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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Selah’s Vegan Macaroni & "Cheese" or. . . Macaroni with Creamy Cashew Nut & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I know my vegan-eating friends will be excited to see this recipe posted but it isn't just for vegans--trust me, it's delicious for the rest of us as well!  There's no pleasure eating healthy food if it tastes like hay.  To make this even more exciting, you can use gluten-free products and have a gluten-free meal.  This is almost too much to bear!

Enough of the fun.  I think you "get it".  I like this macaroni dish even though I'm neither vegan or gluten-free.  But I do like to provide an alternative for friends who choose to or must eat this way.  Regardless of the style of preparation, I can't bring myself to serve something that isn't palatable so it must be "Lois Approved" before it comes from my kitchen.  I'm sure the majority will like this enough to enjoy a good meal. (I know you can't please everyone.) I'll warn those of you who dyed-in-the-wool-Macaroni & Cheese-lovers that this doesn't taste much like cheese but the sauce is so good on its own you won't miss the cheese if you don't dive in looking for cheese. 

This recipe came to me this past summer at camp meeting.  A few of us women (Not men!! Why not?) were asked to serve supper one evening.  It was to give the regular crew a well-deserved break from the kitchen duties of the past week or two.  Macaroni and Cheese was on the menu (which I dearly love) and also a vegan version for anyone who desired this choice.  After everyone was served we sat down to eat our meal.  I had a good serving of the regular Macaroni and Cheese but noticed there was some of the vegan macaroni left in the pan.  I asked if I could have some (I am polite.) and was given the pan to help myself.  I took a small portion, having had less than tasty vegan food in the past, but was happily surprised at how good it tasted.  I ate what I had and had another serving.  It was really good.  Selah, who had cooked the Vegan Macaroni and Cheese, was there so I asked her for the recipe which she gladly recited for me to write down.  I knew it would make a nice addition to my vegan recipe file and I told her I'd blog the recipe so others could enjoy the dish. 

Well, here it is eight months since I first tasted this delicious dish.  Time sure does get away from us.  I've had the ingredients to make this in the cupboard and freezer several months but just never got around to making it until this past week.    We had a church potluck coming up and I knew it was the perfect time to try it out on the unsuspecting crowd (and even better, there was also a woman coming who was vegan).  

I got about to making the dish but had to stop to lick out the saucepan.  Mmmmm....was that ever delicious!  No one licks out a pot or bowl if the stuff inside is nasty.  When it was finished it looked so good in the dish I wanted to eat it for supper but had to restrain myself and eat left-overs.  

Don took a huge serving at the potluck and ate every bite.  I had some and so did many others.  The lady who is vegan enjoyed it very much so I'll count this one as a raving success!

There is a sad note to the story, however.  Chatting after the potluck Ana-Maria mentioned she'd miss Selah this year at camp meeting.  I was so surprised when she told me Selah had passed away some months ago near the end of last year.  I knew she had been sick but was quite shocked at the news. I thought I'd have a chance to tell her I'd made the recipe and published it on my blog. As Christians we look forward to that great day when Jesus returns and we will be reunited with our loved ones and friends. 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You will need a blender or good food processor to make this as the nuts need to be ground fine as a nut butter. And don't confuse nutritional yeast with brewer's yeast.  The two are not interchangeable in recipes.  Nutritional yeast can be found in the health section of most grocery stores or in health food stores.  It has a sweet, almost nutty taste compared to the bitter brewer's yeast. 

Selah’s Vegan Macaroni and "Cheese"
Grease a casserole or baking dish.  You will need a dish that holds at least 8 cups or 2 quarts/litres.  I used a deep casserole dish which worked very nicely with the macaroni. An 8x11½x2-inch dish (this holds 2 quarts/litres) would give you a nice thick layer as well.  A 9x13-inch pan will give you a thinner layer.   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1¼ cups soy milk or any neutral tasting plant-based "milk"
1 small tub tofu or half a large tub (a little more than 1 cup)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon vegan chicken-like seasoning
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric

Blend above ingredients together to make liquid then follow the directions below:

1 cup broken raw cashews, ground
2 chopped roasted red peppers/pimentos, from a jar drained (half a 370 ml or 12 oz jar)
1 package shredded Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (or your own favourite brand)
2 cups dry elbow macaroni cooked to package directions

Optional Topping:  I used about ¼ cup cracker crumbs sautéed in a little vegan margarine to sprinkle on top of the "cheese" shreds. 

Add the cashews to the blended ingredients already in the blender, spoonful by spoonful until well blended and there are no lumps.  Add the roasted red peppers and continue blending until everything is as smooth as you can get it. 

Pour the contents of the blender in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened and starting to come to a boil.  Turn heat down. 

