Month: November 2016

Vegan Crème Brûlée

Sacrilege, I know.

But anyway, I recently watched the hippiest of hippy documentaries: Cowspiracy.   Contrary to what I expected, it was not about PETA coming for your soul… but rather it was (mostly) about how modern livestock—-between fields of crops to grow its food, farmland to raise it, water to keep it hydrated, and the waste it generates—is apparently THE main cause behind global warming.  Too many people eat too much meat (that’s not pointing a finger at your Sunday Pot Roast, it’s looking at that $1 hamburger you get from the gas station).  But no one wants to say that it’s the reason behind climate change, because Americans have this thing with eating meat… thus the “cowspriacy”.

What was the most shocking to me, however, was that dairy and eggs take more resources than meat.  For instance, one pound of cheese takes a cumulative 700 gallons of water to make, according to the EPA’s blog.  To get to the point of the documentary, they suggest that instead of shaving a few minutes off of your shower, if you really want to help the environment, you ought to cut out animal products.

Now, I’m a (not born but yes raised) Wisconsinite.  Certain places would have to freeze over before I stop eating dairy.  So don’t worry, family, I know you’re reading this. I’m not about to become vegan…especially since it is my lifelong crusade to prove that butter makes the best pie crust. So I’ll stop getting political on you, because that’s not why I’m here.  I AM HERE to add some quality recipes to the veg world, and to accept this new challenge that is baking sans eggs.

I had many qualifications that this recipe needed to meet, and some of these will probably be the norm for any vegan adventure of mine:

1) It must include normal ingredients that the average human has access to.  No nutritional yeast, no agar agar, no…molecular gastronomy.  Alright? If you want people to join in, you can’t make them restock their whole pantry.

2) NO COCONUT MILK.  Nearly every vegan creme brulee recipe that I saw required canned coconut milk.  Cool, if tropical is what you’re going for.  But you can’t pretend that’s a flavor profile you’d experience in a traditional mainland-French dessert.  Especially not if you have family members who can sniff out coconut from a mile away.

3) It must be tasty in its own right.  One of the things that irks me about the veg world is the way that it seems to find “replacements” for animal products.  VEGAN CHEESE, TOFU MEAT REPLACEMENT.  How about instead of marketing things that are clearly NOT MEAT as “meat”, you market them as just another food to add to your repertoire.  Waffles are not Pancake Replacements, after all. [Now watch me be a hypocrite as I make a creme brulee replacement]

I also learned many things on my first vegan baking experience…none of which really have to do with vegan cooking:

1) Do not let soy milk boil over.  The smell of burning soy will stay in your nose for eternity, and even longer on your stove top.  Not that I would know…

2) Do not let turmeric loose, unless you are prepared for your whole life to be the color of movie-theater popcorn.

3) Do not make creme brulee if you do not have access to a kitchen torch.  Broilers are a non-substitute, and Medieval-style internet suggestions just make you feel like an idiot.  That said, Medieval-style it is for me, until I have the means to buy a kitchen torch on a whim.

4) Cornstarch is an emulsifier, if used appropriately.  Yay!

This creme brulee could really pass as the real thing, if you didn’t know about its vegetable beginnings.  It is sweet, caramelized, silky, delicately flavored, just rich enough, and has that toasted-marshmallow thing going on.  Winner.


(This picture is not from this recipe.  Shh.  It is my own, though)

Vegan Crème Brûlée 

Yield: 4-5 servings


2 c. Unsweetened Plain Soy Milk (pretty sure even the gas stations carry soy milk these days)

2 T. Palm Oil/Non-Coconutty Coconut Oil/probably Shortening would work too

Pinch Turmeric for color (optional, but the illusion is pretty darn cool)

Large Pinch Salt

1/2 c. Sugar (plus more for torching)

1/4c. Corn Starch

2 t. Vanilla Extract


Place soy milk, oil, turmeric, and salt into a saucepan and heat over medium-high.

In a bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  The grittiness of the sugar will help break up any clumps in the cornstarch, giving you a smoother end product.

When the liquid reaches a simmer, whisk it well to help emulsify the fat, then add the sugar mixture.  Cook until cornstarch activates (which I just learned is up to 205 degrees F).  Immediately remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour into ramekins.  Refrigerate until cool and set, then sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on each.  Proceed to brulee, which you will do with a real kitchen torch if you love yourself.

