mom's spicy candied pecans

When I smell caramelizing sugar and chipotle wafting from the kitchen I know it's the holiday season. Mom makes gigantic batches of these remarkably addictive nuts each year to give out as Christmas presents. This year she doubled the recipe and made three batches, and what she didn't give away is long gone. She makes them without measuring, but fortunately she let me observe and record the recipe. Mom suggests you get all your ingredients ready ahead of time because the temperature rises quickly at the end which can ruin the consistency. If you don't like chipotle you can omit it and the nuts will still be good, they just won't have that extra bite.

1 cup unrefined cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups pecans (lightly toasting first is optional)

Spread out a generous length of wax paper on the counter. In a large saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the Sucanat, water, and cinnamon over medium heat and stir until dissolved. When the temperature reaches about 225F, stir in the salt and chipotle. At 250F, remove from heat, add the vanilla, briefly stir, then add the pecans. Stir to coat the pecans and keep stirring until the sugar is completely crystalized. Spread out on the wax paper. Try not to "test" as many as I do.


pecan pie with fresh ginger

According to legend, the French invented the pecan pie after the the Native Americans introduced the pecan to settlers in New Orleans. However, the first recorded recipes of the pie popped up in the 1920s, and well-known cookbooks such as the Joy of Cooking did not contain it until the '40s. Karo syrup popularized the pie, claiming the executive's wife "discovered" it in the 30s as a new use for corn syrup, and most recipes since then called for Karo corn syrup. Like the origins of most food, we'll never know the true story. Since then it has become a specialty of Southern cuisine and, like the pumpkin pie, a constant feature at American holiday feasts.

Replacing the traditional corn syrup with maple and brown rice syrup and adding fresh ginger give this rich, crowd-pleasing pie a deeper flavor. It's in fact very gingery, so if you don't like ginger you can use only half, or eliminate it altogether. The pie will still be good, but I haven't heard any ginger complaints even from the picky eaters (like my brother). This year I made it five times for different Thanksgiving parties, and by popular demand it will be back for Christmas in just a few weeks. In the picture directly above, the visible portion of the pie was the only part remaining because my family couldn't wait for me to take a photo.

Makes one 9" pie; serves 8-10
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

9" unbaked vegan pie crust
3 cups pecans
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1-1/2 teaspoon arrowroot (or substitute with cornstarch)
1/3 cup non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Par-bake the pie crust for about 15 minutes. Toast the pecans for 7-9 minutes, just until fragrant and slightly darkened. Chop the nuts, between fine and coarse, leaving a few whole for decoration.

In a medium saucepan combine the syrups, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Combine with the flaxseed, arrowroot, milk, and 1/4 cup of the chopped pecans, and pour in blender, and blend until smooth. Pour this mixture into a large bowl with the remaining chopped pecans and mix well, then pour into the pie crust. Place the whole pecans decoratively in the center on top of the pie. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the pie is lightly browned and the filling almost set, as it will firm up more upon cooling. Cover the crust with foil if it is browning too quickly. Let cool and serve.


arroz con leche de coco (coconut rice pudding)

2/3 cup long-grain white rice (basmati or jasmine)
1 3/4 cup almond milk
zest of 1 lemon or orange
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a big pinch of allspice/nutmeg
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup agave or 2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs dark rum
optional: 1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup lightly toasted grated coconut

Bring rice, almond milk, and spices to a boil, cover, and simemr 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, agave, vanilla, salt, and raisins if using. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Garnish with cinnamon and coconut.


gluten-free cornmeal pancakes

Cornmeal, ground from dried maize, comes in more than a few varieties; to start with, there's fine, medium and coarse consistencies. Medium grinds are fine in most baked goods, though finely ground is best for delicate pastries such as cakes. Finely ground cornmeal is also called cornflour in the States, though in the UK cornflour refers to cornstarch. Coarsely ground cornmeal gives baked goods more texture and crunch, which may or may not be desirable.

You may also see cornmeal labeled "steel ground" or "stone ground," or "old fashioned." Steel ground cornmeal, particularly common in the US, has the hull and germ of the maize kernel mostly removed, and stays good almost indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry location. Meanwhile, stone ground (aka "old fashioned") cornmeal retains some of the hull and germ, giving it more nutrition and flavor. However, it also has a shorter shelf life, which can be extended by refrigerating or even freezing the cornmeal.

To top it off, cornmeal comes in three different colors: yellow, white, and blue. Yellow cornmeal is standard in baked goods and polenta for most of the world. African dishes and many cornbread and pancake recipes from the Southern US use white cornmeal. Blue cornmeal can be used for a more exiting color, nutritional benefits, and a stronger flavor.

Yellow cornmeal in this recipe gives these pancakes an appealing golden hue, but feel free to experiment with different types of cornmeal. In place of eggs, I grind golden flaxseed normal flaxseed would make healthfood-looking brown flecks in the pancakesand whisk with water.

The cornmeal in these fluffy, delicious pancakes pairs especially well with blueberries, blackberries, or orange. When I made these pancakes today for a Saturday-morning brunch I heated some maple syrup with frozen blackberries for an instant, delicious blackberry compote. Adding some orange zest wouldn't have hurt anything either. If you want to keep the pancakes warm, preheat the oven to 200F, and stack them on a plate until ready.

  • If you don't have brown rice flour or arrowroot, substitute both with 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour.
  • Classic Pancakes (gluten-free): Instead of the cornmeal, add 1 cup of brown rice flour (so the total quantity is 1.5 cups) and add 1 cup of of millet or sorghum flour. Omit the lemon zest.
  • These pancake recipes also work for making waffles.

Serves 4-6
Total time: 20 minutes

2 cups non-dairy milk
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
2 tablespoons ground golden flaxseed
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal or corn flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup melted coconut or sunflower oil, plus more for greasing the griddle

Whisk together the milk, lemon juice, ground flax, and arrowroot for a few minutes, until slightly thickened, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla, syrup, and oil to the wet ingredients.

Oil a large frying pan or griddle and heat to medium-high (350-375F). Add the wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and mix until lumps are eliminated (in most pancake recipes you barely stir the batter for fear of tough pancakes caused by gluten formation, but this isn't a problem in gluten-free recipes for obvious reasons).

Once the griddle is hot, scoop or pour about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook for a couple minutes, until browned, then flip and cook another minute. Serve immediately. Top with fresh berries, maple syrup, blueberry jam, and/or a compote.


apple leek pasticcio

In a visit to Florence last summer, La Raccolta ranked top among most memorable and delicious gastronomical experiences. A lovely vegetarian restaurant tucked away behind a little health food store, from the outside we would have never known a restaurant was even there (thanks, HappyCow). They offer a piatto misto, a combination of everything they're serving that day, and although everything was impressive, the pasticcio di mela e porro (apple leek pasticcio, which is a kind of baked dish covered with béchamel sauce) stole our attention. We raved about it so much that our waiter brought out the chef, who exuberantly explained how he made it, homemade soy béchamel and all. I tried to develop a recipe as soon as I came home, and though this will never be as exquisite as the original, it's pretty good.

Serves 6-10
Total time: 1.5 hours

Béchamel Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
2 tablespoons flour (or substitute with 2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch)
1-1/2 cups soy or almond milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium-low heat for a minute or two. Add the flour and stir until smooth, cooking until it turns sandy gold, 5 to 7 minutes. Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, then remove from heat. Stir in the salt and nutmeg and let cool.

2-3 large sweet potatoes (the pale-skinned kind)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks
6 apples
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

Peel the sweet potatoes if the skins don't look good, then chop into slices between 1/4 and 1/3 inch thick. Break the tough green part off of the leeks, then chop the remainders in half. Rinse under water, fanning the layers, then slice thinly. Peel and core the apples, cut into quarters, then chop thinly into slices between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the leeks over medium-high heat until nearly translucent. Add the spices and cook for another minute over medium heat. Then add the apple slices and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, oil a 11 x 7 or 9 x 9 inch baking pan and place the sweet potato slices in one or two layers. When the apple mixture is done, spread over the sweet potatoes. Pour the bechamel on top and sprinkle on the sunflower seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until slightly browned around the edges and the sweet potatoes are soft.

Serve warm, on its own or over rice. It will stay good in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months.


gluten-free maple coconut shortbread bars

Shortbread, a buttery, crumbly type of unleavened biscuit, originated in Scotland perhaps as early as the 12th century, although some attribute its invention to Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. The name "shortbread" originated from the early-19th century sense of the word "short," meaning "easily crumbled." This is also where the word "shortening" comes from, referring to any fat used to create a short (as in crumbly) texture.

Shortbread was traditionally made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts oatmeal flour. Today it's more commonly made with white wheat flour, but I decided to try oat flour and liked it. However, nothing else about these bars is traditional: maple syrup stands in for the sugar, coconut oil for the butter, and I couldn't resist adding a chewy maple-coconut-pecan topping.

Total time: 40 minutes
Makes 18-24 bars

2 cups (200g) gluten-free oats, finely ground in a coffee grinder or food processor
1/4 cup (50g) arrowroot powder (or substitute cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup (50g) pecans, toasted at 350F for 6-7 minutes then finely chopped
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the over to 350F. Grease a 11" x 7" (28 x 18 cm) or similar-sized baking pan and line with parchment paper.

Whisk together the oat flour, arrowroot, and salt. Whisk together the maple syrup and coconut oil and then add to the dry ingredients, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake about 14-15 minutes, just until firm in the center.

While the shortbread is cooking, combine the ingredients for the topping in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the coconut flakes have absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and cover. When the shortbread is done, remove from the oven and spread the coconut mixture evenly over the top. Bake another 12-14 minutes, until well browned around the edges.

Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut into rectangles or triangles with a sharp knife. It may take several hours to cool completely, but if you cut it while still warm you may find yourself with a very tasty, crumbly mess.


orange sesame green beans

Green beans, often called string beans, can rarely be found today with the fibrous string that was once their hallmark; the first stringless beans were bred in the late 19th century. Green beans as well as all other types of beans are derived from a common bean ancestor originating in Peru; migrating Native American tribes spread them throughout South and Central America, and in the 16th century returning Spanish explorers introduced them to Europe. Green beans are the immature form of any kind of bean, picked while the inner beans just begin to form. Also called snap beans, they constitute one of the few types of beans that can be eaten raw. Their impressive nutritional profile serves just as a bonus to their sweetness and flavor; they rank very high in Vitamins K and C, manganese, and many others.

Purchase green beans that feel smooth and firm, look smooth and vibrantly green, and snap when broken. Unwashed fresh green beans should be kept in a bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about a week. Immediately before using the green beans, rinse them and chop off both ends (particularly the stem end).

