February 14 (aka: Valentine’s Day or Single Awareness Day)

So, have you been to the store to find a chocolatey treat for your Valentine yet?  Have you dared to look at the ingredients lists on those beautiful heart-shaped boxes that appeal so much to a woman’s heart for some reason?  (Image courtesy of pamsclipart.com.)  Um-hmmm…depressing, isn’t it?  I have yet to discover one that I can eat (dairy and corn syrup allergies.)  Sure, the health food store might have something passable, but it’s not in one of those cute little boxes, now is it?  And if I can’t have the box, don’t bother with only passable candy.  I want the good stuff!

Aaaaaannnd, how do I get the good stuff then?  Well, of course, I have to make it myself.  Not as romantic as a heart-shaped box, but, hey, it still is good chocolate.  😉  If you don’t happen to have a Valentine, or are clear across the country from him/her, you get to eat it all yourself.  (My now-single eldest son says Valentine’s Day is actually Single Awareness Day – S.A.D.)

This year I am clear across the country from my adorable and adoring hubby.  How did this happen, you ask?  Well, I came to visit my oldest son and take care of my precious granddaughter while she’s with her dad this month.  I figure it is my “job” to make their Valentine’s Day special since we’re all on our own tomorrow.  The best thing I know to give my loved ones (since I can’t get any of those blasted unhealthy heart-shaped boxes!) is Chocolate FudgeChocolate (Nut) Fudge.  Now, I’ve posted this recipe before, but I learned something new making it in my son’s kitchen.  (I’ve posted about trying to cook in his kitchen before here.)  You do not need a double boiler (or a facsimile thereof.)  It is now easier than ever to whip up a batch of fudge.

So, grab your measuring cups and get busy making a wonderful gift for your favorite person!

Advertisements

Party Cereal (aka: Chocolate-Covered Cereal)

No, I haven’t totally lost my mind and am not suggesting you pull out the boxes of Cheerios and cartons of Silk at your next party.  😉  Instead, I am urging you to make some seriously addictive candy for your next hosting.  Or better yet…for your family for a simple dessert.  Everybody at my house expects this around Christmas, New Year’s, and at the Super Bowl “party” (which actually consists of just the family, so I’m not sure you can call that a party – lol.)

Chocolate-Covered CerealI have given up making a single batch.  I might as well not bother, because everybody will be whimpering that it is all gone and they “hardly got any.”  If you decide to make a double batch, you will need a very large mixing bowl ~ on the bottom mine claims it holds 8-qts.  For those of you moderates, or for those who don’t have to share, you will only need half that size.

Party Cereal (aka Chocolate-Covered Cereal)

  • 1 c. chocolate chips (about half a 12-oz bag…but a full cup really works the best)
  • 1/4 c. natural smooth peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 6 c. Barbara’s Bakery brand Shredded Spoonfuls cereal (you’ll need around 12 oz.)**
  • 1 c. powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate chips in a 1-qt. bowl in the microwave for 1 minute.  Stir and heat for 1 more minute.  While it is melting, measure the cereal into a 4-5 qt. bowl.  Stir the melted chocolate so that any tiny pieces left unmelted will join the club.  Now mix in the peanut butter.  Scrape the chocolate mixture onto the cereal.  Using a very gentle folding motion, begin turning the cereal over and over, carefully scraping the spoon against the bowl and trying to avoid damaging the cereal pieces.  (You will still get some crumbs in the bottom that will eventually succumb to somebody’s spoon, but I don’t think there will be any complaints.)  Keep patiently stirring ~ and nudging any clumps apart ~ until the cereal is completely covered in chocolate and there are only the tiniest occasional bare spots seen.  Pour the powdered sugar over the top of the cereal and begin the stirring process again.  When all of the pieces are evenly colored and no bare chocolate spots remain, you are done.

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator (or freezer if you wish).

** You can use other cereals, but they need to have crevices to hold onto the chocolate and they must be sturdy enough to withstand the stirring process.  Nature’s Path makes a Heritage Bites cereal that looks like it might work.  Wheat Chex might also work, but wouldn’t be as tasty.

