Vegan Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin

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Oh how I love me a good tater. However, since I’ve been on my new diet, the humble potato and I just haven’t been spending a whole lot of time together. Don’t get me wrong, I still love ’em and allow myself one every now and then, but I just can’t eat them day in and day out like I used to. #SadFace

When I’m craving a potato-based dish but really can’t do it with potatoes, I start to get creative -that’s how this recipe was born. A couple weeks ago I randomly started thinking about gratin potatoes and how much I had hated them as a kid. That led into me realizing that I actually hadn’t had them since I was a kid and that perhaps I should give them a try with my now fully grown palate. After convincing myself that this needed to happen, I then worked out which other veggies I could substitute in place of the potatoes. I ended up using eggplant and zucchini and do you know what happened when I ate some of my eggplant and zucchini gratin? I struggled to figure out why I didn’t like that shit as a kid because it’s really good -even without my most beloved vegetable in it.

It all gets started with the making of a Mornay sauce -that’s just the technical name for a roux-based sauce that has cheese (in this case vegan “cheese) added to it. Vegan “butter” gets melted down over low-med. heat and then flour gets added. Once the “butter” and flour start to look a little foamy, unsweetened almond milk is added and the mixture is brought to a boil. After a few minutes, the heat gets turned down and the seasonings go in. Then comes the “cheese” -Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds this time. You’ll whisk until smooth then set your Mornay sauce aside until we’re ready for it.

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Okay, time to prep the eggplant and zucchini! Each gets washed and then, using the 3.5mm blade on a mandoline slicer, each gets cut up into slices. Just a quick word of advice about this step: I like to cut the stem ends off of the eggplant and the zucchini and then cut each veg in half before I put them on the mandoline. This works out much better because then I’m working with more manageable chunks and not big long wibbly-wobbly pieces.

After you’ve sliced the eggplant, take a knife and cut the circles into 3 even wedge-shaped sections so that the eggplant slices are closer to the size of the zucchini slices.

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Finally, it’s time to assemble our gratin. Generously “butter” a medium sized, circular or oval, shallow baking dish (mine was an oval roughly 10 inches by 8 inches). Alternating the eggplant and zucchini, lay the pieces in the dish so that they’re at about a 60-degree angle from the bottom of the baking dish. (For those of you who are angle challenged, all this means is don’t be layin’ the pieces flat in the dish but don’t have them sticking straight up and down either.) You’ll be working the pieces around the edge of the dish and then creating concentric circles inward until you reach the center where you’ll just fill the middle however is best for your dish.

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Next, pour the Mornay sauce over the vegetable slices being sure to make your way around the dish as you’re pouring rather than dumping it all into the center. Grab a spoon or a spatula and push the sauce around, where needed, so that the vegetable slices are nearly completely covered with the sauce. Wrap the dish tightly with foil then pop it into a preheated oven for 50 minutes.

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After 50 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and, using tongs or an oven mitt, remove the foil from the dish. Generously sprinkle the top of the gratin with some vegan shaker-style “Parmesan” and then put it back in the oven, uncovered, and broil until gloriously golden brown.

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When done, let the gratin sit for about 15 minutes before you serve it.

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Vegan Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 80 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegan “butter” + more for greasing dish
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2-3 garlic cloves + 1/2 teaspoon salt, mashed together to create a paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 cup Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds
  • 3-4 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2-3/4 cup vegan shaker-style “Parmesan”

