Who says pies have to be round?

squaring the circle  with vegan pumpkin pie

squaring the circle with vegan pumpkin pie

I was trying to make a pumpkin pie for a dinner party at Stevie’ and Hegui’s and discovered that I don’t actually own a round pie dish. So I used of a square pan instead! I knew it might look kind of odd but a pie is made in a pan so I reasoned it would be okay. And since this one is vegan, it seems perfectly natural to present it in a distinctive way. Suddenly necessity becomes meaningful and “just right,” which is so often the case with cooking, don’t you think?

Now you’re probably thinking, why in the world are you making pumpkin pie in May? Well, I bought some extra cans of pumpkin during the holiday season so I could enjoy pie out of “pie season.” Stores stop selling canned pumpkin this time of year, which can totally crimp your style.

The pie is unbelievably festive too with the addition of this vegan Cool Whip type stuff from Trader Joes. So, cheers to a non conventional themed square shaped pie not in pumpkin pie season!

My vegan crust is based on this recipe.

square pumpkin pie all around

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp vegan butter
¼ tbsp salt
3 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 can pure pumpkin
½ cup coconut or soy milk
1 tsp Trader Joes pumpkin pie seasoning or similar
More agave nectar for pumpkin mix

Pre heat oven to 450F.

Mix flour, cold water, vegan butter, salt and honey together until smooth and it forms a ball. Oil a square pan with veggie butter (oh, okay, round is fine too). Press out the dough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. Bake crust for ten minutes until crispy on edges. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes.

Mix pumpkin, coconut milk and the pumpkin pie seasoning together. Add agave nectar to sweeten to taste. Pour pumpkin mix onto pie crust and put back in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for about a half hour or so.

When ready to serve whip out the Trader Joes vegan dessert whip and voila pumpkin pie right before summer!


My friend, Stevie, a WC bigwig, just had a birthday. I couldn’t make it to see him physically that day, as I’m so glamorous that I was travelling abroad or something equally fabulous. But I missed him, so the next time we met for dinner, I brought over a pumpkin pie with a message, “Happy Belated Birthday,” in red cake icing.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

cream cheese pumpkin pie

The process of making the pie and doing all the mixing feels good during the gloomy weather we’ve been having in San Francisco. Creating the dessert feels cheerful and productive, and you get the reward of sharing deliciousness with friends. Every year when it gets cold outside I crave comfort food like pumpkin pie. I try to make my pies healthy, without too much fat or eggs. I’ve been experimenting so this time I tried it with cream cheese for a different flavor. Look here and here for some more variations.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

“Whole Foods” pre-made whole wheat pie crust (making it easy as pie as you don’t have to roll out the dough!)
one package of cream cheese
one can of pure pumpkin
½ cup of maple syrup
¾ cup of pure cane sugar
½ cup of soy milk
3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice from “Trader Joes”

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Soften the cream cheese and mix it together with the pumpkin, soy milk, sugar, maple syrup and spices until you get a smooth texture with no lumps. Fill your pre made pie crust. Then bake for 45 minutes for a yummy pie. Cool and decorate if you want.

The cream cheese adds a certain pleasant thickness and consistency that was different from other pies I’ve made. We all enjoyed this with a refreshing after-dinner drink.


Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from cooks.com, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Kabocha is one of my favorite types of pumpkin. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with an intense, beautiful yellow color. It is perfect served as a side dish. The classic Brazilian way to prepare it is one of the simplest: sautéed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of water, until tender. We enjoy kabocha that way at home very often. I’ve made it in risotto, too, which is another fabulous savory pumpkin dish.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

Americans don’t seem to be very in-the-know about kabocha. I wonder if that’s because the exterior is so gnarled and dark green to brown? It is a bit ugly, really. Kabocha isn’t anything like those cheery but flavorless orange monsters that make wonderful jack-o-lanterns but nothing else. Acorn and butternut squash are the cooking favorites here as far as I can tell, and I’ve no complaints about them, but to me, kabocha remains the unsung queen of the pumpkin patch.

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

I saw a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in this book, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Normally, I like gnocchi with loads of cheese, but this recipe challenged all that with its no-animal-products stance. A complete vegan dish, how exciting… It turned out really good, despite being healthy. And since it was a bit messy to make, we had a lot of fun both in the kitchen and at table.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto

For the gnocchi:

4 small russet potatoes, ~ 1¼ lbs, peeled and halved
1 lb kabocha pumpkin, seeds and stringy parts removed; cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2+ cups of flour

For the walnut pesto:

¾ cup walnuts
1½ cups Italian parsley
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sundried tomato packed in oil, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

steaming kabocha and potatoes

steaming kabocha and potatoes

Steam potato and kabocha until fully cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let them cool down slightly.

