Monday, December 31, 2012

Menu Planning - for a month or a year

For Orthodox Christians, like those of many other Faiths,
Religion and Menu are inseparably intertwined.
Happy St. Basil's Day! Happy New Year!

Here are a few links that might be helpful for celebrating this day:
My Vegan Vasilopita Recipe
About St. Basil & the Vasilopita Tradition

Another Vegan Vasilopita Recipe
Vegan Vasilopita for the Bread Machine

And, some thoughts on planning your menu for the coming year:

A few years ago, I heard a great story of a woman who planned her family's menu for an entire year.

I was inspired! The woman's diet was diametrically opposed to mine, but her idea was great : ) I decided to give it a try, and for the last three years, I have done yearly menu planning to some degree or another. I enjoy it, and it takes a lot of stress out of everyday menu planning - and it can be quite a money saver if done correctly. Usually I spend a few days early in the year with menu planning as my hobby - taking up my spare moments.

For Orthodox Christians, meat is permitted on some days and other days are "Fasting days" when veganism is encouraged. While I am vegetarian myself, I have more than just myself to think of when planning a menu. So, I create a menu with shaded days that let me know which type of menu is needed each day. 

I've learned a few things along the way:

1. Flexibility is good! A word document lets you cut and paste planned menus from the day you scheduled them -  to the day you actually eat them. (Or, in my case, I print the plan, then hand-write the actuality). Truth is, life intervenes - maybe you go out to dinner spontaneously, or friends invite you over, or you suddenly want a fancier meal than you had planned because guests are coming. This method allows for a plan, and also for real life.

2. Most people rotate through the same 9 to 12 menu plans over and over. I couldn't do that (and Omnivores think WE have a lack of variety?!) - but it is true that menus are good for more than just one time. BTW - I've seen this "9 to 12" statistic about meal planning quoted all over the place, but I've never seen a source for the research - for all I know it could be an urban legend. BUT, when I read online menu plans from other people, they do seem to be very repetitive - which makes the figure believable.

3. In light of #2, Plans are re-usable. But, you may not want to eat the same thing in July that looked good in January - so a repeating winter month or summer month or Lenten menu can be a good method.

4. How to be super-lazy   efficient!  THIS January keep a written record of every day's meal. NEXT January's menu is done - without any real effort at all : ) Alternately, you might record 40  menus and toss out the bottom 5 or 10 (you know,  that night that all you had in the house was Rye and Bok Choy and were so hungry you decided that would be a good meal - plain, unseasoned, out of the fridge ; ) This way you can have a good, repeating, one month plan.

5. Menu planning lends itself to a great bulk-cooking method. Look at the next week or two's menu, and stock the freezer with those meals. Then, it doesn't really matter which night you eat which meal - they're all planned, and they're all ready to go. If that's your method, you might plan each week's menu to mesh with a bulk cooking plan. For instance, when I do this method, I plan two Slow Cooker meals (since I have two Slow Cookers), two meals prepared in my two stock pots, two prepared in skillets, and one quick fix meal. That way, on bulk cooking day, I can fill all my cooking pots and prepare 6 meals at once - then just have one night that week that I haven't cooked for and I can plan to get a quick meal onto the table.

6. Planning ahead can save money - no more stocking the vegetable crisper with a bunch of produce that becomes a science project - you just buy what you actually have planned to eat. Likewise, you can plan Eggplant dishes for Eggplant Season if you wish. And, with cut-and-paste, if you find a nice deal on eggplant unexpectedly, you can just move that menu to this week!

7. Planning is more efficient - you can cook all the legumes & grains for the week at once, or prepare all the seasonings or sauces and be ready to go on busy nights - since you already know what you're having the next few nights.

8. Planning ahead prevents ruts. Have you ever had a week of enchiladas, then tacos, then burritos . . . ? Or a week where every menu had hummus in it? No more. You can see at a glance that there's one Chinese meal this week (not five) or one meal that features Blackeye peas or one meal that is some-kind-of-beans over rice, or one meal of soup. This way you can vary textures, types of food, ethnic varieties, etc, so that you have more variety.

9. Meal planning saves time & frustration. You're likely to spend a lot less time running to the store for one necessary ingredient, or discovering that all your menu ideas for today would have required starting the slow cooker 3 hours ago.

10. Do what works for you right now (which may be different from last year!) In addition to yearly meal planning, I also have a one-month plan that can be repeated, and several one-week menus that can be rotated through one after another (each with a bulk cooking plan for that week). So, yes, you CAN do this without necessarily doing a 365-day plan. I haven't even decided which style of planning to use for the coming year yet!

So - if you want to give it a try, the new year is the perfect time to start a new menu planning routine!

You can make your own calendar on this website. If you want to design your own meal planning calendar, or plan for additional months, it's a great site.

