Vegan Chocolate Tart

This year, I made a beautiful chocolate tart for dessert for my Christmas Eve dinner – and that meant I had to make a vegan alternative for my vegan daughter. This recipe had great reviews, so I decided to make it for her. It took some doing, as the recipe called for Medjool dates and a specific brand/type of chocolate, which the recipe-maker insisted was just the best. Only after I’d searched for and found the chocolate (at Walgreen of all places) I realized that her post was actually sponsored by that chocolate brand. As it turned out, this chocolate was probably too dark for this cake. It would have probably worked best with 50-60% cocoa content chocolate. Just make sure you look at the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan.

Medjool dates are a particularly sweet type of dates that cannot be substituted by regular ones. Neither of my local supermarkets carried them but I was able to find them at Trader Joe’s (I think).

As other chocolate tart, this tart is beautiful when topped with fresh berries and mint leaves – which also provide a nice light tart contrast to the very rich chocolate.


For the crust:

  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup peeled almonds
  • 1 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3.5 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Put the dates and almonds in a food processor and process until the mixture is very fine. Add the melted chocolate, melted coconut oil and salt and process until they are fully incorporated.

Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Place in the refrigerator and cool until the crust has set.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

In a small saucepan, melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. Mix in coconut cream. Transfer to a clean food processor bowl. Add dates and vanilla extract. Process until all ingredients are combined and have a smooth, pudding-like consistency.

Add the filling to the crust. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Top with berries, mint and whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Adapted from Regina’s recipe at Leelalicious

Braised Leeks with Lemon

I love leeks and this recipe did not disappoint – when I first made it. The leeks were delicious and melt-in-your-mouth. I loved them. However, I made them in advance for my 2018 Christmas Eve dinner and they didn’t reheat well (on the stove). They were less flavorful and the consistency was not nearly as good. Indeed, practically nobody ate them. So make them, but don’t make them in advance.

This recipe will serve 2, increase quantities as needed.


  • 3 large leeks
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • 4 small or medium leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7 inches long and cut lengthwise into quarters or eightDirections


Trim leeks, discarding roots, leaves and tough outer leaves. Cut each leek into 1″ pieces. Place in a bowl with water for 15 minutes, making sure to remove any grit.

Heat butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Transfer leeks from the bowl to the pan – do not dry. Cook the leeks for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and lemon zest. Cover the pan and braise leeks until very tender, around 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from a recipe at

Mushroom Wellington (Vegan)

To my great amazement, several commercial puff pastries are vegan – so once I decided to make Beef Wellington as the main dish for my 2018 Christmas Eve Dinner, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find a vegan version of Wellington. There were actually many different versions, with all sorts of fillings, but this recipe for mushroom Wellington looked and sounded amazing – and my vegan daughter is very fond of mushrooms. She was very, very happy with it and ate all the leftovers.

I followed the recipe closely, though I used a very small amount of baby spinach, given that she doesn’t like it. If you want to follow the recipe exactly, use 10 1/2 oz (though really, that’s way too much even if you like baby spinach).


  • 4 large portabello mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of baby spinach leaves
  • leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sheet vegan puff pastry
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegan egg wash


Clean mushrooms and trim the stalks. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and reduce heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are golden brown, around 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon remove onions from the pan and set aside.

Add the spinach to the hot pan and cook until wilted, a minute or two. Remove spinach from the pan and let cool.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Add the mushrooms top-side down and cook until they start to brown, around 5 minutes. Remove mushroom caps and place, top side up, on a thick stack of paper towels to cool – they will release A LOT of liquid.

Refrigerate the onions, spinach and mushrooms until cool.

Flour a working surface and rolling pin and roll puff pastry sheet until it’s the desired thickness and length – long enough to accommodate the four mushroom caps. Spread half of the onions in the middle of the pastry sheet, leaving a 3/4″ border on the top and bottom. Place half of the wilted spinach on the onions. Spread dijon mustard over the mushroom caps and season with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, tops down, on the spinach. Sprinkle thyme leaves on the mushrooms. Cover with the remaining spinach and onions. Carefully, roll the pastry on top of the mushroom mixture, forming a log. Press down on the edges to seal. Turn over and brush with the vegan egg wash. Envelope the log in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Unwrap the log and place it on the parchment paper. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Nicole’s recipe at Delicious Every Day.

Vegan Egg Wash

I made this vegan egg wash to brush on the mushroom Wellington I made for Christmas Eve Dinner. It worked beautifully. The aquafaba is the water from a can of chickpeas. You can use the chickpeas as a snack.


  • 1Tbsp aquafaba
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond or cashew milk
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup or brown rice syrup


Whisk all ingredients together. Brush over pastry requiring an egg wash.

Adapted from Nicole’s recipe at Delicious Every Day.

Apple and Calvados Sorbet

I made this sorbet as a palate cleanser for my 2018 Christmas Eve dinner. It worked quite well, but it was too alcoholic tasting for the kids. I think it would have been just as lovely if frozen without the apple brandy, and the liquid before freezing would actually make a very nice drink.

