I’m really not sure whether to call this a salad, or a dip, or just the most amazing flavour explosion ever to hit your mouth. It’s kind of all three.

Last weekend my cousin Lisa brought this salad to a family BBQ and it was a huge hit. Like we all couldn’t stop scooping it up. At a first glance, it seems like the standard fare; you know, we’re having a bbq/picnic/party and there’s gotta be a bean salad there,…but when you taste it, you realize this isn’t any ordinary bean salad. It is the *perfect* filling for any sort of scoopable chip or cracker. (Or if you’re like me, the perfect spoonful straight up every single time I walk past the refrigerator!)

Of course, it’s a bean salad, so its healthy (yay protein and fibre), but it’s also so darn delicious and versatile. It’s great as a side dish/dip at a party; or as a grab-and-go lunch, or a salad topper or even a bean and veggie wrap. It’s a great make-ahead dish (it gets better the longer it sits) and its really easy to assemble. My cousin gracefully shared her recipe with me, and I’ve spent the week playing around with it before sharing it with y’all. Basically, I’ve kicked up the heat a bit and swapped out one herb for another (hers used cilantro; I opted for flat leaf parsley because I’m so not team cilantro – but it’s okay if you are. We can still be friends.)

So, grab a bowl of this bean salad and I’ll meet you at the Tostitos, k?

Summer Bean Salad

Ingredients:

1 19oz can lentils, drained and rinsed

1 19oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 19oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ red onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced (pith and seeds removed)

1 green onion, chopped

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¾ cup catalina dressing

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours (preferably overnight) before serving.

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I also like to call this “clean out the fridge tofu”, because its the perfect opportunity to make a fabulous dish using all the leftover veggies loitering around your fridge.

This dish is all about the sauce. It’s thick and rich and has the perfect balance of heat, sweet, salty and tart. It’s also really simple and cooks up in under 30 minutes, which is always a win-win in my crazy household.

My littles are picky eaters, so I kept this version simple, using only mushrooms and red peppers (two of the few veggies I can always get my kids to eat), but if it were just for me, I’d have tossed in some baby corns, spinach, bok choy, asparagus, eggplant…pretty much any vegetable I could get my hands on.

This is one of the rare recipes where I actually used peanut butter (we have an allergy in our house so more often than not, wow butter is our go-to for making “nutty” sauces. But since this wasn’t a full family dinner, we went with PB this time.) It’s not a life-threatening allergy, so we are comfortable having peanut butter in the kitchen, but for those who are – or have a family member who is, just swap out the peanut butter for wow butter or sun butter or even tahini.

I love serving this over coconut rice (which cooks up in the time it takes to make this dish), but plain rice or rice noodles work just as well.

Spicy Peanut Ginger Tofu

Ingredients:

1 tsp grated ginger

¼ cup tamari

¼ cup ketchup

½ cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp maple syrup

½ – 1 tsp sriracha (to taste)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 green onions, chopped (whites and greens separated)

½ vidalia onion, diced 

5-6 mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced

1 red pepper, cut in slices

2 cups vegetable stock

1 350g block of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed

Directions:

In  bowl, whisk together ginger, tamari, ketchup, peanut butter, maple syrup and sriracha. Set aside.

In a deep pan, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add the white parts of the green onion and vidalia onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until golden. Add red peppers and cook for 2 minutes.

Add sauce and tofu to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is thick – about 10 minutes.

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When people ask me where I learned to cook (or bake), I always say, “Ina taught me.”  (The Ina referring to Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa.) Now of course, this is only partially true; I’ve never really met Ina – although I was lucky enough to see her in person in A Conversation with Ina this past spring for her newest book launch.  But I know Ina.  I’ve watched The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network for over 15 years; memorized all her tricks and studied her techniques.  And I’ve recreated enough of her recipes to really understand her philosophy on cooking.

Like me, she’s a home cook.  She taught herself everything she knows, and in sharing her knowledge on TV, she taught me a lot of what I know.  Of course, there have been other cooking influences in my life.  I was young and single and experimenting in my very own kitchen when Food Network Canada first launched, and immediately became drawn to the likes of Jamie Oliver, Michael Smith, Rachael Ray, Tyler Florence, and of course, Ina. 