Be sure you type in your family's birthdays, namedays and anniversaries when scheduling : )

For specifics for each day from the Greek Orthodox Church, go to this site.

This is being shared on Feeding Big and Encouraging Hearts & Homes

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Black-eyed Peas for New Year's Day ( Louvia )

Greek Style Black-eyed Peas.
If you're planning your meal for New Year, and you're from the Southern United States - odds are you're thinking Black-eyed Peas - traditionally prepared with fatback for
 flavour : (

If you're eating vegan, the fatback thing may not appeal, and perhaps you're looking for a better way to prepare them.

We eat them year-round, not just on New Year's Day - and here's a very traditional Greek way to serve them.

This is also a go-to dinner for busy nights when you may not feel like cooking.

Greek-Style Black-eyed Peas

Cook the Black-eyed Peas in water with some salt till done. This can be done in the slow cooker or on the stove top, or you can simply pour them from a can and heat them.

While the Black-eyed Peas are cooking or heating, chop a variety of fresh, raw vegetables to serve alongside, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery, scallions, onion, carrots - what have you. Some olives and capers go nicely too (when don't olives and capers go nicely? )

Serve the Black-eye dPeas with their liquid in bowls.

Each diner then adds, according to his or her taste, Olive Oil and Lemon juice to taste (most people like 1 to 2 Tablespoons each - personally, I only use the Lemon Juice. If you're avoiding oil, it will still taste great with just Lemon Juice and Salt). Then Salt generously, and eat with veggies and some nice, fresh bread.

Of course, if you're somewhere that you can get fresh Black-eyed Peas, so much the better- but this is a delicious dish even with dried or canned.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saving Money on Groceries - Bean counting

Each Package contains the equivalent of 2 cans of
Beans - and is reusable : )
Canned beans seem the ultimate in convenience - and I have used them many times.

But, Canned Chickpeas Run around a Dollar a Can. Equivalent Beans from Dried Chickpeas (which is One and a Half Cups - if you're lucky- sometimes only One and a Quarter!) - less than TWENTY CENTS!

Canned Beans have several drawbacks:

  1.  They're WAY more expensive, percentage-wise (I save about 70% of the cost when I make my own from dried!).
  2. The extra packaging isn't so good, environmentally speaking - even if you recycle them, all that extra packaging isn't the best.
  3. They sometimes have additives or preservatives.
  4. And, they're heavy - so it's a lot more hassle to lug them home.

On the other hand, with dried beans, I've always had a few problems

  1. They had to be soaked, which means I had to be all organized and everything.
  2. They didn't taste as good to me as canned beans- they seemed to have a bitter taste.
  3. They took a long time to cook, during which I had to stir them from time to time to prevent them sticking to the pot at the bottom and/or scorching. Meaning I had to stand in or around the kitchen all the time.
So, canned beans it was!

Beans Starting to cook in the Slow Cooker.
But, I recently found a good  blog post that explained how to make dried beans in the slow cooker.


I found a great article that puts to rest fears about unsoaked beans being "gassy." 

This is what you do:

Finished - Cooked Beans from the Slow Cooker.
  1. DO NOT SOAK! (YAY!) (the one exception to this is chickpeas - I prefer to soak them in the fridge with a teaspoon of baking soda from the night before, then rinse & drain before proceeding)
  2. Measure into crock 3 cups of beans, and 6 cups of water (If chickpeas, use 8 cups of water).
  3. Add generous salt (I use about a Tablespoon).
  4. Cover and turn on high. No need to stir or hover : )
  5. Three and a Half to Six hours later - you have cooked beans! (the post said Five to Six, but my first batches - Blackeye Peas and Great Northerns were very tender in Three and a Half hours. Chickpeas took Six.)

Notice, this method breaks TWO Rules
  1.  The always soak rule and
  2. The don't add salt till the end rule (which was ruining the flavour of the beans previously).
But, it works great. The beans taste great! (no more wishing for that canned taste!) They're cheap!

When the beans are done, the water level will be below the top of the beans (it doesn't hurt to stir once in the last hour). If you want soupier beans, add more water.

When they're done, I package them (with cooking liquid) in Reusable Three Cup containers - label them "2 Cans Great Northern Beans" or "2 Cans Chickpeas" and date them. And toss them in the freezer. Unless, of course I want to eat them right away : )

To use, I thaw overnight in the fridge, then rinse in a sieve under warm running water to get rid of the last bits of ice crystals. Of course, they may also be thawed in the microwave if you prefer.

This post is also being shared on,
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wheat berry Breakfast Bowl

Wheat berry Breakfast Bowl with Apples, Dates & Raisins.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, we have a Tradition of Memorial Services. After a loved one passes away, we don't offer only a Funeral Service, but also we continue to offer prayers in the days (at 40 days, for example), months (at Six Months, for example), and years that follow (at One Year, Five Years, etc). In a large Church, there are such short services at the end of Sunday Liturgy almost every week. After the Service, it is customary for the bereaved family to share a food called Kolyva with other Church Members. Each village in the Old Country - in fact each neighborhood - has its own recipe, but they all start out with Wheat berries or Shelled Wheat (my Internet research tells me that they're two names for the same thing).

