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.

muffin gems 011

 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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Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toast with Pumpkin Butter (Cooking with Kids)

Turkey Toast

(Becky, the Mama.)

Over twenty years ago now, I walked into a classroom in my debut as a first grade teacher.  

And then, I retired after 9 months of faithful service.

I was a great teacher, in that I loved my students, taught them well and had loads of fun.   On the other hand, you may have noticed that most teachers are gifted at organization and rather enjoy (or at least have a knack for) ordering small children to do their bidding immediately. Organization was never my strong suit: just counting the morning’s lunch money and turning it into the office could bring me to tears.   And I’m more of charmer and a cajoler than an “orderer.”

I slept-walked through much of that fuzzy year.  I do remember the day, however, when one of my students raised their hand and asked, “Teacher, why do you have one red shoe and one black shoe on?”   I looked at my feet and sure enough, the child was correct.  The only answer I had to offer was pure mental exhaustion.  

Now that I am a grandmother, however, I get the best of both worlds.  I get to play and create with the grandkids, and have all the time in the world to give them focused individual attention. 

This recipe is so simple and fun for Autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving,  breakfast or snack-time,  that moms, grandmas and teachers can all let their little charges have a go at it.  And as treats go, this is a pretty healthy one, especially if you use a good whole grain bread.

The toast is slathered with a simple pumpkin spice peanut butter, then after you cut it into the desired shapes to create either a pumpkin or a turkey,  the kids can smear it with the pumpkin butter and decorate it with a variety of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips or marshmallows.

Turkey Toast with Pumpkin Butter

 Makes one toast turkey large enough to feed  two to three small children.

3 pieces of bread (I used Ezekiel Sesame Bread), buttered and toasted (Vegans can use Earth Balance butter)

2 heaping Tablespoons canned pumpkin puree

1 heaping Tablespoon peanut butter (or almond butter or any kind of butter you prefer)

1 t. brown sugar

1 T. pure maple syrup

Pinch salt

½ t. cinnamon

¼ t. ginger

 

Assorted toppings, about ¼ cup each in small bowls (or little piles on a big plate)  coconut, chopped nuts, edible seeds of any kind, chocolate chips, dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins or cherries.

Instructions:

Butter & toast the bread (preferably just toast the top by broiling it as it cuts a little easier).

Leave one piece of the bread whole, then cut one piece like this:

Cut the next piece like this:

 

Mix the next 7 ingredients until smooth with a fork in a small bowl.  Spread the pumpkin-spice peanut butter on the toast and assemble the turkey. (I used a large dried cherry for his wattle.)

Let the kids decorate the turkey’s toast “feathers” with the various toppings, then dive in and eat!

 

You can also make three pumpkins, by turning the toast upside down, then cutting the corners of the toast – rounding them a bit and leaving a fat stem, like so:  (Note: Most marshmallows are not vegan, you may just let the kids use raisins for mouth.)

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The Title: Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toast with Pumpkin Butter
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie (Vegan)

(Becky, the Mama.)

I went to visit my daughter Rachel in September, just as the days began to cool with the promise of Fall.  Though, in Texas where she lives, this means the temperatures were in the low 90’s rather than over 100.  .

Still, every Starbucks on our route from Denver to Oklahoma to Texas was advertising their famous Pumpkin Spice Lattes which always puts me in the mood anything made of pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon.  I know that by January 1, I’ll be declaring, “I never want to see another pumpkin as long as I live,” because I will have overdone the nonstop parade of pumpkin lattes, breads, muffins, waffles, cookies and pies through the holidays.

But for now, I can’t seem to get enough of the plump orange gourds.  I created this vegan pumpkin mousse pie for the Two Texas Rachels in my life (My daughter and my sister) with a crust of crushed gingersnaps and salted roasted almonds, a filling of whipped coconut cream, canned pumpkin and spices.

May I just say, ever so humbly, this may be my favorite of all pumpkin desserts?  Ever.

I make an amazing traditional pumpkin pie, which I thought was the best pumpkin dessert in the universe, and I promise to share that recipe on this blog before Thanksgiving.  But I like this pie even better.  It needs to be served very cold, and when you do that, it slices like a dream – like chiffon mousse, like a cloud made of pumpkin.

I love it when a plan comes together.   And I love it even more when I can create a recipe that people with special dietary needs can enjoy alongside everyone else.  This recipe has no eggs or milk.  If you use gluten-free cookies, your gluten-free guests can also dig in without worry.

Update from Thanksgiving 2013:  Served this pie to a big family gathering.  Off all the desserts on the table, this one disappeared first and was voted the best — and most of those in attendance were not vegan or on special diets.

Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie (Vegan)

Ingredients

1 16 oz. can chilled can of  coconut milk, cream only  (Thai Kitchen full fat ORGANIC brand always separates and works well for whipping.  When I see it, usually at Whole Foods, I buy a few cans and  keep them in the fridge.   If in a hurry you can pop a can in the freezer for a couple of hours.)  You want to have at least 2/3 cup of the cream (which will look like Crisco shortening when you remove it from the can), and  more if there’s more in the can.

1 1/2 cup mashed, cooked pumpkin (canned or fresh)

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

1 t.  ginger

¾ t. salt

¼ c. brown sugar (or coconut sugar) (more if you prefer it a bit sweeter,  do a taste test)

2 T. maple syrup

 Crust:

16 Gingersnap cookies (or crumbs to equal 1 c.)

1 T. sugar

1/3 c. roasted whole almonds

3 T. Earth Balance butter (or regular butter if you aren’t vegan)

 

Directions:

Whip the coconut cream in a mixer until light and smooth.

Add pumpkin, spices, brown sugar and maple syrup.

Microwave butter until melted in an 8 inch glass pie pan. (You can use a 9 inch pan but the pie will not be as thick.)

Put cookies, almonds and sugar in a blender or food processor and blend until they approximately as fine as  graham cracker crumbs.  Reserve 2 T. for garnish. Add cookie/almond mixture to melted butter in the pan, mixing with a fork until the crumb mixture is evenly moistened with butter.  Using the back of a spoon, create a pie crust shell in the pan.  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes or until firm.  Let cool completely before filling.

Using a large spoon, gently spoon pumpkin-coconut mixture into the shell. Smooth the top.  Sprinkle with bit more cinnamon. Swirl gently with a knife.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.   Cover lightly with plastic wrap and put in fridge for at least two hours before cutting and serving.

Hint:  This is best served the same day as it is made, as the crust is crunchiest then.

Optional Additional Garnish:  ¼ c candied ginger, ground in blender to texture of course salt; 3 T. toasted pumpkin seeds

Variations:  Rather than make a pie, you can make individual mousse desserts by alternating layers of pumpkin filling with crumbs and candied ginger bits.

Use chocolate or lemon cookies instead of gingersnap cookies if you prefer.

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The Title: Luscious Pumpkin Mousse Pie (Vegan)
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Pineapple Coconut Cloud Cake

Granny’s Pineapple Coconut Cloud Cake

(Becky, the Mama)

My mother, whom my kids and grandchildren call “Granny,” discovered and whipped up this low fat, low calorie light-as-a-cloud cake one summer to rave reviews. It was love at first bite – for those watching their waistlines, and for those who had no need or desire to do so. What our family couldn’t believe, when Mother shared the recipe, was how ridiculously easy it is to make. The cake itself is only two ingredients: an angel food cake mix and a large can of crushed pineapple. Stirred together with nothing but a whisk or a spoon.  Honestly, a toddler can make this cake. And many a tiny grandchild has sat on my kitchen counter and done just that!

Because it is so easy with so few ingredients,  it is perfect for vacation, condo, or beach house cooking.  Today was foggy, damp and chilly at the beach where we are vacationing in Oregon, so it seemed the perfect time to bake a cake indoors.  As I was setting up a spot outside on the porch where I wanted to photograph the cake after it was made,  I looked up and saw this face in the window.  If you can’t read Little Boy Facial Expressions, let me interpret:  “Nonny, I’m ready for cake!”

Someone is eagerly watching his Nonny arrange the cake through the window!

I motioned to my grandson Georgie to come out on the porch where he helped me arrange sand dollars around the cake, then looked on admiringly at our handiwork.

George is more than ready to EAT his piece o’ cake after helping me decorate around it.

Finally time to eat cake!  And all declared it worth the wait and helping cheer us until the sun comes out again!

Granny’s Pineapple Coconut Cloud Cake

 

Serves 12

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

1 Angel Food Cake Mix

1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple

3 cups whipped topping (My mom loves Dream Whip which she makes from a box.  I’m a real cow’s whipping cream kind of a girl. Cool Whip is the most convenient for occasions when there may not be a mixer handy.  (Coconut milk whipping cream is also great… use the fat that floats from the top of two cans of full fat coconut milk and whip,  then sweeten just as you do whipping cream.)

Shredded Coconut (about 1/2 cup for sprinkling on top)

Optional: Toasted, sliced almonds

Directions:

In a big bowl stir or whisk together one box of angel food cake mix and large can of crushed pineapple with juice.

Pour into a large rectangle ungreased pan.

Smooth fluffy batter in a big rectangle pan

Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

To cool, turn the cake upside down propping up on 4 cans or cups of equal height, at corners.

Prop angel food cake upside down on 4 cups or cans of equal height

When completely cool, frost cake with whipped cream or topping, garnish with flaked coconut. (If desired, toasted sliced almonds may also be used.)

Serve and enjoy. Keep in fridge, covered with plastic wrap.

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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

(Becky — The Butter Lovin’ Mama)

When my five year old grandson Georgie was about three and a half, my husband Greg (“Poppy” ) took him fishing with my son, Georgie’s Uncle Zeke.  The thing about Zeke is this:  he is the most optimistic person in the universe.  So he over-estimates the fun and “ease” of everything, while disregarding things like obstacles, mileage, gale force winds, the limits of the human body, gravity, and reality.

Zeke with his youngest son Titus, trying to “fish”

Zeke told Greg that there was a great fishing hole “just a little walk down the road” where they could let Georgie and Zeke’s two little boys (Nate and Titus)  wet a line. Knowing Zeke as he does, Greg should not have been surprised when Zeke’s definition of a “little walk” would turn out to be at least a mile long hike (each way). This,with three preschool boys in tow, not to mention poles and tackle boxes.

Georgie and his Poppy “fishing” — which means mostly throwing in the line and “untangling”

George and his cousin Nate (Zeke’s eldest) fishin’ on a mountain lake

In the end Greg carried Georgie the mile back home on his shoulders, and both of them arrived after their “evening of fishing with Uncle Zeke and cousins,” at our house, exhausted and famished.  Little Georgie disappeared into the kitchen pantry, then came out dragging an enormous warehouse-purchased bag of tortilla chips that was at least as tall as he was.  Tugging the bag over to his Poppy with his last ounce of strength, Georgie sighed and declared: “I want ALL of dem.”

I know how Georgie feels.

Last night for some reason, I was especially craving fruit salad.  On a lark, I whirled some dried cantaloupe I bought a local health food grocery store, with about a cup of creamy coconut milk in my Vitamix blender.  The result was more than I bargained for: it was perhaps the best fruit salad dressing I’ve ever tasted.  I poured this gorgeous pastel orange cream over a small bowl of berries and kiwi, and it was so good, I ate it all, and had another bowl. Then another.  Yes, I ate “ALL dem” berries and kiwi because the creamy dressing was just that scrumptious.

I bequeath this easy delicious two ingredient recipe to you.  If you are like me, this will be your new favorite topping for everyday and holiday fruit salads.  Though I am also an optimist at heart (Zeke’s outlook doesn’t fall very far from his Mom’s personality tree), I promise you I’m not exaggerating.   And if you want to get your kids to eat their fruit, this is a great way to get them  to eat “ALL of dem.”

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Becky’s Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Ingredients

1 cup coconut milk (not “lite”)

1/3 cup chopped dried fruit (cantaloupe, apricots, papayas, or mangoes recommended)

Dried cantaloupe  You can also use dried apricots, papayas, or mangoes in this recipe for similar results.

*If the fruit is particularly hard, or your blender not particularly powerful, try soaking the fruit in hot water for about 5 to 10 minutes, then draining water off before blending

Pinch salt

The two main ingredients for Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing

Directions:

Into powerful blender or food processor, put coconut milk and chopped dried fruit.  (If you can find the dried cantaloupe, I loved it in this recipe.  I found mine at Sunflower Market.) Start it on low and then move to most powerful setting and blend until the fruit is completely emulsified and the “dried fruit cream”  has no grainy pieces in it.  Add pinch salt (about 1/4 t. or less) and blend again.  It tends to thicken up in the fridge as the coconut milk gets cold.  I like it fresh from the blender and also from the fridge.  Delicious both ways.

Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing (Made from coconut milk and dried fruit)

Arrange fruit on pretty plates and drizzle on dressing.   A beautiful side dish, snack or summertime dessert. Coconut oil and milk has some impressive health benefits. Click here for peer reviewed research.

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The Title: Creamy Vegan Fruit Salad Dressing
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Coconut & Chocolate Coconut Covered Cherries (Vegan)

Coconut and Chocolate Coconut Covered Cherries

You know those times when you plan to make one thing and then it turns out to be a completely different thing, and the thing you didn’t mean to make is actually better than the thing you tried to make in the first place?

That’s how I discovered these coconut covered cherries. I just wanted a bowl of frozen cherries with a little whipped coconut cream on top, but as the coconut cream covered the frozen fruit, it froze and coated the cherries. Coconut Covered Cherries…yes please! I, of course, had to try a chocolate version too. Who doesn’t love chocolate covered cherries? These frozen delights make a perfect bite-sized treat when you need just a little something sweet.

They are pretty healthy too. There is only 1 teaspoon of sugar in 15 covered cherries. Coconut cream is surprisingly good for you, despite it’s saturated fat content. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut gets converted to energy as soon as your body absorbs it (unlike saturated animal fat which is difficult for the body to metabolize). It also contains lauric acid which is an immunity booster.

