No Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Pie

Vegan No Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Pie
I have to make this pie again and take a better picture, I was too busy eating this one to put much time into photographing 🙂 A local shop was selling vegan Peanut Butter Pie for Thanksgiving, but I was too cheap to buy one. I planned to make my own, then when I got to Harvest Health Foods they were out of every brand of plain vegan cream cheese. Daiya to the rescue – I grabbed their strawberry flavor and decided to make a PB&J pie instead! I also used Earth Balance peanut butter for the first time (next time I’m going to experiment with their extra protein version).

At first I didn’t think it turned out because as I mixed it, the oil appeared to separate. I’m not sure if it was oil from the peanut butter, the cream cheese, or both. But since I didn’t have a Plan B, I dumped my odd filling into my pre-made pie crust, stuck it in the fridge, and hoped for the best. I pulled it out the next day, and sure enough, it just kinda looked like a pie. Haha. Vegan peanut butter cup garnishes are optional, but wonderful if you have them.

My somewhat picky, non-vegan-but-Nativity-fasting brother-in-law was afraid to try it, but took a piece since it was one of the few Lenten desserts we had for Thanksgiving. I think he said something like, “It’s actually not bad!” 🙂 Serve with a glass of almond milk, or a cup of coffee.

No Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Pie
graham cracker pie crust
1 C creamy peanut butter, such as Earth Balance
1 8oz container Daiya strawberry cream cheese
1 1/4 C confectioners sugar
strawberry jelly for swirling
optional: vegan peanut butter cups (I used Justin’s dark chocolate)

In a bowl, cream together peanut butter and cream cheese until it’s well blended and relatively smooth. Slowly mix in confectioners sugar. Pour filling into pie crust and smooth it out. Now to make it pretty and extra strawberry-y, spoon a few tablespoons of strawberry jelly over the filling here and there and just sort of lightly swirl it in with the spoon. It should still be smooth on top. Cover the pie and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or two. Garnish with peanut butter cups just before serving.

Next time I think I’ll try mine with a chocolate cookie crust. What’s your favorite pie filling?

10 Minute 2 Ingredient Semi Homemade Pudding

I don’t know how I didn’t figure this out before, but I could’ve been eating gloriously cheap and delicious vegan pudding all these years! And it couldn’t be simpler. I wouldn’t call this a “from scratch” recipe, more like semi-homemade, but I’m okay with that.

This morning I rolled out of bed and realized I’d forgotten to make something for breakfast (I usually eat at work) and I didn’t have much time to spare. By the time I finished getting myself ready, it was 7:52 and I needed to leave the house at 8:10.

10 Minute 2 Ingredient Homemade Vegan Pudding
I grabbed these two ingredients: Pumpkin Spice coconut milk & cornstarch. That’s it. You can really use any flavor you want, or use plain and flavor it yourself. I used a couple ad-ins, but they’re optional.

10 Minute 2 Ingredient Homemade Vegan Pudding
The pudding is wonderful warm, and when it cools it gets pretty solid and gelatinous. Might even work for a pie filling.

10 Minute Pudding
1 C flavored coconut milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Add cornstarch to pan over medium high and use a whisk to spread it around. Immediately, but SLOWLY, begin pouring in the coconut milk while whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Keep whisking as you bring the milk to a boil. Let is boil for just a minute or so, then remove from heat.
Serve warm and soupy, or cold and thick.

If you want to increase the recipe, it’s just 1 Tbsp cornstarch for every cup of milk. You don’t have to use coconut milk, but I like the fat 🙂 I also added a bit of coconut milk yogurt to mine while it was cooling, and today I added a bit of maple syrup.

I started cooking around 7:54, and by the time I took this picture at 8:09 I had already cleaned my mess and had the pudding chilling in the fridge. Doesn’t seem to hurt a thing if you increase the heat and bring it to a boil faster on the high setting, just make sure you whisk the entire time.

It’s vegan, gluten free, oil free, cheap, fast, and perfect for a strict fasting day!