The dish reminds us of the hope of the Resurrection in the Bible Verse "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24, KJV.

When visitors come to Church and try this dish, they nearly always say the same thing, "This would make a GREAT breakfast food!" I agree! I don't serve it  in the same recipe that we do at Church, but I like it the following way.

This is what you do:

Wheat berries in the Slow Cooker

Prepare wheat berries - this can be done anytime, but since it takes 2 hours, you probably don't want to do it right before breakfast. Shelled Wheat is best prepared in the Slow Cooker. This makes the soaking step, and frequent stirring unnecessary. For each cup of wheat berries, put 2 cups of water into the Slow Cooker or Crock Pot. Cover and turn on high. Two hours later, test for doneness and drain. Voila! Cooked Wheat berries! (If you actually DO make Kolyva, you might also find this method easier than the traditional stove top method : ) Store the berries in the refrigerator to use as needed (I understand they also freeze well). This method makes a firm, plump, al-dente wheat berry. If you want a softer, well-done berry, of course you can cook longer with a little more water.

Wheat berry Breakfast Bowl

Put desired amount of cooked wheat berries in your bowl (If you're allergic to wheat, or have Celiac Sprue, Brown Rice makes a nice substitute). Wheat berries may be eaten cold or at room temperature, or if you desire, you can warm them in the microwave.
Top with your favorite seasonal fresh fruit and/or dried fruit.
Nuts, sugar or other sweetener, cinnamon, etc can also be added according to your preferences, but I usually don't. Unlike Oatmeal, Wheat berries have enough flavour and texture of their own, that sugar is not absolutely necessary.

That's it!

Since Wheat berries are a whole grain, they have more staying quality than many refined breakfast foods.

Wheat is getting a lot of bad press right now, but in the Christian Tradition, wheat holds a special place - with it we make our Prosphora (the bread for Holy Communion), our Artoklasia (a sweet bread for special services), and our Kolyva. So I see it as pretty special!

This is being shared at Simple Living Wednesday and Healthy Vegan Friday

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indian Spiced Blackeye Peas over Rice

Indian Spiced Black-eyed Peas
This dish is packed with flavour. Beans and Rice or Beans and Bread - a protein combination every bit as complete as Steak - without hurting your arteries. And, this incredibly flavorful dish is the furthest thing from bland or boring.

To top that all off, it's made with the Yachni sauce you have on hand, and comes together in minutes (about 15, counting simmering time - and that's if you're like me - a little slow moving in the kitchen). If you do not have Yachni on hand, read the note below for subbing from scratch : )

Put on a pot of Basmati rice before you start cooking, unless you have some on hand in the freezer, or prefer to have bread with your beans.

Indian Spiced Black-eyed Peas over Rice
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, simmer about 10 minutes to combine flavours
4 cans Black-eyed Peas (or 6 cups home-prepared), drained
3 cups Yachni *
1/4 cup fresh Ginger Paste (I use the jarred kind)
1/4 cup minced Garlic (I also use the jarred kind)
2 teaspoons ground Coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground Cumin
1 teaspoon ground Cardamom
 - Heat of your choice maybe added if desired, although the Ginger in this recipe already adds a fair amount of spiciness.
Dash lemon juice.

Serve over prepared Basmati Rice, or with and Indian Flatbread, such as Naan.

* If you do not have Yachni on hand, substitute as follows: Sautee 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, adding the garlic & ginger near the end of the sauteeing time, add the spices, then 2 cans of chopped tomatoes with their juice. Add the Black-Eyed Peas and simmer to blend flavors. Add lemon juice shortly before removing from the heat.

This dish freezes well if you want to make it in advance.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: the flavours of this dish would lend themselves well to some shredded chicken being stirred in. Also, a raita may be served on the side.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Red Pepper & Walnut Dip or Spread

Red Pepper & Walnut Spread with Bread
Whether you're looking for a last-minute dip or spread for your Christmas table, or planning ahead for your New Year's party - this will fit the bill. I often take this to covered dish dinners - and there's seldom any left. I don't think I've ever served it without someone asking for the recipe.

Red Pepper Walnut Spread or Dip
Grind in food processor till powdery (but not till it turns into nut butter)
½  cup walnuts
1/3 cup potato flakes

Ground Walnuts & Potato Flakes
Add and Puree
1 12 oz jar roasted red pepper, drained *
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Agave or Maple Syrup (Honey may be substituted- if you use it)
Dash Cayenne
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
(Water may be added if too dry - a wee bit at a time - the texture should be similar to hummus when you're done)

May be served at room temperature or chilled. Delicious with Baguette slices, Crackers, or Crudites. Also a nice sandwich spread used with other fillings.

