Atomic Wedgie Salad

Today was a glorious day on Denman–the sun was shining and the temperature a balmy 11 degrees. In fact, I even wore my flip flops for our late afternoon hike with the pups. Mind you, I’m still wearing a bulky sweater and a huge scarf, so the flip flops are perhaps a bit premature.

And it’s also pretty chilly when the sun goes down so the stove still contains a roaring fire in the evening.

Still, once my boots come off, it’s unlikely they’ll go back on until November.

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Anyway, during that first flip-flop hike of the season, I asked James what he’d like for dinner, and he replied, “A wedgie salad.”

When I suggested that perhaps he meant a “wedge” salad, he claimed that he’d been reading a synopsis of James Comey’s new book, which included mention of Comey being given wedgies by bullies as a young boy.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, James is highly suggestible when it comes to food: so apparently he read the word “wedgie” and thought, “Hmmmm….now a nice wedge salad would be just the thing!”

And being an obliging partner, I produced for him (in honour of James Comey’s boyhood wedgies)….

The All-Vegan Atomic Wedgie Salad!!

 

For 4 servings

Slather each iceberg quarter in dressing and top with chopped avocado, onion, and vegan bacon bits.

Devour!

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And here’s a little Seinfeld clip of George (also highly food suggestible) explaining the atomic wedgie!

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls!

I love the Thug Kitchen peanut butter buckeyes, but they contain quite a bit of sugar and a small amount of coconut oil. Now as I’ve mentioned a few times, I watch Nutritionfacts videos frequently enough to know how bad sugar is for you, and saturated fat isn’t much better.

However, as sugary as they are, dates get a pass because of the beneficial phytonutrients they contain. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this! Indeed, according to Dr. Greger, dates may be considered an almost ideal food!

Anyway, I thought I’d try to replicate one of my favourite treats and make it just a bit healthier. I cut out the oil, replaced the powdered white sugar with medjool dates, and replaced the flour with sprouted whole-wheat flour. Oh, and I replaced the chocolate chips with 70% cacao. Now, according to Dr. Greger (yeah, that guy again), the Baker’s chocolate contains higher levels of phytonutrients, but, according to WFPB expert and awesome mum, Chazz Rose, I’d need to add some coconut oil to make it creamy. She advised using the 70% cacao, which melted beautifully!

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Peanut Butter Balls

– makes about 28 one-ounce balls

  • 2⁄3 cup uncooked millet
  • 1 1⁄3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 2 TBS sprouted whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1TBS vanilla extract
  • 1.5 bars 70% dark cacao

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and toss in the millet for 4 minutes; stir constantly. Set it aside.

2. In a blender, mix together the peanut butter, dates, sprouted flour, and vanilla until a thick dough is formed. Toss in the millet and blend until it’s thoroughly blended. Make walnut-size balls with the dough and put them on a parchment-paper-covered baking sheet. Each ball should be about an ounce.

3. Put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Right before you are about remove the peanut butter balls from the freezer, melt the chocolate in a bain marie.

5. Using a fork, roll each ball into the melted chocolate and place back on parchment paper. You can leave a bit of the peanut butter exposed, so it looks like a buckeye, but I just covered them completely. Put the balls back in the freezer until the chocolate hardens.

 These balls are really good and actually pretty healthy!!

P1080835.jpgAnd to remind you not to forget to breathe, the song of the day is Alexi Murdoch’s “Breathe”:

 

 

 

Perfect Instant Pot Cashew Yogurt!!

I’ve been meaning to write a post on cashew yogurt forever, and Dana’s visit last week inspired me since I sent her home with a few tablespoons of agar agar and a handful of probiotics capsules in anticipation of her making her own.

“I’ll post the instructions online!” I yelled at her as she pulled her car out of our driveway.

That was more than a week ago, so I feel like a very bad aunt!

Why cashew yogurt, as opposed to, say, almond yogurt?

A couple of reasons:

  1. Cashews just taste better; almonds can have a bit of a cardboard-y taste;
  2. No straining (see below);
  3. Almonds, which are grown primarily in California, require an enormous amount of water to produce, and California is currently experiencing a four-tier drought.

Now, the great thing about cashew milk is that if you produce it in a high-speed blender, such as the All-Powerful Vitamix Goddess, there is no pulp, and no need to strain the milk through the dreaded nut bag.

Here’s the recipe for three cups of cashew milk, which is exactly the amount you’ll need for Instant Pot yogurt!

DIY Cashew Milk

Blend for a minute or two in The All-Powerful One:

  • 2/3 cup cashews (I don’t use raw for reasons outlined below*)
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • a dash of salt

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Instant Pot Cashew Milk Yogurt

Heat up in a medium saucepan….

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp agar agar
  • 1 TBS maple syrup (this won’t sweeten the yogurt; it will simply feed the probiotics)

Once the agar agar is dissolved, remove from heat and add…

  • 3 cups DIY cashew milk

This will cool down the agar-water-maple syrup mixture enough to add…

  • 2 probiotics* capsules (remove the capsule and pour in the powder)

Do not use metal containers or utensils because apparently probiotics don’t like metal!

Pour into a couple of pint mason jars and place in the Instant Pot. Press yogurt and increase the time to 12 hours.

*Your probiotics capsules must contain at least one fermenting bacteria such as bulgaricus, acidophilus or thermophilus.

This will last a few weeks in the fridge, and you can use it to make meltable vegan cheese or sweeten it with maple syrup and add it to fruit salad!

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*The reason I don’t use raw cashews is that a truly raw cashew is a very rare thing. Most growers harvest cashews by steaming or roasting the nut in its shell at degrees of between 300 to 400 F for fifteen minutes or more in order to crack the hard shell, so what most stores sell as “raw” cashews have already been roasted in their shells. Granted, the roasted ones (that are cheaper) have been roasted a second time out of their shell, but I’m not sure how much healthier the once-roasted cashews are over the twice-roasted cashews…and whether that negligible amount of extra nutrition justifies the extra cost.

I have been meaning to buy some “raw” cashews to see if they will sprout; if so, I will eat my words. I suspect, however, that once roasted (even in the shell) the cashews won’t sprout…because they simply aren’t raw!

And the song of the day is another one from Gregory Alan Isakov because I’m kind of obsessed with him at the moment. Today, it’s “Dandelion Wine”:

 

Mini Vegan Grilled Cheez & Bac’n Sammies

Our good friends, Bob and Susan were up for a visit last week, and we had a fine time walking along the water and through the woods and eating and drinking.

Bob and Susan have been vegetarians for decades, but recently started eating more plant-based meals, so we had a fully plant-based visit. My darling niece, Dana, was also up since her planned sojourn at her parents cabin on Hornby Island was interrupted by several fallen trees, and a resulting lack of electricity, water, and phone service. She had her lovely dog, Guinness, with her, which pleased everyone but Buster.

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James was able to try out various recipes from his new cookbook: Vegan Cuisine by Jean-Christian Jury. The food he produced was fantastic–not a dud among the various dishes.

As an aside, we suspected one of the recipes contained an omission, so I e-mailed Mr. Jury and received a prompt reply, which included the missing sauce recipe!!

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Susan also brought her new æbleskiver pan for us to try out, but with all our meals planned already, we didn’t get a chance to try it. Generous soul that she is, Susan left it here for me to try, which I’ve now done with great success!!

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My first attempt was sweet: I used this vegan pancake recipe and just dropped a few chocolate chips into the centre of each. They were delicious–the centre became all gooey and chocolaty and the outside was nice and crispy.

I decided to try a savoury batch next, so I made filled the pancakes with…

Smoky Vegan Cheez Sauce

Vegan Bac’n Crumbles

Vegan Cheez and Bac’n Mini Sammies

Mix together in a four-cup measuring cup and set aside:
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

In a separate bowl, mix together

  • 1 cup sprouted spelt or sprouted whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

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Add the dry mix to the wet and mix well with a whisk. Let the batter sit for about three or four minutes. Heat the æbleskiver pan to medium high (about 7). Test with a drop of water.

There’s no need to oil the pan; just deposit a tablespoon of batter in each little pocket. In the same order, deposit a teaspoon of smoky cheez sauce in the centre of each pocket. It’s best if the cheez sauce has been refrigerated so it will be more solid. Top each one with a cluster of vegan bac’n crumbles and top with another teaspoon of the batter.

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Next, use a couple of wooden skewer to gently turn the balls of dough in the pan…

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Once the other side is brown and crispy, they’re done! And there you have it…mini grilled cheez and bac’n sammies!!

The cheez becomes runny from the heat–so, SO good!!

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They taste great dipped in this dill dressing or, I imagine, ketchup…if you happen to like ketchup (which I don’t).

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This would be a great treat for kids too…as would the chocolate chip version!

The song of the day is Gregory Alan Isakov’s “Master and a Hound,” because it’s an amazing song, but also because I find the lyrics compelling, yet completely puzzling. A number of people online have mentioned that Isakov has said the song was inspired by a snow globe (given to him by a friend). Someone also mentioned he said the song reflects his difficulty adjusting to life in California. Most people interpret the song as reflecting a father-son relationship. I spent a good hour attempting an analysis; then, James came upstairs, read the lyrics, and argued with me for another half an hour over our different interpretations. He thinks the song reflects a romantic relationship; I think it reflects a parent-adult child relationship. And yes, yes, this is how a couple of former English instructors spend their time. What a couple of doofuses.

Anyway, it’s a lovely song. Here are the lyrics:

“Master and a Hound”

Where were you when I was still kind
Just a water treader
Waiting on the line
Just a dry gin drinker

Master and a hound
Turned a circus swinger
Look, he’s coming down…
Down

Can you shake it up
Just once for me
Your little globe just so we can see
The snow blowing round your hands

And the wing-nut turned
The song that we both know
Sent us flying round the carnival
You can throw all your lucky coins on me

On me

Turmeric-Ginger Shots and Beet Kvass

I’ve been drinking turmeric-ginger tea for ages, but someone on one of my WFPB (whole-food, plant-based) groups recently mentioned doing daily turmeric-ginger shots. I thought I’d give it a try because my tea is more of an infusion of the grated roots and with the shots, you’re drinking the root pulverized in a high-speed blender. It’s basically like the difference between green tea and matcha: with the matcha, you’re actually consuming green tea leaves, so it’s better for you.

Turmeric-Ginger Shots

  • a thumb-sized chunk of turmeric
  • a thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Blend in the Vitamix for a minute and decant to a jar. Take a shot each morning and/or add an ounce or two to boiling water for tea.

So what’s the deal with turmeric root? Why am I so keen on getting it into my body? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, according to Dr. Greger, turmeric is the bomb-diggity:

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-spices-fight-inflammation/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/boosting-the-bioavailability-of-curcumin/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/turmeric-curcumin-and-rheumatoid-arthritis/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/turmeric-curcumin-and-osteoarthritis/

And here’s the thing: I did a shot of this turmeric-ginger-pepper mix and then diluted some later in the day in hot water. When I awoke the next morning, my face, usually a bit blotchy first thing in the AM, was as clear as I’ve ever seen it. Not a red blotch to be seen! And I wasn’t actually looking for this result–I was so surprised by my clear skin that I had to think back to what I had or hadn’t eaten the day before. I mean, I don’t actually obsess over my blotchy morning face (I AM sixty, after all), but red blotches are a sign of inflammation; thus, a LACK of splotchiness is a sign that the turmeric is doing something in my body!

The only difference? The turmeric-ginger shot!!

So I’m down for this little concoction every day!!

The other thing I made was Beet Kvoss–a fermented beverage that actually sounds kind of interesting.

I used this recipe and now I just have to wait a few days to see if it works!

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And our music of the day matches my turmeric shot: Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky”:

 

 

Chewy Vegan Bacon Bits

Is there anything worse than those bags of synthetic bacon bits? …the ones that taste more “synthetic-y” than “bacon-y”?

We often have them on hand because James kind of likes them, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re a quick way to ruin a perfectly good salad.

Anyway, today my good friends at Amazon sent me some Bob’s TVP that Annie recommended a few days ago.

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So I consulted Dr. Internet to discover a recipe I might use to try this apparently amazing product out. A number of online sources suggest that TVP is the perfect texture for vegan bacon bits, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The best recipe seems to be this one from Shane and Simple.

I made a number of changes and doubled the recipe, and it came out very well indeed!

Chewy Vegan Bacon Bits

Mix the following in a small saucepan and bring to a boil…

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TBS water
  • 2 TBS maple syrup
  • 1 TBS liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp Knorr vegetable broth powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Remove from heat and stir in…

  • 1 cup TVP

Stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Leave for at least twenty minutes.

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Yum! Perfect chewy bacon bits!!

At this point, Shane recommends baking the bacon bits, but I’ve always preferred my bacon bits to be chewy, rather than crunchy….not that I’ve eaten a real bacon bit in close to thirty years.

I’m not 100% sure whether this has to be refrigerated, but I’m doing so out of an abundance of caution.