Add ¾ of  the package of shredded vegan cheese, leaving the remainder for the topping.  Stir until everything is well blended and the "cheese" has melted into the sauce.

Remove from heat and mix in the cooked elbow macaroni, stirring until all the macaroni is well coated with the sauce.  Place in prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese and cracker crumbs if you wish.  Bake until cheese melts about 20 minutes.  

This can also be refrigerated before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees at least 30 minutes or until heated through. 

Makes 6-8 servings. 

Place the first lot of ingredients in the blender.  The tofu comes in various sized packages.  Choose one of the smaller sizes.  Selah didn't give me any size but I think anything around 300-350 ml should be fine--just a little more than one cup.

Whiz everything until liquid.

Add the nuts and keep blending until the mixture is very smooth.  I use a Vita-Mix blender so I can skip grinding the cashews before adding.

Add the roasted peppers or pimentos.  
These should be quite soft and will easily blend into the mixture.

Pour everything into a sauce pan and cook until thick and coming to a boil.  It's amazing how smooth and thick this becomes. 

Add the vegan cheese shreds and mix until melted. 

Stir in the cooked macaroni and pour into the prepared dish. 

All ready for the oven.  You can see I used the optional cracker crumbs on my dish.  Bake at 350 degrees until the topping "cheese" has melted.

Doesn't that look delicious!

 Ready for everyone's dinner.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies Decorated for Easter

I was shopping a few weeks ago and bought Easter cookie cutters for the grandchildren.  Ben and Emily have theirs but Lori let me use hers so I can make a few cookies before I give them to her. 

I've had a hankering for peanut butter cookies the last few weeks so I decided I'd make the cookies on the Kraft Canada site.  This is the same recipe that came with a little peanut butter cookie kit available late last year.  The cookie itself is nice and crisp with all that lovely taste of a traditional peanut butter cookie.  I did make a few changes to the recipe but it's basically the same. 

For the Easter egg cookies I coated them with milk and dark chocolate.  I used Royal Icing on the bunny and chick cookies because it gives a nice smooth and hard finish.

Of course, you can eat the cookies plain or mix up a small amount of buttercream icing and go wild with the kids.  Any way you decorate these will be fun with little kiddies helping.  

Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup white sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½  cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt 

For Decorating:
Melted milk and dark chocolate
Royal Icing

Cream the butter and peanut butter together.  Add the white and brown sugars and beat until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.  Stir or sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.  Add to the creamed mixture to combine.  Chill the dough for at least1 hour in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease or line with parchment as many cookie sheets as you need.  I use two cookie sheets with parchment paper and reuse as necessary.

Roll the chilled dough ¼-inch thick on a well floured surface and cut with your favourite cookie cutters.  I rolled my dough in four batches as it is still quite soft even after refrigeration.  Place cookies on prepared pans and bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.

These are ready to eat when cooled or you may decorate with icing or chocolate as I am going to do for Easter. 

Makes about 5 dozen cookies depending on how large or small you make them. 
*A little note about parchment paper.  I just love using this as it makes clean up so easy, especially if I'm making something messy.  The paper can be used over several times.  I made all these cookies using the same two pieces of paper.

Royal Icing
1⅓ cups icing sugar, sifted
1 large egg white or the equivalent of                  pasteurized egg white from a carton
½ teaspoon flavouring (vanilla, almond, etc.)
Food colourings for decorating
Water to make it a pourable consistency 

Using the whip attachment of your mixer, combine the icing sugar and the egg white in the mixer bowl on low speed until mixed. Add the flavouring. Turn the speed up to high and whip until the icing is thick and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. 

Divide the icing if using more than one colour and and using food colouring tint to desired shade.  Add a little water ½ teaspoon at a time for a thinner consistency for piping and flooding the cookies.  If you've thinned it out too much just add a little more icing sugar.  

Makes about ¾ cup of icing. 

Melting Chocolate
Melt the chocolate.  You may use any good chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.  Chocolate will scorch if melted over too high a heat.  Milk or white chocolate must be melted over very low heat as they will scorch quicker than the semi-sweet or dark.  I like to melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. You can see my  simple double boiler: bowl over simmering water.  Don't boil the water, just let it simmer.  Stir the chocolate occasionally to help with the melting process.  If you wish to temper the chocolate, use a good quality chocolate (I use chocolate bars) not chocolate chips.  Bring the temperature of the melted chocolate up to 120 degrees and then while stirring cool to at least 84 degrees.  This will give you a good hard chocolate surface that dries in just a few minutes.  Here are two good videos on chocolate tempering:  Chocolate-Dipped Anything or if you don't have a thermometer: An Easier Way to Temper Chocolate

The cookies are quite easy to make.  Cream the butter and peanut butter together; add the sugars and beat until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla and then mix in the dry ingredients.  And there you have it--cookie dough.

