Friday, March 13, 2015

A Month of Sundaes

There are quite a few fancy flavors of vegan ice cream out there these days. But their availability depends greatly on where you live. And extra nutritional needs, such as a need for an almond base instead of soy, or needing to avoid chocolate cuts down the options even further. I personally am grateful to have access to basic vanilla.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to dress it up with a little variety sometimes.
And a sundae is a classic way to do that. Most of the ice cream sauces and toppings that are sold in stores are not vegan, though. So I’ve come up with a few fun options. These are “hot” style sauces by the way—they should be made immediately before using and served while still warm, and not be made ahead. They’re so fast it’s no problem to do so.

Here are some sauces, all of them single-serving and ready in under 2 minutes:

Sundae with vegan hot fudge sauce, coconut and ginger cookie dough

Easy Hot Fudge Sauce

2 Tbsp nondairy chocolate or carob chips
1 Tbsp vanilla soymilk

Heat both ingredients in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and mash with a small spatula until smoothly melted, heating a little more if necessary. Pour over ice cream and top with nuts, coconut, candy, or whatever else you like.

Variations: You can make a spicy version by adding a dash of cinnamon and cayenne.
You can also use other kinds of vegan chips if you can find them.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Topping

Vegan  Sundae with peanut butter sauce& cookies crumbs
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp vanilla soymilk
drop of maple extract/mapelline
1 or 2 tsp sugar or sweetener
Dash of cinnamon

Heat peanut butter and 1 Tbsp of the soymilk in microwave for 30 seconds on high. Add rest of soymilk, maple extract, sweetener and cinnamon and whisk with fork until smooth. Pour over ice cream and add other toppings as desired.  

Making the sauce

Variation: Other types of nut butter may be used; hazelnut is particularly good. Adjust sweetness and flavorings for different nuts to taste.

Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping

Butterscotch and almond sundae
2 Tbsp soymilk
½ tsp cornstarch
4 tsp maple syrup (or sugar-free pancake syrup)
1 tsp vegan margarine or reduced fat oil spread (I used Smart Balance Light)
A drop each vanilla and maple extract/mapelline
Small dash of salt (optional)

Whisk together soymilk and cornstarch with a fork until completely dissolved with no lumps. Add syrup and margarine (don’t worry about stirring those in). Microwave for 30 to 90 seconds on high, until it looks quite thick. Stir, and add extracts and salt, if using. Stir again, and pour over ice cream.

This butterscotch sauce can actually be scaled up and used as an excellent pudding or pie filling as well. Cooking time will increase with volume.

Basic Fruity Sundae Topping (version 1)

Pineapple-coconut sundae

¼ cup canned fruit in juice or syrup (such as crushed pineapple or canned strawberries)
¼ tsp cornstarch
sweetener or flavoring such as cinnamon to taste.

Measure out your undrained fruit, aiming for a good mix of fruit and juice. Whisk cornstarch into the fruit and juice, trying to mash away any clumps of starch. Microwave for about a minute to 90 seconds, until thickened. Pour over ice cream.
Pineapple Sauce

This topping is just as good over sorbet as it is vegan ice cream.

Fruity Sundae Topping (version 2)

2 Tbsp of your favorite vegan jam or preserves
a few tsp water, as needed
Chopped fresh fruit, optional

Heat jam in a small glass bowl in microwave for 15-30 seconds. Stir and evaluate texture—if it needs thinning, add water as needed, stirring until smooth and pour-able. I find that sugar-free jam usually requires no added water but that other kinds may vary. Pour over ice cream. You can also stir chunks of fresh fruit such as strawberries or peaches into your jam sauce before spooning over your sundae. This fruit can either match the type of jam or merely be compatible (e.g. peach chunks + raspberry jam = yum).

This sauce tends to re-gel fairly quickly when it hits the cold ice cream. If this bothers you, try version 1.

