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!

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Pumpkin Spice Granola

Have you seen this meme on the internet?  Brace-yourselves-Pumpkin(http://makeameme.org/meme/Brace-yourselves-Pumpkin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have, it’s possible you contemplated not even bothering to come see my new recipe because you are tired of seeing pumpkin in everywhere, too.  But how could I not share a fantastic recipe with you?  Even if it is pumpkin.  🙂

Pumpkin Spice GranolaActually, this was an effort to try to convince my not-that-thrilled-with-granola family that granola can be special and just as tasty as the more expensive boxed cereals.  I think it worked at least for one of them, because I didn’t end up having to eat it all myself!

The great thing about this granola is that you put it in the oven for 6-8 hours and forget it.  Go to work, go to sleep; it will be there when you get back to it.  When you walk in the door, or get out of bed, the house will smell amazing!  Your stomach will begin to growl, and you might just decide to have a bowl of it right then before it has had much of a chance to cool off.

Pumpkin Granola

  • 10 c. rolled oats (not quick or instant oats)
  • 1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 c. walnuts, pecans, cashews, or your favorite nut to find in granola
  • 1/2 c. juice (apple, white grape, or another gently-flavored juice that blends well with pumpkin)
  • 1 14-16 oz. can of pumpkin puree (1 1/2 c. if you are using a pumpkin cooked from scratch)
  • 1/2 c. real maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. demerara sugar, raw sugar, or brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T. vanilla (or more if you like)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Break nuts into pieces – whatever size you like to chew in your granola.  I break a walnut half into about 4 pieces, roughly.  In a large bowl, mix oats, coconut, and broken nuts.  In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients.  Pour pumpkin mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well coated.

Spread evenly onto 2 large cookie sheets.  (I really need to get another stoneware baking sheet.  It works incredibly well here.)  Put on racks in oven and set it to “warm” or 175°.  Bake for 6-8 hours.  (Note:  I have allowed a similar granola to bake for as long as 12 hours before, but it does get very, very crunchy.  If you choose 6 hours, it will be moist enough that you should store it in a cold location if you won’t finish it in a week.)  Place on cooling racks.  Store in an airtight container only once it has completely cooled down.  What you eat before that is up to you!  😉

This is great served with raisins or date pieces.

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.

Pecan Praline Sauce

Sometimes I make or buy vanilla soy ice cream and just want to make something special out of it.  Chocolate sauce/syrup is great, but can become mundane if that’s all you ever do.  Root beer floats are fun, but half my crew doesn’t really like them.  Peanut butter and chocolate chips are fine.  But sometimes I just want something a little different.  That’s where Pecan Praline Sauce steps in.

This can be as thick or as runny as you wish – just keep cooking it down if you want it thicker, or cool it completely in the refrigerator for a super thick sauce.  If you make pancakes or waffles, this is pretty special on those, but you want it runnier for that.  You can always reheat sauce leftovers to thin it some.  Probably some extra non-dairy milk added to it could do the same thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pecan Praline Sauce

  • 4 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk vanilla)
  • 2 T. non-dairy milk powder (I use Better Than Milk soy or rice vanilla)
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks (1/2 stick)
  • 1 c. chopped raw pecans
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. demerara sugar or brown sugar (could be plain evaporated cane juice crystals in a pinch)

Put the first 6 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Once it is thick and bubbly, set your timer for 2 more minutes and keep stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and demerara sugar.  Cool for 15-30 minutes and serve warm over ice cream.

Apple Pecan Muffins

I got a message from a friend who is cooking for a group of young people involved in an Christian outreach program this summer.  She needed 2 dozen vegan muffins ~ could I help?  How could I say no?  Especially since this amazing woman is cooking for these kids even though she recently fell and broke her shoulder!

These are some of my favorite muffins and I wanted to share them with you.  But I confess I haven’t made them recently, because hubby and I would be tempted to eat them, wheat and all.  So, this was the perfect excuse to bake them for the recipe photo-op, but with temptation being removed!  🙂

I’ve been making this recipe for a very long time.  I made and froze these before my last baby was born so that once I needed them, hubby could bring them to me in the hospital to eat.  (Hospital food and veganism just don’t seem to dovetail very well.)  That baby is now 15!!  And I’ve been making them longer than that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to.

Apple Pecan Muffins

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s are good)
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (best if you can get ahold of Saigon or Ceylon, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (do not add water)
  • 1 c. chopped apple (the finer you chop it the softer it will be)
  • 1/4 c. broken pecan pieces (or chop if you want finer pieces)
  • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • soy milk added to lemon juice to make 1 c. total**
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 c. applesauce & an extra 1/4 c. oil)
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray muffin cups with oil.  Whisk lemon juice and soy milk together and set aside.

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg replacer powder in a mixing bowl.  Add pecans and chopped apple, tossing to coat apple with flour mixture.  In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk/lemon juice mixture (which should have curdled into vegan buttermilk) with the applesauce, oil, and maple syrup/honey.  With a rubber spatula, scrape wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together until no dry spots remain. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  As you can see from the picture of the unbaked batter, these will be very full muffin cups!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Place muffin pan on wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  (Trust me on this, okay?  It’s absolutely necessary, or your muffins will not let go of the pan and you’ll have muffin pieces that are slightly gooey because they haven’t finished setting up in the pan.)  Remove from pans with fingers ~ if they won’t let go with just a tiny tug, then let them cool a little longer (esp. in the summer if you don’t have the A/C on.)  Place on rack to finish cooling.

