Monday, February 8, 2016

Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookies from a Cake Mix
I remember the first time I tried cookies made from a cake mix. I was in elementary school, and one of our teachers brought them for a Parents' Night at the school. I was completely amazed that a person could buy a cake mix in an exotic flavor (say Pistachio or Cherry - depending what flavors are stylish in a certain year) and make cookies in cool flavors and colors.

I enjoy experimenting, and as I thought back to that experience, I thought, "It MUST be possible to do the same thing in a Vegan Cookie!"

Because you see, many if not most cake mixes are Vegan (just double check the ingredients). So, it's a simple matter of substituting Vegan things for the usual add-ins, and adjusting baking time slightly to make the entire recipe Vegan : )

Whether you're Vegan, abstaining from Dairy & Eggs for a Lenten Season, or have an allergy in the family, this recipe makes it possible to have your cookie & eat it, too! : )




Regular Strawberry Cake Mix

Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix
Stir together:
1 Box Regular Cake Mix (that happens to be Vegan). I used Strawberry for this one.
1/2 Cup Oil (Use one that is not strongly flavored - I use Sunflower for baked goods)
1/2 Cup Applesauce
A handful of any desired add-ins such as Vegan Chocolate Chips, Raisins, or Chopped Nuts.

Cookie Dough Dropped onto Prepared Baking Tray
Drop onto prepared cookie sheet, about 2" apart, to allow for spreading when they bake.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes, till very lightly golden on the bottom.
Allow to cool for just a few minutes to firm up before removing from pan, as these can be slightly delicate when still very hot.

Enjoy!

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Easy Cherry Almond Fudge (Vegan, GF, with Dairy Option)

Cherry Almond Fudge
In the Valentine's Day spirit (or for any occasion when you might want a tasty, pink fudge : ), this week I'm featuring Cherry Almond Fudge. It's easy to make, and delicious! The contrast of sweet Almond Fudge with Tart Cherries and Crunchy Almonds is perfect.

This is made by the same method as my Christmas Easy Fudge series - super quick and easy! Just make the mix, and prepare.

Look for all the posts in this Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge series:
Easy Vanilla Fudge
Easy Chocolate Fudge
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy Chocolate Mint Fudge
Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Easy Microwave Fudge for One


Stuffedveggies Fudge & Frosting Mix
Place in a very large bowl, and combine with electric mixer
2 pounds Powdered Sugar (also known as Confectioner's Sugar or XXXX Sugar)
1/2 Cup Earth Balance or other Vegan Buttery Spread of your choice*
Dash Salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
(You will need a very large bowl to keep the mix from ending up all over the kitchen when you blend it.  If you prefer, you can use a mixing bowl cover/splatter guard, if you have such a thing.)

To make fudge mix, place Powdered Sugar, Buttery Spread & Salt in a large bowl.

Mix with an electric mixer until it looks like plain Confectioner's Sugar


That's your basic mix! It's that easy. I usually use it right away, but it can be stored in the refrigerator (if, for instance, you want to make several batches of mix one day, and several varieties of fudge the next). It's best to use it at room temperature, so if you do store it in the fridge, let it warm up on the counter a bit before you start mixing.

Now you can use it to make a huge variety of fudge.

Oil or grease the inside of an 8" square pan & set aside. (if you prefer, you can line the pan with foil & grease the foil - that can make it easier to remove & cut)

Cherry Almond Fudge
Measure and set aside
1/2 cup Dried Cherries (or one 3 oz package) Break any clumps apart with your fingers.
1/2 cup Slivered Almonds


Combine well
1 Batch Stuffedveggies Fudge & Frosting Mix (above)
2 teaspoons Almond Extract
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk
4 Drops Red Food Coloring

This mixture will seem fairly dry, but do not yield to the temptation to add more liquid. It will soften when cooked. 

When you first start mixing in the liquids, it will seem like it's not enough.

At the end of mixing, the fudge mixture will be VERY thick - it will soften & become satiny when cooked.
(the picture here is Vanilla - Maple will be a little darker in color)



Microwave for 30 seconds, Stir, repeat twice till fudge develops a satiny sheen and is easier to stir. Cooking times may vary depending on your microwave, but in mine this recipe takes 1 1/2 minutes total, stirring at 30-second intervals. If it is still very difficult to stir after 1 1/2 minutes total cooking time, 1 more Tablespoon of Non Dairy Milk may be added. After microwaving & stirring, Stir in reserved, prepared Cherries and Almonds, above, and quickly press into prepared pan. Allow to cool & set a couple of hours to set.