My nine-year-old daughter has become hooked on Ina too.  Partially through osmosis (Ina is always on TV when I’m home), and partially because she has a real interest and curiosity about cooking – and baking in particular, and is becoming quite independent in the kitchen.  And she’s quickly learning that almost anything Ina can make, we can make vegan.  (She stresses about the fact that almost all of Ina’s recipes involve copious amounts of butter and milk, which I keep reminding her are really easy to veganize.)

A few weeks ago, we were watching Ina make corn pancakes, using farm-fresh corn on the cob, and the recipe peaked Audrey’s interest.  Normally she won’t eat corn in any way except on the cob, but she really seemed into this recipe and wanted to try it, so I jumped at the chance to get her to eat a vegetable.  Using Ina’s recipe as a guide, I created these vegan Summer Corn and Onion Fritters – and got Audrey in the kitchen to help make them.  We tried two versions: regular and gluten-free.  While both were deliciously flavored, the gluten-free ones definitely need more testing to help keep them together.   I’ll work on that later.  But for now, head out to your local farm and grab some fresh picked corn, because these fritters are summer on a plate!

Summer Corn and Onion Fritters

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups soy milk

2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups cornmeal

½ cup all purpose flour

2 tsp granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 tbsp vegan butter, melted

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Tabasco sauce to taste

3 cups fresh corn, shaved off the cob (about 4 ears)

3 tablespoons diced green onion, whites and greens

2 tbsp grapeseed or light olive oil

2 tbsp vegan butter

Directions:

  1. In a 2 cup measuring glass, make vegan buttermilk by combining soy milk and lemon juice and let stand for 5 min or until slightly curdled
  2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil and hot sauce.  Add corn and diced green onion and stir to combine.
  4. Add corn mixture to dry ingredients and mix together. Be careful not to overmix or your fritters will become tough when cooked.
  5. In a skillet pan on medium heat, combine grapeseed/olive oil and butter and warm until sizzling.  Add corn fritter batter in ¼ cup amounts and press down ever so slightly. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 2 minutes, until both sides are golden brown and the centre of the fritter is firm. Repeat until all batter is used

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This is my on-repeat-all-the-time summer salad.  It hits all the right notes: it’s light, fresh, crispy and tangy, and so satisfying.  

When I was in university, there was this restaurant halfway between my house and school called Dr. Deli and the Salad Queen, and aside from slinging traditional deli sandwiches, they had an extensive salad menu (of course).  I first encountered Chinese Chicken Salad there and immediately became hooked.  It was all in their vinaigrette – it had just the right balance of vinegar and sugar to make it mouth-puckering tart but also sweet and light.  Being a lover of all things pickley, this was right up my alley. And to balance out that strong vinaigrette, they made the salad super simple: crisp light green iceberg lettuce, sweet mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, shredded roasted chicken (obviously we’re doing a workaround on that one now), and a crunchy topping – either puffed crispy vermicelli noodles or crispy fried wonton strips – depending on what they had on hand that day.  It just all worked so beautifully.  Every bite had layers of texture and flavour, and yet was still light and easy.  It was the perfect summer salad.

Summer is (finally, hopefully) here to stay in Toronto and I’m prepping myself for a season of lighter meals, fresher ingredients and simple preparations.  Because as much as I love cooking, hot days + hot ovens do not make me happy. So I’ve been thinking about easy, summer-friendly dishes and this salad came to mind. 

My first challenge was recreating that dressing.  I’m not kidding when I say I’ve tried at least twelve variations on it to find one that was not too oily, or too tart, or had too many ingredients.  It needed to be full of flavour, but clean and simple. Once I had it, the rest was easy.

For the “chicken”, I used Gardein Chick’n strips that I pan-roasted on the stovetop in a little bit of grapeseed oil, fresh cracked pepper and salt.  If you’re gluten-free, you could use Beyond Meat Chick’n Strips instead. 

This is a great salad to customize. You could easily swap some (or all) of the lettuce for napa cabbage, or a mix of napa and red cabbage. You could add cucumbers or celery or carrots to it; swap the mandarins for strawberries…the possibilities are endless.  Or you can go with the classic recipe below. 

Asian Chick’n Salad

Ingredients:

3 tbsp sesame oil

1/4 – 1/3 cup rice vinegar (depending on how tart you like you dressing)

1 ½ tsp tamari (or dark soy sauce)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil

1 225g package vegan chick’n strips

½ tsp fresh cracked pepper

¼ tsp kosher salt

½ head of iceberg lettuce, chopped

1 10 oz can mandarin orange slices, drained

¼ cup sliced almonds

1 cup crunchy wonton strips (or puffed vermicelli noodles for a GF option)

Directions:

In a glass mason jar, combine sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, vegetable oil and sugar.  Seal jar and shake well to combine.  Set aside.

