Ideas for a Soy-Free Vegan Lasagna? My Answer.

I recently received this email from a blog reader,

"Hi Kathy,
I recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying all of your awesome recipes. I made your spelt biscuits for Thanksgiving and they were a HUGE hit - so thanks! I am a vegan and am trying to put together a hearty Christmas menu for my meat-eating parents. We traditionally have lasagna but having recently cut out all dairy and soy from my diet am looking for a flavorful vegan recipe that is soy-free (no tempeh, seitan or fake / veggie meats either) to prepare for them. I have found the recipes you have on your blog - but they either have tofu, cheese or are raw (a little too radical for my fam). Just wondering if you have any other recipes you could share or even a suggestion for what I could use to replace the tofu...I would really appreciate it!!
Thanks so, so much. Hope you had a very happy holiday!
Best, Lisa"

Here's my answer...

Hi Lisa,

That is a great question!
I feel like I have been making tofu-based lasagna in place of traditional meat-lasagna, for years now. And sometimes it almost feels outdated! Though I must admit I still love it. But it's easy to forget that the true stars of any vegan recipe are the high quality veggies! And thus, I give you my answer... I have three easy solutions for your soy-free vegan 'holiday special' lasagna:

1) Replace the tofu/cheese with a nut-based basil pesto. A very hearty ingredient to add to lasagna is my pine nut (or walnut) pesto. It is incredibly dense, almost like ricotta cheese, and could easily take the place of both cheese and tofu. My layers would go like this: Noodles, marinara sauce, pesto, hearty EVOO/garlic-sauteed veggies (like zucchini/spinach/mushrooms/more ideas below), then repeat those layers. Plenty of veggies will fill the tofu-void, and a thin layering of pesto will fill the cheese-void. There is no need for cheese or tofu when you use pine nut or walnut based pesto sauce as the 'thick and dense' filling portion of your lasagna.

2) Straight-Up Mushroom Lasagna.
Mushrooms are an incredibly flavorful and filling ingredient to add to pasta dishes, and by choosing 'hearty' varieties of mushrooms - like portobella, shiitake, chanterelle, bluefoot, hen of the woods and baby bella's (instead of simple white button shrooms) you will easily be able to create a satisfying yet flavorful lasagna. You can even keep this really simple and do your layers like this: noodles, sauce, mushrooms, noodles, sauce, mushrooms. Super simple, yet delicious. I'd add in a nice amount of fresh basil, oregano and garlic to give your lasagna a perky Italian flavor. *Yes, chanterelle mushrooms are expensive, but for a special occasion they are well worth it.*
Tip: Add gourmet chanterelle mushrooms to your lasagna and no one will miss the vegan cheese or tofu:

3) Potato Innovation. Another tip is to replace the cheese layer of your lasagna with a mashed potato layer. (You can also use a puree of parsnip or butternut squash). It might sound a bit odd, but some folks love it! Simply add a layer of garlic mashed white, sweet or red potatoes to your lasagna. A very thin layer on the bottom of the lasagna will do the trick. If that idea is too oddball for you, simply stick with a nice smorgasbord of mixed hearty veggies (spinach, mushrooms, fennel, kale, onions, zucchini, roasted peppers, olives, tomatoes, peas, asparagus and broccoli)...and your vegan, soy-free, dairy-free lasagna should be a hit.

...Veggies always save the day.

You can find my spicy pesto recipe here.
*to make it soy free, simply leave out the vegan parm cheese, it will be delicious without it.*

Hope that helps, and I'm so glad the spelt biscuits were a hit - my guests enjoyed the spelt biscuits I made too!


UPDATE: Received this idea from a tweeter: "From @Planithealthier: "I would make a soy-free lasagna with layers of garlic-basil white bean puree. Tahini on top bubbles like melted cheese."

...Great idea!!

Noodles, Veggies and good Marinara Sauce = delicious lasagna.

Gourmet Mixed Mushrooms will perk up any soy-free vegan lasagna:

A layer of sauteed zucchini is a delicious addition to a vegan lasagna:


Dr. Cow Tree Nut Raw Vegan Cheese. Aged. Gourmet.

A special purchase I made for my Vegan Thanksgiving Feast 2009 was the Dr.Cow Tree Nut Cheese 6 cheese sampler pack. It was the only item at my feast that I 'outsourced'. The pack included 5 aged cheeses plus one cream cheese. So what did my guests and I think of this gourmet vegan treat? What did the dairy cheese lovers have to say? Find out in my full product review...

Dr. Cow Discovery. I first tasted Dr.Cow cheese when I went to Pure Food and Wine restaurant in NYC for Valentine's Day Dinner last year. The salad had little balls of Dr. Cow Cashew Nut cheese in it. I was like, "what is that?!" omg. It was the taste of cheese without the dairy. I hadn't experienced those types of gourmet cheese flavors in about ten years. So my discovery was one that I would not let die. I had to find out who made the cheese and how I could get some myself. I later found that PFW uses Dr.Cow cheese, so my further research (and taste testing) began...

Product Review: Dr. Cow Tree Nut Raw Vegan Cheese
*6 cheese sampler pack

Shelf Appeal: I ordered my sampler pack directly from the Dr.Cow website, so the overnight shipping and cold-box packing is included. The cheeses arrived nicely wrapped in a sort of wax paper and plastic wrap. They do not expire until Jan 2010, so I was pleased about that. Leftovers for me! Each cheese is nicely shaped into a little cheese round shape. And a little bite goes a long way, so the size for each cheese is appropriate to the flavor intensity.

