Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vegan Cookie Press Cookies

I have one of those cool Pampered Chef cookie presses that I got at a yard sale and makes all manner of adorably shaped cookies, but most of the recipes you see online aren't vegan.

I knew I had used it before and found a vegan recipe, but there were a few online and I hadn't bookmarked my winner and couldn't remember what I had done...  Bummer!

I reached out to the vegan groups I'm in asking for suggestions and nothing came back. No one had a tried and true vegan cookie press cookie recipe.  I guess that's not altogether surprising, but it was disappointing none the less.

Finally, this morning, I said, "Well, I'll just have to try out a bunch of different ones until I get it right!"

My 3 year old was eager for the prospect of, "We are going to cook and eat cookies all day if we have to."

Sadly for him, but wonderfully for me, the very first recipe I tried turned out perfect.  It's the Starry Fudge Shortbread recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar .  I should have known that Isa and Terry would have the answer, as they do to all my vegan baking quandaries.  The recipe says to squeeze the dough out of a piping bag, but it worked perfectly for the cookie press.

They had this awesome tip to press directly onto your cookie sheet, not use parchment paper, because you want the cookie to stick to the pan as you are pressing so that it pulls away from the cookie press.  Genius, I tell ya!

I chose these pretty flowers.  Mostly I thought of how on my daughter's first birthday I rolled out sugar cookie dough and cut out little leaves with a fondant cutter and then formed them into five petaled flowers to make plumeria...  If only I had had this then.  I spent hours making just a batch of cookies.  These took me all of ten minutes not including cooking.  You live and learn.

The finished product is just slightly golden on the bottom and buttery hello on top.  I added these sprinkles because I have whimsy.  They are from India Tree, the company that makes natural food dyes.  No red dye #30 and you get pretty colorful sprinkles.  It's a pretty cool deal.

Here's the recipe, but I want you to buy the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar too, because it's awesome (make the Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies and thank me later).  

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I used half Earth Balance and half coconut oil and it worked fine, I might try just coconut oil next time).

2/3 cup sugar

a pinch of salt 

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon almond extract (If you make this and use a different extract here for a fun flavor- like maybe peppermint- let me know in the comments!)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup nondairy milk

Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.  I made half the recipe and it covered a cookie sheet and a half, so keep that in mind with the press cookies.  Again, you gotta do the trick of going directly onto the pan, not parchment paper, for good stickiness.  

I tried with all coconut oil and it worked great!  I also used peppermint extract and it was yummy.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Home Romero basically taught me to bake with their cupcake book and I highly recommend that one for anyone starting out with vegan baking or looking to improve their game.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Persimmon, Caper, and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Once upon a time, I saw a cooking show about using very few ingredients and there was a recipe for couscous (the treat so nice they named it twice) that had kalamata olives and dates.  I fell in love with the savory/salty/briney/sweet combo.  Yesterday I was at Costco buying a massive bucket of dates and thought of that recipe, so it was in my mind.  I also have recently fallen in love with persimmons, inspired largely by Fully Raw Kristina on Instagram and Facebook.

Dinner was big last night because my mother-in-law was visiting from out of state after being on a business trip and I figured a great home cooked meal would be good.

I knew I was making spaghetti with dill and lemon pesto in an avocado base because I came up with that off the top of my head and had to make it into reality.
I love dill so much, and I found a big bunch of organic dill at the store the other day and had to use it before going bad.  I added an avocado, some garlic, and lemon zest and juice plus olive oil to the blender with the dill and made a nice sauce to toss with my spaghetti.

I used a little of the dill with a maple mustard dressing on kale salad too.  Maple mustard is like honey mustard.  I mix mustard, maple syrup, a little oil, salt and pepper and we all love it.  It's our favorite dressing.

I sliced the last half of banana squash from Thanksgiving and roasted it with salt and pepper.  It's sweet and creamy.  It's definitely my new favorite squash.

Even without marinara, I felt like we needed a tomato element, so I decided on bruschetta.  I was chopping up the cherry tomatoes and garlic when I thought of that couscous recipe again like I had earlier that day.  The persimmon I had would be perfect to sweeten the mix, and capers would give it the briney element I was looking for.

When my husband asked where I got the idea, I said, "I didn't follow a recipe or anything," and he said, "I didn't think you did!  It's great, but I just can't imagine anyone who writes recipes writing out a recipe that calls for persimmons and capers.  