This recipe is my answer to the cravings I get for orange chicken whenever I visit a Chinese restaurant. Don't skimp on the sesame seeds, which make an astonishing difference in the flavor and texture, or the chopped orange segments, which should caramelize until browned and delicious. These can be served as a side dish or over brown rice.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes, including soak time
Serves 4-6

2 oranges, zested, peeled, segmented, and chopped
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon Bragg's aminos or tamari
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
roughly 1 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Whisk together the agave, Bragg's, balsamic, orange juice, pepper, garlic, oil, and chopped orange and zest. Place the mixture and the green beans in a large, shallow frying pan or wide saucepan. Soak 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to soak all the beans. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed and the beans are slightly shriveled and the orange slices are caramelized.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat, shaking often, until fragrant and lightly browned. Serve the beans plain or over brown rice or quinoa, and sprinkle liberally with the toasted sesame seeds.


grandma's rhubarb bars with orange and cardamom

Most of us know and love rhubarb (aka "pie plant") for its sweet-tart flavor found most often in pies, tarts, and sauces. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic, but the beautiful red stalks are edible. Raw, the celery-like rhubarb stalks have a very strong tart flavor, so they're usually cooked and sweetened (such as in strawberry-rhubarb pie) to soften them and counteract the tartness. Though used as a fruit in cooking, rhubarb technically falls into the vegetable category. Its season varies from April to September with location, but in our yard ripens in July or August. Besides the classic rhubarb and strawberry, rhubarb also pairs nicely with caramel, mint, or orange and cardamom (hence this recipe).

These bars come from a veganized version of my grandma's recipe. I also added cardamom and orange to her rhubarb filling because I had them sitting around and it sounded good. The crust/crumble part is very versatile, so you could try any filling you want, with whatever fruit or spices you have on hand. (For example, raspberry bars sound good, and so do orange-chocolate bars or blackberry-ginger-peach bars.) These bars can be made ahead of time and frozen. I think they actually taste better when they're very cold.

Total time: 45 minutes
Makes 10-15 bars

2 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (4-6 stalks)
2 zested, peeled, segmented, and sliced orange
1 tablespoon ground cardamom (if you want more traditional rhubarb bars, omit the orange and cardamom but use 1.5 cups of rhubarb)
1/2 cup agave
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups oats
1 cup Florida Crystals (or another vegan sugar)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Grease a 9"x13" baking pan. Preheat the oven to 375F.

For the filing, combine the rhubarb, orange segments and zest, cardamom, and agave in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Add in the arrowroot and stir in over medium-low heat for another minute or so, until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a coffee grinder or food processor, coarsely grind the almonds (there should still be large pieces) and then coarsely grind the oats. Whisk together the almonds, oats, sugar, salt, and soda in a small bowl. Blend in the melted coconut oil with your hands. Remove 1 cup of the crumb mixture for topping, and place in the freezer to set the crumbs.

Press the remaining crumb mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly spread the rhubarb mixture on top, and sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden. Cool in pan and place in the freezer. Once completely cooled, cut into bars, and store in a sealed container in the freezer (if you don't store them in the freezer, the crust can get slightly soggy). Take them out several minutes before serving to thaw slightly. They will get less tart the longer they thaw.


vanilla ice cream with warm blackberry sauce

I love wild blackberry season. Blackberries contribute their unique flavor to a number of sweets, but this simple dessert features the wonderful blackberry as the star of the show.

Finding good vegan ice cream can be a bit difficult. I recommend Purely Decadent made with Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean ice cream, which tastes rich and delicious, reminiscent of coconut ice cream. This brand, as far as I know, can be found all over the US. Another great brand isMudslinger's FreeStyle ice cream. The company (Maggie Mudd) operates from San Francisco, so I've only seen this ice cream in stores here in California. Or even better, if you have an ice cream maker, nothing beats homemade ice cream (see recipe below).

Wild Blackberry Sauce
Serves 6-8
Total time: about 15 minutes

3 cups fresh blackberries
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (add more if you want a thicker sauce, and vice versa)
2 tablespoons orange juice

Wash and sort through the berries. Reserving 1 cup of the nicest looking berries, blend the rest with the agave nectar. Strain with a sieve into a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Sift in arrowroot and whisk in. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so, whisking often, until the mixture has thickened into a sauce. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining whole berries, and let sit, covered, until heated through. Serve hot over vanilla ice cream.
Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
Time: 1 day, for soaking cashews and chilling the custard

1/2 can (about 3/4 cup) coconut milk (not lite)
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in filtered water 8-24 hours
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together for several minutes until completely smooth.

Transfer to an airtight container and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight--I've often read that the longer it chills, the creamier the ice cream. This is reportedly because the mixture becomes more viscous from sitting in the refrigerator, so will take less time to freeze in the ice cream maker. The less time it takes to freeze, the less time ice crystals have to form, creating a smoother the ice cream.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.


tomato basil cream pasta

6 oz whole wheat penne pasta
6 cups water

4 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 tbs tomato paste
1 cup red wine

1 tbs olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tsp salt

1 lemon zested, plus 1 tbs juice

freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, add pasta. Cook until done, then drain and rinse. Meanwhile, blend 1 tomato with cashews, paste, and wine, for several minutes until very smooth and creamy. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook until golden. Add the cashew paste, diced tomatoes, salt, pasta, and lemon zest and juice, and cook several minutes. Stir in fresh basil leaves and serve with black pepper.