Chocolate (Nut) Fudge

In my family, there is a “battle” that rages over nuts vs. no nuts in chocolate fudge (and chocolate chip cookies, for that matter.)  However, since I am the cook, the default version of chocolate fudge out of my kitchen contains walnuts.  (My daughter, the texture queen, omits them from her kitchen.)  Nuts add a small measure of health to a not-particularly-healthy food, and besides…I prefer the taste and texture of the fudge with them.  😉  To be honest, nobody has refused to eat it with the nuts yet.  (Although, I believe there has been some surreptitious trading of chocolate vs. peanut butter fudge going on from Christmas stockings in the past.)

This particular recipe I have been making for 12 years.  I have the date at the bottom of the page I printed off those many years ago.  Honestly, it feels like it should be longer than that!  What did I do for fudge before then?  The webpage address was no longer correct, but I did find the original after some searching.  I want to give credit where it is due.  I have written things differently and changed the amount of nuts used.  Here is the link to the original on VegWeb:  Easy Fudge

Update:  Since I wanted to make this fudge while visiting my son, which happened to be over Valentine’s Day, I discovered something.  You don’t have to use a double boiler or a bowl set on top of a pan of boiling water!  You can melt the “butter” in the microwave (carefully!) and then stir in the soymilk.  Heat it for a few more seconds.  Stir in the vanilla and then the dry ingredients.  SO easy!  No more double boiler for me!

Chocolate Fudge

  • 6 T. Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1+ tsp. vanilla (you can’t go wrong with extra!)
  • 1/4 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder, sifted (use a small wire mesh strainer if you don’t own a sifter)
  • 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted (use powdered evaporated cane juice crystals to be completely, truly vegan)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (oh, all right…optional)

Have ready a 5″x9″, or 8″x8″, or even a somewhat smaller pan, preferably glass or ceramic, 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.

In 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 vanilla.  Stir in the cocoa powder, followed by the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add nuts; stir until well distributed.  Take the pan or bowl off of the boiling water and wipe the bottom of it off on a towel or dishcloth lying on the sink edge or counter so that no boiling water drips on you or into the fudge pan.  Scrape into pan and smooth out to the edges with a rubber spatula.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.  (It is easier to cut into pieces if you do so before it firms up completely.)  Must be refrigerated.  For storage more than a day or two, keep in an air-tight container.

Don’t forget to call your children or grandchildren to lick off the spoon, spatula, and bowl…and I promise I won’t tell if you call them so very, very quietly that you end up taking care of the job yourself!  😉

Vegan Chocolate Pudding

This was the first vegan pudding I made after we gave up dairy.  It is very easy, although it does take some time waiting for everything to thicken while you stir it.  It’s worth it, though!  As long as you whisk it constantly and don’t use too high of a heat, it is smooth and creamy.  If you are impatient and don’t do those two things…well, plan on some lumps in your pudding.

I tried to make this easier by bringing the cocoa/milk mixture almost to a boil without having to stir it and then adding the cornstarch combo, but I got such awful lumps!  I also forgot to use a whisk.  It was not pretty.  Nobody but J wanted to eat it (which tells you just how easy he is to please with food.)

This recipe easily doubles, triples, or quadruples…but be prepared to take “forever” if you make too big of a batch.  I quadrupled it ~ hey, 6 of us happen to love pudding ~ and I spent a very long time at the stove whisking.  It goes faster with a smaller batch, certainly, but be prepared for 1/2 c. servings.  🙂

Chocolate Pudding

  • 1/2 c. honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 3 c. non-dairy milk, reserving at least 3/4 c. to mix with cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch

Carefully stir together the honey and cocoa powder in a saucepan.  It will be poofy at first, but keep gently stirring.  It will begin to get thready and then suddenly fall into creaminess.  Slowly stir some of the milk into the cocoa mixture.  Keep adding a little at a time until the cocoa mixture is well thinned and not stuck to the bottom of the pan where it will scorch.  Add the cornstarch to the reserved milk and stir until smooth.  Add all remaining milk, the vanilla and the cornstarch mixture to the cocoa mixture, whisking until smooth.

Heat over medium-high heat until almost boiling, whisking constantly until thickened.  (Reminder:  the longer you heat this, the thicker it will become…and when it cools it will thicken more.)

Pour into a serving bowl, or individual bowls and cover with plasticwrap (Saran contains no BPA), allowing the wrap to touch the pudding to avoid a skin forming on the top.  Chill thoroughly.

