Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (Review + Giveaway!)


It is no great secret that I am a great big fan of the Candle restaurants here in New York: Candle Cafe, Candle 79, and Candle Cafe West. These three extraordinary dining destinations offer healthful, hearty, and celebratory vegan fare, year in and year out. Candle Cafe has been in business since 1994, serving organic, vegan food that continually wins over plant based eaters and omnis alike. I’ve taken so many friends and family members to the restaurants, and the food always wins over new diners.

Candle food is a perfect combination of comforting and innovative. Many of the dishes, from the famous sandwiches to the seitan picatta or the spaghetti with wheatballs, evoke familiar textures and tastes and recipes. But they all feature unique and creative twists: a dusting of tapioca or cashew cheese here, a unique poblano tahini dressing there. The seitan is made in house, and it’s spectacular. The vegetable dishes are consistently cooked to perfection, never overdone or underdone. The dressings are all amazing (every single one of them). And the desserts? Totally authentic.

It has always seemed to me that the Candle restaurants evoke a spirit of celebration and festivity. It’s clear that the restaurants are on a mission to make vegan fare feel special, and of course the restaurant is famous for its holiday meals (check out my post on a Candle 79 Thanksgiving a few years back). So it’s wonderful news that the Candle team has finally published a holiday cookbook: Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe.

I’ve had this book for a few months now, and I’m already in love with it. It features so many of the restaurant’s classic holiday dishes, like its signature pumpkin cheesecake with apple reduction:

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Or its stuffed avocados with chipotle vinaigrette:


Its wheat ball heroes (presented as a Super Bowl party dish):

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And some of the restaurant’s fabulous cocktails. Right now, I’m ogling the Christmas Pomegranate Punch!

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And who could forget indulgent desserts? The molten chocolate cake with raspberry coulis, a Valentine’s day option, looks amazing.


One of the best things about the book is the fact that it doesn’t only focus on the winter holiday season: it includes Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, and the 4th of July. Of course Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are rich chapters, but one doesn’t feel that the book is dominated by pumpkin, cranberry, or Hoppin’ John, the way that some holiday collections are.

I also appreciate the book’s variety. You’ll find hearty entrees and rich desserts, but you’ll also find side dishes, salads, grain pilafs, and more. The book will walk you through all of the dishes you need to prepare a fulsome, well rounded holiday feast. Or, if you prefer, you can simply dip into its pages to find foolproof, seasonally appropriate recipes that are destined to be crowd pleasers.

There are so many recipes I could have honed in on for this review; the molten chocolate cake was calling my name, as was the kale and polenta casserole (presented as a Christmas recipe). But the cookbook states that Chef Angel Ramos’ nut cheeses are works of art, and I took the book at its word. As a nut cheese fanatic, I couldn’t resist trying the macadamia nut cheese and cashew cheese (both included as part of a gorgeous spread for Christmas):


If you’d like to prepare the gorgeous, herbed cashew cheese at home, here is the recipe.

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Candle Cafe's Cashew Cheese

Author - Gena Hamshaw


  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives


  • To make the cashew cheese, the day before serving, put the cashews in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them. Cover and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Drain and rinse the cashews and transfer to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, oil, and salt and blend until smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. If you find that there is not enough liquid in the food processor to blend the nuts, add a bit of water [note from Gena: I added a whole half cup].
  • Transfer the cashew paste to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour to firm. Remove and pack the paste into a 4-inch ring mold. Remove the mold and press into the outer edges a mixture of parsley and chives.
  • To serve, arrange the cheeses on a platter and garnish with your favorite assortment of crackers and fruits.
  • This recipe is courtesy of Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe, (c) 2014 by Candle Family Foods, LLC.

It’s a perfect cheese, especially to serve in a mold form: it’s dense and thick and is really reminiscent of a goat cheese. Feel free to add garlic, extra nooch, or whatever serves your fancy.

I’ve had such a fun time exploring this special holiday collection, and in honor of the holiday season, the folks from Candle are offering one lucky US or Canadian CR reader a copy of Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe. This giveaway will run for one week–enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, I wish all of my readers a happy holiday season. See you back here tomorrow with a special Green Recovery post!


All photos copyright (c) 2014 by Jim Franco.

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  1. A new favorite vegan holiday dish in our house are oven-roasted brussels sprouts with pears! Soo delicious and the savory/sweet action is amazing. Thank you for offering this giveaway! 🙂

  2. the best part about holiday cooking? it’s the fact that you know that the food was made with love.
    that said, i love me some moroccan spiced veggies (butternut squash, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, kale & chickpeas) and a nice slice of (pumpkin or apple) pie for dessert!