*Roasted Red Peppers can be a very pricey ingredient at the grocery, but at the dollar store, they're $1 a jar! It's okay to substitute Sweet Marinated Red Pepper - they taste the same in this recipe.

This is adapted from a Robin Robertson recipe. I substituted potato flakes for bread crumbs when preparing it for a gluten-free friend. I also find potato flakes more convenient, so even when I don't need it to be gluten-free, I make it this way. I also omitted oil, and tweaked the proportions a tiny bit.

This dip freezes well. You can make extra for a party before the day arrives, or make little lunchbox-sized portions for the freezer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Confetti Spaghetti

If you're exhausted from Christmas preparations, and have hours of cooking ahead of you in the next few days -this might be the perfect recipe for tonight!

As you can see, this recipe is mistitled. When I first started making this dish, I used spaghetti and it looked like confetti - lots of pretty colors. I eventually switched to bite-sized pasta because it held onto the veggies better (usually shells, but sometimes ziti or bowties or whatever) but I couldn't bear to get rid of the rhyming name.

This is a super-simple dinner, one of my favorites to make on nights when I don't feel like making anything. It takes the time the pasta takes to cook - with time for surfing the net included!

This is also a great clean-out-the-fridge and frugal recipe.

Confetti Spaghetti
Boil water, and prepare your favorite shape pasta (whole grain or not) according to package directions
While Water boils & pasta cooks, prepare veggies - you want about an equal volume of veggies & cooked pasta when you're done. Use a HUGE bowl.
Use what you have - these are some of our favorites you might want to choose from:
Chopped Fresh Tomato
Chopped Carrot
Chopped Celery
Chopped Bell Peppers
Black Olives
Green Olives
Frozen Green Peas, Thawed in sieve under hot running water
Frozen Corn, Thawed in sieve under hot running water
Drained Marinated Artichokes
Broccoli Trees
Those cooked veggies you had for dinner the other night, and never finished.

When Pasta finishes, Drain it and toss it with veggies.
Add Generous
Garlic Salt
Italian Herbs OR Basil
Add more
Garlic Salt
Italian Herbs OR Basil.
Add more seasoning if needed, till just right.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tips for dining with Omnivores - you could throw some bits of summer sausage, pepperoni, salami, shrimp or chicken into the omnivore's portion. Or, you can serve this as a side-dish for a meat meal (although, personally, I like to think of the meat as the side dish, and the vegan dish as the entree : )

Friday, December 21, 2012

Homemade, Whole Wheat Naan without Dairy or added Oil

This is one of my favorite everyday breads. I like a few things about it: I can make it without using the oven, so in the summer it doesn't heat up the house. I can make it without letting the dough rise, and without preheating the oven. And, it is one of the most appealing ways I know to eat whole wheat bread!

I like to split it open like a pita pocket for sandwiches, and I like to eat it with soup. It's great with peanut butter. As you might suspect, it's great with Indian food. Or just plain. It's an all-round good bread.

I start with a recipe similar to this one (I use the 100% Whole Wheat from the same authors- if you have their book. But, if you don't, this is close enough until you decide to get your own copy ;  ) Easy Artisan Whole Wheat Bread Dough

Then, I follow these directions, with a few tweaks: How to make Naan

My tweaks are: I use a non-stick skillet with NO OIL! And, I use a glass lid so I can watch the Naan Bubble & Brown. It's not an absolute necessity, but it's so much more fun!

AND - my good friend from India tells me that authentic Naan is rolled out pretty thinly - more thinly than I make and and than these pictures depict. If you're going for authentic here, make it thin : )

Of course, if you prefer, you can use the white bread dough by the same authors, and add a little vegan buttery spread to the skillet. It's super-tasty too. And I won't tell ; )

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greek Chickpea Stew ( Revythia )

This is another Greek dish that traditionally done, takes hours. This is the traditional way: Use dried, whole chickpeas. Soak them overnight in water with a little baking soda. The next day, put them between two layers of kitchen towels, and roll them with a rolling pin till they split in half. Remove all the skins. Prepare Sauce, and simmer sauce with halved chickpeas on the stove top for about 3 hours, until tender. About halfway through cooking time, add sliced celery OR spinach.

It is my theory that the chickpeas were traditionally split to reduce cooking times and save very expensive fuel.

In modern times, pre-split and skinned chickpeas may be bought, but I have been unable to find any here in the US. (Indian Chana Dal is split, skinned chickpeas, but it is a much smaller chickpea than the European type).

