Vegan Chocolate Maple Caramel Pecan Bars

For thanksgiving this year, I went the vegan route for both of my desserts and holy cow, I don’t think I’m going back to non-vegan desserts anytime soon. I always thought I wasn’t that great of a baker, but maybe I was just baking with the wrong ingredients. I cut these bars into pretty small chunks because they are super sweet / heavy, but totally worth all of the calories. If you love your friends / family, or want them to love you, or maybe at least tolerate you, make these for your upcoming holiday parties.

Vegan Chocolate Maple Caramel Pecan Bars

From Post Punk Kitchen (with slight adaptations): http://www.theppk.com/2011/08/maple-pecan-pie/

For the crust
1 cup Earth Balance, softened (I used the buttery sticks)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat the butter, brown sugar, flour and salt with an electric mixer, starting on low speed and increasing to medium. Once the mixture turns into coarse crumbs (and turns a light brown color from the brown sugar), press it evenly into the bottom of an 8 x 8 greased pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, let cool for about 10 minutes.

For the filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup earth balance
6 oz extra firm silken tofu
1/4 cup cold unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

  1. In a sauce pan, mix together sugars and maple syrup. Heat over medium heat, stirring often with a whisk. Once small bubbles start rapidly forming, stir pretty constantly for about 10 minutes. (During this time I started the next step below) I found that the mixture should be bubbling for the 10 minutes, but not too crazily, once it’s thick, it’s done. Add the earth balance, and stir to melt. Turn the heat off, transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.
  2. In a blender, add the tofu, almond milk, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla. Puree until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender.
  3. With the caramel still warm in the mixing bowl, add in the tofu mixture and the vanilla, and mix well. Fold in the pecans to incorporate.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and stud with your chocolate chips.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes

Once cool, I transferred the pan to the fridge for a bit to get the bars hard enough so that I could cut them. Of course, they’re pretty delicious warm too, albeit a bit messy!

 

Corn Pudding Muffins

Corn Pudding Muffins

I love side dishes. It might have something to do with not eating meat, but even when I did, I always felt like the protein was just a vehicle for its sauce or the accompaniment it came with. Eating steak? The best part is the mashed potatoes or creamed spinach. Wings? It’s definitely the sauce and blue cheese, and usually, the beer. So, for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas (and friendsgiving and friendsmas…) I’m usually looking forward to the delicious, so-not-good-for-you creamy and cheesy side dishes. One of my favorites has always been corn pudding. For my version, I mix whole corn, pureed corn and cream corn with pepper jack cheese to make individual sized corn puddings that are creamy, cheesy and perfect for the holidays.

Corn Pudding Muffins

Makes 18-20 muffins

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces Frozen Corn, Thawed
  • 14 3/4ounces Can of Sweet Corn Cream Style
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Red Pepper Finely Diced (about one small pepper)
  • 6-8 ounces Pepper Jack Cheese Grated
  • 3 tablespoons Flour (or 3 tablespoons cornmeal for a gluten-free version)
  • 5 large Eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper (or a couple good twists of a grinder)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to a pan on medium high heat. Add the finely diced red pepper, saute till lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add up to a tablespoon oil as needed.
  2. Add one cup of thawed corn to a large bowl. Puree the remaining corn and transfer to the same bowl. Mix in the can of sweet corn, the sauteed red pepper, 1/2 of the cheese, the flour and the salt and pepper.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and cream. Add to the first bowl of ingredients and mix till well combined.
  4. Spray muffin tins with olive oil spray* and fill with corn mixture. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese and place in preheated oven. Be sure to place a cookie sheet under your muffin tins in case the mixture bubbles over. Bake until golden brown about 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes and serve.

*You can also add a little melted butter to each muffin tin instead of the olive oil spray

Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip

Growing up, caramelized onions were a mainstay in my house. They mixed into deviled eggs and topped “kotleti” ( Russian style pan fried hamburger patties), always resting on the stove on the mornings of parties, just out of reach of my and my siblings grubby hands. My mother made them with such ease that the first time I tried my hand at them, I was seriously surprised when they came out burnt. As a new cook, I chopped them roughly and figured that if I turned the heat up, I could cut my cooking time in half. Big mistake. The thing with caramelized onions is that you can’t be impatient. Don’t take shortcuts. If you read a recipe that says caramelized onions will take you 10 minutes, run.

For perfectly caramelized onions, you need to take the slow and low approach and chop the onions uniformly to ensure they cook evenly. You won’t regret spending some time making them- you’ll find a million ways to use them, including this a-mazing recipe.

Have you ever had a caramelized onion dip? It’s creamy and delicious- and full of sour cream and mayonnaise. This dip is super similar, but dairy is replaced with white beans creating a rich and creamy caramelized onion dip that’s just a bit better for you. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or little slices of toasted baguette. This recipe is a total party winner.

Caramelized Onion White Bean Dip

Ingredients

15.5 oz can of white beans (cannellini beans)

1 1/2 white onions

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon white champagne vinegar

Salt, Pepper & Garlic Powder

Directions

1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan on medium heat. Slice your onions into even size half rounds, using a mandolin slicer if necessary. Once the oil is heated, add the onions to the pan and cook on medium for about 5 minutes stirring frequently to make sure they don’t burn. Turn the heat down to low ( or just a little higher than low) and, stirring occasionally, cook for about 30 minutes to an hour until the onions reach a deep golden color and soft texture. At the 15-20 minute mark, lightly salt the onions. You may find you need to lower the temperature or add some more oil during the process. If your onions are sticking to the pan or burning, you’ll want to lower the temperature and scrape the pan. Don’t be tempted to cook them on a higher temperature, they’ll only burn. Once they’re done, set aside to cool.

2. While your onions are cooking, gently rinse your beans and add to a food processor. Pulse until they start to break up. Add your oil and champagne vinegar and continue to pulse until the beans are very creamy but still have a bit of texture (you may need to add just a bit more oil to get the right consistency). Season with salt, pepper and a little bit of garlic powder and transfer to a mixing bowl.

3. Once your onions are cooled, fold them into your white bean mixture, saving about a tablespoon. Transfer the mixture to a pretty bowl and top with your remaining tablespoon of onions. You can serve immediately or cool in the refrigerator first, but you will want to the dip to sit out at least 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy.