Oat Nut Fruit Gems

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(Becky, the Mama)

My mother, Ruthie, went from loving her sugary desserts (a la last week’s Honey Slice cookie recipe) to a diet almost completely without sugar a couple of decades ago.  A health crisis with her blood pressure and heart, meant major changes in her daily diet – all for the better.  Out went everything white: sugar, white flour and white rice… and in came the brown and fiber-filled replacements.  But, we are not the sort of women to suffer deprivation in our family.  Being the creative and resourceful cook, Mother found several ways to satisfy her sweet tooth while also getting healthier, sporting an adorably slim figure, and having more energy than women decades younger than she!

This is one of my all-time favorite sweet, healthy, satisfying treats that she baked. She served them in a pretty cloth-lined basket at a family supper and they disappeared in what seemed like minutes. Everyone from kids to adults raved about them.

The basic ingredients are so simple:  oats, mashed bananas and grated apples.  From there you can throw in the kitchen sink:  any nuts, seeds, flavorings or dried fruit that you like.   Another bonus is that you can serve this recipe to most of the people in your family (or friends) on special diets.  The recipe is naturally vegan, and if you use gluten-free oats, it is gluten-free and can easily be adapted to use less sugar or made sugar-free.  Kids not only love them, but as you can see from my little helper below, they also love to help make them.

My grandson Georgie, furiously mashing the bananas with a potato masher.

My grandson Georgie, furiously mashing the bananas with a potato masher.

If you want to create warm memories of baking with little ones this Christmas, but prefer not to send them into a Sugar Orbit in the process: this is the perfect mom and child, or grandma and grandchild project, to whip up together.

The texture is somewhere between a muffin, an oatmeal cookie, trail mix, and baked oatmeal.  Made with sugar they get a nice crunch on the outside but are moist and slighty chewy on the inside.  Perfect for quick breakfasts-to-go, they also make great snacks for school lunch boxes and any outdoor enthusiasts in your family.  Wrapped in foil they are wonderful sources of energy when hiking, camping or snow-boarding.

This recipe makes 2 dozen.   Best stored in fridge and then heated for a few seconds in microwave.

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 Oat Nut Fruit Gems

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

2 large bananas, mashed (use 3 if bananas are small)

2 large peeled apples, grated (use 3 if apples are small)

3 cups oats (I like Old Fashioned Oats for the chewier texture)

½ t. sea salt

1/3 c. raw organic sugar (or use other sweeteners such as brown sugar or coconut sugar or even  Stevia, according to taste )

½ c. dried chopped fruit (I used dates and dried cranberries. Coconut also works well in this recipe.)

1/2 nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts and pecans)

2 t. vanilla

 

Directions

Mix all of the above together in a large mixing  bowl.  Spray or oil muffin pans.  Fill them about 2/3 full and gently press down with back of spoon. if you want them to look more muffin-like you can mound them a bit in the middle, as they won’t rise. (No leavening or eggs.)

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Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden brown around edges and top.

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When cool to touch, gently remove from pan.  If not eaten in a day, store in fridge in a sealed bag or plasticware and zap for a few seconds in microwave to warm.

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The Title: Oat Nut Fruit Gems
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French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

(Becky, the Mama.)

I was faced with a true dilemma. We were packing up to vacate our vacation the next morning, our condo cupboards were almost bare and I still had to create something for this food blog.  Normally, I love these conditions.  They make me feel like a contestant on the show, “Chopped,” where chefs are forced to create a 5 star meal out of five unlikely ingredients in a basket.  Say, pickled pig’s feet, Lucky Charm’s cereal, passion fruit, Worcestershire Sauce, and edible fern fronds.

My “basket” was not as challenging as that list, but I was at the end of our book deadline for We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. (Lord willing, it will be turned in by the time you read this!)  The manuscript was absorbing every available brain cell leaving me with precious  leftover neuron’s kitchen creativity. My available list of ingredients were: mustard (2 kinds), Ranch Dressing, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread and four iffy apples.

I put the list on my Facebook status, asking for help.  Within seconds my brilliant daughter came back with, “Do you have any eggs?”

“Yes, I have one egg,” I replied

“Butter or oil?”

“I have about a tablespoon of butter and plenty of olive oil.”

“Then how about a French Toast Peanut Butter Sandwich with Warmed Jelly Syrup?”

What can I say?  My daughter is brilliant. And thankfully, since I am not a contestant on “Chopped,” I am not required to incorporate Ranch dressing, mustard and iffy apples into this recipe.

I had just enough stuff to make two French Toast PBJ Sandwiches for our final morning of vacation,  and they turned out, well….. quite fabulous, actually. Greg loved it and said, “I’d definitely enjoy eating that again!”  It’s a fun way to fancy up a PBJ for kids, or when you are hankering for something a little sweet as a midnight snack with a glass of ice cold milk.  We often do “breakfast for supper” on Sunday nights, and this would be a perfect recipe for those occasions, perhaps served with some sliced oranges and bananas.

One half a sandwich was plenty filling for me, so if you make this for light eaters or children, one portion could easily feed two.