I have hand-split chickpeas before, and, well, either I'm not good at it, or it is a VERY time consuming task for everyone. I decided they taste fine whole ; )

Here is my modern, American method:

Soak in refrigerator: 2 cups Chickpeas in water with 1 or 2 teaspoons Baking Soda* added. 
The next day, drain and rinse Chickpeas
Place in Crock
2 Cups Dry, Soaked Chickpeas* (I buy them in the Indian Grocery as Kabuli Chana)
5 to 6 Cups water (depending how soupy you like it)
5 Cups Yachni

Cook in Slow Cooker or Crock Pot on High
for 9 or more hours (it is VERY hard to overcook Chickpeas!)

In the last hour of cooking time, add
4 stalks sliced Celery OR add a bag of Thawed Frozen Spinach (Personally, I much prefer the Spinach : )

Serve with Bread & Salad.

* Baking Soda really helps tenderize the beans, and helps compensate for cooking them in a Tomato-based sauce, which normally would toughen them.

This freezes well.

Slow Cooker Method 2
(not quite as tasty, but if it's what you have on hand, it's not too bad )
3 15 oz cans drained chickpeas
4 to 5 cups Yachni
3 stalks sliced celery
Cook on Low 6 hours.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: this dish is quite hearty and requires no added meat to be filling for anyone, but you can always add a grilled bit of pork or chicken on the side for someone who really wants meat at every meal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Simply Eggplant ( Aubergine )

 This is one of the simplest and tastiest ways to enjoy eggplant. If you  have any leftover (which I seldom do - no matter how much I make) you can make eggplant sandwiches from it the next day.

First, choose your eggplant for its looks. Unlike some other veggies, Eggplant really should be beautiful to taste their best. If they have bruised spots, or are generally ugly, odds are they also won't taste as good. You want beautiful, shiny, almost-black, plump eggplants.

The traditional method of preparing eggplant is to "sweat" the eggplant for about 1/2 hour by slicing it and salting it to let the salt draw out the juices. You then rinse (or pat) away the salt, and pat it dry. This method both reduces bitter taste and reduces how much oil the eggplant absorbs. I find that the very large American eggplant  ( also known as Aubergine ) are bred to be non-bitter - so here in the US, I skip this step and am quite happy that way - but, it's up to you!

First, I slice the eggplant about 1/2" thick ( 2 1/2 cm ) and place it on a cookie sheet. I like to line my cookie sheets with non-stick foil, but that's just a personal preference. If you're more "green" than me, more power to ya! : )

Then, oil the eggplant. Some people like very rich eggplant with lots of oil. If you're one of those, dip each eggplant slice in olive oil. Others like medium oil. If you're one of those, then brush each slice with an oil dipped pastry brush, or even rub a little oil on with your fingers. If you like minimal oil, use a fill-your-own oil sprayer, and spray some oil on to the slices. (Pre-filled oil sprayers in aerosol cans have a chemical propellant that I find damages the flavour of some foods.) I do not recommend omitting all oil in this recipe - I've tried it and was dissatisfied with the results.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to do both sides!

Put the oven shelf at the highest notch in your oven, and slide in the tray of eggplant slices. Turn on the broiler and broil the tops till golden brown. Turn, and broil the other side.

Sprinkle with Salt or Garlic Salt & Serve.

These slices are very good with Tahini Dip.

For Eggplant Sandwiches, Use Crusty bread & tomato slices and lettuce along with your favorite spread (olive spread, tahini, hummus, etc).

Tip for dining with Omnivores: These eggplant slices pair very well with Greek Yogurt. They also make a good side dish to serve with Lamb.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vegan Brownie Snowball Cookies

Well, I think this will be my last Christmas Cookie post of the season! Our little gift tins are ready to be filled - at least I think I have enough. And, if I keep "testing" new recipes, well, let's just say there's only so much of that one should do in a year!

Years ago, I heard that there are theories that the word "fudge" came from the German word for "oops!" I don't know how accurate that theory is, but it does provide hope that good can come from apparent mistakes. Such was the case today.

I had a few large bowls out of cookie doughs in various degrees of preparedness. I added chopped walnuts to the wrong one - to the plain mix. So, then I had to figure out another cookie with walnut mix!.

This was my serendipitous creation.

Brownie Snowball Cookies
3/4 cup Vegan Cookie Mix
1/4 cup plain Cocoa, sieved*
3 Tablespoons Mild Flavoured Oil (I used Sunflower Oil)
2 Tablespoons Applesauce
Chopped Walnuts
Chocolate Chips

Form in balls & place on cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350degrees Fahrenheit, for 20 minutes (till pretty firm). Allow to cool a couple of minutes, but not too long (just so they don't crumble when you work with them. Roll them in powdered sugar. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar. Relish!

 * Cocoa - Not to be confused with hot cocoa mix - which has milk & sugar added, but is also called "cocoa" by the grocers. Cocoa can be lumpy, so ideally it should be run through a mesh sieve to remove lumps before using.

This is being shared on Food on Fridays, Chocolate

Monday, December 17, 2012

Vegan Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )

These are  classic cookies that go by many names. Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Cocoons, Butterballs - and who knows what else! They bear a striking resemblance to Greek Kourambiethes in appearance, but the flavour and texture are a little different.

