Mini pumpkin pies with spelt crust + whipped cream

Mini pumpkin pies

In a few days, Thom and I will be hosting our First Annual Orphan Thanksgiving Extravaganza. Which is basically a fancy way of saying we’re having all of our friends over, who don’t have families in the area, to eat, drink, and give thanks to those people who decided to celebrate their first harvest, so many years ago. We have no big plans, but I suspect we’ll be watching too much football (I loathe football), drinking too much beer (bluh, give me sauvignon blanc – better yet, a gin rickey), and eating too much pumpkin pie (heavy on the whipped cream, please).
At the end of the day, we’ll all crowd around the table and disregard the fact that some of us are meat eaters and some of us shudder at the very thought of eating animal flesh. That some of us are crazy ass liberals, who think that women should be able to make decisions for themselves, and some of us are more conservative with our beliefs (that might be a lie, I think we’re all left-leaning hippies). We’ll ignore the fact that some of us only like whipped cream from that plastic container and some of us think you’re downright crazy if you eat anything other than whipped cream of the fresh variety. But, some of us are just happy there’s whipped cream to go with our pie. All beliefs and opinions aside, we’ll unite to give thanks for the warm food on our plates, the kind folks with whom we’re sharing it (even if they do only eat whipped cream from plastic containers), and this humble world in which we live. Happy Thanksgiving (in three days), American friends. But let’s remember to give thanks every day, k?

Spelt pie dough
Pumpkin filling and spelt dough
Mini pumpkin pies
Mini pumpkin pies and coconut whipped cream
Mini pumpkin pies

I spent all Saturday afternoon (seriously, ALL afternoon) working on this recipe. The first couple of rounds I was adamant about using tofu to give the pies that perfect pumpkin pie texture, and it just wasn’t cutting it. So I decided out with the tofu and in with the full-fat coconut milk. Tapioca starch helped to thicken it, and a tiny bit of xanthan gum aided in stabilizing it. These little pies are oh so perfect, and I really could not be more excited to share this recipe with you.
Notes: This pie dough is tougher than your typical pie dough – if you want it to be super smooth, replace the flour with unbleached flour. If you don’t have coconut milk, replace it with soy cream (almond milk may work, too). And FYI, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ground ginger + 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg + 1/8 tsp ground cloves = 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have xanthan gum, just omit it – I added it because, when mixed with starch, it mimics eggs and creates a really awesome texture. Speaking of starch, you could also use potato starch in place of the tapioca. I like arrowroot powder, too.

MINI PUMPKIN PIES WITH SPELT CRUST

Crust
2 cups spelt flour
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter, cold
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, cold
6-8 tbsp filtered water, ice cold

Filling
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tbsp sucanat
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, or two knives, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix with your fingers until a dough starts to form. It’s not going to be a perfectly smooth dough, FYI. So don’t spaz out over its unsightly cracks. Divide the dough in half, pat into discs, then wrap with plastic; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Allow the dough to reach room temperature before using.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the pumpkin, sucanat, and coconut milk; whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a light boil then remove from heat and sift in the tapioca starch, xanthan gum, pumpkin pie spice, and sea salt; whisk vigirously for 20-30 seconds. Set the mixture aside to cool. This can also be made ahead and refrigerated, in an air tight container, for up to three days.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil one 12 cup non-stick muffin pan and one 6 cup non-stick muffin pan; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with spelt flour. Roll out one of the discs of dough until it is about 1/8″ thick and use a 3″ round, fluted cookie cutter to cut the dough. Transfer the dough pieces to the muffin wells, and shape them to fit. Repeat process with the second disc of dough.
Bake the mini pie shells at 350˚F for 4 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from oven and spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin pie filing into each of the shells. Bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to three days. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Yield: 18 mini pies

WHIPPED CREAM

1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1 tbsp powdered sugar (or more, if desired)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator and scoop out the thick, white layer of fat on top. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the coconut water, then store the remainder for later use (in smoothies), if desired. Using a handheld electric mixer, cream the coconut milk fat, 1 tablespoon of coconut water, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Use immideately.

