Week 4: Vegan Pumpkin & “Bacon” Mac-N-“Cheese” & Vegan Coconut Cornbread Dressing – A Compassion is the Secret Ingredient Thanksgiving

Week 4 is here and this week is all about transforming recipes that I’ve already shared into new recipes that are absolutely perfect additions to your Thanksgiving table! The first recipe that I’m transforming from “everyday” to “Thanksgiving” is my mac-n-“cheese” which I shared with y’all back in March.

The original recipe is quick, easy, and beloved by all who try it -it’s actually in the top five list of most popular recipes here on the blog! For as popular and great as it is though, it is not exactly a recipe that most would pick for their Thanksgiving menu. To remedy this, because mac-n-“cheese” should never be left out of the fun, I decided kick the original recipe up a notch by adding to it… drum roll, please… pumpkin and “bacon.”

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The pumpkin, of course, makes this dish oh-so-fall but it also adds to it a nice earthy quality to our mac while the “bacon” adds a lot of bold smokiness and a little change in texture.

To get started, we must first get a pot of pasta cooking up. Just like with the original mac recipe that I shared, my pasta preference is a shape that resembles a double elbow or open spiral. (It’s often called either Cavatappi or Cellentani.) Once you’ve got the pasta going, you’ll need to get the “bacon” going as well.

In the pot that you’ll make the “cheese” sauce in, saute up the bacon of your choosing. I love Benevolent Bacon but if you’re looking to decrease the smokiness of your mac then you might want to opt for a different brand. When your “bacon” is done, remove it from the pot and set it aside for use in a moment.

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To the pot that you just plucked the “bacon” from, a little “butter” gets added and melted down. Once melted, an equal amount of flour is added and the mixture get stirred together then cooked until foamy and light brown. Next, unsweetened almond milk joins the party and the whole mixture is brought to a boil and kept boiling until thickened which should only take a minute or so. Now it’s time to reduce the heat and add the “cheese” and pumpkin! Once those have been fully incorporated, the final step to complete the “cheese” sauce for our mac is to add the “bacon” that we cooked earlier along with some seasonings.

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With the “cheese” sauce completed you can now toss in the cooked noodles, give the whole thing a good stir, and then enjoy!

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Vegan Pumpkin & 'Bacon' Mac-N-'Cheese'

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of Cavatappi or Cellentani pasta
  • Oil and salt for pasta water
  • 1 package of your favorite vegan “bacon,” cut into half-inch pieces or smaller
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag of Daiya cheddar-style shreds (about 2 cups)
  • 1-2 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. In a pasta pot, or other large pot, start pasta cooking in accordance with the instructions on the pasta’s packaging for al dente pasta. Be sure to add a little oil to the pasta water (1-2 tablespoons) to help prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cooks and also add a decent amount of salt (2-4 tablespoons) to infuse the pasta with a little flavor as it cooks. In a separate large pot, that you’ll eventually make the “cheese” sauce in, cook the “bacon” in accordance with the instructions on the “bacon’s” packaging. When the “bacon” is done, remove it from the pan and set it aside for a moment.
  2. In the pot that you just removed the bacon from, add the “butter” and allow that to melt completely. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy and very light brown in color -about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and turn the heat up to bring to boil. Boil, while stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to thicken sauce base a little. After 2-3 minutes, reduce heat to medium and add in the “cheese” and canned pumpkin. Stir until they have fully been incorporated into the sauce base -about 2-3 minutes. Add the “bacon” you cooked earlier as well as the nutritional yeast, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika and stir to combine. If your pasta is not ready yet, turn the heat off on the “cheese” sauce until the pasta is ready to be added to it.
  3. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and then add it to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to coat each noodle then serve. Leftovers will keep fresh in an airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days.


Okay, time for the next transformed recipe! This recipe turns my coconut cornbread, shared with y’all back in July, into a dressing. No, not like a salad dressing but like a stuffing dressing. So why call it a “dressing” and not a “stuffing?” Well, frankly, because it is not getting “stuffed” into anything -certainly not the tortured dead body of a sentient being, that’s for damn sure. #GoVegan

It all gets started a day in advance. A day in advance you’re going to want to make the coconut cornbread. The day of, to help the cornbread dry out just a little bit more, you’re going to cut it up into about 1-inch cubes, transfer the cubes (and any crumbs) to a lightly greased sheet pan, and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 20 minutes. Once the cubes have been baked, set them aside for a moment and move on to the next step.

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The next step in our coconut cornbread dressing involves some prep. Half of a large white onion and 2-3 stalks of celery need to be finely diced. You’ll also need to small dice 2 Granny Smith apples which have been peeled and cored. Last but not least, in a small bowl you’re going to whip up substitute for 1 egg using Ener-G egg replacer and the instructions on the Ener-G box.