French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

Serves 2 hungry people, 4 kids or light eaters

Ingredients:

4 slices bread

2-4 T. peanut butter

¼ c. Jelly, Jam or Preserves (I used blackberry)

1 egg

1 T. milk (dairy, almond or soy)

1 T. Butter

1 T. olive oil

Optional: 1 T. powdered sugar

Directions:

Put butter and oil in skillet and heat until bubbly and melted, stirring to mix them.  (The oil will help the butter keep from browning and burning.) Beat one egg with the milk in a shallow wide bowl.  Make two peanut butter sandwiches, using as much peanut butter as you like.  Dip the whole sandwich, both sides, into egg mixture and place in skillet.  Do the same with the second sandwich.  Turn over when one side is golden brown.

While the French Toast Sandwich is cooking, place jelly or jam in an oven-proof bowl or measuring cup.  Heat for 10 seconds at a time until it is hot, melted and the consistency of a thick syrup.

When sandwiches are cooked on both sides, move to a plate and carefully cut at a diagonal, propping one corner up on the other for a nice presentation.

Sift a little powdered sugar over all, if you like. (Alas, I had no powdered sugar in my “basket.”)  Slowly pour the hot melted jelly in a zig zag pattern over the French Toast Sandwiches and serve warm.


Laugh, Cry, Cook Thanksgiving Round-Up (Lots of Vegan & Gluten-Free Options Everyone will Love)

The other day while I was, ahem, procrastinating on doing some actual writing, I decided to organize my Pinterest boards. Obviously, that is a priority two weeks shy of a deadline. And while I was at it, I made a Vegan Thanksgiving Pinterest Board with all the recipes I have made or posted that would make lovely vegan dishes at Thanksgiving. Most are mine, some are moms, and a few are from some of my other favorite blogs.

I thought, in the midst of the final edits and recipe testing for the book and what not, instead of creating something new for my post this week, I’d round up some of our favorite recipes from this blog for Thanksgiving. Most are either vegan or can be easily made vegan with a few modifications, some are gluten-free, and a few are neither.

As a vegan myself and friend to many people with dairy, gluten, and even poultry allergies, I hope this list will give others with different eating habits some ideas for Thanksgiving dinner. I also hope it will be helpful to those who are cooking for people like me this Thanksgiving. Serving one or two special dishes for the “weird” eaters in your life is a way to show how much you love and care for them and to let them know you honor and respect their food choices. Believe me, it means more than you can know to arrive at someone’s home and realize they thought of you while planning their menu. It means they think you matter and want you to feel included at the family table. One yummy dish can say all that.

Jared, Jackson, and I will be heading to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Greg and to celebrate turning in our book. Whoohoo! It’s always a fun time when we get together. We laugh. If we’re lucky, we might even laugh until we cry. And of course, we cook!

Enjoy this Thanksgiving Roundup!

Oh, and I’ve updated our recipe page too, if you want to browse all of our recipes for your own holiday inspired pinterest board. 😉

ENTREES

Topless Veggie Pot Pie

Topless Veggie Potpie
You might want to make up another name for your grandmother 🙂

**Vegan

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie
Would be great with shredded Turkey or Chicken, crumbled tempeh, or Chik’n Strips.

**Vegan variations listed in recipe

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Soup

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Chowder
If you are looking for something a little less traditional, this is one of our favorite fall dishes. It would make a delicious alternative for vegan or vegetarian guests. Adding a little Field Roast Applewood Sausage makes this a filling entree.

**vegan, gluten-free (optional vegan sausage contains gluten)

Roasted Cabbage, Sausage & Honey Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Cabbage & Sausage with Honey Balsamic Glaze
I love my mom’s anecdote with this recipe. It will probably still be fitting for some of our family tables following this intense election. “Every good hostess knows that the best way to break up an awkward family debate is to divert attention by cooking something that smells amazing, and looks so delicious that all conversation stops, as wordless lip-licking and tummy-rubbing take over.  This is one of those simple, delicious, comforting meals that could possibly bring about World Peace.  At least at your dining table.”

**Vegan variation listed in recipe, gluten-free (vegan variation contains gluten)

Spicy Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Bowl

Spicy Hominy, Kale, & Butterbean Bowl

Another one of our fall favorites. I make variations of this at least every few weeks in the cooler months. It is filling and nutritious and has lots of bright pretty colors. Sometimes I add diced butternut squash for even more fall flavor. It simmers in one pan in less than 30 minutes and can easily be re-heated, so it makes a great alternate meal for vegans at the table without taking up much extra time or kitchen space.

*vegan, gluten-free

APPETIZERS AND SNACKS

Let kids decorate their own Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts

Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts with Pumpkin Butter

Hold your little ones over until dinner and entertain them at the same time by letting them decorate their own Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts with Pumpkin Butter and a variety of toppings like chocolate chips, shredded coconut, walnuts, and dried cranberries. This is a fun way for vegans to incorporate turkeys into their child’s Thanksgiving experience.

**vegetarian, vegan-friendly, gluten-free friendly with gf bread

Warm Stuffed Dates

Warm Stuffed Dates: Two Minutes, Two Ingredients

These appetizers or snacks are so quick and easy, any one of your kitchen helpers could make them. They are melt-in-your mouth delicious when warm, but still great when they cool to room temperature, making them easy to make ahead and just leave out for the grazers. They also provide quick energy for a busy cook.

**Vegan, gluten-free

Carrot Cake Chutney

“Carrot Cake” Chutney (Topping for Cream Cheese & Crackers)
This stuff is amazing on crackers, but also a fun carrot cake “mix-in” for yogurt or ice cream. An easy and unique treat to serve at your next party or bring to a hostess.