Cut and serve. 

Store airtight in refrigerator.

(This will have a noticeable powdered sugar taste & texture when still warm, when cooled & set it will taste like "regular" fudge : )


*Note: I have not tried it, but I am quite certain that any fat that is solid at room temperature (such as Coconut Oil or Dairy Butter) can be substituted for the Earth Balance if so desired. I do not recommend substituting whipped or reduced-fat spreads (although I would be quite delighted to hear that it works if someone tries it : ) Similarly, I am sure Dairy Milk can substitute for the Non-Dairy if that is your preference, fits your budget, or is what you have on hand.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Favorite Greek Bean Soup (Fasolia Yachni)

Let me first just say, this isn't a "Soup." 
Fasolia Yachni (Greek Bean Soup)

It is a hearty "Ospria" dish (Ospria being Greek for Legume). In English, it is sometimes called "Red Beans" - not because the Beans are Red, but because the White Beans are cooked in a Mild, Red Tomato Sauce.

But, to my American mind - growing up with all sorts of Soups that had almost no Broth, like Chili and Appalachian Soup Beans, it seems proper to call it soup.

Whatever you want to call it, it's a favorite recipe in our house : )

This is one of those rare recipes that I consider it well-worth chopping fresh veggies for, rather than using the frozen short-cut veggies from the grocery. Since the veggies provide the central character of the dish - both flavor and texture, "Fresh" really makes a difference here!

It's a homey, satisfying, unpretentiously healthy dish, easy to make.

Greek Bean Soup (Fasolia Yachni)
Saute until vegetables begin to get tender
2 Tablespoons Oil (Oil is traditional, but optional - it may be omitted, or greatly increased, as you prefer)
2 Cups Chopped Onion
2 Cups Chopped Carrots
2 Cups Chopped Celery
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic (I use the kind from a Jar that I buy in the produce section)
Then Add
1 Can (14.5 oz) Diced Tomatoes with their Liquid
2 Cans Water (refill Tomato Can to measure)
1 (48 oz) Jar Randall Great Northern Beans (or 3 cans, 14.5 oz each, any brand) with their liquid
2 to 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
Pinch Cayenne
Simmer till Veggies are tender - about 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with Crusty Bread, Salad & Olives.

Tips for Dining with Omnivores: This is a hearty dish that is filling, so Omnivores won't leave the table feeling hungry if this is all they eat. It is a hearty dish that will even appeal to the "meat-and-potatoes" diner. BUT, if you have an Omnivore who cannot leave the table without having eaten meat, consider offering a Cheese & Cold Cuts tray alongside. Tuna also goes nicely with this meal.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

The ONE Sin God Doesn't Care About

Offering our time is one of the main ways we show Love.
There is one sin that everyone assures me that God doesn't really care about. It is probably the most popular sin for modern Christians to commit. The one everyone thinks is so unimportant that no one even talks about.  Most of us have committed this sin recently, and didn't even give it a second thought.

Most modern Christians think that this sin has no consequences, and that they can love God just as much without obeying it. Since most of us commit it, we've decided that it's easier to just say it's not a sin than to try to change our ways.

Yet let me describe what the effects of this sin are. This sin:

  • It keeps your non-Christian neighbor from going to Church if you invite her. In fact, she'll probably tell you that this sin of yours is why she won't go. And you won't even think to feel guilty about it. This one sin of ours demonstrates that we're not as concerned about that lost sheep as we should be.
  • It keeps your Christian neighbor from being as close to God as he'd like to be.

  • This sin might demonstrate to our Children that other priorities - such as School Exams or Sports, or Social events, are more important to us than God is.  And - consequently, it is probably a primary, but unrecognized reason that many teens leave Church.
  •  It may indicate that money on the throne of our lives - where God should be. 
  •  It makes our Churches cut back their programs and offer us less Spiritual nourishment.
  • Because of all the above effects, it may well be the number one reason that our world is growing Spiritually cold.  
  • It makes the work we do for God less productive, and it keeps us from receiving the Blessings He wants to give us.
  • Every denomination or group of Christians worldwide thought that this sin was of central importance 100 years ago or so, and the Bible emphasizes it over and over again - but now it is almost universally disregarded - and it's rare to even hear a sermon against it. In fact, many clergy endorse it.
  •  None of us in the modern world is innocent of it.

But, is it possible that God does care about this sin, even though everyone tells me He doesn't?

People tell me that He cares A LOT about the sins the world commits outside the Church - but this one sin that Christians commit doesn't matter to Him. Despite all the damage it does, people assure me that God doesn't mind. But, He gave us a commandment about it

What is this "minor" sin?