In a pot or large skillet, 1 stick of vegan “butter” gets melted down and then the onion, celery, and Granny Smith apples that you just prepped get tossed in. Cook these, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. (The shorter time, 10 minutes, will result in these elements keeping their individual textures while the longer time, 15 minutes, will result in each of these things being softer. You do you, boo.) Once those have been cooked, low-sodium vegetable stock gets added along with the egg substitute, some Bragg Sprinkle, agave, salt, and pepper. Everything gets a good stir and then it is time to build our dressing in the baking dish that it will bake in.

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I opted to use an oval baking dish but you can choose whichever shape you want as long as it is on the larger end of medium size. Spray the dish with a little non-stick cooking spray, or grease it with some vegan “butter,” then fill the bottom of the dish with half of the cornbread cubes/crumbs. Layer on half of the onion, celery, and apple mixture then repeat these two steps to complete the layering process. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

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When done, keep the foil on until you’re ready to serve so that the warmth and moisture are not lost in the meantime.

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Vegan Coconut Cornbread Dressing

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Non-stick cooking spray or vegan “butter” for pan
  • 1, day-old, coconut cornbread
  • 1/2 of a large white onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, trimmed (ends removed) and finely diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and small diced
  • Ener-G egg replacer for 1 egg (follow instructions on box)
  • 1 stick of vegan “butter”
  • 1 1/2-2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Sprinkle, crushed in palm of hand before use
  • 2 teaspoons agave
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a large sheet pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray or lightly greasing it with “butter.” Cut the day-old coconut cornbread into about 1-inch cubes then transfer the cubes (and any crumbs) to the sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. Once the cubes have been baked, set them aside for a moment. Prep the onion, celery, apples, and Ener-G if you haven’t done so already.
  2. In a pot or large skillet, melt the “butter” down then add in the onion, celery, and Granny Smith apples. Cook these, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. (The shorter time will result in these elements keeping their individual textures while the longer time will result in each of these things being softer.) After 10-15 minutes, add in the vegetable stock, Ener-G, Bragg Sprinkle, agave, salt, and pepper. Whisk or stir this mixture well then turn the heat off.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with vegan “butter,” a baking dish that is on the larger side of medium size. Fill the bottom of the dish with half of the cornbread cubes/crumbs. Layer on half of the onion, celery, and apple mixture then repeat these two steps to complete the layering process. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake for 15 minutes. When done, keep the foil on until you’re ready to serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.


Well, that’s it for week 4, y’all! There are only a couple weeks left and then it’s show time! Remember, if you make any or all of the recipes from my Thanksgiving series be sure to tag photos of your feast on social media using #aCITSIthanksgiving so that they can be found with ease by me and others who did the same. See you next week!

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Vegan Burnt Caramel Frosting

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Sweet, buttery, and a little toasty -that’s what this frosting is.

It was inspired by my mom who asked me to make her a chocolate cake with caramel frosting for her birthday. I knew that I could totally handle the chocolate cake part but the caramel frosting part? I hadn’t made vegan caramel before, let alone attempted a caramel frosting. Thrown for a loop, I decided to turn to that wonderful world of information that we call the internet where I learned that you can make vegan caramel using unsweetened, full fat coconut milk. With a little tweaking on the ideas I found online, I managed to come up with a recipe for a caramel frosting that has a slightly burnt, toasty flavor to it which contrasts nicely with the overall sweetness.

Now, it’s not the quickest frosting to make but it is pretty easy.

First things first, you’re gonna grab a small pot and pop it onto your stove over medium-high heat. Pour in a can of coconut milk and then add in some vegan “butter,” a little brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk everything together then bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil for 3 minutes, whisking frequently, then reduce the heat to simmer. Here’s where the time factor comes into play -you’re going to let this simmer for 1 hour, whisking it about every 8-10 minutes.

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When an hour has passed, add in a dash of vanilla then carefully transfer the mixture to a stand mixer, or to a large bowl that you can use a hand mixer in. With the mixer speed set to low, slowly add in powdered sugar (scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl as needed) until the desired consistency is reached.

Since I was frosting a 13×9 cake, which was remaining in it’s pan, I opted to kept the frosting on the softer side adding only 2 cups of powdered sugar to it. If you’re using this frosting for cupcakes or cookies though, where it needs to really stay in place, you’re going to want to add more powdered sugar. And no, this isn’t one of those frosting recipes that makes 3 gallons of frosting. Why? Because this isn’t a lay-it-on-thick kind of frosting in the first place. Keep it light, keep it simple, and you’ll enjoy it more, I promise.

