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!

Cinnamon Pecans

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

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

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

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

Cinnamon Pecans

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

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

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

Spread onto the waxed paper and let cool.

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!  😉

Three Fudge Recipes

Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy!  The holidays are coming and that means it’s time to start pulling out the special recipes.  (And, apparently, it’s also time to start learning the settings on my son’s camera a little better so that my photos have consistent lighting!  Sorry about that.)

Some of you may have given up fudge when you became vegan.  Well, guess what?  I’m here to change that for you!  Plus, this year since I’m writing a vegan food blog, I decided that I might need to branch out a little ~ you know, try a few new flavors of fudge other than my standards of chocolate and peanut butter.  (Funny…my family didn’t complain one bit about being guinea pigs for these experiments!  😀  Now you get the fun results of our taste testing.)  The bonus is that these are super easy to make.

Please keep in mind that though this is vegan it is by NO MEANS healthy, every-day food, and it certainly isn’t on Forks Over Knives’ list of what to include in their next cookbook.  It just means that you get to have some fun food on the goody table at your next party so that you aren’t tempted to partake of the even less healthy versions that contain animal products and trans fats.

Let me know what your favorite is!  There are divided opinions in my family for their favorites.  (Chocolate and peanut butter recipes will be coming soon, too.)

Have ready a 5″x9″, or 8″x8″, or even a somewhat smaller pan (pictured is what I used this time), 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.

Maple Nut Fudge

  • 6 T. Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1+ tsp. vanilla (you can’t go wrong with extra!)
  • 1 T. non-dairy milk powder (or however much your brand calls for to make 1 c. of milk – I used Better Than Milk soy)
  • 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (use powdered evaporated cane juice crystals to be completely, truly vegan)
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

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 maple syrup, vanilla, and non-dairy milk powder, whisking until all of the milk powder is dissolved.  Stir in powdered sugar 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.

Please allow the child within you to clean off the spoon, spatula, and bowl ~ you wouldn’t want any to go to waste would you?  😉

Eggnog Fudge

  • 6 T. Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1/4 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. brandy extract/flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract/flavoring
  • 3/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 1/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (use powdered evaporated cane juice crystals to be completely, truly vegan)

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, extracts/flavorings, and nutmeg, stirring to combine.  Stir in powdered sugar until smooth. 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.

Raspberry Fudge

This particular fudge isn’t as perfected as the other two.  It’s texture tends to be difficult to cut once it’s cold and it wants to break into shards or funny-shaped hunks.  I almost removed it from the post, but decided to include it anyway because it tastes so good.  The next time I make it, I will probably spread it out on waxed paper on a very small cookie sheet – then I will just pull up the paper and break the fudge, rather than cutting it, which seems to cause the problems.  The other option is to add extra Earth Balance to soften it some.

  • 6 T. Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. raspberry syrup (I used Monin brand that I found at a Home Goods Store)
  • 1 T. non-dairy milk powder (or however much your brand calls for to make 1 c. of milk – I used Better Than Milk soy)
  • 3 T. red food coloring (optional)
  • 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (use powdered evaporated cane juice crystals to be completely, truly vegan)

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, vanilla, raspberry syrup, and food coloring, if using, whisking until all of the milk powder is dissolved.  Stir in powdered sugar until smooth. 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.  (It is easier to cut into pieces if you don’t refrigerate it first.)  For storage more than a day or two, keep in an air-tight container.  Refrigerate.  Soften on the counter for 30 minutes or so before serving since it tends to be a better texture and not so crumbly then.

Secret Ingredient Brownies

There are some dietary “fads” that just seem inherently wrong.  When I heard of this particular whopper, I backed slowly away from the recipe source and ran.  There was NO WAY I was making this dessert.  Just no way.

Enter my doctor.  He told me I needed to not eat flour products – not any.  After going through serious withdrawl and pouting a significant amount, I did lose some weight.  But more than that, I discovered that my aches and pains had receded!  That was enough to keep me away from wheat forever.  (Especially after I binged on a batch of cookies and a few slices of cornbread and was slammed back into pain.)

Therefore, the next time a recipe mentioning beans in brownies showed up (yes, I said beans), I paused before running screaming into the night.  Brownies without flour?  I could have brownies again?  Hmmmm…maybe these did bear some closer examination.  After all, if you throw enough chocolate at something, it’s bound to be good.

Per usual, I didn’t choose the first recipe I saw.  That’s not my style.  With the availability of the internet, there are comparisons to be made.  I wanted the BEST tasting brownies for the minimum amount of fuss.  (It’s not unusual for me to take the best ideas from several sources and whip up my own plan like I did here.)

Are you feeling brave?  Would you like to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes (especially a fussy eater)?  Never fear…these taste wonderful.  I even licked off the spatula and scraped out the blender while my first batch was baking.

Now these are my go-to recipe when I need cookies for my husband’s lunch and I’ve run out of time.  He loves them, the kids love them, and I love how fast they are to make!  Seriously ~ just throw the batter ingredients into the blender, whiz it up, and pour it into the pan.  Sprinkle the nuts and chocolate chips across the top, give it a stir, and pop it in the oven.   Done.  Baking doesn’t get any easier than this.

Secret Ingredient Brownies

  •  1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil (preferably virgin)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no water added)
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. pure stevia powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coffee substitute powder (Cafix, Roma, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4-1/2 c. chopped pecans (or other nut of choice)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (non-dairy)

Preheat oven to 350° and spray an 8” x 8” pan with oil.

Puree all except the nuts and chocolate chips in a blender, scraping down the sides occasionally to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.  Blend until very smooth.  This is the key to making them good.  If you don’t blend them enough, they will taste ever so slightly beany.

Scrape batter into prepared pan with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over the batter, stirring them in with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Do not overbake!  Cool on rack.

These may be doubled easily in a 9″x13″ pan, but if you don’t have a high powered blender, it may be harder to get the batter smooth.  This is the way I’ll be making them from now on, because otherwise they disappear to quickly!