Coconut Cream Topping

Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Cream 005If you are not happy with the vegan options for a whipped-type topping (cashew creme, tofu-based items, etc.) because they add a funny taste or texture, then this is the recipe for you!  As long as you like coconut flavor, that is.  🙂  I find it accompanies just about any dessert well, with the mild coconut flavor melding seamlessly.

These days I couldn’t be happier about eating coconut in any way possible with all the health benefits of coconut being touted.  My two favorite coconutty things to consume are Continue reading

A Word of Concern about Silk Milk Products

Last week in the grocery store I noticed with dismay that my favorite coconut vanilla flavor Silk milk had a “new and improved” label on it’s carton.  In my experience, “new and improved” usually isn’t improved.  It’s usually just cheaper for the manufacturer and somehow less than impressive for the consumer.  This time is no exception.

Upon looking closer at the new label, I discovered one glaring change:  cane sugar instead of evaporated cane juice.  What is the difference you ask?  Regular sugar has been whitened by using bone meal.  So, even though evaporated cane juice is more pricey, I made the decision long ago to use it.

In addition to my coconut milk being almost sickenly sweet now (yes, I did buy some before I realized what the difference was), as well as filtered through bone meal, it also is thinner than before.

I looked at the Silk soy in my refrigerator, and it has the same issue.  I do not know about the other Silk flavors and types, but I imagine they have also been changed, or will be soon.  Check yours.  Make an informed choice.  Personally, I will be trying out other brands.

What it comes down to is that the makers of Silk have decided to lessen their production costs at our expense.  They did this once before when the company was purchased from it’s original owners.  With no notice, it went from being organic to non-organic.  I kept buying it then, because it still had better flavor and texture than most others.  This time, I’m not continuing the march into mediocrity.

If you are as unhappy about this as I am, please contact Silk and let them know.  If enough of us complain and take our business elsewhere, perhaps they will listen and go back to healthier options.

Blueberry Lemon Kale Smoothie

Some of my favorite recipes have come together because of what I did or did not have on hand.  This morning I had no more fresh spinach left due to my forgetfulness to stop at the store yesterday, but there was a slice of honeydew.  My typical morning smoothie contains kale and spinach along with fruit ~ usually frozen.  After tossing in just the kale and the honeydew, I stared at the blender trying to imagine what would go well with them.  I love blueberries and honeydew together.  And of course everyone knows that blueberry and lemon pairing is classic, but would it translate into the smoothie?  I’ve failed before with lemon juice in a smoothie….

…But not this time!!  This smoothie has a bright, summery flavor that makes you want to jump right into your favorite warm weather fun.  The flavor lasts hauntingly in the background of your taste buds teasing you long after the smoothie is a memory.  I have a new favorite now!

Blueberry Lemon Kale SmoothieBlueberry Lemon Kale Smoothie

  • 3 red curly kale leaves, stem removed (if fairly large, just use 2)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. honeydew melon (about 1/8 of a melon)
  • 1/2 – 1 c. frozen blueberries (honestly, I didn’t measure – just tossed)
  • 2″ piece of frozen banana
  • 2-4 T. ground chia seed **
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • sweetener, to taste – I used a few sprinkles of pure stevia powder
  • coconut milk (not canned) – I used Silk coconut vanilla flavor, but use the brand you prefer.

Whiz all ingredients up in a blender, using just enough coconut milk to get the blender going at first.  You can always add more as you go, but the honeydew typically will release a lot of juiciness so that you won’t need very much else.

This makes enough for 1 person’s stand-alone breakfast or 2 people’s smaller servings.  Mine made about 3 cups and though I offered sips to other family members, I wasn’t sad when they turned me down and I got it all.  😉  (They are not green smoothie enthusiasts.)

**Not only is this little seed a powerhouse of omega-3’s, but it has loads of protein and fiber, too!  It will give your smoothie staying power so that you aren’t hungry for hours.  If you aren’t a fan of chia seed or haven’t used it much, only use a small amount to begin with until you get acclimated to it.  It will thicken the smoothie, especially if you don’t drink it right away.  If you plan to take it with you as you commute, you might use more liquid or less chia seed.