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And the song of the day is Josh Ritter’s “Darlin’.” I’ve given James the assignment of learning to play this song because I fancy we can sing it together. I told him we’d sing it at our wedding, and he raised one quizzical eyebrow before I let him off the hook…on the performing anyway 😉 .

 

Dessert Oats!

As I may have mentioned a time or two, I really wish I loved oatmeal because it’s so damn good for you, but I simply don’t. And I’ve tried it every which way, including savoury, and usually think, yeah, it’s pretty good…but then I never make it again.

Today, I think I’ve figured out the key (to MY liking it anyway):

Make it cold, baby!

Seriously.

I’ve been reading about overnight oats for a couple of years now, but figured cold oatmeal would be even worse than the hot stuff. However, the result is actually good…and tastes like dessert (if you don’t normally eat dessert).

So here’s all you do!

Overnight Oats

Place in a jar in layers….

  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 TBS. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sweet cashew cream or cashew or almond yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango or pineapple

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Leave for twelve hours. Add the following….

  • A sprinkle of sliced almonds
  • A sliced banana
  • A sprinkle of ground flaxseed, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds

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Don’t add the nuts or seeds (except the chia) until just before you eat it (no one likes soggy nuts!).

Mix it all up and dig in!! Maybe I’m crazy, but it tastes like dessert to me!!

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And this little mixture hits SEVEN boxes on Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen!

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And we’re off for a walk on this rain-free, but dark, overcast day. The weather has actually been glorious for the past few days and we encounter at least five very vocal eagles every time we walk down East Road along the water. Yesterday, we managed to get a few shots!

 

Aaaaand the song of the day is Jenny Lewis’s “Love U Forever” for my Jamie-boy, who made me a wooden ring with two hearts carved into it yesterday for Valentine’s Day <3.

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Of course, we were close to fifty when we two old fogeys got together, so the lyrics don’t quite apply, but the chorus certainly does!

 

Vegan Poutine of the Day!

We’ve talked about poutine here before, so even if you’ve never tasted it, you’re likely familiar with the concept. The components of a true poutine are, of course, cheese curds, gravy, and deep-fried potatoes, so calling my various potato-based bowls “poutine” is likely as sacrilegious to Quebeckers as my calling my Christmas Eve lentil-quinoa pie “tourtiere”…but what the hell, I grew up in la belle province, so I feel I can take liberties.

And, as I may have mentioned, I’ve never liked real poutine. The few times I tasted it back in my pre-vegetarian days, I thought it was kind of a soggy mess. Oh, and cheese curds are disgusting.

I love me some taters though, so I’ll often make myself a bowl (remember the components of a vegan bowl: a green, a bean, a grain, and a sauce), but replace the grain with a potato.

Thus, I call it “poutine,” rather than “a bowl.”

Anyway, today at Sideways Cottage, the poutine of the day is a fabulous mixture of….

And believe it or not, this weird combination of ingredients is absolutely scrumptious!

And this one bowl contains all of these good ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Serrano Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and Seeds (in the paprika sauce)
  • Spices (in the queso and sauce)
  • Nutritional Yeast (in the queso and sauce)
  • Probiotics, Baby!! (in the sauerkraut, of course!)

Indeed, I often find it hard to hit all twenty-four items on Dr. Greger’s daily dozen, so a delicious poutine like this one is a handy way to tick off at least seven or eight of those little boxes.

Yeah, yeah, that little box at the end entitled “exercise” is not yet ticked off, so I’d better hop on that Fit Desk at have at it!

And the song of the day is brought to you by my sister-in-law, Doran, an amazing Cape Breton photographer and musician: Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke”…

 

Hacking the Plant-Based Diet

The best advice for anyone who wants to eat a plant-based diet is, first, that the food should be good…like, REALLY good, and, second, the food should be there.

Indeed, the food has to be SO good and SO convenient, that when you’re tempted to eat some crappy take-out food, you can instead think, “Nah–I’ve got food way better than that in my fridge.”

The key to achieving this level of delicious convenience is, of course, to always be prepared. I always have a couple of good sauces in my fridge–for example, a jar of peanut sauce and a jar of smoky vegan cheddar; a jar of creamy salad dressing–for example, cashew-dill dressing; and a big jar of soup–for example, cheezy broccoli or lemony lentil. Add to that lots of fresh in-season produce and a bunch of basic vegetables like onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and you’re off to the races.

But if you don’t have a great deal of time to browse cookbooks and food blogs, you can kind of fall into a whole-food, plant-based rut.

And even though I DO have a lot of time and I DO spent a great deal of that researching food, I frequently end up repeating meals again and again. I also have a tendency to always serve the same grain (I’m talking to YOU, brown basmati rice) and the same collection of vegetables (helllllooooo, ‘taters and broccoli!!).

To shake things up a bit, I began subscribing to a plant-based meal plan a few months ago. These meal plans are a great hack to plant-based eating because the plans give subscribers a weekly grocery list and then a plan for preparing all the food in one day (called “batching”) for the entire week. The idea is that each evening when you wearily arrive home from work, all you have to do is throw a few things together and heat them up!

And even if you don’t make EVERYTHING from the plan, you’ll make a few items and invariably discover some new weird vegetable or fabulous new ingredient…like ume plum vinegar.

A quick search of “Plant-Based Meal Plans” will produce innumerable options–some free, some paid subscriptions–but the key is to find a meal plan created by a plant-based chef with a gluttonous spirit–that is, someone who freaking LOVES food. I say this because plant-based recipes created by medical professionals–doctors and some nutritionists–can be a little…ahem…bland.

The best approach is to try a couple of the sample recipes before you subscribe to a specific meal plan. If the sauces knock your socks off, you know a true glutton is creating the plans!

The meal plan to which I currently subscribe is The Clean Food Dirty Girl Meal Plans and the meals are just the bomb-diggity. I actually hummed and hawed for a full year before I subscribed, all the while I followed the CFDG group on Facebook and made dozens of the free recipes.

Even now, I don’t usually make all the recipes every week and I rarely do a full batch, but when I do, we have a fridge full of amazing meals that cover us for lunch and dinner for a week anyway. The coolest thing is that I often look at the shopping list and realize I already have almost everything on it.

Here’s the list of meals from last week…

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Here’s what the batching process looks like…P1080671.jpg

The sauces on the left are sweet-and-sour sauce, smoky paprika sauce, Caesar dressing, sauce for the Greek dinner, and enchilada sauce.

Here are a few of the meals pre-baking…

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And here are the finished products…

The Greek Style Hot and Dirty Dinner. This tastes like a hot Greek salad…so I added a handful of sliced kalama olives. Delicious!

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This is the Egg Roll Noodle Bowl. We both absolutely loved this one–I was surprised by James’s delight with this bowl because he apparently used to love that old-school Chinese restaurant sweet-and-sour-pork dish (of the unnaturally pink hue). And Bustie loved the udon noodles.

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Roasted Vegetables with Smoky Paprika Sauce. I loved this one; James…not so much. He has an unnatural hatred of Brussels sprouts.

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Caesar salad with romaine and arugula: great dressing…interesting croutons. James loved it–croutons and all!

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Zucchini Enchilada Boats.  Absolutely delicious…and such an odd, but amazing, recipe. I did add a serrano pepper (seeds and all) to the enchilada sauce and another one (sliced) to the bean mixture to add more heat.

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Anyway, subscribing to a whole food, plant-based meal plan is a great way to hack this way of eating. I highly recommend it if you’re short of time, are unfamiliar with plant-based cooking, or simply want to shake up your weekly menus!

And as I was batching today, I was listening to a great playlist on Google Music that included a number of Eliott Smith tunes, and I recalled my obsession with Elliot from the early 2000s. Here’s one of my favourites, “Son of Sam”…

 

 

The Least You Can Do….

I had an epiphany about exercise recently.

Back in my forties, when I was running marathons and going to the gym every day, I was always challenging myself to run farther, lift more, do more reps, you name it.

It was, I suppose, a way to stay motivated. And my various physical pursuits were not simply to stay healthy–they were a kind of hobby. They were also social occasions for me. I didn’t drink alcohol at the time, so I guess running and going to the gym with groups of friends was the equivalent of going to a party for me. Now, I’m not suggesting I didn’t go to parties…I just enjoyed my social occasions that involved exercise more. And, if we’re being honest, no one enjoys a sober person at a party after ten PM anyway–haha!

And then I turned fifty and all hell broke loose. I rekindled the wine habit I’d acquired in my twenties and added sloth to the mix. All the while, however, I kept thinking that one day soon I’d “get back into shape.”

Ten years later, I realize that’s unlikely to happen. And, in fact, I no longer really care about “being in shape,” which is, if we’re being honest, as much about vanity as it is about health.

What I have been endeavouring to do, however, is the minimum exercise required to keep me out of the doctor’s office. And I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to challenge myself to run farther, lift more, etc., as I did in my forties…I just need to do the same thing every day.

Indeed, exercise simply needs to be a habit. It’s not like I challenge myself to shower quicker, fold laundry faster, or brush my teeth even more than I already do (which is kind of a lot because I’m obsessed with my electric toothbrush); they’re simply habits I do every day (okay, maybe not the laundry one because I actually never do that).

Anyway, I’ve done some research to learn…

THE ABSOLUTE LEAST AMOUNT OF EXERCISE YOU NEED TO DO…

  1. Get your heart rate up to 65% of its maximum for 40 minutes per day.
  2. Lift free weights 3 x week.

Sure, on top of this, most people do other stuff like dog walking, chores, etc., and fun stuff like bike riding and kayaking, but daily aerobic exercise and thrice-weekly strength training are the two things that should be as much of a habit as having a shower and brushing your teeth.

  1. Aerobic exercise x 40 minutes daily.

I started out thinking I’d accomplish this forty-minute component in a variety of ways: hiking up the ridge one day, riding my bike another, kayaking yet another, but, to be honest, whenever I tried to achieve forty minutes of these activities while maintaining a heart rate of 120 bpm, I’d suck the enjoyment out of an otherwise fun activity.

Then I realized every single day, James just gets up, sits down on his rowing machine, and just starts rowing for forty-five minutes while he listens to the CBC.

He actually enjoys his morning row so much he misses it when he can’t do it.

I decided to just follow his lead, so now I do a combination of two exercises to get my heart rate into the zone. First, I do twenty-five minutes on my Fitdesk:

What’s great about this piece of equipment is that I just set up my Kindle Fire and read while I’m pedalling. Okay, I also do my nails and floss my teeth.

For the other fifteen minutes, I jump on this little stair-stepper, turn my Kindle Fire slightly (so I can continue reading) and start stepping. I could do all my aerobic exercise on the Fitdesk, but it’s not a weight-bearing activity (which is better for weight loss).

In order to check that my heart rate is actually in the zone. I have this Fitbit James gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago:

2. Strength training x 3 times per week.

Research indicates that strength training a minimum of three times a week is necessary to maintain one’s health. Most people tend to complete three repetitions of each strength training exercise. However, research also indicates that while two repetitions are better than one repetition, there is little gain achieved from three repetitions over two. Thus, of course, I do the least I can do: only two repetitions of these exercises three times a week.

I have a set of twelve exercises–I do two sets of fifteen three times a week and currently use eight pound weights for each (with the exception of the tricep extension):

  1. The squat
  2. The lunge
  3. The standing calf raise
  4. The chest press
  5. The shoulder press
  6. The butterfly
  7. The dumbbell fly
  8. The bicep curl
  9. The tricep extension (with one ten-pound weight)
  10. The bent-over row
  11. The kick-back
  12. The crunch

For the crunch, to avoid wrecking my neck, I use one of these:

And occasionally, one of these:

But that second thing is bloody HARD, so I don’t use it very often.

So that’s it…the very least you can do!

I’ve been reading a book called The Morning Miracle which advocates a morning routine that includes exercise first thing in the morning, and I’m finding that it really is much better to simply get one’s daily exercise over and done with as early as possible in the day, so that’s what I’ve been doing.

I’m hoping soon, like James, I’ll be springing from my bed and onto my exercise bike without a moment’s thought. I’ll let you know how that goes!

 

 

 

 

 

Cannellini Hummus

I feel as though I haven’t posted in ages, but the last couple of months have been rather a blur since I’ve been back and forth to Vancouver so much. Last weekend, James and the pups joined me since we were attending my brother’s celebration of life. We also managed to fit in a few visits with Em and our friends, Bob and Susan. We stayed at The Sylvia in a room so small we wouldn’t have fit if either of us had been five pounds heavier.

It was actually fine, except that, in typical Vancouver fashion, it poured all weekend. Since the dogs needed walking several times a day, the tiny room was permanently draped with wet dogs towels and our wet clothing…which never dried. Indeed, I wore wet boots for three days and was much relieved to dry my cold wet feet in front of the wood stove when we arrived back to our little cabin.

The other reason I haven’t posted is that…

Yes, indeed: I’ve got blisters on my fingers…which makes it difficult to type.

After decades of threatening to learn how to play the guitar, I decided to devote a month to learning to play ONE song. The song–which contains only three chords–is “Blues Run the Game,” a folk standard of the 1960s. Here’s a version by Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. I can guarantee my version will sound nothing like this.

Every day, I ask Google Home to set a timer for twenty minutes and I force myself to practice the three chords that make up the song. I count the seconds until the timer rings because it’s such torture to both my fingers and my ego.

I keep reminding myself about of the first time I watched the five-minute artisanal bread video and thought I’d never master the deft wrist movement necessary to slide the loaf off the pizza peel onto the baking stone. A mere month or so later, I was flipping around that pizza peel with more finesse than I could’ve ever imagined.

It’s practice. It’s always just practice.

And so I practice: three chords for twenty minutes a day.

With sore fingers.

Meanwhile, our larder is almost bare. I have no chickpeas, but James has developed a bit of a jones for his afternoon hummus snack. Cannellini beans I have, however, in abundance.

And so I give you a recipe for a lovely smooth dip made of cannellini beans. It is quite scrumptious and tastes surprisingly different from my regular hummus, though the other ingredients are the same.

Now, some hummus aficionados suggest that unless a dip is made with chickpeas, it cannot be called hummus. The logic to this argument is that “hummus” actually means “chickpeas” in arabic. In fact, the full title of the dish is “ḥummuṣ bi ṭaḥīna,” which simply means “chickpeas with tahini.”

But, what the hell: I’m calling my cannellini dip hummus.

Cannellini Hummus

Throw the following in a food processor:

  • 1 can drained cannellini beans (also called white kidney beans)
  • 6(ish) cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaping TBS tahini (I just use a big soup spoon full of this stuff)
  • 6 capfuls of lemon juice (I make it so often that I’m too lazy to get out the tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (if you don’t have this, just add some salt)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional, but gives it a nice smokey flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, but gives it a bit of heat)
  • water (you decide how much)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

And don’t forget the trick to good hummus: you have to blend the crap out of it. Turn the blender on and go do your shopping.

It’s really very good–quite a bit lighter than chickpea hummus.

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Variation on a Theme…A New Vegan Bowl

I awoke this morning to this little Bosh! video on Facebook and was immediately taken with it and spent a good part of the morning attempting to replicate it!

Like all vegan bowls, it’s more of an assembly than a recipe, but something about the prettiness of the bowl struck me and I decided I’d have a whack at it.

Remember the components of the vegan bowl? A green, a bean, a grain, and a sauce!

Of course, I had to make half a dozen…or more…substitutions, but the result was so satisfying and so tasty that I thought I’d share it!

Now…the first problem was that I had no green beans and no broccolini. I do, however, have Brussels sprouts and plain old broccoli! I also subbed black beans for kidney beans because the black beans retain their structure a bit better in mixing. Plus, I subbed serrano peppers for red because…that’s what I have!

The second issue was that I couldn’t steam the vegetables in the same method as the video because I was making the rice in the Instant Pot. Then I realized that I like my veg better grilled on my electric grill anyway, so I that’s what I did.

The last issue was the huge amount of sesame oil required in the original recipe. I’d usually just leave the oil out, but sesame oil imparts a particular flavour, so I reduced the oil by 75% (1 TBS, rather than 4!).

The result was so good that I’m going to have it for dinner as well! This time I might even remember the squirt of sriracha on top!

Here’s my version, which will make two bowls:

Adapted Bosh Protein Bowl

Mix together:

  • 1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (I didn’t have any and it was fine, but I’ll use them next time)
  • 1 serrano pepper (finely sliced–I leave in the seeds for heat)
  • All but 2 TBS of dressing

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To make the dressing, throw the following ingredients into the Magic Bullet and blend until smooth:

  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2.5 TBS lime juice
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 serrano pepper

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Meanwhile, grill:

  • 1.5 cups quartered Brussels sprouts
  • 1.5 cups broccoli florets

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Slice:

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 small avocado
  • 20 cherry tomatoes

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Prepare:

  • 1 cup hummus
  • 4 tbsp toasted cashew nuts

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Assemble:

Divide the above ingredients between two bowls. For each bowl, place a scoop of rice in a big bowl, surround with cucumber, avocado, and tomato slices. Top rice with scoop of hummus, top with chopped cashews. Place grilled vegetables on either side of hummus and drizzle the remaining 1 TBS of dressing over grilled vegetables.

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Top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sriracha! Delicious!!

And here, for your listening pleasure, is another tune from the amazing Josh Ritter– “Change of Time”:

 

Shreddable, Meltable Vegan Cheddar

…and did I mention that it contains NO extracted oil?

This vegan cheddar is the bomb diggity: super quick, healthy, shreddable, and meltable!

So here we go!

Shreddable, Meltable Smoky Vegan Cheddar 

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBS tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS kappa carrageenan
  • 1 TBS miso
  • 1 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 tsp Knorr Vegetable Broth powder
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Pour the mixture into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny. The tapioca flour will be cooked ONLY when the mixture is shiny.

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Pour into a mold and refrigerate for several hours until very firm.

I’m not sure how well this would grate with a hand grater, but it shreds brilliantly with a food processor or my little T-Fal express:

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I sprinkled some of this lusciousness atop some quinoa-flatbread-avo toast and it was absolutely delicious! Who needs Daiya when you can make this smoky succulence any old time with just a few healthy ingredients?!!

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And the song of the day is another one by Josh Ritter, who is a musical chameleon (thanks again for this tip, Kyra Crouzat!). This one is “Long Shadows” from So Runs the World Away:

FINALLY!!! Shreddable Pizza Mozzarella

SO IT HAPPENED!!

I FINALLY managed to make vegan pizza cheese that is actually SHREDDABLE!

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Oh…and did I mention? It’s also oil free AND super tasty!

And it browns and melts like a dream!

Now, I don’t want to hear any guff about the kappa carrageenan, okay? Remember, we’ve had this conversation before.  And the queen of all vegan dairy food, Miyoko Schinner, uses it in all her commercial products and recipes (so if you’ve been eating any of the Miyoko’s Kitchen cheeses, you’ve been ingesting it already). Heck, the Irish even make it into pudding!

About Kappa Carrageenan

Carrageenans are food thickeners (used in many commercial foods) derived from red seaweed originally found off the coast of Ireland; there are three types of carrageenan, and kappa carrageenan–the ingredient in this vegan cheese–is one. Carrageenans have been used by European home cooks for centuries; however, recently some concern about the safety of carrageenans has been raised in health food circles. These concerns are NOT related to kappa carrageenan, however. Here’s a 2007 study on the topic!

Shreddable Vegan Pizza Mozzarella

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS miso
  • 1 TBS kappa carrageenan (you can add up to 2 TBS if you want it firmer, but it grates just fine with 1 TBS…and kappa is EXPENSIVE!!)
  • 1 tsp Knorr Vegetable Broth powder
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Blend on high for thirty seconds. Pour the mixture into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny. The tapioca flour will be cooked ONLY when the mixture is shiny.

If you’re using it for pizza, you might want to pulse into the mixture:

  • a handful each of fresh basil and fresh oregano
  • a sprig of rosemary leaves

Just pulse though or you’ll end up with green cheese!

I actually still have rosemary growing outside…and my oregano is just starting to show new leaves. I did have to use dried basil though.

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Pour it into a (very lightly oiled) mold and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Once the cheese firms up, dry off the outside and run it through the food processor with the shredding plate. I just used my little T-Fal Fresh Express, and the cheese shredded beautifully!!

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And it browned up very nicely on a succulent vegan pizza this evening….P1080555.jpg

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And the song of the day is Josh Ritter’s “Getting Ready to Get Down” because we’ve been listening to Josh Ritter for two days now–ever since I read this great blog post by another member of the Clean Food, Dirty Girl Facebook group:

A New Peanut Butter Spread!

As I’ve no doubt mentioned hundreds of times, I LOVES me some peanut butter. Indeed, after discovering sweet potato toasties, I think I’ve eaten my two favourite foods together (peanut butter and potatoes) every damn day since!

However, the problem with peanut butter is that regular old Kraft PB is delicious (and super cheap!)…

….but full of crap….

Alternatively, the just-peanuts, non-homogenized stuff is expensive, overly dense, and invariably covered with a thick layer of oil…

As I was trying to figure out a solution to this conundrum, I remembered a recipe for a peanut-tofu-raisin spread from a vegetarian cooking class I took in 1991, so I dug up my old notebook from the course (and had another laugh at the line, “Look for quinois–a hard-to-find, but hip new grain,” and, yes, I did spell “quinoa” like that!).

Alas, I could not find the recipe, but had the vague recollection that it was one part tofu to two parts peanut butter and a quarter cup of raisins, so I thought I’d give it a try. I decided to replace the raisins with medjool dates though because they’re more nutritionally dense.

The idea is that you get the flavour of peanut butter, without the caloric density. Plus, the tofu smooths out and kind of homogenizes the spread. The water makes it spreadable, and the dates and maple syrup give it a bit of sweetness!

Here’s what I came up with! I ended up adding water because it was just too damn dense.  The medjool dates added sweetness, but not quite enough, so I added a bit of maple syrup. You may raise your eyebrows at the salt and the veg broth powder, but when I tasted it, I realized it needed a bit more of an umami flavour…even with the sweetness.

I quite like it, and when I got James to taste it, he pronounced it Peanut-Butter Light, so here we go!

Healthy Peanut-Butter Light

  • 700 grams all-natural peanut butter (just peanuts)
  • 300 grams soft tofu
  • 6 pitted medjool dates (can add more depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS Knorr vegetable broth powder

Blend in the Vitamix until everything is smooth.

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The calorie count on this spread is about 50 per TBS, while natural peanut butter is about 100 calories per TBS (the crappy processed stuff I love is similar), so this new spread results is quite the caloric savings!  This recipe makes a couple of kilos of the spread, so if you give it a try, you should have enough to see you out!

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And the song of the day is called “Little Stevie”–a song written and performed by a family friend for my brother, Steve, who died on New Year’s Day after a long illness.

 

Instant Pot Vegan Mulligatawny Soup

I used to love the mulligatawny soup at the old Elephant and Castle pub downtown where I’d often meet friends for lunch when I worked in a law firm in the early 1980s. That mix of sweetness and curry and pepper was always the perfect thing for a cold, rainy Vancouver day. I’ve been meaning to make a vegan version for years, and today someone posted a link to this recipe on one of my plant-based Facebook groups. It had the poster’s seal of approval and I had all the ingredients, so I figured I’d give it a try.

The only thing I had to do was adapt it to the Instant Pot and that part was easy! I did make a few small adjustments to the ingredients in the original as well.

Instant Pot Vegan Mulligatawny Soup

First, chop the following in the food processor and pulse until chopped, but not blended:

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic

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Turn the Instant Pot onto saute and saute the onion, ginger, and garlic for five minutes. For the last minute, add:

  • 1 TBS curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Next, put the following in the Vitamix:

  • 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

Blend until tomatoes are smooth and pour into the Instant Pot, along with:

  • 1 cup red lentils

When the mixture comes to a boil, add:

  • 1 peeled, chopped carrot
  • 2 peeled, chopped potatoes
  • 1 peeled, chopped apple

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Close the Instant Pot and set it for 2 minutes.

Do a controlled quick release and blend half the soup in the Vitamix (or with an immersion blender) and return to pot.

Serve topped with chopped green onion…and a fresh baguette, which will be baked by the time this soup is done!

Yum–this mulligatawny is wonderfully lush and delicious!

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And the song of the day is The Decemberists’ “We Both Go Down Together” because we were listening to this yesterday and arguing over whether it reminded us more of The Talking Heads or REM:

Plant-Based Poutine…Oh Yeah! It’s Vegan….and it’s Poutine, Baby!!

What do you get when you combine air-fried potatoes, smoky vegan cheez sauce, mushroom gravy, and a Canadian vegetarian (…who tries to eat a mostly plant-based diet)?

You get deliciously healthy whole-food, plant-based poutine!!

Like many vegan recipes, this one’s more of an assembly than a recipe, but it involves two recipes that I happen to have in my fridge right now!

So here we go:

Vegan Poutine

I leave the oil out of the gravy recipe because I try to avoid extracted oils–it really doesn’t make a difference!

Place fries in a big bowl, drizzle with gravy, dot with vegan cheddar sauce! Yum!

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And if you have any Brussels sprouts left over from that fabulous Christmas feast you made, grill them up to top your vegan poutine!

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Jeez, I don’t even like poutine, but I LOVE this vegan version!

 

A Very Vegan Christmas to You!!

James and I usually celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with a big dinner of vegan tourtiere, roasted potatoes, mushroom gravy, freshly baked baguettes, and coleslaw. We always spend the day cooking and then eventually tuck into our feast around nine or ten in the evening, after which, we open our gifts to each other. Christmas day is spent eating leftovers, taking a long hike through the woods with the pups, and drinking champagne on the deck in front of the outdoor wood stove.

