Category Archives: Cheesecake

♥ Giving Thanks For Leftovers

I hear a lot of supposedly good-natured ribbing that our Thanksgiving holiday is somehow lacking because we don’t cook a turkey. And I just do a mental eye roll and silently count to ten. Since when does the giving of thanks for the blessings in one’s life and gathering with family and friends only have meaning and significance when done over the mutilated carcass of a gentle and sentient being? Personally, I think the holiday has more value and significance when it is thoughtful and compassionate.

Peace on earth for ALL creatures.

Every year I swear that I won’t do it: that I won’t spend the entire Thanksgiving day (and the night before) in the kitchen cooking . And then, every year, I do it anyway. So much for resolutions. But, on the plus side, we always stretch the leftovers through the weekend. One marathon cooking day equals several days of feasting for us.

A good looking plate of leftovers.

Our Thanksgiving feast wasn’t lacking for anything. We enjoyed a Tofurky Roast baked with turnips, parsnips, fennel root and mushrooms. I made a simple baste for the Tofurky using the recipe on the box, but I added dried thyme and rosemary leaves, in addition to the sage, along with a tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate. Add a generous dollop of homemade cranberry sauce, Momma’s special holiday stuffing and savory red wine mushroom gravy over all. So good!

Sausage chestnut stuffing with mushroom gravy.

No self-respecting holiday meal would be complete without homemade rolls. I adapted this recipe for the bread machine for what is now our favorite dinner roll recipe (and it makes good doughnuts, too). I substitute plain soy milk and Earth Balance for the milk and butter and EnerG Egg Replacer for the egg. I also increase the amount of yeast called for in the recipe. Best of all, the bread machine does the work while the Tofurky and the side dishes are roasting in the oven.

These rolls are so light and fluffy; they practically melt in your mouth.

I like to try a new recipe every year, and this year I chose this recipe, from Urban Vegan. Fig-Pecan Stuffed Acorn Squash will surely make repeat appearances at future holiday dinners. The figs and pecans with the squash are such a delightful combination and perfect for Thanksgiving. I generally followed the recipe (as much as I ever do), but I increased the pecans to 3/4 cup and decreased the agave to 1/4 cup. I also stirred in a scant 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt into the filling before baking.

A side dish so good it should be served on a dessert plate.

As a kid (and still to this day), I detested the standard Thanksgiving side dish of candied yams with marshmallows baked on top. In fact, it is because of this childhood trauma that years elapsed before I willingly made a yam side dish for my own family at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s glazed yams (from fresh and not canned in heavy syrup) with candied nuts in place of the marshmallows, or it’s nothing.

Forget the marshmallows, walnut toffee is where it's at.

The Chinese five spice powder in the glaze makes this exotic side dish something special, and it has become a holiday staple for us. Of course, I don’t follow the recipe exactly. I substitute Earth Balance for the butter and I add a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper to the glaze. I replace the corn syrup in the toffee with maple syrup and I increase the amount of walnuts to 1-1/2 cups. A word of warning, though: it’s a good idea to halve the recipe if you aren’t cooking for a crowd.

Past Thanksgivings, I made both a cranberry apple pie and a pumpkin pie (yeah, I spent a lot of time rolling pie crusts). Then I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake With Candied Cranberries and now I make just one dessert. The combination of pumpkin and cheesecake with the candied cranberry topping provides the best of our favorite desserts and it is a perfect end to a Thanksgiving dinner.

A perfectly fitting Thanksgiving dessert.

I make my cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and I have found that you can easily halve the amount of sugar and water for the candied cranberries (like the recipe says, though, the leftover syrup is wonderful on pancakes and waffles). I recommend placing the cranberry topping on each slice of cheesecake just before serving (I learned this the hard way this year). Otherwise, the cheesecake gets a little sloppy. Still yummy, but not so pretty.

So, what are your favorite holiday side dishes?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. And that life’s blessings, big and small, are bountiful throughout the year.

And may we have the strength to survive the remaining weeks of the holiday madness. ♥

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♥ Memorial Day . . . In Snow Boots

Memorial Day weekend once marked the beginning of summer for us . . . then we moved to Lake Tahoe. We had ambitious plans for working in the yard over the long weekend, but Saturday morning greeted us in what has become the usual manner:

And it snowed off and on all weekend (and throughout the week afterward, too). Since yard work was out of the question with the frigid cold and frequent snow flurries, J busied himself building deck planter boxes, which I figure that I will be able to use by the 4th of July!

And he made houses and feeders for the yard critters, too.

