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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Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a face lift.

A childhood favorite, Mexican Salad, gets a facelift.

When I was a kid, a staple quick dinner in our house was Mexican Salad. You know, chopped ice berg or romaine lettuce, Ranch Style Beans, tomatoes, shredded cheese, catalina dressing, all topped off with a bag of fritos. Adding fritos to lettuce is a sure fire way to get kids to eat their greens.

This week I got invited to a Craft Night at a friend’s house. Let me just pause to say, wow. This working mom of two young kids hosts craft nights at her house every few months for 20-30 women. She gathers all the supplies, plans games and doorprizes, and even cooks dinner for everyone. People who handle this type of entertaining with ease simply amaze me. When I grow up, I want to be more like my friend Autumn.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

Festive decorations, silly games (I drew that picture on my head), and adorable crafty ornaments.

The menu was a taco bar with requests for guests to bring a side or dessert. When I’m not sure there will be much for a vegan to eat, I like to bring a hearty side that will work as a main dish for me, but compliment the host’s meal and be a yummy side for others. That childhood Mexican Salad popped into mind as a perfect compliment to a taco bar. I decided to give it a facelift though. The thought of bottled dressing, packaged fritos, and flavorless iceberg lettuce made me cringe a little. Instead, I made a homemade sweet and spicy catalina dresssing using honey and a chipotle pepper. Because I needed the dish to travel easily, I decided to use kale instead of romaine or ice berg. Kale can be dressed ahead of time without wilting, making it the perfect green for make-ahead salads. Plus it’s a beautiful deep green, adding color to the table and it packs a ton of nutrition, not my first priority for party food, but certainly a bonus. Instead of fritos, I fried tortilla strips and sprinkled them with chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Covered in crispy fried chips, kale never looked so good!

I loved loved this. A few guests found it to be a little on the spicy side, so if you don’t like spice, you can seed the chipotle and use paprika instead of chipotle powder on the chips. You’ll still get all the flavor without the heat.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Delicious, filling, entree or side salad.

Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad

Serves 2-3 entree servings, 6-8 side servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce (freeze remaining chipotles for future recipes) (remove seeds for mild version)
1/3 c. sweet onion chopped
1/3 c. organic ketchup
1/3 c. vinegar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. honey (or agave)

Salad:

1 large bunch of kale or 2 small bunches, washed and torn off spine
2 cans vegetarian chili beans (I used Bush’s brand), drained and lightly rinsed
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced

Tortilla Strips:

8 corn tortillas, cut into small strips
canola oil
salt
chipotle chili pepper powder (if you can’t find this, paprika or smoked paprika will work too)
1/2 a lime

Directions

In a blender, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You'll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Sweet, tangy, spicy. You’ll never want a bottle of boring Catalina dressing again!

Put the kale in a large bowl and make sure the pieces are bite size. Pour in the dressing and use your hands to massage it into the kale. Get in there and really rub it in. You want to break the fibers of the kale down so it’s easier to chew.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

The secret to good kale salads is to massage the greens.

Gently stir in beans, tomatoes and avocados. (If you aren’t serving soon, hold off on chopping and adding avocados until you are about to serve.)

In a heavy duty skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil on medium heat. When oil is ready it will sizzle when you drop a tortilla strip in. Drop in a handful of tortilla strips at a time, fry for 1-2 minutes until they are crispy. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with just a little chipotle powder, salt, and lime juice. Repeat until all are cooked.

Just before serving, add the fried tortilla strips.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

Easy to transport. Just bring the tortilla strips on the side and add them when you arrive at your destination.

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The Title: Honey Chipotle Mexican Salad
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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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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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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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Five-Ingredient, 10-minute Sugar Cookies (dairy-free, egg-free)

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Dangerously quick and easy “sugar” cookies. The sugar is really maple syrup or agave and the recipe is designed for small batches so you don’t have to be tempted by a whole dozen cookies when you really just want one or two.

(Rachel, the daughter)

To offset recipe testing for the book, holiday parties, and of course Christmas baking, I’ve been exercising outdoors for 30 minutes a day. A couple of nights ago Jared and I took Jackson for an early evening walk and stopped to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights along the way. One particular house is lit up like the Griswald’s and has a constant stream of onlookers. We stopped and took Jackson out of the stroller to take pictures and show him the dancing and singing Santa Clause. As I turned to cross the street back to the stroller, I stepped into a pothole and fell hard all the way to the ground. The other onlookers hollered out their car windows a concerned, “Are you okay?” Thankfully, Jared had Jackson and my ego stung more than my hands and scratched up hip did. With a can-do attitude, and a “Let’s get the St. Nick out of here” plea, I held my head high and jogged the whole way home.

In the spirit of stumbling, I also stumbled across something amazing this week, a delicious easy sugar cookie using just five basic ingredients: butter or margarine, maple syrup or agave, flour, vanilla extract, and sea salt. On a whim, I just threw these ingredients in a bowl and into the oven, thinking surely an egg-replacer or at least some baking soda or powder would be needed. But they turned out so delicious!

