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.

Corn Chowder

After a long absence, I am finally posting a new recipe!  (Sorry, folks ~ I got a new job and it’s using up any extra minutes I used to spend on my blog.  I’ll get better at this juggling thing soon, I promise!)

This recipe came about because I got hungry for corn chowder one day and just decided I would make some no matter what.  I had an okay recipe from eons ago, but after looking at it, I deemed it dull and lifeless.  I demand more taste and more nutrition from my fare now.  Because of that, this won’t look like your usual pale chowder.  I couldn’t help myself ~ I had to throw in some greens!  😀  But you should be used to that by now if you are following my blog.  (You see, my teen boys wrinkle their noses up if I serve cooked greens by themselves, but they have no problem eating them if they are in a dish.  So you see the method to my madness….)

Corn ChowderRest assured, this is a marvelously creamy, comforting soup for a chilly winter day!

Corn Chowder

  • 2 lg. onions, diced
  • 4 small potatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. frozen turnip greens with diced turnips (or another green of your choosing)
  • 2 lbs. frozen sweet corn ~ thaw and reserve 2 c.
  • 1/3 c. raw cashews
  • reserved corn
  • 1/4 c. barley or brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dillweed
  • 2 c. plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • parsley

Boil the first 5 ingredients in a large pot until tender.  Add the sweet corn (still reserving the thawed 2 c.)  Blend the next 6 ingredients that are listed until very smooth.  Bring the veggies back to a boil and stir in the blenderized mixture.  Keep stirring until it thickens.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring.  Add the extra salt if desired and some dried parsley before serving.  (The extra salt isn’t added until the corn is cooked so that the corn doesn’t become tough and chewy.  That’s also why the corn isn’t added at the beginning of cooking the other veggies, so that especially the potatoes can absorb most of the salt from the water beforehand.  If you are in a hurry, dump the corn and salt in at the beginning.  The extra cooking time may make up for the it.)

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.

Cheesy Vegan Scalloped Potatoes

I was going to make baked potatoes and have bunches of toppings from which everyone could choose.  Then I remembered how much my husband hates “working” to “prepare” his food.  If it doesn’t hop onto his plate ready for immediate transfer to his mouth with no visible effort on his part, then he’s not really interested ~ especially if it’s a work day (he’s in construction and works hard all day.)  And he doesn’t like baked potatoes that much even if I spoiled him and fixed it for him.  So…scratch that idea.

Next idea.  Some kind of scalloped potatoes.  They went over very well.  And no one had to “fix” their own.  😉

I made these the day before so that when we came home from church, they would be in the automatic oven already toasty and ready for us to sit down to eat.  I baked them for 45 minutes at 350° on Friday, then the next day I set the timer for another 45 minutes at 375°.  We got home a little early and I began to wonder if they would get done fast enough, so I cranked the oven up to 400° for the last half hour.  They were hot all the way through – but not crispy on the edges at all (like I prefer!)

Per usual, this makes A LOT!  It’s perfect to take to a potluck, or a big family get together, or so you can have leftovers the next night (if you don’t have a human 17-yr-old vacuum like I do.)  Or you could cut the recipe in half if your family hates leftovers.  Another option is to split the recipe into 2 separate pans and share with another family who is having a tough time, is ill, or just brought home a new baby (like my son and daughter-in-law just did ~ making me a 1st-time grandma!)

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

  • 1 onion (at least baseball sized or larger), cut up into large chunks
  • 1 c. nutritional yeast flakes (NOT baking yeast)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika (more to sprinkle on top, if desired)
  • 2 lg. garlic cloves
  • 1 c. raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 3-4 drops hickory smoke liquid
  • 1/4 c. melted virgin coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 c. non-dairy milk (not vanilla)
  • 5 lbs. boiled, peeled potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°.  Dice or slice the cooked potatoes and place in a 4-qt casserole.  (Mine ended up not quite sliced OR diced, because I left the whole potatoes boiling too long and a large number of them fell apart as I sliced them.)

