Category Archives: How To

MoFo 6: It’s Pie O’Clock

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

Some Thoughts On Pie

I know, I know.  My title would have been 97% more accurate if I’d only waited until 3:14 to post.  Unfortunately, at 3:14 p.m. I am unable to use my computer without tiny little hands banging on the keyboard and I haven’t been awake at 3:14 a.m. for years now — unless I happen to have woken up at precisely that hour to use the restroom.  Getting old stinks, people. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be 3:14 to enjoy a nice slice of pie.  What I’m trying to say is, it’s pie o’clock somewhere.

As baking projects go, I think that homemade pie has a fairly high intimidation-factor.  Things like cakes and cookies tend to come out well if you follow the recipe exactly — no prior experience required.  In comparison, even the very best recipe cannot explain precisely how to turn out a perfect flaky pie crust.  It’s something you have to learn by trial and error.

Now that I have several years of pie-making under my belt, I find that I get the best results using a food processor.  I’m still working on making my crusts look pretty, but, using the food processor method, I’ve definitely reached the point of consistently great taste.


(My parents’ food processor is as old as me, but it still turns out a perfect, flaky crust.)

Using a food processor, your pie dough  comes together in 4 easy steps:

  1. Pulse together dry ingredients.
  2. Add fats and pulse until you have pea sized crumbs.
  3. Add liquid and pulse just until dough forms a ball.  (If a ball does not form, add more liquid a tablespoon at a time).
  4. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate.


(Dough ball accomplished.)

 A Review of “Pies and Tarts With Heart”

Now that I had a ball of dough, I just needed a pie recipe.  For that, I turned to Pies and Tarts with Heart by Dynise Balcavage of the Urban Vegan blog.  As the title suggests, Pies and Tarts with Heart is a book devoted to pies.  I actually put a lot of thought into the purchase of this particular book.  I already owned Vegan Pie in the Sky, after all.  Did I really need another book about pie?  On top of that, Hannah Kaminsky’s Easy As Vegan Pie was released around the same time as Pies and Tarts with Heart and I knew I definitely didn’t need three pie books.  What ultimately persuaded me to purchase the book was the inclusion of a chapter on savory pies.

Pies and Tarts with Heart has a lot going for it.  There are lovely full-color photos throughout, including an introduction with step-by-step photos on basic pie building techniques.  There’s also plenty of variety.  In addition to the usual suspects like fruit pies and creamy pies, there are chapters devoted solely to raw pies, “imposter pies”(things with pie in the name that aren’t actually pie, such as Boston Cream Pie) and the aforementioned savory pies.

Based upon my experience actually baking from the book, though, it gets a mixed review.  Of the recipes I’ve tried, about half did not turn out properly when I followed the directions as written.  The recipes are easily modified, but it took some failed baking experiments to learn what tweaks were needed.  I’m also turned off by the number of recipes that use vegan cream cheese (including recipes that you wouldn’t expect such as the pecan pie), which is a product that I’m not a particularly big fan of.

The recipes I’ve tried so far are:

  • Basic Single Crust Pastry (page 30) – This is just what it sounds like.  My crust has baked up nicely each time I’ve used this recipe.
  • Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie (page 90) – The flavor of this pie was great, but I did have some issues with it.  As the pie cooled, the shortening in the filling separated out forming a waxy coating on top of the pie.  I’m not sure why this occurred, but I intend to replace the shortening with margarine if I make this again.
  • Choco-Coco Macadamia Pie (page 93) – A coconut pie in a nut crust with a layer of chocolate.  This was a tasty and rich pie.  As a coconut lover, though, I thought that the cream cheese took away from the flavor of the coconut a bit.
  • Pot Pie Marsala (page 116) – A savory mushroom pie with a touch of Marsala in the filling.  Considering this pie combines mushrooms and Marsala, two of my favorite flavors, I expected the pie to deliver big in the taste department.  I found it surprisingly bland and would not make it again.
  • Cornish Pasties (page 129) – This version of the traditional British hand pie uses TVP and veggies in the filling.  Although it took some time to make the filling and assemble the pies, I absolutely loved these.  They are the best thing I’ve made from this book so far.