Label Check: I was pleased to see the only ingredients in each of the cheeses were tree nuts, pink salt and acidophilus - plus any additional flavors like hemp seeds or algae. Here is the nutrition info for one of my favorite cheeses in the pack (from the Dr.Cow website and my cheese packaging):

"Aged cashew & Crystal Manna Algae Cheese-Is sea-foam or light-blue in color, aged for 3 months, and made from organic raw cashew nuts with Crystal Manna flakes. Made with absolutely no preservatives, stabilizers, artificial ingredients or additives of any kind. Firm, mellow with a hint of tang, you can smear on crackers or vegetables. 100% dairy free, no gluten, no casein, no soy and lactose free, 100% organic and vegan!
Ingredients: Cashew nuts, acidophilus, blue green algae & himalayan pink salt.
One wheel Net Weight 2.5 ounces / 70 grams. –

...Continued on the Dr.Cow website for those who want more info. But overall, nutrition label approved. Good stuff, aka raw nuts and acidophilus, in these raw vegan gourmet cheeses. And obviously, if you've ever tasted this product, you'll know that one serving of this stuff is about a tsp of cheese. It's so incredibly flavorful and pungent that even a dime-sized strip does the trick. Less is more. But like I said, you have to taste it first to be able to judge and to believe this delicious flavor.

So pleased that the wonderful 'cheese-makers' over at Dr. Cow provided me with this nutritional info for the cream cheese, cashew based. He said the info would be about the same for the various cheese flavors. And just think, my 8 guests only went through 2 cheese rounds and we were filled to the brim with tree nut cheese goodness. That's only 80 calories per person. We were all convinced that we had nearly done ourselves in on cheese. I guess not.
Lets compare nutrition info of a few "cheeses":
28g serving sizes
Gruyere Dairy Cheese:
116 calories, 9g fat, 5g saturated fat, 10% RDA chol.
Brie Dairy Cheese:
94 calories, 8g fat, 5g sat fat, 9% RDA chol.
Cheddar Dairy Cheese:
113 calories, 9g fat, 6g sat fat, 10% RDA chol.
Cream Cheese, Dairy-based:
96 calories, 10g fat, 5g sat fat, 10% RDA chol. 2g protein
Dr. Cow Cashew Nut Cream Cheese:
80 calories, 7g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 0% RDA chol. 3 gram protein
*best fact of all: Dr. Cow's is 100% animal-product free, cruelty-free*

Taste Test: Well I pretty much already knew that I loved Dr.Cow cheeses. But I had not tried all the flavors yet. I was thrilled and delighted in the different gourmet tastes and textures of the various cheeses. My favorites are the cashew/hemp seed and the green algae cheese. It is a beautiful aqua green color. Love it! But how did these cheeses go over with my non-vegan guests??? Well one of my guests had recently given up dairy and was craving cheese like never before. She couldn't get enough of the Dr.Cow cheese. She raved about the gourmet taste and texture. Everyone raved. Everyone was impressed by the cheese-like flavors. "Does this have cheese in it?" ...was my favorite question. Sigh. The taste consensus: Most of the non-veg guests hovered over the cheese plate with wide eyes and full mouths, whispering "OMG. This cheese is so good."

Price Check: Dr. Cow cheese rounds can be bought individually online for around $7-$12. The 6 cheese pack that I purchased was $75. Though it included shipping and packing. It arrived to my house in just over one business day. I looked at other online stores to purchase the cheese, but factoring in their shipping/ice packing costs- I found that ordering directly from Dr.Cow was the way to go. (Unless you are only buying one or two cheeses, then you'll have to choose another vendor.) Vendor info is all on the Dr.Cow website. $75 might seem like a huge price tag, but not if you compare it to traditional dairy-based aged cheeses. Yes it's a splurge, but for a special event I say it is well worth it. Plus, these little cheeses go a long way. All you need is a dime-sized sliver to get the flavor.

Final Word:
This is gourmet high quality cheese. Period. (Minus the 'bad dairy cheese' stuff and plus some 'good tree nut cheese' stuff.) Everyone needs to try this cheese at least once.

More info at the Dr.Cow Website.

More cheese photos:


Thanksgiving Leftovers: the after party. Ten Recipe Ideas.

So your Thanksgiving feast was a hit and now you're fine tuned recipes are sitting lonely in your fridge, just begging for some post-party attention. Here are ten of my favorite Thanksgiving Leftovers ideas and recipes. I love a good 'after party'...

"What do I do with my Thanksgiving leftovers?" Simply zapping them in the microwave is such a bore.

Here are ten vegan Thanksgiving leftovers recipes and ideas...

1. Cranberry-Soy Sauce Tofu
I posted this delicious recipe this morning. I actually used this tofu recipe as my main protein for my Thanksgiving feast, but it makes a perfect after-party leftovers dish as well. Cooking the cranberry sauce tones down the sweet-tartness a bit and the mellow flavor is perfect for your worn-out after-party palate.

2. Sweet Potato Mash
Leftover sweet potatoes? Yes! Make my famous sweet potato mash. You'll add in some garlic hummus (maybe from a leftover appetizer dip) and some chopped parsley (also maybe a leftover.) This mash is a perfect snazified side dish, or you can use it in my Sweet Potato Pockets recipe below...

3. Sweet 'n Sassy Sweet Potato Pockets
I love this recipe. I used to make it every year for Thanksgiving, but now it has become an after party leftovers favorite. It utilizes a few of your leftovers: sweet potatoes, leftover veggies and cranberry sauce.

4. Spicy Potato Soup
If you're like me and have a lot of leftover potatoes (mashed, au gratin or even baked, you can easily blend them into a spicy, creamy potato soup. Simply blend in a high speed blender with a bit of veggie broth, soy milk and/or creamer, a few added spices and a side of leftover crusty rolls and you have an amazing potato soup perfect for these cooler fall nights. I like to add black pepper, cayenne and fresh ginger for "soup-er" spiciness!

5. Cranberry Sauce Muffins
Mornings are no place for stuffing and leftover tofu, but grab a warm zesty cranberry muffin and everything will be OK. Hot chai on the side and you are set. Simply make your favorite muffin recipe and fold in about a 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce as the last step. You can even fold in some chopped pecans for texture and added flavor.

6. Gravy Smothered Seitan
Seitan tastes delicious marinated in a creamy brown or wine sauce. So why not utilize the leftover veggie gravy you may have and bake up some warm seitan. Simply smother the seitan in your leftover gravy and marinate for as long as you can (overnight is best.) Then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Or you can saute on the stovetop if you'd like.