Well, here it is:

About 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped up (this is rustic, no need to perfectly dice)
1 persimmon chopped to about the same size as the pieces of tomato
3 or more cloves of garlic
2 or more Tbsp of capers
2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, that EVOO for you Rachel Ray fans
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and let sit an hour to overnight.  

Great with sliced bread, but also yummy with a spoon.  It would probably be good with pasta or rice (or couscous!) or even on salad.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

A few days ago I made roasted red pepper soup.  I like the general pureed roasted red pepper, but I wanted to bulk it up a bit, so I added red lentils and some cashews for creaminess.  I was in love with the results, my daughter (5 years old) refused to try it.  The next day, I was eating the little bowl that was left over for lunch and my daughter asked for a bite, and another bite, and...  Well, it went on until the bowl was empty and she asked me to make more that very second.  I told her we didn't have any peppers, so I couldn't.  Yesterday, at the store, she reminded me to get peppers so I could make that soup again.  Who can argue with that?!


3 bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow) cut in half
1 yellow onion chopped roughly
4-6 cloves of garlic
Oil of choice (I use Spectrum Naturals Organic Coconut Spray Oil *affiliate link)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp smoked paprika
veg bouillon/ salt to taste

1/2 cup raw cashews (or cashew pieces, must cheaper)

Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees while you chop the vegetables.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet and then spray or spread oil on it.  Place the cut peppers, onion, and garlic on it and spray another layer on top (or drizzle if you use a different oil) and salt and pepper.  Place in oven.

Take Instagram picture of your peppers.

While that's cooking, place lentils and water and paprika in a pot with 4 cups water or vegetable broth.  I didn't have any broth/bouillon tonight, so I just added a bit of garlic salt.
With supervision, stirring is a great job for the little.

Bring to a bowl and then turn down to simmer until the lentils are soft.  You might think you don't have enough water, but it's okay.  When it's done, it should look like this.

The lentils take about 15 minutes, so that's a good time to turn your roasting veggies.
The veggies will take about a half hour, maybe a bit more for a good caramelization.  It's your call.  Add the cashews, lentils, and veggies to the blender.  Don't fill it this high, it's totally against all the rules and it specifically tells you not to in the manual.  Do a couple batches, maybe.  You could blend the peppers first then they take up less room and the lentils wouldn't fill it up.  Again, I'll leave this to your discretion.

The finished product is smooth and thick almost like a runny hummus.  It's hearty and delicious and so good for you.

Oh, you should add turmeric, that would give it extra healthiness.  I should have done that too!  Darn.  Next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gardein Fishless Filet Obsession

I feel like a teenage hipster, because when I think about these fishless filets, I CAN'T EVEN...

It was a long time after reading about the fishless filets before I actually got a chance to try them, but I finally ended up ordering them through a vegan online store.  They were a bit defrosted when they got here, but they cooked up great and my life was changed.

I mean...  They are just SO GOOD.  I haven't taken any great pictures of the stuff you can make with them, but I've enjoyed them with fries for "fish and chips" and made "fish tacos" with a yummy cabbage slaw, and I've made a great fish sandwich with them.   We even made sushi rolls at home with them!

Since going vegan, fish is the animal product I miss the most, by a long shot.  I tried some vegan shrimp, some vegan fish loaf, and other vegan "fish" filets with nothing really impressing me until Gardein made these Fishless Filets.  They are seriously a whole new ballgame.  They are flakey, truly taste like a mild fish, and when baked up get the best golden crust ever.  It's just perfection.  The best part, in my opinion, is that they have the same great omegas that lead many vegetarians to become pescatarians and eat fish.  No need with these :)  Or with chia, walnuts, flax, hemp seeds, etc.

I just really really recommend these, which is why I have no shame that I ended up ordering an entire case of them on Amazon!  You get a big box of the filets frozen and ready to go.  I did have a slight delay with my order, but when it got here it was all still frozen solid and I was so happy.  Even though one of my local stores supposedly carries them, they have been out of stock every time I checked for two months, so I am glad to have an easy and reliable source.  I keep them in the garage freezer, but for these things I'd be willing to re-prioritize our regular freezer.  They are worth it.

This is my affiliate link to order your own case, which you really should consider :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vegan Popcorn Tin for Christmas

Remember those amazing tins of popcorn with all the different flavors that came out for Christmas so that you could just sit and snack and watch Elf nonstop for days?

I want a vegan version of that.

Earth Balance has already created great versions of classic and delicious flavors we love with even better tastes, they just need to put them in a tin.

I guess I could put them in a tin.

