan ice cream truck!  I still get giddy when I think about the fact that something like this exists!
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Baby H and I settled on the Oreo milkshake. It was sweet and creamy, with lots of delicious cookie chunks, and totally hit the spot!

Marley, who has developed a bit of a sensitivity to soy, went inside to grab some coconut-based ice cream from FoMu.
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She got a cup of apple cider donut ice cream.  Yes, you read that right…vegan apple cider donut chunks esconced in creamy, cinnamony ice cream.  I tried some and it was effing amazing.

So there you have it.  All the vegan sweets fit to eat!

Fortunately, my other cravings at the moment are broccoli and black beans 🙂

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread – Veganized to Perfection!

It’s no secret that I enjoy taking shortcuts with my cooking from time to time.  Usually I’ll only do it if the shortcut way is just as good as, if not better, than its more labor-intensive counterpart.

For me personally, pumpkin bread falls into the shortcut category.  I’ve made it from scratch a bunch of times and it’s really good, but I have to say, Trader Joe’s boxed mix yields an equally-delicious result.  It’s one of my favorite fall treats!
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The box instructions tell you to combine the boxed mix with two eggs, 1/2 cup of oil, and 1 cup of water.  Fortunately, quick breads like this are ideal candidates for veganizing with egg substitutes, because their dense texture and full flavor easily mask the fact that substitutions have been used.
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I used to do this bread with two flax eggs (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water), but over the weekend I tried it with one flax egg and one mashed banana, and I have to say it was WAY better.  I’ll go as far as to say that it’s the best combo for veganizing this particular product (of course, if you have an even better way, I’d love to hear it in the comments!).

The banana flavor is undetectable but it gives a gooey, sweet consistency that is just sooooo appetizing and pleasing to the palate.
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Oh, and you’ll notice that I also added half a cup of chocolate chips, of course 🙂  I have my priorities straight.

DIY Frozen Banana Pops

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H and I recently caught up on the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix, and ever since then I have been thinking about how easy it would be to make some Bluth Bananas right in my own home.

Then, as fate would have it, I stumbled onto this Simply Perfect recipe from MoFo blogger Vegan Eats and Treats for Frozen Banana Pops with a nod to the Make 12 Banana Pops product of yore.

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Mine didn’t turn out as smooth and pretty as hers, but they sure were tasty! I made some with chopped up roasted peanuts and some without. H and I both preferred the ones with nuts, but I will warn you that it’s a little hard to get them to stick since the warm chocolate seizes up so quickly on the frozen banana.

This is a super-simple dessert that feels decadent but is actually kinda good for you. Hell, I wouldn’t even feel that bad about having it for breakfast. Definitely give it a try!

Easy Homemade Frozen Fruit Bars

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Hi there! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

With just over a week left of Vegan MoFo, I’m not sure whether I’ll actually meet the 20-post goal–it’d require me to post every day from here on out!–but I’m certainly going to try, as I have a lot more Simply Perfect goodness to share before the month’s end.

Today I want to tell you about a super-simple dessert (or snack, or even breakfast) that’s a cinch to prepare and is actually good for you!  Instead of spending lots of money on commercial frozen treats (many of them with questionable additives), try stocking your freezer with Homemade Frozen Fruit Bars.

Basically, you make a smoothie and freeze it.  SO EASY, and the flavor combinations are endless, making it a great way to use up produce that is nearing the end of its shelf life.  Less waste = more money in your pocket.

For these, I blended a cup of Trader Joe’s Orange-Peach-Mango juice that we had left over from a party with some fresh peaches and frozen strawberries (probably about 3/4 cup of each), then I stirred in little chunks of fresh strawberries that needed to be used up for good measure.
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Water works fine in place of juice, and is actually what I would have used if I hadn’t just happened to have juice to use up.

I poured the mixture into these popsicle molds that I bought for like a buck at Target a few years ago and froze them overnight (and there was some leftover which I gladly ate with a spoon–yum!).
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If you don’t have a mold like this you could use a standard ice cube tray instead and make mini fruit bars.  Simply pour in the mixture, let it freeze for an hour, then insert toothpicks or mini-popsicle sticks and continue to freeze overnight.

For my next batch, I’m thinking of blending orange juice with strawberries and then mixing in some chocolate chips…mmm…

More yummy frozen fruit bars: Creamsicle Frozen Yogurt Pops (from last year’s Vegan MoFo!)

Dessert for Breakfast: “Reese’s” Oatmeal

Whew–it’s been a tad chilly at night over the past few weeks!  For the majority of them, I haven’t even needed to turn the fan on.  H and I don’t have AC in our house, and while we normally just power through the summer heat, I was worried that my expanding belly and I would be a bit uncomfortable on particularly hot nights this summer.  So the cool temps have actually been a total blessing.

The mornings have also been pleasantly cool following the chilly nights, which means oatmeal has actually been an attractive breakfast option!  I am newly obsessed with this particular formulation, which I call “Reese’s” Oatmeal (because what else do you call a PB and chocolate concoction?).
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Ingredients
1/2 cup rolled oats, prepared with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond-coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice)
1 tbsp. natural PB
1 tbsp. hemp hearts
2 tbsp. vegan semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
Easy as can be! Prepare oatmeal with water and non-dairy milk (you can use all water or all non-dairy milk too if you prefer). Then stir in the remaining ingredients until well-combined, and chow down!

Though it tastes like a dessert, this filling and delicious oatmeal is actually quite healthy and contains a satiating mix of carbs, fat, fiber, and protein, making it a perfect breakfast option.  Of course, nothing is stopping you from actually enjoying it as a virtuous dessert!

Nutrition:*
Calories: 394
Carbs: 41g
Fat: 22g
Protein: 13g
Fiber: 8g
Iron: 24%
Calcium: 24%
Vit. E: 25%

*Nutrition calculation is approximate and is based on the RDAs for a 2,000 calorie diet.

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P.S. – Happy 27th birthday to my baby brother J!