holiday

English Toffee + Easy Gift Idea

toffee

The holidays are a crazy time of year for most people. It is expensive, time consuming and exhausting. Everyone is having holiday parties and there are a million family obligations. Of course, you never want to show up empty handed! Gift giving can be a huge source of stress and anxiety, and can become quite impersonal. It never fails that SOMEONE will give you a gift that you were not expecting to receive, and you suddenly feel a weird obligation to return the favor. It can be very difficult to come up with individual presents and it never hurts to have some back ups! Hand making gifts can be a wonderful and inexpensive way to have something for everyone, and allows your loved ones (or other acquaintances) the opportunity to reap the benefits of your talent. When it comes to us, the main thing we want to share with those around us is food! We decided to make a sweet treat that practically everyone is familiar with, and show them how good it can be when made VEGAN!

English toffee is a delicious and easy confection made up of mostly butter and sugar. Add some chocolate and almonds, and what’s not to love?? It is also a very pretty candy, and is nicely shown off in glass mason jars! Top your jar with a cute and festive sticker, and you are ready to go! Everyone will be thrilled to receive a tasty treat made with love and compassion, and it will hardly cost a thing. This year, relieve some of your stress with this simple and sweet recipe that everyone will surely love. Happy holidays!

English Toffee {recipe}

Makes 12 - 1/2 pint jars

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15oz tub earth balance vegan butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c chopped almonds

METHOD

  1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, cook butter, sugar and salt until mixture reaches 300° F will be foamy and bubbly, stir often.

  2. Once it reaches 300°, take off heat and stir in vanilla until bubbles and foam subside.
  3. Quickly pour onto parchment lined cookie sheet, making sure mixture is even. 
  4. Let rest for a few minutes so toffee begins to harden.
  5. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the toffee. Allow to sit a few minutes for chips to melt.
  6. Spread and smooth chips to form a chocolate coating.
  7. Sprinkle almonds on while chocolate is still melted.
  8. Place in fridge or freezer to set.
  9. Once completely cool, use a butter knife and mallet to break toffee into bite size pieces. or use clean hands to break apart.

 

NOTE: Feel free to add in your favorite nuts to the toffee for a delicious nutty brittle.

 

EASY GIFT IDEA!

  1. Stack into 1/2 pint mason jars. (Makes 12)

  2. Print & cut labels (download here) place under ring, give as gifts!

 

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Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares

spinach squares

So let’s start by getting a few things out of the way:

-Phyllo dough is the devil. A flaky, delicious, pain-in-the-butt to work with yet oh-so-magical ingredient.

-Tempeh is weird, and can be very daunting. It has a strange bitterness, and an interesting, yet intriguing texture. We know it is a nutritional powerhouse, but what the heck do we do with it?!

-Turkey is not vegan. We will not be eating it, and therefore, we need a different main course for our Thanksgiving spread.

-Sometimes things are a bit labor intensive. Sometimes you must face the beast that is phyllo dough and take on the challenges of that illusive tempeh.

Why must we do these things? Because we want to have something on our table that is not trying to be turkey, but is a delicious main dish that is protein rich and tastes great smothered in gravy! Something special that we worked hard on..but something much easier on the poor turkeys.

This is what we have come up with.

Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares are here to grace your holiday table! Yes, it is a bit time consuming and tricky to layer and butter your phyllo dough, and there are a few different steps involved in the preparation of this dish, but it is a special occasion and we think it is worth it! We tried to put together a few different things as our main dish, but nothing was coming out how we wanted. We realized we were too focused on replicating a turkey dish, and what we needed was a completely different entree. We wanted something special that could hold its own as a main dish, and also went great with our mushroom gravy. We decided to use tempeh because it is very nutritionally dense and packed with protein. It is not something that we have much (actually..any) experience using, and we wanted something new! We tried this a few times, but the tempeh was bitter and flavors were off. After doing some research, we found that steaming (more like boiling) tempeh for a bit before using it releases some of the bitterness, softens the texture and allows it to absorb other flavors. This really seemed to help. Combined with the other flavors and textures, it is actually a rather delicious dish. It stands alone fine, but will be amazing smothered in rich mushroom gravy on our special day. We hope that this year you will opt to adopt a turkey instead of cook one, and celebrate their life with these tasty and cruelty-free Spinach Tempeh Squares!



Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares {recipe}

12 Squares

 

INGREDIENTS

Tempeh

  • 8oz tempeh

  • 2 TB soy sauce

  • ½ tsp liquid smoke

  • 2 TB olive oil

  • 2C veggie broth

Vegetable Mixture

  • 12 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped

  • ½ large onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1C)

  • 2 TB olive oil

  • salt & pepper to taste

Tofu Mixture

  • 1 14 oz package firm tofu (refrigerated)

  • 1 TB nutritional yeast

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 TB soy sauce

  • 1 TB miso

  • 2 TB lemon juice

  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning

  • 1 tsp granulated garlic

Phyllo Dough

  • 16 sheets phyllo dough (double check that it’s vegan)

  • 4 TB vegan butter

  • 2 TB olive oil

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.

  2. Chop tempeh in thin slices then into smaller pieces about 1” long. Bring veggie broth to a boil, add tempeh and let simmer for 20 minutes, covered. This step allows the tempeh to soften and release some of the bitterness by steaming it.

  3. Drain any excess broth, then mix tempeh in soy sauce and liquid smoke.

  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat and add 2 TB olive oil. Cook tempeh until browned and caramelized. It is ok if tempeh breaks apart. Set aside.

  5. Add 2 more TB of olive oil to pan, and add onions, garlic and celery. Sautee until onion and garlic are translucent, and celery begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

  6. Begin adding all your chopped spinach, and stirring until completely wilted. Stir in grated carrot. Season with salt and pepper.

  7. Once wilted, drain spinach mixture pressing as much water out as you can (using a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth works very well). Add to large mixing bowl.

  8. Blend all tofu filling ingredients in blender (if not high speed, use a food processor) Blend until smooth.

  9. Add in tempeh and blended tofu mixture to spinach and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed.

  10. Combine the 4 TB butter with 2 TB olive oil in a small dish.

  11. Use melted butter-oil mixture and a pastry brush and grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13” casserole dish. Carefully layering in 1 sheet phyllo dough. Make sure the dough comes up the sides, it will fold over the filling. Be sure to cover the unused dough with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.

  12. Brush layer gently with butter oil mixture and continue layering until you have 6-8 sheets on the bottom.

  13. Add spinach filling and spread evenly, and fold over dough onto mixture.

  14. Begin layering phyllo dough again, brushing with butter between each sheet. 6-8 more sheets.

  15. Trim any excess dough around the edges so it sits evenly in pan, or you can fold edges in to make an extra crust.

  16. Brush the top and edges lightly with butter/oil mixture.

  17. IMPORTANT: Score the top of the dough (cutting through the top layers) into 12 squares. Pastry will be crushed if cut after baking. Scoring beforehand allows squares to come out easily.

  18. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

  19. Allow to set for 15-20 minutes before cutting all the way through, this will allow the filling to set.

  20. Serve warm, and best enjoyed with our mushroom gravy on top!

 

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Pecan Pumpkin Torte

Pumpkin Torte

The holidays are nothing without our favorite desserts gracing our table. There are so many choices, and frankly, we want them all. This year we decided to come up with a special treat- one that covered all the bases in one fell swoop. We knew this dessert would be extremely decadent, and the perfect thing to satisfy even our mother’s sweet tooth (and that is no easy feat)! We started by combining all the things that we love- pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake and of course, chocolate. The pecan crust is chewy and sweet, but balances nicely with the lightly sweetened, silky smooth pumpkin filling. There is a thin layer of whiskey caramel in between to add a little something extra, and it is all topped with a delicious and simple chocolate ganache.

What is even better about this dessert is that it can be made ahead of time and kept in the freezer. You never have to bake it, just leave it out to defrost.

This is a very rich dessert, so we kept it somewhat thin. You only need a small slice, and it would be even better with your favorite whipped topping or even some vanilla ice cream. Now you don’t have to pick just one of your favorites to prepare for your holiday meal- you can have them all!