7. Leftover Tangerine Juice
This is a refreshing idea as yes it tastes really yummy. And it's super healthy. Take your leftover tangerines and leftover parsley and juice them (juicer required) into a delicious parsley-tangerine morning juice. What a great way to wake up your palate and hydrate in the AM.

8. Tofurky and Mustard
Though I haven't made a Tofurky for a few years, I remember how much I loved the combination of leftover Tofurky and mustard. Mustard is not exactly a Thanksgiving Day condiment, but the day after, whip out the rustic, spicy or dijon mustard for a delicious sandwich: Tofurky, mustard and maybe a few fresh arugula greens. Grind in some black pepper too.

9. Centerpiece Fruit Salad
Fuyu persimmons, satsuma tangerines, bosc pears, pomegranates and honeycrisp apples made up my fruit bowl on Thanksgiving. It just looked so pretty. Pretty enough to eat! Now that the feast is over, you can certainly made a delicious fall fruit salad from your festive and decorative leftover fruit.

10. Creative cocoa with Rice Whip
You may have some leftover rice whip (even if the perfect pumpkin cheesecake pie has been gobbled up). So why not make some crafty creative cocoa and top it with creamy cool rice whip. Spicy cocoa? Add cayenne. Fall cocoa? Add cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Vanilla cocoa? Add some vanilla sugar sprinkles or a tinge of vanilla extract. Dark cocoa? Add some melted dark chocolate chunks. Rice whip on cocoa is a festive dessert treat for these cold seasonal nights.


Leftover Cranberry-Soy Sauce Tofu. Sticky Sweet.

Looking for a creative and delicious way to use all that leftover cranberry sauce? This recipe is sticky sweet and mellows out the tart cranberries into a gooey sauce for perfectly savory-sweet braised tofu steaks. My recipe for Cranberry-Soy Sauce Sticky Sweet Tofu Steaks was actually a last minute addition to my Thanksgiving menu. It was a huge hit! They turned out better than I expected. The natural pectin in the cranberries and the sticky thickness of the brown sugar created an unexpected sauce for the tofu. The end result is reminiscent of a sticky sweet BBQ sauce. The combination of tart cranberries, rich brown sugar and savory soy sauce make the thinly sliced firm tofu steaks sing with flavor. This is a must try recipe-even if you think you hate tofu! Get my recipe...

Last Minute Creation. Here was my update that I posted in my perfect proteins recipes the day before Thanksgiving: "I just tested out an amazing braising liquid/marinade for firm tofu. It's a combination of fresh made cranberry sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, pepper and poultry seasoning. For 1 block of extra firm tofu: pat tofu super-dry. Cut into thin slices and marinade in 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup fresh cranberry sauce, 1 Tbsp poultry seasoning, 1/2 cup brown sugar, dash of vinegar, squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a tsp of black pepper. If you need more liquid, add in a 1/4 cup of apple cider or cranberry juice. Let soak overnight and simply saute in a tsp of olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the marinade liquid (add more marinade to pan as you saute the entire batch of tofu squares). I think I am going to use these cran-soy tofu cubes in a fillo-wrapped stuffing and tofu purse as my main entree. I love the soy-cranberry-brown sugar-poultry seasoning flavors so much! Test a little batch and see what you think."

So here is the formal refined recipe...

Leftover Cranberry-Soy Sauce Sticky Sweet Tofu Steaks

1 block (14 oz.) extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2" thick squares
1/2 cup leftover whole berry cranberry sauce.
*works best with homemade cranberry sauce that is less firm that 'canned'
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
dash of salt
3 Tbsp olive oil (for braising in pan)


1. Remove your block of tofu, pat dry with a few paper towels.

2. Slice your tofu into 1/2" thick strips. Squares work best.

3. Make your marinade by combining all the ingredients (except for the oil which is for sauteing the tofu later) in a lidded bowl. Note: If you are nut using a 'more liquid' cranberry sauce, heat in the microwave for minute until your cranberry sauce can be scooped with a spoon-into a oatmeal like consistency. A firm block of cranberry sauce won't be able to penetrate into the tofu.

4. Add the tofu. Squeeze the tofu a bit into the marinade and be sure to coat all side of the tofu in marinade. After you have added all the tofu squares, place the lid firmly on and shake the bowl a bit to swish around the sauce.

5. Place in the fridge and let marinate for at least one day. Mine marinated for 2 days and was perfect.

6. After the marination process is done, remove tofu from fridge. Heat your oil in a skillet, and when it is hot and sizzling, start adding in your tofu squares. Pour about 2 Tbsp of the marinade in with the tofu. Let the sizzle in the oil/marinade for a few minutes. Flip tofu. The bottom should have turned a dark brown color with nice rimmed char marks.

&. Next, add in about 1/2 cup more of the marinade liquid. This will braise the tofu steaks and you will watch as the marinade firms up to become a sticky sauce. If you want even more caramelized tofu-add a few more sprinkles of brown sugar.

7. Saute the tofu in the skillet until all the liquid has turned 'sticky' and almost black. You can add as much of the marinade as you'd like. Don't sog up the cooking tofu, but make sure it is still moist and tender.

8. Place on a plate to cool and firm up a bit before serving. I stuffed mine into vegan fillo purses. It was fillo, stuffing and tofu. Yum! You can also eat these plain, on top of a green salad or place in sandwiches.


Happy Thanksgiving 2009!

Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, happy and yummy Thanksgiving!!!

Best, Kathy


Best Vegan Restaurants. Thanksgiving Menus 2009.

You've already seen my Thanksgiving 2009 menu and hopefully you've been following my Thanksgiving series with recipes from appetizers to desserts. Complete series links here. Hopefully my recipes and menu has brought you a little inspiration.

Can I See a Menu?
I love perusing menus. Menus provide culinary inspiration for new ingredients, flavors and trends. Highlights from the menus below include dishes like: Porcini Dusted Tofu, Jerusalem Artichoke Butternut Squash with cinnamon foam, Grilled lemon-rosemary seitan and coconut yams. Yum! Want more? Check out the Thanksgiving 2009 vegan restaurant menu highlights, from all over the USA...

