Variations on a Theme…Spicy Vegan “Tuna” Salad and the Controversial Practice of Scooping

So delighted was I with my vegan “tuna” salad of yesterday, I decided to make it again today with a couple of variations: first, I added a good dollop of sriracha, and second, I added chopped olives. Oh my…is it EVER good!

Spicy Vegan “Tuna” Salad

  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 dill pickles, chopped
  • 6 green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayo
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until grainy (but not too grainy–think, the consistency of tuna). Empty into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Mix the vegan mayo and sriracha together in the Magic Bullet and mix with the rest of the ingredients.


Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 3 – 4.


Another variation: make a mini baguette, scoop out the innards, and fill with the vegan “tuna” salad. Top with sliced cucumbers. SO delicious!!


You might wonder why I suggest scooping out the innards of the baguette. I first heard about the controversial practice of “scooping” in relation to bagels. Apparently, in an effort to save calories when indulging in the highly caloric bagel, many people order their bagels scooped of the innards.

The scooped-out part is then filled with…whatever is on the menu. This practice apparently incites the ire of native New Yorkers, who consider the practice sacrilege, but, eh, what do I care about native New Yorkers and what do they care about me and my scooped mini-baguettes?

Believe it or not, I started scooping not to save calories, but because I like the crustiness of bread, but I don’t like TOO much bread. Scooping might seem like a bit of a waste, but, from time to time, it’s a nice treat. Heck, I even scoop my veggie burger buns–believe me, it makes all the difference!

If you like a bit of bread/bun, but not too much, give scooping a try! Just make sure the bread-y object of your scooping has a crisp/hard enough crust to withstand the scoop!


Vegan “Tuna” Salad…

Tuna is one of the very few things I missed when I became vegetarian, so from time to time, I attempt to create a vegan version. Today’s version was particularly succulent–likely because I added so much salad-y stuff to the mix.

Apologies since it’s more of an assembly than a recipe, but it’s super delicious and super healthy (oh, and super easy as well).

Vegan Tuna Salad

  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 2 dill pickles, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Yellow Goddess Dressing (or vegan mayo)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until grainy (but not too grainy–think, the consistency of tuna). Empty into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 3 – 4.

I served it with grilled whole-wheat flat bread, and it was so fresh and satisfying!


Sticky…not Tacky

Every morning I receive an e-mail from Bookbub with listings of a variety of e-books on special–usually for $.99 or $1.99, but sometimes even for free. Anyway, this morning I received an invitation to purchase the Kindle edition of Peter Reinhart’s Artisanal Bread Every Day. Since I already own a hardcover copy of Jeff Hertzberg’s Artisanal Bread in Five Minutes a Day, it seemed a bit indulgent, BUT it was only two bucks and I also wondered whether I might not learn something more from the great Peter Reinhart that I didn’t from Dr. Hertzberg (apparently, he’s a medical doctor when he’s not a baker).


And, after only a quick skim of the first few pages, I did learn something! One thing I’ve found frustrating about forming loaves with the no-knead bread is that I have to spray my hands with vegetable oil to work with the dough because it sticks to my hands otherwise. According to Mr. Reinhart, the dough should be “sticky, not tacky.” Indeed, he likens the level of desired stickiness to a post-it note: it should stick, but peel away clean.

This is definitely NOT the case with my current dough recipe.

Therefore, I added 1/4 cup more flour to my white no-knead dough recipe, and it seems to be approaching the appropriate level of stickiness. Reinhart also indicates that one should use as little yeast as possible because you want the fermentation to be slow. To that end, I’ve reduced the yeast to one tablespoon (from 1.5). Here are the new proportions:

No-Knead White Loaf (latest version)

3 and 2/3 cups warm water

1 TBS yeast

1 TBS salt

7 and 1/4 cups of white flour

It’s better, but something tells me, it’s still too tacky, not sticky. Oh well–it still tastes great! The experiment continues!


UPDATE: After the initial rising, the dough was PERFECT, so I’m very happy with the revised proportions!!

I even tried a couple more flat breads, but on the indoor grill this time, as opposed to the barbecue. They turned out very well indeed (though my grill is on its last legs and can’t even be turned off now).  The flatbread turned out very well indeed, and the dough is very much easier to work with!


