Leftover Cranberry Sauce?

Today’s formula presents a way to use up another popular holiday meal leftover: cranberry sauce. I don’t write “popular” because most people love it…It’s just incredibly common around the Thanksgiving table and you either love it or hate it. Chances are, there will be leftovers.

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What better way to breathe new life into tired cranberry sauce than to make it into a not-too-sweet dessert. If you forewent this loved and loathed preserve-like holiday side dish, you could use jam (check out my jam formula). We will be dolloping our fruit filling into a thumbprint cookie base.

Before adding the cranberry sauce (or jam), you will have the opportunity to garnish your thumbprint dough. Today, I’m using unsweetened shredded coconut. To me, the shreds aren’t overwhelming in coconut flavor and add a nice bit of texture. Shredded coconut is also high in fiber, manganese, and copper, so there’s that, too. 🙂

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Another wonder food that I’m including in my thumbprint cookies is sunflower butter. Sunflower seeds are most definitely a super food and excellent source of protein, folate, vitamin E, and selenium. Sunflower butter is more of a blank slate than say, peanut butter, which has a very distinctive flavor. Thus, I can use it in an application like this one or to make a creamy salad dressing without overpowering the other flavors.

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Whenever possible, look for nut and seed butters that contain only raw nuts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find raw sunflower butter and this one also contains salt, so I am choosing not to add salt to the cookie dough. Use your judgement to keep dessert as healthy—or at least, as minimally unhealthy—as possible. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Makes 24-28 cookies

  • 2 cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • ¾ cup homemade preserves (jam, cranberry sauce, etc.)* –> I’m using cranberry orange sauce.
  • ½ cup nut/seed butter –> I’m using sunflower.
  • ½ cup liquid sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 2 tbsps chia or ground flax seeds –> I’m using chia.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ½ tsp almond.
  • ¼ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (optional) –> I’m not using any.
  • 2-4 tbsps garnish (cocoa powder, raw nuts/seeds, coconut flakes, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using unsweetened shredded coconut.

*Homemade is best so that you can control the quantity and quality of ingredients.

Mix your butter, sweetener, extract, and milk, ideally using an electric stand mixer. Slowly incorporate your dry ingredients until a thick, pliable dough forms.

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out a heaping teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball with your hands. Place the ball in the center of your palm and press your thumb into it to create a well for your filling. The “walls” of the well will be approximately ¼ inch high and the well itself about half the height. Gently coat the dough in your garnish, if using.

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Line the wells up on a baking sheet that is lightly greased or lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad. The cookies will not expand much, so they can be fairly close together. Dollop approximately a teaspoon of filling into each well. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and lightly browned.

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Leftover Pumpkin Puree?

If you butchered and baked your Halloween pumpkins or stocked up on the canned stuff as it went on sale before Thanksgiving, you probably have pumpkin puree leftover from preparing America’s favorite dinner. You could whip up a batch of my pumpkin super food muffins or incorporate the puree into a savory application.

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I introduced my creamy vegetable pasta sauce to you with the loved and loathed eggplant. At the time, I hadn’t tried the formula with another vegetable, so I wasn’t sure how this pumpkin sauce would turn out. I’m happy to report that it was a success! I served it atop pasta to the guests at my Thanksgiving dinner (which we hosted early because my mom was in town visiting her newest grandson) and it was the most-talked-about dish of the evening.

If you have a blender and a box of pasta, you’re ready for this decadent and healthful pumpkin “cream” sauce to make an appearance at your next dinner. I’m using oat milk in today’s cashew cream, one of the sauce’s star ingredients. Oat milk is naturally on the sweeter side of plant milks, so it compliments pumpkin nicely, as we are often used to using it in sweeter culinary concoctions. Bonus: One serving of this particular oat milk will provide you over a third of your recommended daily calcium and two grams of dietary fiber. Not bad.

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Scoop up your leftover pumpkin and put this quick and easy dinner together in minutes. Nutritious—especially if you use a whole grain or vegetable pasta—and resourceful, I’m happy to help you use every bit of your leftover Thanksgiving eats. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CREAMY VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Makes sauce for 1 box of pasta*

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables –> I used 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree. (This translates to approximately 2 cups of raw chopped vegetables, since it is already cooked and pureed down.)
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight and blend with just enough water/plant milk/veggie stock to form a thick cream) –> Because pumpkin has a strong flavor, I used extra cashew cream: 1 cup cashews + 1 ½ cups oat milk.
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast –> I opted out of this, figuring it didn’t mesh well with pumpkin. It worked out, but for most other vegetables, I would include it.
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.) –> I used whole grain mustard.
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.) –> I used ½ tsp dried sage and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I used ½ tsp salt and about 4 turns pepper.

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil to cook. While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

 

DSC_2572Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

 

 

If You Like Piña Coladas…

This post and the next will feature creative uses for leftovers. Truthfully, we don’t often have leftovers of anything in our house—plant eaters consume a lot—but there are occasionally quantities remaining of something we used for a specific, measured application. Today, I’m using leftover coconut whipped cream from my pistachio nice cream sundaes.

If you know me—or at least if you read about my curry formula—you know that I don’t like coconut. Not the flavor, not the texture, not the scent. Well, pregnancy does weird things to a girl and right now, I can say that I have a small affinity for this tropical fruit. I’m not running out to the store to gobble up all things coconut, but I have enjoyed a few coconut macaroons and couldn’t believe that I voluntarily topped my pistachio nice cream with coconut whipped cream the other day and enjoyed it! (I made it for my husband and son and just thought I would give it a try. Unexpected yumminess!)