Non-Alcoholic Pina Colada Fizz

While I was trying to make a pina colada pudding of some sort, I was doing some tasting as I went.  (Hey, I had to make sure everything was good, right?)  At one point, the creamy stuff in the blender began to taste so yummy that I kept tasting and knew I needed to stop!  Finally, a light bulb went off and I poured a smidge into a small cup and started to play with that, too, in order to make a virgin pina colada.  (I figured at least one recipe was bound to turn out well.)  Just in case it was all in my imagination that my creation tasted amazing, I fixed a similar smidge for one of my willing taste-testers.  When he gave it the thumbs-up, I was content.

Later that evening, my son-in-law was over who likes all things “fancy non-alcoholic drink” and I told him about it.  He burst my bubble.  He told me that pina coladas don’t have anything fizzy in them.  Well…bummer!

It was late that night when I got my next light-bulb moment.  Why not just change the name?  Who cares what it is “supposed” to be ~ this was good and I wanted to share it!  😀  So, here you have it….although, if you don’t want the fizz, just leave it out.  It is decadent and delicious without the sparkling water, too!

Pina Colada Fizz (non-alcoholic)

  • juice from 1 small organic lemon
  • 2 cans Thai organic coconut milk (I used the full-fat version), chilled
  • 1-2 cans pineapple chunks*, undrained, preferably chilled
  • 1/2 tsp. pure stevia
  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Canada Dry sparkling seltzer water, raspberry flavor, chilled, optional

In a 56-oz blender, whiz the first 5 ingredients together until very smooth.  Serve in glasses mixed with the sparkling seltzer water to taste. You should probably run a taste test to see what proportion you like best.  Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges and little umbrellas, if desired.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of these pretties on hand.)

The cream in the blender makes about 7 cups if you use 1 can of pineapple.

*If you wish to use fresh or frozen pineapple, you probably will want to decrease or omit the lemon juice, because it will be tangy enough without it.  In making a half recipe, I threw in 1 1/2 c. of fresh pineapple.  It was very good this way.

Coconut Milkshake

Here is a simple way to get a vegan milkshake without the expensive containers of vegan ice cream getting involved.

Coconut Milkshake (and variations)

  • 1 frozen peeled banana, broken into pieces
  • Silk vanilla coconut milk
  • a sprinkle of pure powdered stevia extract

Place the banana and stevia in a blender.  Add just enough coconut milk to allow the blender to work properly.  This will depend on the strength of your blender, honestly.  That is why there is no measurement given for the milk.  Add extra coconut milk to determine how thick or thin you prefer your shake.  Pour into a glass and serve.

Variations:

  • Use almond or soy vanilla flavored milk in place of the coconut.  Add 1-2 T. of peanut butter and a sprinkle of stevia.  You could also add a spoonful of cocoa powder and a little more sweetener ~ or just use chocolate milk!
  • Use a plain flavored milk and add a drop or two of peppermint oil or extract.  If you want it to be green, add a few baby spinach leaves.
  • Toss in some blueberries.
  • Add some frozen pineapple chunks for a pina colada shake

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!

Island Cookies

I love taste testing my cookie recipes!  😀  Of course, sometimes it gets out of hand….  Like this time.  (By the way, you can click on the pictures to see bigger versions.)

Last weekend, I needed a new cookie recipe, because somebody (or bodies) had snacked on the chocolate chips and I couldn’t make the requested lunch box favorites – chocolate chip cookies.  I also needed a gluten-free cookie.  This is what I found.  It was based off of this recipe.  I was intrigued, but frustrated.  Too often gluten-free, grain-free recipes call for massive amounts of eggs.  It can be difficult to substitute, because often they are doing more than one job – leavening, binding, moisture, flavor.  I can fix the moisture issue, as a general rule, but the leavening/binding issues can be tricky.  Flavor can be adjusted to make up for the lack of eggs, too.  I did some reading on other websites about replacing eggs in things (thus reinforcing the on-going thought that we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us when it comes to creating something “new.”)