Oh, and I also tried a new spice mixture:

Spice Mix

1 TBS each of

  • basil
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder

1 tsp each of

  • sage
  • savoury

I added two tablespoons of the mix to my latest batch of dough. It’s very nice, but a bit more subtle than I’d hoped. Next time, I’ll try three TBS of the mix in the dough!

Flatbread on the BBQ

So yesterday, scheduled maintenance by BC Hyrdro meant we had no electricity for the day, and though we’d had lots of notice, I completely forgot and failed to make any bread for the day!

By the time lunch rolled around, we were both pretty peckish, however, so I heated up some vegan chili on the woodstove….


James always likes a bit of bread with his chili, however, so I thought I’d try making flatbread on the barbecue. To that end, I pinched off a small piece of dough from my no-knead dough in the fridge and stretched it out a bit while James heated up the barbecue (and placed a lightly oiled grill on the grill). Ideally, a flatbread can be cooked directly on the barbecue grill, but, if you recall, my no-knead is VERY wet, so it would have dripped through the grill.

Once the grill reached about 300 degrees, I placed the dough on the grill and closed the lid.


I think with regular dough (as opposed to the very wet, no-knead dough), the flatbread bakes in about six minutes (three minutes per side), but the wet dough takes a bit longer.

I think, all in, it was about ten to twelve minutes (about five or six minutes per side). Once the dough was brown-tinged on the bottom, I flipped it.


Because I didn’t use much oil (just a quick spray), the crust was more white than brown and I was a bit concerned that the centre would still be gummy. However, I used my internal thermometre to ensure that the flatbread achieved a temperature of 210 degrees (you’ll note the prong of the thermometre above–that thing is a bloody lifesaver!!!).

The result was a delicious lunch of vegan chili and herbed flatbread in less than twenty minutes!


Oh, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve recently been throwing a few handfuls of Bragg’s Sprinkles into my no-knead dough, but it’s rather pricey, so I tried my own herb/spice mix and it worked very well!

Quick Herb Mix

1 TBS each of

  • dried basil
  • dried rosemary
  • dried oregano
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder.

It was quite good, but not as profound a taste as the Bragg’s mix. One thing I notice that’s missing is the taste/smell of sage that’s in the Bragg’s mix, so I may add that (ever so slightly) to future experiments. The problem will be proportion because a little sage goes a loooooong way, and too much makes everything taste like turkey stuffing.

Oh, and I found Angela Liddon’s new cookbook on sale at Costco last week, so I’m gearing up to try a few of her “every day” recipes!





Vegan Queso…in the Vitamix

So my first whack at making a vegan cheese-type sauce in the Vitamix was NOT a success (likely because I conflated a bunch of recipes and used past-its-prime RAW cauliflower as a base). THAT little experiment went right down the drain.

Today, however, my attempt at adapting an excellent vegan queso recipe was entirely successful! It’s based on a Post-Punk Kitchen recipe–Cashew Queso–and turned out to be much quicker in the Vitamix and quite a bit smoother.

Vegan Vitamix Queso

Throw in the Vitamix…

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked in boiling water for ten minutes and drained
  • 2 cups homemade veg broth
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon vegetable paste

Next, spray a saucepan with oil and saute for eight minutes (adding garlic in for last minute)….

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

Add the mixture from the saucepan into the Vitamix and also add…

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (I used dehydrated cilantro because I ran out of cumin!!!)
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili peppers
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Set your Vitamix to the “soup” setting and walk away until it finishes.


  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

And mix on medium for a few seconds.

It’s delicious atop a baked potato with vegan coconut bacon and chopped green onions!


And if you want to make a meal of it, add a handful of black beans and a dollop of guacamole and salsa–Yum yum!!!



So yesterday, we went into town for groceries and as I was wandering the aisles of Costco (always a dangerous thing), I happened upon a Vitamix display. Now, I’ve been lusting after this Cadillac of blenders for ten years or so….and my own blender just bit the dust….and my mum gave me a bit of dough for my birthday, so what could I do, but BUY ONE!!!