  3. this would be awesome! I love fall spices- nutmeg cinnamon cumin ginger, and roasted veggies 🙂

  4. Mashed potatoes are my favorite holiday dish. I tend to make them the whole season long 🙂

  5. I make a vegan pumpkin gingerbread with a vegan cream cheese frosting. So decadent and so good!

  6. ROASTED ACORN SQUASH! I don’t even top it with oil or sugar. Just straight up squash. It gets a lil’ char around the edges and holy (no) cow….I’m missing the taste already!

  7. Good Morning….excellent giveaway…VEGAN food is expanding it’s awesomeness!!!! Thanks, and cheers Valerie 🙂

  8. I love Candle food! It’s impossible to pick one favourite holiday dish, but I love lentil and mushroom shepherd’s pie. And sweet potato pie!

  9. My favourite holiday dish is a classic – a flavourful lentil loaf with vegan gravy and cranberry sauce!

  10. Wow, that cashew cheese looks so nice! My favourite holiday dish is probably roasted root vegetables – I especially like sweet potato and parsnip!

  11. I’m really loving homemade cranberry sauce these days. I had actually never made my own before this year, and now that I’ve done it, I want to eat it on everything.

  12. The vegan stuffing recipe I recently just tried from the Vegetarian Times magazine 🙂

  13. I don’t have a favorite holiday dish. I love reading blogs like yours and trying something new!

  14. At Thanksgiving I love pumpkin pie and at Christmas I look forward to gingerbread cookies. The savory dishes don’t matter as much, though I always am happy to have roasted brussels sprouts and a leafy green salad.

  15. My favorite holiday dish is gingerbread cake, and I finally found a vegan gluten-free recipe that is amazingly good.

  16. Growing up we always had biscuits and gravy on christmas morning. Now my parents and I are vegan so we veganized it and it’s still delicious!

  17. I already love Candle Cafe and I have yet to make it to NYC and visit for myself!!! I appreciate all they do to make vegan fare shine and pallet able 🙂 Hope to win!!

  18. My brother made me this awesome stuffed seitan roast with a nutritional yeast based gravy! Super delicious.

  19. Sweet potato casserole with coconut milk. There is literally nothing more delicious than that.

  20. My new favorite vegan holiday dish is that root vegetable pie from food52. It was awesome!

  21. My fav. Vegan holiday dish is cashew cheesecake! 😀 with raspberry sorbet on top!

  22. love mushroom stuffing and vegan pumpkin pie with whipped coconut cream. yum!

  23. A hearty lentil walnut loaf with roasted brussels sprouts! And vegan pumpkin pie! And wine! mmmm

  24. Vegan latkes with tofutti non-dairy sour cream with applesauce! mmmmm! 😀

  25. my favorite vegan dish is roasted vegetables. simple and delicious. the cashew cheese looks delicious also!

  26. i had the pleasure of eating here once! i would love to introduce the food to my omni family 🙂 fav vegan holiday meal..anything with kale and pomegranate !

  27. Definitely vegan pumpkin cheesecake! Dessert is always my favorite part of the meal 🙂

  28. Since I’m half Egyptian, one of my favorite holiday dishes is this thing called fata (or fatta, I’m really not sure). It’s basically bread that you let get rock hard and then you soak it in veggie broth with a lot of garlic! It’s an awesome side dish! I also love the Egyptian cookies that my grandma makes 🙂

  29. I’m obsessed with vegetables and most side dishes I make are vegan. For the winter I love roasted brussel sprouts with balsamic and maple syrup

  30. Maple Lentil Sweet Potato dish from OhSheGlows is my all time favorite holiday dish…at least so far!

  31. I’ve been hearing so much about this book lately! Those stuffed avocados look so good. AND THAT CAKE. AND THE CHEESE. OMG. Fave holiday dish is probably SuperBowl stuff — vegan hot wings, five-layer dip. You know I love my junk food!

  32. Right now my favorite vegan holiday dish is a vegan pate that my sister made for Thanksgiving and has promised to make for Christmas as well. I HAVE to get the recipe from her!

  33. YES!!! Haven’t been to Candle Cafe yet, but Candle Cafe West is my all-time FAVORITE vegan restaurant. Went there with my mom this summer, and the veggie ravioli’s as an appetizer was probably the best meal I have ever eaten. Next time I’m in NYC, going back.

    So happy to hear they have a cookbook!! I bet it is absolutely out of this world!!!

  34. My favorite holiday dish has to be mashed sweet potatoes sweetened up with maple syrup and jazzed up with a splash of bourbon.