Often times, you don’t know for sure how things will work out until you’ve made at least one batch….or two…or….well, you get the picture.

My first attempt came out ~ well ~ in my mind…plain.  Remember what I said about eggs giving things flavor?  Hmmm…they had a very mild flavor.  I was afraid my non-taster hubby wouldn’t be impressed.  I was sure tweaking would be in order.  Guess what?  All the guys liked them!  The impression they got was of a sugar cookie with a little cinnamon.  Who knew?  However, I wasn’t finished tweaking.

The “worst” of it was that I didn’t finish tweaking until about half of the cookies were baked!  😀  I had the dough mixed up and decided if I threw in some rum flavoring it would add a lot to the overall flavor.  Then I thought, “What about some coconut flakes?”  Before I threw those in, I made up 2 cookies from the original dough in the mixing bowl – 1 to taste test and 1 for the photo shoot.  (Those taste a lot like coconut snickerdoodles.)

While I was stirring in the coconut, I thought about how much hubby prefers chocolate chips in his cookies.  So, I put 2-cookies-worth of coconut-laden dough onto the cookie sheet and added chocolate chips.  I no longer thought they would need to be rolled in the cinnamon sugar.  One cookie later told me ‘no.’  It stuck like crazy to the glass I was using to flatten the cookie balls.  Back to the sugar…but I really thought just plain sugar (aka: evaporated cane juice crystals) would be good enough.

By this time, I had the first pan in the oven – can you believe it?  Finally.  When the cookies came out, I almost burned my mouth tasting the first one before they cooled!  By this time, the 2nd pan was already in the oven with plain-sugar-coated cookies on it.

I bit into the first cookie ~ the plain one.  MMmmm…it was SO much better than my first attempt.  I only ate a bite, because I hadn’t been hungry this morning and hadn’t actually had breakfast yet.  Next I broke off a piece of the coconut-flakes-added cookie.  Oh, man, this was even better than the last one!  I couldn’t wait to try the ones with chocolate chips.  All set to get a bigger burst of flavor than before, my mouth watered….ah, let down.  Without the cinnamon sugar, they were just plain ol’ cookies!

Quickly I got the next pan ready with cinnamon-sugar on them.  When they came out of the oven, I finally got that amazing burst of flavor I knew was coming!

Overall, I love each of these cookie variations for different reasons.  They were all moist inside with a nice crumb.  Since I made a double batch, by the time I got to the very last pan, the coconut flour had soaked up a little too much moisture and the finished product was a bit on the fragile side as it came off the pan.  If you make a single batch, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Island Cookies

  • 3/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1/4 c. Earth Balance buttery spread sticks (1/2 a stick)
  • 1/4 c. softened virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. Silk vanilla coconut milk (you could probably substitute canned coconut milk)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 3/4 c. coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. coconut flakes – I used sweetened ones (opt. – if not using chocolate chips, increase)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (opt.)
  • 3 T. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (use the good stuff for the best flavor – Saigon, etc.)

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

Beat the sugar, Earth Balance, coconut oil, vanilla, rum extract, salt, and molasses until creamy.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Add roughly a 1/3 of the coconut milk, stirring until batter begins to fluff up.  Add another 1/3 of the coconut milk, again mixing well.  Reserve the remaining coconut milk.  Sprinkle the baking soda over the dough and whip into the batter.  Stir in the coconut flour and when almost all is incorporated, add the reserved coconut milk.  Add coconut flakes and chocolate chips if using.  Let rest for 5 minutes while mixing remaining sugar and cinnamon in a cereal bowl.

Form dough into no-bigger-than-ping-pong-sized balls and roll/toss in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place on cookie sheets and press lightly down with the bottom of a wide drinking glass.  (If you prefer, you can use a fork, but I didn’t care for the looks as much.)  If the chocolate chips resist the pressing, just wiggle the glass a bit and they will give in.  😀

Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Cool on racks.Yields 25-28 cookies

Vegan Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake

Finding a tasty vegan cheesecake can be hard to do.  Finding a tasty vegan cheesecake that doesn’t contain a bunch of processed products can be even harder.  With a search engine, I went seeking.  I ended up narrowing my search to just images, because if the picture didn’t look appetizing, I wasn’t bothering to read the recipe.  If the pictured cheesecake was thin or runny, I kept going.  If it looked like a stereo-typical vegan dessert (you’ve seen those, haven’t you ~ the ones people wrinkle up their noses at during potlucks and keep going?) then I didn’t click on the picture to see the rest of the info.

