Pennsylvania style macaroni salad

It’s hard not to stop by a roadside farmer’s market when driving along in rural Pennsylvania. 

You get out of the car and snap a dozen of photos where only a couple make it on social media. You go inside the market out of intrigue: “What’s the speciality? What is this area famous for? I want that.”

Almost always, you’ll find Amish style macaroni salad in this neck of the woods. It was always my favorite to pick up from the deli. And for something that sat around in a deli tray all day, it tasted fresh and hearty. 

Since going vegan, I felt doomed that my pasta salad recipes would be just that: curly pasta, broccoli, maybe sliced carrots and a very light oil dressing. It was something but it left me wanting more. 

One day at home in an attempt to use up leftovers, I combined the last of our pasta noodles and the Vegenese with some apple cider vinegar and made macaroni salad! I couldn’t resist putting in some leftover fruits and vegetables (broccoli and apples work great) that were lying around too for a unique texture that totally works and isn’t boring. In fact, it’s quite tasty especially once refrigerated after a few days.

 
Pennsylvania style macaroni salad but vegan 

For the pasta 

1 package of elbow macaroni (preferably. I use penne or ziti from time to time which works well too)

1 cup of broccoli 

1 cup of Gala apples, sliced 

For the dressing 

1/2 cup of soy-free Vegenese

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar 

1 tbsp of cane sugar 

1 tsp of sea salt and black pepper 

Boil and drain pasta according to package directions. Combine dressing ingredients into a pretty, decent sized salad bowl and toss with your macaroni.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days. This salad is even better once refrigerated! 

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 Peanut Butter Cup Pie 

When I made peanut butter pie for the first time, it was far from healthy and far from vegan. My mother found the recipe in The Pottsville Republican, our local newspaper. I knew I had to learn how to cook someday if not only so I wouldn’t be surviving on takeout alone but for my future husband. I wanted to get married. 

It contained a cream cheese filling, powdered sugar, whipped cream and of course peanut butter. I used the best ingredients I could buy. For such a simple recipe, I could afford not to. It was a hit among my family, neighbors, at coffee hour and gatherings. It was so easy to make and foolproof that I missed having that as my backup when I went vegan. 

I never expected I’d go vegan. I never expected I could develop a brilliant vegan version of this recipe that was actually and partially based off of the name of this blog, Honey & Allspice. Who could expect a vegan version of pie that only contained honey for sweetener and allspice for flavor could too both appease vegans to nonvegans like my husband who requested it for both his birthday and his namesday* during our first year of marriage. 

I just never expected…. 


Within the first year of marriage, I just never expected love to be learning how to pray for your husband so you can sleep soundly at night on the evenings he’ll be home late. 

I never expected to learn how to pray allover again. 

I never expected how many suppers I’ve prepared from scratch with a book or the newspaper as my silent companion while I learned to pray over the meals I’ve learned to prepare for myself and for us, his dish and goblet set across from mine waiting for him when he would arrive home. 

I never expected that I would sometimes have to run out in the middle of night to get my spouse medicine even if he never asked me. But I just knew it was the right thing to do without a complaint. 

I never expected that I would continue to fall deeper in love with my husband after the wedding. It’s like after every little disagreement, every feud, and every trip down memory lane, our love grows. 

I never expected that revisiting the same places over again together could be transformative instead of boring and dull. 

I never expected we would have to both endure dark spots, demons or temptation. But this is not paradise. We are walking this earth together, as co-workers in Christ. 

I never expected to ask for sex or receive it on certain Hallmark holidays or special occasions for it is a tender moment of intimacy. Period. 

I never expected to not deny my husband a kiss or a hug even on days or during moments I had higher expectations for I can never be certain when will be the LAST time.

I never expected to begin seriously contemplating our Lasts during our big year of Firsts. 

For all of these moments, there’s a satisfaction and a comfort in a thoughtful meal prepared from scratch. This peanut butter cup pie. It’s the birthday dessert you can come home to the restaurant especially if your birthday falls on a fast day, the dreaded qualm that most Orthodox endure at least once in their lives. It’s the cholesterol-free namesday dessert that won’t raise your blood sugar. And a little slice will always be there when you’re alone and just want to cuddle up on the couch. Just because..with little guilt. You never quite expected that, right? 

