Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lemon Cherry Sunset Pie

This has been a post I've been wanting to write for a long time, and in a moment, you'll see what I mean.  About five years ago I bought a GT Express after seeing an infomercial.  If you don't know what that is, it's a cooking device that you plug in, and it has two wells in which food cooks.  I bought it, well, because I'm a sucker for gadgets, but I thought my girls were old enough at that time to make stuffed burritos in it, vegan grilled cheese, etc.  We've used them quite a bit.  I also posted a recipe for GT Express Pizzas  where you can see a photo of what one looks like.  Anyhow, the product came with a booklet of recipes, hardly any of which, of course, are vegan.  So, I've had fun tweaking them to see if I can change them up.  I have been working on their Lemon Cherry Pies recipe for over a year.  I've actually posted a photo of their original recipe for you to see.  And, I thought it might interest some of you how I create a recipe on my own.  Granted, I got the inspiration from their name, but as you'll see, my notes look nothing like their original.  Anyways, the pie has been tested multiple times on my family, and I've changed it and changed it again.  Most recently, my parents got in on the testing act, and everyone agreed that it's finally ready to post.  One of my challenges was to make sure the fillings were soft like the canned versions, so not too firm. The end result is a creamy, unique pie flavor that I think you'll really like.  Let me know what you think!  (By the way, I often spend several tries trying to get a recipe right before posting it.  I just thought of finally posting that process for fun.)

Lemon Cherry Sunset Pie

This is the original recipe.  Notice just three ingredients are required.  Since we don't eat colorings or corn syrup, the pie fillings were out.  Even if there ends up being a more "natural" brand out there, I wanted to make this from scratch.  Also, I don't use refrigerated pie crust, so I knew I couldn't use the GT Express.  This would be baked in a regular pie pan.

Here are my notes to create my recipe.  The pink slip on the left is actually my sweet pie crust recipe I use for a double crust pie that I just halved for this recipe.  Don't you just love how I keep recipes for myself?  The sheet on the right is the birth of the Lemon Cherry Sunset Pie.  Lots of tweaks and changes over a period of about ten attempts at making this pie.

Finally, a slice of Lemon Cherry Sunset Pie!  At last.

Lemon Cherry Sunset Pie



1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup cold (stick) vegan margarine, cubed small
3 Tbs. cold water
Flour for rolling out crust
(Beans or rice for weighing down)

Pie Filling:

1/2 cup vegan sugar
2 Tbs. corn starch
1/3 cup water
1 and 1/2 cups frozen cherries, halved
1 and 1/2 pkgs. (12oz. each) of silken firm tofu
1/4 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. lemon extract
1 cup vegan sugar


Crust:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor with the pastry blade installed, add the flour, salt, sugar and margarine.  Run the machine until blended and it looks like pastry granules.  With the machine running, pour the water into the feeder hole.  Run until the dough clumps up together; it's perfect if it sort of balls up.  If you need to add a few drops of water more, do so with restraint.  [Alternately, you can put the first ingredients into a bowl and mix with a pastry cutter or fork.  Then mix well with the water.]  On a lightly floured surface, roll out your crust evenly into a circle large enough to cover your pie pan, about nine inches across.  Lightly fold your crust over in half and lift to the pie pan.  Carefully unfold and lightly press into the pan, making sure that all parts of the pan are covered by crust.  If you've got sections of crust hanging over the edge of the pan and other areas that are missing crust, simply cut away one part and press onto the other.  Take a paring knife and run it along the edge of the pan, removing any uneven crust edges.  Then pinch the crust edge between your fingers creating a scalloped look.  Lay a piece of wax paper on the bottom of the crust and cover it with a layer of beans or rice to weigh it down. You are prebaking the crust at this stage.   Bake for 15 minutes.  Pour off the beans or rice into a bowl - these are still good to prepare in a later meal.  Discard the wax paper.  Cool the crust on a cooling rack.