coconut chocolate fudge

3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 coconut milk
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup agave
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup coconut or chopped walnuts

Melt ingredients in double boiler until smooth. Add nuts or coconut and pour into greased loaf pan. Chill 3 hours, then cut into squares.


quick smoky sauteed shiitakes

2 tsp coconut or sesame oil
8 oz mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed, sliced in half
1.5 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

a few cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs chopped parsley

Heat oil on medium heat in a skillet. Add mushrooms and brown 7-10 minutes, until softened. Add remaining ingredients, stir 1 minute. Add parsley.

peanut butter chocolate banana pops

1 banana, chopped into 3 pieces
2 tbs peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp coconut oil
a pinch of salt
optional: 1/4 cup toasted coconut

Freeze bananas, spread on peanut butter, freeze another half hour, melt chocolate chips, oil, and salt together in microwave, spread over bananas, quickly dip in bowl of toasted coconut, and return to freezer.


gluten-free peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies are relatively new confection because peanut butter itself is relatively new. It all started in 1890, when Dr. John Kellogg of cornflake fame created peanut butter as a healthy protein substitute that his toothless patients could easily consume. Meanwhile, George Washington Carver, founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, was promoting peanuts as a replacement for the cotton crop, which the boll weevil destroyed in the 1890s. Carver developed hundreds of recipes using peanuts, and in his 1916 research bulletin How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, he had three recipes for peanut cookies calling for crushed peanuts as an ingredient. The commercial production of peanut butter began in the 1920s when J. L. Rosenfield perfected a process to prevent the oil from separating from the peanut butter and spoilage prevention methods, resulting in the Skippy brand peanut butter. In the 1930s, peanut butter finally began to appear in cookie recipes, which often called for flattening the cookie with the tines of a fork, a tradition still practiced today.

Most peanut butter cookies I've tasted have a rather weak peanut butter taste, while the few that use peanut butter as the sole flour and oil taste a bit too rich. Trying to find a compromise, I made batches and batches of peanut butter cookies which turned out good but rather chewy and greasy, until one time I accidentally used a teaspoon of baking soda in place of baking powder, and they turned out crumbly and delicious like peanut butter cookies are meant to be. These always vanish immediately no matter how many you make, so make a double batch if you plan on sharing. One carnivore told me "this is the best cookie I've EVER had."

Crunchy peanut butter is my favorite for this recipe, but I don't recommend using the bulk peanut butter available at some grocery stores. I wanted to use this kind because I can save packaging by using my own container for the peanut butter, but I've tried to use it countless times for this recipe and it always ruins the texture.

Also, an obvious complement to peanut butter is chocolate, so I recommend throwing some chocolate chips into the batter or half-dipping the cookies in melted chocolate. I would advise chocolate chips over dipping if you're in a time crunch or if the weather's hot (because the chocolate won't set up), but the half-dipped look is very pretty. 

Makes 1 dozen
Total time: 1 hour

2/3 cup (175g) crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar (or vegan brown sugar)
3 tablespoons (40g) melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup (30g) garbanzo bean flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (or up to 1/2 teaspoon if your peanut butter doesn't have any salt)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 oz vegan chocolate, chopped, or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
several pinches coarse sea salt for garnish

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, sugar, and coconut oil, vanilla, and maple syrup for several minutes. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. If using, mix in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill for at least 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough on a greased baking sheet, setting them about 2 inches apart. Dip a fork in melted water and press the tines to flatten the dough in a crisscross manner. If desired, sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of coarse salt.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until beginning to brown around the edges. The cookies will be very, very soft right when you take them out of the oven, which may be quite deceiving, but they should firm up to a crisp, crumbly cookie after they have completely cooled.

To dip the cookies in chocolate, fill a small saucepan an inch or two high with water and place a small, heat-proof bowl on top to create a double boiler. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to barely simmering. Place the chocolate in the bowl and with a spatula, gently stir until consistently creamy, then remove from heat. Spread the melted chocolate over half of each cookie with a spoon, and place the cookies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet to until the chocolate sets. If you're pressed for time you can set the sheet in the fridge.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for several days, or freeze them and I guarantee they will be eaten before they go bad. They are good defrosted on the counter or in the microwave, but they are also really good frozen. 

maple pecan sticky buns

Makes 12 small sticky buns or 6 large buns

For dough:
1/2 packet (1 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup almond or coconut milk, warm
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 orange

2 cups flour

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl, and let stand 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Then add the remaining sugar, oil, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, and flour. Knead for 5-8 minutes on a floured surface. Grease a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat in the oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the filling and glaze.

For filling:

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon almond or coconut milk

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir in the olive oil and milk. 

For glaze:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut or almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Grease a rectangular baking pan between 7x11 and 9x13, or a round 10" cake pan.

Stir together the syrup, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, and spread in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the pecans over the glaze. 

Punch down the dough. 

