Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade (Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.

This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)

I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade

(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed

Directions:

In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.

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Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.

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Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks

3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)

Directions:

On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.

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Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.

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The Title: Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade
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Cinnamon Crisps (Easy to Make with Kids)

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(Becky, the Mama. It is the small things you do with small people that you and they will look back on and cherish. I hope and pray you get a little bonding time in the kitchen with young ones this week. Here’s a recipe that will make it easy during a time when many feel perpetually overwhelmed. Love and Merry Christmas to all our Blog Readers and thank you so much for sharing our love of cooking and passing it along to others.)

There is, of course, the Martha Stewart way to make Christmas cookies with your kids when they are home from school this coming week for Christmas break. It looks homey and fun, easy and bonding. Especially when using child actors on a TV set.

What it is, in reality, is a long process involving antsy children, along with lots of sugar, clouds of flour, rolling pins and sticky dough (that will take a jack hammer to remove after it is dry), food coloring stains, and sometimes tears of frustration (from either children or parent). The experience almost always ends with the kids giving up the thrill of “making Christmas cookie memories together,” after half-heartedly decorating one, maybe two, cookies. Then they start begging to go play outside, watch cartoons or play a video game. So Mom ends up finishing up the decorating, cleaning up the mess, and downing about six cookies she doesn’t really need or want that taste like thick sweet cardboard with green and red sugar paste on top.

I’m here to give you Becky Johnson’s (alias “Nonny”) Easier Way Out. (Merry Christmas!) It takes about five to ten minutes to make these “Christmas Cinnamon Crisps” with your children, start to finish. If you use whole wheat tortillas and dust them with organic coconut or date sugar, you can even claim them to be almost downright healthy. A cold glass of diary or almond milk will help balance the sugar with a bit of protein and keep your children off the ceiling from a pure sugar high. Also, these crisps are so light and crunchy, they will not end up feeling like a sugar dough ball in their stomachs. (Or yours.)

We made these for Christmas, but you can use any holiday or seasonal cookie cutters to make this an easy-to-make treat year round.

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Cinnamon Crisps

Ingredients:

2 large flour tortillas, whole wheat or white (I prefer to use the raw tortillas, such as Tortilla Land or Guerrero Brands because they puff up like little sopapillas,  but pre-cooked ones will also work)
1 to 2 T. coconut oil or other healthy oil
Cinnamon & Sugar Mix (1/4 c. sugar to 1 T. cinnamon)

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Directions:

Using good sharp edged cookies cutters, let the kids cut out cookies from the tortilla.

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In the meantime, melt 1 T. coconut oil in a medium skillet on medium high heat. Drop tortilla “cookies” into hot oil (obviously an adult will need to do this part).

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Then gently roll them in a bowl of the cinnamon and sugar, coating both sides.

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Let them cool a bit, but best eaten while warm and fresh! (You made need to add more coconut oil as you cook the crisps.) Cut up left over “scraps” of tortillas into “crazy shape” pieces to cook, coat and eat last!

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Variations:

There are so many ways you can jazz up this basic idea. You can coat them with coconut or date sugar, and use whole wheat tortillas (or even flat bread). You can make a quick vanilla or chocolate glaze and dip one side in (like a donut) and then dip again in crushed nuts or seeds or sprinkles or coconut, like thin tiny donuts. You can skip the cinnamon and sugar and dip in a honey-butter or peanut-butter and honey mixture. Have fun with this!

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The Title: Cinnamon Crisps
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Qw
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Sweet and Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap

These sweet and spicy snap peas are ready in minutes and make a perfect side dish or healthy snack.

These sweet and spicy snap peas are ready in minutes and make a perfect side dish or healthy snack.

I cannot seem to get enough snap peas lately. Since I started working out again, I’ve craved something cool and quick after I exercise. A handful of cold snap peas is a perfect little sweet and crunchy snack for a post workout cool down.

I challenged myself to workout every day for 30 minutes outside, rain or shine, this month. It seemed like an awesome idea the first week when the weather was in the 70s and 80s, reaching record highs for December. As Texas weather does, it abruptly turned from gorgeous 70s to the 30s this weekend. I went from a tank top and shorts and a lovely workout in the park on Sunday…

Resourcefully using the playground equipment for a Sunday afternoon workout/jog with the family.

Resourcefully using the playground equipment for a Sunday afternoon workout/jog with the family.

….to a headwrap, multiple layers, down vest, and gloves on Monday.

Bundled up for our first cold front of the season.

Bundled up for our first cold front of the season. 

Instead of needing a crisp snack to cool down with, I needed something to help me thaw out after that workout. Like a hot bath for starters, and these warm sweet and spicy snap peas that are literally made in a snap.

Two ingredient, five minute side or snack. Sweet, spicy, delicious.

Three ingredient, five minute side or snack. Sweet, spicy, delicious.

Sweet & Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 c. Sugar Snap Peas

2 T. Sweet Chili Sauce (in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)

1/4 t. sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

In a sauce pan, bring the sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly until it reduces by about half. Add in the snap peas and stir until coated and just warmed through. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Here’s a closer look.

Sugar Snap Peas are easily found in most super markets.

Sugar Snap Peas are easily found in most super markets.