Peanut Butter Cup Pie 

1 package of firm tofu, drained 

1/2 cup of Earth Balance creamy peanut butter 

1/4 cup of honey or agave 

2 tbsp of allspice 

2 tbsp of cardamom 

2 tbsp of cinnamon 

1/4 cup of cashew milk (for a smoother consistency and taste)

1/2 can of chilled coconut cream, chilled overnight 

For the crust…

1 sleeve of Graham crackers (I like Smoreable brand gluten free Graham crackers but you will need the entire container)

1/2 cup of melted Earth Balance buttery spread 

For the chocolate ganache…

1 package of non dairy chocolate chips 

 Let’s start with the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush up your graham crackers in a blender or food processor until ground. Melt your butter and combine pressing into a greased pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove and cool. 

Okay, time for some blender action. Take your tofu, peanut butter, honey, spices and cashew milk and add them to the blender. Blend on medium for a couple of minutes. 

Y’all should make sure you scrape down the sides of your blender real good, you hear? You should reach this kind of consistency. 

Okay, grandma. 

But if your consistency looks just like this, keep moving forward courageous baker. It really does look like the makings of peanut butter pie! 

Open up your chilled coconut cream and add in a 1/2 can to the peanut butter mixture. Coconut cream is more ideal for baking. Now, just pour the batter into the crust and spread evenly like this. 

Pop it in the freezer for an hour. After an hour, it’s time to make the chocolate ganache for topping. Try not to make this in advance or let it sit because the melted chocolate will become clumpy very fast. You don’t want clumpy for this recipe. And melted chocolate doesn’t take long at all. You need to stay with it.

Hear that, STAAAAAY WITH ME. Oh sorry, that song is probably stuck in your head too. If you’re like me, random song lyrics can enter your head at various parts of your day. IT’S JUST THE SOUNDTRACK OF LIFE, THAT’S ALL FOLKS! 

You could melt chocolate chips three ways: in a microwaveable safe bowl in 12 minute increments, over a double boiler or my way: just a skillet. JUST a skillet without ANYTHING in it. Take a walk on the wild side and imagine the possibilities….or anywho…just heat the chips on medium and stay with it stirring with a spatula. 

STAAAY WITH IT… and you’ll get chocolate factory vibes without the admission ticket. 

Dreamy

Okaaaay.

Once the chips are all melted, remove from heat and apply the melted chocolate evenly as possible over the pie. 

Pop it back in the freezer for an hour before covering with plastic wrap and moving to the refrigerator.

This pie can last a good week in the fridge and longer if you freeze it for a later occasion. Don’t be surprised to hear requests for seconds or thirds for you can easily double or triple this recipe, if necessary. It’s great served with coffee or tea. If you have a wine recommendation, pop it in the comments below. 

They’ll love it. 

It even appeased my dad whom was very dubious of vegan cuisine. “This is perhaps the best vegan food I ever had,” he said.

 

It’s worth a try, right? 
Footnotes 

* namesday. All Orthodox Christians have a saint ascribed to them by either on the days they were born on or their baptismal names. This is otherwise known as their namesday.

Indian Style Tomato Soup

There once was a cozy little Indian restaurant in the Lehigh Valley, which for awhile, was where we spent many of date nights together. We would make weekly or twice weekly pilgrimages for daal, samosas and the heavily spiced and sinus draining tomato soup or “tuh-may-toe soup” as I remember hearing how the owner used to say it in his thick accent, as he used to have our orders recited by heart.

Sometimes, I would get his tomato soup especially in Autumn. There’s something about Autumn and soups made of hearty spices. Bring on the blankets and a good book. 

But at the time, I didn’t have that. We were an hour away from home dining in the restaurant coming back for the warm hospitality and the food. I promised myself I’d never try to make that at home just so I can give him the business. But then earlier this year, they mysteriously went out of business and a chef from New York opened a Thai restaurant in its place. 

I oddly never ordered Indian style tomato soup at another Indian restaurant since. But I did end up learning how to come close with a homemade recipe at home because I still crave tomato soup especially on chilly Autumn evenings. But not just any tomato soup and certainly not canned…the kind so heavily spiced it will drain your sinuses. 

I can’t vouch this is truly authentic Indian, but dining frequently at Indian restaurants from memory, I learn a thing or two. Just add rice and papadom or naan if not a hot panini sandwich and you’re in heaven. 
Indian Style Tomato Soup 

1 container of tomato juice 

1 carrot

6 cloves of garlic (Why lie about how many garlic cloves you actually use? Be honest! And yes, six cloves is totally necessary here.)