Preheat the oven to 375. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

basic dahl

3.5 cups veggie stock, preferably homemade
3/4 cups slit peas or red lentils
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, cored and choppe
1 tbs oil
2 tbs tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp mustart seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/16 tsp cayenne
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

In a saucepan, bring the stock and lentils to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until tender (about 40 minutes for split peas). Meanwhile, in a skillet heat the oil, add onions and carrots, saute until slightly browned, add garlic, spices, and cook a few minutes until golden. Add to the nearly finished lentils. Add tomatoes, paste, and cook for a few minutes, adding salt to taste.


gluten-free german chocolate cake

No, German Chocolate Cake is not really German. A recipe for German's Chocolate cake appeared in a newspaper in Dallas, Texas in 1957, sent in by a homemaker. It used a chocolate bar called "German's," created by Englishman Sam German for Baker's Chocolate Company. The cake was an immediate hit, and the possessive in "German's" was dropped, resulting in the current misnomer. The cake soon became a regular in bakeries all across America.

For my family, all big fans of coconut, pecans, and dark chocolate, german chocolate cake is a perennial guest at birthdays. Fortunately, I can still enjoy this cake after becoming vegan. And as happens with many vegan recipes, using coconut cream instead of dairy makes the cake if anything more delicious than traditional versions. This cake takes a lot of work, but for special occasions it's worth it.

Makes 16 rich, filling slices
Cook time: several hours total, including cooling time (this is NOT a last-minute dessert)

complete ingredients list:
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups maple syrup and/or agave nectar (these are pretty much interchangeable, but in each individual recipe I list whichever one I tend to prefer)
5 tablespoons vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, around 70% (check for milk fat in the ingredients)
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (the finer the better unless you want chewy frosting)
1-1/2 cup pecans
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda

chocolate cake:
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil
2 cups maple syrup
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, water, vanilla, and coconut oil. In a medium bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 25-28 minutes, or until somewhat firm. Set the cakes on the counter to cool. Once they are no longer hot, I recommend chilling them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake; when they are cool they're more likely to come out of the cake pans without falling apart.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the coconut filling, rum syrup, and chocolate frosting.

coconut filling:
1 can + 1 cup coconut milk
1-1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups coconut flakes, toasted
1-1/2 cups pecans

To toast the coconut, spread evenly over a cookie sheet and bake for about 5 minutes at 350F. Take it out, stir it around with a spatula, and put back in the oven, checking and stirring every few minutes, until evenly golden brown.

While the coconut is toasting, spread the pecans over another cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes, until well browned and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and chop.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the coconut milk, agave, and salt nearly to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for around 10 minutes. Try not to boil it, because the coconut milk can lose some of its flavor. Mix together the arrowroot and vanilla and whisk in. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until thickened, whisking often to activate the arrowroot. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans and coconut. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

rum syrup:
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer for around 10 minutes, until it resembles a thin syrup. It will thicken slightly upon cooling.

chocolate ganache:
3/4 cup coconut milk (the rest of the can partially used in the coconut frosting)
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Place the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk, agave, and vanilla until it is about to boil. Pour over the chocolate and let it stand a minute. Stir with a spatula until smooth, slowly as to not create air bubbles. Let sit until room temperature, refrigerating if it is not firm enough to spread as frosting.

to assemble the cake:
With a plastic spatula or utensil, loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Remove the cake layers (this is easer if you refrigerate or freeze them for a short while beforehand) and place several toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake, halfway down. Using these as a guide, cut the cake in half horizontally with unflavored dental floss, wrapping it around the cake and tugging the ends toward each other until cut all the way through.

Set the first layer on a cake plate and with a pastry brush, douse liberally with the rum syrup. Spread a little less than 1/4 of the coconut frosting over the layer, being sure to reach the sides. Set another layer on top and repeat, brushing each layer with syrup and coconut filling. Be sure to save enough coconut filling for the top; it's okay if there is more frosting on top than in the other layers, but too little frosting on top would be a problem.

With a frosting spatula, ice the sides with the chocolate frosting, saving a little to pipe around the edges. Run the spatula under hot water, dry, and use it to smooth the chocolate icing around the sides. With a piping bag and tip (you can buy kits relatively cheaply at cooking supply stores), pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top and bottom edges of the cake.

Serve with vanilla or toasted coconut ice cream. The cake can be covered and stored in the fridge for several days.


gluten-free coconut macaroons

The word "macaroon" is used to describe a wide variety of light, baked goods. The word comes from the Italian maccarone, meaning paste; the earliest recorded macaroons were made from almond paste and egg whites, similar to amaretti. Some historians claim macaroons can be traced back to Italian monasteries where they were modeled after the monks' belly buttons. Italian Jews adopted the macaroon because it has no flour or leavening so can be eaten during Passover. Soon it was introduced to other European Jews and became popular year-round. Some cooks added coconut to recipes, occasionally replacing the almonds altogether. Today, what exactly a "macaroon" refers to varies from country to country. Coconut macaroons are the most popular type in North America, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, partly because they're easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues.

The three principle ingredients in traditional coconut macaroons are coconut, egg whites, and sugar. To me, as well as to many others, the use of coconut milk makes these macaroons even better and more coconut-intense than the traditional type. The coconut flavor is so delicious you may not want to disturb it with chocolate, but I like to half-dip the macaroons to create a more elegant and appealing look, and to break up the coconut intensity without covering it up. And although it may be overkill, I like to add a dash of orange oil or zest to the chocolate. In my opinion, the flavor combination of coconut, chocolate, and orange is unbeatable.

