vegetable oil

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!


And here’s another dish from the-Y-O, that’s Yotam Ottolenghi to you and me. This adaptation from “Plenty” was a huge success. The dish is South East Asian inspired, since it uses sambal sauce.

sambal okra over coconut rice

sambal okra over coconut rice

Sambal is a fiery sauce made with chili peppers, shallots, tamarind and other spices. The-Y-O claims that a dish like this is served in Malaysia for breakfast. “Wow” is all I can say, people and their cuisines sure can be different. This is spicy! I can’t imagine having it for breakfast. It reminds me of our trip to Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago. When we first arrived, the brutal jet lag had me hungry for spicy foods loaded with fish sauce in the morning. That’s standard fare there, so it worked out really well, at least at the beginning. Fried rice and fish soup at 7AM, no problem! I ate with gusto and it was all simply delicious! After a week or two, as I adjusted to the Thai clock, I began to have trouble with that kind of breakie.

I’ve made sambal before with calamari and shrimp, but didn’t think breakfast-time. We had this sambal okra for dinner, which is just fine by me. Really, it was so tasty that I’d be willing to have it anytime, including for breakfast… I bet this would be a super remedy for a hangover…

sambal okra over coconut rice

for the coconut rice:

1 cup basmati rice rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
1½ cups water
2 rinds of lemon
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
Kosher salt to taste

for the okra:

1 lb frozen baby okra
Lemon or lime wedges
Cilantro leaves for decoration

for the sambal sauce:

3 fresh Jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs partially removed (leave some for heat)
5 dried red chili peppers, seeds discarded
8 baby shallots
2 garlic cloves
1tsp paprika
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Add chilies fresh and dried, shallots, garlic, paprika, tamarind, sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil and another 2 of water to the food processor and spin until it turns into paste.

Place remaining oil in a large skillet on high. Pour paste in and sauté for a minute or so. Turn temperature down and cook it for about 10 minutes. The sambal sauce will be ready when it becomes dark brownish red in color and oil starts to separate from the paste. Set aside.

Place all rice ingredients in a saucepan on high heat. Give it a good stir. Bring to a boil. Stir again, reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

Have a pan ready with boiling water within the last 8-10 minutes rice is finishing cooking. Drop frozen okra into the water and cook 3-4 minutes to scald the little pods. Transfer okra to a colander and run some cold water over to stop cooking process.

Heat up sambal, fold in okra and let it warm through.

Transfer rice to a serving platter, top with sambal okra & decorate with cilantro leaves and wedges of lemon.


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, 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.


Steven has been making this buttermilk pancake recipe for as long as we’ve known each other. I like it so much that at the beginning I would insist that he make double batches! It was our weekend ritual. He cooked the pancakes and I would set up the table, brew the coffee and make fresh orange juice. Then we would sit, eat and be happy! Now, of course, with the problems inherent in getting older, elevated cholesterol and weight control, they’re reserved more for special treats, like when we have out-of-town guests.

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

Last week was one of these special occasions. Steven prepared a double batch for our niece, Juliana, and our friend, Chris. Juliana was here visiting from Northern Virginia and Chris slept over after we stayed up really late playing Hearts and chatting over glasses of red wine. (See what I mean? Two batches easily fed four people!)

I suggested a twist to the basic pancake recipe this time. Why not add the extra ripe bananas that are lying around with some walnuts? Banana nut pancakes remind me of our friend, Lúcia. She served us something similar once when we visited her and her family while they lived in an enormous house on Long Island.

The bananas are simply peeled and sliced without mashing. You put them in the pancake after your pour the batter into the skillet. When you flip, the exposed banana develops a lovely caramelized flavor and browns a bit. You should try them one day soon as they’re divine!

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

1 cup flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1½ cups low fat buttermilk
1 tbs. vegetable oil with some extra to grease the pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
~½ walnut halves

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and set aside (not bananas and walnuts). In another bowl beat the egg then mix in the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry ingredients and beat by hand until just mixed and smooth. The batter will have some lumps. That’s ok. If it’s too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. I like it somewhere in the middle between very thick and runny. That way it spreads easily but doesn’t get too thin, like a crepe.

