Archive for Holiday dishes

Holiday Cutout Cookies and Royal Icing

Here’s an easy cookie recipe to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  Whether you are making them in the shape of Christmas trees, Hanukkah dreidels, Solstice stars, Kwanzaa candles, or all of the above, time with family or friends making and decorating festive cookies is a great holiday project that is fun for people of all ages!

I had a request to come up with an alternative cut out cookie and so these were my project last night.  I was surprised at how workable the dough was and how sturdy the cookies.  It’s easy to roll out and cut, then once you’ve cut out the shapes, you can put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit and you should have no problem transferring the cut cookies onto a baking sheet.

Of course, as soon as my kids saw cutout cookies, they tasted them, declared them yummy, then asked for icing to go on top.  Since coconut butter is my go-to for easy frosting, I just spooned out a bit of that and sweetened it very lightly with the powdered coconut sugar left in the blender from the cookies.  It came out with a beautiful sheen, nice and spreadable when warm, then firm and shiny when cool, just like royal icing.  It’s really best for spreading on the cookies, but we did pipe some onto some stars and gingerbread men and that worked for simple designs (sorry, no frosting roses:).  It stays firm at about 70 degrees and below, which most houses and offices are.  Be sure not to store the frosted cookies too near a heat source!  Other options are to decorate with a dusting of cinnamon-coconut sugar, dried fruit pieces, chocolate chips, or if you really want to get crazy, the colored decorating sugar from Whole Foods.

For the Cookies:

  • 2/3 cups coconut oil, softened
  • 2/3 cups coconut sugar, powdered
  • 2 Tablespoon of ground flax
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½-2 cups flour (I used sprouted buckwheat, but a combo of amaranth and quinoa would be great, or any gf mix you love!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Measure the coconut oil, then soften it by placing the measuring cup in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Measure the coconut sugar and process in a blender to powder it.  Set aside.
  3.  In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the softened coconut oil and powdered coconut sugar.
  5. Mix in the flax, water, and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture about a third at a time and mix until incorporated.  Add additional flour if needed until you have a smooth dough that you can knead lightly with your hands without sticking.
  7. Divide the dough in 2 and roll each half out between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper or on a silicone mat to about ¼ inch thick.
  8. Place into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Lightly oil 3-4 cookie sheets.
  11.  When the rolled dough has firmed up a bit, cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes and place on prepared trays.
  12. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until just lightly browned on the edges.
  13. Allow to firm up for a few minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack.
  14.  Decorate as you wish and enjoy!

For the icing:

  • 1 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered coconut sugar, or more to taste
  1. Measure the coconut butter into a glass measuring cup.
  2. Place measuring cup in a pot of warm water and stir until it’s creamy and spreadable.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and remove from heat.
  4. Spread or pipe as desired.
  5. Enjoy!

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We are heading to a horse ranch in Western Kentucky this year for Thanksgiving.  I am so excited to spend a few very relaxed days in a beautiful place with my family, but I think I’d better start planning ahead for our meal, because I’m fairly certain that there aren’t many health food stores in that part of the country.  So you all can start thinking about your feast-day grub too, I’d like to offer some suggestions for a bountiful, beautiful Thanksgiving meal.  To me, bounty means a variety of colors, textures and tastes and, thankfully, we still have plenty of fresh, delicious produce available to us.  The last Farmers’ Market of this season is this Saturday, so there is still time to stock up on delicious apples and pears, Winter squash, potatoes, onions, etc, etc.  I’m thinking there may even still be some yummy greens.

While I am not particularly stuck on tradition, there are certain foods that say Thanksgiving more than others to me – I guess they also just say warm, cozy, Fall…


Five Spice Carrot Cashew Butter with hearty bread
Winter Squash Soup
French Lentil Patewith Crackers<

Main Dishes:

Savory Lentil Loaf, with or without the ketchup
Chickpea Patties and Gravy(or, roasted garbanzo beans would be a delicious protein addition to the usual TDay sides)
Layered Root Vegetable Gratin
Stuffed Winter Squash with Roasted Chickpeas or Crispy Mung Beans
Baked Tofu Cutlets

Salads and Side Dishes:

