Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce with a Touch of Grand Marnier

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce with a Touch of Grand Marnier

Ahhh Cranberry Sauce!  The ultimate Thanksgiving condiment.  Lovely on your holiday table, but in my opinion, even better on a day after sandwich or spooned atop a dollop of goat cheese baked in puff pastry.  But however you enjoy it, homemade is ultimately better than the one from a can.  Though I do have friends who will oppose that statement...

Over the years my tastes have moved from super sweet mostly sugar sauces to versions boosting the cranberry flavors which bring with them loads of health benefits.  

Did you know the cranberry outranks nearly every fruit in disease-fighting antioxidants with only the blueberry ranking higher?  Filled with vitamin C and fiber, cranberries have been associated with lowered risk of urinary tract infections, prevention of certain types of cancers, improved immune functions and decreased blood pressure.

But how did Cranberry Sauce come to be a Thanksgiving tradition?  A native to northeastern North America, the pilgrims most likely had cranberries available to them, however sugar was much harder to come by.  As such, cranberry sauce probably did not accompany the first Thanksgiving.  But, the Native Americans mostly likely taught the new settlers how to use cranberries and their natural preservative power - cranberries were mixed into dried meat meals to extend its shelf life.  The beginning of cranberries at Thanksgiving??  Perhaps.

Whatever the origin, cranberry sauce is here to stay and making your own couldn't be simpler.  Making a no refined sugar version this year I think I've stumbled upon a new favorite with the addition of rich pure maple syrup and sweet, freshly squeezed orange juice.  The splah of Grand Marnier??  Just adding a dash of heaven to tie it all together.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends, may your holiday be filled with delight!

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce with a Touch of Grand Marnier

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Spice Cookies

Time has made the emptiness easier, but my boy is never far from my mind.  I know he's happier than ever... seriously, who wouldn't be living the college life in Santa Barbara with fraternity activities and a beautiful, smart girlfriend?  But I miss him each and every day.

And today he's coming home and I get him all to myself for a few hours.  We have a date to go beer shopping as he's found a few brews he thinks I will enjoy (apparently the fraternity has good taste...), and I can hardly contain my excitement.

His room is cleaned and his bed turned down, but most importantly the cookie jar is full.  College life may have introduced him to craft beer, but it definitely lacks in the home cooking category and I'm making up for that over the next few days.

First up, these Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Spice Cookies.  Crisp yet tender, the spice shines in these beauties, but it's the sweet glaze that really shoots them into the irresistible category.

These cookies travel well and bring the sweet life with you where ever you choose to take the.  I'll keep you posted how well they pair with the beer.  :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Mini Cashew Icebox Cheesecakes

Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Mini Cashew Icebox Cheesecakes

I'm usually quite the rule follower, but today I broke the rules and I have the sweet Kate from Kate's Kitchen to thank!

With this installment of Blogger C.L.U.E, our group's prompt for November is "Pie".  Now I have to admit I'm not much of a pie person.  Not that I would turn away a warm slice of sweet Apple Pie, but I really don't like making it.  Pie just seems to take so long and needs to be planned ahead.

Enter dear Kate.  A blogger I've been following since the Foodbuzz days, Kate hails from Indiana and cooks with her sous chef extraordinaire (and husband!) Connie.  Cooking in a new kitchen (decked out with white cabinets I can only dream of!) Kate and Connie bring spectacular dishes to the table and truly love creating and then enjoying the bounty.  A girl after my own heart, I'd love to share a Pineapple-Chili Margarita with her.

Which brings us to the pie.  Kate is a little like me and doesn't have many pies on her blog ( that Pear Frangipane Tart Divine!), but a post from a prior Blogger C.L.U.E Installment brought a lovely Blueberry Icebox Pie.  Filled with bright blueberries, yogurt, cream and a dash of my beloved Grand Marnier I found my recipe!!  However... my family is dairy-free.  And plant-based.

Our Blogger Clue Group likes our post recipes to remain as close to the original as possible with a goal of introducing new bloggers to our own readers, and here's where I broke the rules.  Going off-grid, I took Kate's recipe as a base and turned it into a dairy-free recipe that has just made our Thanksgiving menu.

Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Mini Cashew Icebox Cheesecakes

Cheesecake has been my sons favorite dessert since he was little and he asked for it for his birthday right up until the moment he became lactose intolerant.  Even after the intolerance began, he would enjoy a few bites along with some lactose pills and still be ok.  But as time passed his intolerance has become severe and now he simply foregos anything with any dairy, and cheesecake has become a thing of the past.

Now I've seen those cashew "cheesecake" versions and while I've wanted an alternative, I've always turned my nose up at them - just too weird.  Basically, if we can't have the real thing we just won't have it.  But my poor son... could there really be a substitute?

Searching the internet for advice on how to turn the heavy cream and yogurt into something dairy-free for Kate's icebox cake took me time and again back to frozen cashew cheesecakes.  "Fine... I'll try it," I thought - doubtful of the result.

So I soaked my cashews and then blended them up with the other ingredients.  Hesitantly taking a taste, the maple syrup and vanilla brought a delightfully sweet flavor to a surprisingly creamy concoction.  Not at all bad.

Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Mini Cashew Icebox Cheesecakes
Freezing them into my favorite Mini Cheesecake Pan (we gave up full size cheesecakes years ago and I'm ever so thankful not to have to cut the cake anymore!) I cheated again and added a bit of cranberry to the blueberry topping for a holidayish (and healthy) addition.

