Paula Deen Goes Vegan #1: Banana Coffee Muffins

Let’s ignore the fact that I’m failing the whole “post every day” part of VeganMoFo and move on to the muffins.

For my first Paula Deen challenge, I decided to forego the deep fried, bacon-wrapped, lard-marinated butter balls and go with something simple–these banana coffee muffins.

The only animal ingredients in these are, as in many baked goods, eggs and butter. I replaced the egg with 1/3 cup of soymilk whisked with 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar.  Since bananas already act as a binder, I figured I mostly needed to replace the moisture and leavening components an egg provides. For the melted butter, I substituted canola oil. While I appreciate earth balance and other vegan “butters”, I also like to use minimally processed ingredients, when possible. I used whole wheat pastry flour because I ran out of all-purpose, and replaced the nuts with chocolate chips, because my husband loves chocolatey-banana things and who am I to stand in the way of that love?

The result: Good, but not perfect. I’m a big fan of the marriage of banana, coffee and chocolate and these taste just decadent enough to feel like a treat without being overwhelmingly rich. Really nice paired with a homemade latte!

The biggest problem with the recipe was that they didn’t rise much or get fluffy the way a muffin usually would. I think the soy milk made the batter a little too wet, which I could have counteracted by adding a bit more flour. Next time, I will also try adding a teaspoon or so of baking powder, which should help leaven them a bit more. I may cut back on the oil by a tablespoon or two because I thought they tasted pretty greasy. But this is a Paula Deen recipe we’re talking about, so maybe that’s intentional.


Veganizing a recipe almost always takes trial and error but I’m enjoying the challenge! Next time I think I’ll tackle a more ambitious Paula recipe–maybe an entree?


Smurf’s Shepherd’s Pie

Today was cold and rainy, just perfect for the warmth and comfort of an old fashioned shepherd’s pie. The only potatoes I had on hand happened to be blue potatoes we picked up from our co-op last week, so my husband and I dubbed this casserole, “Smurfy Shepherd’s Pie” even though the insides of the tubers are more purple than blue. Go with it! Authentic shepherd’s pie usually uses some kind of sherry (I think? Brits, help me out here) but I didn’t have any kind of cooking wine on hand, so I winged it with some broth and red wine vinegar in the gravy. TVP provided a perfect, meaty base for the pie. I bet cooked brown lentils would work well, too. It doesn’t look like much, because I’m a horrible food photographer, but it turned out perfectly.  I have a feeling this shepherd’s pie (smurfy or otherwise) will make regular appearances on our dinner table in the chilly winter months to come.

Smurf’s Shepherd’s Pie (serves 4) 


2 lbs blue potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks

3 tablespoons earth balance

1/4 cup vegetable broth

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)


1 1/2 cups dehydrated TVP chunks

1 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup carrots, coined

3/4 cup cooked peas (I used thawed, from frozen)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon melted earth balance, or canola oil

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

our boiling water over TVP and let soak for approximately 10 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and simmer until tender. Drain. As the potatoes are cooking, prepare the stew.

Whisk together the vegetable broth, red wine vinegar, nutritional yeast, flour and melted EB/oil. Heat olive oil in a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots, peas, garlic and TVP. Cook until the TVP is lightly browned and the carrots are softened. Add the vegetable broth mixture, stir, and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the stew appears thick and creamy. Add splashes of water or broth as necessary to keep from sticking. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Turn on your broiler.

Now finish preparing the topping. Mash together the potatoes, 2 tablespoons of the earth balance, broth, salt and black pepper. I use the whipping attachment of my stand mixer for this step. Transfer the stew to an oven safe casserole dish or pie plate. Spoon the potato mixture over top in a single, even layer. If you used cast iron to prepare the stew, no transferring is required! Top the pie with the additional tablespoon of earth balance and the crushed red pepper. You could also add some shredded vegan cheese on top, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Broil for 5 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Serve hot.

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are best eaten while wearing flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers in front of a roaring fireplace. They’re the Thomas Kinkade paintings of baked goods. I mean, I’m not trying to encourage emotional eating, but if you’ve had a tough day, you probably need a cinnamon roll.

 In my family, cinnamon rolls were a Christmas morning tradition. These days, I’ll find any excuse to whip up a batch as soon as the weather starts cooling (it just feels wrong to eat a sticky, sweet baked good in mid-July). After some successful pumpkin cinnamon rolls last season, I started thinking about how to marry other autumn and winter flavors to my favorite recipe. This time: gingerbread.

I used my basic cinnamon roll recipe, veganized from the one I grew up making with my mom. The molasses and powdered ginger in the dough add the “gingerbread” taste, but I think it’s a little too understated in this version. More molasses, maybe? Another spice addition, like ground cloves? Try it and let me know what you think. I think a good cream cheese  frosting would be awesome on these, but today I opted for topping these babies with a simple vanilla icing.

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls (a work in progress)

For the dough:

2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup warm non-dairy milk (I used soy)

2 tbs molasses

1/4 cup melted earth balance or other non-hydrogenated margarine

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp.canola oil

3 tbs. water

4 1/2 – 5 C. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:

1/3 cup earth balance, softened

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

To prepare the dough: 

Dissolve the yeast and sugar into the milk. Let stand until foamy. Meanwhile, whisk together the baking powder, water and canola oil. Add the baking powder mixture and melted margarine to the yeast mixture and stir. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and spices. Gradually add the the wet ingredients until a non-sticky dough forms. Knead dough on a floured surface for about ten minutes until it’s stretchy and smooth. (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Form dough into a ball, place in an oiled glass bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Prepare the filling by creaming all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. Preheat your oven to 400 F and lightly grease a heavy cookie sheet.