The dough is extremely sticky.
Place dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or more.

Roll and cut in shapes.  I divided the dough into 4 pieces and rolled each one separately.  I gathered up the scraps and rerolled.  You can see I'm using Lori's bunny cookie cutter on this piece of dough. 

Last batch out of the oven.  I used the same parchment sheet for all the cookies. Bake until the edges turn golden brown colour.  I have a tray of bunnies, chicks, eggs and bears. I'll use the Teddy Bears for another recipe coming up soon.

I decorated the Easter egg cookies with melted dark and milk chocolate.  Instead of using a piping bag I used sandwich bags and snipped off the corner so the chocolate (or icing) could flow out smoothly.  I outlined each cookie with dark chocolate and filled them in with milk chocolate.  When the chocolate dried I used coloured Royal Icing to add detail. 

To decorate the bunnies and chicks I outlined with Royal Icing.  Let the outline dry for a few minutes and then flood with a thinner Royal Icing.  I used a toothpick to help spread the icing into the corners.  I used the same method with the chocolate.  Once the icing is spread smooth let it set and dry before adding any detail.  I added a little pink nose and eye and a white bunny tail with a star tip.  A little drop of chocolate finished the eye.

To complete the bunny I added a few whiskers.

The chicks were decorated using the same method as the bunnies.

When you have your cookies decorated place them on a pretty plate or in a basket to serve.

The Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies look very Spring-like and Eastery.
(I know Eastery is not a word.)

Store the cookies in a covered container in a cool place. Do not leave your cookies near a sunny window.  The chocolate will melt and you'll have quite a mess on your hands.  Ask me how I know!

 Happy Easter! 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Watergate Salad (Pistachio Pudding Salad/Dessert)

Watergate Salad is one of those quick and easy recipes that comes together in minutes and is a real crowd pleaser.  This is always a welcome dish on the potluck table or on the baby/wedding shower circuit.  Whether you serve this as a main dish salad or as a dessert is totally up to you.  I know some people like this served on a cold plate along side the potato and macaroni salads but I prefer it as a dessert as it is quite sweet (and not at all healthy).

No one really knows where the"Watergate" part of the name came from. There are lots of stories going round but I suspect most of them might be filed under the "urban legends" tab.  The recipe was originally published as Pistachio Pineapple Delight by the Kraft company in 1975 but somehow during the next few years the name change occurred and by all accounts it stuck. By the time I came across the recipe it was well established as Watergate Salad and a Southern American staple. Easy access to the internet has changed the world's eating habits!  This isn't like any salad or pudding my mother would have ever made.  

I think you could make this with any flavour pudding and complementary canned fruit.  Just imagine vanilla pudding and canned mandarin oranges or chocolate pudding and canned sweet or sour cherries.  Hmmm... the possibilities are only limited to the choice of puddings and canned fruit available.  Maybe I can invent a scandalously named salad that everyone will love...  In the meantime enjoy the green Watergate Salad.

Watergate Salad
1 package 4 serving size Jell-o pistachio instant pudding
1 can 14 oz crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup miniature marshmallows, any kind
½ cup chopped pecans
1½ cups thawed frozen whipped topping (like Cool Whip) or 1½ cups whipped cream
Extra pecans and whipped topping for garnish, if desired

In a large bowl, combine dry pudding mix with the undrained pineapple.  Mix the marshmallows and pecans into the pudding mixture.   Gently stir in whipped topping or cream. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to serve.  Serve with extra whipped topping and chopped pecans if you wish.  

Makes 6-8 servings. 

The ingredients:  undrained crushed pineapple, marshmallows, instant pistachio pudding, pecans and whipped topping or cream.  How easy is that!

Combine the dry pudding mix with the undrained crushed pineapple.

Mix in the marshmallows and chopped nuts.  I didn't have any miniature marshmallows so I cut up regular marshmallows.

Fold the whipped topping or cream into the pudding mixture.  Chill for at least an hour.

 Serve the Watergate Salad in a pretty bowl and garnish with a dollop of cream and a few chopped pecans.

 Sweet and creamy Watergate Salad.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Broccoli Delight Salad--Vegetarian

Broccoli Delight Salad is one of those foods that wake up your taste buds.  Even if you don't say it out loud your mind is shouting, "Mmmm...this is soooo good.  I want more!"  Of course, some of us do say that aloud which brings more people to the bowl which means there's less to share because everyone is thinking and saying the same thing.  Yes, this is one delicious broccoli salad.

Broccoli Delight Salad has many faces.  Just about any recipe you google contains similar ingredients, but with variations in amounts and sometimes one or two new ingredients the recipe is usually a little different on each search.  Most (maybe all) googled recipes for Broccoli Delight Salad contain bacon but because we are a vegetarian family I make it with simulated bacon bits. This satisfies the smokey, salty element to the salad.