Yummy Holiday Stuffing
Roasted Vegetables
Millet Risotto Cakes
Green Bean or Vegetable Casserole
Kale and Beet Salad
Autumn Tossed Salad
Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
Red Cabbage Salad


Sweet Buttercup (or any Winter squash) Tart
Carrot Cake
Raw Pear and Walnut Tart (no recipe online yet, but throw some walnuts, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and dates into a food processor to make a crust to press into a pan, then layer with sliced ripe fresh pears tossed in lemon juice, fresh ginger, and cinnamon; top with Brazil Nut Cream

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Aunt Ellie Beans

So, my family is no exception when it comes to the ubiquitous green bean casserole served at Thanksgiving dinners throughout the Midwest.  We call it “Aunt Ellie Beans”, because, of course, this was always Aunt Ellie’s contribution.  I have to be honest, I never ate it.  Love Aunt Ellie, but not those French Fried Onions.  Or the Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.  Ok, I actually liked those salty canned green beans.  I’ll be spending this Thanksgiving with my family and I can promise you that, though Aunt Ellie’s time on this Earth has passed, Aunt Ellie beans will be on the table.

I can’t say I’ve missed this particular dish since eschewing all of the components that make it up, but now that I think of it, and knowing that some form of it will be at our table, I’m thinking there may be some elements worth saving.  Green beans and mushrooms certainly go nicely together.  A little creaminess is a comforting aspect of any dish.  And, of course, something crunchy thrown on top never hurts!  Here’s what I’m thinking…and, by the way, feel free to add a whole array of vegetables and you’ll having something more like a pot pie.  Yum.

For the cruncy topping:

  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs or small croutons

For the green bean mixture:

  • 2 cups chopped fresh cremini and portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups trimmed green beans, cut into 3 inch pieces.  I actually sliced them in half lengthwise first and, though it’s time consuming, it’s the zen kind of time-consuming and much more authentic
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, preferably soaked 4-6 hours, then rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 teaspoons tamari
  • salt and pepper, to taste


Heat a large skillet to medium and add the thinly sliced onions for the topping.  Sprinkle with salt.  Turn heat down to medium-low and drizzle the onions with olive oil.  Leave the on the heat, stirring occasionally, until you make the rest of the dish.  Heat a large ovenproof pan over medium heat, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with sea salt.  Let cooked undisturbed until they have released their juices and then started to brown; depending on the moisture level of the mushrooms, this could take 5-10 minutes or more.  Once they start to stick to the pan, give them a stir and cook for a few minutes.  Move the mushrooms to the side of the pan, add olive oil and onions and cook until they soften and begin to brown.  Stir in the shallot and cook 3-4 minutes more.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, maybe a minute or less.  Stir in the green beans, cover, and cook on low while you make the cashew cream.  Meanwhile, turn on your broiler.  In a blender, blend the cashews, water, and tamari until very smooth.  Pour the cashew cream over the vegetable mixture and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Remove the caramelized onions for the topping and layer them over the green bean mixture.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and place under the broiler until the bread crumbs are crisp.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Hot Spiced Cashew-Coconut Milk

I was recently asked by a friend to make biscotti for a memorial service for her father.  Of course, I was more than happy to do that for her.  The only problem was that I had never had biscotti, let alone made it, let alone made it vegan and gluten free and with a reasonable amount of sweetener.  I have certainly seen biscotti here and there on periodic visits to coffee shops, but my impression was that it was a dry, maybe slightly bland cookie that one dips in coffee, which I do not drink.  Well, how wrong I was!  While I still have not tasted a traditional biscotti, I do have a new appreciation for something I am sure is delicious, because I found the alternative sprouted grain, lightly sweet version to be quite yummy.  Of course, once I had a few biscotti and the Fall weather started to set in, I wanted to join the crowd and have something to dip it in.  Not coffee.  No.  Yuck.  I know you all probably love it, but my parents both drank multiple cups of black coffee per day when I was growing up (still do, as a matter of fact).  Much like my first drag on a cigarette at age 8ish (disgusting to let an 8 year old try a cigarette, but it sure did do the trick), my first taste of black coffee completely dispelled any thoughts I ever had of becoming a coffee drinker.  For my personal biscotti-dipping pleasure, I visualized a creamy, hot, spicy and totally satisfying drink.  Coconut came to mind.  And cashews, ginger, cardamom…here is the recipe.  Give it a try and see what you think!  This recipe makes enough for two, because you should really invite a friend over to enjoy it with you.

