vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls


It's going down.

I feel like there have always been a few things I assumed don't work in the vegan world. Anything cheese-related, of course (though that's soon to be disproven, which I can hardly believe myself) and for some reason, cinnamon rolls. I don't know why. It could be that they're typically so buttery you can see the gleam from space or the fact that they're often covered in sugary (butter-based) glaze. How do you vegan-ize that without giving something up?

In keeping with the autumn flavors currently trending, here's how: you add pumpkin. And (vegan) pumpkin butter. You hold the glaze because, sure, it's good, but with rolls this flavorful you don't even need the added sweetness.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (any non-dairy milk will do)
6 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter (I used organic Earth Balance)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
2 3/4 - 3 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour (I used a combo with all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 cup pumpkin butter***

***A note on pumpkin butter: you can no doubt find this on the store shelves this time of year (or all year, if you live around some stores that stock smart). But it's also a piece of pumpkin-y cake to make your own. Just take 1 cup of pumpkin purée, 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 4 tablespoons of apple juice, cider or water. Let simmer on a stovetop for about 10 minutes or until it reduces to a thick yet spreadable paste. 

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the almond milk and two tablespoons of butter to 110 degrees. This will happen relatively quickly and this isn't really something you can eyeball or guess at. It has to be pretty exact and definitely no hotter or you'll risk killing the yeast, resulting in a sad, flat cinnamon roll which no one invited to the cinnamon roll party.

Transfer your milk-butter combo to the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast packet on top. Allow to activate for about ten minutes (it will start to look foamy if it's working properly/the yeast isn't too hot). Add one tablespoon of sugar, your salt, a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Whisk together (using the mixer's whisk attachment). Add your pumpkin purée and whisk once more.

Switch out the whisk attachment for the dough hook. Add your flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring as you go. It's hard to know ahead of time how much flour you'll actually use, but what you're looking for is when the dough gets a little too thick to stir any longer or when it begins to completely attach itself to the dough hook. At this point, transfer your dough to a well-floured countertop and knead until it comes together in a loose ball, about one minute.

In a large bowl coated lightly with oil (I used canola), place your dough ball inside and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area (the oven, off of course, is a good spot) to rise for one hour.

After an hour, the dough should be about doubled in size. Yay! On a floured surface, roll out your dough into a rectangle-ish shape. Brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, followed by brushing with the pumpkin butter. I know, right? In a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup of your sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the dough and then roll up, gently but quickly.

Using a serrated knife (trust me), cut one-inch rolls and place in a well-buttered square pan. (I actually cut enough to fill a square and a round pan, so you might want to plan for extras. I say, score!). Brush the tops with the remaining butter and top with a little more pumpkin butter and sugar, if you want. Cover with plastic wrap and set on top of the oven while it preheats to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the tops have puffed up and gone beautifully golden.

You could wait until these aren't hot enough to burn your mouth, but I have no idea why you would do something as crazy as that. These just scream Sunday in autumn, a crisp morning with leaves on the ground and a cozy sweater. Except I made these on a Tuesday in honor of our third wedding anniversary, but it totally felt Sunday-ish. And brunch-ish. And really, really lovely.

Can't quit the pumpkin? Well, why would you, it's barely November:


butternut squash risotto


I think fall is my favorite time of year to visit the farmer's market. Sure, we all know I love a good tomato, maybe even on a level that could be considered dangerous. But there's something about walking through the stands and stalls where there's a slight crispness to the air, just the earliest hint of cold weather coming, while perusing the folding tables overflowing with delicatas, acorn squashes and butternuts. Sure, I like a nice decorative gourd as much as the next girl, but talk to me about the varieties you can roast and sauté and I am more than ready to welcome the change in season with open, squash-filled arms.

Enter risotto, the perfect vehicle for creamy roasted cubes of butternut (or whatever your favorite fall variety may be). Note: Risotto is a bit of a process, and one you need to stick around for. You can't just pop it in the oven or leave it on the stove while you tend to other things. Trust me though, the constant stirring is beyond worth it. For this recipe you'll need:

4 cups of vegetable stock, heated through
1 cup of arborio rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup of pumpkin purée
Freshly ground salt and pepper
2 tablespoon of vegan butter
Olive oil
About 2 cups of butternut squash, cubed
About 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan (optional)

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your butternut squash on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and cinnamon. Roast for about 20-30 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges, which will just about be the duration of the risotto-making process.