In a deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add frozen chick’n strips and cook to package directions, adding salt and pepper about halfway through.  Remove from pan and allow to cool, patting down strips to remove excess oil.  When cool enough to handle, dice or shred into small chunks.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, mandarin oranges, chick’n pieces and wonton strips.  Drizzle dressing on top and toss to coat.

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Food is always more fun when it’s bite-size, right? Teeny-tiny, cute versions of our fave foods always taste better and are so much fun to eat (plus, you can totally eat MORE of them without having to do an extra hour or three of cardio the next day!)

Summer is fast approaching and that means cottage weekends, pool parties, play dates and lots of feed-a-crowd opportunities. The perfect settings for finger-good entertaining, which I happen to be a huge fan of lately. Platters of small bites and easy grab-and-go snacks that everyone can help themselves to mean that I get to spend more time enjoying myself, and less time in the kitchen. Because, truthfully, summers are so short here in Toronto, who wants to spend them in the kitchen?

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s a bunch of store-bought components brought together with a wee bit of prep and baking, so they can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. You will need a couple of trays of silicone ice cube trays for this recipe, so keep that in mind if you’re planning these for an upcoming event. I bought mine from Amazon.ca (they are also available on Amazon.com too). If you’re in a pinch, you could use regular plastic ice cube trays, but be sure to well oil them first as it can be trickier to pop the pizza bites out.

We’re partial to classic {vegan} pepperoni pizza around here, but you can customize these with any combination of your favorite pizza toppings. Any way you stuff them though, they are guaranteed to rock the next play date, pool party or picnic, guaranteed!

Mini Vegan Pizza Bites

Ingredients:

All purpose flour for rolling out dough

15 oz store-bought fresh pizza dough, divided in half.

1/2 cup pizza sauce or marinara sauce

1/3 cup shredded vegan mozzarella

1/4 cup vegan pepperoni, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp pizza seasoning or 1 tsp each dried oregano, basil, thyme

Directions:

Lightly oil and flour one silicone or plastic ice cube tray. Cut pizza dough in half and on a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/8″ thick. Repeat with other half of dough and set aside.

Transfer the first rolled out piece of dough to the ice cube tray and press the dough down into each hole. Fill each hole with approximately 1 teaspoon each of sauce, cheese and pepperoni, being careful not to over-fill the hole.

Cover tray with remaining dough, pressing down sides to seal, and trim any excess dough (save it to use for more pizza bites!)

Freeze for 30 min or refrigerate for 60 min so that the dough can set. (It makes it easier to turn the dough out of the tray)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn out dough onto a parchment-baking sheet and use a small knife or pastry wheel cutter to separate each bite. Turn bites upright and line up on baking sheet. Combine olive oil and pizza seasonings and brush tops of each bite with a bit of oil.

Bake for 15-20 min until golden.

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“So what food do you miss most from your non-vegan days?”

I’ve been vegan for close to eight years now, and I legit still get asked this question on almost a weekly basis. And my answer is always, unwaveringly, the same: eggs.

I always thought cheese was going to be the hardest thing for me to give up, but there are so many really good artisan vegan cheeses available now that I *almost* don’t miss the real thing. (I say almost because let’s face it, there’s just something about cheese…but I’m totally good now living in a dairy-free cheese world.) Eggs however, are a different story. I leaned toward vegetarian for many years before going vegan, and eggs were a big protein source for me. (And also, I’m a HUGE breakfast-for-any-meal kind of person, so there’s that too…)

Vegan food in general has come a long, long way. Beyond Meat and Beyond Sausage revolutionized the plant-based meat world; countless artisan cheese-makers have changed the playing field (for the better) for dairy-free cheese consumption; plant-based milks are as ubiquitous as their non-vegan counterparts, and there have even been remarkable developments in the vegan egg world thanks to Earth Island/Follow Your Heart and JustForAll, but both are still quite new, quite expensive, and not readily available, especially in Canada.

Growing up, I loved egg salad. My step-dad had this old family recipe for the best egg salad sandwich ever and he passed it down to me when I was barely a teenager, and I made it for years. It was a staple in my house growing up, especially since he was the one who packed my school lunches every day. And I’m convinced to this day that his is the best egg salad ever. So if I was going re-create this vegan-style, it was his recipe I was going to use for inspiration. His secret ingredient was a bit of celery salt. I truly think it adds something next-level to the dish. (If you don’t have celery salt, you can use dill and a bit of kosher salt.)

