Cinnamon Pecans

It’s almost Christmas.  You have everybody’s gifts ~ but wait!  No!  You forgot your kids’ piano teacher (or Great-Aunt Agnes, or the next-door neighbor, or….)  What in the world will you be able to find at this late date?  Never fear…Cinnamon Pecans in a pretty glass canister or a decorative tin will be her favorite teacher’s gift this year.

Cinnamon PecansI highly recommend making a double batch for several reasons.  The biggest reason is you will be sorry if you don’t!  lol  The other reason is that it takes the same amount of time to make a double batch as a single one…and they store well…if they last that long.

These are decadent, let me tell you!  I have never served (or given) them without rave reviews.  In fact, I have to make sure to keep some back in the kitchen, or they will be devoured completely ~ even a double recipe ~ because people can’t stop eating “just one more.”  🙂

As I made these tonight, they were almost to the sugaring point when the electricity went out as a storm came through!  I gave a howl for somebody to bring a flashlight to me quickly.  There was just enough warmth left in the flat ceramic cooktop to complete the process…barely.  They usually look a bit bumpier than these, but the sudden loss of heat changed them a tiny bit.

Cinnamon Pecans

  • 1 c. pure maple syrup (grade B gives the best flavor here)
  • 2 T. Better Than Milk soy or rice milk powder (or enough of whatever non-dairy milk powder you have on hand that would make 1 cup of milk if you added water ~ only don’t add the water)
  • 1/2-1 tsp. cinnamon (Saigon, Vietnamese, etc., if possible) ~ or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt ~ or to taste, but don’t leave it out, because it adds depth to the flavor
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. pecans (or a mix of your favorite raw nuts ~ while pecans are my favorites, almonds, walnuts, etc., or a mix of them work exceedingly well)

Mix and heat all ingredients in a 3-quart or larger saucepan (a 4-5-quart pan for a double batch) over medium high heat.  Don’t worry if the milk powder doesn’t mix in well at first.  It will dissolve as the mixture is heated.

Spread a 2-ft long sheet of waxed paper out on a counter top or table.  (I use 2 sheets side-by-side for a double batch.)  Continue to cook, stirring/folding frequently.  As syrup thickens, turn the heat down as needed and stir/fold more often.  Don’t try to hurry the process by using too high a heat except at the very beginning.  You’ll only end up burning the maple syrup.  This is a relatively slow process.  Eventually, you will need to constantly stir them and keep a close eye on them.  You’ll know they need constant stirring when the syrup begins to get long strings as you fold it over the nuts.  Cook until nuts are completely sugared with no syrup left in the pan. You may need to keep tossing them for a little bit with the heat turned off and just the warmth of the pan to finish them off.  You don’t want them glossy, but completely sugared.

Spread onto the waxed paper and let cool.

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Creamy Potato Soup

When I created this recipe years ago, I shared it with a group of online friends.  One wrote back and declared I had misnamed the soup ~ in her opinion, it should be better-than-sex-soup!  ;D  While the jury is still out on a name change of that magnitude (and probably always will be) you can at least know that this is a super-duper, tasty pot of soup to serve!

The yield on this particular soup is ~ per usual for me ~ quite large (6-7 quarts, or about 12 good-sized bowls full.)  If you have a big family, you are all set for supper with maybe a bowl or two leftover, if you are lucky.  However, if you have a smaller family to serve, you should cut the recipe down, or you can skip cooking for the next night or two.  🙂

Creamy Potato SoupThis time I used a smaller pot than usual ~ 6 quarts ~  trying not to use my giant stockpot that is over-kill for this.  Mistake.  It barely fits, as you can see, but it would have been so much easier in a larger pot.  And I wouldn’t have to clean my flat-top due to my overzealous stirring.

 

Creamy Potato Soup

  • 5 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and diced (you can use any potatoes, but these are the best in my opinion)
  • 4-5 medium onions
  • 1 10- or 16-oz package of chopped spinach
  • 2-3 carrots (or a handful of baby carrots) chopped (I use my food processor)
  • 1 T. salt
  • water to cover vegetables by 1/2 inch
  • 2/3 c. raw cashew pieces
  • 1/2 c. barley flour (you can use other types, such as whole wheat or brown rice, but this has the best flavor)
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp. dillweed
  • 2 c. plain non-dairy milk, such as Silk soy

In a 7-quart or larger pot, bring first 6 ingredients to a boil and cook until onion and potatoes are tender.  In a blender, whiz next 6 ingredients until very smooth.  Turn vegetables down to a simmer, and, while stirring veggies, pour in blender contents.  Continue stirring until liquid thickens (about 1 minute).  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve with a hearty bread.

Yields 6-7 quarts ~ about 12 good-sized bowls full.

Frosting for Sugar Cookies

What would sugar cookies be without frosting?  Well…they’d be…um…just boring little cookies.  If you used colored sugar on them they might be a little better.  But why when you could frost them instead?  😀

You can use this recipe and just make simple white or one-color frosting to slather aimlessly on round cookies, or you can get fancy and make cut-out cookies and split your white frosting into little bowls and add food coloring to them (once a year…that’s all I use the unhealthy stuff…a few little drops.)  Then you’ve got the makings for a decorating party!  Invite your friends over or gather the kids and get busy.

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This recipe (pre-vegan) came from a tear-out insert in a woman’s magazine from 1990.  (Yep, I’m getting old when my clippings and savings come from over 20 years ago.  Maybe they shouldn’t date those things so that I could blissfully think it was only a little bit ago…)  It was put out by Crisco (shudder….)  It called for butter-flavored Crisco (another prerequisite shudder.)  Obviously, I do not use that any more.  Instead, I have made this into a vegan-friendly recipe.