This year, however, we’re deviating from our plan slightly. We’re breaking with our regular tourtiere tradition and trying a new menu. Now, barring dessert, all of the items on the menu are vegan, but not all are WFPB (“whole-food, plant-based”: a designation meaning no oil and no processed food, in addition to being plant-based):

Christmas Eve Menu

Spicy Beet, Leek, and Walnut Salad

Freshly Baked Baguettes

Beetroot and Acorn Squash Wellington with Kale Pesto

Thrice-Reduced Madeira Sauce

Spice-Stuffed Potato Cakes

Red Cabbage, Ginger, and Turmeric Root Sauerkraut

Vegan Sausage Apple Stuffing

Chocolate Guinness Cake Bailey’s Irish Cream

Lots of Ice Cold Champagne

Okay, that dessert may not be strictly vegan, but, hey, it’s Christmas Eve!!!

All the recipes are in the links!

Spicy Beet, Leek, and Walnut Salad

This colourful salad is perfect for Christmas dinner–it’s a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-British chef, food writer, and restauranteur.

Freshly Baked Baguettes

Still harping on my bread as you can see…and, of COURSE, we made a couple of baguettes for the meal!

Beetroot and Acorn Squash Wellington with Kale Pesto

This is a recipe from the BBC Good Food website that James discovered and decided to attempt. His Portobello Wellingtons take two days of preparation (and the recipe is eight pages in the cookbook!), so this recipe seemed like a nice compromise! The man needs to leave lots of time to wrap my gifts after all!

Thrice-Reduced Madeira Sauce

Oh good lord….James gave me the title of this gravy recipe and when I actually located the recipe, I realized that my dear Nineteenth-Century Man added “thrice-reduced” to the title himself.  You have to admire a man who still answers the phone as though the contraption is an assault on all things civil, but “thrice“? Oh, Jamie-boy, you are adorable!

Back to the sauce: this gravy is so amazingly delicious that guests to Sideways Cottage beg James to make it to top anything and everything. It’s a sauce that’s truly worth the effort it takes…and, believe me, it takes effort: James started it yesterday morning!

Spice-Stuffed Potato Cakes

This is an another Ottolenghi recipe, which I’m making for the first time. This one is from his Plenty More cookbook.  Many of Ottolenghi’s recipes are vegetarian, and a few are even vegan, as is this potato cake recipe, which can be found in the above link. Thank goodness I have a kitchen scale because, like all British recipes, this one lists ingredients by weight. I also had to take a leap and guess that “coriander” in the recipe means fresh cilantro, not dried coriander!

I had two oopsies with this recipe: first, my mint froze, so I ended up harvesting only about one-third as much as I needed. The second error is that I misread “1 kg.” as “1 lb.” of potatoes, and didn’t notice until I wondered why I had so much filling left over, and then read that the recipe produced 20 cakes…and I had only 10.

And speaking of Ottolenghi, James often makes Ottolenghi’s Apple and Olive Oil Cake and it is seriously the best goddamn cake you will ever taste in your life!

Red Cabbage, Ginger, and Turmeric Root Sauerkraut

This is the sauerkraut I started at the beginning of December, and it is perfectly tangy and delicious now on December 23rd. And it’s the PERFECT colour for a festive winter feast!

Vegan Sausage Apple Stuffing

I’ve made the vegan sausage apple stuffing before and it is THE bomb-diggity, but I can’t include the recipe here since it’s from a paid meal plan to which I subscribe. As an aside, I love these Clean Food, Dirty Girl meal plans: each week, subscribers receive a grocery list, a set of batching instructions so most evening meals during the week involve just a little preparation, and recipes for five evening meals. I rarely do the whole batching shebang, but when I do, everything always tastes wonderful. Plus, it’s pretty great to have a fridge full of meals for the week!

Back to the stuffing: it’s an easy, yet time-consuming recipe because you first make (and bake) the vegan sausage, then saute the vegetables/fruit, combine the two with a bunch of other ingredients, and bake again. The result is worth the effort, however! The stuffing is best made a day or two in advance, so the flavours have a chance to meld.

Did I mention how delicious this stuffing is? Let’s just say that it involves lots of apples and dates and dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and tofu and….you name it, it’s in there!

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Irish Cream

Yet another recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi! This one is from his book of desserts entitled Sweet (the same cookbook that contains the amazing Apple and Olive Oil Cake!). The only recipe on the menu that’s not vegan, but, what the hell: it’s for our Christmas Feast!

Oh, and then there’s the champagne….

To be honest, on Christmas Eve, I’m usually well into the champers by late afternoon and we’re both slugging it back as we cook. As I’ve no doubt mentioned, however, I decided to have a booze-free year to ring in the first year of my sixties…

….and I’ve touched nary a vodka martini since August 13th, the day before my sixtieth birthday. The reason for my very virtuous abstinence is the realization that I was eating all this healthy plant-based food, but not losing weight because I was likely imbibing hundreds of booze calories a day from my beloved vodka martinis and various glasses of wine…and perhaps a little bubbly from time to time. So here is the alcohol-free champers my darling boy acquired for me for this evening. Of course, HE’s drinking the real thing. Oh, and I have no desire to drink bubbly apple juice all day, so this baby won’t be cracked until dinner time!

And here is our amazing, delicious Christmas Eve feast!

And here it is all plated up…first without the madeira sauce and then with it!

And from Sideways Cottage to y’all out there in Internetland…Merry Christmas!!

Oh, and full disclosure: that picture at the top of Sideways Cottage in the snow was from last February.

And while my taste in Christmas music these days tends toward Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” and The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” I do retain a bit of a Catholic-school fondness for the occasional old school dirge-like hym, so here’s an upbeat version of “Away in the Manger” by the a cappella group, Pentatonix:

 

Vegan Fruit Jumbles

Every Christmas since we’ve been together (over ten years now!), James has made his mother’s famous fruit jumbles. The cookies are a big favourite of Em’s, so James always makes her a big box to take home. Once, several years ago, James was stricken to learn that Em’s boyfriend, Spencer, had eaten almost the entire box of Em’s precious jumbles….so, of course, he made her another big batch.

Now, James has already made his mum’s jumbles this Christmas, and they are, of course, delicious, but they aren’t vegan. I had a look at the recipe (a little index card, now faded and stained with wear) and realized it wouldn’t be too hard to adapt the recipe to an entirely plant-based, no oil, no sugar version.

And, yes, of COURSE, I’m using sweetener (I’m not insane!), but I’m replacing white sugar with date syrup. And, okay, I’m replacing the dairy butter with nut butter. Oh, and I’ll be using flax eggs instead of the real thing.

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So….here we go!

Vegan Fruit Jumbles

1/2 lb. chopped medjool dates

1/2 lb. raisins

1/2 lb. chopped walnuts

1 TBS ground flax seed mixed with 3 TBS water

3/4 cups sprouted whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup nut butter

1/4 cup date syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 TBS baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water

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Mix well. Use small scoop to deposit cookies on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Aaaaand the verdict is……they’re great! Perhaps not as perfect as James’s mum’s version, but not too bad at all for a WFPB Christmas cookie! Here’s a comparison of the two. The original is on the left and the WFPB version is on the right:

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And here’s a picture of the beautiful Janet of fruit jumble fame. This picture sits on the mantel in our cozy little poetry room downstairs.

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And, yes, okay, you can stop your chortling: we have a “poetry room,” but that’s what you get in the house of a couple of people who taught English literature for fifty-odd years between us!

And here are some pictures of my darling boy decorating his Christmas sugar cookies:

And the song of the day is a hilarious little Christmas video from 42nd Street Studios!

 

 

 

Red Cabbage, Ginger, & Turmeric Sauerkraut and DIY Vanilla Extract

My first experiment in fermentation turned out so well that I decided to try some different vegetables. Oddly, I had been thinking that the healthy part of homemade sauerkraut is primarily the resulting probiotics, but I suddenly realized that the kraut itself is super healthy as well–even before fermentation–since cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and carrots contain beta-carotene.

Red cabbage, however, contains EIGHT TIMES the anti-oxidants of green cabbage. So I decided my next sauerkraut would focus on red cabbage and as many super healthful vegetables as I could cram in the jar: beets, which contain natural nitrates; daikons, which are cruciferious; ginger root, which contains phytonutrients; turmeric root, which has a carcinogenic-blocking effect.

Oh, and I decided to throw in some chopped garlic and sliced serrano pepper to spice it up a bit!

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The result is a beautiful purple colour from the cabbage and beet. It should be ready to try by December 16th (12 days hence)!

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And I’m going off to Vancouver for a couple of weeks to take care of my mum while my dad is in the hospital, so this super healthy kraut should be about ready by the time I arrive home! I may even bring my dad a little jar of my current batch of kraut.

DIY Vanilla Extract

The other little project I attempted was homemade vanilla extract, which is made by by combining…

  • 10 vanilla beans, sliced vertically
  • 1.5 cups 80-proof alcohol (40% alcohol by volume)

Place in a jar for eight weeks. And remember to shake it…shake it….shake it like a polaroid picture every couple of days.

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And check out this big batch of food I made to take into town for my parents! Of course, their seniors home has amazing food (indeed, their dining room is actually a restaurant that’s open to the public). However, my mum likes to go down to the restaurant for only one meal a day. Plus, I figured when my dad returns from his surgery, he won’t feel like eating much except soup…and maybe hummus!

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And, of course, the song of the day is…

 

 

The Mysteries of the Human Microbiome…and DIY Sauerkraut

About a year and a half ago, my niece, Annie, mentioned that she was getting into fermentation and suggested I look into its health benefits. Now, I had NO interest whatsoever in fermentation, but Annie’s enthusiasm for anything is always incredibly infectious, so I consulted the good Dr. Internet and promptly decided that any attempts at fermentation on my part would result in some kind of botulism poisoning.

But then, last Christmas, my darling Em gave me Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation and I’ve been studying the intricacies of this “art” ever since.

Next, I started coming across article after article about the human microbiome, how important its balance is to health, and how important fermented foods are to maintaining that balance. And, indeed, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gordon (a genomics specialist at Washington University School of Medicine) in The New York Times, “The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food.”

Finally, I was at the farmers’ market on Saturday and came across the loveliest little organic cabbages grown right here on Denman Island.

It seemed the perfect storm beckoning me toward fermentation, so I finally took the plunge and started a batch of sauerkraut!

I chopped up what amounted to two pounds of cabbage…

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And grated one-quarter pound of carrots….

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I added one TBS and one tsp of sea salt (based on a calculation I found on a website). If you add too much salt, it can inhibit fermentation, so you have to be conservative. You can’t use table salt because it contains iodine (which, again, can inhibit the fermentation process).

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Next, I squeezed and massaged the hell out of the cabbage for ten minutes. There seemed to be little deviation regarding the recommendation of ten minutes. Indeed, every resource recommended the same time, so I lined up an interview with Dr. Douglas Lisle and had at it for a solid ten.

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After ten minutes, it looked like this:

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And when I squeezed it, quite a bit of water released:

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Next, I mixed in the shredded carrot:

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And packed it all into a large mason jar.

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Next, I packed it down with my fist. The idea is that there should be enough liquid produced by the massaged cabbage to cover the shreds, but it wasn’t high enough, so I added some water. I wanted to use our tap water because it’s from Graham Lake and is lovely water. However, Graham Lake water is lightly treated, so I left a big mug of it to sit for several days until the treatment chemicals evaporated. I poured a bit of the water into the jar, and then topped it with a glass fermenting stone (called a “pickle pebble”), the purpose of which is to keep the cabbage submerged. Apparently, if the cabbage shreds rise above the water line, the cabbage will rot (or something bad, which I can’t quite remember).

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Next, I closed it up with a “pickle pipe” mason jar top, which allows the carbon dioxide to escape without allowing oxygen into the fermentation.

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And then I left it to ferment! Here it is the next morning. You can already see foam forming. IMG_1418

And by the evening, the slaw is fermenting its way into kraut!

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The ferment is apparently happiest at a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees, so I’ve parked it on the shelf behind the wood stove with a thermometer right beside it so I can check that my ferment is comfortable and, most important, growing lots of good bacteria!

The fermentation will go through several stages before it’s ready. At this stage–only one day into the fermentation process–the bacteria produced is called “Leuconostoc.”

According to biochemist, S.E. Gould, in Scientific American,

At this stage the surrounding environment is not acidic, just cabbagey. The bacteria, mostly Leuconostoc species, produce carbon dioxide (replacing the last vestiges of oxygen in the jar) and lactic acid, which is a natural byproduct of anaerobic respiration. Eventually, the conditions within the jar become too acidic for these bacteria to survive and they die out, replaced with bacteria that can better handle the acidic conditions such as Lactobacillus species.

So I’ll see you back here in a few days with an update on whether or not my slaw has become kraut!

