dirt bikes Gummo

Note: When I first wrote this post in 2013 Dandies mini marshmallows weren’t even available yet and this post was a preview!!! Also I included instructions for making whipped topping from canned coconut milk, which I’ve replaced here because the store-bought stuff is actually more stable and easier to work with. 

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 nearby Minooka, 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 and it’s not even about Channahon. 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, 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 Dandies Mini Vegan Marshmallows I decided to revisit my aunt’s go-to side dish with all vegan ingredients. 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 fluffy whipped topping, nuts, and apples –  and did my best to balance the sugar with tartness and salt.

What are some childhood food favorites you’d like to see receive a makeover?

Vegan Taffy Apple Salad

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.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Dandies Vegan Mini Marshmallows
  • 3 cups diced Granny Smith apples or whatever apple you prefer
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple drained
  • 1 batch candied walnuts or roasted, salted peanuts if you prefer
  • 1 container vegan whipped topping such as Cocowhip or vegan Truwhip

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, toss the marshmallows, apples, pineapple and walnuts together.
  • Fold in the vegan whipped topping.
  • Serve immediately, or chill for a few hours and serve the same day. After a few hours the pineapple and other wet ingredients can start to break the marshmallows down, so don't make this one too far ahead of time.

Notes

I used this recipe for candied walnuts, but added a bit more salt.