Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dairy Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Cups

It's pumpkin season, and tonight I'm going to share with you one of my favorite quick and easy dairy-free dessert strategies.  

In grad school, I briefly became obsessed with microwave mug cakes.  The great part about these sorts of things is that you can get a sweet fix without having to use up a ton of ingredients making (and then eating) a whole batch of cupcakes.  

When I moved into my current apartment, neither myself nor my roommate had a microwave of our own.  And being raised by vegetable steaming health nuts, it was hard to justify spending money on such an appliance.  

But I was still a writer with a late night sweet tooth, so I went back to a strategy I had discovered during a homemade candy phase a few years back.  It's the same basic formula using coconut oil I used to come up with the coconut bars I posted about last year.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vegan Comfort Food for Fall: Creamy Butternut Squash Casserole and Apple-Chard Quinoa Bowl

I love fall.  I love layers, and warm beverages, and piling covers high.

But mostly, I love fall because as the weather gets cooler, I have an excuse to cook again.  While the summer heat makes the idea of sweating over a hot stove less than appealing, in the fall and winter all I want to do is cocoon.  Sometimes when I'm having a rough day at work, fantasizing about what I will make when I get home is about all that gets me through.

Vegan Creamy Butternut Squash Casserole
Such was the case last Saturday, when I made the completely logical decision to work a midday shift at Trader Joe's while fasting for Yom Kippur.  When not eating, it's amazing how much you realize the large role it plays in your life.  No point in getting up early if I wasn't making lunch or planning to swipe some free samples at the demo station. And then during my lunch break, I couldn't help but torture myself flipping through all the luscious pumpkin-themed items in the company bulletin.  

As the rain poured outside, I started to dream about all of the things I could cook when I got home. The more I read and thought about the new pumpkin products, the more I decided that winter squash was the way to go.  Like the "Chopped" addict I am, I thought about what I could do with the items in my refrigerator: namely, an open can of coconut cream.  Having just paid my rent, I was loathe to drop too much cash on a boatload of emotional grocery purchases (which is how I ended up with the coconut cream in the first place).  I had been living on soup the previous week to get over a cold, and felt like doing something with a little more "oomph" and texture than simply pureeing some veggies.  

So started conducting an informal survey among my customers, asking what they would make with the coconut cream.  The typical answer was some kind of soup or curry, that was too much in like with what I had been eating lately.  I had a taste for something creamy, something almost cheesy--but I knew if I went down the cheese rabbit hole who knows what I would end up buying.  One customer, a Caribbean guy, bought four cans of coconut milk. I asked him how he thought it would be if I used the coconut cream as a base for a gratin. "I cook everything in coconut milk," he said.  So it was settled.  

Now I had a plan:  I would buy a butternut squash, and make some kind of cream sauce.  I could even use this as an excuse to use up the remainder of a cauliflower head and some apples I bought a few weeks ago that I never got around to eating.   Because Trader Joe's was out of whole butternut squashes by the time I was done working, I had to debase myself by purchasing the pre-cut product.  

The result:  comfort.  Pure, vegan, autumnal comfort.  

This evening, I found myself leaving Rutgers weighed down with the latest round of student essays to read.  While my bus was stuck in traffic outside the Lincoln Tunnel, I started to think about what I would make for dinner.  I could always make some couscous or pasta with parmesan, but I'd had variations on that theme for the past week.  I had a yen for something green.  But because I went to the theatre last night, I was unable to bring home anything fresh from Trader Joe's.  

After I got back to my neighborhood, I lugged my tote bags full of folders to the local food mart.  My eyes lit on some gorgeous organic red chard for only $1.69.

Apple-Chard Quinoa Bowl

I decided to cook the chard in some apples and onions and eat it on top of red quinoa.  And it was good.

Here are the recipes.  Note:  all of the measurements are approximate.