Mango sorbet with strawberry sauce

Other toppings:

Magic shell: Any undiluted melted chocolate or carob chips will actually solidify immediately on contact with cold ice cream. The trick is getting it to form a thin breakable shell instead of a thick hard lump.  My solution is simple: make a basket or cage instead of a shell. Place melted chocolate or carob into a sandwich bag and snip a mere 1/8 inch off one of the corners. Pipe the chocolate over the ice cream in a thin stream, forming swirls and overlapping lines until it forms a basket shape over the ice cream. Enjoy! The thin interlocking lines will break as your spoon hits them.

Another option would be to take an ice cream cone or edible bowl and coat the inside with a thin layer melted chocolate and let it harden (a brief trip to the freezer will do this quite quickly). It’s actually not too hard to find vegan versions of ice cream cones at a typical grocery store.

Cookies: Crunchy cookies (such as wafers or oreos) can be crumbled and sprinkled over the ice cream. Soft cookies such as chocolate chip will moisten and semi-dissolve on contact with the ice cream and sauces, forming an effect very much like cookie dough. This can be rather desirable. : )

Candy: Any storebought vegan candy can of course be sprinkled on as is. Homemade vegan can be chopped or broken into bite-sized pieces for this purpose too. Sometimes, when you’re planning on making some candy anyway, it can be fun to make a little extra for this kind of thing. The easiest vegan candy bar and Vegan Rocky Road Candy are good possibilities for this.

General toppings: Any form of nut, not just the usual suspects of peanut, almonds, or pecans, but also pistachios, cashews, pine nuts, etc. Spiced or candied nuts work too. Coconut flakes, chocolate chips, and vegan marshmallows are nice rich options. Fruit, whether fresh, dried, canned or even in the form of pie filling makes for a great sundae too. Sometimes when I want semi-healthy treat, I’ll serve a large portion of fresh unsweetened fruit with just a tiny scoop of vegan ice cream on top.

Another sundae variation is to build a sundae on top of another dessert, such as a cake, pie, or brownie. Sometimes this makes a pretty hardcore dessert that’s better off shared.   ; )
Mixing and matching these sauces and toppings with different flavors of vegan ice cream should allow you to duplicate whatever non vegan ice cream treats you remember and crave. Or maybe create something brand new. Have fun!

Banana split, topped with nuts and both peanut butter and hot fudge sauces

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to Glaze a Vegan Roast

There are a lot of good vegan roasts on the market these days: Tofurkey, Gardein, Field Roast, among others. They’re a nice option. But I think all of them can benefit from a little dressing up. This glaze is one that I’ve used on multiple brands as well as on homemade seitan roasts. It adds a little flavor and some color. I also like to roast some veggies along with the glazed roast to round out the meal.

A Gardein roast with cranberry glaze

Glaze for Vegan Roasts


2 Tbsp jellied cranberry sauce or preserves
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp oil
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
dash of cinnamon
¼ tsp dried thyme or mixed herbs (optional)

Cranberry glaze
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.

To apply to the roast: Bake roast as usual until the last half hour, and then brush top and sides of roast with ½ of glaze. Bake 15 minutes, then brush with rest of glaze and bake 15 minutes more.

Applying the second layer of glaze

Roasting veggies:  I think surrounding the roast with some nice roasted veggies is really festive and appetizing. It doesn’t have to be to elaborate, either: you can bake them at the same time as the roast, in the same pan even. The trick is evaluating baking time compared to the roast, and deciding whether to add the veggies at the same time or partway through. In general, root veggies such as potatoes and carrots can take the whole hour-plus baking time unscathed, but more delicate veggies may scorch slightly and should be added during the last 20-35 minutes. If you’d like to keep things simple and don’t mind a little char, you can live dangerously and just add everything at once—most of them will be okay, particularly if the pan is covered at least some of the time. The veggies should be cut up in large pieces, tossed with a couple tablespoons of oil and some seasonings—I like to use some salt, lemon pepper, rosemary, and thyme—and arranged, cut side down if possible, around the roast. Stir and turn them a few times during the baking time.

Prepping veggies for roasting

The cranberry sauce can be replaced with any flavor jelly, jam or preserves. Marmalade is particularly good. You could also experiment with other liquid sweetener in place of the maple syrup such as molasses, agave or sugar free pancake syrup.