If It’s Vegan, I’ll Eat It: Dog Food Flavor Sprays

Well, this just goes to show I will try pretty much ANY food if it’s got vegan on it. A while ago I somehow came across these flavored dog food sprays. Only one had vegan on the label, but I contacted the company and they confirmed all flavors are vegan. So…I got one of each, except peanut butter because that’s probably more exciting for a dog than for me.

Vegan Dog Food Flavor Spray
These 8oz bottles of Dog Food Flavor Spray from Green Seal Products will probably last me a while, and I can imagine doing all kinds of things with each flavor. At first I tried just spraying the chicken flavor on my salad. It did give it an interesting grilled flavor, but I wanted something more exciting. But what?!??!

Fixing Bad Pizza with Dog Food Flavor Spray
Then the other day my dad ordered a vegan pizza for me. The restaurant puts cheese right in their sauce (WHY? I hate that), so I could only have crust, veggies, and oil. That would be fine if they weren’t skimpy on the oil, and made sure to drizzle over both the crust AND the vegetables. And maybe added a pinch of salt. But…nope. I got this dry pizza with wrinkly vegetables and crumpled spinach. Nice try, though.

Fixing Bad Pizza - Coleslaw!
So Plan A was covering the pizza in my homemade spicy coleslaw (chopped cabbage, grated carrot, salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and dill to taste). That was awesome, but I only had enough for two of three pieces. Then I realized I’d been carrying these spray bottles around in my lunch bag. So.

Fixing Bad Pizza with Dog Food Flavor Spray
I went to town on this last slice of pizza. I sprayed it all over with the cheese flavor, then I squirted a little of each meaty flavor all over as if I were topping the pizza. It’s not a very intense flavor. Like, I think if you didn’t know it was there you wouldn’t be tricked into thinking this is a really meaty and cheesy tasting pizza (maybe you have to be a dog to truly appreciate it), but it gave it a good flavor. Kind of smoky and charred, and a little tanginess from the cheese spray that I think probably comes from lactic acid – don’t worry, there is such a thing as vegan lactic acid!

I plan on trying this again on sandwiches, pasta, etc. Oh yeah, I already tried the cheese flavor on popcorn, but I had to use 75 sprays and it just wasn’t quite the same. Might try again combining it with margarine and see how it goes. How would you use it?

Fixing Bad Pizza

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Protein Noodles

Protein Noodles
Sooo….sometimes I get a little lazy. I wait until the last minute to make my lunch for work, and then I’m too tired to make a real meal. This is one of the simple, and uh, interesting dishes I came up with. It’s ready in 10 minutes, can have as few as 3 ingredients (totally up to you), and it’s packed with protein. It’s also dirt cheap!

Protein Noodles
1 C prepared & drained elbow macaroni (or noodle of choice)
1/2 C prepared minced TVP
Frank’s Redhot Sauce

Prepare noodles according to instructions. Prepare TVP according to instructions. Season TVP to taste with hot sauce, then combine noodles & TVP. Eat.

You can liven it up by using a broth to rehydrate the TVP, adding more seasonings or nutritional yeast, adding vegan cheese, or minced veggies. But, although it’s not very exciting, I really did like this as it was. Nice and simple! And it’s oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day.

Cheezy Mac Breakfast Skillet

Well friends, earlier this week I shared with you my review of Daiya Cheezy Mac, a vegan & gluten free boxed mac n cheese. As I mentioned, it’s supposed to be three servings per box, but I can’t stop myself from eating the ENTIRE box at once! Well, with just a few extra minutes of cooking I fattened up my cheezy mac and was able to really and truly break it down into three very filling servings. So, while you’re preparing your Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac according to instructions, check this out…

Vegan Mac n Cheese Breakfast Skillet
I sauteed onions and fresh garlic in olive oil, then added and browned Tofurky breakfast links, and threw in a little spinach.

Vegan Mac n Cheese Breakfast Skillet
That’s it! Add it to your cheezy mac.

Vegan Mac n Cheese Breakfast Skillet
Adding the sausages made it very filling without adding too many calories. In fact I entered this meal on My Fitness Pal, and with the oil, veggies & sausages it came to a mere 418 calories. May not be the healthiest thing, but for a special treat (or if you just plan to exercise it off), no big deal.

