Mean, Green and Delicious!

I never thought I’d drink one of these:

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Juicing is not a new thing, but before David and I started our own daily juicing my experience with vegetable juice was…well it was probably that V-8 back in the 70’s!  A few years ago my son, Michael and his then-girlfriend went through a bit of a juicing phase and I really wasn’t curious about why they were doing it or how they felt about it.  I think I had a hard time imaging that something this color (it really is a gorgeous shade of green) wouldn’t taste super-“earthy”–like grass.  I never imagined it could taste delicious.  But it absolutely does. More on that in a minute…

The idea of juicing got going for us while we were in Mexico.  During our down time in our room we watched lots of movies on our Kindle Fire and the first one was this:

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This is the story of entrepreneur, Joe Cross, an Aussie who went on a 60-day juice fast while traveling across the United States and filming his interactions with the folks he met along the way.  His reason for embarking on this was to both lose weight (he was over 300 lbs at the start of the fast) and clear up a debilitating autoimmune skin disease.  His juice fast accomplished both, and he has since helped thousands of people “reboot” (pump up their nutrition) with juice.  You can link to his website here.  I recommend this movie–it’s both very entertaining and informative.

For me, the most compelling part of this movie was the disappearance of Joe’s autoimmune disease.  I believe in the body’s ability to heal itself if cleared of toxins and given proper plant-based nutrition.  Juicing helps with both.  By juicing, it is possible to consume lots of the amazing micronutrients in vegetables and fruits without needing to consume baskets of food.  Admittedly, you are leaving out the fiber, but I consume plenty of fiber in my vegan diet.  I can struggle however, to get enough dark leafy greens, even with my nightly salad.

So David and I decided to treat ourselves to a good quality juicer and we chose this Omega:

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Kind of cute, no?

Breville and Omega are the two most popular brands of juicers.  There are pros and cons to both, and after watching lots of side-by-side demos on youtube we decided to go with the Omega, mostly because it handles the leafy greens better and has less air so the juice is a bit denser/more nutritious.  It does take more time than using the Breville because you have to cut up your veggies into smallish pieces rather than jamming the whole lot down a chute.  Surprisingly, clean-up is very quick and easy.  If you’re in the market for a juicer, I recommend taking a look at some of these comparison videos.

If you’ve never juiced you may be wondering about the process, so I thought I’d take some shots of today’s juicing.  The recipe for the green juice you see above ( the Joe Cross “mean, green” juice) is:

4 celery stalks

1 large cucumber

6-8 kale leaves (I like Tuscan)

2 granny smith apples

1/2 lemon (peeled)

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Here’s the pile of veggies, washed, cut and ready to go:

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I did peel the lemon before juicing.  The cucumber was organic so I didn’t bother peeling that.  The juicer can pretty much handle anything.  After about 5 minutes of feeding the veggies into the juicer the set up looks like this:

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The (very dry) pulp is pushed out while the juice drops out the bottom.  There’s a mesh dish on top of the juice that further strains the pulp:

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And here’s the daily output  (I refrigerate David’s until he gets home) :

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This green juice is so refreshing- a bit sweet and a bit tart.  And the more I drink, the more I crave.  There’s no question that the mix is exactly what my body needs.  This amount of veggies makes about 24 oz of juice which David and I share.  I could easily chug down the whole thing myself!

I am continually learning about ways to bump up my vegan nutrition, and adding one good “infusion” of juice a day feels like an important addition to my diet.  I have my juice mid-afternoon, my prime noshing time.  I’ve noticed that I feel less hungry and have more energy after drinking the juice.  I can’t think of a diet (vegan or non) that wouldn’t be improved with some good quality green juice.

If you’re not sure if this is for you, Whole Foods has a juice bar and they offer a similar green juice plus some other brightly colored options.  If your experience with juice is as limited as mine was, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, both by how the juice tastes and (more importantly) how you will feel.  Definitely worth a try.

