I love this time of year. Not only because the weather changes and I get to pull out my cozy sweaters and jackets, but because of all the delicious seasonal fruits; Honeycrisp Apples, Fresh Cranberries and of course, Pumpkins!
So to start us off this season, I will be sharing with you my Pumpkin Spiced Milkshake recipe. I know that in some parts of the country, a milkshake this time of year sounds far too forgein, but because I'm in Los Angeles trying to justify wearing a sweater in 70 degree weather, I'm putting it up. It really is so delicious and deceptively nutritious.
Pumpkin Spiced Autumn Milkshake
Makes a lot of milkshake-prepare to share!!!
1/2 C Organic pureed pumpkin
1/4-1/2 C Organic almond milk
1 C Organic Ricedream Vanilla ice cream (You can obviously use any ice cream you prefer, I just happen to like the texture and taste of this one)
1 Tbsp. Organic flaxseed meal
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in the blender and blend away. If the shake is too thick, thin it out a bit with more almond milk. Make sure to use a straw-I find it always adds a certain panache to the experience!
*This is a great treat for kids. Not only are they getting the vitamins and minerals from the pumpkin, but they're also getting a healthy dose of Riboflavin and Vitamin D from the almond milk and a ton of Omega-3s and fiber from the flaxmeal. But shhhh, don't tell them!
So the other day I found myself with some extra vegan creamcheese in the fridge and thought what a perfect opportunity to make a cheesecake. But then the decision of what kind; chocolate, blueberry? But then I noticed a few lemons laying around and some extra coconut milk in the fridge. Ah ha, a lemon-coconut variety sounded intriguing! Turns out that this combo works beautifully together; it's light, tangy, creamy and refreshing-perfect for a hot summer night. I hope you enjoy!
Vegan Lemon-Coconut Cheesecake
Preheat oven 350 degrees
1 12-oz.pkg. silken tofu
12 oz. vegan creamcheese
1/2 C cane sugar
1/3 C coconut milk
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
Juice & zest of one lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp. agar agar flakes
Blend together all ingredients EXCEPT agar agar flakes until smooth. Make sure there are no large chunks of cream cheese. Add agar agar flakes and blend again for another minute or two. Pour into pie crust (see recipe below) and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn oven off and let cheesecake sit in hot oven for another 40 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Tastes best chilled.
You're welcome to use a pre-made crust, but if you're feeling adventurous use the recipe below. It's delicious!
Preheat oven 425 degrees
1/2 C almond flour
1/2 C rice flour
1/4 C wheatgerm
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 C vegan butter, melted
Mix together the flours, wheatgerm and coconut until well mixed. Add the melted butter and fluff with a fork. Pour into cheesecake pan and press down with your fingertips to the edge of the pan until the entire pan is covered. Make sure to pack the crust pretty tight. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly toasted.
So if you have a garden or you happen to frequent your local farmer's market, you'll notice, that tomatoes are everywhere; romas, red rounds, a host of heirloom varieties; green zebras, Cherokee purples and black brandy wines, just to name a few.
When I was growing up, this time of year marked not only tomato season, but something so much more. Every week during the summer months, my grandparents would go out to the garden to survey their prospective tomato crop; they'd water, clip and tend to their beloved tomato plants. Usually by the end of July they would start collecting the ripe tomatoes in large bowls and baskets until they had enough. Enough for what you might ask? SAUCE The process goes like this: First you pick the tomatoes, then you blanch them, then you put them in ice water so they're cool enough for you to handle, then you remove the skin, then you run them through a sieve to remove the seeds and then you can them. It is an arduous and time consuming process that seems to have been lost on my generation, especially with the variety of ready made sauces you can find at your local market, but you see for Italians, tomato season is so much more than just throwing a few tomatoes on top of your salad; it's our life. Tomato season marks the end of the summer and the heading into fall with a well stocked basement or pantry of canned tomatoes that will ensure that you've got enough sauce to get you to next season. We use sauce for everything; pasta, pizza, stuffed zucchini-you name it! Sauce to an Italian Nona is not something that comes out of a jar with some Italian-sounding name on the label that's been made in some industrial kitchen by machines; it's an art! It's something that takes time, experience and patience to prepare properly. If I may be so bold; it's a philosophy on life.
I know that many of us just don't have the time to wait for the tomatoes to be ready. We have jobs, kids, spouses, traffic jams, emails and the like. It's so much easier to just buy a can of already made sauce from the store. Well, that may be true. But don't let tomato season pass you by without the chance to savor the flavor. Here is a quick and easy recipe that will ensure that you get to taste all the sweet and delicious flavor our summer friend can offer.
2 lbs. farm fresh tomatoes (any variety will do)
1/2 lb. firm organic tofu, marinated
1 C. fresh basil, roughly torn
3 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Olive oil
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt/Pepper to taste
Combine marinade ingredients in shallow baking dish. Dice tofu into 1/2 inch squares and toss into marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse off tomatoes and cut into large chunks and place in large bowl. Gently tear or cut basil into course pieces and toss in with tomatoes. When the tofu is ready, drain from marinade (a little left over is just fine) and toss in with tomatoes and basil. Mix together olive oil and balsamic and pour over salad. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!