Update: Sauerkraut on Day 10

I have to admit, I was a little worried about my kraut for the first week. The first two days (as I mentioned above), the mixture was bubbling up a storm from the Leuconostoc species of bacteria. The bubbling died off with that species of bacteria, and then it was, frankly, kind of stinky for a day or two and I thought it had gone off.

I was prepared to scrap the experiment altogether, but left it for a few more days and the smell passed. The entire mixture started to float, however, and I realized I’d been adding water when what I really needed to do was push down the kraut, so that’s what I did. I also added another pickle pebble to weigh it down.

By day ten, several days had passed without my opening the jar. Upon opening, no smell was evident, nor was any mold, so I figured I was safe.

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I extracted a bit to sample and it was very nice and tangy…with a back flavour of dirty dishwater–haha! I think I’ll now leave it for another week or two to get even tangier.

Update: Sauerkraut on Day 12

The sauerkraut is PERFECT today! I had to stop myself from gobbling up the entire batch!

My next experiment will be with purple cabbage, shredded beets, and red onion! Should be colourful!

 

 

Sweet Potato Toasties, Y’all!!!

I’ve been hearing about “sweet potato toasties” for a while now, but have resisted trying them because, frankly, I just didn’t believe a toaster could bake something as hard as the devil’s toenail into something edible.

How wrong I was: not only does the toaster bake up sweet potato slices just fine…but they’re also delicious!

Sweet potato toasties were apparently invented by a food blogger who now has an entire Instagram devoted to the pleasures of the sweet potato toastie. When I remember her name, I’ll create a link, but it escapes me at the moment.

In any event, the recipe is, like many vegan “recipes,” simply an assembly, as opposed to a real recipe:

Sweet Potato Toasties

Slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices:

  • 1 large sweet potato

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Place a couple of slices in the toaster (on the highest setting) and toast three to four times. The outside of the slices should have dark spots–if the slices are thick, you may have to toast them five times.

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Top them with anything you’d normally put on toast! I’ve topped them with vegan stuffing and gravy. I’ve made a stack with slices of sweet potato and grilled portobello with stuffing in between the layers and topped with mushroom gravy…

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But my favourite sweet potato toastie is covered with a smear of peanut butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, a sprinkling of ground flax and hemp seeds, and topped with sliced banana and dried cranberries–YUM!!

Honestly, I don’t even like sweet potato fries, yet I love me some toasties!! However, I have a feeling that the sweet potato toastie is something people either love or hate.

And the song of the day is Andrew Bird’s “Three White Horses” because I love Andrew Bird and I hadn’t heard this one until last evening when I was watching This is Us and heard it and thought, “That’s Andrew Bird! I must find this song immediately!!”

So here it is for you too!

A Bare Larder and A Faux Tuna Salad!

The minute I typed that title, I wondered at the difference between a “larder” and a “pantry,” and soon learned the following via my good friend, Dr. Internet:

Etymologically, and when the terms were used in mediaeval France, you kept lard (bacon) in a larder and pain (bread) in a pantry. So larders were more likely to be underground, because meat keeps better in a cooler place. – Peter Shor 

Well, thank you, Dr. Shor! I guess my larder…or pantry would more properly be called a beanery or a granary though since I use it to store mainly dry beans and grains!

In any event, as I’ve mentioned a number of times, I love nothing better than a bare(ish) pantry in order to challenge myself to make healthy (and delicious) meals from what little I have on hand.

Well…today, the pickings are pretty slim at Sideways Cottage: we haven’t been into town in almost two weeks, and our produce fridge contains very little. Indeed, a quick inventory revealed only a small zucchini, a cauliflower, one portobello mushroom and a bunch of criminis, a few stalks of celery, a quarter of a cabbage, and some apples. I also still have quite a bit of chard growing on the deck and a little kale. Oh, and half an onion and a bunch of potatoes. That’s it for fresh stuff.

I don’t even have canned chickpeas…only dried!

So, first off, I made a big pot of cooked chickpeas. I hadn’t soaked them overnight, so I did a quick soak in the Instant Pot: 2 cups of dry chickpeas, 8 cups of water, 1 tsp salt for 2 minutes in the Instant Pot.

To cook the now soaked chickpeas, drain them and put them back in the IP for 15 minutes with 3 cups of water. Allow a natural pressure release and you’re good to go! I’m going to use 2 cups for my faux tuna salad and the rest for hummus!

Faux Tuna Salad

I adapted this recipe for Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing because it has a slightly “fishy” taste. My adaptation includes replacing the dulse flakes with a couple of these little snack sheets of nori.

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I also included a TBS of capers and a tsp of Knorr Vegetable Broth powder.

Faux Tuna Salad Dressing

Blend until smooth in the Vitamix:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon capers (with juice)
  • 2 sheets snack-sized nori sheets
  • 1 tsp vegetable broth powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water

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And then I made the salad with…

  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 a finely chopped onion
  • 10 diced green olives
  • 1.5 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

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Then I added….

  • 2 cups of cooked, mashed chickpeas

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Next, I added the dressing and mixed it all up…

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I needed some leafy greens to serve it on, so I harvested a nice big handful of Swiss chard from the deck…

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…and I chopped some cabbage and served the faux tuna atop the chopped chard/cabbage mixture.

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This is SO freakin’ good!

I also made some two-ingredient quinoa flatbread, so I could have it again for dinner…in a slightly different form! That drizzle of red on top is, of course, a smear of my beloved sriracha!

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And the song of the day is Vance Joy’s “Fire in the Flood”–an amazing song, but entirely appropriate today because it’s a miserable rainy day, but I’m sitting all cozy in front of a well-built (if I do say so!) fire, with a pup on either side and my new Fitflop boots on my feet:

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Are they a slipper…a boot?

THEY’RE BOTH!!! AND YOU DON’T NEED TO WEAR SOCKS WITH THEM!!! AND THEY’RE SPARKLY!!!

Anyway, here’s the song!

 

 

 

 

Vegan, Oil-Free Pancakes–And They’re FLUFFY!!

It’s super blustery here on our little island today, and I’ve wanted something carby and sweet to stuff into my face as I sit cozily with the pups in front of the wood stove. I sent out a request for a recipe for a good vegan pancake on one of my vegan FB groups and someone suggested this one from Cearas Kitchen, which is surprisingly good!

I deviated from the recipe in only two ways:

  1. In place of the coconut/can sugar, I used 3 TBS of date syrup. I got this idea from a preview of Dr. Gregor’s new cookbook, The How Not to Die Cookbook. It’s basically one cup of pitted medjool dates and one cup of boiling water blended in the Vitamix until smooooooth. Oh, and a tsp of fresh lemon juice.
  2. I left the batter for five minutes to puff up a bit because that’s what you do with regular pancakes. I could see the puffiness in the batter, so I think it was a good plan.

The recipe is supposed to make six to eight pancakes, but I got ten…and I used a quarter-cup measuring cup as recommended. As you can see, the dough is quite thick, so you need to spread the cakes out to make them even across (no one likes a mushy middle!).

I ate three for lunch, and, freak that I am, I enjoyed them with a smear of peanut butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a couple of banana slices on each. I know peanut butter on pancakes sounds a bit weird, but if you like the delicious butter of the peanut, try it: you will love it. The hot pancakes melt the PB into all kinds of deliciousness!

And after my little foray into the kitchen for pancake-making, I found the dogs like this in the living room: 

And yes, that is Stella LYING ACROSS THE COFFEE TABLE with her tongue hanging out.

Meanwhile, here it is mid-November, and I continue to wear flipflops…and not just in the house. More than a few Denman residents have commented on the fact that on our daily hikes, I’m bundled up in a big jacket and woolly cowl, but still wearing flipflops on my feet.

Ah retirement…I don’t know if I’ll ever wear shoes again.

And here’s a tune from Van Morrison and The Chieftans–a haunting tune for a dark, blustery island day…

Oil-Free Vegan Ginger Cookies….and, yes, they’re actually good!!

I rarely eat cookies, but when I do, I like a lush cookie: a cookie you eat over the sink because whipped cream and runny chocolate and caramel burst out when you bite into it.

In truth, I’ve never discovered this exact cookie, but if it exists, it’s my ideal cookie.

James, on the other hand, is a big fan of the punishing cookie…the kind your grandmother would find at the back of a cabinet when you dropped in to visit her unannounced…the kind the rest of us would call a desperation cookie….the kind you bite into and think, “Okay, Grandma, I  love you, but that’s all I can stand.”

But James will not only purposely buy those nasty things, but eat a dozen of them at a sitting! Digestive biscuits, sugar cookies, ginger snaps all fall into this category. And as for texture, the harder, the better as far as he’s concerned!

Well, today I took a shot at vegan ginger snaps. And then I figured, what the hell, since they’re likely to taste as horrible as regular ginger snaps, why not take out the oil and reduce the sugar and make them not only vegan, but WFPB (whole-food, plant-based).

But here’s the thing: THEY ACTUALLY TASTE GOOD!!! And I don’t even like ginger snaps! I mean…you don’t have to eat them over the sink, but as far as ginger cookies go, they’re pretty damn good!

And the best part is…James likes them!

However, they are nothing like a ginger snap; in fact, they have the taste and texture closer to a soft gingerbread cookie, so I’m calling them “Ginger Bends.”

Plus, the only ingredient that’s not over-the-top good for you is maple syrup (which isn’t terrible) and there’s only about 2 tsp. per cookie. I used sprouted whole wheat flour, but I think they’d be fine with sprouted spelt flour as well. I also got to use homemade soy milk because I was making tofu today!

If you like the taste of ginger and aren’t too fussy about whether they snap, this might be the cookie for you!

Ginger Bends

Sift together in a bowl:

2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1.5 TBS ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground clove

In a stand mixing bowl, mix together until smooth:

3/4 cup applesauce

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup soy milk

1/4 molasses

1 tsp vanilla

Mix in the the dry ingredients. Line a couple of baking pans with parchment paper. Use a small scoop to form cookies because the dough will be too goopy to handle.

Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on each cookie and flatten them out.

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Even though the dough is quite wet, it won’t spread that much, so it’s important to flatten the cookies. You should get exactly two dozen cookies.

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Bake at 350 for twenty minutes. Place on a rack until cool.

And the song of the day is M. Ward’s version of “Let’s Dance” because I heard it today and was reminded of how much I love this cover:

 

 

West African Peanut Stew

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Not long ago, James seemed out of sorts before he wandered outside to work on his little house, so I was determined to make him something delicious for dinner. Meanwhile, as I was tidying up, I found a list on his side of the couch with what looked like the word “Grievances” at the top.

Shocked that my darling Jamie-boy might have been harbouring a series of grudges, I attempted to decipher his ridiculously indecipherable writing. As it turns out, the list read, “tomatoes, romaine, spinach, bananas,” and I realized it was a list of groceries, not grievances.

And while I was immediately relieved, I did sort of like the idea of the kindly James (an inveterate secret grudge-holder) keeping an enumerated list of grievances, so that’s what I’ve come to call his grocery list these days.

And I just cross my fingers that our neighbours don’t hear me yell out, “Hey Jamie, can you put sweet potatoes on your list of grievances?”

And speaking of sweet potatoes, for someone who’d never tasted one until about six weeks ago, I’m going through these suckers like a house afire these days! First came the amazing sweet potato tortillas, and then the delicious West African peanut-sweet-potato stew everyone on one of my WFPB groups was talking about online. Of course, I love anything with peanuts or peanut butter in it, so I Googled up just about every damn recipe for “African Peanut Stew” and “West African Stew” and conflated a bunch for the following succulent dish.

This is my third–and best–version! I hope you like it.

West African Peanut Stew

Click the Instant Pot onto “saute” and saute for a few minutes:

  • 1.5 pounds of cubed sweet potato
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 1 finely chopped onion

Meanwhile, add the following to the Vitamix and blend until smooooooth:

  • 1 28-ounce can of tomatoes (liquid included)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • a big ‘ol chunk of ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1.5 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 1 capful of liquid smoke
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp chili peppers
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Add the contents of the Vitamix to the Instant Pot, and set to twelve minutes. Let the pot release naturally and then add:

  • 4 cups chopped Swiss chard (I don’t like big chunks, so I blend it for a few seconds in the food processor)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Close the lid again for a few minutes until the chard and chickpeas are heated through.

Serve over brown basmati rice and top with….

  • fresh chopped cilantro
  • a handful of peanuts (if you have them)
  • a wedge of lime

And a couple of these amazing Sweet Potato Tortillas on the side!

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Oh, and as it turns out, James was not out of sorts; he was simply preoccupied with continuing plans for his workshop. And when he’s preoccupied, his countenance can resemble that of a grumpy Schnauzer:

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And that sweet little Schauzer is Finn. She belongs to James’s brother and sister-in-law, Dave and Deb, who visited us from Medicine Hat last month. And, yes, Buster did terrorize the poor little girl (and, yes, okay….blood may have been spilled).