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Calling All Vegans with Sue Spahr and Alec Bosse, and we had a serious conversation about egg salad (Sue’s most favorite non-vegan thing ever was egg salad and she’s a little obsessed with finding the perfect vegan version.) I’ve been promising her mine for a while now, and since I’m sharing it with her, I figured I’d share it with y’all too.

I use extra-firm tofu for my “egg” salad, but if you’re avoiding soy, you could use mashed chickpeas as well (or a mix of the two just to shake things up a bit). Because I use chickpeas for my “toona” salad, I don’t use them here. I often serve both salads at the same time (hello brunch!) so I find it a bit repetitive. The trick to getting this to emulate real egg salad is to use the large shredding side of a box grater that would typically be used for shredding cheese (that’s how my step-dad always grated his eggs for salad). You want to use extra-firm tofu and press as much water out of it as you can, otherwise your “egg” salad ends up runny.

I’m also a huge green onion fan and I use them quite liberally in my egg salad. But if you’re not so into green, you could use red onion, or skip them all together and add some diced celery for crunch and texture.

So grab a bagel or good whole wheat bread and some lettuce because “egg” salad is back – vegan style!

Vegan Egg Salad

Ingredients:

1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

2 green onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then diced

3-4 tbsp vegan mayonnaise

2 tsp ball park mustard

2 tsp sweet relish

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, grate tofu using the large shredding side of a box grater.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

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So I really want to call this “hummus”, but with a very noticeable lack of chick peas (the traditional ingredient in hummus), it clearly isn’t, so we’re going to stick with Sweet Potato Dip. But make no mistake, it is designed to mimic hummus in every way, from the garlic and sesame paste, to the lemon and paprika – it’s a hummus makeover.

I created this dip for my hubby, who has an intolerance for chick peas. Not an I-don’t-like-them kind of intolerance, but a physical my-body-cannot-eat-these intolerance. He struggles with an almost-allergic reaction to legumes in general, and I’m always looking for ways to re-create legume or bean-based dishes for him.

Fortunately, he loves sweet potato, and because sweet potatoes have a mild flavor that works well with both sweet and savory spices, and super-creamy consistency, they work well as a bean substitute in dips.

This dish works well both with or without oil, so you’re all good if oil-free is your thing. My hubby even prefers it that way. It’s a little more thick without the oil, but the flavor is 100% on point. Adding oil to the recipe will give it more of that smoothness of hummus.

So bust out all the fresh veggies, crackers and chips – your new summer dip is here!

Sweet Potato “Hummus” Dip

Ingredients:

4 medium sweet potatoes

1/4 cup tahini

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp onion powder

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

sriracha (to taste)

2-4 tbsp olive oil

Directions

Poke holes through sweet potatoes and microwave until cooked through (about 18-20 minutes depending on your microwave). Slice open and allow to cool. Peel skins off and put flesh into food processor.

Add remaining ingredients (except oil) to food processor and process until smooth. Stream in oil (if using), until combined.

Refrigerate for minimum one hour before serving.

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It’s May…the middle of May to be exact, and it’s cold outside. Like October or early November cold. It seems Mother Nature is a bit confused these days. We’re done with winter. We’re done with fall. We’re done with rain and cold and wind and grey skies. But yet that has been our weather forecast for the first half of this month.

I should be posting summery pasta salads and fruity desserts and drool-worthy BBQ dishes, but here I am, writing another blog post about a stick-to-your-ribs, hug-in-a-bowl kind of soup. Because damn, I’m freezing again.

There’s an interesting story behind this soup. It’s a “copycat” recipe, which is to say, a homemade (and albeit healthier) version of a favorite grocery store or restaurant dish. I created this recipe for my dad, who is pretty handy in the kitchen by his own rights, but needed some help replacing a now-discontinued kitchen staple.

I’ll start off by saying my dad is not vegan by any stretch, but he enjoys plant-based foods (especially when I cook for him) and is open to steering away from traditional dairy and meat from time-to-time. (No joke, his favorite burger is Beyond Meat and he is hopelessly addicted to Gardein Chick’n Sliders.) Anyway, for years he has used Campbell’s Homestyle Creamy Gouda Bisque as a base for a couple of his stew recipes. However, Campbell’s recently discontinued it and he has exhausted the supply in the greater Boca Raton and Palm Beach areas of Florida, where he lives and works.