Makes about 2 dozen small cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

1/2 can coconut milk (about 3/4 cup, 200 g)
1/3 cup (100 g) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/4 cup brown rice flour (substitute any type of flour—its used mainly as a thickener here)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar or brown sugar
2 cups (160 g) unsweetened shredded coconut (the finer the better unless you want a very chewy macaroon)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips or 3 oz (85g) chopped chocolate
1/4 teaspoon orange oil or zest of 1 orange

Stir together the coconut milk, maple syrup, and salt in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Heat until it's just about to boil, then reduce heat to low. Whisk in the arrowroot powder and brown rice flour until there are no more lumps, then add the vanilla. Continue to cook, whisking often, until thickened. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir in the sugar, then the coconut flakes. Pack a tablespoon-measure with batter and place on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, and mold slightly with your hands to form a circular mound (or whatever shape you wantthe shape will not change much after baking). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are well browned. They should have a crusty outside and soft center.

If you want to dip them in chocolate, fill a small saucepan an inch or two high with water and place a small, heat-proof bowl on top to create a double boiler. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to barely simmering. Place the chocolate in the bowl (and orange oil or zest, if using) and with a spatula, gently stir until consistently creamy, then remove from heat. You might want to add half the orange oil and taste it, adding a few drops at a time, until you get the desired intensity, as orange oils seem to vary in strength from brand to brand. To half-dip, roll half of the top of each macaroon in the melted chocolate. The chocolate will harden if the macaroons are left at room temperature for a few hours. If you're pressed for time, set the cookie sheet in the fridge.



1 cup unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp salt
2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients, cut in oil, add milks, and mix to form slightly sticky dough. Place on a floured surface and pat into a mound 3/4" to 1" thick. Cut biscuits out, pressing straight down.

Bake 15-20 minutes.


gluten-free skillet cornbread

1 cup masa harina
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup brown rice or spelt flour
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbs flax

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together all ingredients. Heat cast iron skillet over high heat and coat with sunflower or another high-heat oil. Pour batter into skillet and bake 25-30 minutes.


gluten-free cornbread muffins

Many think of cornbread as a classic Southern food, but the first to make cornbread were Native Americans living in the what is now the Southwestern United States and Central America, who relied heavily on corn as a food source. The European settlers seemed to catch on; corn became a staple food in the New World before wheat made its way across the pond, and on the frontier cornbread grew widely recognized as a versatile bread that kept well and didn't need to rise.

Traditionally, in the northern United States recipes use sweeteners and produce a lighter cornbread more or less exchangeable with corn muffins, while southern cornbreads often use lard and are usually served as a savory item, such as a complement to chili or bean soups.

I use coarse cornmeal and whole corn kernels for texture. The maple syrup adds a very slight sweetness and flavor, but it's still on the border between sweet and savory. I like to make the cornbread in mini-muffin tins for a bite-sized snack, but they could also be made in normal muffin tins.

Prep time: about 5-10 minutes
Bake time: about 15-20 minutes
Makes about 2 dozen mini-muffins or about 1 dozen standard muffins

1+3/4 cups non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
4 teaspoons lemon juice (adding the zest is optional)

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup corn flour
1/2 cup coarse or medium-grind cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil (which makes it more savory) or coconut oil (which is more buttery)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup fresh or frozen (and thawed) corn kernels

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease the muffin tins or line with paper cups. Whisk together the milk with flaxseed and lemon juice, then set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and oil to the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until nearly all the lumps are gone. Stir in the corn. Pour batter into the muffin tins until about 1/2 cm (or 1/4") away from the top.

Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 15-16 minutes in the mini-muffin tins or about 20-22 minutes in regular muffin tins, or until starting to brown around the edges and the sides are just barely starting to pull away from the pan. Let cool in the tins for several minutes and eat warm or at room temperature.

gluten-free thumbprint cookies

It is unclear where exactly the thumbprint cookie originated, partly because of the wide variations in both the cookie and filling. This particular type resembles the Swedish pastry hallongrottor, "raspberry caves," a molded vanilla cookie filled with raspberry jam.

The dough can be made well ahead of time and frozen. They make convenient and crowd-pleasing bite-sized finger-food for parties, though you may want to double or triple the recipe.

Makes 16 small cookies
Total time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup almond flour
1-1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
a few tablespoons jam (such as raspberry or blackberry)

Blend the rolled oats in a food processor or blender until moderately fine. Whisk together the ground oats, almond meal, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, syrup, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until thoroughly combined, using your hands if necessary. Refrigerate 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the dough into small balls, about the size of golf-balls, and flatten them slightly between your hands. Set them on a greased cookie sheet, and indent the center with your thumb or the back of a half-teaspoon. Fill the center of each with up to a teaspoon of jam. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.


maple candied walnuts

Walnuts are the fruit of the Juglans regia, which means approximately "Jupiter's royal nut," as the ancient Romans believed the gods dined on walnuts. The walnut tree has been cultivated in Europe and Asia for millennia, but Franciscan priests brought the walnut to California around 1770.

Raw walnuts are one of the best sources of plant protein and are full of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants. All raw nuts are rich in healthy fats, but walnuts (like flaxseeds) have significantly higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids compared to other nuts.

Along with most nuts, walnuts can be "dry roasted" for about 10 minutes at 350F to bring out their flavor. Unfortunately, this kills much of the healthy fats and nutrients (and I'm not just some weird health fanaticI've read this from multiple reasonably credible sources). I chow down on raw nuts for a healthy snack but usually reserve roasted nuts for use in desserts, which I can justify to myself because dessert is not meant to epitomize health.

These make delicious gifts, and are great as complements to meals or other desserts (such as on carrot cake or ice cream).