Thoroughly heat your stock in a small saucepan. It's important to start with hot vegetable stock, rather than refrigerated or even room temperature, as this will affect the way the rice cooks. In a separate larger pot, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add your chopped vegetables and garlic and stir constantly, so as to fry but not brown. For the correct risotto texture, the smaller you can chop your vegetables, the better.

After about 10 minutes or until your vegetables have begun to soften, add your rice. Keep stirring and wait until you notice the rice going slightly translucent around the edges while staying white in the very center. This will happen relatively quickly. Add some salt and pepper. After about 2-3 minutes more, add your pumpkin purée. No one will judge you for using the jarred stuff (well), but as I feel in almost all scenarios: making and using your own will always win in the what-tastes-better department. Stir rapidly to incorporate.

At this point it's time to slowly add your stock and stir like a madwoman (or man, or person). Add a ladleful at a time, allowing each addition to be fully absorbed by the rice before adding more liquid. Though the stock will disappear into the rice relatively quickly each time, it's important to keep stirring as to avoid sticking or burning. This is the part that becomes time-consuming.

Once you've used most of your stock, have a taste: the rice should be al dente, or still retain a slight bite or chewiness, while the stock lends a creaminess. That's exactly what risotto should be like. If you still find the rice to be slightly too crunchy, add more stock until you've achieved your desired texture. Stir in your vegan butter. For our risotto, I waited to add cheese to only mine. If you're planning on adding cheese to the whole lot, now's the perfect time to do so.

Serve topped with your roasted squash and some sautéd greens and toasted seeds, if you like. This recipe also works great with green peas or caramelized onions. Enjoy!

Think there's more than one way to peel a butternut?


vegan chocolate-chocolate cake


Okay, so normally cake is reserved for some sort of special occasion. Weddings, birthdays, you know. I'm sure there are others. Me, I don't really need a reason to have cake, especially when it's one this good. And yes, this was technically made for a birthday (a very special one, actually, cute Colin's 31st), but it's bound to make a repeat appearance, candles not included.

For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cake (two 6-inch rounds)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar, finely ground in a blender
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Filling: 1/3 cup apricot jam (a favorite)

For the ganache

8 ounces dark chocolate (70% is a good gauge), finely chopped
1 1/4 cups almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Small pinch fine sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Okay, a quick word. Not only is this cake terribly easy (seriously, no super hard to find ingredients, no weird steps) and vegan. But it's really, really good. I know, I shouldn't really be the one to have to convince you of the virtue of a vegan cake since this blog is full of vegan recipes, but let's get real about something: not all vegan cakes are created equal. I have had some that just don't cut it, pun intended. They're too dense or the icing is rock solid even after sitting out for an hour or more. Nope

This one, however, is exactly as all cakes should be. It's light, subtly sweet, not too overly-chocolatey (yes, that is a thing). You'll just have to try it for yourself.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of two 6-inch cake pans (you could use an olive oil spray if you feel like being cohesive, but I went coconut since that's what I had on hand). Line the bottoms with parchment paper and set aside.

Into a medium bowl, sift together your flours, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together your olive oil, maple syrup, milk, vanilla and vinegar until evenly combined. Slowly add your wet ingredients to your dry in several stages, whisking to combine with each addition. Pour into your prepared pans and transfer to the oven to bake for thirty minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (If the toothpick test leaves you feeling unsure, check the sides: are they pulling away from the pan? Then your cake is done.)

Transfer to wire racks to cool (in the pans) for five minutes. Next, (carefully!) flip them out of the pans and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, wrap well with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill. The main reason for this is it makes spreading the jam filling and ganache much easier when the cake is cold. So really, you could do the baking a day in advance for best results or allow to chill for at least two hours.

When you're ready to dress up your cake with ganache, melt your chocolate in 15-second increments in a microwave safe bowl. You don't want to zap it all at once since this will result in burnt chocolate and a smell that will take forever to leave your tiny kitchen. Whisk after each trip to the microwave to smooth out and check for lumps. Once your chocolate is shiny and lump-free, gently stir in your milk (slightly warmed will help), sugar, olive oil and salt. Once combined, transfer to the refrigerator to firm up slightly (about 1-2 hours).

Finally, use your apricot jam to sandwich together your cakes. Spread liberally with your ganache or, if it's still pretty fluid, just pour over the top--just make sure you have a tray underneath your cake stand to catch the mess. 

And there you have it! The perfect vegan birthday cake (or anytime cake) that will change your mind about vegan desserts.

Stocking up on cake recipes for all the future birthdays?