If you want to put this in a no-bake pie crust, allow pudding to become very thick as you cook it.  (Mine was just barely thick enough to cut after cooling when I let it come to a boil with a few large bubbles bursting – watch your hands – while I whisked constantly.)  If you want it super thick, add an extra tablespoon or two of cornstarch to the reserved milk.

Makes about 3 1/2 – 4 cups – or enough to fill a small store-bought graham cracker crust.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

There is nothing like the end of May and the first half of June in our family for needing to bake birthday cakes!  (Not sure how we ended up so many of them in a row, but it does nothing for my weight.  Well, at least nothing good.)  This year poor hubby got an awful version of a gluten-free cake that I tried for his birthday in May.  We won’t be trying that one again.

For R’s birthday celebration last night, I took my tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe and tried it with 100% whole spelt flour.  It worked amazingly well!  (It is not gluten-free, but if you are avoiding wheat it works.)  If anything, it was lighter than my usual wheat version.  I like that!  (And there are leftovers for tonight ~ his actual birthday.)

I just frosted it using my Betty Crocker recipe with vegan ingredients (Earth Balance “butter” and non-dairy milk.)  Oh, and sprinkles are a must for R’s cakes.  😀

Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 3 c. flour (I have always used King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s white whole wheat, but now I know that 100% whole spelt flour also works well.)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda (sieved to remove lumps)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 T. cocoa powder, sifted if possible
  • 1 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive oil (flavorless)
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. coffee substitute powder (Roma, Cafix, Pero, etc.) ~ optional

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9″ x 13″ pan with oil, or if you don’t want to cut and serve the cake directly from the pan in my lazy way, cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and spray the paper and the sides of the pan.

Whisk in large bowl all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients.  Scrape the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and whisk until there are little bubbles forming in the batter.  Scrape into prepared pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool on cake rack for 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.

Optional pans:  I have made this with round 8-9″ pans in the past.  I decreased the time and watched it closely near the end, checking it with a toothpick.

If you wish to make just an 8″ x 8″ square smaller cake, cut the ingredients in half.

 

Vegan Ice Cream

Memorial Day ~ can you believe it?  Summer is upon us.  And the thought pops into your head unbidden….ice cream!!!  But can vegans have ice cream?  Of course they can ~ of the non-dairy variety!  Not only are there some marvelous ones available on the market these days, but recipes abound on the internet, too.

Unfortunately, a lot of the recipes I’ve found online use a teeny tiny ice cream maker ~ about 1-1 1/2 quart-sized.  Well, honey, let me tell you…that is not going to cut it with my family!  When all the kids lived at home we had 6 of us standing around the ice cream maker with bowls and spoons in hand waiting for it to hurry and finish.  And we didn’t want any 1/2 c. serving, either.  (Yes, I know…there may be a good reason I’m not a svelte vegan.  But if you saw my kids and hubby and how lean they are….well, it probably doesn’t have much to do with the ice cream.)  Even though this recipe will be for a 1/2 gallon/4 quart sized churn, my personal one is now a 6 quart!  😀  Any extras can be frozen in individual-serving-sized Tupperware for later.  (Note:  it must be thawed a while, as it comes out like a brick due to no weird additives or gums added to keep it from freezing solid.)  Depending on the churn you own/buy this can be made quickly, or take a bit longer.  If you like a soft-serve ice cream, you can churn this and open it immediately to eat it.  Follow your manufacturer’s user manual for proper churning and ice/salt ratio.  (Right now I’d love to get a new churn, because mine isn’t very efficient and leaves the center rather runny while the outer edges are frozen solid enough that the dasher won’t turn any more ~ it didn’t do this when I first bought it.  While my hubby doesn’t like to eat any fruited ice creams much to our chagrin, he does love ice cream the consistency of a milkshake.  So, he gets all the middle stuff and we scrape the outside edges for the rest of us!  I guess we’ll be forgiving then with his other ice cream foibles!  ;))

Because I can control the ingredients, this ice cream has fewer calories than the packaged store-bought variety.  I unscientifically figured out the approximate calories of a cup of vanilla (using the nutrition labels on the ingredients I put into it) and came up with about 143 calories.  This was using full sweetener (rather than substituting any stevia for part of it) and the tofu option.  Not too shabby if you can keep yourself down to 1-2 cups!  Most desserts are more caloric than this.