  • 2 cups coconut milk (I use reconstituted creamed coconut – from Let’s Do Organic)
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional*
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger, according to taste (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • 2 dashes of nutmeg
  • one dash of cloves
  • one dash cayenne pepper, optional
  • coconut sugar, yacon sugar, maple syrup, or honey to taste, or you could blend a date with the drink – all optional

*chia seeds will thicken up your drink so it’s more creamy.  My intuition told me this drink would benefit from them, but I was skeptical, but then pleasantly surprised.  They created a nice texture, not a weird one as I was sort of expecting.  If you add them then let the drink sit, you may need to add a bit of hot water to thin it down.

Put it all in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  I use a Vitamix and don’t find there is any need to strain, but it’s possible you’ll need to strain it if your blender can’t quite get it perfectly smooth.  If you have to strain it, throw the pulp in the freezer and put it in cookies or gingerbread or whatever you bake next.  If you aren’t a baker, you could add it to hot cereal too.  Gently warm your drink in a pot on the stove.  Taste; you might not need any sweetener, as the coconut and cashew milk, plus the spices are sweet on their own.  If you’d like, add just a bit of something sweet.   Enjoy on its own or with a special dipping treat!

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My mom used to make a whole bunch of different cookies for the holidays. She would spend a few days baking, then keep them in the freezer, ready to take out to offer to guests. Of course, my brother and I would make numerous trips to the freezer to eat them throughout the days of Winter Break and beyond.

It felt so festive to see plates of so many different types of cookies and I would like to carry on this tradition, but on a smaller scale. So, I created a basic recipe that can be tweaked any number of ways so that I can make a variety of cookies with just a batch or two of dough. More freezer space available, less sugar overload, but plenty of cookies from which to choose.

By changing the type of nuts/nut butter, the flavorings, and the shape of the cookies, you could come up with dozens of different kinds of cookies with this one recipe….I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started, then be creative and have fun and recreate your own childhood favorites!

I am working on a shortbread recipe that can be shaped/decorated. Send me an email if you are interested in a cookie like that and I’ll be happy to give you a sneak preview. These cookies are drop cookies, so think spice cookies, thumbprints, chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin, etc.

Basic Cookie Recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, seeds, or nut butter
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 cup other sweetener (could be coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave, or whatever is your favorite/complementary to your cookie
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, softened or melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • water or other liquid
  • Other flavorings/add-ins, (spices, dried fruits, chopped nuts, extracts, chocolate chips, etc) or granulated sweetener/chopped nuts to roll them in before baking; you can also replace 1/2 cup of the flour with rolled oats, popped amaranth, etc.

*The flour mix I use is 1/2 cup each of amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat flours, plus 1/4 cup millet flour. I use grind my own flours from sprouted and dehydrated grains, so my buckwheat flour isn’t as dark/strong as what you will find in the store. If you have a grain mill or a Vitamix or other high-powered blender, try grinding your own flours from hulled raw buckwheat groats and other fresh grains – you will notice a great improvement in taste! Otherwise, for a lighter cookie, I suggest you consider replacing it with a nut flour, more millet, quinoa, or amaranth flour, or a different flour of your choice.

Flavor Ideas:

  • Spice Cookies: use coconut sugar as your other sweetener, add 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses, use pecans and grind them with 1 Tablespoon candied ginger (which you can make yourself with coconut sugar or another sweetener), 1 teaspoon dried ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cloves; if you have ginger syrup from making candied ginger, use that instead of water, roll the balls in coconut sugar or another granulated sugar before baking
  • Spiced Thumbprints: Make the spiced cookies as above, but instead of rolling them in sugar, made an indentation in the balls with your finger and fill it with fruit-sweetened preserves
  • Cranberry-Walnut Cookies: Use agave as your other sweetener, use chopped walnuts, and add 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and fold in a handful each of dried cranberries and coarsely-chopped walnuts
  • Lemon Thumbprints: Make the same as cranberry-walnut cookies, but leave out the cranberries and coarsely-chopped walnuts, make indentations in the balls and fill them with fruit-sweetened preserves
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies: Use maple syrup as your other sweetener, almond butter as your nut, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon , and fold in chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon-Raisin Cookies: Make the same as chocolate chip cookies, but fold in raisins instead of chocolate chips, or of course you could do both
  • Chocolate Chip or Cinnamon Raisin Bars: Make the same as chocolate chip or cinnamon raisin cookies, but add enough liquid to get a spreadable dough, then spread it onto an oiled baking sheet. Cut into bars as soon as they have cooled enough to stay together when you cut them, 4-5 minutes max
  • I could come up with cookie flavors for the rest of the night, but that gives you a good started point! Try other extracts, other spices, any dried fruit or nuts, etc, etc. These are sturdy enough to handle quite a few add-ins.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and oil 2-3 cookie sheets. If you have a food processor, grind your nuts first, then pulse in the dry ingredients. Measure the wet ingredients in a measuring cup, give them a stir, and pulse them in, adding small amounts of water (or other liquid) as necessary to get a smooth, thick dough. You may not need additional liquid if your other sweetener is a liquid or if you are using a nut butter, so just use it as needed. If you are making them by hand, mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate, larger bowl. Either way, the dough should be wet enough to stick together easily, but firm enough to be able to be shaped into a ball. If it is too soft, you can firm it up by putting it in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes, but not too long or it will be too dry/firm to work with. Roll the dough into balls and space them out about 2 inches apart. Roll in sugar, indent, fill as you please, and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are firm in the middle. Underbaking them slightly will keep them softer, while baking them until they are a little more brown will result in a crispier cookie. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes, then remove them with a spatula and let them cool completely on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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My favorite Holiday Stuffing

I realize that thanksgiving is over, but I love this stuffing. And, while I believe it’s fair game throughout the late Fall/Winter months, Thanksgiving is always my first reminder of it and I generally make it again soon after…

Really, technically, this is a dressing, as this recipe is intended to be baked separately in a dish, rather than stuffed into something. However, as I write this, I can think of all kinds of wonderful (vegetarian) foods into which this can be stuffed.

Use whatever bread you like. I had a plethora of partial loaves of sourdough sprouted grain breads from the last market – multiseed, golden squash, and rosemary garlic – so I (or my son, actually) cubed them up and mixed them together. Any old, literally, bread will do, as I’m quite sure that stuffing/dressing originated as a way to use stale bread.

The list of ingredients is long, but it’s actually a very quick and easy recipe, especially if you have a helper to cube your bread. This will make enough to serve 10 people as a generous side dish, probably with leftovers. If you have too many leftovers, you can use it to make a Savory Lentil-Veggie Loaf. I baked the stuffing in a 2 1/2 quart Corningware dish filled to the brim.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • five cups cubed bread
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1-2 generous handfuls of fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (will depend on saltiness of bread and broth)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large leek, sliced and browned, optional for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375; if you are doing other baking, this stuffing is flexible and will be fine at the oven temperature required for your other dishes, from 350 degrees to 425, but you’ll have to adjust your baking time accordingly.

Heat a large saucepan to medium, add olive oil and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions soften and begin to brown. Add celery and cover the pot, then cook until the celery is soft. Add a bit of water if necessary to keep vegetables from burning. Combine the cooked vegetables with the bread cubes, cooked grains, parsley, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix the oil into the broth and pour the mixture over the stuffing. If you used water, you might add a bit more salt here. Since there are no eggs in this stuffing, give it a taste so you get the seasoning right. Coat your baking dish with olive oil and spoon your stuffing in, packing it down as necessary to make it fit. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. I like it browned and crispy on top, so I cook it uncovered. If you prefer to keep it soft, cover it while baking. Garnish with browned leeks, if desired. Serve alongside chickpea patties, tofu cutlets, or your favorite holiday meal. You can also use it as a stuffing for vegetables – I’m thinking of stuffed roasted acorn squash topped with roasted chickpeas….enjoy!

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