Meanwhile place pesto ingredients in the food processor and whiz until turned into a smooth thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Remove kabocha rinds and discard. Place steamed pumpkin and potatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil, nutmeg, salt then mash with a fork until relatively smooth and combined. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Place dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 4 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangle. Using a knife, cut it into 6 segments. Cut each segment in half. With floured hands and surfaces, roll each piece into about a ¾ inch-thick tube. Cut each tube in ½ inch wide pillows. Using your thumb and the tines of a fork, gently press each little pillow to flatten them a bit while at the same time making indentations in one side.

shaping the gnocchi

shaping the gnocchi

Cook in batches to prevent sticking. To cook, add a batch of fresh gnocchi to the boiling water. Wait for them to rise to the surface. Turn temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the gnocchi earlier, it will taste bad! Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a colander. Let drain for a minute or so. Meanwhile, bring water back to a full boil and repeat process with remaining batches. Reserve 2+ cups of cooking water.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large glass baking dish. Spread gnocchi in a single layer in the dish (use a second baking dish if needed). Add enough reserved water to walnut pesto to thin it into a somewhat runny sauce. Pour over gnocchi and bake for about 12 minutes to warm through.

We served this with a simple mache salad in vinaigrette. It was a feast! And it is so healthy that you won’t feel a bit of remorse having two slices of cheesecake.

Cheesecake challenge: The glamorous Heavenly from donuts to delirium and we at weirdcombos want to invite any interested food blogging folk to join us in a cheesecake cooking challenge. All you have to do is contact us for the basic recipe, come up with a creative version of your own, and publish it with links to all the other participants for the challenge on Monday August 8, 2011. This was incredibly fun when we did the chocolate truffle challenge in May and the tagliatelle challenge in March. So get your thinking caps on and your sweet… teeth(?) ready for some delicious fun in August!


The inspiration for this dish came from necessity: Hegui carved a truly gigantic French pumpkin into medium sized cubes to make pumpkin coconut compote, but there was too much pumpkin. He also made a variation on Brazilian quibebe, but there was still too much pumpkin. He gave some to Jasmine T for her pumpkin pie obsession, but, still, there was too much pumpkin.

What to do?

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

There are lots of recipes for ravioli stuffed with pumpkin all over the Internet. Here’s one; and another; and one more. I ended up with a variation on What’s Cooking America’s shitake pumpkin raviolis.

We had just been to Nijiya Market so we were well stocked with interesting mushrooms. Their recipe uses wonton wrappers to make the shell. Instead I went back to the Cookie Crumbles and prepared their dough, which apparently comes from Marcella Hazan. I love her! I won’t re-write the dough making process in detail, but suffice it to say, I followed the instructions to the letter. Check the link to make this yourself. Since most of the fun of ravioli making lies in the production of the pasta, I’ll summarize what we did (this is a two-person job).

I made a mushroom sauce, which is not at all necessary. I just happened to have a lot of mushrooms for Chinese New Year. Really just olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper would do.

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

for dough:

2 cups flour (I used all purpose)
3 eggs

for shitake pumpkin filling:

4 cups fresh French pumpkin or butternut squash (un-cooked)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 cups white wine
8 medium shitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped fine
2 shallots, peeled and chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced fresh sage
black pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste

for trumpet mushroom sauce:

1 cup trumpet (or other) mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (optional)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

at this point, pasta strips are about half-way flattened

at this point, pasta strips are about half-way flattened

To make pasta:

Usually you’re supposed to pour the flour on a work-surface then mix in the egg. Counter space is at a premium in my tiny kitchen so I beat the eggs for a couple minutes in a small bowl, then mixed them with the flour in another. Then I dumped everything onto a floured surface and kneaded it for eight (8) minutes. (I set my kitchen timer.) The kneading is the key step and really it is sort of magical as about seven minutes on, suddenly the flour-egg dough starts to do something amazing! It turns into pasta! You can feel it in your hands literally changing. Sure, that is what you’re making so should not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, whenever I make pasta, I am always stunned that it actually works!

Roll dough into a ball then cut it into six equal pieces. With your pasta machine on the widest setting, roll each piece through once. Then fold the edges of each piece together towards the middle and pass it through the machine again, still at the widest setting. Repeat with each piece so that they’ve all been rolled and folded about three times. When not working with a piece, lay it on a clean kitchen towel and be sure not to let it touch any of the other dough.

Here we've completed rolling the pasta. Look how long they've gotten!  They barely fit on the counter any more.

Here we've completed rolling the pasta. Look how long they've gotten! They barely fit on the counter any more.