  35. We went to Candle West when we were in NYC over Thanksgiving and they had this book on display. It is gorgeous and I can’t wait to get my own copy.

  36. My cranberry compote is definitely my favorite part of the holidays. I make tons of it, and buy extra cranberries to store in the freezer. Hopefully enough to last til next cranberry season! 🙂

    Thanks for hosting! Happy holidays!

  37. Gingerbread men are my all time favorite holiday food. They are the only thing I get excited about every year to make and eat.

  38. As someone new to a plant-based diet, I don’t have any specific favorite holiday foods yet. Hopefully I’ll win the cookbook so I can start this year!

  39. Good Morning….wow….excellent website and stellar giveaway…many thanks! Vegan = awesome…..sincerely, Valerie 🙂

  40. This cashew cheese looks amazing and surprisingly easy to make! My favorite holiday dish is pumpkin cheesecake so I’m excited to see this book has a unique recipe for that. 🙂

  41. My favorite holiday dish has to be my wild rice, sage and cranberry stuffing! It is so tasty and the red cranberries with green sage and celery make for a festive theme.

  42. My (new) favorite recipe is actually your roasted butternut squash and brussel sprout stuffing! It was a hit at Thanksgiving!

  43. Just love chickpea miso gravy this time of year, esp over squash & roasted veggies.

  44. oh cool! the last time I went to NYC was just before I became a committed vegan – 15 years ago! I’ve never been to the Candle Cafe, but I’ve heard so much about it. It seems like their fancy food is especially suited to a holiday cookbook – when you’re in the mood to put out a little extra time and energy. I guess my favorite holiday dish is pumpkin pie – i think that’s the one thing i just can’t do without! Other than that, I don’t mind mixing it up and experimenting.

  45. My favorite vegan holiday dish is homemade cranberry relish topped with orange honey pecans…yummmmmm 🙂

  46. I love making my love bites which are different varieties of dates, nuts and fruit mixed in food processor and rolled into yummy morsels.

  47. That cashew cheese looks amazing! A vegan stuffing is definitely my favourite holiday dish.

  48. Gahh, love this post, love allll the candle restaurants. I have had an eye on this new book… The nut cheese looks insanely good.
    Thanks for reviewing!

  49. My trip to NYC was cancelled in October ugh I was planning to eat there and make a reservation way in advance! Going for sure this Spring I can’t wait to eat there.

  50. Pumpkin everything! And can’t resist some deliciously roasted veggies starring brussel sprouts of course 🙂

  51. Healthy truffles … but coated in dark chocolate and freeze dried crushed cranberries.

  52. My sister and I made your raw vegan pecan pie for Thanksgiving and it was phenomenal! Maybe we’ll make it again for Christmas : )

  53. I love a warm, lemony, shaved brussel sprout salad with toasted hazelnuts! And making chocolate pot de cremes for a decadent dessert!

  54. Well this is my first holiday season actually being vegan, so I’m excited to “veganize” recipes for cookies and things like that. Otherwise, I always love a good vegan loaf, or just roasted veggies!

  55. My favourite vegan holiday dish is a “winter” veggie Thai curry I made up with Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, turnip, and pumpkin served in a baked pumpkin bowl. Yum!

  56. i Love anything with sweet potato, baked and stuffed with anything. Even as dessert with almond butter and fruit toppings!

  57. I love a shaved Brussels sprout salad with cranberries! We only ever make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner!

  58. That ‘cheese’ looks delish!
    It is hard to choose just one vegan dish- i love roasted veggies, curries, warm soups and pie!

  59. These cheeses look great! I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been vegan for years but I’ve never tried nut cheese! I really need to get around to making it for myself–thanks for sharing!

  60. I’m moving to NYC in 4 months, and I so look forward to trying Candle Cafe! This book looks amazing.

  61. Favorite vegan holiday dish….tie between sweet potato mashies with coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg & maple syrup or vegan eggnog!
    Love your site, Gena. Such clear and thoughtful writing & it’s really helping me with my veg transition!

  62. Oh my gosh! The Candle restaurants are on our list to visit…I seriously don’t know why it hasn’t happened. That Pumpkin Cheesecake is all my friends talk about, I am so curious about it…if I had the recipe would it really taste as good as the restaurant:) Yum! Thank’s for another awesome Giveaway!

  63. My favorite vegan holiday dish is mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. I also really like green beans almondine. I would love to win this cookbook; it looks awesome!

  64. I love cashew cheese, and this recipe looks especially good! Definitely want to check out this book…