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February 12, 2002


When most of us here in the U.S. think of February, Valentine's Day immediately comes to mind. The day dedicated to showing the special people in your life how much you care and appreciate them. The sweetheart in my life loves Italian food, so I developed this Valentine's Day menu around many of his favorite dishes - Pasta Puttenesca, Focaccia, a vegan twist on Caesar salad (mine is named for Cleopatra, the woman who conquered him) with a creamy garlicky dressing, followed by a creamy tofu-based pie flavored with chocolate, almonds, and coconut, and even vegan chocolate truffles. The truffles are so creamy no one will believe they are vegan. Everyone who has ever tried them has enjoyed them and couldn't stop at just one! As always, be good to one another, and remember... eat your veggies! :-)


Pepper Divider


Raspberry and Lime Zing Spritzers

2 lime wedges
1 T. ginger, minced
12 oz. R. W. Knudsen Raspberry Hibiscus or Raspberry Peach Juice
12 oz. R. W. Knudsen Raspberry or Raspberry Light Spritzer

Fill 2 tall glasses with ice. Squeeze and drop each wedge of lime into each of the glasses. Place half of the ginger in a spoon and press on the ginger with your thumb to release the juice into one of the glasses. The ginger can then be discarded or added to the glass, if desired, for added flavor. Repeat the procedure with the remaining ginger for the other glass. Divide the Raspberry Hibiscus (or Raspberry Peach) Juice and Raspberry (or Raspberry Light) Spritzer evenly between the two glasses and gently stir together the drinks with a spoon. Serve immediately.

Serves 2


Pepper Divider


Shallots, Garlic, and Herb Focaccia

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 - 1/4 oz. pkg. active dry yeast
1 t. unbleached cane sugar (or white sugar from sugar beets)
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup cornmeal, divided
olive oil, for focaccia and oiling bowl
1 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup garlic, thinly sliced
2 T. freshly chopped parsley
1 T. freshly chopped rosemary
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar, and set aside until bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/4 t. black pepper, and stir well to combine. Add the yeast mixture and stir well to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place a little olive oil in the large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, give it a twist, and turn the ball over to coat the other side. Cover, place the bowl in a warm place, and leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Using a little olive oil, lightly oil a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch pan, sprinkle with 3 T. cornmeal, and set aside.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times. Sprinkle the work surface with the remaining cornmeal and roll the dough in it to coat the surface. Transfer dough to the oiled pan, and stretch it, as needed, to fit the pan. Using your fingertips, make "dimples" across the top of the dough. Brush a little olive oil over the top of the dough, then sprinkle with the sliced shallots, garlic, chopped parsley and rosemary, remaining salt and black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Allow to rise uncovered for 45 minutes. After the focaccia is well-risen, sprinkle the vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast over the entire focaccia. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Transfer the focaccia to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, and cut as desired.

Yield: One 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch focaccia


Pepper Divider


Baked Herb Croutons

4 cups bread of choice, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
olive oil
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. paprika

Place the cubes of bread on a non-stick cookie sheet. Drizzle the cubes with olive oil, about 1-2 T., to taste. In a small bowl, place all of the remaining ingredients, and toss well to combine. Sprinkle the herb mixture over the cubes of bread and toss the cubes to coat them evenly. Spread the cubes of bread to a single layer and bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies sheet from the oven, stir the croutons, and spread them out to a single layer again. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake the croutons an additional 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Allow the croutons to cool before using. Store in an air tight container.

Yield: 4 Cups


Pepper Divider


Creamy Garlic, Pine Nut, and Herb Dressing

1/3 cup pine nuts
2 T. nutritional yeast flakes
1 T. garlic, minced
1/4 t. salt
1 cup parsley leaves, packed
1 1/2 t. dried basil
1/3 cup water
3 T. apple cider vinegar
4 t. lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

In a blender or food processor, place the pine nuts, and process for 1 minute to finely grind. Scrape down the sides of the container, add the nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, and salt, and process an additional 30 seconds. Add the parsley and dried basil and pulse a few times to roughly chop the parsley. Add the water, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice, and process for 1 minute to thoroughly combine the ingredients. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and continue to process an additional 1 minute or until dressing starts to thicken. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Use as a dressing for salads, vegetables, grains, or side dishes.

Yield: 1 1/2 Cups


Pepper Divider


Cleopatra Salad for Two

4 cups Romaine lettuce, washed well, patted dry, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/3 cup carrot, shredded
1/3 cup zucchini, shredded
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Baked Herb Croutons (see recipe above)
1/4-1/3 cup Creamy Garlic, Pine Nut, and Herb Dressing (see recipe above)

In a medium bowl, place the Romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage, carrot, and zucchini. Season the vegetables with a little freshly ground black pepper, to taste, and toss the vegetables lightly to combine. Add the Baked Herb Croutons and Creamy Garlic, Pine Nut, and Herb Dressing, to taste, to the salad mixture, and toss well to thoroughly coat the salad with the dressing. Divide the salad evenly between two plates and serve immediately.

