Countdown to Christmas: Dessert – Ginger Pear Tarts


Here it is, the big day. I hope you have all that shopping done.
You’ve planned for the appetizers, the sides and the main attraction…
I hope you’ve saved room for dessert.

I couldn’t resist something spiced and a little lighter than a cake or that never ending tray of sweet offerings that nibble me into a coma. The gingerbread was such a hit, I decided to use it as the base of the tart. It holds up pretty well as a crust and with a light cream there’s plenty of room for spicy, soaked pears.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you enjoy the Holidays, the food and your families!

POACHED SPICED PEARS

2 pears, peeled halved and cored; I used Abate Fetel
1 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Water
1 Vanilla Pod, split
1 Cinnamon Stick, 2″ in length
Zest Strips of 1 Lemon
2 Tablespoons Brandy

Combine the sugar and the water in a large saucepan over a medium high heat.
Add the vanilla pod, cinnamon and lemon strips.
Once the sugar has dissolved add the brandy and the pear halves.
If the pears are not submerged, just cook until softened then turn them over, occasionally basting, if necessary.
Remove when softened, about 20 minutes. Cool and store in the liquid until ready to use.
May be made two days in advance.

TOFU CREAM

300g Soft Silken Tofu
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
4 Tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
1  (2-inch) Fresh Ginger, peeled
1/4  teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Pastry Flour

Grate the ginger and squeeze to remove the juice, should equal one tablespoon.
In a food processor, blend the tofu, ginger and lemon juice along with the vanilla, sugar, salt, flour and arrowroot powder.
Serve cold or baked.

GINGERBREAD COOKIE CRUST (half batch)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Roll out the chilled cookie dough. Cut into rounds to fit your tart shells.
Dock with a fork to prevent excessive air bubbles and bake for 10 minutes..
While the tart shells cool, prepare the tofu cream and thinly slice the poached pears.
Dollop the cream and top with the sliced pears.
Return to the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the tofu cream is set and firm.
Makes 6 four inch tarts.

The Way The Peanut Butter Cookie Crumbled


It would seem that I’ve been having a short slue of serendipitous mishaps in my kitchen lately.
First I have the uncheesecake pops from the Daring Bakers challenge and now I have crumbly peanut butter cookies.

After a craving and an urge of inspiration from seeing a jarful of banana jam, I wanted to make thumbprint cookies. My first batch of cookies were pretty good but with a cup of oatmeal they lost the peanut butter Pow! and were mostly just oatmeal cookies with a sinkhole of banana in the center. A cookie I’d try again, but just not for this…

Next, I stuck clear of the oats and stayed traditional. I pretty much mimicked my Nana’s peanut butter cookie recipe. (You know the ones with the fork or potato masher prints?) To veganize, I just left out the egg and added a drop of soy milk. No matter how I’d mixed the batter it was dry. I added another tablespoon of milk, then another… and another. I managed to shape them into balls to get into the fridge but there was no way I would be getting a potato masher anywhere near these things. I flattened and shaped a trays worth by hand and watched the edges crack as I squished my thumb into the middle to get the jam blob in.

The results were creamy, peanut-buttery but d-r-y. Certainly not a satisfying cookie. As the jar runnith empty, I was getting tired of inventing new disasters to eat. Then it donned on me that these were good for about one thing – and no, not wanting to waste everything, it wasn’t the compost. These crusty, crumbly cookies were just that, crust and with combined with something even creamier, a potentially perfect dessert base.

Given that mini tart pans make for a great finished dessert, these looked almost like they came from the bakery with little to no effort. Of course, if you don’t have the pans, I’m sure you could go larger into a pie dish. Of anything I’ve learned lately is to just go with the flow, because you might just end up with something pretty great where you least expected it.

CRUMBLY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE CRUST

1/3 Cup Margarine (or Butter)
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Milk

Cream the margarine and sugar.
Add peanut butter and vanilla mixing well to combine.
Add the baking powder and salt followed by half of the flour.
Combine the soy milk then add the remaining flour.
Refrigerate for about one hour, or freeze for later use after shaping into a disk and wrapping well.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Break off walnut sized pieces, flattening as best as possible and press into tart pans.
Bake for 10-12 minutes cooling completely before filling.

Fill with vegan caramel 1/2 way up the sides and top with an even layer of walnut halves.
Melt a semi-sweet or dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat safe bowl over simmering water until smooth.
Pipe or drizzle chocolate over top of the nuts and lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Chill until ready to serve.

Thankful


On a recent trip to the country side, it was easy to absorb the surroundings and be thankful for what we have. The warm autumn days have brought with it a tremendous bounty.

While on the road, we were fortunate to experience one of the more remarkable pumpkin patches of recent memory. Flooded by the sea of orange, we washed up by the barn only to be further delighted by the classy heirloom varieties our hosts, the Nauman’s, had so knowledgeably grown over the past 100 days or so.