Like all the other cookies here, they're easy to make, and come from your own vegan mix!

Vegan Russian Teacakes
Mix together dry ingredients
1 cup Vegan Cookie Mix
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar/Confectioners Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
Walnuts, broken, one handful
(other non-traditional add ins may replace walnuts if you like - chocolate chips or minced candied cherries, for example)
Stir, then knead in
3 Tablespoons light tasting Oil (such as Sunflower)
2 Tablespoons Applesauce
This dough is supposed to be a little crumbly and dry - expect to knead a little longer than for other types of cookies to get everything to stick together.
Form into balls and place on cookie sheet (they will hardly spread at all), bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes, till firm and very delicately browned all over, and lightly browned on the bottom. Immediately roll in confectioners sugar. Place on plate. Dust with more confectioners sugar. Devour : )

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Apple & Cinnamon pancakes, ready to serve, with tender
Apple Slices and caramelized Cinnamon-Sugar
 These apple-cinnamon pancakes are simple to make and healthy, but at the same time festive and luxurious.

These are great to serve for a Christmas Eve Breakfast, since they are vegan, but still something special.

They were inspired by a non-vegan cookbook I read years ago (perhaps one of the Culinaria series - I cannot recall for sure), and I veganized them and adapted them to my whole wheat, low fat, vegan pancake mix.

First, Slice some apple wedges VERY THINLY, and get out your Cinnamon sugar (I keep some on hand all the time - 4 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a shaker bottle.

Then, prepare the pancake mix, and pre-heat the skillet.
Vegan Pancake Mix
Pancake batter cooking in skillet, with Thinly Sliced Apples on
and Cinnamon Sugar on top.
Pour the batter into the skillet, as for any other pancakes (oil may be used if desired, but is not necessary in a non-stick skillet).

On top of the pancake batter, lay slices of apple in a single layer.

Sprinkle generously with Cinnamon-Sugar.

Cooking the Apple and Cinnamon Side.
Wait for bubbles to form, and for edges to dry slightly.

Flip, and cook the other side. Let them cook a little longer than you would with normal pancakes - this lets the Apple cook, and the Cinnamon-Sugar caramelize.

Remove from pan and serve.

These are sweet enough to serve without buttery-spread and syrup, but those things may be added if you like.

These are being shared on Apples Saturday Dishes

This is being shared with

Friday, December 14, 2012

Vegan Sausage Patties

Plate of Vegan Sausage Patties, ready to serve.
These are great little patties if you like something savory for breakfast, or to go in a sandwich for lunch. They're great for the lunchbox, too! We particularly like them folded into homemade Naan with Lettuce, Tomato & Dijon Mustard.

I'm not a big fan of "fake meat." I like these patties because they have a nice flavour and texture that doesn't really remind me of meat, but is still tasty enough to please Omnivores.

I started out with this recipe and adapted it to my tastes and cooking style - you know, that style that doesn't like to blend a long list of spices when I'm already hungry ; )

Vegan Sausages as they start to cook.
Vegan Sausage Patties
Mash with a potato masher, a jar, the bottom of a bowl, or your fist:
1 (15oz) can Blackeye Peas (or equivalent home-cooked)
Mix in, kneading a little
1 (4oz) can mushrooms, finely diced with a knife
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten powder (from the baking aisle)
OR 1/3 cup instant potato flakes*
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Sausage Seasoning Mix

Form into patties and cook in non-stick skillet till golden brown on each side. Oil for cooking is optional. I find that without oil, these patties are easy to turn and don't stick IF you wait till each side is done before turning. If I try to turn too early, they stick.

*The original recipe was gluten-free and used Potato starch. I substituted Gluten Powder because it gives a chewier texture and provides some nice vegetable source protein. For a gluten-free recipe, instant potato flakes work as a nice substitution because they are cheaper and easier to find than potato starch. The potato flake method holds together better - the gluten method is chewier and higher protein - your choice.

Small batch Sausage Seasoning Mix
2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Crushed Fennel
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Tablespoon Parsley
1 Tablespoon Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Sage
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/2 Tablespoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Large Batch Sausage Seasoning Mix
1/2 cup onion powder
1/4 cup crushed fennel
1/4 cup basil
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup rosemary
1/4 cup sage
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
2 Tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Tip for dining with Omnivores: although many Omnivores enjoy these patties, if yours does not, you can easily serve a purchased "real" sausage patty alongside these.

One nice, golden Vegan Sausage Patty.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vegan Gingerbread Crunch Cookies from Your Own Mix

These cookies are seriously addictive, and seriously easy. And vegan. What's not to like?