Enjoy immediately.



Butternut Sage Lasagna

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on here.  Hello again, friends.


Even when it’s cold it looks pretty good!

About three years ago, my friend Lindsay and I discovered Emeril Lagasse’s butternut squash ravioli recipe (  We fell in love with it, though we added a few more garlic-y things to make it tastier to our preferences.  Since then, I’ve made it on occasion, but do you know how long it takes to make ravioli?  Even if you use ready-made wonton wrappers in place of homemade pasta?  Forever.

“Turn it into lasagna,” I said.  “It’ll go faster,” I said.  HOLY MAN, was I wrong.  This was quite the labor-intensive hunk of noodles. That said, it was worth it.  It would have gone loads faster if I had been able to find butternut squash puree…but instead I had to peel and roast and mash the squash in addition to normal lasagna things.  Feel free to do some math and figure out the appropriate substitution of frozen puree.  Not that I always advise store-bought shortcuts…but…have you ever peeled a raw squash? Just let the factory do it for you.

So here is a part-Martha-Stewart, part-Emeril, part-Janco take on Butternut Squash Lasagna.  Maybe next time I make it, I’ll be able to use puree, in which case I will update this post accordingly.  Cheers.  Here’s the link to Martha’s contribution:  (

Butternut Sage Lasagna

Yield: One 13×9 pan


1.5 Butternut Squashes (if you’re using two full-sized. I myself used a full-sized one and then a tiny one)

Olive Oil


1 Package Lasagna Noodles

1 c. Salted Butter

12-14 Sage Leaves (one package from the grocery store, generally)

About 1/2 c. Vegetable Stock

1 Shallot, minced

1 1/4 t. Black Pepper, divided

3 Large Cloves Garlic, minced and divided

3/4 c. Ricotta (for the love of Moses, use the good stuff)

1 ball Fresh Mozzarella

1/2 c. Heavy Cream

Dash Nutmeg

2 Egg Yolks

Parmesan (I used one wedge.  How descriptive of me)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and seed (de-seed?) the squash; cut into one-inch cubes.  Toss squash with a liberal amount of olive oil and some salt.  Roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender when poked with a fork.

While the squash is roasting, prepare sage brown butter.  Place nearly all of the whole sage leaves (reserving a couple) into a saucepan with all of the butter.  Cook over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter gets a nutty scent, the sage looks crispy, and it turns a golden brown.  Immediately remove from the heat, lest it burn.  Remove sage leaves and discard.

Begin to cook the pasta–al dente in salty water.  Pour approximately half of the brown butter mixture into a large bowl or other dish standing by.  When the  the noodles finish cooking, toss them in the bowl with the brown butter to keep them from sticking together.  Set aside.

When the squash finishes roasting, transfer it to a large pot.  Mash with whatever utensil seems to do the job.  Place pot over medium heat.  Add shallot, 1 t. of the black pepper, 2 of the cloves of garlic, and remaining sage leaves (chopped finely).  Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes–we’re trying to get the garlic and shallot to cook a bit so they don’t have as much of a bite.  Pour the remaining brown butter into a measuring cup.  Add enough vegetable stock so that the liquid reaches 1 1/4 c.  Add to squash mash and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

In another bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella (shredding it by hand worked better than I thought it would), heavy cream, remaining 1/4 t. black pepper, remaining garlic, the nutmeg, and the egg yolks.  Whip together with a fork.

Now we can (finally) start building the thing.  Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Grab your 13×9″ pan, and spread a thin layer of the squash mixture on the bottom.  Add a layer of buttery noodles.  Then a layer of the eggy dairy mixture.  Next, grate or shave or otherwise disperse Parmesan over the pan.  Add another layer of noodles.  Then a healthy helping of squash, more noodles, more eggy dairy, more parm, etc, etc.  Theoretically you will end with the dairy mixture, which you should top off with twice as much Parmesan as usual.  There will probably be some brown butter hanging out in the bowl where the noodles were–I poured it on top of the parm, because I don’t want to waste sage brown butter!  Bake for about a half hour until the cheese starts to get some color.

Let cool for a bit, then enjoy!