Yield: about 1 cup

Raw cacao nib cookies

Raw cacao nib cookies

There’s a certain level of responsibility that people expect from you as an adult. Even more responsibility when you’re an adult in a relationship with another adult. And even more (can you imagine?) when you’ve been in a relationship with aforementioned adult for five years. FIVE YEARS. You know what I’m talking about. Questions of marriage, and when we’re going to settle down and buy a house and make tiny monsters with skinny bodies and blah blah blah I CAN’T HEAR YOU. These questions make me extremely uncomfortable. They make my heart palpate and cause my hands to sweat excessively. These questions are the bane of my existence when all I want to do is fall asleep at night, but my brain keeps trying to figure out our place in this world.
I picture two lives for Thom and I. Him as a professor, me as a stay at home wife. We wear our wedding bands on our right hands because we’re both lefties. It confuses people. We have a loft in the city, similar to what we have now, and we share one of those fancy cars that emits fewer pollutants than the ones our neighbors drive. I stay up late helping him grade research papers, and wake up early to prepare a hearty breakfast for the family. Our family. We have a family that consists of more than just the two of us. I do the laundry and go to the grocery store, and iron his shirts while he’s away teaching a bunch kids who couldn’t care less about the freaking Napoleonic Wars. I bitch about folding laundry for a living. He bitches about the students and their cell phones going off in class. We lay in bed at night and dream about running away and never coming back.

Cacao nibs
Untitled
Raw cacao nib cookies in the making
Raw cacao nib cookies

And then there is the running away and never coming back. Eating our way through Italy and climbing to the base of Everest. We go fishing off the Northern coast of Iceland despite my inherent fear of the ocean, and I convince him to swim at the top of Victoria Falls, despite his fear of heights. We don’t have a mortgage, or a car payment, or anything else that restricts you to the bounds of a place. We are perpetual wanderers who find comfort in exploring every nook and cranny of this world. Antarctica is no exception. We have backpacks, heavy ones, and only the most important things fit into them – no fancy hair straightening device or bow ties or pumpkin scented candles on this adventure. This world-wandering path is full of uncertainties, but that’s just the way we like it – there is no routine, no order, or anything even remotely linear. We take life one step at a time and we are happy. So incredibly happy.
This is the point where I tell you that the former scares the shit out of me. Absolutely, positively keeps me up at night just thinking about it. The latter? It is so us. And right now, it’s the clearest it has ever been. I want to spend the rest of my life exploring this massively fascinating and wildly beautiful world. I want to meet people who bend and shape and question everything in which I’ve ever believed, and I want to do it with Thom. More than having a house or children, I want a backpack weighing heavy on my shoulders and hair that hasn’t been washed for days. And you know what? I think he wants the same thing, too.

Raw cacao nib cookies

Notes: If you’re not concerned about preserving raw status, you can replace 1 cup of the cashews with 1 cup of rolled oats, for a lower fat alternative. I achieved the flat cookie shape by scooping, rolling, then pressing the balls with the back of a spatula. (It’s borderline obsessive compulsive and completely unnecessary.) I don’t recommend using any nuts other than cashews and almonds; but you can replace the cashews with more almonds, or vice versa. If you have a vanilla bean on hand, scrape the seeds into the mixture the same time you add the nut milk. You won’t be sorry.
RAW CACAO NIB COOKIES

10 medjool dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups raw cashew pieces
1/2 cup raw almonds
1-2 tbsp raw nut milk (or water)
3-4 tbsp cacao nibs

Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with water; let soak for 15-20 minutes and set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the cashews and almonds into a fine meal. Once the dates have finished soaking, discard the soaking water and add the dates to the food processor. Blend for 20-30 seconds, just until the dates have combined. Add the nut milk and blend for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture forms a smooth dough.  The longer you blend, the smoother the dough will be. Remove dough from the food processor and mix in cacao nibs.
Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm, then transfer to an air tight container for storage. Cookies will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator, or several months in the freezer – but they never last that long.

Yield: about 24 cookies

Tofu scramble

Tofu scramble

It’s four o’clock in the morning. I’m up partly because I can’t sleep, but mostly because I crave this time alone. The one time of day where I can sit in almost complete silence and think without being distracted by that handsome man or the neighbors or a screaming tiny human at the fancy restaurant across the street. I call this moment the calm before the storm. And in its stillness, I swear I can almost hear the soft hum of this dormant city.
I prepare my coffee and sit quietly on the couch. I remember there’s a man in the other room who has a love for me so massive that it could circle the world 582 times, exactly. I tip-toe into the room, run my fingers through his hair, and whisper, in his ear, just how much I adore him; how thankful I am that he chose me. He tosses and turns, seemingly annoyed by my whispers, but as I go to leave, he grabs my hand and squeezes it. Hard. He doesn’t let go. I sit there, hand clenched, thinking about how much I love him, But mister! My coffee is going to get cold. SERIOUSLY, LET GO. MY COFFEE IS GETTING COLD.
I escape from his sleepy claw and return to the living room, where my coffee awaits. It’s cooled and ready to be sipped. I turn on the twinkly lights and pick up a magazine, but I quickly grow tired of it. Why are there so many goddamn irrelevant advertisements? I toss the magazine across the table, where it will sit far beyond its expiration date and serve as a coaster for perspiring drinkables. We subscribe to all of these magazines and they never get read. (Tell me we’re not the only ones.) I keep thinking one day, in the not so distant future, I’ll sit down and go through each and every one of them, but I never do. Time that would be spent reading magazines is reserved for other things. Like rubbing Thom’s back or soaking in the tub or making another batch of those brownies we enjoy so much.

Crumbled sprouted tofu
Spinach and cabbage

It’s five o’clock in the morning, now, and the buses are just starting their routes. I listen for the familiar sound of their brakes; like a massive exhale followed by the softest, most delicate squeal. I listen to the morning hellos and eavesdrop on conversations from the probably very sleepy people below. Don’t worry about them, I tell myself. Sit back and relax. I take it all in, each and every bit of it, and reach for my cup of coffee. It has since turned cold and another pot is made. This time, I go into the bedroom to savor my warm cup of caffeinated goodness. The spot where I laid just an hour before is now cold, and a somnolent man is hogging all the covers. That throw blanket I keep at the end of the bed has finally made itself useful. I pull it up over my chest, use my right hand to rub Thom’s back, and relish in this cup of coffee.
I sit in this moment and think about how lucky we are. How incredible it is to finally be living the life we’ve dreamt about since sewing our lives together, five years ago. Right now our bodies are settled and happy, preparing for the chaos that will come within a matter of weeks. Final projects and presentations, a 30th birthday for Thom (!!!!!), and a much needed visit back to the place where we first fell in love. This is the calm before the storm. And I really like it here.

Sprouted tofu scramble
Sprouted tofu scramble

Notes: I recommend using sprouted tofu, as it doesn’t collect nearly as much water as other water packed tofus. If you want to omit (or replace) the vegetables, that would be just fine. I know peanut butter sounds like a weird addition, but trust me on this one. And make sure you use natural, unsweetened peanut butter – peanut butter of the hydrogenated or sweetened variety will not do in this recipe. I like to use the Whole Foods brand creamy peanut butter for cooking because it’s super oily (and salty!) and doesn’t turn into one big glob when heated – but any other natural peanut butter will work.

TOFU SCRAMBLE

14 oz extra firm sprouted tofu
3 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 tbsp filtered water
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Dash of ground cinnamon
1 tbsp organic canola oil
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/4 cup chopped red cabbage
Salt and pepper, to taste

Remove the tofu from it’s packaging and drain water. Wrap in a dishtowel and set a heavy pot (or two) on top; let the pot work it’s magic for 10 minutes. If you want to skip this step, you can – but you’ll have to cook the tofu a bit longer. When the tofu is finished pressing, crumble it into a large bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, water, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon; set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and onion; sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the crumbled tofu and stir to combine with the vegetables. Pour the peanut butter spice mixture over the tofu and toss to evenly distribute. Add the spinach and cabbage, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring/flipping every few minutes. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the roasted pieces (those are the best part) off the bottom. Once cooked, add the salt and pepper. Scramble can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to three days.

I typically serve tofu scrablmes with herbed quinoa or a side of roasted potatoes (cut into 1/4″ thick disks, tossed with a bit of oil and salt, then roasted at 400˚F for 15-20 minutes).

Yield: 2-3 servings

How to make raw cashew cream

Raw cashew cream
Dates and cashews

Cashew cream is one of my favorite condiments. It counts as a condiment, right? I slather it on muffins and spice breads, use it as a fruit dip, and sometimes – when no one’s watching – I eat it straight out of the jar. The tall guy? He hates the stuff. Like, hates it more than he hates gravy, coffee and ranch dressing, combined. I know what you’re thinking, how can anyone hate coffee? But he does. And he hates cashew cream even more. Because – wait for it – it tastes like cashews.

Dude is batshit crazy, but I love him nonetheless.

The thing I love about cashew cream (listen up, tall guy) is that it’s super versatile and tastes pretty delicious. If you want it sweeter, add more dates. Less sweet? Use fewer dates. For a savory version, omit the dates and add some nutritional yeast, spices, salt, or whatever your little belly desires. You can play with the consistency by varying the liquid measurement, which I’ve laid out below. If you plan on storing the cream for longer than one week, you’ll want to either a) freeze it, then thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or two, or b) add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice, which will preserve it for two weeks.
RAW CASHEW CREAM
1 1/2 cups raw cashew pieces
4-6 medjool dates, pitted
3/4 cup raw nut milk (or water)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place the cashews in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight (the longer you soak them, the better – especially if you don’t have a high speed blender). 30 minutes before preparing the cashew cream, add the dates to the cashew soaking bowl and soak for 30 minutes. Once soaked, drain the water and transfer the cashews and dates to the base of a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the nut milk and vanilla bean; blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate for up to one week.