I used a cheap apple brandy because it was 1/4th the cost of Calvados and it got good reviews as far as apple flavor went. It was really very apple-y, though still pretty strong.


  • 1 1/3 cup peeled, chopped tart apple
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup Calvados or apple brandy


Combine chopped apples, water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it boils. Cover, lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the apples are very tender. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and apple brandy and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process following manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a covered bowl, place in the freezer until it has the desired consistency.

Adapted from Rebecca Franklin’s recipe at The Spruce Eats.

Vegan Chestnut Soup

My daughter is vegan so, for my 2018 Christmas Eve dinner, I made both a regular chestnut soup and a vegan one. My daughter was rather pleased with this recipe.


  • 3 Tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery , finely chopped
  • 1 onion , finely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 ounces cooked chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy, almond or cashew milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat butter or oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion, reduce heat, and saute over medium-low heat until very soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the vegetable broth and stir. Add the parsley, ground clove, bay leaves and chestnuts. Stir, raise heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Alternatively, transfer to an electric blender and puree – you may need to do this in batches. Return soup to the pot and add the soy milk. Stir well and warm over medium-low heat.

Taste, season and serve.

Adapted from Jolinda Hackett’s recipe at The Spruce Eats.

Chestnut Soup

I wanted to make chestnut soup for my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner, but I wasn’t able to find chestnuts. This time, I spotted them at Safeway delivery and was then able to find them at my local Safeway. It’s a good thing because this soup was very good.

I followed the recipe closely, though I used Madeira instead of ruby port – I just didn’t want to have to buy it and I found many other recipes which used Madeira instead. I also added nutmeg, something I also saw on other recipes. I felt I added too much, but my guests disagreed.

This recipe served six as part of a multi-course menu.


  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked chestnuts (~15 oz)
  • 1 cup Madeira or ruby port
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • salt & pepper to taste


Add butter to a medium sauce pan and melt over medium-low heat. Add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cook for 4 minutes. Add the Madeira and the thyme, turn heat to medium-high and cook until the based is reduced by half. Add the stock, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the sprig of thyme.

Stir in the cream. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternative, transfer it to a blender and puree it in batches. Add a dash of nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Adapted from a recipe at Food and Wine magazine.

Marga’s 2018 Christmas Eve Dinner

Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary

I made this recipe for New Years’ Eve and despite messing it up by getting it burnt, I thought it was very good. Indeed, I tasted the sauce before I burn it – and before I’d added the chocolate & rosemary – and it was delicious even without those additions. I ended up burning it, however, as the ribs were not tender enough after 3 hours and I felt I needed to continue cooking them. Alas, I didn’t pay enough attention to the pot and the sauce eventually burnt.

I tried to do several things to “fix it”, but what worked the best was adding more wine and another can of diced tomatoes (including the liquid).

There is some controversy on the reviews as to whether the chocolate made this sauce too sweet. I didn’t feel that at all – I felt the chocolate helped balance it and deepened it. My guess is that whether the chocolate works or not depends very much of what chocolate you use. “Bittersweet chocolate” can mean many things. I used a Ghirardelli 72% chocolate bar. It’s probably a good idea not to go below 70% cacao and use a good quality chocolate. You don’t need much, so you can eat the rest of the bar.

Finally, I used beef broth instead of chicken broth because my sister couldn’t find any of the latter at the supermarket and I didn’t add the parsley because I didn’t want my sister to have to buy it and then use such a small amount. In the past, I’ve used celery leaves instead of parsley pretty successfully – but this time she had bought celery hearts.

As with any braised short rib recipe, these ribs are best if made at least one day in advance and reheated before serving.

Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary


  • 6 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken or beef broth
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (~70% cacao)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary


Cut excess fat from short ribs (you still want to keep some). Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp, transfer onto paper towels.

Turn heat under the pot to medium-high. Add the short ribs to the pot (you will have to do this in batches) and brown on all six sides (remember the ends!). Remove short ribs.

Turn heat down back to medium and add the chopped onions, shallots, celery, carrots and garlic. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and add wine. Boil uncovered until the wine is reduced by half, scrapping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

Add the broth, diced tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, reserved pancetta and parsley, if using. Return ribs to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and continuing cooking until tender, 1 1/2 to 3 hours.

Remove the short ribs. Raise heat to high and boil sauce until it starts to thicken, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and rosemary. Stir until the chocolate melts. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Return ribs to the pot and simmer until they are rewarmed, about 5 minutes.

New Year’s Eve 2018 Menu

For years, since she was a young girl, my sister Kathy used to come to our house to celebrate Christmas. But then she got married and last year she had her first child (her second came this year!), so she has started celebrating Christmas at her home in Southern California. We didn’t want to do away with the tradition altogether, however, so we’ve decided that we (as in my husband, my children and I) would go down to her home on New Year’s Eve and I’d cook a meal for the whole family. We started this tradition last year – and we continued it this one.