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepareĀ a medium sized, circular or oval, shallow baking dish by greasing it generously with “butter.” In a medium sized saucepan over low-med. heat, melt 2 tablespoons “butter.” Once melted, add in flour and stir to combine. When the mixture starts to look foamy and light brown, add in almond milk and increase the heat to bring it all to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. After 3 minutes, reduce the heat to low and add in the garlic cloves you mashed into a paste with salt. Also add in the dried thyme, paprika, sugar, white pepper, nutmeg, and celery seed. Stir to combine. Next, dump in the “Mozzarella” and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat and let the sauce rest for a moment until we’re ready for it.
  3. Using the 3.5mm blade on a mandoline slicer, cut the eggplant and the zucchini into slices. (Just a quick word of advice about this step: I like to cut the stem ends off of the eggplant and the zucchini and then cut each veg in half before I put them on the mandoline. This works out much better because then I’m working with more manageable chunks and not big long wibbly-wobbly pieces.) After you’ve sliced the eggplant, take a knife and cut the circles into 3 even wedge-shaped sections so that the eggplant slices are closer to the size of the zucchini slices.
  4. Alternating the eggplant and zucchini, lay the pieces into your prepared dish so that they’re at about a 60-degree angle from the bottom of the dish. (For those of you who are angle challenged, all this means is don’t be layin’ the pieces flat in the dish but don’t have them sticking straight up and down either.) Work the pieces around the edge of the dish and then repeat to create concentric circles inward until you reach the center where you’ll just fill the middle however is best for your dish. (For my dish, I just did a straight line in the the center.)
  5. Pour the sauce you made earlier over the vegetable slices being sure to make your way around the dish as you’re pouring rather than dumping it all into the center. Grab a spoon or a spatula and push the sauce around, where needed, so that the vegetable slices are nearly completely covered with the sauce. Wrap the dish tightly with foil then bake it for 50 minutes.
  6. After 50 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and, using tongs or an oven mitt, carefully remove the foil from the dish. Generously sprinkle the top of the gratin with vegan shaker-style “Parmesan” then put it back in the oven, uncovered, and broil until golden brown -about 2 or 3 minutes. When done, allow gratin to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Gratin will keep in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.

Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

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It’s been said that I’m a bit of a bean fiend but how could anyone not love those wholesome little nuggets of deliciousness?! In fact, I was told to eat even more beans by my nutritionist so hate all you want but I’m gonna be cramming beans in my diet wherever I can! #BeanMeUpScotty

One of my favorite beans to cook with is the white bean but the other day I realized that I’ve only shared one recipe with y’all that features white beans. (I seriously did a recount because I couldn’t believe I had only shared the one.) I knew that I needed to up my white bean game and share not just a recipe with white beans in it but rather a white bean-based recipe so today I’m doing just that.

Now, maybe you’re like, “What the hell is a bean spread?” So before I go any further allow me to explain this for those of you who are a little confused. A bean spread is a super thick and delicious mixture that can be enjoyed by itself, as a side, or smeared on veggies, on a bagel, on a pita, on tiny toasts for a party, on your finger, on the finger of your lover, on a shoe, on a stick… you get the idea. And the “benevolent” part? That’s just a cutesy word taken from one of the ingredients (more on that in a moment) that I chose to add to the title because I can.

So now we know what a bean spread is, let’s talk about what it tastes like. My bean spread is so full flavored it’ll knock your socks off! It’s garlicky, it’s oniony -wait, oniony is not a word but garlicky is? Lame! Anyways… full flavored. There’s a creaminess that you get from the beans and a little vegan “cream cheese,” then you have a meaty, salty element thanks to Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, and the whole thing’s rounded out with some baby spinach. It’s really good and it all gets started with a little prep.

First things first, drain and rinse a can of great northern white beans then plop them into a mini food processor. Add in the vegan “cream cheese,” some salt and pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil, then pulse the mixture until smooth. Set your white bean creaminess aside for a moment and move on the the rest of the prep.

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Wash up some baby spinach (or buy the prewashed stuff) then remove excess stems andĀ  tear remaining leafy bit into smaller pieces until you have 2 cups worth of torn baby spinach leaves. Also, finely dice about 1/8th of a white onion, finely mince a few garlic cloves, and slice up about 5 slices of the “bacon” to get them down to more bite-size pieces.

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Now it’s time to get cookin’! In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook the “bacon” and the onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure that the “bacon” is cooking up evenly.