Yield: 1 3/4 cups

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LIQUID VARIATIONS:

1/4 cup liquid = very thick cream; use as frosting for raw layer cakes
1/2 cup liquid = semi-thick cream; use to fill raw tarts or pies
3/4 cup liquid = light cream; use to fill raw tarts or spread over baked goods
1 cup liquid = sauce-like cream; use as a fruit dip or drizzle over desserts
3 cups liquid = thick cashew milk; great as a raw ice cream base

Chocolate stout cake with whiskey ganache, for dad

Chocolate stout cake with whiskey ganache

Dad came to town this past weekend. He left on Monday Tuesday (thanks for the extra day, Sandy) and I’d be lying if I said I don’t already miss that man like crazy. There’s something so special – so precious – about our relationship that makes me regret not living closer to him. But long weekends like the one we just had make me thankful we’re only a three hour plane ride apart. (Remind me of this in December, when I’m bitching about aforementioned plane ride.)

On the first morning, we rose early and walked four blocks, in the dark, to my favorite cafe. We conversed over warm, caffeinated beverages and good eats, and sat there until crowds of thirsty people cluttered the entrance, making the place much too stuffy for our enjoyment. High on sugar and caffeine, we took a trip to the natural grocer (dad’s first!) and picked up necessary ingredients to make cake, gumbo, pizza, more cake, and nachos. We headed back to my place and got to work on the gumbo; me chopping the vegetables, him preparing the roux. We made coffee (twice!), and laughed over our mugs about the impending election and how funny it is that he wound up with a bunch of liberal kooks for children. We savored lunch at one of my favorite sushi restaurants, followed by cappuccinos (yup, more coffee) on the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you’re keeping track, that was a handful of my favorite places, all in one day, with one of my most beloved people in the galaxy – it just doesn’t get much better, folks.

Cacao powdered bundt
Guinness extra stout
Chocolate stout cake in the making

After parading around lower downtown for all things food related, we settled back at my place and called it a day. Despite having six caffeinated beverages in an eight hour time span, dad fell asleep on the couch, to the tune of college football. I stood in the kitchen, over the pot of boiling gumbo, watching him and thinking how lucky I am to have this man as a father. Even if he is a loud snorer. A really, really, really loud snorer. I’m grateful for him, our close relationship, and weekends spent in Denver drinking copious amounts of coffee and teaching my poppa how to cross the street like a local.

If you’re wondering where this cake comes into play, let me tell you – this is a watered down version of one of his favorites: chocolate stout cake with Irish cream frosting and whiskey ganache. But since I only make that cake on St. Patrick’s Day or dad’s birthday, I decided to make a special rendition of it to celebrate my old man’s arrival to the Mile High City.

And dad, just in case you forgot – you’re my favorite. Thanks for being all sorts of awesome.

Chocolate stout cake with whiskey ganache
Chocolate stout cake with whiskey ganache

Notes: If you don’t like the idea of using tofu, you can replace it with almond milk. But! It’s likely the cake will stick to the bundt pan (no matter how much you oil/cacao powder it), so do yourself a favor and bake it in a regular pan (loaf, round, square). If you don’t have sucanat, use brown sugar. And if you don’t have stout, you can use dark brewed coffee (another favorite way to make this cake in our house). Also, please be sure to buy organic canola, as non-organic canola is usually genetically modified. Eww.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE WITH WHISKEY GANACHE, FOR DAD

3/4 cup unbleached flour
6 tbsp cacao powder
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup soft silken tofu, blended
1/2 cup extra stout beer
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whiskey ganache
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
3 tbsp almond milk
1 tbsp Irish whiskey

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil a 3 cup bundt pan with oil and/or coat with cacao powder; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cacao powder, sucanat, salt and baking soda. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil, silken tofu, stout beer and vanilla extract; whisk until clump free. Transfer batter to the prepared bundt pan and bake at 350˚ for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack. Dust with cacao powder, if desired.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the ganache. Add the chocolate to a small mixing bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the almond milk and whiskey to a boil, pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes; stir to combine. Let cool for 10 minutes then pour over cake. Cake will keep in an air tight container for up to five days.

Yield: 4-6 servings