After that, reduce the width of your pasta maker by one notch and pass each piece through. They will slowly start to get longer. Repeat at next lower notch and so on until you get to the penultimate. By now, your dough should be quite thin and very long. This is why it helps to have an extra set of hands. (Also it is good if your pasta machine has the clamp part that holds it to the counter! I lost ours so Hegui had to do double-duty—holding the machine down as I cranked it and holding the ends of the long pasta sheets to prevent them touching one another or falling to the floor.) Once you’ve finished set aside.

placing the filling on the pasta

placing the filling on the pasta

To make filling:

In a medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, some salt and pumpkin. Cook on high for a few minutes then add white wine. Cover, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Cook until pumpkin is soft (about 45 minutes). Add more white wine as needed.

Remove from heat then either run through a food processor or strainer. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add remaining olive oil, some salt, shallot, garlic and shitake. Sweat for about ten minutes. Add black pepper, sage then fold into pumpkin. Let cool. Mix in cheeses.

To assemble ravioli:

Use about a tablespoon of filling for each ravioli. Start on one end of ribbon of pasta leaving about an inch border. Place the filling in a small mound. Continue along the strip of pasta, spacing them about 1½ inches apart. My pasta was not as wide as I had hoped so I ended up covering one strip with another. If yours turns out to be wider, then fold over. Use a little water to close the pasta making sure to push out air bubbles. I cut ours with a knife to make sort of freeform shapes. (I don’t have a pasta cutter.) Make sure that you don’t let individual ravioli touch one-another as they’ll stick.

cutting the stuffed pasta into ravioli

cutting the stuffed pasta into ravioli

To prepare final dish:

Boil ravioli in salted water about four minutes. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in olive oil, garlic, and butter until they are cooked. Add sage, salt and black pepper to taste. Drain ravioli and add to pan with sauce. Carefully toss together. Serve.


pumpkin coconut compote

by Heguiberto on February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today it’s all about sweets for your sweet. My home State, Minas Gerais in Brazil, is famed for its jams and compotes. They make many sweets from lots of different fruits, including: guava, pineapple, passion fruit, bitter orange, jabuticaba, quice and pumpkin, to name just a few. As a kid, I fondly remember watching my mother spending lots of time preparing these wonderful sweets. She gave them to neighbors and to the Church for their weekend auctions to raise funds for charity.

pumpkin coconut compote

pumpkin coconut compote

I bought a huge French pumpkin last November with the intention of using it for decoration through the holidays and then eating it in the New Year. Well, 2011 is now.

You can’t really tell that well from the picture, but it must have been at least 18 inches in diameter (about a half meter!)

my French pumpkin

my French pumpkin

Here are a few others. I read somewhere about French pumpkin. The description of it made me think that it would work for my mother’s pumpkin coconut compote. The French one has a similar texture to the ones from Brazil; with a similar, bright orange flesh that’s slightly fibrous and a relatively soft and pliable skin that makes it easy to peel.

The thing was absolutely gigantic for two people. I cut it up last Thursday and used some for quibebe, a popular savory pumpkin dish from Minas; some I gave to Jasmine Turner, she wants to experiment cooking with fresh pumpkin as opposed to canned for more pies (Here’s the latest version); Steven plans on making some into pumpkin-filled ravioli with sage and shitake mushrooms; and the rest I used for this sweet.

pumpkin coconut compote served with a slice of queso fresco

pumpkin coconut compote served with a slice of queso fresco

This is essentially a dessert. Typically you’d have it with a white, salty but mildly flavored cheese after the meal. We ate ours with slices of Mexican queso fresco. You might enjoy it as a small snack or at breakfast-time as well. It is delicious and can even be elegant.

pumpkin coconut compote

3½ lbs French pumpkin (or similar) peeled, seeds and inner strings removed, cut into small cubes
1½ lbs sugar
1-2 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
1½ cup dried coconut flakes

Add pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon and cloves to a large pot on medium heat. Stir occasionally. Pumpkin will release liquid and melt the sugar. Cook for about 1 hour, uncovered, stirring every 3-4 minutes to prevent burning or sticking. Pumpkin should dissolve by the end of cooking and much of the liquid should evaporate. If it remains firm, use a wooden spoon to mash it in the pot. Add coconut flakes and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Eat at room temperature or chilled. This could easily be preserved in jars, which is how you find it in Brazil. I didn’t do that here, so we ate it over a few days and gave some to friends. This recipe is also similar to this from a Brazilian blog.


It’s January and I am still in the throws of PPO: pumpkin pie obsession. I can’t get my mind off those round, wholesome, satisfying pies. There is something very comforting about pumpkins and pies.

I decided that there was nothing for it but to make a few more. This time, I went totally vegan. Tofu is our friend!

Pumpkin Pie Obsession, the Sequel, or Pumpkin Pie à la Skinny

Pumpkin Pie Obsession, the Sequel, or Pumpkin Pie à la Skinny

I tried to get canned pumpkin at my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s, but they told me they only sell it during the holidays. “What a slap-down!” as my pal from the WC, Stevie would say. The TJ guy suggested I visit “Whole Paycheck.” Sure enough, they had three kinds of canned pumpkin: organic, regular and Libby’s brand! I chose the Libby’s as it was the least expensive of the three at $2.19. TJ’s used to sell it for a dollar each, which obviously would have been better. But since they didn’t have it, I had to compromise to accommodate my desperate cravings.