Because I don’t typically like coconut, I would never order a piña colada. Pineapple, coconut, and rum are the primary flavors in this classic cocktail; two out of three are okay by me, but I find that when you don’t like something, it’s all you can taste. Given my newfound—albeit, possibly temporary—appreciation for coconut, I all of a sudden knew what I wanted to make with my leftover coconut whipped cream: piña colada dessert smoothies (virgin, of course)!

Despite being high in saturated fat (consume sparingly), coconut cream has many health benefits that might help you to justify the occasional splurge. This decadent plant-based treat is high in fiber, vitamins B, C, and E, and many essential minerals. You can add it to your favorite recipe right from the can or beat it and store in the fridge for several weeks. Days after whipping up a batch, I was amazed to see my coconut cream even fluffier than it was on the first day!

Fluffiness, of course, isn’t really important when it will be blended up in a smoothie, but I still found it pleasantly surprising. Another pleasant flavor component in the traditional piña colada is a garnish of ground nutmeg, which I am also using to top today’s smoothie. Nutmeg is high in fiber, copper, and manganese and has a truly unique flavor. I once heard Rachael Ray describe this wonder seed as that ingredient that makes your taste buds go “Hmmmmm.” It is even tastier freshly ground.

DSC_2317While I’m definitely missing the rum (and the wine and the beer and…), I’m happy to cool off with a piña colada that my whole family can enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using ½ cup diced pineapple and ½ cup coconut whipped* cream.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m not using any as my whipped cream is already sweetened. I probably would if it weren’t.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 2 oz) –> I’m using almond.
  • SPECIAL ADDITIONAL: Nutmeg for topping

*You could just use coconut cream that has not yet been prepared as whipped cream. Remember, I’m trying to use leftovers.  🙂

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Top with more whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.

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Cashew Cream Potato Salad

I see vegan cooks using cashew cream as a substitute for dairy in both sweet and savory applications all over the place lately, so much so that I knew I just had to try it for myself. After making my first batch of the stuff, I really couldn’t believe how smooth and decadent it was. I immediately thought to the russet potatoes I had sitting on my counter and thought of trying my hand at a creamy potato salad.

Potato salad typically gets its creaminess from mayo, which I find transforms into an unappealingly oily consistency the longer that it sits. Yes, if you’ve ever been to a good old American barbeque or cookout, you know that potato salad tends to sit…for a while. Even if everyone has a healthy helping, there always seems to be tons of it left over.

I’m happy to report that using cashew cream in lieu of mayo will keep your potato salad leftovers fresh and creamy. In addition, cashews are nutritious and versatile. These super nuts contain an abundance of antioxidants, are excellent sources of copper and vitamin K, and can even help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. They can be used in everything from trail mix to brittle to vegan cheesecake (a future blog post) and today, as “mayo.” Just blend raw cashews with water; it’s that simple!

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The other major component of my potato salad is, naturally, the potato. Today, I’m using russets so that I have a blank flavor palate to start with, but you could certainly use a sweet potato, yam, or potato of a different color or texture. Because, in America at least, the russet potato is often used in relatively unhealthy dishes like fries and chips, it has developed a poor reputation. The reality, however, is that the russet is quite the super food.

One large russet contains about a third of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, niacin, magnesium, and phosphorous. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, and the perfect canvas for endless kitchen experiments. Want to maximize the nutritional benefits of your russets? Leave the skin on! Roast it and it becomes crispy, or, in today’s potato salad, hide it almost entirely in our cashew cream.

DSC_2304Since I touted my rendition of creamy potato salad for its ability to hold up at the family picnic, you should know that it tastes even better the second day. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POTATO SALAD

Serves 4-6

  • 2 pounds potatoes –> I’m using russets.
  • 2 cups diced raw vegetables –> I’m using 2 medium carrots and 2 large ribs of celery.
  • A double batch of my creamy salad dressing (see below)
  • ¼ cup crunch (raw seeds, nuts, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using pecans (and a small amount of pistachios leftover from my nice cream recipe earlier this week).

For the dressing (NOTE: Formula already doubled below.):

  • ½ cup seed or nut butter –> I’m using cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream).
  • 5 tbsps acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, or a combination) –> I’m using half freshly squeezed lemon juice and half whole grain mustard.
  • Thinning liquid as needed (ideas: homemade veggie stock, water, or more acid) –> I’m not using any.
  • Up to 4 tbsps raw garlic and/or fresh/dried herbs and/or spices (optional) –> I’m using 2 ½ tbsps minced garlic and 1 tbsp dried dill.
  • 1-2 tsps sweetener (optional) –> I’m using 1 tsp agave syrup.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using ¼ tsp salt and no pepper.

Thoroughly wash your potatoes so that you can keep the skin on. Chop into bite size pieces and steam, boil, or roast (I’m boiling). While your potatoes are cooking, make your dressing. Cover and place in the fridge for the flavors to come together.

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When your potatoes are done cooking, drain (if necessary) and place in a glass bowl to chill in the fridge, at least to room temperature. While the potatoes are cooling, chop your veggies and crunch element, if using.  After the potatoes have cooled sufficiently, pour your dressing on top and stir gently to combine. Enjoy for several days (if you have any leftovers!).

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