Have you tried these?  What did you think?

I saw a post on a vegan blogger site recently about a chocolate-y cinnamon popcorn they are putting out soon too...

Okay, I just need to find a giant tin.

Smoothies on the Go: Making Your Own Squeeze Packs

A few years ago when I was on the run all the time with a very busy playgroup, I was always looking for ways to take snacks with me that were healthy.  At that time I was also the mom of only one and very dedicated to making everything from scratch.  One of my exceptions was these great squeeze packs that made giving my daughter fruit, veggies, and healthy foods on the go so easy.  These were the ones I really liked.

We favored baby led weaning, but these made it easy to have healthy snacks on the go, and I basically saw it like a smoothie, which we ate too.

While these snack packs aren't overly expensive for an organic smoothie, it still ads up.  One day in Toys R Us I saw this product by Infantino that allows you to make your own purees and put them in squeeze packs yourself!  I used it tons to make my own packs, but then when we moved it never got unpacked and I kind of forgot about it.

This week, I pulled it out of the garage and was reminded what a great product this is.  It says to only use the packs once, but I wash them out and reuse them (I'm not making any recommendations, just sharing my experience), so It's pennies per pack depending on what you fill it with.

Since Whole Soy soy yogurt is back in stores in the big tub, I got a big one of vanilla and the kids always make such a mess with a cup of yogurt, so I made them squeeze packs of yogurt with this and ate all their yogurt with zero mess!

After that worked so well, I made a smoothie yesterday morning.  For some reason, my kids love smoothies but if I give it to them in a cup they end up spilling or losing interest in them, plus I can never find my straws.

Yesterday's smoothie was almond milk, banana, roasted sweet potato, spinach, hemp seeds, and goji berries.  This morning they had almond milk, banana, goji berries, chia seeds, and kale.  Great healthy breakfast with no mess!  I put the extra in another pouch, so when my daughter inevitably comes home from school starving, there will be a super healthy smoothie waiting for her in the refrigerator!

I really do love this product, and I'd love to hear how you use it too!  I am thinking about making up a savory pack, like lentil soup, to see how they like that.  Great for on the go, picnics, and car rides.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Zucchini-Pecan Vegan Pancakes

A few years ago we went to a vegan potluck and my friend's Taylor and Dael brought this vegan quiche that just blew our minds.  We we a part of the same veg meet up group, and the next time we had a potluck we requested the quiche.  After a few more times of this, they said, "You know we are just following a simple recipe, right.  You should get the book!"  
You better believe we went out and got You Won't Believe It's Vegan!: 200 Recipes for Simple and Delicious Animal-Free Cuisine right away.  You can follow the affiliate link and get it too.  

Obviously, we made the quiche right away, but then one morning my husband woke up before me (miracle) and while taking care of the kids, he also made these zucchini-pecan pancakes.  Since then, we have them about once a month, and they are so amazing every time.

When my mother-in-law, who is not vegan, came to visit, my husband wowed her with these beauties.  She loved them and actually sent us this special pancake pan just for cooking them to support our pancake habit.

This morning, I decided to help out and I made a tofu scramble to go with the pancakes then got out my homemade beet and red cabbage sauerkraut and some bread and butter pickled jalapeƱos.  Beautiful complete meal.

If you want to add these pancakes to your Sunday morning traditions, get the book and try the quiche too!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Books My Vegan Kids Love

Check out these books that my vegan kids love, follow the pictures to links to buy the books, and add your child's favorite books in the comments!
(these links are all affiliate links, so if you buy through the link you help support awesome authors AND this Meat Free Mom).
"Peaceful piggies try to be loving and kind to all beings."

Mitch Spinach

Mitch Spinach has plant-based superpowers, just like any kid can if they eat healthy, vibrant food.  Perfect for elementary kids, Mitch solves mysteries and shares with the reader how the plant-based foods he eats give him the powers to do this.  I recommend these books to anyone with kids.  It never mentions the word vegan, and instead just shares recipes and nutrient-rich foods present in a plant based diet.  My daughter always say, "I like carrots because they help me see well, like Mitch Spinach!"  She gets excited about eating her fruits and veggies because she knows they make her strong and healthy.  Great for picky kids and reluctant veggie eaters.
Click on images to link to these books on Amazon.

Ruby Roth's Books

Ruby Roth has a way of beautifully and simply explaining veganism to small children.  The pictures and text use familiar words and only slightly graphic images to spread the message of veganism and vegetarianism.  The focus is on why we make the compassionate choices we do, and how those choices impact the world.  Two must haves for the ethical vegans in your life.
Click on pictures to link to these books on Amazon.