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After 5 minutes, add in the torn spinach leaves and the garlic. Stirring occasionally, just as you did before, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

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The last thing that we need to add is the white bean mixture we made earlier. Pour that into your pan then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir nearly constantly at this point so that the beans don’t burn to the bottom of the pan.

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Serve your finished bean spread hot or cold -it’s great either way!

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Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

  • Servings: makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 20 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can of low-sodium great northern white beans, drained and rinsed + 1 generous tablespoon vegan “cream cheese” + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (measured after being torn, not before)
  • 5 pieces of Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, uncooked and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/6-1/8 of a white onion (about 2 tablespoons), finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Something to smear bean spread onto like a bagel, pita, veggies, mini toasts, etc. (optional)

Directions

  1. In a mini food processor, combine drained and rinsed beans with “cream cheese,” extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Pulse until smooth then set aside. Tear up baby spinach leaves and prep “bacon,” onion, and garlic, if you haven’t done so already.
  2. In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook “bacon” and onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add torn spinach leaves and garlic then cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in bean mixture then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir almost constantly at this point so that the bean mixture doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. When spread is done, serve it hot or cold. Spread will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Vegan Irish Apple Cake

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With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner I wanted to do a post featuring something Irish made vegan! My main criteria? It could not, and absolutely would not, be colored any shade of green. #IPityTheFoodColoring

Of course my first thought was, “ERMAHGERD POTATOES!!!” A logical first thought but alas, I wanted something different. I wanted something that was Irish but that didn’t punch you in the face with its Irish-ness. I wanted something that would caress your cheek (whichever cheek you prefer to be caressed upon) and then whisper in your ear, “Iiirriissshhhhh.” Immediately my mind went to desserts and, thanks to a little search engine inspiration, I figured out exactly what I wanted to make -Irish Apple Cake, also known as Kerry Apple Cake.

The traditional versions of this beloved Irish treat aren’t that sweet and they usually feature apples alone as the star of the show. I mean, it’s called apple cake so what would you expect, right? But in my modern take I have 2 stars -the apples, of course, and walnuts which add crunch and a little bitterness to offset the tart apples. I also upped the sugar just a smidge but the cake isn’t cloyingly sweet by no means so you can still enjoy it for breakfast just like they sometimes do in Ireland! However and whenever you choose to enjoy it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it -especially if you’re an apple lover like I am!

To get started, I went ahead and prepared some egg substitute for use a little later in the recipe. (By now I’m sure you know what my favorite egg substitute is in baking but, just in case you haven’t checked out any of my other recipes before, it’s Ener-G and I prepared it according to the instructions on the box for 2 eggs worth of substitute!)

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After I prepared my egg substitute I then prepared the walnuts by tossing them around with a little flour. We do this because nuts, and things like them that you add to cakes, tend to sink to the bottom of the cake if not coated in a little flour. Now, the batter for this cake is rather thick so I probably didn’t have to do this step but I thought better safe than sorry and it only took like 5 seconds to do! When all of your walnuts are nicely coated in a light layer of flour you’re just going to set them aside for a moment -we’ll come back for them soon, I promise!

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Okay, time to make the cake batter!

First I mixed the wet ingredients, including the egg substitute I made earlier, together. And remember now, we count sugar as a wet ingredient in baking. After all of that was whisked to perfection, I added the dry ingredients and gave it all a good stir. The batter should be pretty thick and that’s exactly how we want it to be so don’t be tempted to add more liquid. Once the batter is made set it aside for a minute so that we can get the apples ready.

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For the apples, you’ll wash them (obvi), then peel them and slice them thin (think 1/5th of an inch or a little over 1/8th of an inch). You’ll then core the slices and cut them into more bite size pieces. Lastly, you’re going to toss the bite size pieces in with a little flour -just like we did with the walnuts.

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Now it’s time to build our cake -no degree in cake building required!