I was really eager to make a vegan pumpkin pie. Last time I didn’t have the courage to bake without eggs or butter. I cheated again on the crust and bought the pre-made pie shells at Whole Paycheck, two for $4.29! I also bought the tofu at Trader Joe’s a few days prior in anticipation of the vegan bakeoff.

It feels good to eat pie and not be biting into the typical ones made with lard, white flour or white sugar. I constantly hear that these are bad for health. Feasting on these vegan pies makes me feel like I am getting dessert but also feeding my body something wholesome and good. It’s makes a great, guilt free breakfast to have a slice or two or three with coffee in the morning, or as a late night snack with a cup of soy milk. Enjoy the adventure and keep aiming for that pie in the sky… I hope to try more “weirdcombinations” from online recipes and share my experiences soon.

There are a tremendous amount of recipes for vegan pumpkin pie online. Here’s one, and one more and even a gluten-free version. I grabbed a few and improvised. Here goes:

vegan pumpkin pie

16oz package of soft tofu
½ cup brown cane sugar
¼ cup honey
1 can prepared pumpkin
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 organic spelt 9″ pre-made pie shell

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat pumpkin, brown sugar and tofu together. You will burn calories blending the tofu if you do this step by hand. Add oil, honey, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Beat until completely blended.
Poor mixture into the pie shell then bake for an hour. Voilà… pumpkin pie à la skinny!


I do not know what has come over me, but I have this overwhelming urge to eat and fully enjoy pumpkin pie. It might be because it is the season for pumpkins and pumpkins are just everywhere. Also the food advertisements that come in bright colors in the mail every other day make holiday meals look even more enticing by depicting pumpkin pies along with the rest of the festive table. My friends think that I’ve gone mad because I keep talking about pumpkins and pies. I admit it: I love pumpkin pie, world! Did you hear that? I LOVE PUMPKIN PIE!!!

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

The other day I brought a Sweet Earth Vegan Pumpkin Pie over to share with my WC friends and a guest of theirs from New York. Gordon was a little leery when I explained there was tofu in the pie as well as other healthy ingredients. Foolishly, he almost turned down a slice. He wasn’t so sure about the whole Northern California “tofu pie” and all that. We giggled a little about some of the radical organic food theatrics that tend to creep up on us in this part of the State. But mostly I enjoyed my pie. The truth is you can’t even taste the tofu. I could have told Gordon that we were just having a really good pie but the WC’s like to discuss food in detail, so we wanted to fully disclose the information. He was reasonably open-minded and then pretty shocked by how much he actually liked it.

The Sweet Earth Vegan Pumpkin Pie is a bit surprising with the tofu instead of eggs in the filling. These are amazing pies and taste like a treat. But they are also so wholesome and good for you, that you don’t feel any guilt, even though it’s still a pie. You might be tempted to eat the whole darn thing! Believe me I have done that. My advice to you: do not try this at home! Mireille Guiliano would not be amused.

There is a certain build up to the big holiday meal, and my favorite part, if you haven’t yet guessed, is the “PP,” or pumpkin pie. Inspired by Sweet Earth, I made what I think is a little more healthy pumpkin pie than the traditional version. I bought a can of organic pumpkin at TJ’s and whole wheat organic pie crusts from Whole Foods and went to work in my own little kitchen. I used soy milk instead of condensed milk and egg whites instead of tofu because I am not brave enough (yet) to make a pie myself using the tofu. I wonder how they prepare the tofu for their pie? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Just Google it,” and I will eventually.

TJ's cooked canned pumpkin

TJ's cooked canned pumpkin

healthier-than-it-should-be pumpkin pie

1 can cooked pumpkin
½ cup soy milk
1 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice pre mixed from Trader Joes (or make your own blend from clove, cinnamon and nutmeg)
whole wheat pie crust from Whole Foods
3 egg whites
1/8 cup maple syrup or honey

Mix pumpkin, soy milk, spices and egg whites until smooth. Pour into piecrust. Cook at 425F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F for 35-40 minutes more. Let pie cool thoroughly and then voila, healthy pumpkin pie!

Enjoy a few slices ‘cause after all it’s low fat and organic! Low fat and organic means you can eat as much as you want until you get full and you are good to go! LOL!


quibebe clássico or savory winter squash with garlic and olive oil

October 5, 2010

I am fascinated by squash and pumpkin. In America there are some many different edible types available, not to mention the myriad visually stunning decorative ones that come to market about this time of the year. It is a feast! A couple of weeks ago I spotted a beautiful winter squash at the Alemany farmers […]

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