Pecan Pumpkin Torte {recipe}

9" torte, serves 10-12

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Crust

    • 8 oz unsalted, dry toasted pecans

    • 2 cups (about 40) pitted dates

    • ¼ tsp salt

    • 2 TB raw agave nectar

  • Whiskey Caramel

    • 1 c dates

    • 1 TB whiskey

    • ½ c hot water

    • ½ tsp vanilla

    • ¼ tsp salt

    • ½ cup raw pecan pieces

  • Pumpkin Cream Filling

    • 15 oz can pumpkin puree

    • 1 c cashews, raw unsalted

    • ¼ c coconut oil, refined

    • 4 TB maple syrup

    • 2 TB lemon juice

    • ¾ tsp cinnamon

    • ¼ tsp nutmeg

    • 2 pinches clove

    • ¼ tsp salt

    • ½ tsp vanilla

  • Chocolate Ganache

    • ¼ c almond milk

    • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)

    • 1 TB vegan butter

 

METHOD

  1. In a food processor, combine crust ingredients and pulse until a sticky dough forms.

  2. Press crust into 9” springform pan with about ½ inch up the side (to contain caramel).

  3. In a blender, combine all whiskey caramel ingredients, except pecans and process until smooth.

  4. Pour over crust and spread, then sprinkle with ½ c raw pecans.

  5. In blender combine all Pumpkin Cream ingredients and blend until smooth (might need to use tamper to get the mixture going).

  6. Pour over caramel and pecan layer.

  7. Place in freezer for about an hour before adding chocolate top.

  8. Heat almond milk in a small sauce pot over medium heat, until hot. Then add chocolate chips and whisk constantly until smooth and melted.

  9. Then whisk in 1 TB butter until glossy.

  10. Pour melted chocolate over the top and spread.

  11. Place back in freezer for several hours until set.

NOTE: Best served after it sits out for 30 minutes to soften.

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Warm Brussel Sprout Salad

brussel salad

Brussel sprouts get a bad rap. They are always used as an example of a gross vegetable that kids hate, or that you move around on the plate to give the illusion of consumption. They are not something to enjoy- rather something that is forced upon children as some strange form of torture.

Well NOT ANYMORE! We love brussel sprouts, and we want YOU to love them, too! They are incredibly good for you, and can be prepared in many delicious ways. They are rather hearty and to us, just scream “FALL”. Combined with a few other seasonal fruits and toasted hazelnuts, we created a lovely warm Fall salad sure to change the minds of brussel sprout haters everywhere.

We also really wanted to utilize another Fall favorite- the persimmon. Our grandmother has a huge fuyu persimmon tree in her backyard, so we have been munching these candy-like fruits every fall for as long as we can remember. They are incredibly sweet, and are a bright, vibrant orange color. The addition of some pomegranate seeds, with their acidic flavor and deep crimson color allows for a very nice balance in taste, texture and appearance.

This dish is extremely quick and easy to put together, and is very aesthetically pleasing. It would make a great addition to a beautiful table spread. We recommend using the dressing at room temperature so it does not cool the salad, although it tastes great either way. Be prepared to show your family and friends how delicious brussel sprouts can be. They won’t even realize how healthy this salad is as they come back for seconds!

 

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad {recipe}

Serves 6-8

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Dressing

    • 3 TB lemon juice

    • 3 TB olive oil

    • 1 medium shallot, finely minced

    • 1 TB parsley, finely minced

    • 1 tsp whole grain mustard

    • 1 TB red wine vinegar

    • 1 TB balsamic vinegar

    • 1 tsp agave

    • ½ tsp miso

    • 1 TB nutritional yeast

    • ⅛ tsp salt

    • ⅛ tsp pepper

  • 1 Fuyu Persimmon, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)

  • ¼ c pomegranate seeds

  • ¼ c toasted hazelnuts, chopped

  • 12 oz shredded brussel sprouts

  • 3 TB olive oil

  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

METHOD

  1. Blend all dressing ingredients together until smooth.

  2. Heat medium saute pan over medium high heat and add oil.

  3. Sauteé brussel sprouts until slightly golden on edges, 3-5 min.

  4. Add about ⅔ of the dressing, and combine.

  5. Remove from heat and add persimmon, pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts.

  6. Can use remaining dressing as needed.

NOTE: Be sure to use fuyu persimmons, not hachiya. The fuyu’s are much harder and crunchy, and the hachiya is much softer and better for baking. Fuyu’s can be eaten just like an apple, and you can even eat the middle! The skins are also ok for eating, although we recommend peeling them for this recipe.

