Thug Kitchen 101: Quinoa Taco Mix and Tex-Mex Queso–Awesome Combo! Oh, and Black-Bean-Quinoa Burgers too!

So the new Thug cookbook (Thug 101) dropped a few days ago and arrived on my doorstep a few days later (I love the Thug cookbooks, so I pre-ordered that sucker back in September!). The premise of this one is food that came be prepared in under thirty minutes, but, to be honest, very few of their recipes in the other two Thug books take longer than that. In any event, I spent a good part of Saturday poring over the recipes and made two rather delicious ones for Saturday evening dinner. The first was the Quinoa Taco Mix and the second was the Tex-Mex Queso–both were so delicious in tacos (James had his in a tortilla) that I used them the next evening to make a tortilla pie.

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We both thought the taco mix could do with more heat, however, so I added a tablespoon of chili peppers, a healthy dose of Frank’s hot sauce, and another jalepeno pepper. Though the recipe recommends de-seeding the jalepeno, I left in the seeds for both to add more heat.

So after the success of the tacos, the next evening, I used the two recipes to make a tortilla pie, that was DELICIOUS (basically, the two recipes layered with tortillas in between and topped with the quesa mix, sliced black olives, and sliced jalapeno peppers:


I also noticed that the texture of the quinoa-and-bean mixture had the feel of ground beef, so on Monday evening, I decided to try a veggie burger recipe based on the taco mix (though I made several adjustments).

Black-Bean Quinoa Burgers

Step One:

To make your flax eggs, mix and refrigerate for fifteen minutes:

  • 2 TBS ground flaxseed
  • 6 TBS cold water

Step Two:

Saute in a pan sprayed with oil:

  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalepenos, chopped

After the onions have softened, add the spices, so they can toast for a bit:

  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Step Three:

Mix together in a large bowl:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked black beans (pulsed a few times in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • the ingredients from step one and step two


Mix together and form into patties, fry on a grill sprayed with vegetable oil, and serve up on a focaccia bun! The patties take about three or four minutes per side to cook to perfect crispiness!



Okay, so I made four patties, but I had a ton of this mixture left, so the next evening, I made the leftovers into twelve big faux meatballs, rolled them in panko crumbs (makes them very crispy), baked them at 400 for twenty minutes, and served them with an amazingly fresh marinara on brown rice pasta. The recipe for the marinara sauce can be found here: Marinara Sauce. The only thing I changed was that I just sprayed the pan with oil, rather than adding 6 tablespoons (600 hundred calories!!!).

We STILL had six huge faux meatballs the next day, so we had the pasta for lunch as well. This quinoa/black bean mixture is the bomb-diggity–very versatile and a little goes a looooong way!


Best Ever Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing….oh, and did I mention it’s low fat?!!

So I kind of conflated two of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan Caesar salad dressing recipes and produced a rather delicious one that also happens to be low in fat. The hummus, which is part of the recipe, does contain tahini, so there is nutrient-dense fat! This is important because fat facilitates the absorption of nutrients in the vegetables. You want to make sure your fat is nutrient dense, however, as opposed to nutrient neutral. Nuts and seeds provide fat and are nutritionally intense, while something like olive oil provides fat, but is nutritionally neutral:

Since fats help you absorb the nutrients in vegetables, replacing the olive oil on your salad with nuts and seeds reduces cardiovascular risk and calories absorbed while providing the maximum nutrient value from the salad.15In addition to increasing the absorption of nutrients in vegetables, nuts and seeds supply their own spectrum of micronutrientsincluding plant sterols, minerals, and antioxidants.

From: “Olive Oil is NOT a Health Food” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

Vegan Caesar Dressing

1/2 cup homemade hummous

1/2 cup vegetable broth

3 1/2 TBS fresh grated garlic

4 TBS nutritional yeast flakes

4 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 TBS capers with brine

Blend it all up in the bullet or the Vitamix and you’ll have enough dressing for many Caesar salads!


Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

James went in to town today and arrived home very excited about a few of his bargains. Now, if you recall, this is a man who used to buy grapes in February…a man who declared Superstore “too vulgar to be tolerated.”

Welllllll…things have changed in Jamie-land.

Sure, his newly realized frugality might be rooted in the fact that we’re now on pensions, but he’s been moving in the direction of “the deal” for a few years now. Today was a red-letter day, however, since he actually worked out IN HIS HEAD which size of Raisin Bran was cheaper. As you may or may not know, James has an admitted, um, disadvantage when it comes to math. He can recite an Elizabethan sonnet at the drop of a hat though!

Anyway, he scored a few bargains (and, yes, he did shop at the dreaded Superstore!) including a 680 gram package of beautiful little button mushrooms for a mere THREE BUCKS!


So the meal of the evening is vegan mushroom stroganoff! I had to hunt around for a recipe that did not require soy yogurt…because I have none. I did find one recipe, but it needed serious adjustments to make it more schmecky.

So….here we go!

Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

Stage One

  • 3 cups fresh white button, crimini, or portobello mushrooms (or any combination thereof), sliced
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 TBS white wine
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 TBS vegan Worchestershire sauce

Stage Two

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 TBS Better Than Bouillon Mushroom (or vegetable) base
  • 1 TBS Miso
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano

Place cashews and a cup of boiliing water in a blender leave to soak.

Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in margarine for five minutes until onions are translucent. Reduce heat, add the rest of the ingredients for stage one, cover and simmer for twenty minutes.


Blend all the ingredients for stage two in the blender until smooth.

Add the cashew mixture to the mushroom mixture and stir well to combine. Simmer on low for twenty more minutes.


Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve over brown rice pasta.

I served it with a freshly made whole-wheat baguette and a vegan Caesar salad–it was all quite delicious!

Super Lush DIY Eye Cream and DIY Dry Shampoo! Oh, and Some New Lotion Bars as Well!

James’ dad is a green-tea lover, so when he was visiting a few weeks ago, I thought he might like to try my special hibiscus-ginger-turmeric-mint-matcha-black-pepper concoction. Emily had been up at the cabin for six weeks by this point and would drink pots of it with me every day (and she’s a bit of a picky eater), so I didn’t think it tasted that bad (particularly to someone used to drinking green tea).

How wrong I was.

The poor man made a valiant effort at drinking my witch’s brew, but finally said, “I’m sorry…I just can’t do it.” HA! I guess it’s an acquired taste.

Anyway, I’ve recently been reading quite a bit about the topical benefits of all of the ingredients of my tea, and all of this reading coincided with an inability to find a good (but not-too-expensive) eye cream in the vicinity of our little island.

On top of that, my recent attempts at ordering cosmetics online have not been very successful.

A few weeks ago, I ordered some cosmetics from Sephora. After receiving a confirmation e-mail, I waited for my package to arrive. Each day for well over a week, I went online to see if my order had shipped…to no avail.

I finally contacted Sephora to find out why my confirmed order had not yet shipped. A couple of days later, I received a reply: apparently a discrepancy between my shipping address (the cabin) and my billing address (our NW address) existed. I asked why they hadn’t contacted me immediately, so I could clear up the discrepancy–indeed, I’d even received an e-mail confirming my order!

The Sephora customer service representative was unable to explain, so I decided to try a different online merchant with a greater commitment to customer service.

Next, I tried ordering from The Bay. Now, if you’ve ever tried ordering anything online from The Bay, you know that its website is not very intuitive and it’s also frustratingly glitchy, but I was eventually able to order everything I was after. The order was sent in two shipments, the first of which took only about a week to arrive (the other is still outstanding).

However, when the first package arrived, it contained five MAC lipsticks, all in a rather bizarre shade called “Chili.”

I did not order five MAC lipsticks in a shade called “Chili.”

