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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Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Minute Ideas for a Merry Christmas

Icon of the Nativity of Christ

May you have a Blessed Christmas!


As the Big Day is fast approaching, here are some last minute ideas for a Great Christmas!

1. Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas this year. 


This takes a lot of pressure off! When I explain to my young daughter that a loved one cannot join us on Christmas Day, she is content and says, "Maybe we can see them one of the OTHER days of Christmas." We enjoy our decorations and festivities for 12 days, not just for one.

Having 12 Days of Christmas avoids the big after-Christmas "letdown"

It also says that the Incarnation of Christ is a BIG event - not something we squeeze into one day!

Here are a couple of great articles with "How To's"
Let's Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

It's Not Over Yet from Charming Farming

2. Have a Family Christmas Read Aloud


I encountered this great blog post on Charming Farming - I especially love the Tolstoy Story of Papa Panov. It's a great read aloud for the whole family.

3. Go to Church on Christmas Morning


If you are a Christian, and the first priority of your Family Christmas is getting, consider putting God first this year, and attend Liturgy on Christmas Morning. Everyone knows that St Nicholas is a Saint, and he was a Bishop. He would NEVER miss Liturgy to deliver presents! Of Course the presents show up after he has attended Liturgy ; )

4. Make some quick and easy Fudge for that last minute Gift, Party, or Family Gathering


Easy Vanilla Fudge
Easy Chocolate Fudge
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy Chocolate Mint Fudge
Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Easy Microwave Fudge for One 



5. Add some Vegan dishes to your menu


Vegan Holiday Brunch Ideas  



Vegan Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas 







6. Buy ONE more Gift - for someone in need.

Give a gift to a persecuted Christian





Have a Blessed Christmas - all 12 Days of it! : )

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge Series: Maple Walnut

Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge Variety
(When I read others' blogs, I find I really don't like being required to do a lot of clicking to read one recipe or post. In light of that observation, I'm putting the basic mix recipe & introduction in EACH post of this series. If you've been following this series, just scroll down to the picture of today's fudge, and start reading from there.) 

Many years ago, I stopped by one of those very upscale, touristy fudge shoppes that sell a huge
variety of uber-expensive fudge that is touted as "made by hand" and "old fashioned." As a person who made fudge the old-fashioned way myself, I mentioned to the clerk at the shoppe that it sure must be a lot of work to cook all that fudge. She said in a casual, off-handed way, "Oh, we don't cook it. It's a powdered mix that comes to us in a bag. We just mix it up!" I was more than stunned.

Then, I started thinking. How many times had I given someone fudge that I had carefully cooked and prepared the old-fashioned way (which "only" takes a hideous amount of time to do!), only to have them say, "Oh, you made this from powdered sugar didn't you? I can always tell. It's so much creamier than home-cooked fudge." When cooked fudge turns out right - it tastes A LOT like the stuff that's made from a mix. If you goof on cooked fudge -  which I have done once or twice - it will turn out with crunchy crystals and a little grainy tasting. I lot of people think they "can tell" if fudge is cooked because they're used to the crunchy kind.


So, I decided to design my own mix. If those fancy stores can do it, I can too!  It took a few attempts (the first tries were too soft), but when it was done, it was even better than I had hoped. And Vegan. And way more frugal than those sorts that call for things like condensed milk, ready-made chocolate, and marshmallow fluff. And, you can customize it to fit your family's own allergies & dietary preferences.

I designed my own mix, and then started creating variations. I ended up with 5 varieties to feature this year, although you could easily make enough variations from these basic 5 to create a whole lot more!

Here's the basic mix, method, and the fifth recipe of the series:

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. Here's the fifth in the series:

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)

Stuffedveggies Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Maple Walnut Fudge
Chop 3/4 Cup Walnuts and set aside
Combine well
1 Batch Stuffedveggies Fudge & Frosting Mix (above)
1 1/2 teaspoons Maple Extract
7 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk *

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. After microwaving & stirring, Stir in reserved, prepared Walnuts, above, and quickly press into prepared pan. Allow to cool & set a couple of hours to set. 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.

This year I substituted Soy Free Earth Balance for Regular Earth Balance, and Rice Milk for Soy Milk - I found that with these substitutions, I needed to reduce the Milk by 1 Tablespoon so that the Fudge would be firm enough 


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

This is being shared on
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Phyllis Sather



Monday, December 7, 2015

Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge Series: Mint Chocolate

Stuffedveggies Easy Fudge Variety
(When I read others' blogs, I find I really don't like being required to do a lot of clicking to read one recipe or post. In light of that observation, I'm putting the basic mix recipe & introduction in EACH post of this series. If you've been following this series, just scroll down to the picture of today's fudge, and start reading from there.)

Many years ago, I stopped by one of those very upscale, touristy fudge shoppes that sell a huge
variety of uber-expensive fudge that is touted as "made by hand" and "old fashioned." As a person who made fudge the old-fashioned way myself, I mentioned to the clerk at the shoppe that it sure must be a lot of work to cook all that fudge. She said in a casual, off-handed way, "Oh, we don't cook it. It's a powdered mix that comes to us in a bag. We just mix it up!" I was more than stunned.

Then, I started thinking. How many times had I given someone fudge that I had carefully cooked and prepared the old-fashioned way (which "only" takes a hideous amount of time to do!), only to have them say, "Oh, you made this from powdered sugar didn't you? I can always tell. It's so much creamier than home-cooked fudge." When cooked fudge turns out right - it tastes A LOT like the stuff that's made from a mix. If you goof on cooked fudge -  which I have done once or twice - it will turn out with crunchy crystals and a little grainy tasting. I lot of people think they "can tell" if fudge is cooked because they're used to the crunchy kind.


So, I decided to design my own mix. If those fancy stores can do it, I can too!  It took a few attempts (the first tries were too soft), but when it was done, it was even better than I had hoped. And Vegan. And way more frugal than those sorts that call for things like condensed milk, ready-made chocolate, and marshmallow fluff. And, you can customize it to fit your family's own allergies & dietary preferences.

I designed my own mix, and then started creating variations. I ended up with 5 varieties to feature this year, although you could easily make enough variations from these basic 5 to create a whole lot more!

Here's the basic mix, method, and the fourth recipe of the series:

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. Here's the fourth in the series:

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)

Mint Chocolate Fudge
Carefully divide a batch of mix in half, using a measuring cup or a kitchen scale to be sure the two halves are evenly split. You should have two portions of about 4 1/2 cups per bowl.

Prepare the Chocolate half as follows:
Stir together well, or combine with an electric mixer:
1/2 batch mix (above)
1/2 cup Cocoa, sieved to remove any lumps
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk

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

Microwave for 30 seconds, Stir, repeat once or 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. After microwaving & stirring, quickly press into prepared pan.

Fudge will develop a satiny sheen when stirred after sufficient cooking - then press it to the edges of the pan.

Now, prepare the Mint half:

Stir together well, or combine with an electric mixer:
1/2 batch mix (above)
1/4 teaspoon Peppermint Extract
2 Drops Green Food Coloring
3 1/2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk

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

Microwave for 30 seconds, Stir, repeat once or 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. After microwaving & stirring, pour over chocolate layer, and quickly spread to edges prepared pan.



Allow to cool & set a couple of hours to set. 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.

This year I substituted Soy Free Earth Balance for Regular Earth Balance, and Rice Milk for Soy Milk - I found that with these substitutions, I needed to reduce the Milk by 1 Tablespoon (1/2 T per layer) so that the Fudge would be firm enough

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


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