I am going to lay out my basic vanilla soy recipe for you ~ and I’ll give you other options for different flavors (the really fun part!), ways to substitute for allergies (to soy and nuts specifically**), and sweetener options.  There is a lot of leeway for adjustments in this particular ice cream.  It makes it very easy on you.

*Again, ice cream churns vary ~ so it would be a good thing if you have extra non-dairy milk on hand in case your church is actually bigger than it says it is.  My last 1/2-gallon Rival-brand churn made about 12 cups of ice cream measured out!

Vegan Ice Cream

  • 1/2 gallon non-dairy milk (soy, almond, coconut-not the canned+)
  • 1/2 c. raw cashews (can be more for a richer product – see tofu comment)
  • 1 pkg. Morinu tofu, drained (you may omit this and use a total of 1 c. cashews instead for a richer product.)
  • 1 1/2 c. sweetener (this can be sugar, evaporated cane juice crystals, honey, maple syrup, etc.  You can also substitute 1/2-1 tsp. pure stevia extract powder for 1/2-1 c. of the sweetener.  You may mix and match these sweeteners.  If you make a fruit ice cream, use a can of frozen juice concentrate in a matching flavor, or use white grape for a non-descript flavor to meld well with any fruit in place of the other sugars.  Because the fruit is so sweet, you don’t need the heavier sweeteners, although you could add a little bit of stevia or other choice to boost the sweetness if you have a sweet tooth.)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • vanilla to taste.

Place cashews in blender and add just enough non-dairy milk to blend nuts until very creamy and smooth.  You don’t want any graininess left from tiny cashew pieces.  Add other ingredients with enough milk to blend them.  Pour into a 1/2 gallon freezer container/churn.  Add extra milk until you reach the “fill to this mark” line.  Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

**For soy allergies, omit the tofu and increase cashews to 1 c. total; use almond or coconut milk.  For nut allergies, omit cashews and double tofu; use soy or coconut milk+.

+Newsflash!  You might not want to use coconut milk for this unless your ice cream maker is very cooperative in it’s freezing nature.  With my wonky freezer I tried using Silk vanilla coconut milk last night after I already had this typed up and ready to post.  I had to laugh ~ some of the coconut fat from the milk was separated from the chocolatey coconut mix and frozen to the side all by itself!  It was tasty, but it wasn’t what I was going for!

Variations:  (The fun part!)

  • Chocolate:  Add 6-8 T. cocoa powder and a bit of almond extract along with the vanilla.  Or you can just use chocolate non-dairy milk instead of vanilla or plain.
  • Strawberry:  Pour part of the blended mix into the ice cream freezer container if you have a small blender.  Use the remaining mix (or all of the mix if you have a large, strong blender) to blend 1-2 c. of fresh or frozen strawberries (if you use frozen, the ice cream will finish faster); pour into the freezer container.  Add more milk to the blender and whiz another 1-2 c. of berries.  You want a total of 3-4 c. of berries.  Almond extract is good here, too ~ just a little.  I find that juice concentrate can work fairly well with this variation, since the berries are sweet, too.
  • Maple Walnut:  Add 1/4-1/2 c. walnuts when you blend the cashews.  Increase salt to 3/8 tsp.  The sweetener should be at least half maple syrup and the other half whatever other sweetener you choose since maple syrup is pricey.  You may add a touch of maple extract with the vanilla if you wish.
  • Pina Colada:  Add 1 1/2 c. pineapple juice, 1 can coconut milk, and a dash of coconut extract to the blender.  Or you may blend up some canned pineapple, too, but that tends to leave a couple of harsh clumps of fibers that aren’t much fun to come across while you are eating.  Another option would be to serve chilled crushed pineapple and shredded coconut on each serving.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip:  In a dry blender, or food processor, briefly whiz 1 c. of chocolate chips until tinier pieces.  Add to the freezer container after the milk mixture.  Add 1/2-1 tsp. mint extract or a few drops of peppermint oil to the blender.
  • Chocolate Chip:  As above, only omit the mint extract/oil.
  • Orange Cream:  (This one I haven’t perfected, but I’ll give you the idea so you can play with it.)  Add orange juice concentrate to the vanilla recipe.  Sometimes it comes out very strong ~ be careful how much you add.
  • Cookies and Cream:  After vanilla ice cream is done churning, remove the dasher and add in crushed chocolate sandwich cookies.  Stir well.  Put lid on and allow to harden according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Pumpkin:  (This is a strong pumpkin-flavored ice cream.  Decrease pumpkin for a milder version.)  Add a 15-oz can of pumpkin puree and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to the blender.
  • Black Cherry:  Use 1 c. apple cherry juice concentrate and 1/2 c. of another sweetener and plenty of vanilla.  Slice/halve 2 c. frozen cherries (to make sure there are no pits) or pit fresh cherries.  Whiz half of them with the blender mixture until fine; pour into freezer container.  Chop remaining cherries with more milk in the blender until in small pieces.  Add to freezer container.
  • Chocolate Cherry:  Combine the chocolate ice cream version with the chopped cherries in the Black Cherry version.  Use full sweetener or the cocoa will be too bitter.
  • Coconut:  Add a can of lite coconut milk to replace some of the milk.  Sprinkle shredded coconut on top of each serving if desired.
  • Chocolate Coconut:  Make chocolate ice cream using Silk vanilla coconut milk for the non-dairy milk.+
  • Rocky Road:  Make chocolate ice cream.  When finished churning, remove the dasher and stir in 1 c. small chocolate chips (or chop regular ones in a dry blender/food processor) and 1/2 c. chopped nuts.