And the song of the day is Morrissey’s “I Spent the Day in Bed” because…sometimes it’s just good to spend the day in bed:

 

 

 

 

Vegan Quesadilla

I woke up this morning fantasizing about quesadillas. Back in my pre-WFPB days, I used to make a mean quesadilla with a couple of those HUGE Dempster’s tortillas, onions fried in olive oil, and a nice big pile of grated cheddar….all slapped together and grilled on a well-oiled pan. Now, that kind of quesadilla will clock in at 800 calories. Add guacamole and you’re up to 1,000 calories!

The WFPB quesadilla I made for lunch today is closer to 300 calories and it’s a pretty damn good sub! Plus, you don’t end up feeling disgusting all afternoon after eating all that fat and all those simple carbs (in the white-flour tortilla).

So, how do you make this fabulous, healthy little lunch?

Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!

Vegan Quesadillas!

First make a couple of these okara tortillas….or these sweet-potato tortillas!

Next, whip up a batch of this deliciously succulent smoky vegan cheddar cheese sauce!

Next, fry some sliced onions….

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Smear one tortilla with the smoky cheddar sauce, top with onions and the other tortilla, and grill in a closed electric grill until the sauce bubbles out of the sides!

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Top with salsa, sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers, and a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

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A completely delicious (and very easy) lunch! Oh, and if you’re wondering why my tortillas are such an odd shape, I inadvertently added too much sprouted flour to my okara. The tortillas are still delicious, but they don’t roll out as well.

And don’t worry…I did give Bustie a couple of little bites!

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And the song of the day is The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” I was completely obsessed with this album in the summer of 2003….I can’t believe that was almost fifteen years ago!!

 

 

 

Vegan Halloumi

My darling Em was just up at the cabin for a few days with her friends, Eunice and Tina. We had a lovely time cooking for the girls, and, though the weather wasn’t great, they seemed to have a lovely time playing with Eunice’s dog, Stout, in the garden, walking to the lake and the beach, playing pool, watching Harry Potter movies, and, of course, eating and drinking. Poor old Eunice is pregnant and couldn’t imbibe, but Em and Tina made a good dent in the downstairs bar fridge full of bubbly.

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One evening, I asked them to try some of my homemade tofu, which I’d cubed, marinated, and baked. As they bit into the little cubes, Tina said, “It tastes like…cheese.”

“It tastes like halloumi!” Em said. She always was a very, ahem, specific child: she would invariably correct me when I failed to call soda crackers, “Premium Plus Crackers,” or I made the cardinal error of not calling digestive cookies, “Hobnob Biscuits.”

It wasn’t exactly the taste, but the saltiness and the texture that reminded her of the hard Greek cheese known as halloumi.

In case you’ve never had this delicious grilled cheese, halloumi “is a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, and sometimes also cow’s milk. It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled.”

I found Em’s statement intriguing since I’ve been dying to try this recipe for vegan halloumi, and I’ve also been at a bit of a loss about how to take advantage of the particular texture of my homemade tofu, which is completely unlike that of commercially made tofu.

After the girls left, I whipped up a couple of little half-pound batches of tofu, pressed it, set it, pressed it again, and marinated it in the rather forgiving mixture outlined in the onearabvegan.com recipe, which is basically a thick mixture of lemon juice (one lemon), salt (2 tsps), nutritional yeast (1/4 cup), dried mint (two teabagsful), a bit of olive oil (two dashes), and freshly ground pepper (a few turns).

Since Nada gives approximate measurements, I eyeballed the handful of ingredients, rather than measuring them. She calls for both dried mint and fresh mint.

Fresh mint? I have lots!

Dried mint? I had to break open a couple of teabags.

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Grilled halloumi should be cooked on a grill and when it’s done, the pieces should have nice deep grill marks, but my homemade tofu is too delicate for that, so I baked it instead. I know, I know…BUT if you recall, it was my baked tofu that Em originally said reminded her of halloumi.

I baked it at 450 for thirty minutes, turned it and baked it for fifteen more.

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Sooooo…our dinner this evening is vegan-halloumi-stuffed pitas with a drizzle of cashew-dill dressing, and some chopped grape tomatoes and cucumbers. I also sprinkled the halloumi with fresh mint leaves as recommended by onearabvegan.com. I’m serving the wraps with a side of vegan potato salad.

Yum!!

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And check out this cute little baby card I made for Eunice. I had to knit that little sweater on toothpicks–haha!!

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And the song of the day is “I’ll Follow You into the Dark”–one of my favourite Deathcab songs:

 

 

Okara Tortillas!!

Since I started making my own tofu, I’ve struggled with the okara issue. If you recall, okara is the pulp left over after you’ve made soy milk. I’ve tried using okara as a base for salad dressing, to make crackers, and even to make vegan chicken nuggets.

All left something to be desired.

Yet I balked at the idea of simply throwing the okara away because of its health benefits: okara contains calcium, iron, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine; it’s also an excellent source of fibre.

And since I’m loath to throw it away, my tendency has been to save it in little Tupperware containers in the fridge until it starts to turn and then I just bin it.

Well, today I’ve discovered a use for all that super healthy okara, and I’m going to share it with you: Okara makes amazing tortillas!!!

I came up with the idea when I was perfecting my sweet potato tortillas and realized the texture of okara is not dissimilar to blended sweet potato.

So I gave the tortillas a try this morning and was surprised at how brilliantly they turned out. Here’s the recipe and method!

Okara Tortillas

  • 2 cups okara
  • 2.25 cups flour (I used whole wheat, but next time I’ll try a combo of sprouted whole wheat and sprouted spelt flours)
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix together with a stand mixer until the dough forms a ball.

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Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, form a log, and let rest for twenty minutes or so:

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Divide into ten three-ounce balls:

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Roll out the balls into desired thickness (I like mine as thin as possible):

Heat up on a hot grill, turning every thirty seconds or so until the tortilla puffs up and becomes nicely browned:

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And do make sure you don’t add too much sprouted flour: they’ll still taste good, but they won’t roll out as thin and the edges will be a bit cracked and crazy looking: IMG_1078.jpg

In general, they are a tiny bit stiffer than the sweet potato wraps, but they are absolutely delicious! The slight stiffness (which I suspect could be alleviated with a TBS of oil to the dough) makes a very nice roti to go with African peanut stew and rice.

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The tortillas do wrap very nicely though, and they don’t taste too doughy at ALL! They are at least as good as the sweet potato tortillas, so I will be making these suckers on the regular!!

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Each tortilla (and they are BIG) contains 111 calories:

Okara (94/cup x 2) = 188

Whole-wheat flour (408/cup x 2.25) = 918

Total: 1106 divided by 10 = 110.6 each

A commercial 10-inch tortilla contains 230 calories, so these are less than half!!

And…to finish things off, I thought I’d brag about all the things I was able to make from a mere cup of humble soybeans:

  1. soymilk
  2. tofu
  3. okara tortillas
  4. salad dressing

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And here’s a close-up of my homemade tofu marinating in some of my universal marinade:

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And the song of the day is Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins singing “Happy” because I like playing something I can sing along to while I’m cooking and James said my usual– Patsy Cline–was making him feel morose (it’s all those hurtin’ songs). As a result, I had to find another artist who sings in the same pitch I do (or in the same pitch I fancy I sing–I likely have no pitch whatsoever):

Perfect Sweet-Potato Tortillas

The recipe for sweet-potato tortillas is simple: equal parts sweet potato and flour (and 1 tsp of salt). I’m so addicted to these wraps, however, that I’ve now tried a variety of flours, as well as a variety of techniques in order to perfect the world’s most delicious wrap.

Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Sweet Potato Tortilla

  • The most straightforward method of cooking the sweet potato is to steam it in the Instant Pot (with a cup of water) for between fifteen and twenty-two minutes (depending on the size of the sweet potato). Most sweet potatoes seem to be about a pound, so try it at about sixteen minutes.
  • Once the sweet potato is done, peel it with some tongs, slice it into quarters and throw it into a large food processor. Don’t let the sweet potato cool–it’s better for mixing if it’s still quite warm.
  • Next comes the flour: I’ve now tried cup-for-cup gluten-free flour (nope), masa harina (nope), sprouted wheat flour (yup!), sprouted spelt flour (yup!). The winner is a mix of sprouted whole wheat flour and sprouted spelt flour (double yup!!).
  • If your sweet potato is about a pound, you’ll need two cups of flour. I recommend one cup of sprouted wheat flour and one cup of sprouted spelt flour.
  • Once the sweet potato is smooth, add the two cups of flour and one tsp of salt and blend in the food processor. When the dough forms a ball, it’s ready.  If a ball doesn’t form, add a bit more flour.

The dough will be soft and very slightly sticky.

Turn it onto a well-floured surface and roll into a log.

Leave it for ten to twenty minutes to rest.

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Once the dough has rested, divide it into eight to twelve (depending on how big your sweet potato is and how much flour you added) balls.

  • Roll out the balls you intend to use and refrigerate the rest. The dough gets better after refrigeration: the tortillas are more elastic, roll out better, and puff up more completely when heated. They last at least five days in the fridge.
  • If you use the sprouted wheat flour/sprouted spelt flour combination, you will be able to roll the tortillas out very thinly. If you use gluten-free or masa harina, they will have to be rolled out quite thickly and will still crack.

Cook them on a hot grill or pan, turning from time to time, and allow them to puff up completely so the inside of the tortilla is well cooked.IMG_0887.jpg

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Once cooked, place them in a tea towel so they stay soft. However, they’re best if they’re cooked immediately before the meal (they aren’t as good the next day).

These wraps taste great with savoury fillings, but also sweet fillings–like peanut butter and banana! Because they’re made with only sweet potato and sprouted flour, they’re also super healthy and low fat (and clock in at about 100 calories–most commercial wraps this size are twice the calories!).

Today, I had a breakfast wrap for lunch…

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…and a peanut-butter-banana wrap for a mid-afternoon snack.

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I was also challenging myself to meet Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen earlier in the day and I think I did so with just these two wraps!

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  • Beans: tofu
  • Berries: dried cranberries
  • Other Fruits: banana, avocado
  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli sprouts, cauliflower
  • Greens: spinach, romaine, Swiss chard
  • Other Vegetables: sweet potato, potato, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper
  • Flaxseeds: Yup (on peanut butter wrap)
  • Nuts: cashews (in spread on savoury wrap), peanuts (spread on sweet wrap)
  • Spices: dill, turmeric, ginger, pepper, mustard
  • Whole Grains: sprouted whole wheat, sprouted spelt flour

Now, let’s see if we can hit Dr. Fuhrman’s GBOMBS formula as well:

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  • Greens: spinach, romaine, chard, broccoli sprouts
  • Beans: tofu
  • Onions: in savoury wrap
  • Mushrooms: ditto
  • Berries: dried cranberries
  • Seeds/nuts: cashews, peanuts, ground flaxseed

And check out our delicious and (almost) WFPB Thanksgiving feast from last Monday evening! James made the mushroom pithivier, gravy, and cole slaw, and I made the potatoes and broccoli:

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And I’ll finish up this post with the card my nephew Joey gave me on my 60th birthday. My birthday was a couple of months ago, but I just came across the card again in my journal and was touched once again. When I read it, I said, “Well, that’s kind of like our life up here,” and Joey said, “That’s what I thought!”

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Loaded Fries–Vegan Style!!

Back in the 1980s, I used to love to travel down to Bellingham to visit the used bookstores downtown and then take a quick detour to the amazing Village Books in Fairhaven. Just a block away was a bar named “Bully’s.”

Bully’s no longer exists, but I still have the occasional fantasy about their “loaded fries”–a delicious combination of french fries, melted cheese, ranch dressing, chopped onions, and bacon bits. It was kind of like an over-the-top, American version of poutine…and it was SO much better than poutine. You really can’t beat the Americans for inventing crazy junk-food combinations that will clog the hell out of your arteries….but taste amazing nevertheless! Henry’s Taphouse in the Pearl District in Portland has a similar version of loaded fries that’s even MORE decadent: gorgonzola waffle fries with blue cheese crumbles. The proprieters really should require that everyone over fifty sign a waiver when they order those things. I’m sure they have an ambulance with a defibrillator parked in the lane!

Anyway, after perfecting my air fried potatoes, I decided to try a vegan version of loaded fries. Oh, and not just vegan, but WFPB–that is, NO extracted oil! I didn’t even use a quick spray of oil in the air fryer!

Loaded Vegan Fries

  • Air fry a couple of pounds of peeled, chopped russet potatoes at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
  • Add a big dollop of smoky vegan cheddar sauce.
  • Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of cashew-dill dressing.
  • Top with chopped white onion and freshly ground pepper.

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Oh, and here’s a comparison of air-fried potatoes sprayed with a bit of oil and air-fried potatoes without a trace of oil. The oil-free ones really are just as good (though the salt doesn’t stick as well, which might be a good thing!).