**vegetarian, gluten-free, (chutney is vegan and you can easily sub vegan cream cheese)

Pumpkin Spice Dip for Apples (with Extra Toppings for “Double Dipping”)

Pumpkin Pie Dip with “Autumn Leaf” Apples

This recipe is creamy and tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, but uses real food, and most of it is good for you! The fun thing about this recipe is that you get to “double-dip” your apple slices: once in the pumpkin pie fluff and again in any topping of your choice. A friend of mine has a daughter who can’t have dairy and she told me she’s almost embarrassed to admit how many times they’ve made this recipe. In her words, they “can’t get enough!”

**vegan, gluten-free

SIDE DISHES

Baked Macaroni & Cashew Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese

Non-vegans love this dish too and are always shocked when they find out there is no cream or cheese. Compared to real mac & cheese, this is more like a creamy pasta casserole. With the addition of some chickpeas, I often serve it as an entree.

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf pasta

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

We probably need to retake these pics. It looks much prettier than the picture shows and it tastes amazing. My mom made this for me and I made her promise me she didn’t sneak meat in it. The walnuts really transform into a meaty texture. We both love this dish.

**vegetarian, vegan variation listed

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

This is my go-to quinoa recipe. It’s so easy and with a rice maker, it basically cooks itself while you get the rest of dinner made.

**vegan, gluten-free

Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Garlic

Balsamic Roasted Garlic Vegetables

Balsamic Roasted Veggies

Roasted veggies are delicious on any occasion and even the pickiest veggie eaters often find they like vegetables that have gotten crisp and sweet in the oven.

**vegan, gluten-free

Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

Sweet, buttery orange glazed carrots are the perfect compliment to any Thanksgiving dinner.

**Vegan with sub of Earth Balance, gluten-free

Sweet n’ Sour Green Bean with Bacon

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

A nice alternative to the traditional Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving.

**Vegan variation listed in recipe

SALADS

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Fruit Salad with Creamy Dressing

Perhaps the best fruit salad dressing we’ve ever tasted. This easy delicious two ingredient recipe will be your new favorite topping for everyday and holiday fruit salads. We promise you we’re not exaggerating.

**vegan, gluten-free

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

This sweet orange marmalade dressing goes perfectly with massaged kale greens, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds. Kale is a great green for serving at dinner parties or holidays because it holds up well in dressing. In fact, you can dress this the day before and it will only taste better the next day. Just pull it out of the fridge, and sprinkle with toppings.

**vegan, gluten-free

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine-Maple Dressing

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine Maple Dressing

Another yummy  kale salad option. This one is packed with lots of nuts and seeds, making it a nice filling salad for those who may skip out on the turkey or for your health conscious dinner guests.

*vegan, gluten-free if you sub tamari for the soy sauce

DESSERTS

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Coconut has become a best friend in the Laugh, Cry, Cook kitchens. Even though my mom eats dairy, she too is hooked on the wonders of the cold cream from a full-fat coconut milk. Whip it into a whipped cream topping, use it for a yummy pumpkin pie dip (see the snacks and apps), and even make this Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie with it. Don’t even bother telling the guests it’s vegan…they will NEVER know. We think it may be the best pumpkin pie either of us have ever had.

**vegan

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Bread Cobbler

Pumpkin Spice Butternut Squash Cobbler

A grown-up autumn twist on an old easy summer favorite that called for a can of peaches and a yellow cake mix. This version uses butternut squash and pumpkin spice bread mix instead.

**vegan

Healthy Apple Crisp

Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp

Buttery, not-too-sweet, crunchy and rustic. It has no refined sugars, but is made with natural coconut sugar and tad of pure maple syrup. The topping has no flour: it is all oats and nuts and seeds, giving it a fabulous crunchy texture. It is loaded with fiber and protein, a comforting autumn dessert, and healthy enough to serve the next day for fruit-nut breakfast oatmeal – re-heated and served with a little milk, cream or almond milk.

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf oats

Warm Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

A vegan version of a German Chocolate Cake that my mom keeps bragging about.  Mom, can I make this my official request for this to be served at our Thanksgiving? Thank you! 🙂

**Vegan

Honorable Mention Desserts:

We have so many yummy desserts, but this post is getting super long, so I’ve just linked to a few more worth checking out.

Refreshing Mandarin Orange and Pineapple Cake (vegan friendly)

No Bake Apricot Bars (vegan, gluten-free)

Blueberry Oat Nut Bars (vegan and gluten-free friendly — see Rachel’s variation in the comment section)

Coconut Covered Cherries (vegan, gluten-free)

Powerhouse Chocolate Pudding Pie (vegan, gluten-free option)

Pumpkin Cookie Butter Cookies (vegan)

Superfood Hemp Chocolate Treats (vegan w/ vegan chocolate)

BREAKFASTS

Yes, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day…even on Thanksgiving. No one wants the cook to pass out from low blood sugar levels in the middle of prepping dinner.

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters (vegan)

Sweet Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal (vegan, gluten-free friendly)

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake

Healthy Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal (vegan, gluten-free friendly)

Some hints for cooking for vegans

Some of your favorite dishes can be easily modified for a vegan guest if you just know a few tricks.

Eggs: 1 T. of flax meal mixed with 3 T. of warm water will gel up in a few minutes and can be used as an egg substitute in most baked goods. 1/2 a banana also usually works in sweet breads or muffins.

Butter: Earth Balance is a delicious vegan butter substitute. In fact, if you already use margarine, you’ll hardly notice a difference int the taste. It is readily available at Whole Foods and Krogers here. My small town Wal-Mart even started carrying it.