Pie Filling:  In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch and water.  Add the cherries, and turn the heat on to medium.  Heat to boiling, which will take five to seven minutes, stirring frequently to constantly.  Watch carefully, for this will thicken up quickly.  When it thickens, remove from heat and cool down.  After about a half hour, chill cherry filling in refrigerator until needed later.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  While the cherries are chilling, prepare the lemon filling.  Using the food processor again, this time with the cutting blade, add the tofu, turmeric, lemon extract, and sugar.  Blend until well mixed, at least a minute.  You are looking for a completely smooth texture.  Pour the  lemon filling into the pie crust and bake for 30 minutes.  Cool on rack for a half hour, then chill for at least two hours in the refrigerator, longer if you have the time.  Take the pie crust with the lemon filling out of the fridge, as well as the cherry filling.  Carefully layer the cherry filling on top of the lemon filling...and...chill again, for at least 30 minutes.  The longer you can chill, the better this will set up.  This will still be soft when cutting, so use a gentle hand.  If some cherry topping slides off during the slicing process, deftly replace it, and no one will suspect a thing.  A unique flavor, one that my family loves, and I hope you do too.  A beautiful end result.  Feeds five hungry vegans and a couple of grandparents.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Peppery-Garlicky Gravy

G was hankering for some gravy the other morning, so I looked around in the pantry and fridge for some ingredients to rustle something together.  Since the Blessings had spent the night with Gramma and Poppy, I knew I could make it as spicy and un-kid-friendly as I wanted.  I really liked what turned out.  Even though I normally serve a white gravy over biscuits, the end dish tasted very good.  But, this won't be my "official" biscuits and gravy recipe; you can serve this gravy over biscuits, mashed potatoes, seitan cutlets, and more.  G would have preferred I left the shitakes out of the pot, so consider those optional. Also, the garlic I used in this recipe I had just purchased from the Farmer's Market, so they're not you're regular supermarket version.  They were more like one large clove each, very much arranged like small onions, and they were delicious.  But, I love garlic enough, that I would still use the same amount from the store.  Enjoy!

Peppery-Garlicky Gravy.

Peppery-Garlicky Gravy over biscuits.

Peppery-Garlicky Gravy


1 Tbs. canola oil
1 red bell pepper, diced small
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 - 6oz. can of sliced shitake mushrooms, drained (optional ingredient)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 Tbs. vegan margarine
6 Tbs. flour
3 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth


In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add the red bell pepper, garlic, and shitakes.  Saute for five minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and continue cooking for another minute or so, stirring frequently.  With a spatula, move all the ingredients to one side of the pot.  Add the margarine to the cleared sign of pot, and melt it.  Add the flour to the margarine, and whisk together.  Slowly pour the broth into the roux (flour mixture) while whisking.  Try to whisk any clumped up flour bits, so you have a smooth gravy.  Eventually the other ingredients will get mixed in, and that's okay.  Continue whisking until everything has been mixed together well.  Whisk continually at this point until gravy boils and thickens, anywhere from three to ten minutes.  Serve over biscuits, mashed potatoes, seitan cutlets and more.  Nice kick to the flavor.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Potato Tacos

I first had potato tacos about seven years ago at a Mexican restaurant in town.  They had traditional toppings on them, so I had them without the cheese.  But, what stood out to me most were the potatoes in them, so small and crispy.  I had never heard nor thought of putting potatoes in tacos, but I was inspired!  I may have eaten there one more time that than - I can't really remember - but the tacos have never left my memory.  So, I decided to redo them here at home, and everyone loved them.  I like to switch my taco toppings up and try some unorthodox things, and I really like the result here.

Potato Tacos


20 or so corn tortillas
Canola oil, divided
5 Russet potatoes
1 - 29oz. can vegetarian refried beans
1 container vegan sour cream
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup or so mint leaves, small (cut them in half in they are large)
Favorite salsa


In a large pan, heat about two tablespoons of oil on medium heat.  Peel the potatoes and dice them very small.  Add them to the oil, and cook for about thirty minutes.  Turn occasionally, letting the sides get brown and crispy.  In the last five minutes of cooking potatoes, heat the beans in a medium pot over medium heat.  When the potatoes and beans are ready, heat a few drops of oil in a small pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add a tortilla.  Cook for a few seconds on one side and then flip over.  Add a spoonful of the beans and a spoonful of the potatoes to one side of the shell.  Carefully fold the other half of the shell over and put on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Repeat the process with the rest of the shells, potatoes and beans.  Each few drops of oil should last for a couple of tortillas.  When all the tacos are ready, garnish with your toppings.  Delicious!  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gratuitous Pet Pictures - I

I thought it would be fun to put up a post just showcasing my family's animal friends.  I've added the "I" to the title because you never know: I just might have a II or III down the road.  Enjoy the shots!  Pet Power!

