The “V” Word continues its celebration of VeganMoFo, the vegan month of food, with its theme “If TV Celebrity Chefs Went Vegan.” Today’s episode features Pat and Gina Neely and something very rare from me: a dessert!!
Pat and Gina Neely host 2 shows on Food Network: Down Home with the Neelys and Road Tasted with the Neelys. They own several Southern BBQ restaurants including one that opened in NYC last year and they have just published their first cookbook. Pat and Gina Neely gained awareness when the Deen Brothers visited their restaurant on their show Road Tasted in 2006. They then appeared as guests on Paula Deen’s Paula’s Party in 2007.
Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys began in 2008 and was a welcome edition to the Food Network line-up which was severely lacking in diversity. In fact, the show became the highest rated debut for a Food Network show within the “In the Kitchen” series, which appears on weekend mornings. That same year the Neelys also took over hosting Road Tasted from the Deen Brothers.
To be fair, it’s nice to see a married couple who get along so well in the kitchen. I barely let my husband enter while I’m cooking and even then, he does so wearing Kevlar. Pat and Gina have a romantic story – they were high school sweethearts and then reunited at their 10-year high school reunion. Sweet. But then they are in the kitchen and it’s all “Can you chop these for me, Baby?” “Can I get some sugar, Baby?” “Mmm, that looks so sweet and spicy, just like you, Baby.” And suddenly, food porn turns into…well, food porn. And like I said, sometimes it’s funny and sweet and sometimes it’s too much. For me, it really depends on my mood.
The thing about the Neely’s love that I just can’t stand is when they declare their love for pigs. Their kitchen is decorated with pig sugar bowls, pig salt and pepper bowls, pig this and pig that. Even before I went veg, I never understood decorating the kitchen with the animals you were going to eat. Maybe that was my inner vegan struggling to get out. Now I like decorating with animals; to honor them and to say they are safe in my kitchen.
On one episode, Pat and Gina visited a pig farm. They “oohed” and “aahed” over the pigs and how cute they were while the farmers talked about how much they loved the pigs and how they were like children to them. Well, unlesss their human children end up getting their throats cut, I really don’t understand that statement. I don’t get hugging and petting an animal while knowing you plan to kill and eat her.
Honestly, I don’t watch the Neelys anymore because I really can’t listen to all the “pig love” talk. Yes, before I went veg, I did more than my fair share of eating pigs but now, when I have the chance to be next to one, I look him or her in the eye and say “I’m sorry.”
|Me and Lil Dude at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary|
In the end, though, I chose a dessert. Gina has a recipe for a Pear and Apple Cobbler and while, amazingly, there is no pork in the recipe, it’s not very healthy. It involves over a cup of sugar, 6 Tbs. of butter and an egg. My Apple & Pear Cobbler uses no sugar, just 2 Tbs. of maple syrup, only 2 Tbs. of vegan butter and no eggs. Instead of a dough for the topping, I use a combination of oatmeal and almonds.
The topping is crisp and crunchy. The pear and apple filling is soft and sweet with all those warm spices that are so comforting and delicious. It’s vegan, gluten-free and healthy. My Pear & Apple Cobbler is the perfect autumn dessert for a romantic evening in front of the fireplace, maybe even while snuggling with a piggy. Enjoy!
Note: this recipe made enough cobbler to fill my small 6×10 inch baking dish. You might need to double the recipe for a larger dish. This made 4 servings.
For the filling:
2 pears, cut into bite size pieces
2 apples, cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
A pinch of salt
1 Tbs. chickpea flour
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
For the crust:
1 cup gluten-free oats
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup chickpea flour
A pinch of salt
2 – 3 Tbs. maple syrup (depending how sweet you like it)
2 Tbs. melted vegan butter or oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, add the fruit, spices, flour, vanilla and orange juice. Toss so the fruit is well-covered. Transfer the fruit filling to your baking dish or ramekins.
In another bowl, mix the oats, almonds, flour, salt, maple syrup and melted butter or oil. Mix well. The topping mixture should be crumbly and a bit sticky. Taste it to see if it’s sweet enough for your liking. Top the fruit filling with the oat topping. Press it down into an even level.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and the fruit (if you can see it; I made a lot of topping) is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let set for about 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or all by itself.