Restaurant Thanksgiving Menus 2009

Blossom Restaurant NYC
Thanksgiving Menu 2009
*Three courses, prixe fix.

First Course
*Candied Yam Ravioli, whipped maple-sage butter
*Roasted Salsify Soup, Rosemary croutons, Lemon oil
*Beet Salad, Mache, Baby Arugula, Blood Orange, Thyme

Second Course
*Pecan Crusted Seitan, Seasonal Greens, Homestyle Stuffing, Port – braised
Cranberries, Pan Gravy
*Butternut Risotto Croquettes, Sauteéd Bitter Greens, Golden Beet Relish, Toasted Almond Cream
*Porcini Dusted Tofu, Parsnip Puree, Roasted Baby Vegetables, truffle oil, micro greens

*Pumpkin Cheesecake
*Pecan Pie
*Chocolate Pear Mousse

Candle 79 NYC
Thanksgiving Menu 2009
*Three courses, prixe fix. $52.

*Jerusalem Artichoke Butternut Squash with cinnamon foam

*Risotto with mushrooms & butternut squash sauce
*Grilled Artichoke with trumpet royal mushrooms, celeriac puree & balsamic reduction *Yucca Cake with tofu cashew cheese, roasted shallots & red pepper coulis

*Arugula Salad with local pears, roasted baby turnips, almond-pumpkin cheese, pomegranate & cranberry dressing
*Wild Rice & Squash Salad with local lettuce, apples, toasted almonds, grilled fennel & ginger-pumpkin dressing

*Butternut Squash Ravioli with sautéed shallots, cashew cream, crispy sage & rosemary oil
*Rosemary Crusted Tempeh Cake with roasted maple dijon squash,
sautéed broccolini, cranberry-tart cherry relish & roasted vegetable gravy
*Pomegranate Grilled Tofu with cornbread stuffing, sweet potato purée, sautéed haricots verts amandine & roasted vegetable gravy
*Pumpkin Grilled Seitan with roasted shallot-potato mash, sautéed brussels sprouts, cranberry-tart cherry relish & marsala-pumpkin sauce
*Harvest Plate (choose 4) pomegranate grilled tofu · rosemary crusted tempeh sweet potato purée · broccollini · brussels sprouts · cornbread stuffing · haricots verts amandine roasted maple dijon squash · roasted shallot-potato mash (Harvest Plate served with cranberry-tart cherry relish & roasted vegetable gravy)

*PUMPKIN BUNDT CAKE with lavender frosting
*APPLE-CRANBERRY CRUMB PIE with vanilla ice cream
*PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE with vanilla cream
*SWEET POTATO PIE with cinnamon ice cream

Millennium, San Francisco
Thanksgiving Supper 2009
5 course prix fixe, $60/person, $30/child under 12

Last year's menu highlights:
house-made walnut bread, caramelized onion-pumpkin butter, roasted chestnuts, winter squash, maple-pecan sweet potato pie, cranberry-apple relish, barley-wild rice risotto, cranberry beans, exotic mushrooms, truffled potato custard, porcini mushroom gravy, pumpkin cream pie, gingerbread ice cream & butterscotch.

Madeleine Bistro
, Los Angeles
Thanksgiving Day Brunch 2009
4 course prix fixe, $50 per person.

First Course
Butternut squash bisque

Second Course
Classic Caesar salad with rustic biscuit

Main Course
Rustic mashed potatoes, pan gravy, coconut yams, pan-roasted vegetables, and cranberry sauce, served with the following:

Choice of:
Grilled lemon-rosemary seitan, chicken-fried seitan, or braised tempeh
Choice of: Sourdough-sage stuffing or wheat-free, quinoa & herb stuffing

Dessert Course
Holiday pie trio

Sublime Restaurant, Miami
Thanksgiving Dinner 2009
prix fixe, $45/pp, $25/child portion (under 12)

Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque, Waldorf Salad
Choice of: Gardein "Turkey" or Wild Mushroom Stroganoff

Pumpkin "Cheesecake."

GOBO Restauarant
Thanksgiving Specials 2009
Featuring "house-made stuffing wrapped in soy sheets, crisply baked with fresh thyme and accompanied by three-mushroom gravy and roasted autumn vegetables" and "gourmet vegan pumpkin-spiced ice cream, topped with crushed, candied walnuts"

Pure Food and Wine, One Lucky Duck Takeaway, NYC

Marinated Portabella and Wild Mushrooms (pint)
Pecan and Herb Stuffing (pint)
Cranberry Sauce (half pint)
Sauteed Brussel Sprouts (pint)
Celariac Mash (pint)

Whole Pumpkin Pie (9 inch)
Apple Crisp (9 inch)
Vanilla Cream (pint)
Vanilla Ice Cream (pint)


Double Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie. Vegan!

Here's a last minute, super easy Thanksgiving dessert recipe that I felt compelled to share with you all. I made this Double Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie today in honor of the pumpkin-pie haters at my Thanksgiving feast. Yes, sadly the anti-pumpkin folks do exist. I had planned on making a creamy chocolate mousse parfait, but then while perusing Whole Foods, I found an amazing chocolate pie crust from Wholly Wholesome brand and I knew what had to be done. Vegan Chocolate Pie! Get it...

Chocolate Craving. OK, don't judge, but I'm actually not a huge chocolate fan. I'm more a vanilla bean girl. But my husband loves chocolate. Dark chocolate. The darker, the better. Milk chocolate won't do it for him. He likes the 80% cocoa bars. 90% is even better. For Thanksgiving he wanted a chocolate dessert. So in honor of his request for a vegan chocolate dessert, "something like a flourless cake" (you know the non-vegan totally sinful kind at fancy restaurants) - I decided to craft him a dark chocolate dessert that was 'dark enough' yet still fluffy and light.

Fluffy Tofu. Silken tofu adds a nice fluffiness to pudding pies. But if you don't want a 'fluffy' bite, substitute vegan cream cheese for the tofu. Or you can even blend an extra handful of raw cashews in place of the tofu. Both cashews and tofu are texture builders for vegan pies. But, I adore the souffle-like quality the healthy silken tofu gives this pie.

Heat. Blend. Pour. Bake. This is a pretty simple pie to whip up in a under an hour (and that includes the cooking time). With a base of simple vegan chocolate pudding, you can add your own flavor accents like cinnamon or espresso, texture enhancers like cashews, and even add-ins like melted chocolate for a richness to satisfy even the deepest of chocolate cravings. Rice whip on top is the perfect touch to this decadent chocolate dessert.

Double Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie
vegan, makes one pie

1 package Dr Oetker's Chocolate pudding mix
2 cups soy milk
1.5 oz. extra dark chocolate vegan chocolate bar
*I used Newman's Own extra dark chocolate
1 cup silken tofu
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp espresso (optional)
3-4 Tbsp raw cashews
1 chocolate graham pie crust
*Wholly Wholesome brand
garnish: dark chocolate bits


1. Heat the soy milk, salt, sugar, pudding mix, arrowroot powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon and cocoa powder over stove.

2. Stir mixture constantly until it bubbles and thickens.

3. Add silken tofu. Continue stirring. your mixture will be quite lumpy now.

4. Crumble in your chocolate bar. Remember to reserve a few chunks for garnish.

5. Stir until the chocolate has melted into the mixture. Remove from heat.

6. carefully transfer mixture to a high speed blender. Add in the espresso and cashews. Blend until perfectly smooth.

7. Pour mixture into your chocolate pie shell. Decorate with your chocolate chunk garnish.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

9. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Serve with a swirl of cool creamy rice whip on top.

Notes and Modifications:
*If you don't have a Wholly Wholesome pie crust, you can crumble vegan chocolate cookies or grahams into a pie dish. Use a food processor to crunch your crackers/cookies to get that smooth crust crunch.
*If you want a more decadent pie, replace half the soy milk with soy creamer.
*If you want a lighter pie, remove the melted chocolate and add another scoop of cocoa powder.
*Smores pie-add in a few vegan marshmallows before baking, smush them into the pie filling.
*Spicy Cocoa Pie- add in some cayenne for a spicy kick to your choco pie.
*Hemp milk instead of soy will create a unique choco-hemp pie.
*Swirl in some almond or peanut butter for a nutty twist.
*For a no bake pie, remove the tofu, add another Tbsp of arrowroot powder, reduce the milk by a 1/4 cup, and simply stick the pie in the fridge to firm up after your stovetop cooking and blender blending.


My Thanksgiving Menu: Vegan Feast 2009.

You've seen a yummy smorgasbord of my Vegan Thanksgiving recipes over the past few weeks, but now the real work begins! The first step to achieving your perfect feast is menu planning.

Project: Menu. Crafting a delicious, diverse and elegant menu is a fun project that requires analysis, inspiration and a sprinkle of heart. Designing a menu is like putting together a puzzle with too many pieces. You have all the parts, but you also have to know when to edit. You must decide which recipes end up on the chopping-block floor. Double check on any food allergies or special diets. Also consider how many guests to expect and how casual or formal you want your feast to be. Here is my personal menu, shopping list and cooking schedule for Thanksgiving 2009...

***11/24 Update: Made my first and hopefully last menu change: the seitan is OUT and a new tofu dish is IN! Cranberry-Soy Braised Tofu Steaks, to go inside my stuffing fillo purses. The stuffing will sit on top of these braised tofu steaks. See a recipe quip of my new main dish in the main dish proteins post. It is towards the beginning, sorry I do not have a image...yet!)***

...that's the easy part, now onto the ingredients list:

Kathy's Thanksgiving Feast 2009-Shopping List Ingredients
*This is a quick overview of ingredients needed per menu section-always double check the actual recipe for your own needed ingredients*

Dr.Cow Raw Tree Nut Cheese Tasting
Perfect Butternut Squash Dip
Radishes w/ Butter and Peas Shoots
Arugula-Wrapped 'Sausage' Bites w/ Rustic Mustard
Veggie Crudite, Grain Crackers, Crostini Bread
Ingredients: cheese (ordered online), squash, garlic hummus, maple syrup, dried orange peel, soy creamer, sea salt, pepper, sage, radishes, grain crackers, vegan buttery spread, pea shoots, Field Roast Sausage (2 flavors), arugula lettuce, whole grain mustard, celery, stem carrots

Fresh Pressed Pear-Ginger Shooters
Pomegranate & Satsuma Mandarin Bellini Bar
water/wine/juice ~ chai/cocoa/tea/espresso
Ingredients: bosc pears, fresh ginger, satsuma mandarin oranges, prosecco, sparkling water, tea, cocoa, soy milk, chai concentrate

Citrus Cranberry Sauce
Preserved Lemon Roasted Fennel
Citrus Sage Roasted Butternut Squash
Hearty Herb Roasted Forrest Mushrooms
Vegan Marshmallow Candied Sweet Potatoes
Arugula w/ Preserved Lemon-Macadamia Oil Dressing
Red Wine Marinated Seitan w/ Mushroom Shallot Gravy
Apple Sage 'Sausage' Chestnut Stuffing Fillo Purse
Tempeh ‘Bacon’ Shiitake Jalapeno Stuffing
Triple Spiced Potatoes Au Gratin
Cracked Pepper Spelt Biscuits
Golden Orchard Quinoa
'Buttered' Peas
Ingredients: whole fresh cranberries, vegan sugar, satsuma mandarins, tangerines, fennel bulb, preserved lemon (in fridge), EVOO, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, pepper, fresh sage, fresh cubed butternut squash, fresh rosemary, thyme, mixed forest mushrooms, sweet potatoes, vegan marshmallows, vegan buttery spread, arugula, macadamia oil, red wine, soy sauce, seitan, shallots, vegetable broth, maple syrup, panko bread crumbs, tempeh, liquid smoke, shiitake mushrooms, jalapeno, day-old bread cubes (whole wheat), celery, yellow onions, parsley, agave syrup, cumin powder, poultry seasoning, dried cranberries, pistachios, pecans, cashews, walnuts, vegan fillo dough, trio of white potatoes, fresh ginger, paprika, cayenne, soy milk, sour cream, arrowroot, vegenaise, garlic powder, vegan white cheese, coconut oil, spelt flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, black pepper-thick, quinoa, fuyu persimmons, cinnamon spice blend, fresh or frozen peas, sugar pumpkin-whole, apple cider

100% Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Rice Cream Whip
Low Fat Pear Pecan Right-Side-Up Cake
Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse
Ingredients: vegan graham pie shell, vegan cream cheese, canned pumpkin, rice whip cream, sugar, raw cashews, raw pecans, raw brazil nuts, cinnamon spice blend, bourbon vanilla extract, pears, whole wheat flour, arrowroot, vegenaise, maple syrup, cayenne, salt, vegan chocolate pudding mix, vegan dark chocolate bar, silken tofu, espresso,

Final Ingredients List to buy (items not yet stocked):
*This list will obviously be different for you, but this is a good way to organize your shopping list...

fresh cubed butternut squash
satsuma mandarins and tangerines
fennel bulb
whole fresh cranberries
mixed forest and shiitake mushrooms
sweet potatoes
fresh or frozen peas
pea shoots
fuyu persimmons
fresh ginger
trio of white potatoes
fresh sage
fresh rosemary

vegan chocolate pudding mix
vegan dark chocolate bar
vegan marshmallows
day-old bread cubes (whole wheat)
grain crackers
vegetable broth
coconut oil
vegan graham pie shell
canned pumpkin and squash
raw cashews, pecans, brazil nuts, pistachios
prosecco, sparkling water, red wine

silken tofu
vegan buttery spread
sour cream
vegan white cheese
garlic hummus
soy creamer
Field Roast Sausage (2 flavors)
vegan cream cheese
rice whip cream

And lastly, the schedule of when to prep, pre-make or cook what...

Thanksgiving Schedule

Tues: Shop/Finalize table settings/Guests/Cleaning
*This is my personal schedule, you can craft your own how you choose*

Wed: prep/make-ahead items
100% Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake, Low Fat Pear Pecan Right-Side-Up Cake, Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse, Perfect Butternut Squash Dip, veggie prep crudites, Citrus Cranberry Sauce, Candied Sweet Potatoes, stuffing prep, Potatoes Au Gratin, quinoa, prep preserved lemon dressing

Thurs:Finish day-of prep recipes
beverages, plate radish apps, saute/plate sausage app, roast fennel-squash-mushrooms, toss/cook buttered peas, seitan and gravy, roast prepped sweet potatoes, toss arugula salad, bake stuffing and fillo purses, warm gratin and quinoa, make biscuits

Dr.Cow Raw Tree Nut Cheese Tasting - Done-ordered online
Perfect Butternut Squash Dip - make one day ahead
Radishes w/ Butter and Peas Shoots - day of make
Arugula-Wrapped 'Sausage' Bites w/ Rustic Mustard - day of make
Veggie Crudites, Grain Crackers, Crostini Bread - prep ahead

Fresh Pressed Pear-Ginger Shooters - make day of
Pomegranate & Satsuma Mandarin Bellini Bar - made to order
water/wine/juice ~ chai/cocoa/tea/espresso - buy day before

Citrus Cranberry Sauce - day ahead
Preserved Lemon Roasted Fennel - day of
Citrus Sage Roasted Butternut Squash - day of
Hearty Herb Roasted Forrest Mushrooms - day of
Vegan Marshmallow Candied Sweet Potatoes - prep day before, cook day of
Arugula w/ Preserved Lemon-Macadamia Oil Dressing - day of
Red Wine Marinated Seitan w/ Mushroom Shallot Gravy - marinate day before, cook day-of
Apple Sage 'Sausage' Chestnut Stuffing Fillo Purse - prep day before, cook day of
Tempeh ‘Bacon’ Shiitake Jalapeno Stuffing - prep day before, cook day of
Triple Spiced Potatoes Au Gratin - day before
Cracked Pepper Spelt Biscuits - day of
Golden Orchard Quinoa - day before
'Buttered' Peas - day of

100% Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Rice Cream Whip - day before
Low Fat Pear Pecan Right-Side-Up Cake - day before
Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse - day before

So there you have it, my planned out Thanksgiving feast schedule from list to plate. It's always good to have a plan, but it's also important to stay flexible. What is the fuyu persimmons aren't ripe? What if I burn my tempeh bacon? What if the sweet potatoes take an hour longer than expected? And what if the store is all out of vegan cream cheese?! Have a nice back-up plan and plan on making more than you'll need. You can always drop a few recipes last minute if your cooking attempts gets discombobulated. Good luck planning your menu-I'd love to hear what scrumptious menu highlights you've planned for this year! Leave them in the comments of tweet me.


Taylor Lautner's Meaty New Moon Muscles Controversy.

This weekend I saw New Moon, the sequel to the highly popular movie Twilight, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Taylor Lautner's New Moon muscles have created quite the stir in the press, among loyal fans and likely most anyone who goes to see the flick will leave asking, "how did he do that?!"

"Meaty" Muscles. I previously posted that Lautner gained nearly 30 pounds of muscle for his on-screen physical transformation from 'boy' to 'buff werewolf'. But with millions of teen fans hanging on every word the Twilight stars Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner have to say, is Taylor's explanation regarding his transformation sending the wrong message to our already overfed, nutritionally confused teens? Lets break down the nutritional facts about Taylor's "meat and potatoes" bulk-up diet. A closer look at Lautner's meaty New Moon muscles...

New Moon Trailer for a quick intro:

Side-Note: My New Moon Review. Though its current rating on is only 29%, I must say I enjoyed the drama-action vampire flick in all its mellow-dramatic, sappy-love-story, evergreen-frolicking, beach side cliffs, vampire-tastic glory. There were definitely a few corny lines that I would've removed like "I guess the werewolf is out of the bag!" Ugh. Stop. No cheesy dialogue please. But I did enjoy the Edward/Bella storyline and the metaphoric connection to the timeless tale of "Romeo and Juliet". Plus the cinematography and artistic direction was cool and captivating just as in the original Twilight movie. But lets get back to Taylor's muscles...