Milk: Unsweetened almond milk is my favorite substitute for most of my cooking. It has a very mild taste so it doesn’t overpower a dish. Soy milk seems to have the best results for baking cakes and cupcakes though I usually use almond milk anyway because it’s what I have on hand.

Buttermilk: Add 1 T. of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 c. soy milk (soy does work best for this trick) and let sit for about 10 minutes. (FYI, this trick happens to work with cow’s milk too, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand and aren’t dairy-free.)

Meat: Don’t assume that the vegans in your life will be thrilled with a fake chicken breast as their main entree. Some will, but many of us, especially the ones who technically try to follow a plant-based diet, don’t actually eat many of those processed fake products. I have found a few that I like: Field Roast Applewood Sausages are my favorite meat substitute. They are GMO and soy-free and taste delicious. I’ve used the Chick’n Strips a few times too and those are pretty good on a pizza or something. Whole Foods has a Chick’n Salad in their deli that is quite good. I like cooking with tofu, but it’s taken me some time to learn how to make it taste good. Really, you don’t need fake meat or even soy to have a filling meal. Lentils, split-peas, chickpeas, and beans are all healthy filling options and can easily replace the meat in a lot of recipes.

Cheese: Vegan cheese substitutes are getting better and better all the time. Daiya is the most common shredded cheese substitute. It’s pretty good. We like it on our pizza. Though I don’t think it will fool anyone into thinking it’s real cheese. There are also cream cheese and sour cream substitutes that are pretty good, especially if used in a recipe or dip. I have a recipe on the blog for Nacho Cheese using cashews and sunflower seeds. The cashew cheese for the macaroni (above) could be used for any other casserole type dish as well. Their are also lots of recipes online for different cheeses, like ricotta cheese or parmesan. One of our readers even left a tip that you can make your own sour cream and cream cheese. If you can think it, some food blogger has probably blogged it. 🙂

I hope you find this helpful as you prepare a Thanksgiving meal that includes all the different palates in your family at one table. May the food join your family together in love and respect for one another. May we all honor each other and our differences on this day of gratitude and thanks. 


Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (made with Pancake Mix)

(Becky, the Mama.)

This is our second week of condo living in regions of the U.S. where the sun is shining, the grass is green, the birds are singing and this week, in Oceanside, California, the ocean is waving.   


The sentence (and scene) above is brought to you by our much younger selves, when we each bought Time Share, never dreaming that someday we’d end up married to each another, with four vacation weeks to use up, per year, between us.  (And it is a use it or lose it proposition. So what can we do but go play?)

Neither of us would say that Time Shares are great financial investments; but man oh man, they have been AWESOME investments in terms of fun, extended get-aways  for our marriage. We’re both blessed with jobs we can do anywhere, as long as we have laptops and cell phones.

Some ways that we save money and also get business done while we’re away:

1) We drive instead of flying whenever possible, getting crazy good deals on hotels using Hotwire.com or Priceline.com.  I stock up on books on tape from the library (Greg listens with earphones while driving),  and we have wifi – via his cell phone– and a plug for my lap top (goes in the cigarette lighter)  in the car, creating a roving office-on-wheels. I get some of my best writing done on the road, my feet up on the dash, computer on lap, pillow behind my head. Greg also sees clients everywhere we go.

2) We always look for places to stay that have a full kitchen, bringing along a couple of boxes of kitchen essentials so that I can cook “on location” rather than eating out.

For whatever reason, cooking is an enormous treat for me, and especially when on vacation. I like the challenge of creating good meals from whatever supplies I bring, plus fresh local meats and produce.

It has been a long time since I’ve baked something sweet, at home or “abroad,” but today  after a nice long walk through an artsy Farmer’s Market with Greg, I began thinking that a warm coffee cake with a crunchy, buttery, cinnamon topping sure sounded good. 

Coffee cakes are one of my favorite treats to make because they typically aren’t overly sweet, they whip up and cook quickly, and it makes its own topping while baking.  If you have a good basic recipe, you can swing it a dozen ways!   Add blueberries or chopped apples, a variety of nuts, a little citrus zest, or even chocolate chips and you can dress up a basic cake anyway you want to go.  The added bonus: you get to eat cake for breakfast.  What’s not to love?

I didn’t bring baking powder or soda with me, however (a HA!) I brought some pancake mix.  Sure enough, I sleuthed up a recipe online for coffee cake made with pancake mix that got some lovely reviews.  I used it as a starting point, played with it a bit, and within 30 minutes… from stir to cut and serve…I was eating a fluffy, moist, perfectly balanced coffee cake.  So good, this will be my Go-To Coffee Cake Recipe from now on.  This recipe makes a small cake (perfect for a couple),  so I plan to double the recipe when I get home and make this for our big family next week, arriving for what we call “Thanksgiving Camp.”

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (with Pancake Mix)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 c. pancake mix, any kind (I want to try Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake mix! Vegans use an egg & dairy-free mix)

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg  (vegans can use fave egg substitute)

1/3 c. almond milk (or any kind of milk you like)

¼ c. butter, melted  (I used ½ olive oil, ½ butter, Or use your favorite vegan butter.)