I finally found this one.  The picture was mouthwatering!  My stomach growled over it ~ and it didn’t have any funny ingredients.  I printed it out for trial.  However, the mix in the blender was SUPER sour (I always taste new recipes as I go to ensure success.)  I had to add extra stuff just to make it not pucker my whole face!  (I chatted online with the recipe creator who said that was what she was trying to make, because she loves tart things.  So, if that is your taste preference, check out her version.)  Even after extra thickening and sweetening, it had to be partially frozen to be thick enough to slice.  It was certainly edible (and nobody turned down a second piece, except my fussiest eater who only ate 1 bite and surrendered his first piece to ME!), but it wasn’t exactly what I was going for.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?  At least you do if you’ve been reading my blog for very long.  Time for revamping into my own thing!  (I did shamelessly use Kier’s version of the crust ~ thank you…it was too good and didn’t need any changing.)

Now, this was more like it! (Tell me if this makes your mouth water when you see it.  Please…no licking the computer screen.)

Granted, this makes a HUGE cheesecake, so you might want to only make this when company is coming over.  But then again, have you ever wished for less decadent dessert leftovers for later?  Me, either.  I do suggest cutting this into 16 pieces at least.  We cut it into 12 and it was almost too much ~ too rich even for our family of sweet tooths.  (Although, nobody left a morsel behind on their plates…they just held their very full stomachs and laid around the living room like so many inert statues for a while afterwards.)

If you wish to make a smaller version, you can cut the crust in half and the filling into a third, but it won’t come out as thick as pictured above.  It will fit nicely into a 10″ pie plate then.

Vegan Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake  ~ 9” x 13”

 Crust ~

  • 2 c. walnuts
  • 1 c. almonds
  • 20 pitted dates
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Filling ~

  • 3 cans of Thai organic coconut milk – full fat, thoroughly chilled ***
  • juice of 3 small lemons (about 8-9 T.)
  • 3/4 c. honey or other liquid sweetener
  • 3 c. raw cashews (may be soaked 4-8 hours)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure stevia powder
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Topping ~

  • 2 12-oz packages of frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or other sweetener

In food processor, whiz nuts until finely chopped.  Add dates, vanilla, and salt and pulse until well mixed.  This can be a time-consuming process.  If your food processor isn’t very big or isn’t very efficient, try doing half of the recipe at a time.

Press the nut-date mixture on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” x 13” glass pan.  To see if there are any thin places, hold the pan up, tipped toward a window.  Press mixture toward any places that need more coverage.  Set aside.

Carefully spoon out the thickened coconut cream from the top of the cans of chilled coconut milk and place in a high powered blender.  Reserve the liquid for other uses, such as smoothies.  (If you do not have a strong or a big enough blender – 56 oz. – blend in two batches.)  Place remaining filling ingredients into blender in order listed so that the coconut cream turns into a liquid to help blend up the cashews.  Blend until smooth with no tiny pieces of cashew remaining.  Pour into prepared crust, cover, and refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours.

Pour thawed berries into a glass bowl and sprinkle cane juice crystals over the top.  Mix until the crystals dissolve, breaking up the berries into a saucy topping.  Chill.

Cut and serve the cheesecake, spooning the raspberry sauce over the top of each piece as desired.  Or you may top the whole cheesecake with the berries and serve.

***Addendum:  I made this yet again, because we love it so much.  I used some less expensive, but still organic coconut milk.  It failed!  Well, it wasn’t a total failure, but close enough.  It was grainy, too moist, and not as flavorful.  I most highly recommend Thai organic canned coconut milk for the proper results.

