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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie an/or get her cooking advice, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.


Fifty-second in a series of articles


Howdy there darlins',

Well, well, well, I'm feelin' mighty joyful in my heart 'cause this time o' year is so speshul--why, my kin's a-comin' fer a visit an' that's as speshul as can be.

An' you can bet I'll be cookin' up some purty fancy fixin's fer the folks, an' my o' my, they do like my cookin'! That tickles me pink--there's jes nothin' I like better 'n' fillin' them l'il ole bellies with them few recipes I done set aside jes fer the holidays.

There's gonna be a heap o' partyin' an' plenty o' eatin'--matter o' fact, I never saw such eatin' in my life as I do at this holiday time. An' it happens ever' year like clockwork--an always leaves me feelin' mighty fulfilled an' plenty happy.

Now, there ain't no one don't like a l'il dessert. Ain't that right? So I'll be fixin' a pie or two--actually more 'n that--but here's one o' my best pies that's jes packed ta the brim with nuts an' dried fruits.

Can you believe I don't make this pie jes any time o' year? No siree--it's only fer holiday time an' that's what it is. Now y'all know that all year long I been talkin' a heap 'bout savin' money and cookin' up dinners that's healthy and still mighty cheap.

Well all that savin' is jes so's you kin afford ta make them holiday times jes a li'l more speshlul--yes, o' course I knows it's gonna cost a bit more--but it's holiday time.

Now this pie is one o' them nice recipes you kin make even five days before ya needs it. Jes tuck in the 'fridge an' be sure ta take it out early an let it come back ta room temperature. An' when the first person takes that first bite, why it practically sets the room a-buzzin'. That's how good it is!

Be sure an' let me know how you like it--

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Any time you blend dried fruits with hazelnuts, you've combined the seductive elements of an exceptional sweet treat. But mingle the merry makings of four different fruits with the crunchy, roasted, chunky nuts, spice them up, bind them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!--a stunning pie for the holiday!

Because the pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. It's the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that's a dinner host's dream because there's no last minute fuss and everyone loves it. For the best results, bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

This is one of the delicious recipes from Zel's cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays!

Apricot, Date, & Hazelnut Sticky Pie


Yield: 1 (9-inch/23cm) pie; 8 servings

    1 recipe Easy Pie Crust (recipe below)

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) blanched hazelnuts
    3/4 cup (180 ml) toasted pecans

    1 cup (240 ml) brown rice syrup
    1/4 cup (60 ml) organic sugar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
    1/3 cup (80 ml) tapioca flour

    1 cup (240 ml) golden raisins
    3/4 cup (180 ml) diced dates
    2/3 cup (160 ml) diced dried apricots (preferably Turkish)
    1/2 cup (120 ml) sweetened dried cranberries
    1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon minced orange or lemon zest
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/2 teaspoon maple extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4). Prepare the Easy Pie Crust and set aside.
  2. To make the filling, pour the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the hazelnuts to a large bowl. Break the pecans into pieces and add them to the hazelnuts.
  3. Combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture.
  4. Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  6. Stir the lime juice and maple extract into the syrup mixture and mix well. Pour the syrup into the fruits and stir and mix thoroughly to coat all the ingredients. (The mixture will be very thick and sticky, and combining it completely will likely take the place of your daily workout.)
  7. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 4 to 6 hours to set completely. To store, cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

Easy Pie Crust

Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch/23cm) pie crust

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 cup (120 ml) ground flaxseeds
    2 tablespoons organic sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (120 ml) canola oil
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 1 tablespoon water

  1. Put the flour, flaxseeds, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times to distribute the ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Add the oil and water and process until well mixed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Alternatively, combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, add the oil and water, and mix thoroughly by hand.
  3. Spoon the crust mixture into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan. Use your fingers to press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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