Topping:

2 T. softened butter (or vegan butter)

¼ c. brown sugar

2 T. pancake mix (or flour)

2 T. oatmeal (or mixture of oatmeal, hemp seeds, chia seeds)

1/3 c. chopped pecans (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts)
Instructions:

In a medium sized bowl whisk pancake mix and sugar together.  Add egg, milk, butter and stir until smooth.

Butter a small pan, such as a round cake pan.  (I found a small broiler pan in the condo that worked well. It’s smaller than it looks in the pictures, only about 8 by 10 inches. )

Mix topping in another small bowl and crumble on top of batter.  

Bake for 20 minutes.  It will look a bit like the surface of a crater, but with each “dent” there’s the yumminess of melted butter and cinnamon going through the cake. Sooo delicious.  Serve warm and crumbly!!  (Or if I serve it later, I’ll zap a piece for just a few seconds in microwave.)

 This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The title: Quick Buttery Coffee Cake
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Nt
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Healthy Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal (Vegan, Sugar-Free, Freezable for Quick Kid’s Breakfasts)

Jackson’s favorite breakfast is oatmeal. He eats a bowl every single morning. To save time, I make a big batch with thick-cut rolled oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raisins, cinnamon, and bananas every week, then freeze it in ice cube trays. In the mornings, all I have to do is heat up three or four cubes of frozen oatmeal with one cube of frozen full fat coconut milk (I always freeze extras when making a recipe that calls for less than a can). Sometimes I add blueberries, apples, leftover baked sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, or shredded carrots to the oatmeal, but this cinnamon raisin version is so simple and it requires no chopping or preparation at all, so I make it most often.

When Jackson sees me putting his frozen cubes of breakfast in a bowl to be heated, he waves his hands in excitement and runs to his high chair begging me to put him in. He acts like the 90 seconds it takes to heat his breakfast is a lifetime.When I finally give him his bowl, he sets the spoon aside, dips his hand in, and eats it by the fist full. Within minutes, it’s all “gone, gone.”

I feel a little bad that I’ve never made him pancakes or waffles, yet I figure, why change a good (and healthy) thing? Most mornings I don’t have time to have a battle of wills or to keep trying different things until I find something he’ll eat. For months, he has had oatmeal for breakfast and he has never turned his nose at it. This little routine keeps our mornings peaceful, at least long enough for me to have my first cup of coffee.

Full of healthy omegas, sweetened with fruit, this oatmeal is delicious and healthy for kids and adults alike.

Healthy Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal

Serves 4 adult-size portions (8 child portions)

Ingredients

3 cups of water

2 cups of milk of choice (I use unsweetened almond or coconut) or use more water

1/4 t. salt

2 c. rolled oats (not quick-cooking) (use gluten-free oats for gluten allergies)

2 T. hemp seeds

2 T. chia seeds

1 c. raisins

1 t. cinnamon

1 banana, mashed

Directions

In a large sauce pan, bring water, milk, and salt to a low boil. Watch closely or you’ll have a great big mess if it boils over. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) Reduce heat to med-low and add all the remaining ingredients. Cook on med-low to low for about 1o minutes or until all the liquid is just absorbed. Stir occasionally. Serve immediately or freeze for later.

Dry ingredients.

Freeze for later:

I made this batch this morning and served Jared, Jackson, and myself a bowl. What was left filled 1 1/2 ice cube trays  (about 24 cubes). Just scoop it onto the tray and with a spoon or spatula, spread it out evenly among the cubes, pressing down gently to make sure it’s packed firmly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, pop out and transfer to freezer bags.

I usually heat 3-4 cubes of oatmeal with a cube of frozen full fat coconut milk for 60 seconds. Stir and then heat again for about 30 seconds. With my microwave, this is a perfect temp for my one-year old. Reheat times will vary though. If it’s dry, stir in a little milk of your choice.

Toddler breakfast ready in 90 seconds. I usually add a cube of full fat coconut milk to his too, but I used my last cube yesterday.

Variations:

Add pumpkin, leftover baked sweet potato, or shredded carrots while cooking, or stir in strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, almond butter, or peanut butter. Get creative…or don’t…make life simple and stick to one combination you love over and over again. 🙂

Leave out the raisins and add blueberries for a delicious fruity version. Jackson loves this, but it’s a little messier, so I just do it when I have time to sit and help him eat.

 


Tofu Scramble Tacos

(Rachel, the daughter)

Jared, Jackson and I went to the Texas State Veggie Fair this weekend. I’m a terrible blogger and didn’t take any pictures of my food. I blame my hungry toddler. We scoped out all the food trucks and booths and contemplated fresh squeezed juice or mac-n-cheese and a barbeque sandwich, but our eyes kept venturing to the long line behind the Corn Dogs and Fried Cinnamon Rolls. When in Rome, right? What’s a fair without fried food? I stood in the 20 minute line while Jared took Jackson to play on the playground.

Finally, I returned to my boys juggling two corn dogs, a fried cinnamon roll and a handcrafted root beer. We sat on the lawn and indulged. If you’re having trouble imagining how good it was, here’s Jackson’s face after his first bite of fried fair food.

“Fried food, where have you been all my life!?!”

I think this picture says it all. Yum.

That deep fried cinnamon roll was worth every glorious calorie, but as soon as I got home, I whipped up a big kale salad for dinner. My body felt like it was shutting down from all the grease, sugar, and processed fake-meat products I had consumed.  Sometimes you just have to give your body what it wants and then deal with the consequences.