Peaceful Piggy Meditation

My son (3 years old) asks for "Pigggies" every night.  While not overtly vegan, this book talks about the benefits of meditation and being kind to all beings.  Appealing to children's sense of overwhelm and frustration, this book gives children the tools to meditate and the benefits.  Moody Cow Meditates is another much-loved book by the same author about a little cow who has a very bad day and learns to meditate with his grandpa in order to let all those stresses fade away.  Both are loved by my 3 year old and 5 year old, and could be enjoyed probably much older too.  I get a lot from both beautiful picture books about the importance of meditation and relaxation in daily life!
Click on the pictures to link to these book on Amazon.

Share your vegan kids' favorite books in the comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boost Your Immunity with Elderberries

What are Elderberries?

Elderberries are a small berry, usually purchased dried or in teas or syrup.  Their scientific name, Sambucus is present in the elderberry syrups available at most grocery or health food stores.  Some of these have honey, but there are many without honey that contain fructose, like Nature's Way Sambucus for Kids Bio-certified Elderberry, 8-Ounce  or agave nectar. 

Why Elderberries?

Elderberries are extremely high in vitamin C, as well as containing vitamins A and B.  They are used for immunity boosting during cold/flu season, for sinus infections, colds, flu (they were used in Panama to treat a flu epidemic in 1995), tonsillitis, and also have a mild diuretic capacity.  

How to take Elderberries?

I like to make elderberry syrup this time of year for my family and for friends.  It's very simple, and it enables me to choose the sweetener to add rather than giving my kids honey, agave syrup, or fructose when they aren't well.  

My basic recipe is a compilation of ones I've found online, and I get all my ingredients from Amazon dry, so they last as long as I need them.  I'm including my affiliate links to the products I need, and it helps me out if you order that way, but of course if you have local access or better deals, buy wherever you find the best fit for your family.

Elderberry Syrup

Basic Ingredients, but you could add rose hips, echinacea (just add some echinacea tea bags!), orange peels, or other good immunity boosting ingredients.

I use 1 cup elderberries for 4 cups of water and add 2 sticks of cinnamon and 4 cloves plus just a chunk of ginger sliced (everything gets strained out, so you can use powdered spices, but it can be a little gritty).  I bring this combo to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes until it is reduced to half.  Then I put that in 2 pint sized mason jars and top with organic maple syrup (I get it from Costco and I think that's the best deal, but depending on where you live you might be able to find something better).  Coconut nectar would be a delicious (but pricy) alternative, as would brown rice syrup.  If you planned to keep it refrigerated, you could use blueberries (and blend), orange juice concentrate, or even no sweetener (it may be harder to sell your kids on it in this case).

Once it's jarred I use the basic canning method of putting the lid on and covering in water in a large pot and boiling until the lid pops down.  I keep out until it's been opened and then keep it in the refrigerator after that.  It last for at least 30 days in the refrigerator, but I have heard stories of it lasting much longer, I've just never kept any around that long.

I add it to smoothies, put it in tea, it can be mixed into oatmeal, and I've dabbled with trying got make fruit leather with it (I think it needs to be mixed with fruit instead of syrup for this to work).  

The general recommendation is 1 Tbsp a day for adults and 1 tsp a day for kids to keep the immune system rocking.  If you are sick, you can do the same servings a few times a day.  The syrup is very soothing on a sore throat (and I like to increase the cloves if I'm using it for a sore throat because it's naturally numbing).  

Elderberry Herbal Infusion

I use many of the same ingredients for my herbal infusion and drink it all day long.  It tastes like chai and is wonderful for Autumn.  It is nice warm, but I generally just make it on the counter and drink it that day at room temp or in the refrigerator and drink it cold.  

I fill a big pitcher with warm water then add:
I let it sit for 2 hours or if I'm really good I prepare it the night before and have it ready for the next day.  Since I drink coffee in the morning, I usually just make this up first thing, and when I'm done drinking coffee, I switch over to this.  It's good with a little syrup, but I don't think it needs it.  Sometimes I add rose petals, because they are beautiful and rose is great for the skin, but not always.  After a night of wine or beer drinking, I sometimes add some Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea Traditional Medicinals 16 Bag  to help cleanse the liver a bit.

Your turn! 

Okay, make some syrup or tea and tell me what you added, how did you make this recipe your own, how did it help your family?