He even made a cute A-Frame bird house, just like our A-frame people house!

The new squirrel feeders were well received by the smaller Douglas squirrels.

They moved right in and made themselves at home.

“Fatty”, the larger Western Gray Squirrel, had some trouble getting in the hole!

It’s easier to grab the bird feeder and graze mid-air. Apparently.

The birds are so confused!

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By Monday, the snow let up for a few hours. It still wasn’t picnic weather, but we had plenty of picnic food. I managed to get a few pictures of the food on the deck before we came to our senses and retreated to the warm indoors. No coat and boots necessary!

I almost made J’s favorite chick’n tenders feast, but I decided to go the easy route with Tofurky Beer Brats. When served with sauerkraut on homemade buns, these beer brats are better than any greasy lips-and-ass sausage any old day of the week! The potato salad is a loose adaptation of Better Homes & Gardens’ Classic Potato Salad, veganized of course. The mayonnaise is replaced by (less) Vegenaise and the hard-cooked eggs are replaced with nutritional yeast. The pasta salad is (another) loose adaptation, from The Natural Vegan Kitchen. The barbecue baked beans are an old standby, using homemade barbecue sauce. I like this recipe, but I never add the fake meat.

For dessert, I made a S’Mores Pie from Vegan Desserts. Sorry, I have no picture because J placed the pie under the broiler to “toast” the marshmallow topping and he toasted it a bit too long. It still tasted all s’morey and awesome, because of the charred marshmallows (how we like ’em), but it didn’t look so pretty!

I originally planned to make just one dessert, but then I spotted this amazing recipe last Friday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake. Seriously, chocolate chip cookie dough AND cheesecake? Together?! How does one resist that combination?!

♥ Irish Cream Cheesecake

Having a birthday the same week as Valentine’s Day means that you rake in twice as many gifts. It also means twice the gift-giving stress for the romance-challenged male! But this year, Valentine’s Day was relatively easy on J since I all but picked out the gift myself. The only surprise was the type of animal (a sweet boy goat named Justin) that J sponsored in my name.

For my birthday, J did something unbelievably sweet (or totally unimaginative, depending upon how you look at it. I choose the former!). He sponsored another animal at Farm Sanctuary: a young male sheep named Colvin. I was truly surprised and touched – two farm animals in one week. I couldn’t be any more thrilled about my gifts if I were Laura Ingalls Wilder herself!

Its another boy!

Since J is working late all week, I have yet to collect on my traditional chocolate birthday cake, specially made (and specially messy in the kitchen, too!) by the man. But, with all the leftover Baileys Irish Cream on hand from my recent Vegan Baileys Project, we aren’t lacking for sweet treats around here. What did we do with all that extra Irish cream, you ask? Why, cheesecake of course! There are some beautiful “omni” cheesecake recipes out there (like this recipe!), but, obviously, that isn’t how we roll (anymore)!

I played with this recipe a bit; apparently the third time is the charm! The recipe that I am posting is perfect for a 9 inch springform pan. I tried two different baking methods and decided that I prefer the baking method from Sinfully Vegan for the creamiest cheesecake texture. Be forewarned, though: if you divide the mixture between two 4-1/2 inch springform pans and a 9 inch springform pan–as I did this last time–you will want to reduce the baking time accordingly (as I did not do – doh!). The mini cheesecakes were baked a smidge too long, but they tasted fantastic nonetheless.

We tried various cheesecake garnishes as we taste-tested our experimental cakes: chocolate syrup, chocolate shavings and extra Irish cream, too. All were quite good. It only occurred to me after the last cheesecakes were baked and cooling in the refrigerator that adding a few tablespoons of Irish cream to the sour cream topping mixture would have been really tasty. Oh well: next time, I suppose!

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Irish Cream Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Cheesecake Crust:

1-1/2 cups crushed vegan graham crackers (in a pinch I use Cinnamon Teddy Grahams)

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) non-dairy butter Earth Balance, melted

Cheesecake Filling:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup tapioca flour

3 8-ounce containers non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese, softened

1 12-ounce package firm or extra firm silken tofu, drained

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

1 cup Creamy Baileys Irish cream recipe (from vegalicious.org)

Cheesecake Topping:

1 12-ounce container (1-1/2 cups) non-dairy sour cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

A couple of tablespoons of extra Irish cream, optional

Directions:

To make the crust: Process the graham crackers into fine crumbs in the food processor. Add the cocoa and the sugar, pulse again and remove to a medium bowl. Add the melted non-dairy butter and stir to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.