2 tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil

1 tbsp of mustard seed 

3 tbsp of curry powder 

3 tbsp of garam masala

2 tbsp of turmeric 

2 tbsp of paprika 

pinch of sea salt 

pinch of cane sugar 

2 tbsp of fresh cilantro

Method 

1. Add tomato juice to blender with garlic and carrot. Blend up until smooth. 

2. Heat oil in saucepan with mustard seed, stirring for a few minutes. Add in other spices and stir. Now add in tomato juice and bring to a boil. 

3. Turn heat down to low. Add in cilantro leaves with cilantro stems. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

life advice: when (and when not) to work for free.  

I decided to do a different post today. I am focusing on an increasing trend happening to today’s workforce: the hidden demand to work for free. A part of life for many women today is the workforce. Today’s working women can put in as much hours as men. And with the forty hour work week a distant dream, that means working longer hours.

Now imagine working your dream job for free.

I’m not saying working for free is completely wrong. Certain charitable approaches and volunteer work are two meaningful approaches. These are situations where organizers who look like they can use the help but rarely if never will ever ask you for it.

What about when others do ask you for help and refuse to compensate you fairly if not at all?

Here’s what happened to me:

I worked as a licensed massage therapist for the past three years after graduating from massage school. I have loan debt and barely was able to put a dent into what I owe back. At my one job, I worked for tips. Even at another volunteer job, I worked for tips feeling depressed jumping into rush hour on my commutes home in the line up to get across the bridge with everyone’s nicer, newer cars and my half hearted gratitude in being able to afford good coffee at my local coffeeshop for that day.

I was offered a contracting position at a chiropractor. I could set my own hours, my fee schedule and basically micromanage myself. Eventually, I would be making real money. But then it was suggested that I’d come in on my “unscheduled” time to provide free chair massages just like the last therapist did. I wasn’t entirely opposed as I used to do lots of volunteer free massages before, but this wasn’t charity, it was my job, right? And even though my former employer only suggested it, I felt it was said so in a way I needed to follow or else.

 So, I devoted Saturday mornings, one day out of the weekend away from a fiance and family, to that. It rarely became the source of what built up my clientele. Many people just appreciated a free massage. Some tipped and tipped big. But it wasn’t enough. I had expenses: my products, my uniforms, taxes, professional association fees, CE’s, liability, gas, personal expenses…I don’t think they realized or cared about me. 

Eventually, I built up my clientele. There was a time however, where I honestly forgot I had a regular client scheduled. My heart stopped. I didn’t mean for this to happen, but forced myself to take a deep breath. I ended up apologizing over the phone and in person and even offered a discount. She remained my regular and just felt super grateful to receive work for her neuropathy – which has reduced over time. But my employer just could not let that go. I’ve started to hear several stories like that which made me smile as I recorded my notes.

It was May, my wedding month and approaching my wedding weekend, and I was kind of relieved I was beginning to build up an actual income. 

After Saturdays of doing chair massage with little or no expectations. 

After attending every staff meeting. 

After sitting sometimes for days of one or no clients without any clients or tasks for me. 

And then for no reason at all, they let me go just before my wedding. 

A friend of mine said, “You should have asked them if that was part of their wedding gift.” I didn’t have the heart nor did I tell most of my loved ones until awhile later.
Know Your Terms

Starting anywhere isn’t going to be picture perfect, at first. And neither is unpaid work going away. It can open a lot of doors to a paid, permanent position. But with the rising costs of living and more students being burdened by student loan debt, how could we afford to work for free?

Bottom Line

A company will put on a charade and tell you that they can provide you with exposure, but now it’s time to start asking questions. How big is their audience? Are people in the company following you back? If no, that’s a red flag.

Also, be clear on your own terms how much time you’re willing to put in up front. Get it in writing. They will always ask you for more than you bargained for. Do your best but know your worth so they can match it. And the right companies will try to match it. You can network and build experiences this way which can lead to something permanent that will eventually pay (no pun intended) off.

Mushroom Stuffed Peppers 

Those of you may remember my Mexican style stuffed peppers with that zesty cilantro lime dressing, but I thought it’s time for a classic rendition on the recipe in the spirit of the season of comfort dishes. For the meat, I was offered some Beyond Meat ground crumbles by vegan friends which was so simple to make. I just heated it up in the pan for a few months. I did drizzle a little olive oil in but if you’re cutting back on oil, you can use water as well. 