** I have only tried this with soy milk.  It probably works with other non-dairy milks, but I cannot vouch for how they behave.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

I told you we had a lot of birthdays right about now!  This is a favorite cake in my family.  They often request it for special occasions.  This time I happened to make it with spelt flour, but King Arthur’s white whole wheat (or Trader Joe’s) works marvelously well, too.

In the beginning this recipe was a muffin recipe from a book called A-Z Muffins that I borrowed from a library.  It wasn’t vegan and it wasn’t particularly healthy, either, with loads of oil.  After I turned it into a vegan creation with more healthful ingredients, I made it as muffins, but decided that it made a wonderful dense cake instead.  (Quicker and less clean-up, don’t you know….Does anybody like washing muffin tins?)

{I’m still learning R’s camera and didn’t increase the shutter speed, making this a little blurry.  I also tried to capture an artful picture of a piece of cake on a plate, but the piece I put on there was somehow a little smushed and didn’t look pretty at all.  So, you get a shot from a piece still in the pan.  Realism…at it’s…finest?}

Usually, we don’t serve banana chocolate chip cake with frosting (only on birthdays) because it is just so moist and marvelous on its own.  Plus it has all those chocolate chips…mmmm.  You see, my family has learned a crazy habit ~ from me ~ of putting milk on the cake in a bowl and eating it that way.  (Didn’t you ever hear Bill Cosby’s comic routine about cake for breakfast?  Flour, eggs, milk…all healthy ingredients, right?  {or so I thought at the time}  Yes…yes, that is how it all began one morning when as a teenager I ran out of cereal and nobody was there to stop me from eating cake in my bowl instead.)  Thus, we don’t usually need the frosting.  My poor son-in-law just shakes his head and quietly eats his on a plate with a glass of soy milk beside it.  😀

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 4 c. white whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 7 medium-sized, very ripe bananas (with speckles…or turning brown, if you must)
  • 1 c. honey
  • 2/3 c. applesauce (or 1/2 c. melted coconut oil, or combo of the two)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Spray 9″x13″ pan with oil.

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mash bananas with a pastry blender or potato masher in a medium-sized bowl.  Mix in the remaining wet ingredients with the banana.  Add banana mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together until there are no dry spots.  Scrape into prepared pan and smooth out batter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (look out for chocolate chips!)  Cool on rack.  (I have never tried to turn this out of the pan to place on a platter.  I have only served it directly out of the pan.  I suggest parchment paper in the bottom if wish to remove it from the pan.  I also think 8″ round pans would work better for that purpose.)

My daughter, K, with her birthday cake.  Only 2 candles?!  What’s up with that?  😀

Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Spread

My husband isn’t a fan of sandwiches.  Actually, there are a number of food things of which he isn’t a fan.  It can make preparing food difficult if I cater to his tastes.  Thankfully, he’s not demanding about it and will quietly eat whatever is set in front of him (unlike my fussy eater…who should know better at almost 15.)  This was his favorite spread of the 3 that I made last week.

That being said, his favorite way of eating it wasn’t on a sandwich!  (No surprise there!)  He put it on top of leftover rice and heated it in the microwave.  Then after tasting it he said something about ketchup….*gasp!*  (I’m telling you, having a non-taster destroy finely-tuned “gourmet” dishes can do something to your psyche!  lol) I couldn’t bear it.  I said, “Here, give it to me.”  And disappeared into the kitchen.  There was half a jar of pizza sauce and some vegan mozzarella cheese leftover in the frig.  I topped the whole thing artfully with those items and reheated it all in the microwave.  Now you know why it was his favorite of the fillings ~ because it was more like a pizza casserole!  (Actually, it smelled wonderful heated up even before I embellished it.  It probably would make into patties or meatballs, or into a casserole situation very nicely.)

Nevertheless, this does make a marvelous sandwich spread.  I can say this not only because I like it so much, but because my fussy eater loved it ~ even though it does have sun-dried tomatoes in it!

If you use organic ingredients (as in any recipe), the results will be tastier.

Tofu Spread

  • 1/2 c. pecan meal (or very finely chopped pecans – you can do this in the food processor before you chop any of the other moist ingredients)
  • 1/4 of a large onion
  • 1 7-8″ stalk of celery heart, cut into several chunks
  • 14-16 oz. water-packed extra-firm tofu, rinsed and squeezed out some
  • 1/4 c. sliced or diced sun-dried tomatoes ~ oil packed
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 T. nutritional yeast

Place pecan meal in a bowl.  Finely chop onion and celery in food processor.  Place in the bowl with the pecan meal.

Process remaining ingredients until sun-dried tomatoes are mostly in small pieces and tofu is not smooth, but evenly textured and well mixed with everything else.  (See picture.)  Scrape out into the bowl with pecan meal, onion, and celery.  Stir everything is evenly combined.  Chill for an hour or so to meld flavors.

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!