Last year’s food was great (though I don’t remember exactly what I made) but this year the cooking gods were just not with me. I burnt the sauce for the short ribs, I unwittingly used sweetened soy milk in the pasta, and was really too tired to even enjoy eating the meal by the end of it. Still, it was a nice night for all. Here is what I made:

First Course: Salad

This was an afterthought – but we needed something green. Mixed greens with store bought salad dressing.

Second Course: Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Squares

These are absolutely delicious and very easy to make (though it takes some time to cook the onions). It was a special request from my sister who remembered these fondly. Everyone swooned.

Third Course: Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary with Mashed Potatoes or Vegan One Pot Creamy Mushroom Pasta

My sister chose this recipe out of a handful I selected – and it was a good call. We’d done short ribs the previous year, but given that the only animal protein my mother eats is beef, we didn’t have too many choices. This recipe was very good – or it would have been, had I not burned it. Still, I was able to recover it and I will make it again.

The mashed potatoes were simple: russet potatoes with butter and sour cream until they tasted right.

I made the mushroom pasta for my vegan daughter and vegetarian niece. I hadn’t realized that the soy milk my sister bought was sweetened, so the whole dish came out way too sweet. My daughter ate it, however. I may try it again the right way.

Fourth Course: Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Once again, at my youngest daughter’s request, I made my grandmother’s chocolate peppermint cake. Or actually, I had my daughter made a chocolate cake from a mix while I made the magnificent peppermint frosting. That meant the cake was lighter and fluffier. It was great with ice cream.

Marga’s Holiday Recipes

Christmas Eve Dinner – 2017

As I prepared to plan my Christmas Eve dinner for 2018, I realized that I had never actually posted my menu from 2017. I often go back and look at past menus to see what I should repeat – and what I should omit. I did post some of the recipes, however.

I do still have the copy of the menu, though my recollection of how each course was may be somewhat faulty. This was a 12-course dinner because my youngest daughter was 12 at the time, and she requested that number of courses. My oldest daughter was vegetarian at the time (she’s now vegan), so I made sure that the menu had vegetarian options for her.

First Course: Pomegranate Mint Lassi and Spiced Chickpeas

I served this course in the living room while I got the rest of the dinner ready. It went over very well.

Second Course: Caprese Salad Spoons Amuse Bouche

I had gotten some amuse bouche spoons and, of course, I had to use them. I decided on a simple Caprese salad amuse bouche because my oldest daughter was heavily into Caprese at the time. I couldn’t find any fresh basil at the time (this year it’s all over the place), so I used pesto instead. I also used burrata instead of fresh mozarella, which was a mistake as burrata has too mild a flavor to stand up to the pesto and the super-expensive, thick Balsamic vinegar I also used. Still, this was a good amuse bouche and worked well in the spoons.

Third Course: Linguiça and Local Beer/Root Beer

This was my “ode to San Leandro” course. I live in San Leandro, a relatively small city right south of Oakland. For years, San Leandro was the unofficial sausage capital of California – we had several sausage manufacturers in town. Chief among those sausages was linguiça, a Portuguese smoked-cured pork sausage. Indeed, San Leandro was settled by Portuguese immigrants, and they took their linguiça very seriously (read about San Leandro’s sausage king, if you’re interested in true crime stories).

In recent years, San Leandro has been moving away from sausages and closer to beer – we now have several small breweries in town. So I figured a dish of local linguiça and beer would be a nice way of highlighting my adopted town. Plus, this was an easy dish to make (just cook the
linguiça on the stove or oven) and serve.

Fourth Course: Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts

It’s funny, I’d completely forgotten I had made this last year – and yet when it came time to make a salad for my 2018 Xmas Eve dinner, this is what I came up with once again!

Fifth Course: Mushroom Soup

I’ve been making Anthony Burdain’s recipe for mushroom soup for many years now and I often serve it for Christmas’ Eve. It’s just absolutely delicious. For the last few years, I’ve been making it with vegetable broth rather than chicken broth to cater to my non-chicken eating family members. It’s just as good.

Sixth Course: Moroccan Chicken Bastilla and Vegan Bastilla

Bastilla is another of my old “tried and true” dishes and a family favorite. My kids really wanted me to make it last year, but as my oldest daughter was then a vegetarian, she requested a vegetarian version. She absolutely loved the recipe I found for her.

Seventh Course: Lemon Sorbet Palate Cleanser

I don’t remember if I made it or I bought it. Still, I always like to serve a sorbet as a palate cleanser before the main course.

Eight Course: Mushroom Marsala Gnocchi

This was my favorite dish of the night.

Ninth Course: Beef Roast with Madeira Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

I didn’t leave any record of what recipe I used for the beef, but I’d used this one with great success before, so I probably used it again. Alas, I don’t know what Madeira Sauce recipe I used.

Tenth Course: Cheese Plate

I seem to remember that whatever cheeses I served were good.

Eleventh Course: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Great dessert!

Twelfth Course: Hot Chocolate or Tea with Shortbread Cookies

Store bought and served in the living room.

Marga’s Holiday Recipes