Popping the minis out of the pan I have to say they looked pretty darn cute.  Letting them thaw as I did my photo shoot, they ended up just about the perfect consistency at about 30 minutes out of the freezer - so note to self, remove them as you sit down to dinner and they will be ideal when dinner is finished!

But the true test came with my taste-testers, Liv and my husband.  Now Liv is not a fan of cheesecake in the first place, and for her Kate's graham cracker crust was her favorite part - but I noted that she did eat an entire mini cheesecake.  Not something she's done in the past.

Asking my husband to take a bite he said, "You know I don't want to eat dairy."  I told him to just try it, it's for a post and I needed an honest opinion.  Taking a bit he thought a minute, then took another.  His comments were as follows:

"Nice and creamy, and I love the tartness.  The blueberry is awesome.  But you know I don't want to eat dairy.  Why did you even make that?"

Smiling, I call that success.  Even more fun was his face when I told him the cheesecake didn't actually have any cream cheese in it and that it was totally plant-based.

Thank you Kate!  I haven't told my son yet, but my boy will be having cheesecake when he comes home for Thanksgiving this year, and he will be ever so thankful.  We owe this success all to you!

Check out what the rest of our C.L.U.E member made this month!


  • Kate from Kate's Kitchen

  • Christiane from Taking on Magazines

  • Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

  • Stacy from Food Lust People Love

  • Lisa from Authentic Suburban Gourmet

  • Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva

  • Azmina from Lawyer Loves Lunch

  • Kelli from Kelli's Kitchen

  • Kim from Liv Life

  • Anna from annaDishes

  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm

  • Jean from Lemons and Anchovies

  • Debra from Eliot's Eats

  • Lora from Cake Duchess

  • Kathy from A Spoonful of Thyme

  • Rebekah from Making Miracles

  • Aly from Cooking in Stilettos

  • Sue from A Palatable Pastime

  • Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Mini Cashew Icebox Cheesecakes

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Split Pea Soup with Barley - A Fire Driven Life

    Split Pea Soup with Barley - A Fire Driven Life

    I love a good success story, don't you?  And I can't wait to tell you about the latest I've found!  Filled with inspiration and motivation Vanessa Chamberlin's book, The Fire Driven Life, is one of those success stories that sticks with you Exuding health and a penchant for living life, Vanessa's book has the potential to be life changing as it creates a simple foundation for igniting health and happiness in your own life.

    The Fire Driven Life by Vanessa Chamberlin review
    With The Fire Driven Life, Vanessa lays out a way of eating, not what I would call a diet perse, but more of a lifestyle paving the way to passion for a healthier life.  Mixing a recipe of science, common sense and culinary creativity, Vanessa shows how living a plant-based lifestyle is not only easy to do, but also budget friendly.

    For anyone on your holiday list thinking of moving to a healthier lifestyle, this book is what they are looking for.  Jumping right in, the first chapter lays a foundation to help you figure out why you would want to eat a plant-based diet in the first place (Food over pills, anyone??).  From simply feeling better and more energetic to reversing heart disease and diabetes, a plant-based lifestyle has been proven beneficial and life saving for many people.

    Moving on, Vanessa's next chapters help you understand that eating plants is more than just salad.  Identifying the best foods for health, Vanessa calls them "Green Fire Foods", she's splashed the pages with lists of go-to foods and ingredients that you can (and should) eat to your heart's content.

    From there Vanessa takes you through "Yellow Fire" and "Red Fire" Foods (foods to be consumed in moderation and those that should be avoided), and then she helps you revamp and set up ingredients and pantry staples in your own kitchen.  Seriously, it's all there and figured out for you.

    Once you are ready to start Vanessa brings a support section where she coaches you through some of the challenges in transforming your diet.  Being plant-based myself I understand how difficult change can be, but once you begin down the plant path it gets easier and easier and then simply becomes a preferred way of life where you will hopefully feel better than you ever have.

    The Fire Driven Life by Vanessa Chamberlin review
    Next Vanessa completes the whole lifestyle by including exercise and stress management along with a frequently asked Q and A section.  For example... did you know that you don't need dairy products for calcium?  (Actually the most usable sources of calcium are found in plant based foods like many greens and other veggies).

    And then, of course, my favorite part of the book... the recipes!!  Featuring delectable entrees along with sides, appetizers and snacks (including smoothies and juices) , soups and salads, condiments (and sauces and spreads) and a collection of tempting Happy Endings (how about a few Chai Spiced Cookies or Cocoa Cupcakes?), Vanessa's recipes are clearly written and easy to follow.

    With beautiful photography her recipes tempt and motivate you into the kitchen to create a little bit of awesomeness for yourself.  And that's just what we did!

    First off, Liv picked the Chocolate Monkey Shake featuring a few of her favorite ingredients (bananas, peanut butter and chocolate) and we had an immediate new favorite recipe (she even loved that it added spinach so she didn't have to eat it later!).  Moving on to the Mexican Spaghetti (super popular with the men in our family) and then the Smashed Pea Soup with Barley, I'm thrilled with everything we've tried.

    Only a few books on my shelf do I reach for over and over again, and The Fire Driven Life has quickly become one of them. This book will be on my holiday list of gifts to give for friends who are looking for health in the new year.

    More than a cookbook, I love the inspiration jumping from every page, and after following Vanessa on Instagram I'm loving the motivation from her frequent posts as well.

    Vanessa, thanks for sharing your story with the world, but more importantly for inspiring us and for igniting a passion for health in your readers!

    Split Pea Soup with Barley