Because I can’t be trusted with more than a few cookies at one time (seriously, it’s a problem), I made a recipe that could easily be modified to make as few as two cookies at a time. Instead of actual sugar, I used maple syrup in one batch and agave in another. The agave’s flavor is more subtle, but the maple syrup gives a nice depth of flavor. Both are winners.

I have three holiday parties and a MOPS meeting to bring food for this week. It’s that time of year! These are so easy that I’m sure I’ll bring them to at least one of the events.

*****Congratulations to Lori McClellan, the winner of the $25 Wayfair.com gift certificate. We emailed your gift certificate to you. Thank you for all who stopped by and are still here from the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop. What a fun day!******

Everyone needs a good go-to sugar cookie recipe for Christmas right?

Everyone needs a good go-to sugar cookie recipe for the holidays right?

Five-Ingredient, 10-minute Sugar Cookies

Makes 2 cookies (easily doubled or quadrupled for bigger batches)

Ingredients

1 T. butter or Earth Balance
1 T. maple syrup or Agave Syrup
1/8 t. vanilla
2 T. all-purpose flour
Sprinkle of sea salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

With a whisk or spoon, mix the butter and maple syrup or agave. Stir in the vanilla.

Mix the wet ingredients.

Mix the wet ingredients.

Stir in the flour one tablespoon at a time.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients.

Line a pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat and scoop out tablespoon size drops two inches apart.

Parchment paper

If you don’t have parchment paper or a silicon baking mat, an ungreased cookie sheet works fine. The cookies will be a little darker on the bottom and may spread a little more. But they are just as tasty. In fact, if you like your cookies with a little crunch, you may like them better straight on a pan.

Sprinkle with just a touch of sea salt and bake for eight minutes or until slightly brown around the edges.

Modifications

*Add a pinch of cinnamon and dust the tops with cinnamon sugar before baking for snickerdoodles.

*Sub almond extract (just a touch goes a long way and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds.

*Make a powdered sugar icing and add sprinkles on top.

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The Title: Five-Ingredient, 10-minute Sugar Cookies (dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free)
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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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Apple, Sausage and Kale Stuffing in Golden Squash “Bowls”

Edible arrangements.

(Rachel, the daughter)

Every year around this time I make one of my favorite fall recipes with the pretty squash I’ve used to decorate my house. The centerpiece takes center stage in one magnificent dish with all the flavors of Thanksgiving–sage, apples, pecans, cranberries, squash, toasty bread stuffing. Sometimes I make it on Thanksgiving day, but we are traveling to my mom’s this year, so we had our annual stuffed squash fall celebration this weekend.

It has quite a few steps and takes a little longer than most of my recipes, but it’s totally worth it. To make a quicker but equally delicious version, you could roast pre-cut butternut squash and add it to the stuffing and just serve it in bowls.

I used Field Roast Apple Sage sausage, Earth Balance, and veggie stock to make this an all vegan dish. Of course, you can sub these with any sausage, butter, or stock you have on hand. If you have any vegetarians dining with you for Thanksgiving, this dish will totally wow them and it makes a beautiful presentation all of your guests will love.

***

A little note to you from us.

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughter and love and joy and happy tears and delicious food. We are incredibly grateful for each one of our readers and all the love and support you’ve shown us as we’ve opened up our kitchens and our lives to you this year. We’ll be thinking of you as we tie on our aprons and make a great big Thanksgiving feast (and a monumental mess of Becky’s kitchen) in Denver together.

Love and gratitude,

Becky & Rachel

All the flavors of Thanksgiving in one beautiful bowl.

Apple, Sausage and Kale Stuffing
in Golden Squash “Bowls”

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 c. of cubed bread
1/2 – 1 T. olive oil (just enough to lightly coat the bread)
1/4 t. sage
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. oregano

——————

2 small winter squash (acorn, golden nugget, sugar pumpkin, kabocha, delicata)
water
2 t. Earth Balance
salt

——————

~ 1 T. Olive Oil
2 links of Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage (or your choice of sausage), sliced into bite size pieces

——————

2 stalks of celery, chopped into half moons
1/2 of white or yellow onion, diced
1 apple, diced
3 stalks of kale, leaves removed and torn into small chunks
1 c. pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup of craisins soaked in 2 cups of warm water
juice of 1 clementine or 1 T of orange juice
1/4 t. Salt
1/4 t. Pepper

——————

1 T. fresh parsley
1 c. veggie stock

Directions

Step 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a pan, toss bread cubes with olive oil, sage, garlic powder and oregano. Heat in oven until crispy and brown. Set aside to cool.

I used a mix of stale white bread and Ezekiel bread to make the croutons.