Since I’m a juicing newbie, I haven’t ventured beyond this basic recipe but I’m always interested in recommendations.  If you are a juicer and you have a favorite blend I’d love to hear about it.

So down the hatch and here’s to our good health.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Night Scramble and Perfect Cupcakes

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I have to admit that when I first heard about “tofu scrambles” I thought it sounded downright odd.  I like tofu prepared all kinds of ways, but I just couldn’t envision it “scrambled”.  I’m glad I finally gave it a try because this tofu scramble has quickly become a regular dish on the weekend rotation.   It’s fast to prepare with ingredients I usually have on hand (today I didn’t, but my sous-chef extraordinaire ran out to the supermarket to buy them), and after weekends that usually involve some mix of hiking, socializing, eating out and hours of football on TV (yay Cardinals!),  I’m ready to keep it simple on Sunday night.

These recipes are all over the internet, but I chose a “southwest” version from The Minimalist Baker.  You can check out the recipe here.  This is a one skillet dish.  Sauté the veggies, sauté the tofu and drizzle on a liquid spice blend (cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, turmeric and water).  Toss it all together, heat it through and you’re done!  Since we’re dealing with tofu here, you can’t really over or undercook it– much more forgiving than eggs.  And the flavors that make a great traditional scramble work equally well here.  We served it up with some grainy toast and salad but it would also make a great “breakfast for dinner” burrito.  The possibilities are endless.

For dessert we dug into this:

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Oh yeah.

Our grandson, Sky, turned five this week, and today we celebrated his birthday with him.  He requested cupcakes so, of course, I obliged.  The chocolate cake/vanilla icing was his choice.  I’m not a huge cupcake baker but I can say with certainty that this is a killer recipe.  We were all licking our fingers.  I used a recipe from Oh She Glows (you can find it here).  No eggs but a whole lot of chocolate flavor and perfect moist texture.

For the frosting I went back to The Minimalist Baker.  This is a classic “buttercream” using a stick of Earth Balance instead of the butter.  The recipe is here.  It whipped up beautifully and was just the right amount of (super) sweet.  I always did prefer the classics at birthday time.  We sent the leftovers home with Jeff and Sky but we saved one cupcake to share (enough sugar already!):

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So so good.  These cupcakes are not gluten-free.  I recently discovered that my beloved “Cup for Cup” gluten-free flour contains milk protein so I’m on the hunt for another reliable gluten-free flour.  I’ve read that Bob’s Red Mill now makes a cup-for-cup flour but it hasn’t made it to our Whole Foods yet.  I do plan to try it.  For now, though, I’m okay using regular organic all-purpose.

A recipe like this comes in handy this time of year.  Show up with a platter of these cupcakes to your holiday celebration or office party and everyone (vegan and non-) will thank you.  I promise.

 

“Veganuary”-Calling All Volunteers!

One of my favorite blogs these days is called “The Friendly Fig”.  It’s a veg-friendly site written by two young women who blog about vegan and vegetarian lifestyle issues.  While I get my recipes from other trusty “foodie” resources I enjoy their blog because they research and provide good information about cosmetics, travel and other “being in the world as a vegan” topics.  You can check out their site here.

Today, The Friendly Fig gals are promoting a new Vegan Magazine called Vegan Life and they will be on the magazine’s blogging team.  I will, of course, be subscribing.  What specifically caught my eye though was this:img_8268

Of course I was drawn in by this wonderful photo montage, but more to the point, “Veganuary” is an initiative that involves asking others to be vegan for the month of January.  Clearly there’s an attempt here to get on the “resolutions” bandwagon and why not?  Veganism dovetails beautifully with other common resolutions such as eating more healthfully, dropping some weight, helping others, being more compassionate and living more ethically and authentically.