First up, here's Cleopatra or Cleo or Crabby Patty.  We brought her home in October of last year when someone we knew had died.  They had hoarded nineteen cats.  She's missing her right eye, and her tongue sticks out most of the time.  She is six years old now.  She has adjusted wonderfully to all the other animals and to the human family members, as well.

Here's a shot of her I posted last year of her in her little abode.

This is Sparkly, a stray that never left over ten years ago.  She's a tough kitty and prefers to be outdoors most of the time.  But, here, she's resting in a computer laptop bag.  JK wants to make sure you know that her meow is the opposite of soft and sparkly, more like a "Reeoorrrww!"  She barely tolerates the others, and they stay clear of her.

Her innocent face.

 Sparkly loves the humans in her world.  Here she is sleeping back to back with JK.

At Christmastime, Charlene found the pile of ornament boxes and thought it a good place to snooze.  She also showed up at as a stray about fifteen years ago.  She gets along well with all family members.  She is now deaf and has one tooth, so she's extra pampered.

A close up of her cute face.

 Charlene convinced herself that she fit inside SR's puzzle box.

 Mindy, one of the two sister dogs, now two years old.  She's resting on one of the recliners.  This is GR's pup.

Here's Abby, Mindy's sister and SR's pup.  That didn't stop GR and JK from finding some Easter grass to top her head.  For those of you wondering, she is fully recovered from heart worm, thank God.

 This is a very common sight in our home: Abby snuggling with G.  She'll flip on her back and look him right in the face.  If he stops acknowledging her in any way (note the remote on his leg), she'll whimper.

 She'll even let Charlene join in the nuzzle time!  Different day, different outfit.

Abby and Mindy weren't too thrilled to be twin Santas at Christmas.  But...that's the price you pay for living with us.  Mindy's got a wink for you!

They are much happier here, ready to party down.  Mindy is on the left as a soccer "rufferee", and Abby is a fairy's sidekick.

 As a final shot, once the Blessings saw the photos I had uploaded, they all voted for me to add this one, as well.  They thought this expressed the dogs' personalities very clearly.  Notice how Mindy's lip is caught in her mouth, and we all love Abby's long, happy tongue.

That's it for now!  Hope you enjoyed the pics and getting caught up.  Your turn!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Simple Cinco de Mayo Salad and Dinner

My family loves Mexican food, and Cinco de Mayo just gives us an excuse to indulge in it.  Realizing Sunday afternoon that I had nothing in the kitchen with which to celebrate it, I hurried on over to our neighborhood Mexican market to pick up a few things.  Besides the standard fare, I knew I wanted some kind of vegetable or salad to go with dinner, and I wanted it to be kid-friendly.  Knowing I'm not an expert at nopalitos yet, I looked over their produce for ingredients to make a yummy salad.  I think I came up with a really simple, tasty salad that will refresh on any hot day, but especially on Cinco de Mayo, ole! 

Simple Cinco de Mayo Salad in the serving bowl

The requisite homemade chips with pico de gallo, guacamole, and spicy red salsa

 My Cinco de Mayo plate: plain flour tortilla, Cinco de Mayo salad, Sweet Potato candy (a sweet potato somehow softened with sugar and water!  I forget the Spanish name for it, but it was soft and sweet, and just three ingredients.), Pintos and Hominy with salsa drizzled on top.  So good!

Simple Cinco de Mayo Salad


3 avocados, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, about one cup packed, chopped, discarding bottom stems
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Put all ingredients in a large serving bowl and gently but thoroughly toss together.  Try to eat it all at this meal, for refrigerating it does it no favors.  Feeds five hungry vegans. Yumms!