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.

Sweet and Savory Walnut-Olive Spread

The weather suddenly decided it’s summer ~ and it’s too hot to cook.  (Hey, going from chilly to very warm in a short time makes me whine about cooking!)  I thought maybe cold sandwiches would work for a change from salads of varying types.  I didn’t want anything typical, boring, or mundane, though, since my crew isn’t marvelously thrilled by sandwiches to begin with ~ except my son-in-law, bless his easy-to-cook-for heart!

Considering the fact that many vegan-spread recipes I already had on hand contained beans and/or bread crumbs (which I needed to avoid this time for allergy-sake), I went searching.  I started looking online (what a marvelous resource!) and found this recipe.  But I didn’t have any limes or fresh parsley.  Rats.  (I did have lemons…does that count?)  I decided to make it anyway and use the lemons to replace the lime juice.  They’re similar, right?

Well…it was kinda plain, even with the lemon juice.  I didn’t want to throw it out ~ and serving it “as is” was tantamount to doing the same thing ~ just a few days later when nobody touches as leftovers.  I started throwing things in that might “fix” it.  Some of them might seem a bit unorthodox, but what emerged was pretty tasty!

This is a thick spread.  It would work well on celery, crackers, or bread ~ or in a lettuce wrap!  My favorite way was on celery.

Stay tuned…there will be 2 more sandwich spreads coming in the next couple of days!

Sweet and Savory Walnut-Olive Spread

  • 1 c. walnuts, soaked 2-4 hours (if for only 2 hours, change the water once or twice to speed the process up a bit)
  • 2/3 c. pitted black olives
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • 2 T. minced sweet onion
  • 1 T. dried cranberries
  • 2 T. nutritional yeast
  • 2 T. almond butter
  • 1/4 tsp. dillweed
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup (opt., but it really gives a deep note of flavor)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until everything is well combined.  Scrape the sides often to keep things moving, as it’s very thick.  Don’t process so long that the walnuts become walnut butter, but long enough to make the cranberries turn into little pieces or flecks.

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.

Unburgers

When I was 18 I worked in a health food store in western New York called Ye Olde Nut Tree.  They served something called Unburgers that Jean Young created when she worked there.  They were made daily for the snack bar.  (The “batter” kept in the frig. for a day or two.)  Hard-working, non-vegetarian, construction workers would come in just because they loved them.  They were served on buns with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, etc., or on split open pita bread with cream cheese, avocado, cucumbers, and alfalfa sprouts, topped with an oil and vinegar dressing.

I made Unburgers so many times that I had inadvertently memorized the recipe.  When I quit working there, I wrote my memorized recipe down and made it for my growing family.  Unfortunately, the original recipe contained 9 eggs!!  Needless to say, I had to turn them into a vegan version when we gave up eggs. 

The recipe makes 12-16 patties, but they freeze marvelously.

The Nut Tree (the shortened name) exchanged owners and names, moved, and eventually went out of business.  For any of you who used to go there to eat lunch, now you can make your own at home.

Unburgers

  • 1 pkg. extra firm Morniu silken tofu
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Savorex, Vegex, or Marmite paste (from original recipe)
  •                OR (my preferred method)
  •                2 T. Brewer’s yeast flakes
  •                1 1/2 tsp. Spike seasoning
  •                1/2 capful Liquid Hickory Smoke
  • 1 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 3 c. quick oats (you may use half rolled oats for a chewier texture ~ for gluten-free, use certified gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds

Whiz in blender everything except walnuts, oats, and seeds until fairly smooth.  Add walnuts – allow blender to run until no large pieces remain.  Pour into large bowl and stir in oats and sunflower seeds.  Let stand for 5 or more minutes.

Preheat electric griddle to 250-275 degrees F.  (I suppose you could use a square stove-top griddle, but you couldn’t cook as many at a time on it.  Use medium-low heat.)  Drop large scoops of mix onto griddle and flatten into patties.  (Sometimes this isn’t a quick process – be patient.)  When browned (about 8-10 minutes), turn them over and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes.  If you flip them too soon, they will be gooey inside.