I initially became a vegan for ethical reasons.  I simply couldn’t bear to contribute to the unnecessary pain and suffering of animals or turn away from the horrible environmental impact of my food choices. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a learning curve (how to cook, shop, eat out, etc) as well as a physical transition (oh yes, all that fiber) for me in that first month.  And really, one month was pretty much all it took to start to experience the benefits of the vegan lifestyle.  I feel lighter, I feel healthier and my taste buds have woken up.  But mostly I cannot overstate the peaceful feeling that I experience because my food choices are fully in line with my sense of myself as a compassionate human being.  I have cleaned up “my side of the street” and that feels amazing.

So, back to the Veganuary challenge.  While I have hardly taken the blogging world by storm, according to my WordPress “stats” I currently have 84 followers, and I know that many people in my world read this blog who are not followers.  So let’s say there are 100 people who will read about this challenge.  If you sign on,  I will provide practical support, recipes, cheerleading and a place to write about your experience (if you care to share it).

Any takers?

 

 

Caesar Salad To Die For…And It’s Vegan!

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Oh. My. Goodness.

I’ve never actually made Caesar Salad before although I love it, and I used to order it all the time before going vegan.  The creamy dressing, the croutons, the cheese, and I didn’t even mind a few hidden anchovies.  Frankly, the idea of making Caesar Salad at home always seemed too daunting.  But when Angela at “Oh She Glows” shared her recipe here I knew I had to give it a try.

Well, the results were amazing!  There are three parts to this recipe, not including the greens (romaine and a bit of kale).  These include:

Roasted chickpeas:

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Well these babies were a revelation!  Canned chickpeas roasted with a touch of olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  After about 35 minutes they become crunchy–a perfect substitute for croutons.  Come to think of it, there’s nothing particularly non-vegan about croutons but these were so much better and of course, better for you!  They reminded me of corn nuts.  So delicious.  I’m looking forward to roasting some just for snacking.  After I had my first taste I was surprised I was able to leave some for the salad!

Next up is the vegan dressing:

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This blended dressing begins with a raw cashew cream. The other ingredients include garlic, lemon juice, dijon mustard, capers, vegan worcestershire sauce and spices.  The combination is so like a traditional Caesar dressing, I really couldn’t believe there were no eggs.  But nope, not a one.   Fabulous.

The last ingredient is the parmesan cheese substitute:

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This is a ground-up mix of raw cashews and sesame seeds (oops, just realized I used sunflower seeds..worked anyway!) , hulled hemp seeds (had to track those down in Whole Foods) and nutritional yeast (that cheesy flavor).  I guess the sesame (not sunflower)  seeds would have created a different texture , but this mix still provided the cheesy flavor I expect in a good Caesar salad.

This salad went beautifully with our mushroom buckwheat soup and will be a regular in our rotation.  Here’s a look at the salad dished up and ready to be devoured:

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I actually halved the recipe, and this was plenty for me and David for dinner, but I think I went a little light on the dressing.  Next time I plan to load it up.  I figure that given these healthy ingredients, you really can’t have too much of a good thing.

Another reason why I love being vegan 🙂

How We’ll Be Eating Our Sweet Potatoes This Year

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In soup! So bright and seasonal. So delicious.

I’ve been looking for a recipe for a sweet potato soup to serve at Thanksgiving.  My original plan was to trot out my mushroom barley soup which is an absolute no-fail, but it’s just so brown.  My Thanksgiving menu was needing some vivid color to round out the other loaves, casseroles and green vegetables.  And the old sweet potato and marshmallow dish is just not for me.

Since going vegan I’ve had to acknowledge that I just don’t care much for roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash.   David makes a sweet and spicy butternut squash soup that the family loves.  I’m not a fan of that either, and I finally figured out that I prefer a more savory soup.  I recently tried both squash soup and sweet potato soup at our favorite vegan restaurant here in Tucson and they were both delicious.  So I set out to find a similar recipe.

Well tis the season for orange soups so there was no shortage of possible recipes.  The recipe I decided to go with is here.  The soup is supposed to be served with some wild rice spooned on top, but since this was a trial run I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts and cinnamon on top instead.