Jokingly, he said to me one night that he should try and recreate it, but he’s “not me” and couldn’t really do it. So I took it upon myself to do it for him. After having him send me pictures of the ingredient list from his last remaining can, I grabbed a pen and notebook and within 15 minutes, emailed him a recipe that provided a similar flavor profile, but using plant-based ingredients.

Now, I’ll admit that I have no idea what the canned version actually tasted like, because a) Campbell’s Homestyle brand is not available in Canada, and b) it’s not vegan so it wouldn’t be something I’d purchase anyway. But from my dad’s description of it, I had a feeling this one hit all the right notes: bright red pepper and onion, smoky, creamy gouda, a bit of heat from cajun seasoning, and thick creaminess thanks to some yukon gold potatoes.

A couple of weeks after I sent him the recipe, my stepmother tested it out and they both gave it two thumbs up. So clearly I hit the mark. What I love about this soup is that it’s velvety smooth, rich but not over-the-top indulgent, and it’s full of great flavor.

The canned version has chunks of chicken in it, and you could easily roast or saute up some Gardein or Beyond Meat lightly seasoned chick’n strips to toss into this soup once it’s cooked, but really, it works just as well without it.

So, until it warms up here in Toronto, I’ll be hunched over a steaming-hot bowl of this lusciously creamy, thick soup. Maybe someday soon I’ll get to post a summer recipe.

Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Bisque

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/2 large white onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 C all purpose flour

4 cups vegetable stock 

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp tomato paste

4-5 medium size Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp cajun seasoning

1 cup daiya farmhouse block smoked gouda, shredded 

½ cup daiya farmhouse block old cheddar, shredded

Directions:

1. In a large stock pot, heat oil and butter on medium high heat.  Add onions and peppers and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

2. Add flour and cook for 2 min until all flour is absorbed in veggies.  Add vegetable stock,  coconut milk, tomato paste and potatoes and stir well to combine.

3.. Bring to an almost boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 min or until potatoes are soft.

4. Remove from heat; puree with a stick blender until soup is smooth.  Return to heat and stir in cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, and both cheeses.  Stir until cheese is completely melted.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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Is there anything more iconically “Easter” than a creme egg? I have had a love-affair with them ever since I was a little kid. Back then, they were only available at Easter so they were highly coveted and savoured. I would look forward to getting to eat a few of them every April…until my first year in college, when my Aunt somehow managed to buy a costco-size box (and I mean a box – like the 24 or 36 count ones that stores buy and then sell each egg individually) and gift it to me. Let’s just say that even after sharing it with a group of friends over a weekend, it was a good decade before I could even look at one again.

Nowadays, versions of Cadbury eggs are around longer than March and April, but the classic ones will always be thought of as an Easter treat. Which brings me to this challenge: how does a creme-egg loving girl get her fix now that she’s vegan? Easy…she creates her own!

Admittedly, it’s been about 7 or 8 years since I’ve eaten a non-vegan one, but from what I recall, this recipe is pretty darn close to the original ones. Right down to the yellow “yolk.”

While they are actually really easy to make, they are pretty much 100% sugar, so they only make an appearance once a year in our house. A couple of things to note before making these: you definitely want to get a silicone mold for them. It’s the easiest way to ensure you can get the chocolate eggs out in one piece. I used Wilton’s silicone egg mold. They are available on bothamazon.ca and amazon.com.

Second, to achieve the yellow centre, Wilton ‘golden yellow’ food coloring works really well and is free from animal products or bi-products. Vegan Chow Down provides a full list of vegan-friendly Wilton products that was obtained directly from Wilton. It’s a handy reference guide for all your decorating needs.

You only need a few drops of it, and I recommend starting out with one or two drops only. Its a very small amount of fondant that needs that yellow hue. If you aren’t a fan of food coloring, or don’t want to buy a whole jar just for one dessert, tumeric works just as well. Just be sparing with it as too much will impart an earthy, perfumy taste. About a 1/4 tsp of tumeric to 3 or 4 tbsp of fondant worked well for me.

Finally, I recommend using white or light corn syrup as the sweetener. You can use regular golden syrup but your fondant will come out a bit beige and not as bright white. I’ve used both and in no way does it affect flavour or texture, it’s merely an aesthetic thing. If you don’t have either, you can use light agave or brown rice syrup.