Makes 2 cups candied walnuts
Prep time: a few minutes
Cook time: about 25 minutes

2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spread walnuts evenly in a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and very lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the syrup, salt (which gives it a buttery flavor), and cinnamon. (By the way, feel free to create your own spice mixture, in place of or in addition to cinnamon. I'm thinking nutmeg, ginger, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla...)

Take the nuts out of the oven and while still warm, put them in a strainer and rub them against the sides to remove the skins, which contain the bitter tannins. If possible, do this over a sink or it will make a huge mess, and don't worry if you can't remove all the skins. Dump the walnuts in the bowl with the syrup and mix until nuts are well coated. Evenly spread the nuts back onto the parchmented baking sheet and pour the remainder of the syrup mixture over them. Bake for about 15 more minutes. When you remove them from the oven, the maple syrup should be boiling, but it will crystalize as it cools (and this goes without saying, but be very carefulas I'm writing I have nasty blisters down my hands from the boiling syrup). Remove the parchment and nuts from the baking sheet and place on the counter to cool. While cooling, stir nuts often with a spoon to prevent sticking.


gluten-free banana pecan bread

1/4 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon arrowroot

2/3 cup (100 g) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60g) millet flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup (300g) very ripe, mashed banana (2-3 bananas)
2/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup sunflower oil or coconut oil, melted

2/3 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread pan with coconut oil.

Vigorously whisk together the milk, flax, and arrowroot, and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add the mashed banana, maple syrup, vanilla, and oil to the wet ingredients, then stir well.

Bake for 60-70 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs stuck to it. Let it sit about 30 minutes, then turn out of the pan. Let cool.


soda bread

Tips: The more seeds the better, both mixed in the dough and sprinkled on top before the loaf goes into the oven. Currants and raisins give the bread a lot of flavor and sweetness, but if you want a very savory bread for making sandwiches or something, I would omit the dried fruit. I think currants are perfectly sized for bread because you get their subtle tart sweetness dispersed throughout every bite, but raisins also work for more texture and larger bursts of flavor.

1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons maple syrup

3.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sunflower, pumpkin, and/or flax seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, crushed (optional)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pan
3/4 cup currants and/or raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan, then sprinkle with flour or cornmeal.

Whisk together the milk, vinegar, flax, and syrup with a fork, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and seeds.

Bake 50-55 minutes, or until well browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs.

walnut lentil pate

Inspired by a rich, complexly-flavored dish at Angelica's Kitchen in New York City. Use as a veggie dip, sandwich spread, or spread on slices of sourdough bread, broil for about one or two minutes, and serve warm. 

Time: 45 minutes
Makes 1.5-2 cups

1/2 c dried French (green) lentils, preferably soaked
bay leaves
1 cup walnuts (or substitute pecans)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbs coconut oil
1T mirim
1T umeboshi paste (salty and sour, so if you need to sub use pickled vegetables
1 T miso
1T dried basil or ½ cup fresh basil, mint, or cilantro

Place lentils in a saucepan with bay leaves and enough water to cover by 3 cm. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Saute the onions and garlic in oil in a skillet over a medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Combine the walnuts, lentils, onion mixture, mirim, umeboshi, and miso in a food processor/blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add olive oil or non-dairy milk to thin down if needed. If using fresh herbs, add at the end and pulse until they are coarsely chopped but not fully homogenized.

You can serve immediately, but it improves upon chilling for several hours.



Ginger root has beige skin and hard, fibrous, pale-yellow flesh. Fresh ginger is sweet, aromatic, and pungent, whereas dried ginger powder has a completely different tastemuch more spicy. I use both often, but they are so different they cannot usually replace each other in recipes. Fresh ginger tends to have a superior taste and has more health benefits. It can be found year-round in the produce section of markets, but make sure it is firm and free of mold (I see this surprisingly often). The skin should be smooth and shiny rather than wrinkly. The tough skin of fresh ginger must be peeled, which can be done easily by scraping with the edge of a spoon. It is then usually sliced thinly crosswise to cut the stringy fibers as small as possible, and can then be further minced. I nearly always have a fresh ginger root handy, as they are very good in a number of both sweet and savory dishes (such as bashed neeps, pudla besan, and blueberry orange compote). If there's any leftover that might go bad, I chop it up and steep it in hot water to make fresh ginger tea. Tea made this way is delicious and very different than the ginger tea-bag type; it has a very sweet and almost fruity flavor, somehow reminiscent of lemon drops. Ginger stays good on the counter for about a week (depending on the freshness upon purchase), but can also last in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.

blanched almonds

Blanch almonds have their skins removed. You can buy them pre-blanched from the store, usually in the form of slivered almonds, though these tend to be more expensive. Or you can blanch them yourself.

Total time: 15 minutes

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Put the almonds in the water and reduce the heat, boiling them for no longer than a minute, or they will get soft and soggy. Strain out the water then put the almonds in a bowl of cold water to arrest the cooking process. Once completely cooled, strain them again. To remove the skins, hold the almond between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze. Their skins should come of very easily, so if they are stubborn the almonds probably weren't cooked long enough or haven't cooled long enough. If this is the case, either start over or just use the almonds with the skins; its not worth trying to scrape off each skin. The almonds will probably shoot everywhere when you remove the skins, so I recommend doing this in a large bowl, pointing the almonds down so they will not end up all over your counter.