This recipe is crazy easy to prepare– I used one pot and a blender.  For two servings, the ingredients include one baked sweet potato, half an onion, garlic, vegetable broth, unsweetened almond milk,  curry powder (mine has a kick) and garam masala.  While I’m used to sautéing my onions and garlic before making just about anything I was surprised to learn that I could create a similar effect by simmering them in the vegetable broth.  This means that there’s not a drop of oil in the dish.  While I don’t worry much about oil when I cook I know that some folks prefer to leave it out.  This approach worked beautifully and once pureed, the onions still added their signature sweet flavor.  Good to know.  A less wonderful part of the recipe is that it doesn’t include any salt, perhaps also for those on a more restricted diet.  Oh, I think soup really needs salt!  I added some sea salt a bit at a time to bring out the other flavors.  It seemed like a pretty important addition.

This creamy and spicy soup is a winner.  It’s definitely “savory” but the natural sweetness is still there.  I think it will make a beautiful addition to our meal, and I can prepare it on Wednesday.  Score and score.

Anne, here it is, as promised 🙂

Vegan Quickies: When You Need A…

…cheap meal for a crowd.

Try this three bean and tempeh chili:

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David is a chili lover and he was not disappointed with this recipe served over brown rice.  This one is all about cracking open the cans (pinto, kidney, and black beans, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, mild green chilis) and popping open a bottle of your favorite vegan dark beer (we used a local variety).   Aside from sautéing up some onions and garlic the rest is about dumping in the ingredients and letting it all simmer.  We made it a day in advance so that the tempeh (which is crumbled in directly from the package) had more time to absorb the flavors of the chili.  We calculated that the entire meal could not have cost more than fifteen dollars and it’s good for at least six healthy servings.

… side dish to bring to a pot luck:

Try this tangy cole slaw:

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I love most kinds of cole slaw and I was surprised and delighted with this vegan variety  (recipe here).  The dressing on the the slaw is made from tahini and dijon mustard and the addition of lots of sliced pepperoncinis give it a unique and delicious flavor.  I bought the cabbage in a bag and julienned the carrots myself.  A sprinkling of black sesame seeds adds a professional touch.  Easy, yummy and portable.

a seasonal sweet:

Try these chewy ginger molasses cookies:

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I baked these to use as an ingredient in a pumpkin chia pudding parfait (very ambitious!).  I didn’t love the pumpkin chia part but I am thrilled with these beautiful cookies (recipe here).  Their texture is chewy and soft and with the ginger and molasses flavors you don’t miss the butter.  The sprinkling of raw sugar on top makes them pretty enough for company.  With a cup of tea it’s all the treat I need.

As much as I love spending time digging into complicated recipes, these flavorful, inexpensive and convenient dishes are becoming an important part of our vegan repertoire.  Hope you enjoy them!

Lovely Lentils

The other night I cooked lentils for the very first time.   Lentils and other legumes are a vegan staple because they are versatile, easy to cook (no soaking like beans), tasty (well I just found that out) and nutritionally packed.   I have only eaten lentils a handful of times in a dal makhani dish at our favorite Indian place.   In my household growing up I never laid eyes on a bean or legume.  Salads and cooked green vegetables were routinely part of family dinners but never beans or lentils.  And in my adult life I wasn’t drawn to try them although I’m not sure why.  A visual thing I think.

So with plans to make a Vegan Lentil Curry (recipe here)  I went over to Whole Foods to buy some lentils.  The recipe didn’t specify what kind of lentils to buy so I decided on some French green ones.  I think I remember Ina Garten serving those up to Jeffrey at some point.  If they’re good enough for the Barefoot Contessa they’re good enough for me.

This recipe is very simple to make.  The cooked and drained lentils are added to an aromatic sauce full of spices including ginger, garam masala and curry powder.  Tomato sauce ( I used a jar of organic pureed San Marzano tomatoes) and coconut milk create a creamy texture.  Here’s a look at the sauce simmering away:

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Since I’m a lentil newbie, I don’t know how easy it is to achieve a cooked-through texture without having the lentils get mushy but these held up beautifully and I was pleased with the texture overall.  We served them over brown rice:

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This dish was absolutely delicious with complex flavors and just enough heat from the curry powder.  Wow, lentils are filling!  I tend to be more generous with serving size for my vegan dishes because I want to be sure to get enough calories (a good problem to have) but this hefty serving was way too much.  More leftovers for tonight’s dinner.