These aren't the sort of cakey Gingerbread Cookies that you can roll out and cut with cookie-cutters to make houses and boys and girls - but rather a soft dough that's perfect for forming crunchy round cookies. And, you can use the dough to make a nice free form Gingerperson - just be careful, the dough spreads, so start thinner than I did. (See picture of full-figured Gingerperson). I suspect that with a little extra mix, you could make them rollable & shapeable, but I didn't test that hypothesis.

Vegan Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
1 Cup Vegan Cookie Mix
3 Tablespoons Light tasting oil (such as Sunflower)
2 Tablespoons Applesauce
2 Tablespoons Molasses (not Blackstrap, but something like Unsulfered)
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves

This Gingerbread Cookie is calling your name!
Form into balls and roll in Granulated Sugar or your favorite sugar (It is my understanding that Beet Sugar is both cheaper than Cane Sugar and Vegan). Place on cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes (longer for a crunchier cookie, shorter for a softer, chewier cookie). These do spread, so leave some room.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vegan Holiday Appetizers

This is a wonderful little treat to serve at a dinner or a party. They're easy to make - so easy in fact that my young daughter enjoyed helping me make them. They can be made in advance if you like, to bake right before serving time.

These take a few minutes to assemble - much like cookies - but they're not difficult at all!

I made one batch green olive, one batch caramelized pearl onion, and one batch oil cured olive (warn guests of pits, if you use these!).

Here's the Recipe for one batch (you'll probably want a lot of batches!):

Vegan Holiday Appetizers
1# Bread Dough, rolled out and cut in 40 squares
Filling: 40 olives, or 12oz pearl onions, caramelized
Something for brushing so toppings will stick: Olive brine, oil, or water
Toppings: Zaatar, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Thyme & Kosher Salt, etc.
Wrap fillings in dough individually, brush, and top. Bake 450 degrees Fahrenheit, till golden - 25 to 30 minutes (slightly longer if frozen).

First, you make the dough. The dough can be made well in advance of assembly day. And, assembly can be done in advance of baking day. And, yes, you CAN use purchased dough. But this recipe is a lot yummier!

Roll out the Dough (roughly 10"x18"). I like to roll it on parchment paper for easy handling.

Cut Crosswise in 10 strips, then lengthwise in 4 sections.

Place filling (Olive or Caramelized onion) in center of each piece.
Fold each piece over filling.

Stretch dough around filling, and press edges to seal.

Brush each piece with olive brine, oil or water (your choice), and
Sprinkle with chosen topping. Choose a filling to match a topping, so guests
can see at a glance what they're getting. I used sesame seeds with green olives,
zaatar with oil cured olives, and thyme and salt for onions.
They can be frozen at this point, if you like.

Bake on parchment covered sheet at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.
May be baked immediately, or frozen before baking, and baked immediately after pulling from freezer (slightly
longer baking time may be required).

If you want to freeze them, freeze them on the parchment covered pan (as shown above). Once they're frozen solid, they can be popped into a zippered freezer bag for storage until baking day.

This is being shared on Recipes and Ramblings with the Tumbleweed Contessa

Food on Fridays: Finger Foods

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Moujendra ( Mejadra ) in the Slow Cooker - or not!

Mounjendra is comfort food in our house. It was the first multi-ingredient dish I ever served my daughter when she was first eating solid foods - and it was what she wanted for her birthday dinner this year. (Her other declared favorite is Pizza : )

I really like making it in the slow cooker, since it requires no stirring or watching and the lentils don't become mushy from stirring.

Rinse & Sort & Place in Slow Cooker (or pot)

Onions should be toasty brown before adding to lentils.
If you like, you can make lots of these onions & freeze them for
adding to various dishes as needed.
1 # lentils (2 1/2  cups)
8 cups water
1  ¼ cups long grain brown rice (short grain rice is not good here - will make gluey dish. White rice may be used, but must be added about 1/2 way thru cooking time to avoid over cooking)
2 chopped, browned onions

Cover & cook on high till done – about 1 ½ hours if boiling water is used to start,
 or 2 ½ to 3 hours if starting with cold water.
If cooking in a pot on the stove top, simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes.
This dish is done when lentils & rice are tender. If there seems to be a little too much liquid when lentils are tender, it will be absorbed if you let it stand for a bit after turning off the heat.
Salt generously (I use nearly a Tablespoon of salt) & Serve
We like to serve this dish with a large dish of chopped, raw veggies to serve over the top. Each bite of lentils is combined with a bite of veggies.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: This is a very filling, hearty dish all by itself. But, if you desire, you can serve a tray of summer sausage and cheese alongside for Omnivores.
A typical dish of veggies for topping Moujendra or Pilafs.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies from your own mix

For these cookies, you use the Vegan Cookie Mix from the pantry.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/2 cups Vegan Cookie Mix
4 Tablespoons Applesauce
1/2 cup Peanut Butter (I use Krema Natural Peanut Butter, but any kind will work)
4 Tablespoons Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix well, kneading just enough to form a dough.
Form into balls, place on cookie sheet. Cris-cross with a fork (for the traditional pattern) and dust with granulated sugar. Bake, 350 degrees about 20 minutes, till bottoms are browned slightly.