If you think of any other variation ideas, please let me know!  Happy churning!  😀

Mounds Bars…er…Bark?

Necessity isn’t the mother of invention….laziness is!  Or at least it seriously has a role to play!  Think about it ~ who has the most to “gain” from inventing an easier way to do something?  (Deep down inside I am a very laid-back, lazy person.  It has only been because I am also a people-pleaser that I have become something different, because it is what is expected of me.)

On the day I set out to make a vegan version of a Mounds Bar, I did my internet recipe research to see what everybody else had done.  Oh, my mouth was watering!  I wanted one of these.  I played with the ingredients list and melted my chocolate chips.  I got everything ready and tasted the coconut filling.  Yes, it all tasted good, even if it wasn’t exactly like the recipes I’d found online.

My cute little mini-muffin liners (purchased on impulse who knows when from who knows where) were all separated and the plan was to make little layers from the chocolate and coconut mixtures.  And then I looked at the clock.  I looked everything I had laid out.  I thought about how long this was going to take and what a mess I was likely to make.  (And how long it would take to write about.)  There had to be a better way.

On a whim, I stirred half of the lovely coconut mixture into the melted chocolate.  Not enough.  I dumped in the rest of it and stirred madly.  I got a little spoon and tasted.  Hmmm.  Not bad.  I started filling all of the cute little muffin cups that were in an 8″x8″ pan (alas, no mini-muffin pan.)  At the end there was extra chocolate-coconut stuff, so I filled the papers to the very top.  There was still left-over melted candy.  I had a few more tiny muffin papers, but this time I put them on a cookie sheet so that they weren’t as squished as the others were.  Maybe the end product would look prettier.  I didn’t fill these to the top, either, to see if that was more aesthetically pleasing.  (Actually, buying some nice candy molds is highly recommended for this sort of thing, but I’ve never been able to justify the space they will take in my cupboards.)  When they were complete, there still was extra melted gooey yumminess left.

I cast about in my mind.  I could just eat what was left with a spoon….No, probably not a good idea.  I mentally peeked into my baking cupboard remembering there were no full-sized muffin papers in there.  What to do…what to do.  A light bulb went off.  I pulled out a piece of waxed paper, scooted the smaller candies over to one end of the cookie sheet, and spread the waxed paper across the other end.  I poured the remaining candy out, but it was so thick that it just stayed in a pile.  Spreading it out worked very well.  I made it pretty thin so that it can be broken once it’s chilled.

During a taste-testing session, my teens declared all of them delicious!  My favorite was the bark version.  R’s was the thick fudgy version.  J’s?  You guess it ~ ALL of them.  😀  The next day I served them to the whole family and everybody liked them.  We decided the muffin papers were a nuisance to peel, so molds are now on my to-buy list.

Mounds Bars…er…Bark?