Cheezy Mac Vegan Breakfast Skillet
1 Box Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac, prepared according to instructions
1 Tbsp olive oil (or oil of choice)
1/4 C chopped onion*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped*
6 Tofurky Apple Maple Breakfast Sausages, chopped
1 C frozen spinach*
Optional, black pepper

*Or more to taste.
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until tender. Add chopped sausages and saute until lightly browned. Add spinach and cook until heated through (if using fresh, cook until wilted). You may wish to add black pepper, but salt is not recommended since the sauce is nice and salty already.
Combine with prepared Cheezy Mac and serve hot.

By the way, this Smoked Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe from 2 Broke Vegans reminded me of the classic Mac n Cheese n Hot Dogs thing and inspired this dish. Check it out!

Daiya Cheezy Mac Review

I want to tell you about a very exciting experience I had a few months ago. I follow Daiya Cheese on facebook, and there I learned about a new product: Daiya Cheezy Mac. I love Daiya products, and this one sounded particularly interesting because basically all you have to do is boil macaroni, drain, squeeze, stir. EAT. Did I mention the macaroni is gluten free? It’s made with brown rice and rice bran.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
The packaging itself is pleasing to the eye. I didn’t want to throw the boxes away – I’m a hoarder, so I kept thinking, “There must be something I can do with these boxes!!!!!!!” I haven’t come up with anything yet, but one day…oh yes, one day I will.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
“Rejoice,” they say. And I did!
Vegan Mac n Cheese
Now take notice, the orientation of the image and text is different on the front and back. Prefer landscape to portrait? Daiya has you covered.
I tried the Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie first because more is better when it comes to cheezy mac.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
These are the contents right here, everything you need but the pot and water. The ready-to-use cheez sauce comes in a handy squeeze pouch.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
The veggies don’t look too impressive at first, but if you have seven to eight minutes worth of patience…

Vegan Mac n Cheese
they will plump right up.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
Now add that sauce! STIR.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
Each box claims to make three servings. This is what one serving looks like in my soup bowl.

Vegan Mac n Cheese
And this is the amount I thought I would actually eat, it’s about half the box. In reality, I ended up eating the whole entire thing, 900 glorious calories, in one sitting.

Basically it tastes like the sauces I’ve made myself by melting down the Daiya shreds in almond milk and seasoning it with salt and pepper (except no pepper in this one). So I have a food blog, obviously I don’t mind cooking, but sometimes even I need a break. Now instead of eating a candy bar for dinner, I can have a real meal in 10 minutes. And it provides a good dose of calcium & Vitamin B12, plus a little protein and iron.

And now you can enjoy pictures of me squeezing the cheez sauce into the macaroni.

Daiya Cheezy Mac

Daiya Cheezy Mac 4
There was *just* enough cheez sauce. The macaroni wasn’t swimming in it, but it wasn’t skimpy either. Now, you only need 10 minutes to have a meal straight out of the box, but if you have 20 minutes you can fatten this up all kindsa ways. Later this week I’ll share my breakfast skillet recipe.

Did your mom ever put weird stuff in your mac n cheese when you were a kid? Mine did, and I’m going to recreate that recipe and see if it’s as gross now as I thought it was back then (sorry mom, I love you!). Have you tried Daiya Cheezy Mac yet? What did you think?

Week of Greek: Menu for a Greek Vegan Feast!

We made it through a whole week of Greek food with 2 Broke Vegans! Is everyone sitting back in elastic-waist pants now, rubbing your bellies? In case you missed a taste of this or that, scroll down to see each course. Just click the picture and you’ll be taken right to the recipe.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

And don’t forget to read up on Where to Buy Greek Imports!

Thanks again to my co-hosts at 2 Broke Vegans for helping us feel at home in the beautiful country of Hellas, and a big thanks to everyone that joined us at the table 🙂 See you on the next trip!