Indeed, I did not order ANY MAC lipsticks…or any lipstick at ALL for that matter.

Best of all? The package did not contain ANY of the products I ordered!

When I called The Bay to explain the mistake, the customer service representative suggested that I send back the lipsticks, and, in the meantime, order AND PAY FOR the products I had already ordered and paid for, but had yet to receive.

However, when I pointed out how illogical this solution was since the mistake was theirs (and since I had already paid for products I had not yet received), the rep spoke to a supervisor and agreed to send the correct products to me. In the meantime, I’ve sent back the MAC lipsticks, but I still await the arrival of my products.


Why can’t all online retailers have customer service as good as Amazon’s?

Anyway, this perfect storm of bad customer service and my current research into the topical benefits of the various ingredients of my special tea inspired me to attempt a DIY super lush eye cream. The other thing is that our wood stove is now burning pretty much round the clock, so my skin feels as dry as a desert.

Anyway, here goes!


Super Lush Eye Cream

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1 tsp matcha green tea
  • 1-inch chunk turmeric root (cut into chunks)
  • 1 TBS ginger root (cut into chunks)

Heat the above ingredients in a saucepan on very low heat until the hibiscus flowers are soft.

Meanwhile, add the following to a small glass measuring cup:

  • 6 capsules vitamin E oil, punctured and squeezed out
  • 1 tsp castor oil

Next, decant the coconut oil mixture into the measuring cup by straining the mixture with a fine mesh strainer.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly and then pour into small containers.

Immediately place in freezer so that the mixture solidifies consistently.

You can remove the cream after about an hour in the freezer. It will stay solid at room temperature, but soften quickly in your hands.

The cream isn’t white (as most eye creams are) because the green matcha, orange turmeric, and red hibiscus are all strongly coloured and combine to make a kind of light greenish colour, but (surprisingly) this colour won’t transfer to your skin! The last picture is a chunk of my white inner arm with the cream heavily slathered on it, so you can see that the colour doesn’t transfer!

Now for the DIY dry shampoo! This recipe is great because it doesn’t make your hair look grey (as so many white-coloured commercial dry shampoos do! It’s very slightly adapted from the recipe on this site and is actually more of a wet/dry shampoo.

DIY Dry(ish) Shampoo

Mix in an old condiment bottle (a mustard bottle works well!):

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 TBS cocoa powder
  • 5 drops Tea Tree oil


Apply the nozzle directly to your scalp and strategically squirt a little at a time to your scalp. Massage it around your scalp a bit, and then flip your head over and blow dry the roots. Once it’s dry, brush well. The whole process takes about three minutes and it comes out looking clean (and not grey…well not greyer than it already is!!). I’d like to say that you’ll smell like chocolate, but the tea tree oil pretty much overpowers any smell of cocoa!


Finally, after the (relative!) success of my DIY eye cream, I thought I’d have another whack at creating a healing lotion bar. If you recall, the last time I attempted a healing lotion bar, it wasn’t exactly a success.

This time, however, I changed the proportions (to make the bars a bit softer) and I also strained out the bits. Also, the last healing lotion bar stained everything, but this one doesn’t (because I’ve changed the proportions and strained out the chunks).

Hibiscus-Green-Tea-Ginger-Turmeric Healing Lotion Bars

  • 6 ounces coconut oil
  • 3 ounces cacao butter
  • 1.5 ounce beeswax
  • 1/4 cup hibiscus flowers
  • 1-inch chunk of turmeric root, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBS ginger root, roughly chopped
  • 1 TBS matcha green tea

Melt the ingredients above in a large Pyrex measuring cup sitting in a saucepan of water on very low heat (or on top of the wood stove, which is what I did!).  The idea is to let it warm for several hours, so the hibiscus flowers, etc., remain in the oil mixture for a long time before they are strained out. The beeswax will take a long time to melt.