For months after going vegan, I continued to crave eggs. I couldn’t get them off my mind. One night, after a wedding with nothing vegan on the menu, we went with some friends to a bar with a midnight breakfast burrito buffet. I was so hungry and finally caved and ate an egg and potato breakfast burrito. My stomach was in knots for two days, proving wrong the myth that if we are craving something our body must need it.

Lucky for me, I finally discovered a breakfast burrito that satisfied my craving for eggs without sacrificing my vegan diet or my stomach lining.  Tofu scramble looks and feels just like pale scrambled eggs and with a little seasoning tastes eerily similar. Jared has been nagging me to make this all week. It’s truly crave-worthy. If you’re curious about tofu or have had bad experiences with it before, try out tofu scramble.

Tofu Scramble Tacos make a hearty savory vegan breakfast or an easy weeknight dinner.

Tofu Scramble Tacos

Serves 4

Ingredients

2-4 T. Olive Oil
2 small red potatoes, diced (or any veggies of your your choice — onions, bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini…)
1 clove of garlic, minced or chopped
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/2 block of tofu
1 t. salt (divided)
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. onion powder
2 c. baby spinach
8 tortillas (I really like the new Artisan Corn & Whole Wheat Blend by Mission)
16 oz Black Beans
1 avocado, sliced or diced (optional garnish)
salsa (optional garnish)
cilantro (optional garnish)

I used potatoes, spinach, corn, and garlic, but you can easily modify this to whatever veggies or greens you have on hand — bell peppers, poblano peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, zucchini, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens would all be delicious.

Directions

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet, use enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Pan-fry potatoes (or any other veggies) with 1/2 t of salt on medium heat until they are tender, stirring often.  I covered the potatoes to help them cook quicker, other veggies may not need to be covered though. Bring heat down and add the garlic. Stir continuously to keep garlic from burning.

As soon as the garlic is translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan (just squish it up in your hands and break into little crumbles). Add smoked paprika, onion powder, pepper, and remaining salt. Return heat to medium and stir and cook for about five minutes. Add corn and cook until corn is heated through ( a few more minutes). Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted.

Tofu scramble has a texture really similar to scrambled eggs. With the right seasoning, you can hardly tell the difference.

Serve in tortillas with black beans, avocados, cilantro, and salsa.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Tofu Scramble Tacos
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Lk
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Raspberry Mocha Pudding

Rasberry Mocha Pudding, a seriously energizing snack.

Rachel, the daughter

I used to be organized. My house used to be clean. I used to be prompt. I loved those things about me. I was that girl, that girl that appeared to have her life together.

Motherhood is humbling. I’ll leave it at that, without describing the current condition of my home.

This morning was Jackson’s first day of Mother’s Day Out. Last week at Meet the Teacher the teachers gave me a big cut out construction fish with, I’m sure, instructions on what to do with it.

At 11:00pm last night, just as my head finally hit the pillow, I remembered something about family photos for the fish. I think he needs pictures so they can decorate the fish, I thought. Of course, I’ve yet to print a single one of the 2,000 (I wish I was exaggerating) photos I’ve taken since Jackson was born. So I crawled out of bed and ordered some from a 24 hour Walgreens and set my alarm 20 minutes earlier so I could pick them up in the morning. I was so proud of myself for remembering the instructions and for pulling it off, even if I by the skin of my teeth. And though slightly late, we weren’t the last ones to arrive. I’ll take it.

I walked in and bumped into a friend whose daughter is in Jackson’s class. She was holding her daughter’s fish and it was the most beautifully decorated construction paper fish I’d ever seen. It had her daughter’s name in cute little die cut patterned letters, glitter, and a perfectly placed collage of their family’s recent professional photos.

We were supposed to decorate the fish?, I sighed. I thought the kids were going to decorate them! 

I didn’t pull it off. I wasn’t the mom who had it all together. On the first day of “school,” Jackson had a sad blank fish.

Fortunately, he’s one and had no idea he was that kid with that mom.

Later, I got a text from his teacher that said “Good eater! He has done sooo well this morning! Perfect child. :)”  And when I picked him up the teachers commented at how delicious his lunch looked. I may not be the craftiest mom or the most prompt mom, but I’m raising a good eater! He ate up most of his spinach, bean, and avocado rice pilaf and all of his grapes, and most of his coconut yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds. He was happy and played well and didn’t cry when I left. He even took a nap on his big boy mat.

Maybe I’m not failing, maybe my priorities have just shifted with motherhood.

But you better believe he’ll have a pimped out fish to bring to school on Thursday morning.

After Mother’s Day Out, Jackson stood at the counter in his FunPod stool and munched on Super Green puffs, while I whipped up this deceptively healthy afternoon pick-me-up for myself. If I still worked at an office, I would totally pack this as my afternoon snack for that slump when you just need a little something to nibble on and a gentle jolt of energy to get through the rest of the day.

When you don’t have time for coffee and breakfast (or a snack)…

Raspberry Mocha Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 container of So Delicious Chocolate Cultured Coconut Milk (or chocolate pudding)
  • Slightly less than 1 T. of instant coffee
  • 3/4 cup organic raspberries (divided)
  • Coconut milk (I used canned coconut milk, but I think any creamer would work — half and half, whipping cream, regular coconut or almond milk)
  • Chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts)

Chocolate Coconut Yogurt, Nuvia Instant Coffee, Organic Raspberries

Directions

Blend the chocolate yogurt or pudding and instant coffee. Add 1/2 c. rasberries, pulse for a few seconds. With a spoon, stir in remaining raspberries, cream to taste, and top with  chopped nuts (not pictured.)