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Grandma's Italian Sausage Stuffing

stuffing

We are traditionalists. We really are. We grew up on a lot of foods that do not fit our current dietary (and moral) compass. The fact of the matter is that we like these foods. We like the taste, texture and memories associated with them. We love our family and our family loves food! As with most people, this includes meat, which creates a bit of a quandary for many vegans. Making the choice to not use any animal products is not equivalent to giving up everything delicious. It means eating the foods you love in a cruelty free and compassionate way. It is also almost always MUCH healthier than the dairy/meat/egg counterpart.

Vegans who eat meat-like foods will, without a doubt, be criticized for this decision at one point or another by a self-righteous “I don’t eat animals, why would I eat something that looks and tastes like animal flesh” vegan, or an indignant omnivore who wants to make you feel like a hypocrite for eating things resembling chicken fingers or deli slices.

Our opinion on the matter: we eat what we like, we eat what tastes good, and we eat what is familiar. If no animals lost their lives for our meal, then there is no harm in us eating it. It is unfortunate that there is so much negativity surrounding these products, when they should be viewed as a wonderful alternative for those of us who, at one point, actually ENJOYED eating meat!

When we were putting together our menu for Thanksgiving, we had to make some decisions about our dinner. Were we going to go a completely different route than the meal we grew up on? Are we going to keep it as familiar as we could? There were a few things that we were ok with changing, and a few others that we wanted to be the same.

We have chosen to veganize our family recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing, which has been passed down from our great-grandmother Ida. The original recipe features about 3.5 lbs of hamburger and pork sausage, 10 eggs, parmesan cheese and a few other ingredients that needed changing. It also made enough to go into a 20lb turkey, so we had to tone down the volume as well.

The sausage is what makes this stuffing delicious. There is almost equal parts meat to bread, so it really is a main ingredient. We thought of our favorite sausage alternative that cooks into large crumbles very well, which is Gimme Lean Breakfast Sausage. We doctored it up to turn it into an Italian sausage, and it worked out perfectly as our meat! If “meaty” dishes are not something you are a fan of, this may not be the stuffing recipe for you, but it really is delicious and filling..just like grandma used to make!

 

Grandma’s Italian Sausage Stuffing {recipe}

This is a big recipe -  2 9x13 casserole dishes, one for dinner, one for leftovers =)

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Sausage

    • 2 14oz pkg Gimme Lean Breakfast sausage

    • 3 TB red wine vinegar

    • 2 TB olive oil

    • 1 TB granulated garlic

    • 1TB granulated onion

    • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

    • 1 tsp dried basil

    • 1 tsp dried oregano

    • ½ tsp dried thyme

    • 1 tsp ground sage

    • 1 TB coconut sugar

    • ½ tsp salt

    • 1 TB paprika

  • 1 ½ large onions, diced

  • 5 stalks celery, diced

  • 1 can chopped water chestnuts

  • 1 6oz. bag baby spinach

  • ½ c fresh parsley, chopped

  • 1 TB poultry seasoning

  • 2 TB olive oil

  • 2 c vegan “chicken” broth

  • 2 bags seasoned stuffing croutons

  • 1 tsp vegan butter

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350º (unless baking the next day).

  2. Prepare sausage by combining all dry sausage seasonings, and adding them along with the red wine vinegar to the meat. Use hands to combine thoroughly. Will be sticky!

  3. In a large non-stick soup pot heat 2 TB olive oil over med-high heat. Saute the sausage mixture until browned, breaking up into smaller pieces, about the size of marbles.

  4. Once browned remove to a bowl and using the same pot, heat 2 more TB olive oil and saute onions, celery and garlic over medium heat until veggies start to turn translucent, 5-10 minutes.

  5. Add parsley and chopped spinach and cook for 1-2 more minutes until greens are wilted.

  6. Add meat back in and stir to combine.

  7. In an extra large mixing bowl (this makes enough for 2 9x13 dishes) add one bag of croutons and half the meat mixture. Stir to combine.

  8. Add second bag of croutons and rest of mixture, stir to combine.

  9. Then add broth slowly to soften croutons, continuously mixing. We found it easiest to use clean hands.

  10. Let sit for 30 min to an hour.

  11. Butter 2 9x13 casserole dishes with ½ tsp butter in each. Pack in stuffing and Bake for 30 minutes, until top is crunchy.

 

NOTE: This is best if made the night before and rests overnight in the fridge to completely soften all the croutons. Can even be made up to 3 days in advance for convenience and stored in ziploc bags until ready to bake.

 

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