So I am officially a lentil convert.  My world just keeps getting bigger.  I like it.

 

One Meal- Six Tastes

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I was recently introduced to the concept of Ayurveda nutrition in Victoria Moran’s book “Main Street Vegan”.  Ayurveda is an ancient tradition of holistic health that incorporates all aspects of lifestyle.  According to this tradition our tastebuds provide us with a road map of our nutritional needs.  These “six tastes” include  sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, sour and pungent.  When these tastes are all incorporated into a meal we are naturally meeting our nutritional needs, and our bodies will feel satisfied.  For a very basic overview of Ayurveda  you can read more here.

As I ate last night’s dinner, spaghetti squash with chickpeas and kale, I was reminded of the principles of Ayurveda nutrition because I found this dish surprisingly satisfying and filling although there were no grains to be found.  In fact, even as I was preparing this I suspected that I wouldn’t like it much and it wouldn’t be “enough”.  I was wrong on both counts.

This was my first experience cooking and eating spaghetti squash and I couldn’t imagine that it would “really” be like spaghetti.  Wrong again!  A wonderful aspect of this recipe is that the ingredients are all very light so the squash retains its subtle crunch.  And yes, you can twirl it around on your fork! The eclectic-sounding ingredient list includes, shallots, garlic, red chili flakes, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, kale, chickpeas, capers and toasted pine nuts.  Except for the “sweet” taste, all six tastes are included in the dish.  The amazing layering of flavors elevated this to “craveable” status, and David and I oohed and aahed as we devoured almost all of it.  And while we munched on apple slices later in the evening (the sweet taste) neither of us felt hungry.   I am intrigued, and I definitely plan to learn more about Ayurveda nutrition.

This recipe is from the Love and Lemons blog and you can find it here.  If you have an hour to roast your squash, the rest comes together very quickly.  We made the vegan version and omitted the parmesan cheese. We didn’t miss it.  We also used capers instead of the sun-dried tomatoes because neither of us likes them.

Try this recipe.  Your tastebuds and your body will thank you.

 

 

 

A Vegan Weekend in Chicago

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Well these vegan peanut butter cups were pretty divine, but I’ll get to them in a moment.

We just returned from a wonderful (if a lot chilly!) weekend visiting with Anne in Chicago.  Since going vegan it was the first time that David and I were traveling.  We did some advance planning figuring that snacking and breakfast might be the hardest things to negotiate.  We brought along plenty of dried fruit and nuts and a half a leftover vegan pumpkin bread (very delicious, recipe here) that I baked before we left.  Pumpkin bread and soy lattes from Starbucks did the job (if a bit sweetly) for breakfast.

It turns out that Chicago is a very vegan-friendly place, and I have Anne to thank for scoping out the local options.  While Anne isn’t vegan she’s an adventurous eater in general and she loves her veggies.  When we first arrived in Chicago on Friday, we went just a few blocks from the Congress Plaza hotel where we were staying to a health food store/cafe.  Since it was sleeting (yes, sleeting!) it was a perfect choice.  I don’t have any pictures of that but we all ate vegan dishes that were tasty.  I had a “sunshine salad”–a basic green salad with chickpeas.

That night we headed over to a wonderful restaurant in Anne’s neighborhood in Edgewater called “Uncommon Ground”.  We had been there once before in our pre-vegan days, and we were delighted with our vegan meal of salads and vegetable mole with a masa cake.  If you’re ever in that neck of the woods I recommend this restaurant.  It’s truly a place for everyone, and the emphasis is on locally-sourced healthy food.  Plus the toasty fireplaces are such a welcome sight when you come in from the cold and wind. You can link to the restaurant website here.