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Rasberry Mocha Pudding
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-FP
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


High Protein Granola Bars

High protein granola bars. Easy to store, pack, and send to work or school.

Rachel, the daughter

Jared started back to school this week. He’s been back to coaching duties for awhile, but Monday was his first official school work day, dressed in his khakis and polo and reporting for a new position (same school, new role). And after my mom, Jackson, and I get back from the International Food Blogger Conference in Portland this weekend, Jackson will be starting “school” too. It’s really just a Mother’s Day Out program two days a week, so I can go to my “office” (ie, Panera Bread or Starbucks) and write. It still means getting him his first nap mat and backpack and lunchbox, which is totally what getting ready for school is all about, right? Do you think he’ll need a Trapper Keeper, too!? I seriously fought the urge to buy one when I was at the store the other day. Ten years later and August still feels slightly incomplete without picking out a new Trapper Keeper and non-skid sneakers for gym class. 🙂

Since our lives are about to be on-the-go, I’m testing some grabbable, packable, reheatable recipes for our work and school days. Several of our easy-to-pack lunch recipes were featured a couple of weeks ago on We Are Teachers, a site full of great resources for teachers, and it inspired me to do the same for snacks and breakfasts.

I’m quite adjusted to Jackson and I’s leisurely morning routine of coffee & cereal or a smoothie for me and oatmeal for him. I sip my second cuppa joe while Jackson plays outside. We share a mid-morning snack. I shower. And before we know it, it’s time for Jackson’s first nap. Most days, I really don’t start being productive until 10:00 or 11:00 when he’s gone down for his nap. Breakfast is going to have to be super easy in order to get me up, dressed, and out of the house by 8:30 am.

One of our favorite on-the-go snacks or breakfasts are Luna Bars (Yep, my manly husband is not ashamed to eat The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women). I do love them, but they are processed and aren’t organic and their shiny wrapper gets my one-year old son completely excited and he insists on having a bite too. Then I have to either deal with a meltdown or give him a bite and feel guilt that my toddler adores packaged processed foods. The last two mornings, he has brought me a box of cornbread mix and ended up in tears trying to get me to open it for him. I don’t know what he thinks is in there, but he’s pretty certain if it comes in a box or a wrapper it must be delicious.

I made my own granola bars today that I feel completely fine sharing with my toddler and that my husband can feel truly manly about eating. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free and have almost 8 grams of protein per bar. The only sugar is 1 T. of honey and 2 dates for 8 bars.

Now if I can just figure out how to get them in a shiny package and cardboard box for Jackson.

Easy on-the-go breakfast or snack. (Ignore my unmanicured fingernails!)

High Protein Granola Bars

Makes 8 bars

Ingredients

1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 t. honey
1 T. chia seeds soaked in 3 T. warm water
1/2 c. oats (gluten-free oats will make this recipe entirely gf)
1/2 c. puffed brown rice cereal
1/2 c. finely chopped almonds (or sliced almonds)
1 T. pea protein powder (or your protein powder of choice)
1 T. cacoa nibs
2 dates, finely chopped
1/4 t. cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine peanut butter, honey, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan and warm over medium low heat until melty. Add remaining ingredients and stir until it’s all combined and coated with peanut butter mixture.

Pour onto a parchment-lined pan and spread out to a 1/2 inch thick square. Cut into 8 bars.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before moving. They will harden as they sit out, but are not a really crunchy granola bar.

They fit perfectly into this sandwich/snack container. Confession: I bought and used this in high school, long before having a little boy to pack lunch for was on my radar.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: High Protein Granola Bars
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-DC
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Powerhouse Chocolate Pudding Pie

This treat is sweet and creamy and crunchy and chocolately and HEALTHY. Not just healthy for a dessert or healthy-ish. Every ingredient is nutritious. You could eat it for breakfast or feed it to your kids for breakfast. They’ll think you are the coolest mom, and you will be (for reasons they’ll understand when they are 30).

(Rachel, the daughter)

There’s this cake my mom used to make. You’ve probably had a version of it. It has a shortbread crust, a layer of chocolate pudding and whipped cream topping, and maybe a sweetened cream cheese layer too. In some circles it’s known as “Better Than Sex in a Pan.” I’ve never had sex in a pan, so I can’t attest to that, but I do remember sitting on a bar stool at the kitchen island eating it strait out of the pan and being very satisfied.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had it (the dessert, that is), but I’ve been craving that shortbread crust and chocolate pudding combination for the last few weeks and trying to think of a healthy vegan version. Yesterday, I saw a recipe for chocolate chia pudding on the Engine 2 Diet’s Facebook page. They had frozen it into “fudgsicles.” Clever. Immediately, I was reminded of my favorite crust that I use in my frozen No Bake Apricot Bars. Made out of cashews and oats, it is rich and buttery like a shortbread cookie. It would be perfect for a cold puddin’ pie.

Chia seeds are like a nutritional powerhouse and they have virtually no taste. I put a tablespoon in my oatmeal and my smoothies. They basically offer all the nutrition of flax seeds, except they don’t have to be ground for our body to absorb the nutrients and they don’t have a strong taste like I find flax often does. The seeds absorb liquid and become gel-like, which is how they turn almond milk into “pudding.”

