Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vegan Wine Cake (Really!) and GIVEAWAY!

When I was a kid (and still got bedtime stories!) one of my favourite books was a collection of cutesy tales that (without being all Aesop-y and flat out saying the moral or lesson) still managed to instil some sort of "you should do this" message. One of my favourites was a story about a "Green Galumpetty Monster" who hated to eat his green veggies. After scaring away a family of picnickers, he eats all their goodies (except the green lettuce) and turns into a rainbow-hued creature who gets into "big trouble" with his parents and is forced to eat bowl after bowl of grass to turn green again. 

Luckily, we humans don't change the colour of our food (if we did, most of us would be very beige), but greens are still something we should be eating. The trick is to get the veggies from the store to the table seven days a week - before the freshness fades and they start languishing in the fridge. Buying frozen veggies is nothing new, but when it comes to quality and variety the results are a bit mixed. Obviously, blanching and freezing your own (like we do with each Summer's Romano beans and beet greens here) is the best option where both flavour and texture are concerned, but to do that with all your produce, especially the somewhat finicky, bitter dark leafies, is both time and cost prohibitive. In the case of spinach, to make your own 10-oz frozen block you'd have to buy easily a pound and a half of fresh leaves, then stem, blanch, wring out, pack and freeze them. If saving money is the goal when it comes to using produce, a $1 box of spinach from the freezer case will run you almost $18 homemade! "Specialty" greens like kale and rapini are even more.   

Choosing the best storebought freezer option though can also be a bit of a shot in the dark. A lot of the time, vegetables are overcooked (hello, broccoli), packed in so tight they get crushed (Brussels sprouts, I'm looking at you) and too often the goods are frozen in bulk "blocks" that quickly lose their nutrients in storage, get freezer-burned and are hard to divide into portions. The only frozen vegetable that I almost always prefer to use is spinach, due to the value and convenience (since most recipes use a 10-oz box). When it comes to the rest of the goods, though, I'm pretty much a die-hard freshie - even though I know that in Winter some of the frozen stuff is better for you nutrient-wise. When a company called Cookin' Greens™ gave me a lovely stack of coupons for their bagged , pre-chopped, pre-washed and IQF dark leafies, I figured I might as well give them a shot - if they were as bad as the broccoli was, I could always puree them into a soup or pasta sauce. 

I have to say I was extremely pleased with the bag of CG kale I picked up - the contents of the 500-gram (roughly 17.5 oz) bag are "double-washed, double blanched, chopped and quick-frozen" within six hours of being plucked from the field, and were really easy to separate into batches for cooking. Taste-wise, it is really almost "bitter-sweet" and reminiscent of home-steamed, and none of the colour was lost in the freezing or thawing either. The texture, which is the most tender I've ever had (even cooking it from fresh myself!) fared equally well when I prepped it in the microwave, in a frying pan, and even mashed into potatoes (I tossed it in mostly frozen and let the tater's heat do it's thing). Of course, I had to try pureeing it too, making goodies like blueberry-cherry smoothies, upcoming batches of muffins and brownies and the cake below. There was no "stringiness" to the purees either - and as a whole the bag was about as far from being a conventional "block" of frozen greens as a deep-fried food festival is to being a cardiologist's convention. The only misgiving I had about any of the bags they offer (Athlete's Mix, Designer's Mix, Artist's Mix, collards, mustard greens, spinach, kale and rapini) is that the bags themselves are not resealable. A heavy-duty plastic freezer bag fits the bill nicely, though.

Since I first reviewed Hannah Kaminsky's book Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season, I knew I simply had to make her "Torta al Vino" - a low-rising grape cake with the fine texture of ground almonds and a good glug of red wine. Given that I am always wont to modify anything that comes into my recipe folder, and since I had just read an article on the popular "hiding veggies in desserts" technique (a la the Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious), I wanted to see if I could apply the mentality of adding applesauce in place of oil in baked goods also applied when it came to pureed veggies. To balance out the bitter edge from the greens, I added some of the backyard grapes to the blender - a logical addition since the same fruit was being folded into the batter at the end. A little of my Krisda stash cut down the sugar a fair tad, and using half spelt flour bumped up the protein, fibre and deliciously nutty flavour. Hannah's version also uses almond extract and pine nuts, but because I had neither on hand I just left out the extract and folded in slivered almonds instead. A few grapes sprinkled overtop of the batter in the pan crowned the delicious mixture (which tasted nothing of the hidden veggies) and rewarded me with a gorgeous, aromatic and moist wine cake that everybody who tried it liked.