This is being shared on Peanut Butter Dishes

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah!

A Happy Hanukkah to all!

For those of you who are Jewish, here's a fun recipe I spotted today - easy to make vegan if you use vegan chocolate:

Apricot Filled Hanukkah Gelt

And, some music to play while you cook:
From the Maccabeats
From Matisyahu

And, a nice site I found of Vegan recipes for the Holiday:
Vegan Hanukkah menu

For us who are Christian, this is a good time to re--read about Jesus' observance of Hanukkah (which is also known as the "Feast of Dedication" in many translations. The passage starts on verse 22, about 1/2 way down the page.

Also, to read the Books of Maccabees in the Bible, or to do some online research about them (there are many nice online summaries of their content).

Here are some pictures I took a few years ago of a  Catacomb Church of St. Solomoni in Paphos, Cyprus.

Agia (Saint) Solomoni was a devout Jewish Mother before the time of Christ. She and her seven sons courageously gave their lives because they would not deny their belief in God. The books of Maccabbes in the Bible tell about her, and the Jewish Feast of Hannukah is a feast that celebrates the final victory of those who were faithful to God in those times. This is an Christian Church from the earliest days of Christianity that was built in a Catacomb and  that honored her and her love for God. As you can see from the modern touches, Christians are still praying there & remembering her! 

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Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
Another Super-Simple Variation from your own Slice & Bake Dough. Form Dough in balls, place on cookie sheet, flatten slightly, make an indentation with a finger or thumb, and fill indentation with Vegan All-Fruit Spread (jam with no sugar added). Bake 350 degrees, about 20 minutes, till bottom edges are brown.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Super Simple! Now that you have your own vegan sugar cookie dough, stir in vegan chocolate chips, shape in balls and flatten slightly with your hand. Bake 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 20 minutes (till brown around bottom edge). If you like a slightly richer, crispier cookie, reduce Applesauce by 1 Tablespoon and add 1 more Tablespoon of Oil when making the dough.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
1 cup   Vegan Cookie Mix
2 Tablespoons  applesauce
3 Tablespoons light tasting oil (I used Sunflower Oil)*
Knead just to blend ingredients, Mix in desired amount of Chocolate chips, form in balls & flatten slightly on ungreased sheet

To Bake:
Place on cookie sheet (these don't spread very much, so you don't need a lot of room between them, just a little). Bake, 350 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes.

To Freeze Dough:
Form in balls, and lay on a lined cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer. When the balls of dough are frozen, pop them into a zippered plastic bag. Balls of dough may be removed in desired quantity, placed on a cookie sheet, and put straight into your preheated oven.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just in time for Christmas - Make your Own Vegan Cookie Mix!

A Variety of Vegan Cookies made from one Mix
There is a popular misconception that vegan food is always healthy food. Not so. Here's a fine example : )
In the interest of full disclosure: I have tried to make these LESS UNhealthy than some other cookies. But, there's still enough junk in them that they shouldn't be a dietary staple. They're a Christmas treat that has no eggs, butter or saturated fat. But, they still have sugar & oil & white flour in them (or, if you choose, whole wheat flour - your call).

There are two ways to make the mix 1) as a pantry mix that can be whipped up at a moment's notice OR 2) as a slice-and-bake refrigerator or freezer mix.

Vegan Cookie Mix for the Pantry
A canister of homemade Vegan Cookie Mix
Measure into canister, shake & store
4 1/2 cups Flour (your choice - unbleached flour or whole wheat pastry flour)*
2 cups Sugar (your choice, brown, white or turbinado/raw sugar)**
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt

*Whole Wheat Pastry Flour will give a mild whole-wheaty flavour, as well as brown colour. For a recipe most like the sugar cookies you're used to, use white flour.
**Brown or Turbinado Sugar won't change the flavour much, but will give a brown colour that might not be visually desirable for some decorative cookies. White sugar will give the most traditional look and taste.

Vegan Slice & Bake Sugar Cookie Dough
1 cup   Mix
2 Tablespoons applesauce
3 Tablespoons light tasting oil (I used Sunflower Oil)*
Knead just to blend ingredients, slice & bake on ungreased sheet

To Bake:
Place on cookie sheet (these don't spread very much, so you don't need a lot of room between them, just a little). Decorate with colored or white sugar, if desired. Bake, 350 degrees, about 22 minutes. Cool for the best texture.

Use this Master Recipe to make
 Vegan Brownie Snowball Cookes
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Vegan Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
Vegan Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )
Vegan Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies
Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

Slice And Bake Dough with Unbleached Flour & White Sugar

Dough made with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour & Brown Sugar

Vegan Sugar Cookies from your own Mix