Anne and I spent Saturday afternoon together exploring downtown and doing some shopping.  For lunch we stopped at an Italian restaurant, but I can’t remember the name of it (oops!)   It was a reasonably-priced meeting and lunchtime place in the loop.  I put away my gluten-free diet (I’m not celiac) for the afternoon and ordered the pasta aglio e olio (garlic and oil).  I did ask if the pasta contained eggs (no!) before ordering and it was a warming and tasty lunch.  I was very encouraged by this because a bowl of simple pasta can be a go-to dish most anywhere.  A great travel option.

The Chicago Diner

Our destination for a pre-theater dinner was the famous Chicago Diner, the go-to fun place for vegans (and vegetarians) in the Belmont section of the city.  This restaurant has been a part of the Chicago dining scene since 1983.  The menu is full of typical veganized diner fare as well as more classic veggie entrees.  We had both a great time and fantastic meal there.  We actually started out with poutine, a decidedly unhealthy pile of waffle fries with brown and veggie cheese sauces.  I forgot to take a photo and in a flash these were gone.  But here’s what came next:

David’s seitan “reuben sandwich” which is actually a trademarked dish:

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Anne’s lentil and nut loaf:

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And my cajun black bean burger:

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It was all crazy good and as you might imagine, filling.   I took half of my burger in a doggie bag and David and I had it for lunch the next day on the plane!

Oh, and then came some dessert including the peanut butter cups from the photo up top.  These were obscenely delicious, and one also came all the way home to Tucson with us.

Clearly the Chicago Diner is not a health food restaurant.  It’s full of calorie-laden comfort food that just happens to be vegan.  What I loved about the place though was the current, busy hip vibe right down to the 80’s music.  The restaurant was packed and tables turned over fast.  This was a mainstream place for vegans and non-vegans.  So much fun.  I’m pretty sure that any future trips to Chicago will include a visit to the Chicago Diner.  If you want to read more about this incredibly successful restaurant you can link to their website here and see what’s on the menu.

We had a great time this weekend.  It was such a treat to have so much time with Anne, and we all enjoyed exploring the great vegan food.  Success all around  🙂

Vegan Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

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YUM.

So here’s what I’m learning about vegan desserts.  The more dairy and egg-laden the dessert you are trying to replicate or “veganize” the more ways that dessert can go horribly wrong.  I learned this one the hard way over the weekend when I bought a delectable-looking slice of vegan, gluten-free (really, it is??) carrot cake from a very lovely lady at a local farmers’ market.  It looked pretty much like the one I make (or made in my not-so-distant past life).  I figured it might not be hard to get a good carrot cake going but I was skeptical about that creamy-looking icing.  Well, this dessert was both gummy and oddly “off” tasting.  Very different and not in a good way.  I was feeling a little underwhelmed about the prospects for mouthwatering vegan desserts, either bought or homemade.

Enter this recipe from Tori Avey.  I’ve made several of her recipes, and I like how she balances flavors.  Since it’s apple season, I was immediately drawn to this recipe for Apple Crisp.  I was delighted to see that the only veganizing that needed to be done was to substitute Earth Balance for butter in the crumble.  Since this recipe has such strong flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove I didn’t think I’d miss the butter.  I didn’t.  The combination of tart granny smith apples with the sugar and spices was perfect.  The crumble, made primarily with walnuts and rolled (GF) oats, was crunchy and very satisfying. The only new ingredient for me was minute tapioca which I added to the fruit to bring out the juices and help them set up just a bit.

Here’s a look at the apples:

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Layered with a nice thick layer of crumble:

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And after an hour of baking:

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And the house smelled amazing.  While we are enjoying sunny warm weather here in Arizona, the smells of autumn are still very welcome. Any fruit pie can be made this way, and I’m sure that peach and blueberry crumble would be terrific.

Well now, this is all very encouraging.  Perhaps they have room for me over at the farmers’ market 🙂