Creamy Sweet Rice Salad (formerly known as Rosa Marina Salad)

I promised a short series on breakfasts several months ago…and then I dropped off the face of the planet again.  Sorry.  Life has changed once again and I should be posting more often now.

Preparing fun breakfasts has kinda dropped off around here, too.  I loved eating them, perhaps too much, because I gained weight!  Eating great breakfasts was supposed to help balance the rest of the day and help me eat less, but, apparently, I just love food so much that it didn’t work that way for me.  So, I’ve gone back to a nutrient-packed green smoothie most mornings and save the special breakfasts for special treats.

Rosa MarinaThis salad certainly works for a breakfast treat, or for a healthy dessert!  My preparation of it has changed over the years.  When I first made it, we were vegetarian, but not necessarily healthy ones ~ and it contained eggs, Cool Whip, white sugar, maraschino cherries….obviously, things were going to have to change in the salad when we became vegan and also gave up so many chemicals in our foods!  I finally nailed a tasty version of the salad without maraschino cherries (one of my childhood favorites.)  It still did contain the very small pasta called rosa marina or orzo, which helped the dressing to firm up into a nice, thick creamy dream.

Then…dun, dun, dun…enter gluten issues for me.  This salad was just one of the many casualties of my new way of eating.  It broke my heart (all of the situation, not just losing this salad.)  I tried and tried to come up with suitable replacements, but everything I replaced just failed.  Quinoa was too chewy; long-grained rice’s texture was off; the creamy dressing never set up.  It was very disappointing.  And my family was starting to make disparaging comments about the versions I created, because nothing was as good to them as the orzo!  (Never mind that white flour pasta isn’t good for you and nobody seems to make whole grain orzo.)

This time, I succeeded.  I adjusted the dressing to have less liquid.  I used short grain brown rice to give a better texture and since it is somewhat sticky, it allowed the creamy dressing to thicken properly.  Granted, my family still is a little on the fence about it, because they remember the pasta version and textures are a big deal to them.  Personally, I love it and am so happy to have it back in my life that I fix it despite their opinions.

I’ve been known to add sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen cherries, or blueberries to change things up a bit ~ although they can really change the color of the cream.  (I can guarantee the whole salad to myself this way, because of my fussy eaters, so adding it to individual bowls may work better.)  I have also been toying with the idea of using fresh pineapple, but I’m wondering if that would curdle the cream.  Let me know what adaptations you come up with to try!

Creamy Sweet Rice Salad

  • 1 c. short brown rice
  • 3/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. water (or according to rice package)
  • 2 20-oz cans unsweetened pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve 1 c. of the juice!)
  • 3 11-oz. cans of mandarin orange segments, drained (do NOT reserve the liquid)
  • 1 12-oz pkg. Morinu extra-firm tofu
  • 3/4 c. raw cashews (soak these for 4 hours or so if you don’t have a strong blender)
  • 1 c. reserved pineapple juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 c. evaporated cane juice crystals OR 1/4 tsp.+ pure stevia OR other equivalent dry sweetener

Cook rice according to package directions, but make sure it is quite well done so that it isn’t too chewy.  Meanwhile, place fruit into a large mixing bowl.  Blend the last 6 ingredients until very smooth and pour over the fruit.  When the rice is ready, mix it into the fruit and cream.  Refrigerate until cold and the cream sets up nicely.

Vegan Potato Salad

Both my mother and mother-in-law were good cooks.  I learned much from both of them.  (I don’t think my mother used very many written recipes, but just tossed and tasted.  I used to watch her in awe, thinking I’d never be able to do such a thing!  Apparently, it is passed on genetically, activated when you reach a certain level of time spent cooking, because my daughter and I now do this, too!)  This post is actually a combo of both of these fabulous cooks’ versions of potato salad, only veganized, of course.

My mother-in-law always added sliced green olives to her potato salad.  (Now, I had never been, and still am not, a fan of those little buggers ~ except in potato salad, where I love them.)  She also used sliced cucumber, but my mom diced up little sweet gerkin pickles or her own bread-and-butter pickles into her version.  (I’m a little lazier than mom, so I make use of sweet relish instead.)

I make plenty of this while I’m at it!  Not only does everybody love it and, therefore, eat lots of it, but if I’m going to mess around with boiling and cooling potatoes, I might as well do the whole 5-lb. bag and be done with it.  Then if there is any left from the first day, I have leftovers for lunch the next…which are duly “fought” over by everybody.  (Now you know why I make so much to begin with!)  For those of you who aren’t feeding an army, take this to a potluck or family gathering…or…decrease the recipe as desired.

Actually, this isn’t technically a measured recipe…it’s more of a rule-of-thumb to go by.  When my daughter, K, makes it for her hubby, she adds more green olives than I do, because she loves them in many things.  (In fact, K made the pictured salad and it is her version.)   If my family needs more raw veggies in their day, or I want to stretch the salad even farther than normal, I add extra cucumber and onion.  Personalize it and make it your own.  My moms would be so proud!  🙂

Potato Salad

  • 5 lbs. potatoes (don’t use russet potatoes, they are too grainy), peeled and cut up into large-bite-sized pieces
  • 1-2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered, and sliced
  • 1/4 c. give-or-take of sweet relish
  • chopped onion to taste
  • small jar of green olives, sliced – or more
  • 1 c. or more Vegenaise with some mustard stirred in to make it creamy yellow
  • salt to taste

Cook diced potatoes in salted water until just barely soft enough for a fork to pierce.  (They will continue cooking as they cool, so you don’t want them mushy, or your salad will be paste.)  Drain and place in a bowl until cool enough to put in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.  (If you are in a hurry, spread the potatoes onto a large cookie sheet to cool.)

When potatoes are chilled, mix with remaining ingredients.  If possibly, chill for an hour or two to meld flavors.

Marvelous served with baked beans, sliced tomatoes, and watermelon!

Tofu “Egg” Salad

Here is the 2nd sandwich spread of the 3 that I made last week.  Everybody had their own personal favorite.  This was the favorite of my teenage bottomless pit.  He piled it onto bread, rice, and ate it plain ~ and was more than willing to eat it all himself!  Good thing I made a double batch.

Honestly, just like with regular egg salad sandwiches,you have to be careful, or you’ll end up with a lot of the filling on your plate, or lap.  I preferred to make an open-faced sandwich with it, as it couldn’t squish out from between the bread that way.  A slice of tomato and a leafy piece of lettuce beneath the filling on the open-faced sandwich was very good.

These ingredients are guidelines ~ you can increase or decrease any of them to your preferences.  You may also add chopped celery, radishes, or green onion if you want more veggies in your sandwich filling.

Tofu “Egg” Salad

  • 1 pkg. Morinu extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 c. minced/diced onion
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • a dash of garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. dillweed
  • 2 T. Vegenaise or other vegan mayo
  • 1 tsp. mustard (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. sweet relish

Using a pastry blender or potato masher, squash the tofu into small pieces (similar to small-curd cottage cheese if you are familiar with it.)  You can see from the picture how small I made mine.  Stir in all the remaining ingredients.  Taste test to make sure the flavor is the way you like it, keeping in mind the flavors will meld more if you make it ahead of time by an hour or two.

Yields approximately 2 cups

Macaroni Salad

Some dishes become staples in the family and are prepared for years without a true “recipe” being written.  Then something throws a monkey wrench into the situation, and your standard fare has to be rearranged ~ or something substituted.

That happened with this recipe last year.  A friend came to visit and we went to the very large local health food store together.  She was nearly vegan, but my family is totally vegan.  I reached for a roll of Worthington’s Chickette Roll that I had used for years in this salad and other things.  She informed me that the recipe had been changed a year or two before and it was no longer vegan!!  *GASP!*  Say it isn’t so!!  *groan*  Back to the drawing board to find a “chicken” replacement.  (When will I remember to frequently re-read nutritional labels?  And why do companies “fix” something that wasn’t broken?)

The newest challenge for my family is to find a pasta that is gluten-free that we like.  I used a corn-quinoa type the time before last and it was good.  I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we had a brown rice one the last time…not so good.  It was a little slimey feeling.  I didn’t mind it, but the family gave it a thumbs-down.  So, I went back to the corn-quinoa, this time in elbows.  I read the package again and noticed it said not to overcook the pasta ~ in big bold letters.  So I was scrupulously careful.  I didn’t want mush.  Oh…we didn’t get mush.  No, no.  We got just short of crispy!!  Somehow, between testing it while it was cooking in the pot and rinsing it in cold water, the pasta went from al dente to ewwwww.

My husband, who loves this dish and would eat it several times a week, decided it was worth it to eat it.  Some of the others decided to forego the “pleasure.”  I ate some, but I had a terrible stomach ache several hours later.  Moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read…even on food packages.  Cook your pasta well enough.

Macaroni Salad

  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows, shells, or rotini twists work well), may be gluten-free
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced*
  • 1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced*
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 1/4-1/2 c. minced onion
  • “chicken” style veggie meat substitute (I use this.)
  • Veganaise, to taste
  • salt to taste

Please note – pasta doesn’t seem to come in 1 lb. boxes any more.  If you buy 2 boxes and fill the 13+ oz. one to near the top, it approximates 1 lb.

Cook pasta according to package directions, or until softer than al dente.  Rinse under cold water and drain.

Place the vegetables in a very large bowl.  Salt them and toss together.  Add the drained pasta and veggie meat.  Mix in Veganaise to taste.

Chill and serve.

*Feel free to use more ~ I often do.