To make the cheesecake filling: Whisk the sugar and the tapioca flour together in a small bowl. Place the softened cream cheese and the tofu in the food processor; process until completely smooth. Add the sugar/tapioca mixture and process again, making sure that it is completely smooth and that there are no lumps. Add the vanilla bean paste and the Irish cream; pulse to combine. Scrape down the sides of the processor and pulse again.

Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared springform pan and place it in the oven on the upper middle rack. Place a shallow broiler pan of water underneath the cheesecake pan on a lower rack and bake for 50 minute. Meanwhile, prepare the cheesecake topping.

To make the cheesecake topping:

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse to combine. Scrape down the sides of the processor and pulse to combine again. Take the cheesecake out of the oven after 50 minutes and pour the prepared topping over the cheesecake. Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake an extra 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour.

Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack and then chill completely in the refrigerator  for at least 8 hours or overnight (my preference).

Slice and garnish each serving with chocolate curls, a drizzle of extra Irish cream and/or chocolate syrup. Enjoy!

♥ Finding Vegan l The Tahoe Road Trip

Most of the drive from northwestern Washington to northern California was largely uneventful. Rainy, but uneventful. We stopped at our favorite Co-Op in Bellingham and we also hit a Costco along the way to stock up on the basic food necessities for the long drive and the motel room living that lay ahead of us. We drove through a mini blizzard (although it probably wasn’t considered “mini” to the two-wheel drive cars with all-season tires on them) from the Placerville area to South Lake Tahoe. I pitied the poor folks, dressed in their light clothing (shorts – really? Seriously?), underneath their cars in the piles of snow installing those crappy cable chains (I heart my 4WD Xterra!). The Weather Channel called it the “Western Wallop” and we drove straight into it. It was an adventure.

After a good night’s sleep at our motel in South Lake Tahoe, we spent the next two days exploring the hamlets and villages around the north shore of the lake.  We looked at a few available homes in Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City and Truckee. We saw a lot of local shops along the way that we made a mental note to come back and visit when we had more time (and more room in the vehicle, too). We quickly decided that, although lovely areas all of them, South Lake Tahoe was the place with the best “home vibe” for us. The rest of our time house-hunting and playing tourist was spent in and around South Lake Tahoe.

Some evenings, we fended for ourselves with hummus vegetable plates and wonderfully stinky garlic bread, courtesy of Costco.

Or, we created some fabulous vegan club-like sandwiches with a yummy multi-grain bread from Lake Tahoe Sierra Grains, Yves vegan deli meats, vegan Pepper Jack cheese, Vegenaise, Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

In the mornings we ate plain bagels with peanut butter, bananas, homemade yogurt, and/or J’s favorite homemade granola; both of which I had prepared in advance for our road trip. We used the plastic cups provided by the motel to make our own travel yogurt parfait cups.

Our greyt boy was especially fond of the local off-leash dog park, where he could get his daily run on, and the nearby Dog.Dog.Cat. with the bakery doggie treats.

For human eats and treats, we consulted HappyCow.net for the Lake Tahoe area and we found some restaurant and natural foods store listings with vegan/vegetarian options.  We took our appetites and our cameras (with the flash off – we don’t want to be rude) along with us to check them out.

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Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen inside New Moon Natural Foods – Tahoe City

New Moon is a small, but wonderful, natural foods store in Tahoe City with a very vegan friendly deli located within it. We stopped by while we were out exploring the north lake area and we ordered a big lunch (leftovers to take back to the motel with us) and we did a bit of shopping, too.

I ordered the Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing and it didn’t last long. In fact, I remembered to take the photo halfway through the salad.

J ordered the Thai Peanut Noodle Salad, but I don’t have a picture of it because J was apparently very hungry and he wolfed it down while I was digging out my camera. I managed to get one bite from him and there was no mystery why it disappeared so fast.

Sprouted Lentil Dahl – a bowl of protein-packed goodness. I thought this would be good in a wrap or with some brown rice and some additional dressing, too.

Inari – a tofu skin (yuba) pocket with white rice inside it and served with a sweet teriyaki sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. These didn’t last long, either.

We found our to-go dessert, too: a tub of vegan cookie dough. Vegan cookie dough doesn’t have eggs in it, so it is safe to eat it raw. A sweet luxury like this makes a traveling vegan very happy.

J was happy with the beer that he found at New Moon, too: Triple Exultation, Pliny The Elder and Baltic Thunder – all are hard to find in Washington, and he should know.