Whiz the remaining ingredients, except the non-dairy milk, in a high-powered blender until smooth.  Add the milk and whiz briefly just to stir.  Pour over the potatoes and gently mix things together so that the potatoes get coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with extra paprika, if desired.

Cover with lid or foil and bake for 1-1 1/2 hours (depending on how crispy you would like it to be.)

Optional:  Bake for 45 minutes, cool, and refrigerate until the next day.  Then reheat for 30-45 minutes at 400°.  If you are using an automatic oven, do calculate in some extra oven-heating time and add it to your 30-45 minutes.

NOTE:  If you choose to halve this recipe into a 9″x13″ pan, please remember to decrease the cooking time or the temperature of the oven.

Vegan Coconut Cream Pie

I’ve had coconut cream on my mind a lot lately.  It started with another blogger’s recipe for vegan cheesecake that wasn’t quite what I was looking for and had more the texture of a cream pie.  Or maybe it started when my BFF told me about Tropical Traditions’ coconut products – and then I won a quart jar of their virgin coconut oil.  However it began, next Katie over at www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com posted a vegan whipped cream recipe using coconut cream.  (All of her pictures make my stomach growl.)  Well, I just about couldn’t stand it any more!  I had to find a coconut cream pie recipe by search engine.  I spent a good chunk of time looking…and wasn’t satisfied.  None of the pictures looked like what my imagination was projecting and some of the ingredients were pretty bland and used cornstarch to obtain a thick product.

So, I gave up.  Well, sorta.  I gave up the computer search and went to the kitchen to play.  I had enough ideas of what not to do and some ideas of what I wanted to do – at least enough for a trial run.  It was more of a trial runny.  If I froze it, it was too hard to slice.  If left in the refrigerator, it was more like a soft pudding and wouldn’t slice well that way, either.  Don’t get me wrong – it tasted good and we ate every last crumb!  🙂  But I knew I wasn’t done.

The second one I made for the weekend when I knew my daughter and son-in-law would be over to help eat it, so I doubled the recipe into a 9″x13″ pan.  This time it worked!  Everybody really wished there had been more of it.

If you have friends who are gluten sensitive/intolerant, this dessert recipe is for you.  There is no grain used in the whole batch – not even the crust (unless you used flour-covered date pieces.)

This recipe is for a 9″ deep-dish pie pan.  You will have a little of the filling leftover than won’t fit that you can put in a bowl for pudding.  It might work to fill 2 smaller pie crusts, but the crust recipe would have to be adjusted – probably 1 1/2 times.

Vegan Coconut Cream Pie

 Crust:

  • 1 c. walnuts
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 c. raw almonds
  • 15 pitted soft dates (or 1 c. date pieces, may be oat flour-covered)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 T. virgin coconut oil (this is optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/16 tsp. salt

Filling:

  • 1 can chilled coconut milk (chilled at least 8 hours)
  • 1 c. raw cashews (may soak 4-8 hours before using)
  • 1 pkg. extra firm Morinu tofu
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered stevia extract (or 1/4-1/2 c. more sweetener)
  • 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 T. virgin coconut oil

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, coconut, and almonds until tiny pieces. Add the remaining crust ingredients, pulsing and processing until the dates are completely incorporated and you can press some together and it sticks well.  Press this into a 10″ deep dish pie pan.  Be patient – it takes a little bit to get it evenly distributed.  Also, if you are using a glass pie plate, you can hold it up and look through the bottom to see if there are thin spots.

Open the chilled can of coconut milk carefully.  Scrape out the hardened coconut cream into a high-powered blender.  Add 2 T. of the thin liquid from the can of coconut milk.  (Save the rest of the liquid for making smoothies.)  Add the remaining ingredients and blend until there are no grainy pieces of cashew left on a spatula dipped into the cream.  Pour into the crust.  Chill for 4-8 hours.