Other herbs and spices could be used as well--some cayenne would make for a spicy version.

All dressed up and ready to go

Well, I hope everyone has a nice holiday! For more Thanksgiving ideas, try the Thanksgiving, pie and holiday tags.

A Pumpkin Pie Variation: Pumpkin-Apple Pie

I tried a new variation on my pumpkin pie recipe, and it turned out pretty well. I just took this pumpkin pie recipe, omitted the maple pecans, and arranged two sliced apples in the bottom of the pie shell before pouring in the filling and topping with the streusel. The addition of the apple made for an interesting flavor and texture contrast that’s quite different from a basic pumpkin pie. 


Maybe it would be a good addition to your thanksgiving table this year. Particularly if you’re having trouble choosing between apple and pumpkin pie. : )

Pumpkin-Apple Pie

A Nice Cup of Hot Cocoa

Well, the weather we’ve been having calls for a nice warm cup of comfort. When you first go vegan, you realize that many of the convenience foods you grew up on are now off-limits and the from-scratch alternatives can be a little discouraging.

But just because Swiss Miss is off the table doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. If you start with the right ingredients, you can make a good cup of cocoa just as fast as the instant kind.

With a candy cane for a stirring stick


Single-serving Vegan Hot Cocoa


6-8 fl. oz vanilla nondairy milk
2-4 tsp cocoa powder or carob powder
sweetener to taste
(optional) flavorings such as cinnamon to taste

with vegan marshmallows

Dissolve the cocoa or carob powder into a couple tablespoons of the soymilk, then whisk in the rest of the soymilk. You can do this right in the mug if you want to. Add sweetener or flavorings if using.
Heat in microwave 1 or 2 minutes, or in a pan on the stovetop until warm to your liking.
Top with vegan marshmallows or whip topping, and enjoy!

Now, whether you need sweetener or not depends on your choice of nondairy milk, and also on whether you’re using cocoa or carob (carob is inherently sweeter). An unsweetened soymilk paired with cocoa will definitely need some extra sweetener; a sweet vanilla milk with carob probably won’t. 

If you want an extra rich and thick version, you can try coconut milk. I find a high-protein soymilk* does the trick just fine.

Vegan hot cocoa, topped with rice whip

*soymilks with 8-11 grams of protein are more concentrated and less watery than those in the 3-6 range. They often perform better in recipes and have more nutritional value.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steam-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

As the farmer’s market season winds to a close, I enjoy perusing the late season offerings before they go away for another year. Among the winter squashes and root vegetables available this time of year you can sometimes find some nice brussels sprouts.
I like to prepare these simply in order to let their natural flavor (stronger in fresh sprouts than in frozen) shine through.

These are called steam-roasted because the added water and foil allow them to steam during the first half of the cooking, and the uncovered second half lets them crisp and brown up. This allows them to have nice caramelized exteriors while still being tender and fully cooked on the inside—the best of both worlds.

Steam-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Steam-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 lbs fresh brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp oil
2 tbsp water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp lemon pepper
dash of dill weed


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sliced in half

Wash the brussels sprouts. Cut off any tough ends and slice each one in half vertically. Toss with oil and seasonings.

Flipping and checking

Spread sprouts out on a baking sheet cut-side down in a single layer. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and then bake for about another 12 minutes. Flip a few to check the undersides for done-ness. If they are sufficiently brown, then serve and enjoy.

By the way, you can buy brussels sprouts on the stalk if you want to. They do look more impressive this way. It can extend the prep time considerably though, and I find it fairly difficult to hack the sprouts off that tough stalk. It’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re getting a good deal, too, because the stalk is included in the weight. It’s up to you, though--conquering the big stalk at least once is kind of a fun adventure.

On the stalk

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The easiest vegan candy bar

Because sometimes you don’t want to break out the candy thermometer.

The average candy bar aisle can be a little barren for vegans. You’d be lucky to find a couple of plain dark chocolate bars, and not even that if you require carob. Pretty much nothing with fillings or add-ins such as nuts, toffee or peanut butter.