Step 2. Carefully cut the squash in half to make two “bowls”. You can cut it around the middle or from the stem to the bottom (the easiest way), depending on the shape. If you just want two bigger servings instead of four small ones, you can even just slice the top off of the squash for a pretty bowl presentation. (Search “stuffed squash” on google images to see lots of presentation options.) If needed, cut a little piece off of the bottom of your squash “bowl” to make a flat surface.

Remove the seeds from the squash. (Save the seeds for later and bake them with a little Earth Balance and seasonings for an hour at 300 degrees for a delicious snack.) In a large baking dish, put all the halves cut side down and add about 1/2 inch of water. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is nice and tender (you should be able to easily slice through the flesh with a spoon).

Step 3. While the squash is baking, heat a skillet to medium to medium high. Coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Add sausage and brown on all sides, add more oil if it sticks to the pan. Set sausage aside on a paper towel lined plate.

Field Roast Apple Sage sausage works beautifully in this dish. It is soy & gmo free and has passed the taste test with my omnivore friends.

Step 4. In the same hot skillet, lower heat to medium and add a little more olive oil. Add the onions and celery and a pinch of salt.  Stir occassionally until onions and celery are soft. Add the apples and kale. Saute until they are soft. Lower heat and stir in sausage, pecans, drained cranberries, clementine or orange juice, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Onions, celery, apples, kale, pecans, craisins, and apple sage sausage. Mmmmm. 

Step 5. Drain the water from the squash pan and flip the squash cut side up. Put 1/2 a teaspoon of Earth Balance, butter or olive oil and a sprinkle of salt into each squash half.

Step 6. In a large bowl, combine croutons, sausage veggie mixture, and veggie stock. Spoon mixture into each squash half, letting any extras fill in the bottom of the pan.

I used 2 1/2 squash, but the stuffing is really the best part, so I reduced the recipe to just 2 squash. You and your guests will want to refill your squash bowls with a little extra stuffing. Trust me!

Cover with foil and heat for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and heat for 10 more minutes.

Serve with a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving.

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The Title: Apple, Sausage and Kale Stuffing in Golden Squash “Bowls”
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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

(Becky, the Mama.)

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

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

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

“Yes, I have one egg,” I replied

“Butter or oil?”

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

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

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

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

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

French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

Serves 2 hungry people, 4 kids or light eaters

Ingredients:

4 slices bread

2-4 T. peanut butter

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

1 egg

1 T. milk (dairy, almond or soy)

1 T. Butter

1 T. olive oil

Optional: 1 T. powdered sugar

Directions:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this Thanksgiving Roundup!

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

ENTREES

Topless Veggie Pot Pie

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

**Vegan

Rustic Iron Skillet Pot Pie

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

**Vegan variations listed in recipe

Fresh Corn & Roasted Poblano Soup

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

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

Roasted Cabbage, Sausage & Honey Balsamic Glaze

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

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

Spicy Hominy, Kale and Butter Bean Bowl

Spicy Hominy, Kale, & Butterbean Bowl

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

*vegan, gluten-free

APPETIZERS AND SNACKS

Let kids decorate their own Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts

Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toasts with Pumpkin Butter

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

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

Warm Stuffed Dates

Warm Stuffed Dates: Two Minutes, Two Ingredients

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

**Vegan, gluten-free

Carrot Cake Chutney

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

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

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

Pumpkin Pie Dip with “Autumn Leaf” Apples

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

**vegan, gluten-free

SIDE DISHES

Baked Macaroni & Cashew Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese

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

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf pasta

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

Pecan Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini

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

**vegetarian, vegan variation listed

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

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

**vegan, gluten-free

Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Garlic

Balsamic Roasted Garlic Vegetables

Balsamic Roasted Veggies

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

**vegan, gluten-free

Orange Glazed Carrots

Orange Glazed Carrots

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

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

Sweet n’ Sour Green Bean with Bacon

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

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

**Vegan variation listed in recipe

SALADS

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Fruit Salad with Creamy Dressing

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

**vegan, gluten-free

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

Cranberry Orange Kale Salad

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

**vegan, gluten-free

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine-Maple Dressing

Fruit & Almond Kale Salad with Clementine Maple Dressing

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

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

DESSERTS

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie

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

**vegan

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Bread Cobbler

Pumpkin Spice Butternut Squash Cobbler

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

**vegan

Healthy Apple Crisp

Healthy Skillet Apple Crisp

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

**vegan, gluten-free w/ gf oats

Warm Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

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

**Vegan

Honorable Mention Desserts:

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

Refreshing Mandarin Orange and Pineapple Cake (vegan friendly)

No Bake Apricot Bars (vegan, gluten-free)

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

Coconut Covered Cherries (vegan, gluten-free)

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

Pumpkin Cookie Butter Cookies (vegan)

Superfood Hemp Chocolate Treats (vegan w/ vegan chocolate)

BREAKFASTS

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

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters

Kinda’ Healthy Vegan Apple Fritters (vegan)

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

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake

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

Some hints for cooking for vegans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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