And I’ve been listening to a Beatles playlist today while I cook. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, my entire family (barring my dad) loves The Beatles. Indeed, I swear each one of us knows not only every Beatles song, but every word to every Beatles song. Two of my brothers once had a MONTHS-LONG feud about the title of a Beatles song. I can’t even remember which one it was, but it may have been “Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)” because, if I recall, the bone of contention was a parenthetical title.

So the song of the day is “Blackbird” because it’s on the soundtrack of the Ken Burns series we’re currently watching (The Vietnam War) and because I love it when James plays this particular song. Its tone in the original is wistful, but, when James sings it, he imposes his particular Eeyore quality on the song, and it sounds like the saddest song you’ve ever heard.

And, in honour of my darling Jamie-boy, here’s a little clip of his Pooh counterpart:

And lest you think I’m laughing at Jamie, whenever I play him this clip of Eeyore talking, he laughs in recognition.

And apparently, MY Pooh-counterpart is Winnie the Pooh!! Cool–I get to give up wearing pants!!

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Succulent Vegan Breakfast Bowl

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I’m not really sure why I’m calling this a breakfast bowl. Perhaps it’s because I used to love those big-ass White Spot breakfast bowls with eggs and potatoes and a whole mess of cheese on top.

And it’s not like I even served this for breakfast–first off, I don’t even eat breakfast, and even if I did, this would be far too much food to face first thing in the morning!

Anyway, I’ve been making air-fried potato chunks with great success, and it occurred to me that they’d go nicely with a tofu scramble (topped off with a big dollop of smoky vegan cheddar sauce, of course!).

I used a new recipe for the tofu scramble and the whole thing was absolutely succulent! The scramble is adapted (heavily) from this well-reviewed version from Genius Kitchen.

Vegan Breakfast Bowl

 

Tofu Scramble

Use food processor to dice very small:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • small handful of fresh sage
  • small handful of fresh basil

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Saute in a large wok for a few minutes. Add…

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, crumbled
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 TBS ume plum vinegar
  • 1 TBS vegetarian broth powder
  • 1/3 cup water

Saute for a few more minutes. Add….

  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups baby spinach

 

Once the broccoli is al dente, assemble the bowl: one half should be tofu scramble, the other air-fried potatoes. And don’t forget a big dollop of that Smoky Vegan Cheese Sauce to top it all off!

James raved about this dinner, and I thoroughly enjoyed it myself, so I’ll definitely be making this one again…perhaps even tomorrow (it’s THAT good!).

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And my Paul Simon jag continues. Our song of the day is their version of “Blues Run the Game” because we’re currently watching Ken Burns’ devastating documentary, The Vietnam War, and the song opened tonight’s episode (episode seven). I’ve posted Colin Meloy’s version (of The Decemberists) in an earlier post, but that’s okay because “Blues Run the Game” is one of my favourite songs (and the song I frequently claim will be the first song I’ll learn to play on the guitar):

 

 

 

 

Super Healthy Vegan Chocolate Pudding and Spicy Peanut Wrap!!

Now…I’m not really a sweets person.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food, and I get so excited by doughnuts that I just stay away from them altogether–in fact, the last time I ate a doughnut was thirteen years ago in Vegas!

I just have more of a savoury tooth than a sweet tooth.

From time to time, however, I get a bit of a craving for a sweet, so I appreciate receiving recipes for WFPB treats. This morning, my darling Annie sent me a link for a chocolate hummus that she said was delicious, so I decided to give it a try.

The original link can be found here, but I added a few things–cashews, beets, almond milk, dates–in an effort to make it more pudding-like and less hummus-like.

It’s very nice–not as smooth and rich as a pudding, but it does hit the sweet spot!

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Vegan Chocolate Pudding

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 cooked beet, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 4 TBS cocoa powder
  • 2 TBS maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Throw it all in the Vitamix and blend like hell-O!

Chill for a couple of hours and serve with a dollop of sweet cashew cream or aqua faba whipped cream!

I also made a rather delicious wrap today with one of my sweet-potato/sprouted-flour tortillas. It’s based on a post-workout wrap I used to get at the mall where my gym was located.

First, roll out and cook a sweet potato tortilla.

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Next, spread it with a thick version of this peanut sauce (don’t add any water!).

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Top that with a good schmear of salsa and some brown basmati rice.

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Add some chopped carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, and chopped romaine or cabbage.

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And roll that sucker up! Delicious!!

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And look at the cute little cherry tomatoes I plucked from my garden this morning. Those plants are still producing tons of tomatoes!

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And the song of the day is Paul Simon’s “America” because I’m still on a Paul Simon jag and I think this song is just brilliant:

And here’s another from the same concert–“The Boxer”–because James just pointed out to me a cute little moment in the video where Art Garfunkel messes up and starts early and Paul Simon glances over at him and corrects the error. It’s at about the 35-second mark.

And then, of course, James and I had to have an argument over whether the song was based on Hemingway’s story “The Battler” (it’s not) or whether it’s about the boxer, Hurricane Carter (it’s not–I was mixing it up with a Dylan song).

So we were both wrong.

Savoury Portobello-Jackfruit Pie

Now that we’ve perfected the jackfruit barbecue, James and I have been dying to shake up our jackfruit game and experiment with other applications. As it turns out, I just happened to have a recipe for a boeuf bourguignon that uses faux boeuf tips.

I decided to replace the fake meat with jackfruit and bake it into a pie (since we had leftover puff pastry)….as you well know, I like nothing better than a fat savoury pie. Now, this recipe is vegan, but not strictly WFPB (whole food/plant-based) because of a teensy bit of oil and, oh right…that puff pastry.

But just look at that fat pie!!

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This turned out to be super succulent–a perfect vegan meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

So, here we go!

Savoury Portobello-Jackfruit Pie

Combine in a shallow bowl:

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp each pepper and crushed dried rosemary

Add to the bowl and toss until jackfruit is coated:

  • 3 cans young jackfruit in brine (with the hard bits and pods cut off–the amount of jackfruit will be reduced to 2/3 of the original amount)

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Place a large pan on the stove set to medium heat. Add…

  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • the coated jackfruit and saute for a few minutes.

Return sauteed jackfruit back to bowl and cover.

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Next, add the following to the pan and saute until the onion is transluscent:

  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped portobello mushrooms (1-inch chunks)

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Add:

  • 2 1/2 cups water or veg stock
  • 2 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base

Bring to a boil and add:

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 TBS tomato paste

Mix together to form a slurry and drizzle into pan.

  • 2 TBS flour
  • 3 tbsp cold water

Heat to boiling, turn down to a simmer and stir until thickened.

Add the jackfruit and…

  • 1 cup frozen peas

Simmer until thick, and adjust the seasonings if need be.

Meanwhile, prepare a puff pastry crust. Pour the jackfruit-portobello mixture into the crust, cover with top crust, and bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

The super manly hand belongs to James, who rolled out the pastry for me.

Bake at 400 for forty-five minutes, aaaand……just look at this delicious beauty!

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I served it with air-fried new potatoes and grilled broccoli, and we both loved it!

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And James was listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert in Central Park, and when I heard “Feelin’ Groovy” (which was one of the encores), I was reminded of the first time I heard the song back in 1967. I’m quite sure it was the Harper’s Bizarre version, which is even more poppy and upbeat than the Simon & Garfunkel version.

I was only ten years old, but the song made me feel inordinately optimistic about growing up. I’d never imagined my life as an adult until I heard this song because adulthood seemed like endless drudgery, but “Feelin’ Groovy” made adulthood seem liberating. I think I suddenly realized that as an adult, I would be able to do whatever I wanted. I know, it’s not exactly the theme of the song, but that’s how I interpreted it at the time. I also found “Georgy Girl” strangely uplifting–I thought it was a happy song about a carefree young woman “swinging down the street so fancy free”!! I must’ve blocked out all the lyrics about her “loneliness deep inside”!

And here’s The Seekers’ “Georgy Girl”–the upbeat tone really does work in contrast to the theme, so you can imagine my confusion as a child:

And since we’re on this theme, I may as well include the song that, two years later, would terrify me about growing up. I was twelve by that point and we’d just moved across the country from Montreal to Vancouver. I’d started babysitting and buying my own clothes and even bought myself a clock radio, so I was starting to feel very grown up. But the girls at my new school seemed much more adult than the twelve-year-olds I’d left behind in Montreal and certainly much more mature than I was–some of them smoked and even had furious necking sessions in the ravine with high-school boys.

And every morning for several months of grade seven, my clock radio would snap on with the song “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night and I’d lie in bed listening to the words, terrified that one day very soon I’d be seduced against my will into taking drugs and drinking alcohol at some crazy hippy party: “That ain’t no way to have fun, son!”

And, of course, a few years later that did indeed happen, but by that time, it was fun…son.

Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Soup

We currently have a surfeit of tomatoes and mushrooms, so I decided to make a roasted tomato soup. I started with Laura Miller’s recipe. The companion video, unfortunately, is now behind a Tastemade pay screen, which is too bad because it’s hilariously adorable (as are all her cooking videos).

Here’s my adaptation: I removed the oil, increased the fresh herbs, and changed the agave syrup to maple syrup. I also added sauteed mushrooms, tomato paste, and BTB base.

Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Soup

  • 2 lbs cherry/grape (or Roma tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • a handful of fresh thyme
  • a handful of fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic

Toss all of the above together, roast it in a shallow pan (sprayed with a bit of oil) at 450 for thirty minutes. Next, blend in the roasted vegetables until smooth. Add to the blender:

  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base

While the tomatoes are roasting, saute (in a large saucepan)…

  • 2 cups mixed mushrooms (I used portobello and cremini)

in

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth with a few drops of liquid smoke

Once the mushrooms are sauteed, pour the blended vegetables from the Vitamix into the large saucepan and heat just until the soup achieves a boil.

Serve topped with…

  • fresh basil, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper
  • vegan parmesan (optional)

This soup is so fresh tasting, and it’s surprisingly creamy, particularly considering that it contains only vegetables–no oil, no cashews…nothing but plants!!

James had a hankering for pasta, so I served his over brown rice rotini, but I had mine as soup and it was very satisfying.21687067_10207973483055356_3816196504944081882_o.jpg I didn’t even need a hunk of the freshly baked baguette I made to accompany James’ pasta!

And here’s Stella trying to act non-chalant (“Baguette?!! …what baguette?!!!).

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DIY Tofu and Sweet Potato Tortillas

Presenting Soybella…the amazing soy milk machine!!!

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So, yeah, yeah, I bought another damn appliance….but I REALLY needed it!! I’ve been dying to make my own tofu, but putting it off because the process involves straining soaked soybeans ground up in water….through a nut bag.

And I HATEHATEHATE squeezing soy or nut milk through that strainer bag. It takes forever and is super messy and disgusting.

…unless, of course, you have a fabulous soy milk maker! In fact, with the soy milk maker, you’re able to cut out a few steps (and a few dishes because you don’t even need to reheat the soy milk to make tofu!

So…how do you make tofu? It’s actually surprisingly easy…and astonishingly cheap!

DIY Tofu

This recipe makes a half-pound chunk of tofu from 100 grams of soybeans. Soybeans are about fifty cents per 100 grams, so it’s quite economical (if you don’t count the $150 Soybella soy/nut milk machine)!

  1. Soak 100 grams of soybeans over night.
  2. Drain the beans (at this point you can rub them over a mesh strainer to loosen the skins and remove them, but you don’t have to).
  3. Place the soybeans in the grinder chamber of the soy milk maker.
  4. Fill the water chamber with one litre of water and close up the machine.
  5. Press “Milk” and your soy milk will be ready in about twenty minutes.
  6. Pour soy milk into a four-cup measuring cup.
  7. Dissolve a half teaspoon of calcium chloride (or lemon juice) in a 1/4 cup hot water, drizzle into the soy milk, and mix gently.
  8. Cover the measuring cup for about an hour.
  9. Prepare a mold with drainage holes and line with cheesecloth, place the mold in a colander, and place the colander in the sink.
  10. Pour the soymilk (which will have separated into curds and whey) into the mold, wrap the cheese cloth around the curds, and place a weight on top.
  11. Leave to set for several hours.
  12. Fill a Tupperware container with cold water, and place the tofu (still in its cheesecloth) into the water and allow to set overnight in the fridge.
  13. Remove from the water, unwrap the cheesecloth, and re-wrap in paper towels.
  14. Set a cutting board over top to squeeze out a bit of water.

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At this point, your tofu is ready to prepare any old way you want it. It’s a bit more fragile than regular tofu, so I’ve been cutting it into chunks and marinating it with my universal marinade.

 

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And we ate the marinated, baked tofu in a wrap with rice, lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded carrots. I spread a bit of dill-cashew dressing on the tortilla to give it a bit of spark.

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Now….about the tortillas: these are homemade wraps made with….SWEET POTATO!!! They are seriously delicious and SO freakin’ healthy, particularly because the only other ingredient is SPROUTED whole wheat flour (oh, and a little salt).