I've seen this in the Asian aisle of many grocery stores and at specialty stores like World Market.

I’ve seen this in the Asian aisle of many grocery stores and at specialty stores like World Market.

Bring sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.

Bring sweet chili sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.

Add snap peas and stir until coated with sauce and just warmed through.

Add snap peas and stir until coated with sauce and just warmed through. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

Serve alone as a snack or appetizer, or as a side with something like rice and Teriyaki Tofu or Chicken.

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The Title: Sweet and Spicy Snap Peas in a Snap
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Clementine & Cheese Stick “Palm Tree” Snack for Kids

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(Becky, the Mama)

Sometimes the easiest recipes are the ones we use the most. My grandson Georgie bellies up to the kitchen bar at least once or twice a day and asks for a “Palm Tree,” in the same way a character on the TV show “Cheers” would order their favorite drink.

I walked to his little school the other day to pick him up (it is only a few blocks away!) and on the way out the door, tucked a piece of string cheese in one pocket and a Clementine orange in the other. When he walked out of his Kindergarten class I produced the “goods” and made him a Palm Tree right there on the spot. His eyes lit up with joy and admiration. It takes so little to make a child happy. The orange quenches the thirst that comes from the saltiness of the cheese, so it makes a great all-in-one treat I feel good about giving him.

George on his first day of Kindergarten, here in Colorado, last week!

George on his first day of Kindergarten, here in Colorado, last week!

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Clementine &  Cheese Stick “Palm Tree” Snack for Kids

Ingredients:

Stick of Cheese (String cheese works fine, too)

Clementine orange, peeled

Directions: 

Fan out the orange a little bit on one end and plop it atop a cheese stick.  Serve to your favorite little one,  with a wink and a smile.

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The Title: Clementine & Cheese Stick “Palm Tree” Snack for Kids
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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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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. 


Honey & Lime Tortilla-Sopapillas

(Becky, the Mama.)

Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.  I call this recipe Vacation Sopapillas because I usually have the ingredients lying around the condo or timeshare.  If I were a person of the camping persuasion (which I am not), I would definitely be cooking these babies up around the campfire, using an iron skillet.  Hopefully, however, I’ll never be forced to do that.  My husband bought me this greeting card, and truer words have never been spoken.

I also call these my Vacation Sopapillas because they are so ridiculously addicting that I don’t allow myself this treat on a regular basis.  So I try to only make them on vacation. Seriously, if you cook these… try to eat just one and let me know if it is humanly possible.

This is a recipe you can throw together with minimum mess in a couple of minutes, just for little ol’ marvelous you.  Since they are best eaten fast and warm, I don’t even try to serve these to a crowd.  This a gift you give to yourself, and maybe, just maybe, one other person who you love very, very much.

The trick is to use uncooked tortillas.  If you’ve never tried them, boy, are you in for a treat.  You’ll never go back the pre-cooked varieties again. The brand I like best is called Tortilla Land (click link for $1.00 off coupon) and typically you find them in the refrigerator section of Costco and sometimes Sam’s or Wal-mart.  If I can’t find this brand of tortillas, however, it seems I can almost always find Guerrero brand (click on link for $1.00 coupon) which are soft semi-cooked tortillas, and they are not refrigerated.  They just hang out on the shelves with the other regular tortillas in almost any major grocery store.  Be sure to look for the yellow packaging (as pictured below); they should look very thin, not quite cooked all the way.

The beautiful thing that happens when these uncooked or semi-cooked tortillas hit a very hot skillet with a little olive oil/butter is that they puff up, very much like a big sopapilla. Only without all the work and the frying.  My favorite version of these tortilla sopapillas is simple.  After cooking I quickly slather it with a little butter, honey, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and light sprinkle of raw sugar.  To eat it – you can tear it up in little pieces; roll it up enchilada style; or cut it in fourths, bending it in half, and eating it the way Italians eat flexible pizza.

For variety, I also like filling the puffy tortillas with sliced bananas that have been gently cooked in a skillet with a little butter and brown sugar. Then I roll it up like a burrito and drizzle with a bit of honey.  Cooked apples with cinnamon and sugar make a fabulous filling as well.  The only limits to this simple recipe is your imagination.

Lime & Honey Tortilla-Sopapillas

Ingredients:

1 raw or semi-cooked tortilla (Tortilla Land brand or Guererra preferred)

1 t. olive oil

2 t. soft butter (vegan butter for Vegans)

2 t. honey

small squeeze fresh lemon or lime

1 t. raw sugar

Instructions:

Put 1 t. olive oil and 1 t. soft butter in a hot skillet, and stir until blended.  Put one uncooked tortilla in the pan. When it puffs up and browns on one side, flip it and brown the other side.

Immediately put tortilla-sopapilla on a plate, spread with butter, then honey, a quick squeeze of fresh lime and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

For banana sopapillas: slice one small banana and put in a skillet with a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir just until bananas are warm and absorb butter and sugar.  Proceed as above, only fill the tortilla with warm banana slices, roll like a burrito and serve with a little more honey. Eat with knife and fork.  A dollop of ice cream and sprinkle of cinnamon couldn’t hurt either.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Honey & Lime Tortilla-Sopapillas
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Mz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


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


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


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