Beautiful and rarely seen French and Italian heirloom pumpkins soon filled my cart once only destined to carry orange carvers. Pink, red, blue and green classics, fit for a princess’s coach were on their way into my life to nobly, and tastily end theirs.

During the purchase of my great pumpkins, I naturally dreamed of creamy, spiced pies but thoughts shift creatively with vegan visitors and Thanksgiving at your doorstep.

Cracking into my vibrant Rouge Vif D’Etampe, I couldn’t help but imagine it’s outcome. This stunning, old French heirloom is also known as Cinderella’s Carriage, as it was used as the artist’s model in the Disney classic. It’s lovely, dense, creamy orange interior yielded about 5 cups of puréed intention. Ideal for baking, the Rouge Vif is smooth and easy to relieve of any excess liquid. This pumpkin easily puts any Holiday can of pie to shame and is well worth the small, extra effort.


Continue reading Thankful

Raspberry Tart


After a meal last week, I thought about some of my recipes on the site.
You see, my sister in law, along with being vegan, suffers from Celiac Disease which is a gluten intolerance restricting her diet of all wheat, rye and barley products.
No meat, no dairy and no bread. Poor girl.

To her, wheat shows it’s ugly head often. It’s in so much more that the mere loaf of bread – it’s in cakes, pastries, muffins, most veggie burgers, hot dogs and soy sauce.

This was the problem I feared when I first met with my vegan cooking challenge. I’ve gone on about creating a satisfying meal for my guests. I have to admit I feel just awful when I see her eating only hummus or grilled vegetables then skipping dessert, all while we’re all slathering our freshly toasted buns with bar-b-qed goodies.

It’s not the full meal, but here’s a little more than a popsicle for your next dessert; a gluten free, no bake raspberry tart. Happy early birthday, my dear. I hope you like it.

RASPBERRY TART

You will need about 2 Pints (3-4 cups) of fresh raspberries for the final topping.

CRUST

1/3 Cup Almonds
1/2 Cup Oatmeal
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Margarine
1/8 teaspoon Salt (pinch)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, melt the margarine. Add the vanilla and brown sugar; mix well.
Simmer over a medium heat and allow to simmer for 2 -3 minutes.
In a food processor, combine the almonds and half of the oats, until well ground.
Add the remaining oatmeal, cinnamon and salt; pulsing to combine.
Empty the dry mixture into a medium sized bowl and pour over the hot syrup.
Once the crust mixture is well combined, transfer to an 8 inch tart pan.
Spread out and evenly press the mixture along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Chill to set, about 20 minutes or just while you prepare the filling.

TOFU CREAM

1/2 Package Soft Silken Tofu
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
4 Tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
2 Tablespoons Soy Milk

Combine tofu and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.
With the machine running, add the arrowroot, soy milk, lemon juice and vanilla through the feeder cap.
Taste and adjust vanilla and soy milk for flavour and consistency, if necessary.

Pour into the waiting crust and return it to the refrigerator.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

1/2 Cup Chocolate Pieces, vegan
1 Tablespoon Margarine
2 Tablespoons Soy Milk

Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler or in a heat safe bowl fitted over a pan of simmering water.
Stir in the margarine.
Whisk in the milk to combining until smooth.
Pour over chilling tart.

Top with raspberries and dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.
Chill until ready to serve.

Eggless Asparagus Quiche


It finally rained – in two ways.
Thankfully the ground is now moist, our tomatoes will grow and the grass might turn away from it’s current shade of tan. Yay!
Yet, unfortunately, during our trip to the farmer’s market yesterday, we were informed that the asparagus must be left to shoot up into it’s destined willowy trees, bringing an end to our supply for the season.
Asparagus is one of my favourite summer vegetables, so I’ll be sure to freeze what I can. The rest inevitably became lunch for today in this vegan version of a classic, light meal.

EGGLESS ASPARAGUS QUICHE

1 Package, Firm Silken Tofu
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Thyme, dried (or a good sprig of fresh, chopped)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Zest of 1/2 Lemon (about 1 Tbsp)

1 Pre-made Pastry Shell, Tenderflake (I know, not me, but they’re such a time saver.)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Bake the pastry shell for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the crust is firm and light golden. Set it aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
Snap the ends and blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 2 – 3 minutes or until bright green. Rinse in cold water, then trim tips to 3″ and reserve. Trim the ends to 1/2″ pieces.
Drain the tofu and add it to the bowl of a food processor. Blend it to a smooth consistency.
Add the nutritional yeast flakes, salt, pepper and spices, mixing well to incorporate everything.
With the motor running, sprinkle the arrowroot powder through the feed tube, combining well but not over mixing.
Finish with the lemon zest and stir in the 1/2″ asparagus pieces.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry shell and top with the reserved asparagus tips.
Bake uncovered at 350º until set, about 20 -25 minutes.

Great warm or chilled.
Serve with a salad.