 Vegan Torta Al Vino
Adapted from Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season by Hannah Kaminsky
Serves 12
50 g Cookin' Greens Chopped Kale, steamed
20 g seedless (preferably wine-making) grapes
12 oz low fat silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup dry, full-bodied red wine
1/2 cup sugar
12 packets Krisda stevia
1 cup flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups small sweet (preferably wine-making) grapes, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 10" springform pan.
  2. In a blender or small food processor, puree the kale and 20 g of the grapes until smooth.
  3. Add the tofu, oil, vanilla, wine, sugar and stevia, puree completely.
  4. Whisk together the flours, almonds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add the pureed mixture and mix until smooth, then fold in 1 cup of the grapes and the almonds.
  6. Scrape into the pan and top with remaining grapes.
  7. Bake 55 minutes, until tests done.
  8. Cool in the pan 30 minutes before unmoulding.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 246.6
Total Fat: 11.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 26.7 mg
Total Carbs: 28.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 7.3 g


Need to feel a little more "green" with the coming cooler weather, or just want to try a new, all-natural way to get veggies on your table? I'm giving away two packs of three $1-off coupons for Cookin' Greens bagged frozen veggies - your choice of Designer's Mix (Collards, Rapini, Spinach, Yellow Beans and Onion), Spinach, Kale or Rapini. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and let me know what your favourite healthy vegetable recipe or preparation is (raw and unadorned - like me and my backyard carrots - counts!) and how you keep healthy food interestingFollow me on Twitter and Tweet about this givaway (and the contest below) - "@jo_jo_ba is giving away a chance to be green with @cookingreens here:", leave a comment here with the URL of your Tweet and an extra entry is yours! This random draw giveaway runs until September 18th, I'll announce the winners and their answers on the 19th.

Guess what? Cookin' Greens is also looking for your most ingenious tip, method, or idea for getting dark leafy greens into your family’s meals, and is giving away fabulous prizes too! Show and/or tell them through photos, drawings, videos, stories, recipes, or any other creative way you can think of - it’s up to you!

Contest details:

To Enter:
"Like" Cookin' Greens on Facebook and post your entry there.
Then, go to Twitter and copy your entry’s link to @cookingreens with the phrase: “Going Green with Envy”.
The contest is open from August 15, 2011-September 20th 2011. Winning entries will be decided by the Cookin’ Greens founder and assorted food industry experts, and announced by Sept. 30/11.
So, what can you get?

FIRST PLACE: $500 gift certificate to a grocery store of your choice for a shopping spree or two + a few bags of Cookin’ Greens.
SECOND PLACE: Cookin’ Greens for a year - 2 FREE Coupons per month (or 24 bags of Cookin’ Greens) and an hour consultation with a local, Registered Dietician so that you can better understand your family’s dietary needs.
THIRD PLACE: A one-hour consultation with healthy eating advocate/mom Nettie Cronish, a signed copy of her latest cookbook - The Everyday Flexitarian, and 6 FREE bags of Cookin’ Greens.

Canadians only, sorry international readers! CG isn't available globally yet!


  1. My favourite healthy vegetable preparation would have to be corn, boiled a scant 4 minutes then just brushed with butter and a touch of salt and pepper. Yum! Thanks!

  2. Tweeted here:!/JubleeW/status/113423176184233984


  3. My favourite way of cooking veggies of all kinds is to steam then saute quickly in garlic + chili pepper + butter... or using hot chili oil...can we say yummo

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  5. Thanks for finally talking about >"Vegan Wine Cake (Really!) and GIVEAWAY!"
    <Loved it!


Thanks for the feedback!