Sunrise Cereal

Okay ~ you know breakfast is an important meal, and you know you should be eating it consistently.  But if you have to open a boring box of cold cereal one more time you are going to scream.  Not to mention that it would be nice to eat something hot on cold mornings.  But who in this day and age has time to fix such a luxury?  It’s all you can do to get out the door on time.  And please don’t mention crock pots, because cleaning those is no picnic, either!

Relax.  I have the solution for you.  It’s quick ~ the clean-up is easy ~ what more could you ask for?

Sunrise Cereal originally came to me from hubby’s Aunt Ann.  It was designed to be baked for an hour in the morning!  Yikes!  I was never ahead of the game to pull that one off.  Hungry children demanded food much faster.  Then someone told me about baking cooked cereals overnight in the oven.  What a marvelous plan!  You wake up to breakfast finished and waiting for you.  And it’s very forgiving – baking for 8-12 hours with little change in the finished product.  (The full 12 hours will give you a slightly crispy outer layer and a harder-to-clean casserole dish, though.)  I needed to adjust the amount of water from the original recipe and add some vanilla and, perhaps, sweetener – that was all.  Perfect.

My hungriest teen son is very happy when he sees I’ve made this.  My food-fussy youngest son isn’t impressed by it.  Each person is so very different in their tastes!  If you like cooked grains, you’ll enjoy this cereal.  And don’t be afraid to play with your food.  🙂  Try making it more than just “cooked cereal.”  When you add your non-dairy milk, use dark chocolate almond milk instead!  Or coconut (my favorite thus far is Silk’s brand)…or BOTH for a Mounds bar flavor.  Make some sweetened raspberry sauce, or use jam, with coconut milk for a taste treat.  When Silk’s eggnog or Pumpkin Spice are in season, use those in place of the other milk – but you might not need sweetener with those.  Or drizzle some natural peanut butter over it all…and maybe a sprinkling of chocolate chips and chopped bananas?  Maybe plain berries and/or nuts.  I’m sure you can think of other interesting combinations.  Who says breakfast can’t be fun?  🙂

This recipe calls for specific grains, but I’ve found you can mix and match if you don’t happen to have certain ones on hand.  Each dish then becomes individualized – complete with different textures dependent on the grains you choose.  You can also vary the amount of water if you like a different consistency for your cooked grains – creamier or chewier.  The last picture shows the creamy texture I got with the full amount of water and substituting steel-cut oats for the bulger wheat.  (Please note – you may used pearled barley instead of the hulled barley, but it’s the refined version – like white rice instead of brown.)

Sunrise Cereal

  • 1/4 c. each – brown rice, oatmeal/rolled oats, millet, hulled barley, and bulger wheat (or other grain)   ***Please note
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. stevia or 1/2 c. other sweetener (optional)

Rinse and drain in a fine mesh strainer the barley and millet.  Combine all ingredients in a 2-qt. casserole dish the night before.  Cover with foil, or use the lid of the casserole if it has one.  Bake at 200° overnight.  Fluffy and nice as soon as you wake up! 

You may add raisins – if so, add a bit more water.  Serve with non-dairy milk, sweetener as desired, and any add-ins you like.

Optional – mix everything the night before, decreasing water to 3 1/2 c.  Pop into a 350° oven in the morning for 1 hour.

Any leftovers can be refrigerated and microwaved the next day with good results.  Mash in your bowl and serve with non-dairy milk and any sweetener you wish.  If you prefer not using a microwave, put the amount desired in a pan with some non-dairy milk (and optional sweetener) and use a potato masher to thoroughly mix things and reheat on the stove.  I regularly prepare a double batch of this for J and I to eat for several days.

***Note:  My family doesn’t care for bulger, so we substitute steel-cut oats for texture and extra creaminess.  You could just add extra rolled oats if you don’t want the chewier texture.  If you aren’t looking for a creamier version, use the bulger, or just increase one of the other grains, or all of them to make up the extra 1/4 c. – or throw in a different grain completely.  This recipe is very flexible.

For a gluten-free version ~ Omit bulger and barley.  Substitute 1/4 c. steel-cut oats for the bulger and an extra 1/4 c. millet for the barley.