Failing to Honor the Lord's Day. 

  • This sin keeps your non Christian neighbor out of Church because she has to work on Sunday morning so that you can shop or eat out after Church. The local Grocery tells me that their busiest time all week is Sunday late morning/early afternoon. This means that many Christians are planning to do their shopping on Sunday after Church - thereby keeping their neighbors who don't know God from ever attending Church!
  • A professional sporting event that takes place on the Lord's Day keeps thousands of people out of Church for an entire season every year (players, coaches, stadium personnel, broadcasters, concession stand employees, parking attendants, and of course, spectators)
  • It also keeps your Christian neighbor out of Church because he has to work on Sunday too - even if he doesn't want to (and, of course, I'm not speaking here of work that must be done on the Lord's Day with God's blessing - such as Priest, Trauma Surgeon or Police officer!)

  • It may show our Children that God isn't as important as studying for exams, playing that soccer tournament, or going to a school dance late on Saturday night, because we choose those things in preference to the Lord's Day over and over again. We can't expect our teens to stay in Church when we've clearly demonstrated to them that God is a lower priority than these other commitments & entertainments.

  • When we work on the Lord's Day for money what does that say about our priorities? Many jobs even offer a bonus for doing unnecessary work on the Lord's Day.

  • Have you ever heard a clergyman say, "Church has to be done by 11:00 (or 12:00) so that people can enjoy the rest of the day." and for that reason not offer more teaching or programs? I have - in lots of different denominations or religious groups. God doesn't say that we should devote 1 hour of the week to Him - He says we should devote one day of the week to Him!
  • When we have other plans for the remainder of the Lord's Day, those plans often occupy our minds, and steal our focus from our Worship of the Lord, even if we don't physically leave services early to go engage in other activities.
  • If we, as Christians,  don't put God first in our lives on the First Day of every week, is it any wonder that our Country is growing away from God?

  • If we don't have enough faith in God to rest like He commands on His Day, and let Him see to it that our work is productive and our needs are cared for instead of stressing ourselves out trying to produce, is it any wonder that we are consumed by stress?

In our modern culture, this is a VERY hard sin to avoid - for me as much as for the next person - but each of us can start by improving in this area!

The Lord's Day is supposed to be a day of Worshiping Him, Rest, Joy & Refreshment - not a day of burden as some wrongly suppose. Remember, God gives us rules for our good. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

And, there aren't any sins that God doesn't care about - because God LOVES us, and sin HURTS us.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it a top priority to go to Church on the Lord's Day.
  • Eat at home or at Church on the Lord's Day - avoiding restaurants when possible.
  • Insist that your kids put away their school books on the Lord's Day. This will make the rest of the studying they do more productive, as God will bless their efforts to obey Him. It will also give them joy in the Lord's Day.
  • Ask your boss about trading Sunday work for some other time. Often, if you're willing to trade and work on Friday or Saturday night - when others want to go out - you can get Sunday off!
  • Re-examine any family commitments - such as sports - which take place on the Lord's Day. If something is scheduled on the Lord's Day in an activity that doesn't normally take place at that time - then speak up - don't just let your Faith be trampled on.
  • If you blog, consider taking a break from your blog on the Lord's Day.


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Monday, January 4, 2016

A Week of 15 Minute Soups for the Stove Top (GF, Vegan)

So, you come home in the evening, and you want a hot, comforting, satisfying meal. Healthy, not heavy. And, you'd like to eat in the next 15 to 20 minutes, without having a lot of hassle. Did I mention that you didn't think ahead and fill the slow cooker this morning? 

With these recipes, you can be sitting down to eat in 15 to 20 minutes - just add salad and bread and you've got a quick, home made meal!  

Of course, you don't have to eat these all the same week - but you can if you want to! 

Besides being easy, quick, and healthy, these soups are also frugal AND can be part of your lower-calorie diet plan, if you like.  


Broccoli Soup


  
Chili 





 Mediterranean Zucchini Soup  



 Moroccan Carrot Soup



Vacation Soup  
(for a gluten-free option, substitute rice for pasta, or use your favorite gluten-free pasta)



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Monday, December 28, 2015

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Vasilopita (St. Basil's Bread)

Easy, No Knead, Vegan Vasilopita
Vasilopita is a Traditional Greek Bread that is baked on St. Basil's Day, January 1st. Every Greek Family has their own special recipe. The bread is baked to remember the generosity of St. Basil the Great, who distributed alms to the poor in such a way as to not embarrass them - he baked their alms into loaves of bread. There are many pious stories about how this happened - including this one and this one .