  • 3 c. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 c. unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/3 c. virgin coconut oil (decrease to 1/4 c. or less to make into bark)
  • 1/2 c. honey or other liquid sweetener
  • dash of salt
  • splash or two of vanilla

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl set on top of a saucepan ~ this is what I actually use.)  Mix the remaining ingredients together*.  Decide you are much too lazy to form cute little Mounds bars or any such thing.  Once the chocolate chips are melted completely, mix the coconut mixture into the chocolate and stir (*or if you know ahead of time you will skip the fancy stuff, throw all the ingredients into the melted chocolate without pre-mixing it.)  Drop into molds, muffin papers, or spread out on waxed paper.  Chill.  Break into bark, pop out of molds, or peel out of papers.  Eat.  Smile.  🙂

Non-Dairy Milks Are NOT Created Equal

Maybe you already know this.  Maybe you’ve already experimented with many different non-dairy milks and are ages ahead of me.  But in the last 2 weeks it has been brought home in a big way in our household ~ Non-dairy milks are not created equal!

If you could open my refrigerator door, you would find a wild assortment of various milk alternatives.  Soy, chocolate soy, almond, dark-chocolate almond, coconut – 2 brands…let’s see, are there any others?  Oh, yes, plain soy milk for cooking and diluted vanilla soy.  Crazy, huh?  Here’s a peek at them.

You’ll notice I have several different brands.  The Blue Diamond almond milk was on sale this week, so we’re trying it out.  The Great Value soymilk from Walmart is comparable to Silk’s version – only the GV is organic and Silk’s blue label aren’t any more.  They have plain, vanilla, and chocolate (which isn’t pictured here, but I have one of those, too, since the brown Silk carton you see here is almost empty.)  I’ll mention some of the others later.

It would appear that all taste buds are not created equal, as well.  One kid was introduced to almond milk at a camp out 2 weeks ago and fell in love, which is why we’re trying out a new brand of that.  But hubby, I find out, hates almond milk (which explains why he avoids my treasured dark-chocolate almond milk ~ it isn’t just because of how deep chocolate it is! ~ and has his favorite soy chocolate milk which he thins with vanilla soy or diluted soy.  Strange man. ;D)  I love, love, love vanilla coconut milk ~ well, only one brand, but more on that in a moment.  My eat-just-about-anything teen loves them all.  (Whew!  At least there is one happy camper no matter what I buy.)

This all started years ago when we were dumped into the non-dairy milk aisle suddenly.  Our allergist found that we all were allergic to dairy!  Sadly enough, the choices 16+ years ago were a far cry from what is available now.  We tried what was available ~ and ended up with a very thick, but tasty, brownish soymilk made by Edensoy.  It was pricey ~ especially when I eventually was feeding 4 hungry children with it.  In defense of the thickness of the milk and the price, we started diluting it ~ 25% water at first ~ until we ended up half-and-half water and soymilk.  This became a habit to which we all were accustomed.

Enter Silk brand!  (Cheers, hats in the air, whistles!!!)  No sooner did we taste Silk vanilla than we turned our backs on Edensoy, never to look back.  (Sorry, Edensoy.)  We still kept the habit of adding 50% water to it, however.  Those 4 kids had grown and gotten hungrier!

There are now many, many kinds of non-dairy milk out there ~ from soy to hemp, of all things!  Oat, rice, almond, hemp, coconut, soy ~ have I missed any?  Vanilla, plain, chocolate….mmmm.  Even if you’ve tried almond milk (or another kind) and haven’t like it, keep trying other brands.  Not all brands are created equal.  (I think I mentioned that already.)  This week, I bought coconut milk from Trader Joe’s.  I have been happily consuming Silk’s vanilla coconut milk for weeks, but this was cheaper.  Unfortunately, it is modeled somewhat after So Delicious’ coconut milk, which I just am not all that fond of in comparison to Silk’s.  (It’s thinner, less flavorful, and the So Delicious almost seems to taste too much like dairy milk in my mind ~ which means some of you may love it!)

Overall, I think Silk brand has been the most proactive at developing new flavors and kinds.  They also have seasonal flavors in the fall that are marvelous.  If you check out their website, you can occasionally score coupons, too.

I will try to post a recipe using Silk’s coconut milk to make a simple milkshake soon after this post, since this didn’t include any specific recipe.

Let me know what your favorite kinds of non-dairy milk are!