Chia Seeds

Jackson devoured the pudding and the frozen bar I gave him. I used dates to sweeten it, so I had absolutely no reason to feel guilty for giving my one-year old this dessert. In fact, it’s good for him. He needs the healthy fats from the cashews, coconut oil, and coconut milk; the fiber and protein from the oats; the omegas from the chia seeds; and the heart and skin protection from the flavonoids in cocoa powder (a super food for toddlers).

My little puddin’ pie. Why do boys always get the long eyelashes?

Oh, and I assure you, I don’t post a recipe I don’t love…so you know I loved it just as much as Mr. Long Lashes up there did.

Served frozen (as shown here) or refrigerated (as shown at the top of the post).

Powerhouse Chocolate Pudding Pie

Inspired by FatFree Vegan and Oh She Glows (two of my favorite vegan bloggers)

(NOTE: Plan ahead for this recipe. The pudding must sit for at least an hour and up to overnight.)

Pudding

  • 1 c. nondairy unsweetened milk
  • 3 T. full fat coconut milk (from a can)*
  • 3 dates, pitted and chopped (soak in a little warm water if they are tough or your blender isn’t very strong)
  • 2  t. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 3 T. chia seeds

Crust:

  • 3/4 c. whole cashews (raw, toasted, roasted – whatever you have)
  • 3/4 c. regular oats (for Gluten-free, use GF oats)
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt (omit if cashews are salted)
  • 3  medgool dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil, melted

Optional Toppings

Kitchen Gadgets

  • Blender
  • Food processor

Pudding Ingredients

Directions

Pudding

In a blender, combine the first five pudding ingredients. Pour into a tupperware bowl with a lid and add chia seeds. Use a whisk or fork to stir in chia seeds. Stir every five minutes or so until all the chia seeds have started to swell a little and turn light grey. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour, overnight is best. Stir it every so often if you can. You are looking for the seeds to lose all of their crunch and absorb the liquid until it looks like pudding.

The chia seeds immediately start to thicken the almond milk mixture. This is after stirring a couple of times.

Crust

Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a food processor, process cashews, salt, and oats until a fine crumble forms. Add dates and process until crumbly again. Add coconut oil and process until sticky. Press into pan to form a crust. Freeze for five minutes to harden or until the pudding is ready.

My favorite crust for no-bake desserts.

Pour the pudding over the crust and either refrigerate or freeze. Either way is delicious. The refrigerated version is a little crumblier and I’m assuming only keeps for a day or two. I loved it with a few sliced bananas on top. The frozen version comes out in nice bars and if kept covered tightly should keep for a few weeks.

(Update: After two batches and several taste tests, I decided I prefer it refrigerated rather than frozen. Both are good, but the refrigerated version reminds me of chocolate cream pie…mmmm.)

*Freeze leftover coconut milk in an ice cube tray. You can add it to smoothies, oatmeal, or make coconut covered cherries with it later.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Powerhouse Chocolate Pudding Pie
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-CK
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Coconut Cashew Almond Butter

Out of peanut butter? Make your own nut butter in a jif.

(Rachel, the daughter)

There’s an old story in my family that gets told every Arnold Thanksgiving. When my mom was a kid, as the bird was being passed around the table, her cousin sweetly asked in his long southern drawl (or at least this is how it is always retold), “What kind of chicken is that Aunt Ruthie? Tuuurkeee?”

We get so used to eating certain foods, we sometimes forget there is more to poultry than chicken, more to milk than cows milk, more to breakfast than cereal, and more to nut butters than peanut butter.

This morning I reached for the peanut butter jar, but remembered I had served the very last spoonful to my special party guest, Avery, who then declared me the best cook ever (so she is welcome to finish off the peanut butter jar any time). I thought about running to the store to pick some up, but I always have some variety of nuts on hand. Why not make my own, I thought?

I pulled out some raw cashews and almonds and gave it a try, adding a little bit of coconut oil, coconut sugar, and vanilla to sweeten it up. It tastes fresher and less oily, and feels lighter than jarred nut butters. The texture is a lot like the natural nut butters you find in the store (not super creamy like mainstream peanut butter). I can’t wait to try some different variations now. I definitely want to roast the nuts next time and maybe try a cinnamon maple almond version or a honey roasted cashew butter.

If Jackson could talk, he just might ask, “What kind of peanut butter is that Momma? Cashooo?” But since he can’t, he’ll probably just grab my face, turn it toward his to get my attention, then turn it toward the jar, over and over until I understand his message, “Mom, look at me! Now look at that peanut butter stuff. Now back to me. Now back to the jar. Got it? Me + jar, stat!” I’m calling this the whiplash stage.

Have you made your own nut butter? What’s your favorite recipe?

Coconut Cashew Almond Butter on a Muesli Morning Round with a drizzle of honey

Coconut Cashew Almond Butter

Makes ~ 1 cup

Ingredients

1/2 c. raw or roasted almonds
1/2 c. raw or roasted cashews
1/2 t. coconut sugar (or regular sugar)
slightly less than 1/4 t. vanilla extract
2 t. water
2 t. coconut oil
1/8 t. salt

Directions

In a small food processor bowl, process almonds and cashews until they turn into a thick paste. Scrape the sides down as needed. I didn’t time it, but this probably took at least 5 minutes in my heavy duty Cuisinart.  Add coconut sugar, vanilla extract, water, coconut oil, and salt. Process another 2 minutes until it is creamy. Store in the refrigerator.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Coconut Cashew Almond Butter
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-BL
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved