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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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Oat Nut Fruit Gems
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Pz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


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. 


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.

 


Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa

(Rachel, the daughter)

I’m heading out to drop Jackson off with his Mimi (Jared’s mom) for a couple of hours this afternoon. This is the third day in a row that she has offered to help out with Jackson so I can work on the book. Although she insists it is all her pleasure, I’d like to let her know how much I appreciate her help.

In my husband’s family, steak is probably the most revered food item… followed closely by chips and salsa. They aren’t into chocolates or sweets. I know, GASP! Their idea of dessert is a bowl of salty popcorn. But they love their meat and potatoes and their chips and salsa. Since steak is an awkward gift for a vegan to give, I often jar up my love and appreciation for them in the form of salsa. Occasionally, Rhonda will show up at my door with an empty jar, “In case you or Jared plan on making salsa anytime soon,” she’ll wink.

Last weekend I stumbled upon an amazing salsa recipe by chance. I was out of a few of my staple salsa ingredients and just started throwing things in the food processor to try and whip up a make-do salsa for our Mexican-themed dinner. I was bummed when the food processor stopped spinning and I opened it up to see a thin almost watery salsa. I grabbed a can of pumpkin and added it to the salsa, then found some chipotles in Adobo sauce in my freezer. I gave it another spin and voila, I had a thick, creamy, smoky salsa with a touch of sweetness, a hint of pumpkin, and a nice kick of spice. I was smitten.

I liked it so much I made another batch today (some for us and some to share with Jared’s parents). It conveniently makes enough to fill two 32 oz spaghetti sauce or mason jars–one for you and one to share with a friend. Don’t be surprised when they show up at your door step with the empty jar and a little wink and a nudge, though.

Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

3 tomatoes
2 cups of frozen corn (or 1 can drained and patted dry)
2 small jalapenos
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt
1 14.5 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 chipotles in Adobo Sauce (slice open and remove seeds from two of them)
1 can of pumpkin
1/2 c. cilantro (use it if you like it, but it’s optional)
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. onion powder
1/4 t. salt

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Pour corn kernels on one half of pan. On the other side, put the jalapenos, garlic (wrap unpeeled garlic in foil to prevent them from burning–not like shown below), and tomatoes sliced in half with cut side up. Use a pastry brush to put a small amount of olive oil on the tomatoes and corn. Sprinkle tomatoes with a touch of sea salt. Roast for 20 minutes.

In a food processor, add all the remaining ingredients except the corn, plus the tomatoes and jalapenos (you may want to seed the jalapenos if you don’t like a lot of spice–you can always add the seeds back in if it’s not spicy enough). Squeeze the garlic from its peel into the food processor bowl. Process until everything is chopped and blended to the desired texture. I went for a smooth texture on mine. Stir in corn. Serve with chips.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Mm
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


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


“Mess o’ Golden Fish” in Buttery Lemon Sauce

Mess o’ Golden Fish in Buttery Lemon Sauce

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday was one of those Sunday afternoons that Greg and I love.  I’d popped a roast in the oven before church and then Greg’s sons, a  daughter-in-law , one nephew and one grandson showed up to enjoy a meal on the back porch.  These are special days as we know summer is waning, the leaves are turning, but for now there are still flowers and green grass and perfect 70 degree weather.

Meals for our big gang of kids (even half our crew) means lots of food, mess, dishes. A virtual kitchen disaster, since I am a fast cook, but not a tidy one.   In addition to lunch, I decided to make a quick casserole for my stepson to take home to his family as well.  (Tortilla Flower Pie.) They adopted little six-year-old Anthony this year, and suddenly became foster parents to a toddler last week.  At minimum, I felt, they deserved a night off from cooking.  So more pots and pans were added to the sink creating a virtual mountain dirty dishes.

I took a deep breath and dove in to Dish Mountain, rinsing and washing with gusto, when I felt… not a few drops, not a trickle,  but a sudden wave of warm water flooding my feet.  A broken pipe. Several trips to the hardware store, lots of under-sink-laboring, not a few choice words, and many hours  later…the pipes still leaked like an artsy under-the-sink fountain.

I loaded the dirty dishes into a big ice chest on wheels and alerted my neighbor that I might be rolling up to her door,  the Bag Lady of Dirty Dishes, to borrow her sink. Thankfully a plumber showed up today and miraculously fixed the issue, to the tune of $200.00.

Welcome to reality. It is messy.  “Mama said there’d be days like this,” and all that.   I’ve found, however, that life’s “little aggravating interruptions” get a lot easier to deal with once you accept this truth: About 20 to 30 percent of life is handling hassles.

I’ve found I don’t lose my cool over life’s inconveniences when I…

1) Take care of it – or delegate….or hire someone to take care of it ASAP without wasting time stewing

2) Find something funny in the situation to write and laugh about

3) Remember that it is not a Greek tragedy, it is not cancer,  it is not permanent. (This post will appear on 9-11, a reminder of how petty almost all our so-called ‘problems’ really are.)

4) I am not being picked on by God, stuff happens to everybody.  Build “yucky interruptions” into weekly expectations

5) Try to think of myself as Molly Brown, and do my best to be that jolly, comforting, brave woman who makes the best of a sinking ship situation.

Or in my case, a sinking sink situation.

I had just a few minutes tonight to prepare dinner after the plumber left and the kitchen was put back in order. (Thank you to my husband and nephew for doing this for me. A gift!)  What I wanted to make for supper was four perfectly formed and nicely browned fish fillets.  What I got, instead, was a mess, as some of the fish stuck to the pan, and the meat was so fresh and flakey that it began falling apart.  Then I remembered something a pro photographer said at the Foodista Blogging convention, “Life is messy. Make some of your photos messy.” Well, then…O-KAY!

Though this “mess o’ fish” dish did not turn out perfectly formed fillets, it tasted amazing.  In fact, the broken pieces allowed the lemon-butter-wine sauce to better saturate the fresh white cod,  resulting in moistness and flavor in every bite.  The family served themselves whatever bits and pieces that looked most tempting to them.

The moral of today’s post is this: When life gives you lemons, slice them and use them to decorate your latest culinary mess.  You might find you’ve fouled up your way into a new recipe masterpiece.

“Mess o’  Golden Fish” in Buttery Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter for browning fish

2 smashed garlic cloves

1.5 lb. white flakey fish fillets (I used cod, but you could use halibut, tilapia, mahi-mahi, catfish or sea bass)

1 large lemon, cut in half

2/3 cup white wine

1 T. butter (for sauce)

1 T. brown sugar

Sea Salt to taste

Few basil leaves or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle fish fillets very lightly with sea salt on both sides.

Put 2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter and 2 smashed garlic cloves into a large skillet over medium high heat.  As soon as it is nice and bubbly, stir to let garlic permeate the oil and butter, then add fish.  Turn fish when it is golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes or less.  Don’t worry if it comes apart when you turn it: messy is fineMessy is good.

Brown the other side of the fish.  With a wide spatula, remove fish from pan to a large serving platter with about 1 inch high sides, and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. (I used a round Corning Ware tart pan.)  In the same skillet, add 2/3 cup white wine, another tablespoon of butter, 1 T. brown sugar and juice from ½ the lemon.  Let this mixture simmer and bubble until the sauce is reduced by about a third.  Season with salt to taste at this point.  Pour the sauce over the “mess o’ golden fish” and garnish with lemon slices (from the other ½ lemon) and a few sprigs of fresh parsley or basil.  Serve family style with a spoon for dipping sauce.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Mess o’ Golden Fish in Buttery Lemon Sauce
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Gp
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Pumpkin Pie Dip with “Autumn Leaf” Apples (Vegan)

Pumpkin Pie Dip for “Autumn Leaf” Apples (with Extra Toppings for Double Dipping)

(Becky, the Mama)

Autumn. Nip in the air.  Pumpkin Lattes and Pies. Crisp sweet apples. Back-to-School…..

I was thinking today about the days when my children were young and how hard it was for me to organize my own purse, much less try to get four children enrolled in school.  I remember one day in late August, I took my youngest child Gabe with me to fill out the paperwork required to finish up enrolling his older three siblings in Lone Oak Elementary. I was at the school’s library, sitting in a pint-sized child’s chair, scooted up to a big a round table with a stack of intimidating forms in front of me. I had to concentrate so hard to remember all the kids’ birth dates and Who had What Vaccinations When — all while trying to keep one eye on three-year-old Gabe.  Thankfully, my little boy was keeping himself entertained, quietly roving around looking at the childrens’ books on the shelves.  He wasn’t even pulling them off the shelf, but seemed to be happy just gliding along touching the books.  What a good boy, I thought.

It was only after I finished the final form  and looked up that the truth came into clear focus.  Gabe had found a brand new book of postage stamps in my purse and had been busily licking and sticking all of them to the library shelves, as he quietly walked and browsed.  As an absentminded mom of four, this sort of thing happened with great regularity, which meant I never lacked material for my books,  but also meant I was always exhausted.

To exhausted hard-working mothers of young children everywhere, here’s a hug and a super simple recipe for a Back-to-School pumpkin spice treat that I think you will love as much as your kids will. I’ve seen a few recipes for something similar on Pinterest,  but these recipes call for Cool Whip and powdered pudding mix, and I really try to avoid food with ingredients with alien names I cannot pronounce.

This recipe is creamy and tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, but uses real food, and most of it is good for you! (Bonus: it is also vegan and dairy-free.) 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. (Or for “grown up parties” with less mess, guests can spoon desired toppings over their dipped apples on pretty plates.) I used ground almonds and mini-chocolate chips, but you could use coconut flakes, hemp seeds, crushed cereal, granola, or finely chopped (or ground) candied ginger. So many possibilities, probably sitting on your pantry shelves right now!

A word about this recipe: It uses canned coconut milk, and it needs to be the full fat kind, preferably organic – the type that separates into a solid lump cream and liquid in the can.   I’ve found that I can just shake the can when I’m at the grocery store (typically coconut milk is on the Asian aisle) next to my ear, and if it does not slosh, then it has already separated and is exactly what I want!  I always keep a couple of cans in the fridge so that they are ready for whipping and serving in a variety of recipes, such as this one. I actually prefer it to “cow cream,” even though I am not on a dairy-free or vegan diet. You can serve this fruit dip right away, but it will get creamier and fluffier in texture if you refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

Pumpkin Pie Dip for “Autumn Leaf” Apples

Makes 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

1 can organic whole fat coconut milk, divided — separate “cream” from “milk” (Thai Kitchen, ORGANIC,  not “lite” brand always works for me and is readily available in most regular grocery stores in the Asian aisle.)

1/2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin – fresh or from a can

2 t. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 t. cinnamon plus ½ t. nutmeg and ½ t. ginger, 1/4 t. ground cloves)

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

3 T. brown sugar

2 t. maple syrup

Extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (Saigon cinnamon is especially good)

Some of the ingredients that go into this wonderful pumpkin spice dip

Small cups of toppings of your choice for “double-dipping” apple slices: mini–chocolate chips, ground or finely chopped nuts,  seeds (hemp, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower), coconut, crushed graham crackers or cereal…use your imagination and what is in your pantry!

Sliced apples for dipping, about one apple per person. (An assortment of Green and Red and Yellow apple slices are so pretty on a plate — looks a little like autumn leaves.)

Directions:

Using a mixer, whip the solidified “cream” part of out of the can of cold, full fat coconut milk. Add the pumpkin and whip again until creamy. Slowly pour in the leftover liquid coconut “milk” from the can, continuing to mix until you have a consistency for the dip that you like. (If you are going to refrigerate this before serving, remember the dip will “set up” and become thicker as it gets colder, so you may want to use all the liquid in the can. If you are in a hurry and want to serve right away, you may not want to use much of the liquid.) Add the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the top of the dip with cinnamon and gently swirl with a knife.  Put in the fridge for an hour before serving, if you have the will power to resist eating it all right away, so the coconut milk will stiffen up a bit and yield a fluffier thicker dip.

For kids: Serve with a colorful array of sliced apples (you can call them “Autumn Leaves”) and small cups of toppings for “double dipping.”  It will be a little messy, but this is part of the fun for kids. Fun treat for after school snacking, Halloween and Fall Festivals, or Thanksgiving dessert.

For grown-ups: For a less messy, more sophisticated way to serve — put little spoons in each of the cups of toppings and encourage “sprinkling” the toppings over the dipped-in-pumpkin pie dip apples, on their individual party plates. You can let grown ups use forks to spear the apples for dipping as well, if you prefer.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Pumpkin Pie Dip for Apples
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-G1
© 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


Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish

Chili Lime Southern Style Catfish

(Becky, the Mama)

As the story in our family goes, one day my father took my little brother David and my little sister Rachel out to the bank of a lake to cast a line and do a little fishing.  If you’ve ever taken children out fishing, you know you do very little ACTUAL fishing.  It’s mostly about putting on lost bait and untangling lines.   David was probably about eight at the time, and Rachel about age five.  To this day, my sister is an “observer” and “information gatherer.”  If you saw Friday’s post you know my sister also grew up to write humor, but where I tell stories (often about the messes I seem to get in with uncanny regularity),  Rachel is more Seinfield-like, finding humor in everyday quirky observations.

Anyway, she keenly observed my brother cast line after line with a ball of catfish bait attached to the hook.  We called this horrid, sticky black concoction, “stink bait,” and to this day I don’t think I’ve smelled anything worse in my life,  including my teenage sons’ gym socks.   Apparently, however,  catfish adore it.   My father and brother would each cast their  lines, and when they reeled them in, it would come back empty — the bait gone, but no fish — over and over and over again.   Rachel took all this in, and about the fifth time the bait disappeared she shook her head slowly back and forth, and dryly concluded,  “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”   To this day we chuckle knowing she assumed one fish and one fish only consuming all that bait. From then on when anyone in our family declared they were eating too much and feeling “stuffed,”  someone would pipe up with, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”

If, however, you are lucky enough to be better at catching catfish than feeding them,  then…boy,  do I have a recipe for you!  And if you don’t have access to a pond or lake, no worries.  It is easy to find good fresh farm-fed catfish in larger supermarkets and most of it has never been frozen.  This easy recipe turns out a fish that is crunchy, slightly spicy with a great lime tang on the outside,  moist and flakey on the inside.  This is a slight twist on a southern favorite that is wonderful with a side of coleslaw and some oven-broiled sliced potatoes. (Recipe for these potatoes coming up this week!)

NOTE: Rachel and I are staring at the final months before a book deadline, and in order to have time to write it, we’re going to begin posting this food blog three days a week instead of five.  Typically this will be Monday, Wed, and Saturday.

CONGRATULATIONS to Erin MacPherson AND Megan DiMaria!  Both of you will be receiving a free copy of my sister’s new book, The Well-Lived Laugh.  Thanks so much for participating on Friday.

Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish (with Oven Baked Potato Rounds)

Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish

Ingredients:

4 medium sized catfish fillets

1 c. cornmeal

1 t. grill seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper and 1/4 t. garlic powder)

1 t. Tajins chili-lime spice (If you don’t have this, substitute 1/2 t. ground red pepper and zest of one lime)

Tajin chili lime spice — usually near Mexican food aisle of grocery. You can also order it from Amazon. Delicious, too, on fresh mangos and pineapples.

1 fresh lime, cut in half

sea salt

1/2 cup healthy oil — I like a combination of coconut and olive oil (to equal about 1/4 inch in your pan of choice)

Directions:

Heat oil in iron skillet until it is sizzling hot, on medium high.  Gently rinse fish fillets with fresh water and pat dry.  Squeeze a little fresh lime juice over all the fillets, both sides. Then sprinkle both sides of fillets with some good sea salt.   Pour cornmeal on a plate or shallow wide bowl and mix in the grill seasoning and chili lime spice.  Place fillets, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture pressing the fish into it until it is lightly coated all over.

Using tongs, lay each fillet into the sizzling oil.  Let cook until the bottom is golden brown and crisp,  then turn over and cook the other side.  Don’t crowd the pan too much, cook in batches.

When done,  remove to a paper towel and let any of the extra oil drain off.   Test a bite to see if it needs more seasoning and if so sprinkle with additional Tejon or sea salt while it is still hot.   Serve with tarter sauce or fresh lemon or lime, or cocktail sauce.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
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