The Hard Facts.
After doing some research about the movie and Taylor's bulk-up, which isn't hard because the internet is saturated with New Moon press, I found these facts:

*Taylor was born in 1992, he's currently 17 years-old. 17 folks.
*Taylor gained about 30 pounds of muscle in 8 months.
*Taylor's PR statement is that he used a diet rich in "meat, sweet potatoes and almonds" to bulk up his body.
*There was a huge amount of pressure on Taylor to gain his muscular body-enough pressure to possibly get him fired.
*Taylor has always been a highly athletic kid, he used to excel in Martial Arts and participated in a number of MA competitions.
*Taylor allegedly did not use steroids to bulk up, although this is still a topic of gossip.
*Taylor says he had to double his calorie intake to gain the muscle.
*Taylor hit the gym religiously during the bulk-up phase.

The First Controversy.
Here is what Taylor has to say about his weight gain:

"[I was] doubling the amount of calorie intake I had before, which was just really tough, eating every two hours," he explained. "It was the hardest part for sure."

"Sometimes my trainer, when we were filming — because he was up filming 'New Moon' with us — he'd wake me up at six in the morning and be like, 'Hey, have a protein shake,' " Lautner said. "And then I'd go back to sleep for a couple hours."
-Mtv News.

Vegetarian Star seemed to be the only online source I could find to question the health-factor of Taylor's bulk-up diet (and this is assuming that he was not on any dangerous steroids.):

"“Yeah, so I carry around a Baggie and it has meat patties in it,” Lautner told Entertainment Weekly. “The worst is not the patties. It’s the sweet potatoes. They get raw and cold and gushy.”

Taylor’s meat and potatoes habit allowed him to put on 30 pounds, but how many points did he put on his cholesterol?" - VegetarianStar

So I have to ask: is Taylor's 'good PR' answer regarding a meat and potatoes diet sending the wrong message to kids and teens about how to gain muscle healthfully? I say yes. First of all, an important side note to make is that Taylor is a young still-growing teen. He is not a professional adult athlete. The amount of pressure and stress he placed on his body is significant and one has to question the healthiness of such a severe and short-term transformation.

Not the Healthiest Route. Secondly, if Taylor truly wanted to double his protein/calorie intake in the healthiest way possible (something the movie's producers should've urged him to do) he could have used vegan sources of protein like seitan, soy, hemp, nuts and legumes. It is easy to forget that animal products contain heaping amounts of cholesterol, while non-animal products are pretty much cholesterol free. Cholesterol is found in foods that come from animals: cheese, eggs, meat, milk. One 5 oz. scoop (the smallest size possible) of Cold Stone Creamery's French Vanilla ice cream contains 118mg cholesterol. That's 39% your RDA in one scoop. The 12 oz. "Gotta Have it" sized scoop contains 275mg of cholesterol, that's 92% your RDA. Taylor says he ate "meat patties". So if you look at one Wendy's classic single hamburger with cheese contains 90mg of cholesterol, that's 30% your RDA of cholesterol, in one burger. That is from around 500 calories. If Taylor was truly downing 'meat patties' as he claimed, that could've been a lot of excess cholesterol into his young healthy body. Lets do some math:

Taylor gained 30 pounds in 8 months.

That's 3.75 pounds a month.

3500 calories=1 lb

That's 13,125 extra calories a month (and that doesn't include the basic increase in calories he would've burned off during his intensive new exercise routine.) His high level of activity, teenage boy metabolism alone could've been burning up to 4,000+ calories a day (estimate based on height/weight/age/activity). But just factoring in his 'muscle gained' lets say he ate 13,125 calories in hamburgers a month. That's 26 extra Wendy's with cheese hamburgers. Around 2400mg of cholesterol a month. Now just imagine: if he had chosen hemp/seitan/soy/veggie protein and vegan foods instead his total cholesterol intake would've been about zero. Heck, even tofu that has been fried in veggie oil has zero cholesterol compared to the 90mg in a hamburgers (30% RDA). The Lesson: a vegan increased-protein/calorie diet is much healthier than Taylor's "meat and potatoes" diet.

The Second Controversy revolves around what Taylor is simply saying regarding his diet plan. He says he 'doubled his calorie intake'. For the average teen, this message could be incredibly harmful. Right now obesity rates are soaring in our country as millions of teens eat too much and don't move enough. However, the 'don't move enough' part of the equation has actually not changed that much in the past 15 years. TIME Magazine recently reported a recent study that found that "lack of exercise" wasn't necessarily to blame for the soaring weights of teens:

"The percentage of ninth- through 12th-graders getting adequate levels of moderate physical activity — exercise such as slow bicycling, fast walking or pushing a lawn mower, which did not make participants break a sweat — also changed very little, from 26.7% in 1999 to 26.5% in 2005, the latest year for which the data was available. Yet obesity rates continued to rise."

Thus, 'too much food', must be to blame for the rising teen weights. Thus, Taylor's message of 'doubling his food intake' could send the wrong message to our already overfed teens. Especially boys looking for a seemingly easy way to bulk up in their teenage years. Eat more, gain muscle? Sounds pretty tempting if you don't have all the work-your-butt-off-in-the-gym facts.

So I wish the New Moon "PR" folks had told Taylor to focus on his exercise regimen, rather than his 'eat more, gain muscle' sound bytes that are being echoed all over the media.

Bigger Picture.
Another side note: did anyone notice the Burger King product placement in the movie theater scene? A nice unopened, navy blue BK to-go bag was seated next to Taylor on a trash can. Lovely. And I'm sure the American meat companies are just 'loving it', this whole press hoopla: "Meat in baggies" to gain muscle. If Taylor were a fifty year-old man, this diet regimen would sound like a heart-attack waiting to happen to me. Am I being dramatic? With the CDC reporting that heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the US among both men and women, I don't think I'm being dramatic at all. High cholesterol intake (aka an animal product heavy diet) is a known cause of increased stress on your circulatory system.