When selecting your can of coconut milk, look for a full fat kind with only coconut and water in the ingredients. Other ingredients like guar gum can keep the cream from separating from the water. Refrigerate the coconut milk overnight so the cream will rise to the top. You want it to look like this with the cream at the top and the coconut water at the bottom. Save the water to use in cooking or smoothies.

When cold, the coconut cream rises to the top.

Life is just a bowl of cherries;
Don’t make it serious;
Life’s too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can’t take your dough when you go, go, go.
So keep repeating it’s the berries;
The strongest oak must fall.
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all.

Coconut Covered Cherries

Rachel’s
Coconut & Chocolate Coconut Covered Cherries

Makes ~15 Cherries

Ingredients

Frozen Cherries
2 T. cream from full fat coconut milk that has been refrigerated over night (see above for explanation)
1 t. sugar
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 t. cocoa powder (omit for plain version)
Parchment or wax paper

Only Five Ingredients!

Directions

In a bowl, mix coconut cream, sugar, vanilla and cocoa powder (for chocolate version) until the sugar dissolves.

Coconut & Chocolate Coconut Cream Ready for Dipping

This stuff is seriously delicious as is. It will be hard to keep little (and big) fingers out of it!

Dip the frozen cherries into the cream and place on a parchment or wax lined pan. If the cream isn’t sticking well, pat the cherries dry with a paper towel. Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until the cream is completely frozen. Transfer to air tight zip top bag or container. Enjoy straight from the freezer.

Other variations: Try different fruits or flavors like maple cinnamon coconut covered bananas. Or try rolling in sprinkles or shredded coconut. Let me know if you come up with a tasty variation!

The chocolate ones reminded me of chocolate cherry ice cream.

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The Title:  Coconut & Chocolate Coconut Covered Cherries (Vegan)
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/15/coconut-chocolate-covered-cherries-vegan


Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake (Vegan-Friendly)

Moist and rich Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

When my little sister  (also named Rachel — my daughter is her namesake) was about eight years old, she went along with my mother to visit a little girl from church who was in the hospital.  (The child had been very ill, but was on the mend and would have a full recovery.)  Apparently the child looked painfully thin to my sister, because Rachel took one look at her then announced to my mother and all standing around the sick bed, “They just need to give that girl some CAKE!”

From that day forward, whenever anyone announced they were feeling poorly, someone in my family would inevitably advise, “All you need is some CAKE!”

I can see why my little sister thought cake would cure anything that ailed a body.  My mother was a champion cake-baker back in the 70’s before she had to get serious about cutting out sugar for her health.  Most Saturdays would find her frosting a homemade coconut or Italian Creme or carrot cake.  We kids would salivate around the kitchen counter in anticipation.  We would eat the cake in small slivers, because our theory was that three thin slices had less calories than one thick slice.

One of the cakes Mother made frequently was called Wacky Cake (some call it Depression Cake) because the ingredients were always on hand (it does not have any milk, butter or eggs) and you simply stir it up in a bowl (no mixer). You don’t even have to grease the pan.  My brother always requested this cake for his birthday with a simple vanilla icing.

My husband had out-patient surgery this morning,  and after I made him a healthy vegetable stew,  I remembered my sister’s advice and decided give him some cake!  In searching for vegan-friendly desserts for Mother’s Day this weekend, I remembered Mom’s old stand-by, Wacky Cake.  My favorite cake is German Chocolate so I created a vegan-friendly  coconut-“butter”-almond  frosting for this cake, but used chopped almonds instead, to give it a bit more crunch.  Success!!  Though I cannot claim that this cake is healthy,  it is delicious, and it is vegan.  I couldn’t resist eating a piece of it while still warm, moist and falling apart.  Heavenly.   If you have vegans in your family, or anyone who cannot eat dairy or eggs, this is a wonderful recipe for a special occasion,  and both the cake and the frosting are super easy.

Warm Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake (Vegan)

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 c. chopped almonds (I used food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, sugar, and cocoa powder and baking soda with a wire whisk. All the rest of the ingredients and whisk again. Pour in an ungreased 9 by 11 inch pan.  Spread evenly. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. (The almonds on top will naturally “toast” and give the cake a delightful extra layer of crunch under the frosting.)

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until wooden pick comes out clean.  While cake is baking, make frosting below.  While cake is warm prick all over with a fork and pour frosting over all.

Coconut Almond Icing

1/2 cup organic coconut milk  (If the coconut milk has separated in the can, use mostly the cream that rises to the top of the can.)

1/3 c. Earth Balance butter

1/2 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

1/2 c. chopped almonds

Mix all of the above, except coconut and almonds,  together in a saucepan. Bring to boil and while stirring,  boil for a full minute. Take off heat.  Add coconut and almonds. Pour over cake and spread evenly.  Serve warm, room temp or cold!  It is delicious anyway you slice and serve it.

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The Title:  Chocolate Coconut Almond Cake (Vegan Friendly)
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