Green and Not-So-Green Smoothies

I’m sure by now that you’ve at least heard of green smoothies if you read very many healthy-eating blogs.  They are the easiest way to increase your leafy green consumption without spending all day chewing your “cud.”  🙂  They are a great way to get kids to eat their veggies, too…….or maybe not.  If your child is color blind, perhaps you can sneak it passed them.  I happen to have a child old enough to know better who flatly refused a green smoothie, even when his relatively-food-fussy father said they tasted good!  (Perhaps even you have dug in your heels against the thought of drinking “grass.”)  So, what is a mom, or a wife, in some instances, to do?

Camouflage, of course!

Remember that fussy child of mine?  He has one favorite smoothie – only one.  It contains a frozen banana, frozen strawberries, stevia, cocoa powder, and vanilla Silk soymilk.  He prefers it to be drinkable, rather than soft-serve-like.  After his staunch breakfast refusal of a green smoothie, he asked for his usual for lunch.  He left the kitchen as I got things out to make it.  I peeked to see if he was busy.  Ah, the coast was clear.  I whipped out the organic baby spinach, rinsed a few leaves, and threw it in.  Just to be on the safe side, I was liberal with the cocoa powder.  Ah…a safe deep brown color showed up as the blender whirred.  I ran it a little extra to make sure no tiny leaf particles remained – and snagged the only one I saw as I poured it into his cup.  When he was done I asked him how it had come out.  “Best ever mom – super creamy this time!”  LOL  Success!

The next time he asked for a smoothie, I put in a whole extra-large handful of the same spinach.  He still couldn’t tell.  The 3rd time I did the same.  I was wondering when to tell him.  That day his brother-in-law was over and pretended to take the smoothie from me for himself.  This man has an allergy to leafy greens!  I had to stop him from swigging some.  The jig was up.  R didn’t bat an eye when I told him what I had done.  He said as long as he couldn’t see it or taste it, he didn’t care what I put in the smoothie!

R’s older brother allows me to fix him daily “green” smoothies…but they must contain some kind of berry to mask the color.  The only trouble is that unless you put enough berry in there, the color leans toward brown or avocado green!  Much less appealing.  This morning I put raspberries in and when J sat down to eat, he was expecting mild chocolate flavor by the color and was startled to find coconut-raspberry.

Honestly, I’m the one in the family who can drink an intensely green smoothie without batting an eye.  As long as it has enough fruit and/or coconut flavor to balance it, I love it.  I feel so much more energy – and so fewer cravings – since I started making these!  (I’ve been known to have one for every meal.)  The only time I ever had trouble was when I put some golden beets in on suggestion of another great blog.  I don’t recommend using very much beet at a time if you choose to use that detoxifying veggie.

Here are my favorite things to use (not necessarily all at once, mind you!) in green smoothies (choose organic as much as possible) ~ baby spinach (the mildest taste effect), red curly kale (the organic version smells like flowers!), cucumber (make sure it’s not a bitter one), a celery stick, frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mango, and/or pineapple, cocoa powder, Silk coconut milk, and bananas.  I’m sure there are other things that work well, but this is what I have used to experiment thus far.  I also tend to throw some ground flax or chia seeds into mine.

It is fun to experiment with taste preferences.  Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, etc.  Let me know what your favorite is!  Or if you just aren’t brave enough to try.

Chocolate Green Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 6 oz. of frozen strawberries (I just toss in 1/2 of a 12 oz. bag)
  • 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of cocoa powder
  • a sprinkle of pure stevia powder (optional)
  • a handful of washed baby spinach
  • enough non-dairy milk to make the blender turn (this will depend on the texture you like your smoothies to be – soft-serve or drinkable, and on your blender power)

Whiz all in blender until smooth.  Serve in glass or bowl.

Truly Green Smoothie

  • 2 red curly kale leaves, stem end broken off
  • 1-2 handfuls of washed baby spinach
  • a 3-4″ cucumber spear
  • a 3-4″ celery stick
  • 1 c. (or more) frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 c. (or more) fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • a sprinkle of pure stevia powder (optional)
  • 1-2 T. ground flax or chia seed (optional)
  • enough Silk coconut milk to make the blender turn (this will depend on your blender power – I like a thick green smoothie somewhere between solely drinkable and spoonable)

Whiz all in blender until smooth.  Serve in glass or bowl.