I use two or three non-stick frying pans to make the cooking faster. Grease your pans at the start of cooking with some vegetable oil or butter. Heat pans on high. When heated, add a ladle of batter and lower temperature to medium. Place two banana slices and two walnut halves into cooking pancake. Cook on one side for one to two minutes until bubbles begin to rise to surface of batter and you can maneuver a spatula under cake. Gently flip and cook other side for about the same. Flipping is a little tricky with the heavy fillings, so don’t be distressed if you make a mess. You’ll have to experiment with the cooking times and temperatures as you go. The pancakes should be a golden brown color and cooked through without burning.

Eat right away! You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, but they’re not the same.

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter


fried lotus root chips

by Stevie on March 1, 2011

I was so impressed with myself after making fried lotus root chips. To me, these are the be-all, end-all of exotic vegetables. How disappointing (and slightly embarrassing) to read later in the raw epicurean that lotus root can be a potato-substitute and on serious eats all the myriad ways one might prepare them. Well, in my defense I grew up in the suburbs in Virginia. In the Eighties, this was not lotus-root country. But armed with my new knowledge, it only makes me want to experiment more with this delightful rhizome.

fried lotus root chips

fried lotus root chips

Serious eats has an incredibly thorough description of the lotus root, including how it grows, its meaning in Asian cultures and various preparations. I knew about lotus roots and lotus flowers all this time but somehow never put two-and-two together. They’re from the same plant. I suppose that I’d always imagined all those images of the Buddah meditating on a lotus flower as part of a mystical theology that had no clear relationship to my dinner plate. Turns out that the flower, the younger leaves and the lotus root are all edible. Hmm.

I got my lotus root pre-peeled from Nijiya Market, which saved a little time.

packaged peeled lotus root

packaged peeled lotus root

fried lotus root chips

2 lotus roots, peeled and sliced thin
Vegetable oil to fry
Splash of olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

All I did was slice it thinly, fry it in some vegetable oil mixed with a splash of olive oil, let it drain for a bit on paper towels and sprinkled the chips with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Yum!

Next time, I’m going to try something a bit more ambitions.


the pumpkin pie obsessive admiring her latest creation

the pumpkin pie obsessive admiring her latest creation

The pumpkin fetish, or adventure, saga or whatever you want to call it is ongoing! My friend Heguie gave me fresh pumpkin cut up into fine pieces, which, by the way I hear is thrillingly FRENCH. So being that I love pumpkins and France, it was serendipitous. He used some for a delightful Brazilian dessert that he served with cheese. Apparently there was a lot of pumpkin leftover: also serendipitous as I wanted to expand on my pumpkin pie making experiments: this time with the added dimension of real fresh pumpkin compared to my previously canned pumpkin pies.

A lot of my pals in my inner circle think that my post-holidays, post-season pumpkin pie obsession is sort of nutty, but they’re obviously not paying attention. None of the PPOs have any nuts in them at all! Seriously, I don’t care because lots of people like different foods when they are not in season: look at winter tomatoes, for example. Some people even like traditional breakfast foods for dinner or pizza for breakfast, so I don’t let anything or anyone stop me from getting my pumpkin on!

I have yet to experiment with making real crust rather than the store bought, pre-made kind. It will come with time and more adventures.

Pumpkin pie that’s healthy is such a great midnight snack and eating it feels like such a treat but knowing that it’s made with healthy ingredients always makes me happy because it’s a dessert that doesn’t hurt…the thighs that is! It’s all about the three P’s: portion, pleasure and planning.

PPO3:  French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

PPO3: French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

PPO3: French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

3 to 4 cups fresh French pumpkin or butternut squash
1/3 cup vegetable oil
low-fat graham cracker crust from Safeway (any crust will do)
½ package silken tofu
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons stevia (a natural sweetener)
3 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice

Preheat oven to 375.

Steam pumpkin until soft (about 12 minutes). Mix and mash pumpkin until it’s smoothed out, as if you were mashing potatoes in a bowl. Add oil and tofu then mix well by hand… to get your skinny on! Add sugar, stevia and spice mix. Stir together and mix until you are exhausted and feel like you really deserve a piece or two of this damn pie! LOL! Add the pumpkin mix to the piecrust shell and bake for one hour. Let cool for a few hours then let loose with your PPO!