The first thing I attempted was a soy-yogurt-frozen-banana-mango dessert, which ended up too runny, but actually delicious the next day. The second was a rather delicious tomato-basil soup that took all of about six minutes to make because the Vitamix not only blends, but also heats the soup.

I used this video as a rough guide, and it was very good. Here are my ingredients:

Vitamix Tomato-Basil Soup

Add to the Vitamix:

2 cups water

3 very ripe whole tomatoes (next time, I’ll use more flavourful ones, like Roma)

1 clove garlic

a handful of fresh basil from the garden

a couple of green onions from the garden

a handful of baby carrots

a wedge of cabbage

a chunk of green pepper

a chunk of jalapeno pepper

1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable paste

2 knobs of fresh turmeric root

a generous handful of cashews

lots of freshly ground pepper


Pulse it a couple of times to get everything ground up (I could NOT believe how quickly this occurred!).


Next, set it to soup, and walk away until it stops. It’s LOUD, so you’ll need to walk away. Once the blender stops, the soup should be done, and, if you like it a bit chunky, add a handful of grape tomatoes and a chunk of pepper and blend for a few seconds.


Meanwhile, I had a couple of loaves of whole-wheat herb bread in the oven.

And this homemade (all from scratch!!), healthy lunch was as quick as waiting in line at Timmy Ho’s for a soup and bun…and twice as delicious!

Homegrown, Farm Fresh….oh, and “Goblin Market”

I’ve never been one to buy organic produce simply because I’m not really confident of the veracity of the term, and I don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for organics when current studies reveal that they are no healthier than their supermarket counterparts. Indeed, the government publication, Organic Farming in Canada: An Overview, indicates that….

“Although beneficial to the environment, organic farming methods are not guaranteed to produce healthier foods than those produced by conventional farming methods.  Organic farming standards do not include an obligation to produce higher-quality products – which does not mean that organic farmers are not capable of achieving such results.  The label “organic” does not provide any guarantee of a product’s quality and nutritional value.  Furthermore, organic farming is subject to the same rules as conventional farming with regard to hygiene and health safety.  A report by the U.K. House of Commons Agriculture Committee, tabled in January 2001, noted that there is currently no proof that food produced through organic farming is healthier.”

And I’ve never found organic produce to taste any better…or any different really, and that is the real disappointment! In fact, I stopped buying certain beloved fruit–like strawberries and peaches–years ago because I love them so much that I’m invariably disappointed when I purchase a basket of beautiful looking strawberries at the market only to have them taste like styrofoam (not that I’ve ever tasted styrofoam, but you get the idea).

Homegrown and farm fresh produce is another matter altogether. It is invariably sweet and juicy–and it always tastes like the fruit of childhood memories.

Now, we grow no fruit of our own here at Sideways Cottage, and I suspect it’s unlikely we ever will since our little half acre isn’t fenced and the deer eat anything they can reach (and those little buggers can reach!).


However, today in a perfect storm of generosity, we happen to have in the fridge homegrown plums from a neighbour, farm fresh strawberries from my sister, and farm fresh, hand-picked, and home-pickled(!!) blueberries from my niece.




The resulting fruit salad tastes like ambrosia, particularly topped with soy yogurt mixed with the juice of Annie’s pickled blueberries, and a sprinkling of sunflower, pumpkin, and poppy seeds. Served with a couple of toasted slices of  Caravaggio Plum Loaf (with a teensy smear of my beloved peanut butter), this morning’s meal was the most perfectly succulent breakfast I’ve ever eaten…


It was so delicious that I’m going to try to visit as many fruit-growing farms around the island this fall to gather whatever delicious homegrown and farm fresh bounty I can get my greedy little hands on.

I’ve not done much cooking with fruit in the past, so perhaps (hopefully!!) this endeavour will result in a few new recipes!

Oh, and the recipe for Annie’s Amazing Pickled Blueberries can be found here!!

And I’ve been very remiss about posting a song of the day, so today I’ll post a link to one of my favourite poems of the Victorian era: Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.”

It’s a long poem, but here’s a sample, and you’ll get the idea of why it’s appropriate for today’s post (though the poem is actually about the dangers and seductive nature of premarital sex for young women in the Victorian era–poor old Laura just had to give in to those goblin merchants and “suck their fruit globes fair or red”):

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”