I also had prepared brown rice on hand which helped a lot between the amount of dishes I used and I used dried beans which I soaked overnight. Dried beans contain less salt and tend to be cheaper and if you have a bulk aisle or section, you can buy them in bulk. 

I really recommend not skipping out on the cremini mushrooms. They have a meat like texture and smell amazing especially when sizzling in butter…even if it’s vegan buttery spread. 

Vegan Stuffed Peppers 

4 hearty looking green, orange or red bell peppers, halved and deseeded

2 cups brown rice 

2 cups black beans 

1 8oz container of cremini mushrooms 

1 small onion, diced 

1 container of Beyond Meat ground crumbles (optional)

1 tbsp of sea thyme

1 tbsp of rosemary

sea salt and pepper 

1 jar of good tomato sauce (I like Neumann’s Own) or your own from scratch 

Don’t forget to…

Soak beans overnight. 

1. Halve and deseed the peppers after washing them. 

2. Boil rice until tender. Drain. Drain beans too. Set aside both.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a pat of vegan butter in a medium size pan. Once sizzling, add in onion and cook until translucent. Add in mushrooms and cook until softened. Set aside. 

4. Heat up and cook ground crumbles, if using. If not, skip this step.

5. Turn off the heat. Prepare a baking pan pouring in tomato sauce to cover the bottom and add your peppers. Layer each pepper each with a little rice, a little beans, a little of the mushroom mixture and if using the ground crumbles. Pour tomato sauce on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy. 

Autumn: “Are you ready too?” 

From holding hands at the fair when not nursing a warm cup of cider to pumpkin picking to fireside chats to train rides to chasing the foliage and hikes through the foliage, Autumn is overwhelmingly romantic. 

Some of my favorite traditions is going for hikes to going upstate to New York in October to apple and pumpkin picking to popcorn and catching up on reading. I’ve been doing the following for years with my family and friends and just myself or “I’ve dated myself” in 2017 terminology today. As 2017 is my wedding year, it’s only apparent how a natural romantic like me would be overjoyed to enjoy the season with my husband of four months. 

I’m not afraid to say that I may be partaking in most of my favorite traditions alone between his 68-75 hour work weeks. This meant in many cases eating home cooked meals alone, going to bed alone and praying alone. 

I know some women wouldn’t be able to handle that in the infancy of their marriages. I am taken aback and commend those couples who put together scrapbooks and collages to give away over anniversaries.

I’ve cried and become upset. 

I journaled. 

I prayed. 

I am grateful.

My mom’s farmer boy ceramic passed down to us

I am grateful we have a cozy home with a good landlord. Work keeps the lights on and the bills paid. We have health insurance. I am able to forage at a variety of supermarkets from high end to low end for healthy home cooked meals. We live close to check on our parents and siblings. Honestly, that’s all I could ask for in the first year because I didn’t know what to expect.

Throughout our changing life events, the need for meals does not. We want healthy and nourishing meals. That’s part of my job as a wife. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to cook. But on most days, cooking and baking are joys. I’m one of those people…and so I blog. *wink* 

A quintessential pumpkin spiced latte

So, things are rarely picture perfect but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good or there’s some gratitude to be found in the everyday. The simple. The light at the end of the tunnel. And don’t give up on that picture perfect dream for it may happen when you least expect it…believe. Hope. Make wishes on balloons in the park. 

This is my cross to bear and in this life, we all have crosses to bear as Christ did. Crosses aren’t for certain people to learn lessons. We are called to find our crosses and do the same. How are we handling it? Are we ready to take up our cross and crosses too? 

Although marriage is a partnership, it is important to take care of myself too. You cannot grow and manifest together unless both sides are healthy and growing. I’m thinking of testing seasonal comfort vegan comfort dishes to making pie again but vegan to looking forward to the liturgical feasts of the season in between prepping for my first 15k later this Fall to working on my first manuscript and finally, updating my resume and getting back into the workforce. Believe. Laugh. Revel. Dream. Achieve! 

What are you reading this Fall? And no, schoolbooks or social media doesn’t count! We should always be reading for pleasure to keep our minds sharp. This season, I’m focused on Dale Carnegie’s; “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and also “No one Cares about Crazy People” by Ron Powers. I am also peddling through Tolstoy throughout the season and into Winter starting with War and Peace.