Week of Greek: Halva (Semolina Sweet)

For our last course in our delicious Greek meal, I offer you these cute little halva cakes. Now, there can be some confusion as the name halva, or halawe, can also be used to describe an Arabic dessert made with tahini paste. It is altogether different! In this case, I’m talking about the Greek sweet made with fried semolina. There’s no baking for this dessert, it’s all done on the stovetop.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding
I had a lot of fun with this one, not only making it, but serving it along side the bottle of ouzo my brother and I picked up in Greece – and those shot glasses are also from our trip! They gray ones are a beautiful reminder of our time on Tinos, a little island known for its marble resources (among other things).

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding2
When the semolina mixture has cooled, you can press it into a fancy bundt pan, or cupcake tin, or pretty much anything it won’t stick to. I went with the cupcake tin because it makes the perfect individual serving size.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding3
The little cakes are soft, sticky and sweet, with plenty of cinnamon. The raw walnuts offset the sweetness just a little.

2015-7-17 Halva Semolina Pudding4
Nearly every restaurant in Greece provided a drink and something sweet at the end of the meal, free of charge. Sometimes it was as simple as fruit and a shot of raki, other times a pastry or ice cream and maybe a glass of wine. I think those Greeks are on to something, it’s the perfect ending to a meal – although halva with coffee would also be a wonderful way to begin the day, if you ask me.

1 C oil or melted margarine
2 C semolina
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
2 1/2 C sugar (or less, to taste)
4 C water
optional: raw walnuts*

Put water and sugar together in a pot and boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a large pan, combine oil and semolina and cook at medium high heat stirring continuously until the semolina has browned. Stir in cinnamon. Now very carefully add syrup to semolina – it will really start to bubble and steam up! I added mine slowly, stirring it in a little at a time. Continue to stir, and cook at medium heat another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the semolina becomes very thick. Remove from heat. Once cooled, press the semolina into a bundt pan or cupcake tin. Unmold the halva and, if desired, top with finely chopped walnuts.

Makes 10 – 12 cupcake-sized servings

*I soaked my walnuts for a few hours, then drained them and sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar and a shake or two of cinnamon before garnishing the halva. You can also just use plain old chopped walnuts, or press one whole walnut or pecan into the top of the halva for a simple embellishment.

Although this is [probably] my last recipe for Greek Week, please stay tuned to my facebook page where I will share one more recipe from my co-hosts, 2 Broke Vegans. Tomorrow I will also provide you with a list of Greek brands to be on the look out for during your Greek cooking adventures! And please, if you are feeling charitable, consider giving a gift to the people of Greece through International Orthodox Christian Charities. Thanks to the Jaharis Family Foundation, each dollar you donate will be matched.

Taverna on the Water
Now sit back and enjoy the view, sip your ouzo and savor the halva. I’m going to take a stroll along the beach. See you tomorrow!

Week of Greek: Stewed Green Beans (Fasolakia)

Wow, is it already day four of our magical Week of Greek?! IT IS, and that means we finally get to see what I was talking about when I mentioned Greek foods swimming in oil 😀 And yes, we will need a nice loaf of bread for the fasolakia, the green beans stewed in tomatoes.

And speaking of tomato sauce, check out the Soutzoukakia from 2 Broke Vegans – Greek meatballs made vegan with walnuts and mushrooms – trust me, the combination is superb! After we make the green beans, I’ll give you another bulking-up idea using the meatballs.

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni
So for the beans, we start with tons of onion to really pack the flavor into this one,

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni2
and season it simply with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni3
And there it is – Greek gold!

2015-7-16 Stewed Green Beans Fasolakia Giaxni4
So slice up your favorite savory bread, preferably something rustic and crusty (yes, crusty is a good quality when it comes to bread!), and get ready to clean your plate.

Stewed Green Beans
2# fresh green beans, de-stemmed and cut or snapped into bite size pieces
1 C oil
2 C canned tomatoes*
3 to 4 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

In a big pot, arrange two or three layers of onions with parsley, and beans on top. Add tomatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook on low heat until tender.