Punch down the prepared dough onto a floured surface and roll into a 15 x 9 inch rectangle. Use a butter knife or the back of a spoon to spread the filling over the surface of the rectangle. Roll dough into a cylinder and slice into 12 pieces. Place evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and let rise for an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Cover with shrink wrap and place in the fridge until ready to bake, or progress immediately to the baking step if you want them right away!

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom. Drizzle your favorite icing over the rolls while they’re still warm. These are best served immediately, but keep well for a couple of days stored in an airtight container.

Broccoli: A Love Story

Broccoli and I go way back. Its held my heart in its delicious green hands for years.  I may have the occasional fling with a bunch of brussell sprouts or fall prey to the allure of an eggplant now and then, but broccoli is my vegetable soul mate. Its my dependable dinner-time staple, delicious   as a vehicle for a fancy sauce, or all on its own.

© Euclidus | Stock Free Images

My go-to basic roasted broccoli recipe is inspired by a side dish at  my favorite NYC cafe, ‘sNice. In college, I spent many winter nights at a corner table in their west village location sipping a glass of earl grey tea and munching on this broccoli while I studied. I like it best served hot, but it’s also good cold on top of salads or in wraps. This recipe is nothing special, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. It’s subtle enough to act as a side dish to a heartier entree, but bold enough to stand up as a main dish when mixed with lentils or chickpeas and served with your favorite grain.

Garlicky Roasted Broccoli 


4 cups broccoli florets

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground coarse black pepper

1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust according to spice preference)

2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced


Preheat oven to 375 F. In a mixing  bowl, toss the broccoli with the olive oil to coat. Add spices and garlic and toss again until well-distributed. Spread the broccoli on a heavy duty baking sheet or large cast iron pan in a single layer. Roast in oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until the broccoli is just starting to brown (be careful not to over cook). Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes. Serve hot or chilled.

While you’re waiting for your broccoli to roast, check out my friend Hayley’s video, all about the magical world of broccoli.

Mexican Pumpkin Cookies

Between the months of September and January, I have an unhealthy obsession with pumpkin. I like to bake outside the pumpkin pie box and add the pureed squash to almost anything: pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin scones, and my favorite—pumpkin cookies.

In this recipe, I pay homage to the pumpkin’s culinary heritage and add a little bit of Mexican flair. The inclusion of cayenne pepper, chile, and super dark chocolate make them “Mexicana” but, as always, you can adjust or omit the spices to suit your tastes. Graham and I are both recovering from nasty colds, so the more cayenne the better, I say! These are (very loosely) adapted from the “Autumn Clouds” recipe in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I helped test before its publication. Make these for your next dia de los muertos party and be the talk of the cemetery.  

Pumpkin Cookies Mexicana


1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or from a can)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use real Mexican vanilla, if you can find it)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

Spice Blend:

1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. chile powder (make sure it’s just chiles–no garlic, sugar, or onion powder added)
1/4 tsp ginger


Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder and spice blend. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until combined, then fold in the chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough by large spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and use your hand to gently flatten the tops. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the bottoms are slightly golden. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

These are particularly good the next day!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Early September is a strange, sweet time in my kitchen. We’re still working on eating or freezing those last kernels of summer corn and zucchini, as richer winter squashes and crisp apples start sneaking their way into the produce basket.

We’re still a little ways off from peak butternut squash season, so I squealed in delight when I saw a few local squash on sale earlier this week. My mind started dancing with the delicious roasting and soup making in my future.

Typically, I make my butternut squash soups by roasting the squash in the oven with a good coasting of olive oil and salt, before simmering it on the stove with sauteed onions, garlic, broth and other spices. Since I teach dance through most afternoons and evenings, I decided to see if I could achieve a similar result using my slow cooker.

The results? Magic. The slow cooking process really gave the flavors a chance to mingle in a way you don’t usually get from soup fresh off the stove. I was worried the soup might turn out too sweet due to the squash sugars becoming more caramelized, so I added just a touch of curry to balance the flavors. If you’re not a fan of spice, you can easily leave it out and still get delicious results. This soup is perfect served on a chilly autumn evening with a loaf of crusty bread or biscuits for dunking.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Excuse the poor lighting–we didn’t get to eat until long after sunset!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4 – 6

1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
2 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon curry paste or powder
1 tsp. salt (more to taste)
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
5 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the shelf-stable carton variety, which is lower in fat and has a milder coconut flavor than canned.)


Stove top directions:

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the garlic and saute 2-3 more minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the squash, curry paste, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the squash with oil and spices.

Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and let simmer 30 – 45 minutes until the squash is cooked through. Add the coconut milk and puree with an immersion blender (or transfer to a standing blender in batches), then simmer for an additional 10 minutes before serving. Add more salt to taste.

Slow cooker directions:

Add oil, onions, garlic, curry, salt, pepper and squash to the crock of your slow cooker. Toss to coat the squash with spices. Add broth/water and coconut milk. Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3 hours. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to a standing blender to puree in batches. Serve immediately.