This is a very forgiving recipe and you can make lots of substitutions as I've indicated in brackets.  The original one is my favourite but I could be coaxed to try any of the variations listed. 

Broccoli Delight Salad
1 or 2 heads broccoli cut into bit-size pieces to make 5-6 cups
1 cup golden raisins (or sultanas or dried cranberries or dried cherries)
¼ cup diced red onion (or green onion)
¼-⅓ cup simulated bacon bits
1 cup sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, etc.)

1 cup mayonnaise
3–4 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1–2 tablespoons cider vinegar

In a large bowl toss broccoli pieces, raisins, diced onion, simulated bacon bits and sunflower seeds together.

In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together.   Start with the lowest amount of sugar and vinegar and taste to see if this is sweet and tangy enough for your taste and adjust accordingly.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.   Chill for at least 1 hour.  Before serving stir the salad to evenly distribute the dressing.  Transfer to a nice serving bowl.  (Make sure you make no comments on how good this is because there may not be any left for your plate.)


Makes 6-8 servings. 

The ingredients for Broccoli Delight Salad...
broccoli, raisins, simulated bacon bits, red onions, sunflower seeds.

Mix all salad ingredients in a large bowl.

T make the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together.  
Taste and adjust the sugar and vinegar, if needed.

Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients.
Chill for at least one hour.

Place the salad in a pretty serving bowl.

See all those delicious ingredients.  
The dressing pulls it all together in one tasty, mouthwatering salad.

Broccoli Delight Salad makes a tasty dish at a family dinner.

Just one more mouthful.  
There won't be any salad left if I don't stop tasting.

Delightful Broccoli Delight Salad.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Aunt Lydia's Cream Cheese Dinner Patties

Aunt Lydia is not anyone's aunt in the family but that's what Anne calls this dear family friend.  Ben and Emily will always call her "aunt" because that is how their mother refers to this lovely lady.  I have known Lydia for years, and it was nice to get to know her even better when Anne became part of our family.  

When we are at David and Anne's, "Aunt" Lydia and "Uncle" Ed often drop by for a chat and a cup of tea or a meal and it's always nice to have a visit.  (Of course I just call them Lydia and Ed.)  Ed always has a word or two of wisdom framed in the driest wit you'd ever want to hear.  Lydia often brings a pretty tea towel for Anne.   Just about every time I notice a new towel it's one Lydia gave to Anne on one of her visits.   

A couple of weeks ago when we were visiting for Ben's 6th birthday, Anne made Aunt Lydia's Cream Cheese Patties for our dinner.  I'd never eaten them before and found them very tasty and satisfying.  I knew they'd be good as I watched Anne cut them out and fry them.  I quickly grabbed my cell phone and started taking pictures because I told her I'd blog them so the recipe would never be lost.  

I've kept very true to the recipe, not changing a thing (except for sneaking in half a chopped onion and suggesting sage, but I have those in brackets) so it is exactly the same recipe I ate that day.  

The patties are delicious just as they are or in a gravy.  They make superb burgers served in a bun with condiments and all the other accoutrements that burgers take.  We certainly enjoyed them again when I made them at home the following week.

Aunt Lydia's Cream Cheese Dinner Patties
1 package veggie burger (equal to 1 pound of ground beef after cooking)
1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup cracker crumbs (soda or saltine crackers work well)
1 cup finely crushed or ground pecans
3 eggs
Dash onion powder (I also sneak in half a chopped onion)
Salt to taste (about a scant teaspoon was what I used)
1 teaspoon savoury (or ½ teaspoon sage if you must)
2 or 3 tablespoon oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix all the above ingredients until well blended.  I used my hands and got everything all mushed up quite well.  Form into patties.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Add a small amount of oil--about 1 tablespoon.   Fry the patties slowly flipping after  it turns a golden brown colour. Fry the second side same as the first.

Makes about 18-24 patties, depending on the size.  These freeze well for another meal. 

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix everything together. Can you see the sneaky onions?  For the veggie burger I like to use Yves Ground Round. It comes in 340 gram packages that are equal to 1 pound of cooked ground beef. 

Anne and Lydia pat the mixture flat and cut out the patties using a cookie cutter, thereby making very neat and uniform product.  The lovely Anne posed for this picture.  

I pat them out in my hands and plop them down on the pan and hope for the best.

Slowly fry the patties in a little oil until they are golden brown on both sides.  
See how nice and even Anne's patties have turned out.

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle. . . fry my little patties, fry. 

These Cream Cheese Dinner Patties can be served in burger buns or with gravy with potatoes and vegetables. 

Mushroom and onions adorn 
Aunt Lydia's Cream Cheese Dinner Patties.  
Yum, yum!