Serves 2


Pepper Divider


Pronto Pasta Puttanesca

3 oz. spaghetti (or other long, thin pasta of choice)
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup green pepper, destemmed, deseeded, and diced
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried oregano
8 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
2 T. freshly chopped parsley
1 T. capers (or more, to taste)
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes, for garnishing

In a large saucepan, cook the spaghetti in boiling water, for 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes to soften. Add the green pepper and garlic and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add the dried basil and oregano and saute the mixture an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp tender. Add the crushed tomatoes, black olives, parsley, capers, crushed red pepper flakes, and season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 2 minutes to blend the flavors. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it in a colander, add it to the simmering sauce, and toss well to combine. Transfer to a platter or bowl for service. Garnish individual servings with a little vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes, if desired.

Serves 2


Pepper Divider


Marinated Tempeh w/ Red Peppers and Broccoli Rabe


4 t. tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
4 t. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. garlic, minced
1 t. Dijon or brown mustard
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup shallots, diced
1 T. olive oil
1 lb. broccoli rabe, washed well, and roughly cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup red pepper, destemmed, deseeded, and diced
1 T. garlic, minced
4 t. nutritional yeast flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Add the tempeh cubes and toss gently to thoroughly coat with the marinade. Cover, place the bowl in the refrigerator, and allow the tempeh to marinate for 1 hour or more. After 1 hour, transfer the tempeh cubes to a non-stick skillet, and cook, while stirring often, for 8-10 minutes or until the tempeh is well browned and crisp around the edges. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the tempeh to a plate, and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet, return it to medium heat, and saute the shallots in the olive for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Add the broccoli rabe and continue to saute the mixture for an additional 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and garlic and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add the reserved tempeh, nutritional yeast flakes, and season the mixture to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well and continue to cook the mixture an additional 1-2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as a main dish, side dish, or toss with cooked grains or pasta for a heartier dish.

Serves 2-4


Pepper Divider


Chocolate Chunk, Almond, and Coconut Cream Tart


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unbleached cane sugar (or white sugar from sugar beets)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 cup safflower oil


2 - 12.3 oz. pkgs. Mori-Nu silken style tofu, extra firm
1/2 cup unbleached cane sugar (or white sugar from sugar beets)
1 T. vanilla
1/2 t. coconut extract
1/4 t. almond extract
1/2 C. toasted coconut, divided
1/2 cup vegan chocolate bar of choice, roughly chopped (or vegan chocolate chips)
1/3 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped

Begin by preparing the crust. In a medium bowl, place the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and stir well to combine. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the safflower oil into the dry ingredients to form a crumbly mixture. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your hands, firmly press the crust mixture to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Place the tart pan on a non-stick cookie sheet and set aside.

To prepare the filling, in a food processor or blender, place the tofu, sugar, vanilla, coconut and almond extract, and process for 2 minutes or until very smooth and creamy. Place 3 T. of the toasted coconut in a small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining toasted coconut, chopped vegan chocolate bar, and almonds, and pulse 2-3 times to combine. Pour the filling mixture into the reserved crust.

Bake the tart pan on the cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, sprinkle the reserved toasted coconut over the top of the filling, and allow the tart to cool for 15-20 minutes, before removing the ring from the tart pan. Allow the tart to cool completely before cutting it into 8 pieces. Store any remaining tart in the refrigerator.

Yield: One 8-inch tart or 8 pieces


Pepper Divider


Very Easy Vegan Truffles

1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
8 oz. tofu cream cheese
3 cup vegan powdered sugar (Wholesome Foods or Florida Crystals brand, powdered sugar from sugar beets, or see Recipe Archive for homemade variations)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
Garnishes: finely ground nuts, cocoa powder, toasted unsweetened shredded coconut

Place the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler, over medium heat, and leave to melt. In a food processor, place the vegan cream cheese, and process for 1 minute or until smooth and creamy. Add half of the powdered sugar and process for 30 seconds. Add the remaining powdered sugar and continue to process the mixture until well blended. Add the melted chocolate chips and vanilla, and process the mixture to evenly distribute the melted chocolate. Transfer the mixture to a glass bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour. Using your hands, shape the chilled mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the garnishes of choice to thoroughly coat them on all sides. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

*Variation: the truffle mixture can be flavored with liqueur, as well. Divide the truffle mixture into thirds and add 1 T. liqueur of choice (such as: almond, hazelnut, coffee, rum, brandy, orange, raspberry, etc.) to each third of the truffle mixture, respectively, and mix well before chilling the truffle mixture. Then shape into balls and roll each type of liqueur-flavored truffles in one of the garnishes to distinguish among the various flavor combinations.

Yield: 5 Dozen


Garlic Press

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