I grew up in Channahon, IL – population 12,560. It’s a quiet place inhabited these days mostly by old folks, and it isn’t known for much. In fact, when I found out that Nick Offerman’s dad taught social studies at a junior high in Channahon I burst in on Tony in the bathroom to tell him about it. It’s literally the most exciting fact about Channahon you will ever learn. But it was a good place to be a kid – lots of wide-open spaces to run around in, and steep, steep hills to ride your bike down. (My mom doesn’t like when I compare that to the dirt bike scene in Gummo, but that’s what it reminds me of.)
Of the many things Channahon is not famous for, it is probably least famous for its cuisine. For most of my life the only non-chain restaurant around was a truck stop called Sarah’s Place that served re-heated frozen delicacies like jalapeño poppers and chicken fingers. But that didn’t bother us, because my family could potluck and cookout with the best of them. Burgers and hot dogs took a backseat to the sides that my mom, cousins and aunt would whip up. My mom’s taco salad (that she started making with fake meat for me in 1998 and no one has noticed to this day), my cousin Mikey’s twice-baked potatoes and my Aunt Cindy’s taffy apple salad stand out as favorites in my memory.
After receiving a sneak peek package of Chicago Vegan Foods‘ Dandies Mini Vegan Marshmallows I decided to revisit my aunt’s go-to side dish with all vegan ingredients. (These will be available in the fall – until then, you can use kitchen scissors to snip full-sized Dandies into smaller pieces.) Turns out, it’s actually way less work than the original! I made some swaps, too, like walnuts in place of peanuts and tart green apples in place of Red Delicious – but if you could definitely switch back if you wanted to. Taffy apple salad recipes vary – some call for crushed pineapple, some call for chopped up Snickers bars – so in this recipe I made sure to capture the essential elements of whipped cream, nuts & apples and did my best to include a hint of sugar and salt.
Use this recipe for candied walnuts (although I up the salt to 1/4 tsp). To make coconut whipped cream, place two cans of full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, carefully turn them over and open the bottom. Pour out the water, and place the thick cream that’s leftover into a mixing bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the cream until it’s thickened. You may wish to add a 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum or another vegan whipped cream stabilizer to keep the whipped cream from separating over time. I didn’t sweeten or flavor the coconut cream in this recipe, although you could add 2 Tbs of confectioner’s sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for that authentic Cool Whip flavor.
What are some childhood food favorites you’d like to see receive a makeover?
Taffy Apple Salad Redux Recipe
By May 12, 2013Published:
- Yield: 10-12 Servings
Based on the side dish that made my Aunt Cindy famous in the Three Rivers-area, here is my take on this fluffy fruit salad.
- 4 cups Dandies Vegan Mini Marshmallows see note above
- 3 cups diced green apples not peeled
- 1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple drained
- 1 batch candied walnuts see note above
- 1 batch coconut whipped cream see note above
- In a large bowl, toss the marshmallows, apples, pineapple and walnuts together.
- Fold in the coconut whipped cream.
- Serve immediately, or chill for a few hours and serve the same day. Because the marshmallows do not contain gelatin (which is made of animal collagen), the moisture from the other ingredients will break them down and make them fairly sticky after about 2 days in the fridge.
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