Serve with gravy, on sandwiches, or alone with guacamole and slices of tomato on top.  Try one crumbled onto a salad.

Makes 12 large patties, or 16 medium patties.  Freezes well with waxed paper between layers.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let’s face it ~ most people realize that cookies are not health food.  And those of us who are vegan realize that most cookies contain milk, eggs, and butter (or worse, hydrogenated oils.)   But sometimes, the siren song of cookies in the bakery window is just overwhelming.  Despite a desire to eat a whole-plant-food based diet, sometimes the cookie monster inside simply won’t be put off with another piece of fruit for dessert or an imitation cookie (you know the kind ~ the ones even undiscriminating little kids won’t eat.)

Before you succumb to that cookie (or worse yet, a package of store bought ones), hurry home and make these.  They are not CHIP- or Forks-Over-Knives- approved; they contain too much sugar and fat for that.  But they are a far sight healthier than Toll House chocolate chip cookies that most of us grew up eating!

I spent several years perfecting this recipe.  I wanted to cut the fat, do away with the dairy products, and use whole wheat flour.  I had some pretty sad and sorry cookies at the beginning!  You get the benefit of all that trial and error.  The final piece to the puzzle was parchment paper.  I know it’s a pain to use and adds extra expense, but it is worth it.  No more squashed cookies trying to peel them off of the pan with the spatula.  No more stuck-on goo to scrape off before the next ones can be put on the cookie sheet.  And no more washing the pans, either.  If you are careful about keeping the dough off of the sides, you can just throw the paper away, wipe the pans off, and put them back in the cupboard.

I usually have “one extra note” to make about my recipes.  Here is today’s.  When it comes to vanilla in cookies (or anything, for that matter) use a heavy hand.  If the real stuff is too expensive for you to do that, then by all means use imitation.  The taste difference will amaze you.  Confession:  I don’t measure my vanilla – I guesstimate and splash it in.  (I taught my kids to do this, and it got my daughter, K, in trouble one of the years she wasn’t homeschooled.  She was in home ec. making chocolate chip cookies and her teacher spotted her splashing in the vanilla and romped on her for it.  It was too expensive for such a thing and besides that, you are supposed to measure it, don’t ya’ know!!  When it came time for the teacher to taste test all the groups’ cookies [not a bad job to have…], guess which ones got the highest praise?  Ha!  Vanilla for the win!)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 c. non-hydrogenated soy margarine, softened (1 stick), such as Earth Balance
  • 1/4 c. light olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 3 c. evaporated cane juice or sugar (you can use 2 ½ c., but it’s better with 3)
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no added water)
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk plain or vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional, but it adds extra nutrition and omega 3 fatty acids)
  • 2 c. chocolate chips (more if you want them bursting at the seams)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 4 1/2 c. King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s ‘white’ whole wheat flour (from spring wheat that is sweeter and not as strong in flavor)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.  This step is non-negotiable.  Without it, I cannot be responsible for how awful your cookies look.

With a wooden spoon, in a large bowl, combine margarine, olive or coconut oil, cane juice, molasses, and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir in egg replacer powder.  Add a third of the non-dairy milk, or so, at a time, beating it in completely after each addition.  Keep whipping it until fluffy and creamy.  Tip the bowl some to make it easier.  (You can toss the milk in all at once, but it tends to cause separation and then you have to work harder to whip it together.)  Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in flour until no dry spots remain.  Don’t be afraid to add an extra 1-2 T. non-dairy milk at this point if the dough seems crumbly.  You want the dough to just stick together if you press a clump on a spoon, or between your fingers.  The moisture content of whole wheat flour varies causing slight differences each time.  Just don’t add too much extra milk, or your cookies will be very flat and hard.

Drop by tablespoon onto parchment-covered cookie sheets.  (Or roll into balls for perfectly round cookies.)  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove to cookie racks to cool.  If you want smaller cookies dropped by teaspoon, reduce the baking time to 8-10 minutes.

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.