P.S. it’s ultra comforting to have the pie with a cup of soy milk!


I wanted to subtitle this recipe, “rinse and repeat tropical style,” but decided against it at the last minute as it makes the name too long. Really, this is just a retread of my attempt to create Clotilde’s quince almond cake with the addition of some dried shredded coconut. Hegui was so enchanted by the underdone, first try, that when we came across another batch of quince, he clamored for more. So really, this is a “re-make” or a “re-do,” you choose your preferred term. The “tropical” is the coconut, of course, and our fervent longing for the return of summer. In Brazil, summer starts today. Don’t you wish you were on the beach somewhere right now, toasting under a warm tropical sun? I do, too!!!

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

This time, instead of lining my baking dish with wax paper, Hegui found for me some disposable wax paper forms which I was able to use without any other baking dish at all. I made a tiny loaf and a large ring cake with this recipe.

The name for the post is Portuguese for “quince cake with coconut and almonds.” And here it is in all its delicious glory:

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

2 fresh, ripe quince
¼ tsp vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar

1 2/3 cups flour
¾ cup ground almonds (I used whole almonds and pulverized them in a food processor)
½ cup dried shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
splash of rum
coarse sugar to sprinkle on top

To poach quince:

Peel quince with a vegetable peeler. Carefully cut quince into quarters and remove seeds, stems and inner fibrous parts. Cut quarters into about ½ inch cubes. Put cut cleaned quince into pressure cooker with vanilla and brown sugar. Cover with just enough water to submerge fruit. Cook for thirty minutes after pressure cooker starts to whistle. The fruit released a wonderful aroma while cooking and came out a stunning deep reddish color. Remove and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

poached quince

poached quince

To prepare cake:

Preheat oven to 360F.

Drain quince and chop coarsely.

Mix flour, almonds, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together for a couple minutes. Add yogurt, rum and vegetable oil to egg mixture. Stir to incorporate. Fold quince into egg mixture. Gradually mix dry ingredients into moist. Once everything is wet, pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. (I didn’t have this so used more regular sugar to sprinkle on top.)

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool. Remove from dish and peel wax paper away. Serve. We had this as an after dinner treat and for breakfast. Yum!

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil


Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene is my paternal grandmother, though she prefers “Granny” to “Grandma.” Apparently it makes her feel younger. For a year when I was a child, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland where I attended a private English-speaking school in the Third Grade. I had a Scottish friend in my class who taught me this naughty “Granny” song:

O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny, ‘cause she’s your father’s mother,
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!

My whole family loved it and I’ve fond memories of all of us riding down the Swiss highways, belting out the lyrics to a broken but lively tune. We even sang it for Granny when she came to visit from the States. Aah, good stuff!

What I’ve just recently learned is that Granny Irene has a recipe for zucchini oatmeal raisin bread! My sister sent it to me after I asked her for her recipe for zucchini bread (more to come on that soon).

This bread is easy to make and it will make you feel healthy, what with all of the freshly grated Italian zucchini in there.

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

dry ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

wet ingredients:

3 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 cups shredded zucchini (about four medium Italian)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease baking dishes. I used pre-made disposable wax paper formed dishes. Instead of greasing and worrying about removing cake at the end, I simply peeled the paper off like you might for a muffin and discarded the paper once the baking was done. Easy.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Mix remaining wet ingredients into egg mixture. Fold egg zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is moist.

Pour batter into your baking dish(s). I made two small loafs and a larger round. Bake 30 to 50 minutes depending on the size of your cake. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack and enjoy. We had ours over coffee for breakfast. Yum!


mole rojo clasico with shrimp

August 19, 2010

This post comes from our first-time guest blogger, Ernestina C. This mole was simply incredible! Thanks for the great post and we hope you write again soon! Ernestina made this mole sauce from scratch over a weekend a few weeks back. She knows that we’re pescetarian at WC headquarters so set aside a jar of […]

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