In the spirit of my MoFo theme, I selected one new pie to try for this review.  Since it’s the last day of summer, I thought that the Crumble Top Berry Pie (page 51) was an appropriate selection.  It is a mixed berry pie with an oatmeal crumb topping.  Although the flavor of this pie was nice, I once again had issues with the recipe.  My pie did not set up at all.  Even after cooling completely, it was like soup.  Since it was more liquid than solid, we ate the pie on top of ice cream and called it berry sundaes.  I made a note in the recipe to double the cornstarch if I make the recipe again.


(Crumble-Top Berry Pie  Berry Sundae Topping)


Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews, Cookbooks, How To

Favorite “Chicken” Gravy

As promised, here is my favorite recipe for “chicken” gravy.  I adapted it from my Mom’s gravy recipe with the following modifications:

  • eliminated the meat (obviously)
  • reduced the fat
  • made the gravy thicker — I happen to think my Mom’s gravy is the perfect consistency, but my husband has an affinity for thick Southern style sausage gravy and thinks every gravy should be that same consistency.  For a gravy with a more traditional consistency, reduce the flour and nutritional yeast to 1/4 c. each.


  • 1/3 c. all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 c. nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 c. water
  • bouillon cubes or paste to equal 1 c. prepared stock (usually this is half a cube or 1 tsp. paste) — “chicken” flavored bouillon makes this even more chickeny
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • black pepper to taste


In a measuring cup, combine the 2 cups of water with the bouillon.

In a saucepan, combine the flour and nutritional yeast and toast them for a few minutes over medium low heat.  Add the margarine and stir until well combined with the flour and yeast.  (Note that this won’t result in a roux.  The flour to fat ratio is too high for that, so you will still have dry flour in your pan).

Stirring constantly in a figure eight motion, add the water/bouillon mixture a splash at a time.  The water must be fully absorbed and the mixture lump free before you add more water.  (Because there is dry flour in the pan, this method is key.  Adding the water too quickly will result in a lumpy gravy).

Once all the water is added, raise the heat to medium-high.  Bring to a simmer while continuing to stir constantly.  Add the onion powder and black pepper to taste.  Simmer a few minutes more and then serve or keep warm over low heat stirring occasionally.

Leave a comment

Filed under How To

Mofo: Confessions of a Unitasker or Donuts!

After 5 days in the hospital, I’m excited to once again be eating food that tastes like something.  I don’t have a lot of time to cook, so I’ll be alternating between posts about my pre-baby cooking experiments and posts about what I’m currently eating.  (Hint: it came from the freezer).  Today, I bring you this important post about donuts.  Happy MoFoing everyone.


I love Alton Brown and I’ve learned a lot about cooking from him, but I think Alton would be very disappointed in me if he ever saw my kitchen.  I have more unitasking tools and appliances than I have places to store them — important items like my quesadilla maker, electric fondue pot and juicer (for the daily juice my husband planned to make and actually did make twice).

One purchase I’ve never regretted is my donut pan.  It only has one use, but baked donuts are a pretty important use if you ask me.  I made these chocolate dipped and cinnamon sugar donuts using the recipe in Chloe’s Kitchen.  Cinnamon sugar clings to fried donuts thanks to the residual frying grease, so a little ingenuity was required to coat these babies.  After making your favorite baked donut recipe, you will need the following to cinnamon sugar a half dozen:

  • 2 tbsp melted margarine
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a brown paper lunch bag.  Working with one donut at a time, lightly brush the donut with some melted margarine.  (You can also quickly dunk the donuts in the margarine, but don’t let them sit too long or they will soak up too much grease and you can no longer pretend they are healthy).  Drop the donut into the bag of cinnamon sugar and shake vigorously.  You should now have a perfectly coated donut.

Leave a comment

Filed under How To, Recipes from Cookbooks

Mofo 6: Pancakes Step-by-Step

Saturday morning is the perfect time for a fluffy stack of pancakes.

Step 1: Prepare batter using your favorite recipe.  Some of my favorites are:

  • Perfect Pancakes from Vegan Brunch
  • Pancakes for Dinner from Chloe’s Kitchen
  • Coconut Pancakes from Vegan with a Vengeance
  • Apple Pie Pancakes from La Dolce Vegan

Step 2: Portion batter into a preheated skillet. (I use one of the measuring cups I dirtied preparing the batter). Gently spread the batter in a circular motion.

Step 3: Cook the pancakes until they begin to bubble and firm up around the edges.

Step 4: Flip pancakes carefully.  Continue cooking until puffed up and cooked through.

Step 5: Nom nom nom


Filed under How To