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Vegan Burnt Caramel Frosting

  • Servings: enough to frost a 13x9 cake
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can of unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 a stick of vegan “butter”
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a small pot over medium-high heat, combine coconut milk with “butter,” brown sugar, and salt. Whisk everything together then bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 3 minutes, whisking frequently. After 3 minutes, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, whisking occasionally.
  2. Turn the heat off and add in the vanilla. Carefully transfer the mixture to a stand mixer, or to a large bowl that you can use a hand mixer in. With the mixer speed set to low, add in the powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. For a softer frosting, for a non-layered cake, add 2 cups of powdered sugar. For a more stiff frosting, for layered cakes, cupcakes, or cookies, add a little more powdered sugar until you reach the consistency desired. (And no, this isn’t one of those frosting recipes that makes 3 gallons of frosting. Why? Because this isn’t a lay-it-on-thick kind of frosting in the first place. Keep it light, keep it simple, and you’ll enjoy it more, I promise.)

Vegan Coconut Cornbread

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For those of you who don’t know this already, I have a brother named Thomas. He’s a couple years younger than me and we are two very different people. He’s a tech-savvy gamer-geek and I’m a crystal-loving, cow-hugging, artsy-fartsy free spirit. With that said however, there is one major thing that we have in common and that’s our love for food. We both enjoy cooking and baking (and eating) so our conversations are often very food centric. (Thank goodness you don’t gain weight just by talking about food!)

Our food centric conversation last week was about his upcoming birthday. I, as usual, offered to make him anything (vegan) that he wanted for dinner and he, as usual, said tofu scramble because he really loves my tofu scramble. Here’s the thing though, we both eat tofu scramble like all the damn time, so I told him that he should pick something that he doesn’t eat on a regular basis, something special, and that’s when he said he’d like some cornbread. (Of course I’ll be adding some main course to go with the cornbread, since cornbread alone isn’t dinner in my book, but I digress…)

Now, cornbread isn’t the most interesting thing ever, and y’all know I love to add my own special little twist to things, so I started to think of ways that I could jazz it up for my brother’s birthday dinner. He loves all things coconut, and I’m on a low-carb diet, so I thought that perhaps I should add in a little coconut flour. Then I thought that I should also add in coconut shreds, as well as coconut milk, to really amplify the coconut flavor. Then I remembered that I had some leftover amber ale in my fridge and figured, Why the hell not? It sounded crazy. It looked crazy on paper as I was writing it all down. But then I tried it, and had some other people try it, and there was no doubt that this crazy-ass recipe was crazy good.

My brother may not get to eat it until his birthday next week but y’all can try it right now! The first thing we’re going to do is prepare the egg replacer. For this, and most of my recipes, I use Ener-G egg replacer. In this case I took some of the egg replacer and mixed it with a little amber ale and a little water to create my “eggs.” Don’t worry if it’s a little clumpy, we’ll work those clumps out later when we add this to our cornbread batter. For now, just mix it as best you can then set it aside.

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Next, in a large bowl, you’re going to combine the cornmeal with the coconut flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Whisk these dry ingredients together.

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Now we are going to add in the wet ingredients which are coconut milk, vegan “butter” (melted), the egg replacer we made a moment ago, and a little bit of sugar. Whisk everything together once more and then we’re going to trade out our whisk for a silicone spatula.

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Toss in the frozen corn kernels and coconut shreds then fold them into the batter using a silicone spatula. Be gentle and don’t overwork the batter but do make sure that there aren’t any clumps of frozen corn.

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Generously grease an 8-inch square pan then pour the batter in and flatten the top, if needed, with the spatula. Pop this baby into a preheated oven and in just 30 minutes you’ll have coconut cornbread! You’ll know it’s done when the top is a lovely medium shade of golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Honey butter fan gone vegan? Try mixing a little agave with some vegan “butter” and smear that on a big ol’ piece of this cornbread for something so good your tongue will be crying tears of joy. #YoureWelcomeTongue

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Vegan Coconut Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer + 3 tablespoons amber ale + 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (13.66-ounce) can of coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons vegan “butter,” melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Coconut oil for pan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare an 8-inch square pan by generously greasing it with coconut oil. Prepare egg replacer, if you haven’t already done so, by combining it with the amber ale and warm water. Stir with a fork or mini whisk to break up as many lumps as you can then set mixture aside for a moment.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, coconut flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Add in the coconut milk, melted vegan “butter,” egg replacer mixture, and sugar. Whisk just until batter is smooth and all of the dry ingredients have been fully incorporated.
  3. Toss in frozen corn kernels and shredded coconut then fold everything together making sure to break up any clumps of frozen corn.
  4. Pour batter into greased pan and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. You’ll know cornbread is done when top is medium golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Will keep in airtight container in fridge for up to a week but is best hot out of the pan.