Once made, I keep mine in the freezer and when I want to eat one, let it sit at room temp for 5 minutes first. The fondant filling doesn’t fully freeze, and the almost crisp texture of slightly frozen chocolate against cold, creamy fondant is delicious in my opinion. Also, keeping them in the freezer keeps me from eating an entire tray at once. They will also keep well for days in the fridge too.

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I think I’ve tested about 12 versions of vegan macaroons for this post. Seriously. For a bite-size dessert that should be really simple to make, that’s a lot of trial and error. Here’s what’s kept me up at night with this recipe: replacing the eggs. Now for most baking recipes, it’s pretty easy to replace eggs. Applesauce, flax, aquafaba, powdered egg replacers…each are perfectly acceptable substitutes and work well in specific types of baking. For instance, applesauce is a great substitute in muffins, as is flax. Aquafaba is a dream in things like brownies or even cookies, and powdered egg replacers make cake-baking a breeze. But macaroons are a different case.

They are light and delicate and unlike the other baked goods mentioned above, they have very little holding them together other than the egg binder. Most baking recipes call for flour – and a good amount of it too – along with a certain amount of liquid, and that helps hold everything together. Its like the base of each recipe. Macaroons rely on shredded or desiccated coconut (desiccated coconut is a drier and more finely ground version of coconut than its shredded counterpart), and coconut is not very binding. (Which led me to another revelation: macaroons NEED some sort of flour. Almond or coconut – or even all purpose if you’re not making these for passover. Asking shreds of coconut to stick together with nothing but a bit of liquid is a tall task.)

The other thing about coconut macaroons is that they are very distinctly coconut flavored. And egg whites (which are typically used in macaroons) are very neutral in that they don’t impart flavor. So I needed something neutral – or something coconut.

I’ve read a lot on the internet about using aquafaba for macaroons. I’m a huge fan of aquafaba, so I tried it. I tried it whipped, whipped with sugar, whipped with cream of tartar, whipped with both sugar and cream of tartar. Then I tried it straight out of the can. I tried it with a little bit, and with a lot. And after all that trying I have to say, I’m not sold on it. While aquafaba has worked well for me in the past in recipes like my super-chewy fudgy brownies, they just didn’t cut it here. In my experiments, aquafaba either didn’t bind the coconut mix together enough, leaving it very crumbly to the touch, or it made the mix too wet and mushy after being baked.

So I had a thought: if it’s coconut macaroons I’m making, and I want real coconut flavor, what about coconut milk? It’s thick, rich, binds well with flour and is full of coconut flavor. The trick (as I learned through a few test runs), is to be very careful about the amount. Too much coconut milk will leave the macaroons very wet and keep them from getting that golden, toasted crust. But the right amount (which for this recipe is 1 cup), combined with shredded coconut and almond flour, creates the perfect tender-chewy macaroon cookie. Finally!

To get your macaroons perfectly chewy on the outside and soft but not under-baked on the inside, use a 1 inch or 1.5 inch cookie scoop packed really well for each macaroon. Packing them keeps the cookies’s shape and the small size helps them bake evenly and thoroughly. Trust me on this…I put every size cookie scoop I own to the test on this one.

So there you have it: the perfect little vegan coconut almond macaroon. With a chocolate drizzle to top it off, because why not?

Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

3 cups shredded or desiccated coconut

1 cup coconut milk (full fat, not light)

1/3 – 1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup liquid sweetener of choice (I used #NoBees vegan honey, but agave or maple syrup works just as well)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

pinch of kosher salt

1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine coconut, coconut milk, 1/3 cup almond flour, almond and vanilla extract, sweetener of choice, sliced almonds and salt.  Stir well to combine.  Let sit for 5 minutes for mix to absorb coconut milk.

If after 5 minutes, the mix is a bit too liquid, add 2 more tablespoons of almond flour and mix well. 

Using a small (1 inch or 1.5 inch) ice cream scoop,  pack scoopfuls of dough really well and place gently onto lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bottoms are golden and tops are lightly toasted.  Cool completely on rack.

Transfer to wire rack (with a lined baking sheet underneath to catch drippings).  Melt chocolate in the microwave in :30 increments, stirring after each interval, until melted.  Stir in coconut oil (this will make the chocolate shiny and easier to drizzle).

Using a spoon, or squeeze bottle if you have one, drizzle chocolate over macaroons and allow to set.

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