Once you are accustomed to the green smoothie look and taste, increase your greens and decrease the fruit for more of a veggie-packed whollop.  You can add a banana to the mix for extra creaminess and sweetness.

Starbucks Be Gone!

I admit it.  Years ago I made a choice not to ingest caffeine ~ and I don’t trust whatever it is they do to take it out of innocent coffee beans.  I just skip the caffeinated products completely.  However, I am still drawn by the enticingly tasty idea and smell of coffee drinks.  (None of this straight black coffee of yesteryear that my parents used to sit and drink.  Bleck!  No draw there!)  And there is another issue beside avoiding the caffeine ~ how could I obtain the image in my mind of a yummy hot drink without paying the small fortune that the coffee shops charge?  How hard could it be to make my own?

Enter the coffee substitutes:  Roma, Cafix, Pero, and others.  I, personally, prefer Cafix in the canister.  It has a milder, mellower taste than some of the others.  There are actually 2 different Cafix types; one is sweeter.  And yes, you guessed it – I like the sweeter one!  Roma is my middle son’s favorite, because it has a much stronger flavor – probably more like regular coffee – and he likes it black, too!  (Must be a throw-back to my folks….)  I don’t mind drinking Roma, but I want it well drenched with creamer and plenty of sweetener.  Some of you might remember Postum from your childhood.  Sadly enough, the company no longer makes it.  I have only had Pero once and I recall it as being somewhere between Roma and Cafix.  There are others out there – some of which actually are brewed in a coffee maker.  I haven’t tried those, but have heard good things about them.

Below you will find some of my ideas for tasty coffee-like creations of your own.  If you are willing to use a microwave to heat them, some can be ready in less time than it would take to stand in line at Starbucks!

Note:  You may use whichever coffee substitute you have on hand, even if the name says differently.   You also may omit any creamer if you prefer a straight-up coffee flavor.

Mocha Roma

  • 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 T. honey (more or less to taste)
  • 1- 1 1/2 tsp. coffee substitute (Roma, Caffix, etc.)
  • Hot or boiling water
  • Vanilla non-dairy creamer

Mix the cocoa powder and honey in a 1-1 1/2 c. mug.  Keep stirring patiently.  All of a sudden it will turn from a powdery mess into a smooth, creamy, chocolately wonder.  Add the coffee substitute – no need to mix.  Pour in the boiling water, leaving enough room to stir and add creamer.  Note ~ This is fabulous iced, as well!

If you are in a hurry and/or want a richer product, just make this with half Silk dark chocolate almond milk and half water, leaving out the honey.  Heat in a microwave.

Silky Chocolate Coconut Cafix

  • 1/4 c. vanilla soy Silk
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate almond Silk
  • 1/2 c. coconut Silk
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp. Cafix

Mix first 4 ingredients together and heat in microwave.  Stir in Cafix.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cafe

  • 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 T. honey (more or less to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coffee substitute
  • 1 1/4 c. water, or non-dairy milk, or combination of the two
  • Silk hazelnut creamer

Mix the cocoa powder and honey in a 1 1/2 c. mug.  Keep stirring patiently.  All of a sudden it will turn from a powdery mess into a smooth, creamy, chocolately wonder.  If heating in the microwave, pour in the water/milk and heat to not-quite-boiling; add the coffee substitute and creamer.  If heating water/milk on stove, add the coffee substititue and then pour in the heating water/milk.  Add creamer and stir.

“Eggnog” Cafix*

  • Hot water enough to fill 3/4 of a mug
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. Cafix
  • sweetener to taste
  • Silk Nog*

Pour hot water over Cafix in mug, or heat water in mug and add Cafix.  Stir in sweetener and Silk Nog.

Pumpkin Spice Latte*

  • 1/2-3/4 c. water
  • 1/2-3/4 c. non-dairy milk (plain or vanilla)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. Cafix
  • sweetener to taste
  • Silk Pumpkin Spice*

Heat water and non-dairy milk.  Stir in Cafix, sweetener, and Silk Pumpkin Spice.

*Seasonally available.

Of course, you can create many more from your own imagination!  There are enough different flavored creamers and non-dairy milks that you can play a lot with it.  I’d love to hear your combinations, too, so that I can try them.  🙂