Of course, I am still loyal to reading the New York Times. There’s something about waking up and reading the newspaper, first thing. My heart felt a tender affection for print newspapers. My favorite is the Times. Because our radius is too far for home delivery, I have been going to the library to read print copies only splurging once on the Sunday Times to humbly support the paper itself. As the price rose, there were times I couldn’t afford it or had to drive twenty mules out of my way because it was getting expensive for local businesses to supply it. I’d read it than pass it off to my neighbor who makes organic soaps and does landscaping for a living. 

Shortly after we married, my husband surprised me with digital subscription. I admit I enjoy the convenience of only carrying a phone instead of stacks of papers along to read outside and to use the comment forum freely and my relationship with my neighbor hasn’t changed but grown. 

Embrace the change for there will always be something to talk about and a story to tell as the seasons change.

Also, for those in the position to help, Puerto Rico and the islands of Dominica and Gaudelope. There’s a huge presence of Coptic Orthodox and religious people in general in the Caribbean whom are suffering property damage and other poverties due to Hurricane Maria and Irma. But don’t let religious presence in general stop you from charity. Everyone in these areas are hurting and cannot rebuild so easily without our help. To help, check this out. (I am not afflicted with any nonprofits, the N.Y. Times but I am just spreading some sources looking for help for those inclined to do so.)

Don’t laugh, but I actually had a skirt like this on my wishlist for months now. I adore it and may order it later this season. 

Garlic bread

Up long before you, the baker is in his shop mixing dough, waiting for yeast to rise, shaping them and baking them before his or her breads are put out on the sales floor next to all of the pastries, cupcakes and cookies in the jewel case that we adore and admire and are waiting for consumption or their Instagram closeups.

In France, there is a patisserie and then there is a boulangerie. 

A patisserie is just a storefront that makes French pastries. A boulangerie is a French storefront that makes bread.

There. Now if you ever go over to France, I taught you how to locate bread and pastries. You’re welcome.  

Sometimes, the two can combine. My local patisserie is one where they prepare and sells their own breads and pastries on site. And I’m not in France but the coal regions of Pennsylvania. But you don’t have to be in France or Ina Garten, for that matter to find good bread.

I know what you’re thinking. Any bread can be good, no matter where you’ve acquired it. But if you have the opportunity to do so, seek out the local baker. 

But why? 

There’s likely very little to no preservatives in fresh bakery bread. And often times, even a little sticker can deceive you. You can determine if bread has preservatives by its shelf life. A loaf with preservatives will keep much longer than a loaf without which can turn rock hard fast if you don’t plan on eating it soon. Some helpful choices that tend to last a bit longer are rye and farmhouse breads.

Yet of course the aroma of fresh bread wafting through the crisp, Fall air as you step on crunchy leaves is intoxicating enough to enjoy immediately – dare I suggest a loaf of ciabatta served up on some warm garlic bread?

OH, but I don’t eat butter. I’m fasting. 

Nonsense. Pick up some vegan buttery spread on the way home and you’re halfway there. The aromatics of garlic, red pepper flakes and butter (even if it’s just a vegan buttery spread) is like two lovely intoxicating hits in one day. There’s something about sizzling garlic in a pan that’s third to mushrooms, garlic and butter in a pan.

And I promise you, even by using the vegan buttery spread, that aroma won’t smell like wheatgrass or something. It has been my go to for baking, sautees and stir fries.

For garlic bread, we’re only talking less than five ingredients so quality is once again primal. And for a fresh ciabatta loaf, you don’t need to over season it. I use at a few cloves of garlic with red pepper flakes and oregano that I heat up, but don’t brown in a skillet.

Afterwards, take it off the heat and brush or spoon on your sliced ciabatta bread. Toast in a toaster oven for a few minutes. Remove from heat and enjoy! 

Garlic Bread

1/2 loaf of fresh ciabatta bread 

2 tbsp of vegan buttery bread (I use Earth Balance or Smart Balance)

1 tbsp oregano 

1 tbsp of red pepper flakes

3-4 cloves minced fresh garlic 

Heat butter and spices in skillet until it starts to sizzle for a bit. Remove from heat. Pour spread over each ciabatta slice and toast for a few minutes. Serve like so or spoon on some bruschetta or tapenade. Enjoy!

Can keep in a refrigerator for up to a week.