I’ve done quite a few posts on homemade vegan candy and chocolates—a couple of years ago I did a full week of posts on the subject for Valentines Day. Some of them are quite elaborate and produce excellent results. But sometimes you just want an easy treat without a lot of fuss and labor.

This recipe is the best balance I’ve found between easiness and still producing a recognizable candy bar with all the elements you miss from pre-vegan store-bought candy bars: layers of toffee, crunch, nuts, peanut butter and chocolate, all without needing a candy thermometer or the bother of hand-dipping in chocolate.
To me, it tastes most like a combination of a Butterfinger and a Heath bar or Almond Roca. Yum!

Safety note: even thought we're not using a candy thermometer here, we're still dealing with hot sugar, aka culinary napalm. So be careful, please, and no kids during the hot sugar part of the recipe. They can help make the cracker sandwiches if they want, but after that they should go play away from the kitchen until it's time to eat. 
Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

Chocolate--Peanut Butter--Toffee--Cracker Candy Squares



1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp smart balance light
2 Tbsp oil
dash of cinnamon

16 saltine crackers (matzo or ritz style crackers may be substituted)
about 3 Tbsp peanut butter (or other smooth nut butter)
1/3 cup vegan chocolate or carob chips

Optional: chopped nuts or crushed candy canes


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Filling the crackers with peanut butter

Make little sandwiches out of the crackers and peanut butter by spreading half the crackers with about a teaspoon of peanut butter each and placing the other half of the crackers on top of them.  Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, and arrange the cracker sandwiches in a single layer across the bottom of the pan, breaking them if necessary to fit.

Place sugar, maple syrup, smart balance light, oil and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, stirring once a minute, until the mixture forms large foamy bubbles.

Foamy bubbles

Toffee poured over crackers
Wearing oven mitts, carefully pour the sugar mixture over the cracker sandwiches. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 5-6 minutes, until the butterscotch is fairly brown (but not black).

While the bars are baking, melt the chocolate or carob chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. This took me about 1 minute 15 seconds, but that may vary.

When the bars come out of the oven, pour the melted chocolate on top and spread it out in an even layer using a spatula or the back of fork. Sprinkle with nuts or candy, if using. Let cool until the chocolate is completely hard.

Flip the bars out on to a plate and break them into pieces. They should break into fairly even squares along the borders of the cracker sandwiches.

Note: if you cook the sugar mixture for a shorter amount of time in the microwave, it will come out less like hard toffee and more like soft, oozy caramel. However, the bars will not hold together as well or come out of the pan very easily. It’s your call.

vegan candy bars

As far as the toppings are concerned, you can achieve a number of different effects. You may find you like salted, toasted or even spiced nuts better. The candy cane version would be nice during the holidays.

Vegan Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

These are intended to be a vegan substitute for those  classic bake-sale cookies that have a Hershey's kiss or peanut butter cup pressed in the middle. With peanut butter stirred right into the chocolate, it tastes like a mix of the two.

Unlike jam thumbprints, you don't really want to fill these before baking. After is better.

Vegan Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, fresh from the oven


Vegan Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies


Your favorite vegan cookie recipe—can be sugar cookies, shortbread, peanut butter cookies, chocolate cookies, oatmeal cookies, etc—scaled to make about 18 cookies.

heaping 1/3 cup chocolate or carob chips
2 Tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1-3 Tbsp soymilk


Bake cookies as usual. While they are still warm and soft, press the back of a ½ teaspoon into the middle of each cookie to form an indentation.

Oatmeal cookies, with indentations

Microwave chocolate/carob chips, peanut butter, and soy milk together for 1 to 1½ minutes, stirring and mashing every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the indentations in the cookies. Let them cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator.

Note: Use the smaller amount of soymilk for firm, Hershey’s kiss-like chocolate centers. Use the higher amount for soft, ganache-like centers.

Cooling and setting

Variation: Sprinkle the chocolate centers with chopped nuts, coconut flakes or crushed candy canes before the chocolate filling sets, or press a vegan marshmallow on top.