The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Spice up this Valentine’s Day with some special vegan treats!

Posted on February 06, 2012 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Amanda Gilley, VRG intern

Whenever I think of Valentine’s Day I think of something unusual and exotic. I think spice and chocolate, or I look for show stopping recipes to make for that special someone. So when I was asked to write an article for a vegan Valentine’s Day I perused all the recipes in the VRG library for unique recipes to add a dash of spice to the holiday of love.

Usually to celebrate this holiday, couples flock to a nice restaurant where they pay top dollar for a decent meal. Rarely do I find couples truly excited about their night out together. Normally I hear that what should have been an intimate evening was really a loud, overpriced, and not genuine outing. For those of you that agree, then here are some fresh new ideas to celebrate.

For tips on throwing a party whether it be for two or ten, check out Vegans Know How to Party by Chef Nancy Berkoff. She gives great party advice, sample menus, and recipes from drinks to desserts and everything in between.

While searching recipes I found some entrée recipes that really made my belly grumble in excitement. "Spicy Mandarin Chickpeas," a recipe from Conveniently Vegan, sounded exotic and delicious. This recipe definitely fits the bill of unusual and the best part is that it is easy to make! Another great option for those short on time and guests is the "Sweet Indian Rice with Carrots and Dates" from Vegan Meals for One or Two. This recipe serves 2 and is ready in less than 30 minutes.

An entrée that sparked my attention was found in a back issue of the Vegetarian Journal. The recipe is a "Mac and No-Cheese with Zucchini "Cream" Sauce." I love mac and cheese recipes because they are so versatile and with this recipe you can keep it plain or dress it up. To add a meaty texture to the mac and no-cheese you can garnish with fried mushrooms or stir in some chopped sundried tomatoes.

Dessert must make an impression on Valentine’s Day! From the same back issue in which I found the mac and no-cheese recipe, a "Crispy Rice Square" recipe called my attention. I know crispy rice squares don’t sound like a treat fit for such a special occasion but it is all in the presentation. For example you can flavor the rice squares with melted chocolate and then press them into foil heart molds which can be found in the baking section of many grocery stores around the month of February. This technique can dress up any basic and easy recipe, even cupcake and brownie recipes!

I can’t think of any other dessert that better represents Valentine’s Day than chocolate cake. In the book Vegans Know How to Party a "Moist Chocolate Cake" recipe sounded like the perfect option for dessert. To keep the decadence flowing finish off this chocolate cake with a “Vegan Caramel Sauce” also from Vegans Know How to Party. And for those non-chocolate lovers out there or those just short on time use the vegan caramel sauce recipe and a "Cream Cheese Spread with Fruit" recipe from the same book to turn up the romance. How do you go about pushing the love level into overdrive? Use these sauce and spread recipes as dips for fresh fruit and you and your significant other can practice the art of love by feeding each other. So whether you have plenty of time or are short on time and whether you are cooking for two or six, spice up this Valentine’s Day with some special vegan treats!

Spicy Mandarin Chickpeas
Serves 4
From Conveniently Vegan
By Debra Wasserman

Two 19-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Two 10.5-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
¼ cup strawberry jam
2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne

Method of Preparation:
Heat all ingredients in a medium sized pot over medium heat for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Sweet Indian Rice with Carrots and Dates
Serves 2
From Vegan Meals for One or Two
By Chef Nancy Berkoff

2 Tablespoons vegan margarine
1 cup matchstick cut peeled carrots
2 Tablespoons chopped dates
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ cup uncooked white or basmati rice

Method of Preparation:
Melt margarine in a large pot. Add carrots and dates; cook and stir until carrots are soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add broth and spices, stir, and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, approximately 20 minutes.

Mac and No-Cheese with Zucchini "Cream" Sauce
(Serves 6)
From Vegetarian Journal; Volume XXIX, NO 4
By Debra Daniels-Zeller

4 cups washed, peeled, and roughly chopped zucchini
5-7 quarts salted boiling water
One 12-ounce package your favorite pasta
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste
½ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
½-1 cup toasted bread crumbs

Method of Preparation:
1. Add the zucchini to a large pot of salted boiling water and reduce the heat.
2. When the zucchini is very tender, scoop it out, place in a strainer, and drain. Save the water.
3. Using the back of a spoon, press the zucchini to squeeze as much water as you can from it. Save the liquid.
4. Pour the zucchini water into the pot of water and bring it to a boil again.
5. Add pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm).
While the pasta cooks, place the zucchini in a food processor with garlic and pepper.
6. Process the mixture until very smooth.
7. Season to taste with salt. Stir in chopped basil, if desired.
Place the pasta in a serving bowl and toss with the zucchini sauce.
8. Top each serving with toasted bread crumbs.

Crispy Rice Squares
(Makes one 9-inch round or one 7 x 5-inch pan, approximately 15 servings)
From Vegetarian Journal; Volume XXIX, NO 4
By Debra Daniels Zeller

½ cup rice syrup
½ cup almond or peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup raisins
3 cups crispy rice cereal

Method of Preparation:
1. Place rice syrup, nut butter, vanilla, and raisins in a small saucepan. Heat for a few minutes, and then stir thoroughly.
2. Pour the rice cereal into a large mixing bowl and add in the rice syrup-nut butter mixture.
3. Mix until well-blended. Press into a 9-inch pan.
4. Allow to cool. Cut into bars.

*Variation: For a chocolate version of this recipe, melt a 1-ounce square of vegan chocolate into the nut butter.

Moist Chocolate Cake
Makes one 9 X 13-inch pan (8 large servings) or 24 cupcakes
From Vegans Know How to Party
By Chef Nancy Berkoff

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (favorite vegan variety)
2 Tablespoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups water
Vegetable oil spray

Method of Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and then add the wet ones, and mix until smooth and well combined. Spray pans and pour into a 9- x 13-inch pan or 24 cupcake tins. Bake at 350F for approximately 20-25 minutes (cupcakes) or 50 minutes (9- x 13-inch pan). Test with a toothpick to make sure center is baked. Cool cake and ice with your favorite frosting.

Vegan Caramel Sauce
Makes 1½ cups
From Vegans Know How to Party
By Chef Nancy Berkoff

¼ cup soy or rice milk
¾ cup sugar (favorite vegan variety)
1/3 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon arrowroot
2 Tablespoons vegan margarine
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Method of Preparation:
1. Place the milk, sugar, and maple in a small saucepan and whisk well to combine.
2. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, while whisking occasionally.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and arrowroot, and then whisk the mixture into the saucepan.
4. Cook the mixture, while whisking constantly an additional 2-3 minutes or until it thickens.
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.
6. Serve warm as a topping for cakes, desserts, non-dairy frozen desserts or as a dipping sauce for fruit. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and reheat as needed.

Cream Cheese Spread with Fruit
Serves 8-10
From Vegans Know How to Party
By Chef Nancy Berkoff

1 cup vegan cream cheese
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
½ cup fruit preserves
¼ cup fresh fruit

Method of Preparation:
1. Place cream cheese in a medium-size bowl. If necessary whisk with a fork to soften
2. Add remaining ingredients, except fresh fruit, and mix well to combine.
3. Place in a bowl and serve as a fruit dip or spread on a cooled cake, muffins, or cupcakes.

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