In a prepared pan (sprayed, floured, and lined on the bottom with parchment paper) I add a thin layer of the cake batter. Don’t worry about spreading the thick batter out edge to edge, it will get pushed out as we add stuff to it. Speaking of adding stuff to it, we will then add half of our apples, pressing a little with each one to help spread the batter out, and then we will add half of our walnuts.

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On top of that first layer of apples and walnuts you’re going to spoon on dollops of batter. Again, we’re not looking to completely cover the pan edge to edge, we’re just looking for moderate coverage. Add the next layer of apples and walnuts now -the remaining amounts of each. Be sure to once again be pressing on the apples as you lay them down so that they help spread the batter around a little. The final layer is the remaining cake batter dolloped and then gently spread/pressed around to ensure that the apples are all covered. Once the final layer is complete you may then put the cake into the oven.

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When the cake is done, a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. Let that bad (Irish) boy cool completely then give him a nice dusting of powdered sugar and enjoy!

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Vegan Irish Apple Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 75 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Egg substitute for 2 eggs (I used Ener-G -it’s my favorite!)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick of vegan butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups flour + 1/2 tablespoon for walnuts + 2 tablespoons for apples + extra for pan
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 granny smith (green) apples
  • Powdered sugar for dusting over finished cake

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 inch round cake pan by greasing it, dusting it with flour, and then lining the bottom with parchment paper. Prepare egg substitute according to directions on packaging for 2 eggs if you haven’t done so already. In a separate small dish, prepare walnuts by coating them with 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, vegan butter, almond milk, egg substitute, lemon juice, and vanilla. When combined, add 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir to incorporate dry ingredients. Batter should be thick and smooth. Set aside for a moment to prepare apples. To prepare apples, wash then peel the apples. Slice apples into thin slices, core the slices, then quarter the slices. In a small bowl, toss the apples with 2 tablespoons of flour to lightly coat them.
  3. Grab your prepared pan and add in a thin layer of batter. Enough to coat most of the bottom but don’t feel the need to get it edge to edge. Layer in half of your apple pieces, pressing down on each as you add it so as to help push the batter around into a more even layer. Add half of your walnuts over top of the apples. Now add another layer of batter by spooning dollops of batter into the pan. Again, don’t worry about getting complete coverage because the batter will spread as you add the next layer of apples and walnuts. Add the final layer of apples and walnuts just as you did the first. Lastly, top the whole thing off with the remaining cake batter, dolloping it on and then carefully smoothing/pressing it out to ensure that all of the apples are covered.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes. When done, a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Cool cake fully then dust with powdered sugar. Cake will keep on counter in an airtight container, or covered well, for 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes & Strawberry “Buttercream” Frosting

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Well, Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! (Or Galentine’s Day, or Singles Awareness Day, or whatever other name you have for February 14th!)

With the day o’ love coming up I decided to do a Valentine’s-inspired recipe this week. When I think of Valentine’s day, the first thing that comes to mind is that I’m single but, once I stop crying, the next thing, or rather things, that comes to mind are strawberries. Who doesn’t love a good fresh strawberry? I know I could eat them, and have eaten them, by the pint. Oh who am I kidding, I’ve eaten them by the pound before. #StrawberrySkank

So with strawberries in mind I decided to come up with a recipe for fresh and from scratch strawberry cupcakes with a strawberry “buttercream” frosting to go on top. Why did I take the time to let you know that they are not only fresh but also from scratch? Because 9 out of 10 strawberry cupcake/cake recipes you find out there are not fresh or from scratch. Most ask you to plop in some strawberry gelatin dessert mix and some just doctor up a box of strawberry cake mix -either way, no thank you. My recipe calls for real strawberries and that makes all the difference.

Oh look, here come some fresh, real strawberries right now…

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Beautiful, aren’t they?

The first step is to process the strawberries by hulling, halving, and then blending them up with some lemon juice until smooth and liquidy. My blender has an “extract” button which pulverizes whatever you put in there so I opted to use this feature with my strawberries to ensure that their tiny little seeds would not be floating around in my puree.

