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.

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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.

Peach Cobbler (or Blueberry…or Blackberry…or….) plus a gluten-free option

Years and years ago, when women wrote their recipes more cryptically than they do today (a pinch of this, a dash of that, a slow oven…as in wood-burning stove/oven!), my grandmother crafted a cobbler that was out of this world!  My mother recreated it for a “normal” oven and I grew up adoring cobblers of any kind.  When we lived in Oregon, we picked wild Marion blackberries on the side of the road that were as long as my 7-year-old thumb and thicker – and they had very little seeds, as I recall.  They made the best cobbler I ever can remember.  (I tried to recreate it with frozen Marion blackberries…oh, no.  It was more of a seed-crunch cobbler.   Ick.)

When we became vegan, I figured out what to do with the handed-down cobbler recipe.  I had tried and tried to tweak it to make it healthier…and gave up to a certain extent.  If I was going to eat the cobbler-of-my-childhood/vegan-version, it wasn’t going to be super-duper healthy.  It was going to be dessert…with whole grain flour.  (Hey, I couldn’t give in entirely to unhealthy living!)  🙂

A few days ago a friend dropped off some South Carolina peaches that he brought back from his trip.  They smelled amazing!  I could have crawled in the bag and absorbed that perfume into my skin.  We ate some of the peaches, but when my boys went away for a 5-day camp-out, I knew I was going to have to make something with the fruit before it went bad.  My mouth started to water thinking about cobbler.

And then I remembered…my cobbler recipe is a wheat flour recipe.  And two days ago, I splurged and had some real, live pizza complete with a wheat crust (but vegan cheese…so maybe it’s not truly “real”) ~ and I’m paying for it with an achy body still today.  The last thing I wanted to do was make and eat more wheat ~ especially with my wheat-tolerant, eating-machine boys not there to help devour it.

First I prayed for guidance and then bravely started working on what was hopefully going to be an amazing gluten-free, vegan version of my grandmother’s recipe.  I’m sure she would be astonished.  As I type this, it is in the oven baking…and I am on pins and needles wondering how it will turn out.  I peeked in the oven at the half-way point, and it looks promising!  I’m so excited.  The peaches have sunk down in the batter perfectly!

Meanwhile, let me give you the just-plain vegan version of the recipe.  Then if the gluten-free one turns out, I’ll add that, too.  Remember, this is a special treat with plenty of sweetener and fat.  If you prefer a less sweet dish, cut down on the sweetener in the batter by 1/2 a cup, but I don’t recommend reducing the fat content any more…been there/done that…and it wasn’t pretty.

This makes a 4 quart casserole full as it rises.  It will drop down some as it cools.

Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour (I prefer white whole wheat – King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 1 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 4 cups or more of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh, I’ve used both successfully.  I usually use 6 cups of fruit.
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 4) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  (You can click on the picture to see just how lumpy it will look.)  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.

_________Update on the gluten-free cobbler__________

After actually allowing the cobbler to cool (only because I could test the taste and texture better without a burned tongue) I took a nibble of the crust.  Mmmm…it was very good and the texture was spot-on.  But before I really could tell you how it came out, I had to eat a big spoonful of it to know for certain.  (I was willing to go the distance for all of you!  Such a sacrifice!)  Oh, man…was it good.  I would have no problem serving this to anyone.  It has a slightly nutty flavor that the wheat version doesn’t, but it doesn’t detract from the overall dessert.  I think the sweetener could certainly be reduced in the batter.  Without the slight bitterness of the wheat, it doesn’t need as much.  On the other hand, if you want a knock-down, drag-out dessert that will go the distance, leave the sweetener as is!

Gluten-free Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 2 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 or more pints of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 8) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.

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.