I'll leave you with a few heart disease facts from the CDC:
*Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.

*In 2005, 652,091 people died of heart disease (50.5% of them women). This was 27.1% of all U.S. deaths. The age-adjusted death rate was 222 per 100,000 population.

*Risk factors for heart disease among adults (for years 2003–2004 unless noted, age-adjusted):

Percentage of persons aged 20 years and older with hypertension or taking hypertension medications: 32.1%
Percentage of persons aged 20 years and older with high blood cholesterol: 16.9%
Percentage of persons aged 20 years and older with physician-diagnosed diabetes: 10.0%
Percentage of persons aged 20 years and older who are obese: 32.0%
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who are current cigarette smokers (2004-2006): 18.4%
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who engage in no leisure-time physical activity (2006): 39.5%

*In 2003, approximately 37% of adults reported having two or more of six risk factors for heart disease and stroke (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, current smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity).

*Studies among people with heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, having a nonfatal heart attack, and needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty.

*Studies among people without heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.


Vegan Thanksgiving Series: Delicious Desserts.

At last! Everyone's favorite part of the Thanksgiving Feast: the delicious desserts. The dinner planning is over, the dishes have been cleared from the table and you're ready for to relax with a hot mug of cocoa, coffee or tea to go with a sweet cozy dessert treat. So here are a few ideas for your vegan Thanksgiving dessert selection. Plus I've even included a never-before-posted recipe for my Chocolate Chip Mini Pumpkin Muffins with Fluffy Cashew Cream Frosting. Take a peak at my recipes and save room for dessert!...

Vegan Dessert Recipes for Thanksgiving

1. Cheesecake Pumpkin Pie
This is my twist on pumpkin pie, because I simply think it tastes better! Yes, you can certainly modify this recipe to be a pumpkin pie only version (no cheesecake swirl) but why would you want to do that? There are a plethora of vegan pumpkin pie recipes out there. But I prefer this version-a little pumpkin, a little nuttiness, a little creamy cashew cream cheese, a hint of vanilla and a pretty swirl to bring it all together. And you can easily make this recipe the day before Thanksgiving. This dessert is dreamy, creamy, swirled pumpkin decadence.

2. Right-Side-Up Pear Cake
Had your fill of pumpkin flavors? Want a light, fruity and elegant dessert? Perfect with your after-meal tea, coffee or chai? Then this pear cake is for you! Moist, low-fat and full of fall pear and cinnamon flavors. There's even my little secret blended in for taking baked goods like this from moist to super moist. This dessert is light and moist with spiced sweetness.

3. Chestnut Choco Cake with Pumpkin Cream Frosting
Incredibly festive flavors crowd this unique chestnut chocolate chip cake. I adore the light creamy pumpkin frosting that's swirled on top. Chestnuts as a dessert? Yes! This dessert is savory-sweet, home-style yet unique.

5. Fresh Fall Fruit Tart
I made this delightful fruit tart with summer flavors a few months back, but you can easily make the same vanilla cream base and add fall fruit to the top: persimmons, pears, satsuma mandarins, tangerines, pomegranate seeds, honeycrisp apples and even a few chopped chestnuts blended into the crust if you'd like. Cool vanilla pudding, sweet fruit: this dessert is fresh and fruity.

6. Diva-Chino Parfaits
For a unique spin on after-dinner-cappuccino, try my tofu-based vegan pudding parfaits. I call them Diva-Chino's because any coffee-loving diva will adore them. Flavors: cinna-vanilla pudding, mocha pudding and almonds. Add a shot of espresso and you are in caffeinated dessert bliss. Decaf is OK too... This dessert is energizing, creamy and cool.

7. Lemon Custard Pie Cups or Bars
Need a light lemon-infused dessert after your big Thanksgiving meal filed with savory flavors? Lemon is just what some folks crave. So here is a zing-filled lemon dessert to please. Tofu based and full of zesty flavor. This dessert is zesty, light and bright.

8. Ooey Gooey Vegan Smores
OK so smores aren't exactly traditional as a post Thanksgiving meal. But if you have a roaring fire going and your all snug, cozy and warm at home - why not break out the vegan marshmallows and vegan chocolate for some yummy smores? Your non-veg guests will be shocked to see that vegan smores can be crafted - and are mighty yummy. This dessert is fun, cozy and sweet.

9. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Mini Muffins with Fluffy Cashew Cream Frosting
As promised, here is my never-before-posted mini pumpkin muffin recipe. This is my spin on my pumpkin muffins recipe. This recipe adds in mini vegan chocolate chips, raw nuts and plenty of spice for decadent dessert mini muffins. A swirl of fluffy cashew cream frosting on top. Here it is:

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
vegan, makes 24 mini muffins

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup vegan sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chopped raw nuts (pecans, walnuts)
2 Tbsp walnut oil (canola works too)
1/4 cup soy creamer
1/2 cup of soy milk
1/2 cup of soy chai concentrate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
dash of cayenne (optional)
1 cup mini chocolate chips
*I used EnjoyLife brand

Cashew Cream Frosting
3 Tbsp vegan buttery spread, softened
1 container vegan cream cheese
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup agave or maple syrup
1/2 cup raw cashews
optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Prepare muffins by combining all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then stir in the wet ingredients until you have a nice fluffy batter.

2. Spoon heaping amounts of batter into each mini muffin tin.

3. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until the tips of the muffins begin to crust up and brown. Remove from oven, allow to completely cool before adding chilled frosting.

4. To prepare your frosting, combine all the frosting ingredients in a food processor. Whip/chop until a fluffy wet mixture is formed. Place the frosting in a separate container and chill in the fridge for at lest an hour. The frosting will firm up a bit in the fridge.

5. Using a frosting tip bag or a simple spoon - swirl or dollop a teaspoon of frosting on top of each cooled muffin. Serve immediately, or place in the fridge until ready to be eaten. The frosting needs to be chilled.