Here is a short video (about 3 minutes) about the life of this great Saint.



When we bake Vasilopita, we hide a coin somewhere in the dough, and the person who finds the coin is supposed to be especially Blessed in the coming year.

This is a great custom to remember the life of the Saint, and the importance of Alms Giving in the Christian life.

Of course, if you have a Basil or a William in your family, the Tradition becomes even MORE important!


Also, it is worthy of note that Greek Children receive their seasonal gifts not from St. Nicholas on Christmas Morning, but from St. Basil on St. Basil's Day (New Year's Day) - this once again emphasizes the Saint's Generosity & Alms Giving in the Name of Christ.

If, as this New Year approaches, you're considering what New Year's Resolution to make, you cannot make a better resolution than reading the Bible all the way through this year. There's a helpful, free link on the right side border of this page for your convenience all year.  Or, you can go to the site directly and save the link somewhere that is convenient for you.   The site also allows you to listen rather than read if you prefer, offers a variety of translations, including a few foreign languages, and has a app for folks with smart devices. You can customize on their page to listen starting any day of the year, not just on New Year's Day.

There are two basic types of Vasilopita - one is a Sweet Yeast Bread, and the other is a Sweet, Cake-like Quick Bread. This Recipe is for the Yeasted Variety.

Many families decorate their Vasilopita - with the year written in frosting or powdered sugar, or with nuts - but I'll leave that up to you!

This is a special variety of Vasilopita - in that it is both Vegan and Oil Free, whereas the traditional Vasilopita is loaded with seasonal Feasting foods - since this great Feast is during the 12 Days of Christmas! But, those who prefer to avoid those Feasting foods can still enjoy a festive Vasilopita : )

The use of Tapioca Starch, Potato, and Sugar tenderizes & moisturizes the dough, and make a moist, tender, fluffy loaf without the use of oil or eggs.    

Easy, No Knead Vegan Vasilopita
 (Makes 2 pounds of dough - for one large braided loaf)

I prepare a batch this size in an 8 Cup Container - the one in the pictures.
Be sure to add in this order:

1 1/2 Cups Warm Water (if you want an optional mild orange flavor, use 3 Tablespoons Orange Juice Concentrate in place of part of the water -then add water to total 1 1/2 cups liquid)
2 1/2 Cups + 2 Tablespoons Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch (you can substitute Cornstarch, if you like)
1/2 Cup Potato Flakes
1/2 Cup Sugar (if you prefer less sweetness, you can use 1/4 cup sugar without changing anything else in the recipe)
1/2 Tablespoon Yeast
1/2 Tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Mahlepi, Ground****
1/4 teaspoon Mastic, Ground (Optional) ****



Stir well with a spoon till no patches of dry Flour remain.

The dough should look like this right after you stir it.

Cover loosely with lid (don't fasten so securely that it cannot "breathe")
Leave it on the counter for 2 to 5 hours.
Now, put it in the fridge till you're ready to use it **

The dough should look like this after it has sat out on the counter for 2 to 5 hours.


Note - do not "Punch Down" this kind of dough.

This dough CAN be kept in the fridge for a week or more and still be quite good to use, but with this particular dough, you'll find the fluffiest, sweetest results if you bake it within a day or two of mixing.


When you're ready to bake the bread, remove it from the refrigerator and dust it VERY WELL with Flour. This is a moist, sticky dough, so don't be afraid to use lots of Flour!

Oil your pan (I use a Perforated, Non-stick Pizza Pan, like this one for baking)

Separate the Dough into three portions, and form each portion into a long rope. Place the ropes in a concentric rainbow pattern on the pan, like so:




Braid the ropes, starting in the middle (at the top, center of the rainbow) and working out- then start from the middle again and braid the other half of the rainbow. Bring the two open ends together into a circle.



Wash a coin and wrap it in foil, tuck it into one of the strands of the braid from the underside, so that it cannot be detected.

Leave to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake in the middle of the oven, without steam for 35-40 minutes.

For best results, cool before serving.


* For my 6 Quart Container, I use a new plastic shoe box from the Dollar Store.
** This dough CAN be used the day it is made - but it is a tad easier to shape after it is refrigerated.

**** Spices are traditionally ground in a Mortar & Pestle. I grind them in my electric coffee grinder - I use some of the sugar in the recipe to add to the grinder to produce enough bulk to grind - then I add the mixture of sugar & spices to the recipe.

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