Matzah toffee with pecans and sea salt (vegan)

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I can’t believe how time flies…my favorite holiday,  Passover, is right around the corner! This treat is a holiday dessert favorite…while I can’t pretend it is healthy in any way, this is definitely a fun and indulgent salty-sweet treat! Whoever first decided to combine the crackery crunch of matzah (the unleavened bread eaten to commemorate the Jews’ hurried escape from slavery in Egypt) with sweet toffee and dark chocolate was an absolute genius. Try it for yourself and see! Makes a full baking sheet worth – enough to serve as dessert for a group of at least 6 (it is super-rich so a little goes a long way) or to wrap up and give as gifts. This recipe is adapted/veganized from Jenn Segal’s “Matzah crack” recipe.

P.S. My husband has affectionately nicknamed this recipe “mazeltoffee.”

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Fiesta baked potato casserole with cashew queso

fiesta6As promised, here is a great use for your new-found vegan cashew nacho sauce-making skills. A super easy, hearty, satisfying dinner that is definitely weeknight doable. This dish is comfort food meets veggie goodness with a spicy cheesy twist. Always a hit in our house, hopefully it will become a favorite in yours too.

The secrets to speed are my shortcut vegan queso sauce recipe and pre-microwaving the potatoes so that the casserole only has to spend about 15 minutes total in the oven. This casserole can easily serve 4 hungry adults for dinner (the cashew in the sauce makes it surprisingly filling!).

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Spicy vegan nacho cheese sauce

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The concept of a vegan, cashew-based nacho sauce had been intriguing me but it took me a while to try to make it. Mostly this was because a lot of recipes I’d seen call for pre-soaking the cashews overnight, which requires too much planning for my spontaneous cooking style.  But the desire for gooey cheesy goodness prevailed, and luckily, after a few messes, I have come up with a shortcut technique for this sauce that takes no pre-soaking and is pretty spot on! Rich, creamy, just the right amount of umami and spicy, and quite satisfying. You won’t miss the cheese version, really! Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

The possibilities for using this remarkable substance are endless: drizzle it over your nachos, flavor your cooked veggies, serve it as a dip for chips and crudites…let me know if you come up with any creative new ways to use it! And here’s a teaser for next time: stay tuned for an upcoming super yummy dinner recipe featuring this sauce.

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Waikoloa sunrise smoothie

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I just got back from a much-needed vacation on the Big Island, and thought I might relive some of that experience by sharing this recipe with you. If you know where to look when traveling to Hawaii, you can find amazing unusual tropical fruits that you won’t generally see on the mainland – I highly recommend checking out the local farmer’s markets if you’re like me and you enjoy trying new and exotic fruits. This smoothie is made with Surinam cherries, which are one of the strangest, most wonderful things I have ever tasted. Funny looking little bright red pumpkin-shaped berries with a cherry-like stone in the middle. Their taste is just otherworldly; I don’t think I can do it verbal justice…a magical tart-sweet-citrusy-flowery-piney flavor you just have to experience! Also, it turns out you may not need to travel to the islands to taste them – apparently they are easily found in Florida, where they are popular ornamental plants. [For those who want to nerd out on botany: the Surinam cherry is Eugenia uniflora, part of the same genus as another myrtle relative more frequently seen on the west coast, Eugenia myrtifolia, an ornamental landscaping tree that also produces delicious berries, though with a more subtle and delicate flavor]. The other ingredients in this simple smoothie are island-grown versions of two classic fruits, papaya and banana – their sweetness perfectly offsets and complements the tartness of the Surinam cherry. I hope you enjoy this taste of Aloha!

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Hamentashen (gf + dairy free)

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Hamentashen are traditional filled triangular cookies served on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates the redemption of the Jews in ancient Persia when an evil plot to destroy them was foiled by two heroic individuals (an interesting etymologic discussion can be found here). Purim is a time of celebration and merriment – people dress in costumes, put on funny plays and deliver gifts of sweet baked goods to friends. I look forward to these cookies every year and wanted to try my hand at making a gluten-free version. These are my kind of dessert – a light, not-too-sweet dough with a hint of vanilla and orange zest, and the filling possibilities are endless. I filled these ones with tart black cherry butter and homemade apricot-nectarine preserves, but any jam or marmalade should work (if you want to get fancy you can make all sorts of homemade fillings – some of the most traditional are poppyseed, prune, and date). A word of warning about this gluten free dough: it is very fragile and takes some patience and forgiveness to work with – in case you were wondering why these cookies look a little rustic…but the taste is delicious! This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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