This recipe more than covers 1 batch of my Sugar Cookies.  Although you might want a double or 1 1/2 batch of this frosting if you want lots of different colors to play with or if you have a heavy hand with spreading plenty on your cookies.  I put it in 1/2-3/4 c. pyrex bowls, color it as desired, and stick in small plastic knives (they don’t fall out of the tiny bowls as easily.)  I put out lots of sprinkles and such to use for decorating.  Toothpicks help align things in tiny areas.  This year I added little squeeze bottles made for decorating cupcakes and cookies so we could add finer details, but decorator bags would work, too.

Frosting for Sugar Cookies

  • 1 Earth Balance buttery stick (1/2 c.), softened (I never have patience to wait ~ and nuke it for 10-15 seconds)
  • 4 c. powdered sugar (use evaporated cane juice crystals powdered version to be completely vegan)
  • 1/3 c. non-dairy vanilla or plain milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a deep 1 quart bowl (or larger) and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until no powdery sugar remains that can blow up into your face when you turn the mixer on high.  Scrape bowl.  Beat at high speed until smooth and creamy.

Divide into smaller bowls, mix in a few drops of food coloring, and decorate away!

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This shows some of the aftermath of the decorating this year with an empty bowl of green frosting next to sprinkles and cookies.  These an out-of-town friend of my son’s decorated.  It was so much fun!

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 001 Since we’re all short on time at this time of year, I’m going to keep any comments brief.

It is a tradition with my kids to decorate sugar cookies for the holidays as a family – well, minus hubby, who just isn’t interested.  Sometimes the kids are really good about prettily and carefully crafting their cookies.  Other years, not so much…and we end up with houses turned in a funny way and becoming elephants, snowmen upended and being crafted into ice cream cones.  No…I do not know why, nor do I understand.  But since three out of four of them are adults, who am I to argue?  lol  However, it is my creations you see pictured here.  😀

Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks
  • Sugar Cookies 0121/4 c. extra light olive oil
  • 2 T. soy sour cream
  • 2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals, or sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (or more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk (may need a smidgen more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s brand)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Thoroughly cream “butter,” olive oil, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Add in egg replacer powder.  Stir milk in little at a time, beating until well mixed.  Stir in salt and baking powder.  Then add the flour, mixing carefully until no dry spots remain.  If dough seems crumbly, add a little bit of milk – but be very careful here – it doesn’t take much to make a soggy mess suddenly!  It is the right consistency when a small ball of dough can be lightly kneaded and come together.

Roll dough into balls and flatten with a glass dipped into evaporated cane juice crystals/sugar.  (You may need to rub your cookie-dough-smeared palm on the bottom of the glass before the first cookie so that the sugar will stick to it.)  OR  to make cut-out cookies take a good-sized lump of dough, knead it until it is more cohesive, and roll it out on the kitchen counter.  You shouldn’t need any flour if you are careful and use something like a dough scraper or a thin pancake turner to gently scrape up the cut-out dough from the counter.  This makes for a much nicer flavored cookie!  If all else fails, use a little flour on the counter.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack.  Decorate as desired.  (Or leave the sugared round ones plain.)

Yields approximately 6 dozen (depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

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Vegan Health in the News

This is an important article, folks, that I’m recommending to you.  If the thought of cancer terrifies you ~ make sure you read this.  It is good news for vegans!  Click the title below.

A Vegan Diet (Hugely) Helpful Against Cancer

We need to get the word out about how much safer it is for our bodies when we are vegan.

 

Peanut Butter Fudge (or other nut butter)

PB Fudge

 

 

(Shown with a piece of chocolate-nut fudge in the glow of the setting sun streaming in my dining room window.)

 

If you or someone you know has allergies to peanut butter, don’t despair and turn away from this fudge!  I have successfully made it substituting either natural almond butter or sunflower seed butter.  I would imagine any natural nut butter would work, although cashew butter is pretty thick…you might have to decrease the powdered sugar for that one.

Peanut Butter Fudge

  • 1/4 c. (1/2 a stick) Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1/3 c. non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (optional, depending on if your nut butter is unsalted or not)
  • 1 c. natural peanut butter
  • 1 lb. (approximately 4 c.) powdered sugar, sifted (use powdered evaporated cane juice crystals to be completely, truly vegan)

Have ready a 5″x9″, 8″x8″, or 10″x6″ pan, preferably glass, as the fudge doesn’t stick to it ~ or double the recipe and use a 9″x13″ cake pan, or a smaller lasagna pan.  Different pans will make thicker or thinner pieces of fudge.  If you must use a metal pan, you might want to line it clear up the sides with waxed or parchment paper so that you can just lift it out of the pan to cut it, especially if it has a non-stick coating that you don’t want to mar with the knife.

Three Fudges Preparation 005In the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed over boiling/simmering water in a regular pot, melt the “butter.”  When it is completely melted, add the non-dairy milk and salt.  Stir in the powdered sugar until everything looks creamy and runny.  Now add the peanut butter.  (TRUST me on this – it does NOT work to add the peanut butter to the melted “butter” before the powdered sugar, even though every intuition in my mind says differently.  You will end up with a thick, streaky mess that you have to work long and hard to fix.) Continue mixing until everything is smooth.

You must press this into a prepared pan (you may need to use your hands to do this) so that it is not crumbly with air pockets later.  Cool and then cut.  Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.  For storage more than a day or two, keep in an air-tight container to keep it from drying out.