Thai red curry kabocha squash

Red curry kabocha is my all-time favorite Thai dish. Kabocha squashes don't tend to be cheap, but they are really irreplaceable for their creamy texture.

1.5 tbs red curry paste (I use Mae Sri)--these vary a lot so adjust to taste
1 tbs high heat oil

2 cups coconut milk
4-5 cups kabocha, peeled and ut into roughly 1/2"-1" chunks

1/2 cup water

1 cup (about 1/2 lb) of green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut to 1" long

2 green bell peppers, chopped into pieces no larger than 1/2"-3/4"
1" piece fresh ginger, grated

2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs agave or to taste
1/2 cup sweet Thai basil coarsely chopped (sub regular basil if necessary)
kaffir lime (if you have it)

Add curry paste, oil, and 2 tbs milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium-high. Stir a few minutes until very fragrant. Add kabocha, stir, then add rest of coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Add bell peppers, green beans, ginger, soy sauce, and agave. Cook until kabocha is almost creamy but the veggies aren't mush--about 10 minutes. Stir in basil and cook another minute or two. Serve hot over jasmine or basmati rice.


gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes

2/3 cup (1oog) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (30g) millet flour or garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup (40g) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup (200g) maple syrup
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sunflower oil or melted coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line or grease 12 cupcake tins cups or 24 mini muffin tin cups. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and slowly stir in the dry ingredients until smooth. Divide the batter among the cups, and bake until tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the top comes out with just a few crumbs, about 15 minutes for the mini cupcakes and 20 minutes for the standard sized cupcakes. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more if the peanut butter isn't salted
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until homogenous. It will look weird and sticky like caramel sauce, but don't worry. Place in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate or freeze until it solidifies. Remove from the refrigerator and with electric beaters whip several minutes, until light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes immediately, spreading a generous amount on each cupcake with a knife, or store the frosting in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Don't frost the cupcakes very long before you serve them, or the cupcakes can get slightly soggy. The frosting needs to stay chilled until ready to serve.


banana cardamom shake

If you know a banana is about to go over the hill, you have two options: plan on making banana bread, or peel and freeze. Frozen bananas make smoothies thick and creamy, and can serve as the primary sweetener. If the banana in this smoothie isn't frozen, the result is goopy rather than thick and creamy, and is less refreshingly cold. Coconut butter (blended young coconut meat) makes this smoothie even richer and thicker. You can replace it with raw almond butter, although this will result in a slightly more bitter, earthy, and less decadent smoothie (which may not be all bad).

Serves 2

1 cup nondairy milk
2-3 pitted soft dates, chopped
2 tablespoons coconut butter (not coconut oil)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 large frozen banana (140g)
2 ice ( g) ice cubes

Blend the milk, dates, coconut butter, and cardamom until the dates are completely broken down. Add the banana and ice cubes and blend until just creamy. 


lemon tahini dressing

Tahini is made of hulled, lightly roasted sesame seeds ground to a smooth paste, and has been used for centuries as an essential ingredient in many Middle Eastern recipes such as hummus and baba ghannouj. It provides a creamy base for lemon tahini dressing, a recipe I see fairly often but which varies widely from restaurant to restaurant. This version is not only one of my favorites in flavor but is incredibly healthy and simple to make. If raw tahini is used, this can be a completely raw salad dressing.

Makes 4 generous servings
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Combine ingredients in a bowl, stir together until uniform, and adjust ingredients to taste.

Toss with greens in a large bowl or pour over individual salads (which looks prettier). Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, sesame seeds, avocados, grated beets or carrots, sliced onion, cucumbers, or tomatoes. Any dressing that is not immediately used can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

bashed neeps (mashed rutabaga)

Rutabagas, also called "swedes" in Europe, or "yellow turnips", are believed to have evolved from a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip sometime before the 17th century. They became popular in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, due to their ability to thrive in colder climates. In Ireland they were carved with faces for Halloween, and this tradition was brought over to America where, in the absence of rutabagas, Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into pumpkins. Rutabagas were cultivated in America starting in the late 19th century.

Rutabagas are found year-round here in California at the local farmers' market, and they keep very well (in the refrigerator up to one month, although I've used some much older than that). They can be used much the same way as potatoes in soups and stews or eaten raw chopped in salads and such. Although the rutabaga remains relatively unknown in America, it's impressive nutrition profile and delicious light sweetness and spiciness make it my favorite among root vegetables.

"Bashed neeps" (mashed "turnips") are a traditional Scottish accompaniment to haggis. The name alone is reason enough to try them, but bashed neeps are surprisingly tasty; the rutabaga is flavorful enough to be eaten on its own as a side dish, and like mashed potatoes is also delicious served with gravy. If cooked in the microwave, they are very easy to make. The original recipe calls for a bit of butter to add creaminess, but this can easily be omitted or replaced with almond or soy milk. Most recipes call for peeling the rutabagas, but I usually don't bother because I can't notice a difference and the most nutrients in vegetables are usually in the skins anyway.

Serves 4 as a side dish
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 smallish or 1 very large rutabaga
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the rutabaga in uniform pieces, place in a glass bowl (I use a large liquid measuring cup) with about 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl but allow a small crack for steam to escape. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the ginger. Microwave for several more minutes, until they are soft and slightly yellow. Alternatively, cook in boiling water for 15 minutes, until tender, then drain.

Mash with a potato masher until smooth, adding the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve simply with freshly ground black pepper or top with chopped green onions, caramelized onions, or vegan gravy.