You will be using this puree in both the cupcakes and the frosting but you will have a little leftover to do something fun with or you know, you could just drink that leftover strawberry goodness right down, if you’re so inclined to do so. And I was.

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To get started on the cupcakes you’re going to whisk together the dry ingredients and then set them aside for a moment until they’re needed. (Pretty easy so far, right?!)

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Next you’re going to get the wet ingredients, including some of the strawberry puree, combined in a separate bowl.

One of the wet ingredients in this cupcake recipe is vegan strawberry yogurt. For this recipe I prefer a soy-based rather than nut-based yogurt and if your yogurt has bits of strawberries in it then you, like me, will have to scoop those out before you move on to the next step. We want out cupcakes to be light and lovely and not have little lumps in them so it’s important that you get those out. It’ll only take a minute, I promise.

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Once your wet ingredients are combined and the strawberry lumps from the yogurt have been removed, you can then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Should you desire a more pink-y cupcake you are more than welcome to add in a few drops of pink or red food coloring here but I personally wanted to keep my cupcakes au naturel.

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Fill your cupcake papers (12 to be precise) a smidge over halfway full then bake ’em for 20-25 minutes. When done, as with most cupcakes, a toothpick stuck in the center will come out clean.

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Transfer your little piggy pink beauties to a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

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As for the frosting, it couldn’t be any easier to make a vegan “buttercream.” Simply combine the room temperature vegan butter, a little strawberry puree, vanilla, and salt in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment attached, or in a bowl and use a hand mixer. With the mixer on low you’re going to slowly add in the powdered sugar in parts. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, crank up the speed of the mixer and whip a little air into your frosting for just a few seconds until it is light and fluffy. Again, if you’d prefer a more pink-y color you can add in some food coloring but as with the cupcakes, I went for the natural color which is a very pale shade of peachy pink.

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After you’ve allowed your cupcakes to cool fully you can then frost them with your strawberry “buttercream” frosting and add any little special touch you want to them -I added some itty bitty heart sprinkles because after all, these are Valentine’s cupcakes.

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Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes & Strawberry 'Buttercream' Frosting

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: about 40 minutes plus time for the cupcakes to cool and then to frost them
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

    For the puree:
  • About 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • For the cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree
  • 1 stick of vegan butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegan strawberry yogurt (preferably soy-based)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Red or pink food coloring (optional)
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 stick of vegan butter, room temperature
  • About 1/3 cup strawberry puree
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • A pinch of salt
  • Red or pink food coloring (optional)
  • About 3 1/3 cups of powdered sugar

Directions

    For the puree:
  1. Combine both ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and liquidy.
  2. For the cupcakes:
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a muffin/cupcake pan by lining 12 cups with cupcake papers.
  4. In a medium or large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup mix the sugar, 1/2 cup of strawberry puree, melted vegan butter, almond milk, vegan strawberry yogurt, and vanilla together and stir to combine. If your strawberry yogurt has little bits of real strawberries in it then you’ll want to fish those out before you move on to the next step -we don’t want those in our cupcakes because they’ll make our cupcakes lumpy. If you desire a more pink-y cupcake you can add a couple drops of red or pink food coloring to the wet ingredients but this is completely optional.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake papers and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. When cupcakes are done, transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before frosting. Cupcakes will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days and because of the fresh fruit in both them and the frosting they should be kept in the fridge when not being served.
  7. For the frosting:
  8. Combine the vegan butter, about 1/3 cup strawberry puree, vanilla, and salt in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment attached, or in a bowl and use a hand mixer. If you desire a more pink-y frosting you can also add in a couple drops of red or pink food coloring but this is completely optional.
  9. With the mixer on low slowly add in the powdered sugar in parts. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, crank up the speed of the mixer to whip a little air into the frosting. Be sure to not overwork the frosting -it should only take a few seconds of mixing on a higher speed to get the frosting light and fluffy.