After a couple of hours, strain into another Pyrex measuring cup that contains:

  • 2 TBS castor oil
  • 12 capsules vitamin E, punctured and drained
  • 20 drops Tea Tree oil

Mix thoroughly and decant into bar molds. Place in the freezer for an hour or two so the bars solidify uniformly.


UPDATE: Well, after my conversation with the customer service representative from The Bay, I was very happy to receive my Clinique moisturizer only three days later, so I suppose I’ll have to take back my remarks about bad customer service!

Another TVP Recipe…

Emboldened by my unexpected success with TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) a couple of days ago, I decided to try it with my universal marinade, and it was quite successful!

Faux Meat Chunks (I don’t know what else to call this!!)

Combine in a two-quart saucepan:

Bring to a boil and then simmer for twenty minutes. Once the chunks are soft, squish them down (systematically) with a potato masher so they absorb the marinade.


Let them sit for thirty minutes, then transfer to a baking dish and bake the mixture for thirty minutes. The result is a nice “meaty’ tasting chunk!!

I decided to turn the chunks into a kind of faux chicken salad (though they taste more like faux beef than faux chicken). I chopped the chunks and combined them with chopped onion, celery, sweet pickle, cucumber and some vegan mayo and served it all on fresh focaccia bread with broccoli sprouts and oven-baked fries.


I didn’t actually eat any because I just wanted a salad this evening, but James loved the sandwiches so much he ate THREE last night and TWO this evening!







Hieronymus Bosch and TVP Chunks

While I was talking to my brother on the phone the other day, we were sharing our recent Netflix viewings and he mentioned he’d been watching a very good show called Bosch.

“You mean, as in Hieronymus Bosch?” I asked (with great excitement since, as a teenager, I’d been rather obsessed with the painter).

“Yes–that’s right! Hieronymus Bosch!” he said. As he continued to praise the show’s merits, I looked the show up online.

“It’s about a detective named Harry Bosch!” I said.

“Yeah–it’s short for ‘Hieronymus’,” he said.

“I ASSUMED it was about the painter!” I said.

“Oh jeez….of COURSE you did,” he said with disgust.

Anyway, we’ll get back to Bosch in a moment, but last week we stumbled across this product in Superstore, and James was intrigued enough to buy a couple of boxes:


It’s basically TVP (or Textured Vegetable Protein), which I’d tried a few decades ago…with little success. However, James thought it might be worth a try, so I consulted a gazillion recipes online and came up with one that I thought might work. I also read about a few failures and watched a few videos and eventually came across this rather simple recipe that turned out very well indeed. It’s from  The TVP Cookbook.

Chinese BBQ TVP Balls

Combine in a two-quart saucepan:

  • 2 cups TVP chunks
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 TBS. ketchup

Simmer for twenty minutes.


Whisk together in a small saucepan:

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TBS sesame oil
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Five-Spice Powder



Bring to a boil, mix in the TVP chunks (and ketchup-water mixture), and remove from heat.

This next step is very important: systematically squish down the balls with a potato masher (this is to ensure that the mixture displaces the water in the TVP chunks). I added this step because of various information I’d read online.


Let sit for thirty minutes and then bake at 350 for thirty minutes.


I’ll admit that my hopes were VERY low for these, but they were surprisingly good! The chunks are very chewy and the sauce is super tasty. They would be delicious in a stir fry!


And now back to Hieronymus Bosch–the 15th-century painter, not the 21st-century police detective.

As I was trying to figure out what to do with the TVP, I suggested to James that the TVP box looked like a Bosch painting–like one of his paintings with a bunch of odd, misshapen faces all smushed together.

James gave me that special quizzical look until I showed him the box and pointed to what looked like a man’s face poking above the label.

He raised an eyebrow, heaved a sigh, and (deciding to humour me) took the box to look more closely.

“Oh, yeah, I see,” he said, “and there’s a singing pig off to the left.”

I love that man.

I’ve inked in a few (including the singing pig) for your reference!






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!