This simple recipe could serve 8 as a side dish. And once again this is very similar to a Syrian dish, we serve the Syrian version over rice – that could stretch it to a main course for 6. Syrians also add meatballs, so by adding the soutzoukakia to the pot (after baking them) you can have a meal for 8 to 10! Add a side of Lahanosalata and you’re in business with another budget-friendly meal that just so happens to be vegan and gluten free.

The recipe is great as-is, but I did add double the tomatoes, and there are a couple other ways you could mix things up with beautiful results.
-Instead of layering onions & beans, saute the onions in the oil. When tender, but before they brown, add remaining ingredients.
-Add 2 Tbsp tomato paste to the canned tomatoes to make a nice sauce
-Remove the lid on the pot for the last 15 minutes of cooking to let some of the juice from the beans cook out and reduce the sauce

201368 old church
In Thessaloniki there was a beautiful little 15th century church nestled in between towering apartment buildings and storefronts covered in neon graffiti. I walked around it taking pictures,

201368 old church12
and suddenly my brother and I found ourselves at a little restaurant, ΤΑ Κουμπαρακια, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant in the city – we ate there three times!

2013615 fav2
There we had the most wonderful fasolakia, cut lengthwise with little bits of eggplant in the sauce. I can’t tell you how often I sit and dream of the day I’ll be back in Thessaloniki, sitting at my favorite restaurant, next to that lovely little church. But this will have to do for now.

What’s your dream vacation?

Week of Greek: Spinach Pie (Spanakopita)

For our third course today, we’re making a classic Greek dish I bet nearly all of you have heard of and probably tried. Although I’m more accustomed to the Syrian spinach pie – a triangle-shaped soft bread filled with spinach and onions, seasoned with plenty of salt and lemon juice – I’m sure I had spanakopita at least a few times before going vegan. And I was happily surprised when I flipped through my cookbook and saw a recipe that doesn’t even mention feta! Of course you would traditionally brush the phyllo dough with butter, but I veganized that part easily enough.

2015-7-15 Spinach Pie Spanakopita
You can make your own phyllo dough from scratch, but I found mine at the Mediterranean market. They had three different kinds, and each of them were vegan! You may even be able to find it ready-made at your local grocery store.

2015-7-15 Spinach Pie Spanakopita2
Now, this very basic recipe doesn’t make much, and that’s a shame because when you taste the flaky phyllo together with the spinach and dill you are going to want more, more, more.

2015-7-15 Spinach Pie Spanakopita3
So when we get to the end here, we’ll talk about bulking it up.

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
1 lb spinach*
6 green/spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 teacup dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 teacup olive oil*
salt & pepper
1 pkg phyllo dough

Note: A teacup equals approximately 1 C, but you’ll have so much fun using a teacup instead of a regular measuring cup!
Preheat oven to 350. Oil a 9×9″ pan.
Clean spinach and drain well (or buy triple washed spinach that’s ready for use).
Saute green onions in the oil over medium heat until tender. Shred spinach and add to onions, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook spinach over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, or until the liquid has cooked out of the pan. Stir in the dill. Remove from heat.

Line the oiled pan with one pastry sheet. Brush it with olive oil (or margarine, or refined coconut oil) and add another layer, repeating until you’ve done five layers total. Spread the spinach mixture over the layers of phyllo dough.
Now top spinach with another pastry sheet, brush with oil, and repeat until you’ve done five layers.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cut into squares or triangles. Can be served hot or cold, cold is my preference.

*Now about bulking it up. One pound of spinach really cooks down and leaves you with just a thin layer. At the same time, there seemed to be too much oil – I drained it because I didn’t want to wait forever for it to cook out while meanwhile my spinach shrank and shrank (I used that excess oil to brush my pastry dough).

I recommend cooking two pounds of spinach in 1/2 cup of oil, and adding more as needed. You could also double the amount of green onions while you’re at it.
Cheese is really not necessary, but if you miss it, find a vegan feta or ricotta to mix in after you’ve finished cooking the spinach and onions. You can also make your own using this Vegan Feta Cheese recipe from 2 Broke Vegans!