One observation that we made while checking out their prepared food selection in the deli: some foods labeled “vegan” contained honey in the list of ingredients. I suppose that is a matter of choice for some vegans (whether honey is vegan or not), but to us it is an animal/insect product so we do not eat it. I was never that fond of “bee puke” in my omnivore days, anyway, so avoiding it now hasn’t been a great hardship.

Sprouts Natural Foods Café – South Lake Tahoe

This place always seemed busy, which is a good indicator of the quality of their food. The staff was über friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; all we had to do is tell them we were vegan and what sounded good to us and we were good to go.

I had the Vegetable Crunch sandwich on a bagel (because their sandwich bread contains honey, he told me. Having it in a wrap is another vegan option). I ordered it without cheese and exchanged the honey mustard dressing for balsamic vinaigrette. I also ordered the Soup Du Jour—which is always vegan at Sprouts—and this particular day it was Hawaiian BBQ. Mmm mmm!

J ordered the Classic Burrito with tempeh, holding the cheese and sour cream. It was so loaded with veggies and salsa that it was impossible to pick up; so he ate it with a fork and knife. Of course, it was wonderful.

Both of our orders came with sesame tortilla chips – SO good. The meals were wonderful and definitely hit the spot. Bonus, we were able to order a beer with our lunch, too.

Freshies Restaurant & Bar – South Lake Tahoe

A bit of Hawai’i in frozen Lake Tahoe, how cool is that? It’s located in a tiny strip mall building but once you step through the door you feel like you are in a Hawaiian plate lunch café, minus the humidity and chickens milling about outside.

They begin serving dinner at 5:00 and we arrived at 4:30. I didn’t look at their dinner menu so I am not sure how the offerings differed from the soup, salad & taco “lunch-ish” menu that we ordered off of, but we were not disappointed.

For starters, we ordered the small (boat) My Tri Fries: freshly cut yams, sweet potatoes and organic russet potatoes fried in California Rice Bran Oil and seasoned with Caribbean spices. Oh…my…gawd.

I ordered the local’s favorite salad (to atone for the fried potatoes appetizer): The Crunch, minus the two cheeses. It’s loaded with crunchy veggie and seed goodness. The creamy basil salad dressing that makes the salad (the waiter says) would have been wonderful, were it vegan, but I swapped it out for balsamic vinaigrette. I added grilled Portobello mushrooms to the salad to make it a real hearty meal. It’s even better with grilled tofu.

J’s meal was mouth-watering to look at and even better tasting: the 2 taco platter with one blackened tofu and one blackened tempeh. He held the cheese and ordered extra salsa in lieu of the chipotle tartar. The tacos came with organic rice and black beans and an out-of-this-world slaw (I detected a hint of roasted sesame oil). I most definitely will be ordering that our next trip back to Tahoe; it was all I could do not to make him switch plates with me.

We typically don’t order dessert when we eat out (and usually there aren’t any vegan options when we eat vegan in an omnivore restaurant), but we couldn’t resist the mousse-like Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie on a homemade graham crust. Definitely another “oh…my…gawd” moment!

Oh, and J was stoked that Freshies has Pliny The Elder on tap.

The Free Bird – South Lake Tahoe

Free Bird is a cute little organic take-out joint no bigger than a Washington espresso stand! In the milder months you could take advantage of the outdoor seating area, though. We ordered their only vegan offerings that day: Curry Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney and French Lentil & Rice Soup to share (more “oh…my…gawd” goodness).

While we waited for the food, we enjoyed some seasonal infused water (lemon slices and sprigs of fresh rosemary – what a cool idea and very refreshing) and J ordered a Cacao Bliss Smoothie (raw cacao powder, coconut milk, almond butter, agave nectar and a pinch of Celtic sea salt). Bliss it was. The smoothie was so good that I probably drank most of what was J’s smoothie and I made sure to stop there again on our way out of town for another one (instead of ho-hum coffee).

Grass Roots Natural Foods – South Lake Tahoe

As I mentioned in the previous post, we found our Christmas dinner dessert, the vegan gravy mix and our dinner rolls (bonus: the leftover rolls made some good road food with peanut butter.) at this cool little natural foods store.

Grass Roots is a small, but well-stocked for its size, store. And the people working there were very helpful: I was thrilled to learn that they will special order for me when I live there. So, with a little advance planning and creative storage, I will be able to do my “specialty” vegan shopping locally rather than traveling to the nearest Whole Foods in Reno, Nevada.

J found some delectable homemade cookies there, too (yes, that is a dinner plate that the cookie is on). We enjoyed that bad boy with a hot chocolate (made with soy milk) and peppermint schnapps.