On day 208 of the Nowhere To Be Project I dined alone as I so often do. In my mind, there are very few dinner companions as alluring as a good book. As I sat in bliss, eating and reading, the conversations of those around me seeped into my awareness. Some were bantering on about recent events in what sounded like a catch-up chat. Others whispered with gossip-filled glee. One elderly woman was happily spewing word after word and sentence after sentence, so much so that I wondered how she was managing to squeeze in bites of her meal. She just sounded so thrilled to be in the presence of others. A conversation like that would have completely exhausted me today. I guess that’s another benefit of retirement, I no longer have to speak for my dinner.
As a professor, I lectured for a living. I had to be wordy, funny, engaging, energetic and affable. If I failed, my students failed by zoning out and missing key content. I was paid to be an extrovert. Over time, this was incredibly draining because my natural inclination is toward introversion. I would come home after a day of lecturing for eight hours and stare at the television, not really watching it, but needing its drone to unwind my brain. After today’s solo meal I stumbled over the most wondrous blue pumpkins. They were sort of hidden and I’d no doubt have missed them if I’d been with another, embroiled in conversation. Not to be hyperbolic, but these pumpkins were the most beautiful shade of grey-blue-lavender that I’ve ever seen! Their seductive color not only reminded me of the beauty of silence, but reinforced the value of solitude. There’s just so much to see in the world, so many blue pumpkins, and I’d hate to miss a thing.
Day 199 of the Nowhere To Be Project left me with a ton of farmer’s market vegetable finds. What to do? The air was a bit cool and crisp today in the mountains so I decided to roast them. I was beyond hungry too (as usual) which gave me the idea to add some tofu to the mix. I ended up with an amazingly rich and flavorful feast to celebrate the arrival of fall. This dish is just perfect for potlucks because it satisfies vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike, it presents beautifully on a platter and best of all can be served hot or cold.
Instructions 1- Gather, wash and trim the seasonal vegetables you have on hand. I used a halved artichoke, asparagus, whole mushrooms, Belgian endive leaves and garlic cloves. I steamed the artichokes and endive briefly in water in the microwave to give them a head start since they take a bit longer to cook. 2- Arrange the vegetables on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar before adding freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. 3- Toss cubed firm tofu (dried of all liquid by blotting with paper towels) in a small bowl with enough avocado oil to coat lightly and soy sauce to taste. Now add a bit of cornstarch to the bowl and toss gently before placing on a separate foil lined baking sheet. 4- Place both baking sheets in a 400 degree preheated oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until browned and crispy. For even more flavor, sprinkle the veggies with grated vegan parmesan cheese for the last five minutes of roasting. I also add fresh chopped herbs before serving for added zing.
For many, myself included, autumn is a season filled with festivals, travel and food! In preparation for my favorite time of the year, day 180 of the Nowhere To Be Project is dedicated to sharing the fall-inspired recipe I created yesterday. Vail’s amazing sweater weather paired with my first sighting of both pumpkins and fall color in the leaves had me craving a taste of autumn. I satisfied that urge with the following recipe. I hope you enjoy these delicious cakey cookies smothered in brown sugar mascarpone frosting!
Vegan Pumpkin Cakies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup organic puréed pumpkin
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 vegan egg (I use Follow Your Heart Vegan Eggs)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3- Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl.
4- Stir wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
5- Use a hand mixer to blend all ingredients together in the large bowl until it resembles creamy peanut butter, adding just a half cup of the dry mixture to the wet at a time.
6- Spoon the batter on the lined baking sheet in golf ball sized drops.
7- Bake for about 15 minutes.
8- Let the cakies cool for about 15-30 minutes before frosting.
Brown Sugar Mascarpone Frosting
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons water, plus more for soaking
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4-8 cups powdered sugar (depending on how you’d like the texture of your frosting…less makes a glaze and more make it fluffy)
1- Place cashews and brown sugar in a bowl of water. Cover and soak overnight (ideally 12 hours).
2- Stir cashews before draining the water.
3- Place the cashews in a blender.
3- Add all other ingredients except for the powdered sugar and blend until smooth, scraping sides and adding very small amounts of water when needed.
4- Line a ramekin or small dish with plastic wrap.
5- Spoon cashew mixture into lined ramekin, cover and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours, flipping the sealed mascarpone once at the halfway mark.
6- Remove the mascarpone from the plastic wrap and dump into a large bowl.
7- Using a hand mixer, blend the cashew mixture with 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
8- Frost the cooled pumpkin cakies, sprinkling a dash of brown sugar on top of each for the finishing touch.
*Note: These can easily be converted to whoopee pies by sandwiching the mascarpone frosting between two cakies.
Today, day 179 of the Nowhere To Be Project, brought me cooler air and my first official pumpkin sighting of the season. Unlike nearly everywhere else in the United States, the temperatures in the Vail Valley hovered in the mid 60s today. Despite the rampant Labor Day celebrations in town, the cooler air helped to put everyone in sweater-mode. As I drove through the mountains, spotting the first tinge of yellow on the leaves of the Aspen trees, I was inspired to plan a few trips. The goal for my fall travel is singular, to witness the awe-inspiring colors of mother nature as she shuts the door on summer. Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year and even though it has not officially started, its hypnotic lure is beckoning as witnessed in the yummy vegan Pumpkin Cakies with Brown Sugar Mascarpone Frosting that I created this afternoon (recipe to follow tomorrow).