Just look at this beauty!!

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So…how do you make them? It’s easy! The detailed instructions can be found here, but all you basically have to do is mix together a teaspoon of salt and equal parts flour (I used sprouted whole-wheat flour, but you can use whatever flour you want) and cooked mashed sweet potato.

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Next, let it sit for ten minutes, then roll it into a log and divide the log into eight parts:

Roll each piece into a ball and roll it out into a thin tortilla with a rolling pin:

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Place the cooked tortillas in a tea towel, so they remain soft:

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Now…load those delicious suckers up and chow down!!

Today, I made some succulent refried beans and loaded up the tortillas with the beans, rice, avocados, lettuce, salsa verde, and smoky vegan cheddar sauce. Delicious!!

And the song of the day is Lorde’s “Royals” because I was listening to Marc Maron’s interview with Lorde this morning as I made the refried beans (and I love the song!):

And how could I post this without posting my favourite cover of the song:

Brown Sauce…Updated!

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I found the original “Brown Sauce” recipe in one of my Forks Over Knives cookbooks. Though the pedestrian nature of the name is unappealing and the recipe is very simple, it’s a surprisingly tasty sauce!

I usually double the recipe, however, and am loathe to add a 1/2 cup of agave syrup (which the original recipe calls for) or even 1/2 cup of maple syrup (which is what I traditionally replace it with) because that is a helluva lot of sugar! Today, I decided to replace that 1/2 cup of pure sugar with four succulent medjool dates. The result is barely different from the tasty original recipe!

And dates are MUCH healthier than syrup, no matter what kind!

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/

Anyway, here’s the adapted recipe!

Healthy Vegan Brown Sauce for Stir-Fries

Combine in a blender and blend like hell:

  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 medjool dates
  • 1.5 TBS. grated ginger
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 heaping TBS arrowroot powder

Pour into a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the sauce thickens.

 

Okara Caesar Salad Dressing

So I’ve been making tofu like a mad woman…ever since I received my amazing Soybella soy/nut milk maker (yeah, yeah, I have a small-appliance-addiction problem; we’ve already established that). I’ll post my tofu-making process shortly (once I have the process down pat).

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In any event, the only problem with the tofu-making process is that one is invariably left with the pulp of the soybeans–a rather wonderful substance called, apparently, “okara.”IMG_0750.jpg

This magical stuff is full of all kinds of good stuff–indeed, it is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a good source of calcium, copper, selenium, and manganese.

Now, I have scads of this stuff because of my DIY tofu experiments. I took a whack at making vegan chicken nuggets with it, and they weren’t bad, but not quite worthy of a post. Believe it or not, I don’t post everything I make: I make tons of stuff that just doesn’t turn out well enough to ever make again (don’t even ASK me about my vegan frittata disaster!!). Alternatively, I sometimes make something promising, but not quite post-worthy.

Here’s a picture of my less-than-perfect okara nuggets (with some of my homemade tofu on the side!). They look better than they tasted because the texture wasn’t quite right:

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Today, however, I decided to try using okara as a base for a creamy salad dressing. The okara itself has no taste whatsoever, so I adapted and conflated two very tasty recipes I have for vegan Caesar salad dressing. One recipe calls for hummus as a base, the other for cashews. The one below uses okara, and it turned out even better than the other two recipes!

Okara Caesar Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup okara
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 TBS dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 TBS capers with brine

Throw it all in a blender and blend like hell!

Now drizzle that delicious stuff on a grilled romaine head. And don’t forget to sprinkle on some of this!

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This is even better than when I discovered aqua faba!!!

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Super delicious and incredibly healthy! It’s very creamy and tastes like a rich, fat-laden Caesar Salad dressing!

Oh, and the song of the day is Wilco’s “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” because I used to be obsessed with the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and, though I haven’t listened to it in years,  I heard this song out of the blue today!

 

 

 

Kalamata Olive Quinoa Flatbread

After making a couple of little picnics for the kids to eat on the ferry on the way home from our cabin, I was left with one little round of vegan boursin that’s been calling my name for a couple of days now. However, I overdid it a bit on the weekend, so I wanted to keep on the healthy side of the vegan spectrum (apparently, Miss Vicky’s Balsamic Vinegar and Onion chips are on the not-so-healthy end of the vegan spectrum).

To that end, I made a batch of quinoa flatbread to eat with the boursin, rather than a baguette or commercial crackers. I decided to shake it up a bit, however, so I added a couple of big dollops of tapenade.

Wow–the result was amazing: super tasty (and nice and salty)! And I didn’t even bother adding any of the other ingredients I usually add. Next time, I’m going to try it with just a handful of kalamata olives, instead of the tapenade.

Anyway, here’s the recipe, which is so simple it hardly needs to be written down!

Olive Quinoa Flatbread

  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 heaping TBS black-olive tapenade

Throw the first two ingredients and 1 TBS of the tapenade into the Vitamix and blend until smooth. Then throw the other TBS of tapenade in and pulse until just mixed.

Spread on a hot electric grill, close the grill, and cook for about eight minutes. Turn over and bake for about four more minutes.

Alternatively, spread on parchment paper and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, turn, and bake for ten more minutes. This method will give you a crispier flatbread.

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Slice it up and use it as you would flatbread or crackers.

I served it today with some vegan boursin, hummus, and guacamole. It was quite delicious!

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And the song of the day is Orleans’ 1975 hit, “Dance with Me.”

“Why?”, you may rightly ask: well, I was puttering about in the kitchen this morning when I heard someone calling me from the downstairs. It was our neighbour, who wanted to let me know that her sister had thrown her dog’s ball over the fence into our backyard, and they were just retrieving it.

She said, “We didn’t think anyone was home because your truck isn’t in the driveway, but then my sister said she could hear someone singing.”

That was me, of course. I’m always singing….and she’s not the only neighbour who’s mentioned it (so embarrassing).

What song was I singing?

For some strange reason, it was this one. And I was REALLY belting it out (oh god).

 

 

Best Ever Vegan Boursin Cheese with Herbs!!

I’ve now made The Buddhist Chef’s Vegan Cheese enough times that I’ve adapted the recipe, streamlined the process, and doubled the quantities, so I figured it was about time I posted my changes. This recipe is probably my favourite vegan cheese recipe for a cheese-and-baguette type meal. It’s not really a meltable vegan pizza cheese, but rather a sliceable, spreadable cheese–and a delicious addition to a vegan charcuterie!

I’m making it today for Em and her cousins, who came up for the weekend for a big family birthday party for my brother, Steve, who has been very ill for the past few years.

Everyone was to arrive on Friday afternoon and planned to stay until later today (Sunday). Early in the week, however, a number of family members dropped out for various reasons…and then on Friday morning, we received a message from Steve’s daughter, Erin, that she, her dad, and her daughter wouldn’t be able to make it either! Apparently, Steve was too ill to make the trip and is now in the hospital for a week battling a staff infection :(.

We continued with the party, however, and Face-Timed in the evening with Steve and Erin.

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And though (sadly) the birthday boy was not in attendance, the eight of us have had a lovely time. Em, Annie, Joey, and Melissa (Joey’s girlfriend) stayed with us from midday Friday until midday Saturday when the went over to Hornby to stay at Bid and Paul’s cabin. We’re all meeting up at The Thatch pub later today (Sunday) for an early dinner before the kids take off on a late ferry for Vancouver. I’m making the vegan boursin so they’ll have a nice picnic for the ferry. Don’t worry–I’ll pack a couple of freshly baked baguettes for them as well!

Best Ever Vegan Boursin with Herbs

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 TBS vegetable broth powder (I use Knorr)
  • 1 TBS agar agar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 garlic clove

Throw everything into the Vitamix and run on high until smoooooooooth.

Next, throw in a big handful of freshly picked….

  • basil
  • oregano
  • rosemary (just a bit–a little goes a long way with rosemary)

And pulse a couple of times. You want to see little green flecks, but you don’t want it completely blended so the cheese turns green.

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Pour the contents into a saucepan on medium heat and stir continuously until the cheese bubbles and eventually turns shiny (an indication the cornstarch has cooked).

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Spray a bit of oil into three one-cup ramekins and pour the cheese into the ramekins.

Refrigerate for at least two hours.

I’d lined up a Beatles playlist for Steve for the party on Friday evening, but since he wasn’t here, we ended up listening to another oldie playlist (most of which seemed to be James Taylor).  Thus, the song of the day is James Taylor’s “She Thinks I Still Care”….

 

A July of Whole-Food, Plant-Based Feasts!

July was a month packed full of visitors and, while we don’t usually impose vegan food on our omnivore guests, we usually end up with many vegan meals simply because that’s the way I cook most of the time now. And, of course, even if a meal isn’t vegan, it’s always vegetarian because neither of us has cooked meat in decades (well, okay, for James it’s been one decade; for me, it’s been close to three).

Anyway, the month started off with a quick visit from Dana who stayed overnight on her way over to Hornby Island.  She’s always fun to cook for because she’s completely vegan, so I usually pack her up a bunch of vegan food to take over to Hornby as well. I baked her a couple of baguettes and made her some herbed vegan boursin and later received a phone call from my omni sister raving about the boursin!

Bid stayed over later that week because the septic system at her Hornby cabin was out of commission. Because I didn’t have tons of warning, all the food we served her was plant based, and she snarfed down the lot without complaint!

Next up was a visit from Johnny, Kevin, and Gerry. They were here for three or four days and a number of their meals were also vegan, but they really didn’t register the lack of meat and cheese. I did make them a big frittata one morning and some scrambled eggs and pancakes, but I didn’t partake because I don’t eat breakfast anyway (and James is always happy to get a bit of cheese and eggs thrown in to his usual vegan fare!). IMG_20170714_175816.jpg

Next, Emily managed to get a few days off work and came up for a birthday visit. James made her a rich vegetarian feast for her birthday dinner, but for the next evening, she requested the vegan charcuterie I posted about last time–complete with two different kinds of vegan cheese.

A Plant-Based Weekend Menu

Em left Thursday morning, and Annie and her boyfriend, Chris, and their two friends, Jamie and Brandon, arrived for the weekend. Last summer, when Annie and Jamie were visiting, I was trying out various vegan inventions on them, so I proposed that their next visit be an entirely plant-based menu.

This was good news for Jamie’s husband, Brandon, because he’s a full-on, never-deviates-from-the-plan, vegan! It was great fun and involved three full days of entirely plant-based meals.

Most of the recipes I’ve linked to in the menu below are whole-food, plant-based (WFPB), but a few of the recipes can’t be classified as “whole food” because they contain extracted oils or processed food (for example, filo pastry brushed with olive oil). I haven’t included links to those recipes.

Friday lunch was cheezy broccoli soup with a vegan charcuterie table (including hummusvegan herbed boursin and vegan smoky cheddar) with freshly baked baguettes….

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The kids then went off for a swim in the lake and came back to jackfruit pulled “pork” in freshly baked pitas with dilly potato salad and James’ famous cole slaw (I don’t have links for James’ recipes because they tend to be from cookbooks).IMG_20170711_194426.jpgIMG_20170402_184610.jpg

Saturday breakfast was chickpea omelettes with sauteed chard and kale (from the garden) topped with smoky paprika sauce, and seitan “bacon” made by Jamie and Brandon (it was delicious!!)…

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For lunch, we had vegan zucchini-mushroom quiche, topped with smoky vegan cheddar sauce, and tomato salad, plus, more freshly baked baguettesP1070864.jpgP1070866.jpg

We followed this with vegan berry tarts. These tarts are actually raw, contain no extracted oil, and are made from nuts (pecan and cashew), medjool dates, vanilla pods, berries, lemon zest, and a bit of fresh mint…

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The kids went off to the beach while James prepared a vegan feast for the evening. Now, when I cook, I try to avoid all extracted oils (though I do include nuts to make the dressings and cheese creamy). James imposes no such stipulation on his vegan feasts AND he makes A LOT of food. The evening meal was grilled Caesar salad, spring rolls with hoisin and plum dipping sauces, and Sauvignon Blanc linguini with trumpet mushrooms/asparagus and cream sauce. The spring rolls recipe is from The White Water Cookbook and the linguini is from Plum). Oh, and more fresh baguettes! By the time the linguini arrived we were all too stuffed to make it even halfway through our plates…

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This was followed MUCH later in the evening with a vegan pecan pie (made by James). The pecan pie is a veganized version of a Chez Piggy recipe. It was snarfed down long before I was able to get a picture though!

Sunday breakfast was a tofu scramble topped with guacamole and cilantro on a bed of fresh garden greens with more fresh baguettes. I was going to make homemade corn tortillas, but they’re a bit labour intensive, and I already had the dough ready for the baguettes!

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Our lunch was hot-and-sour mushroom soup with soba noodles…P1070883.jpg

And dinner was cauliflower-chickpea tikka masala on red rice with a coconut-cucumber raita and mango chutney. I made fresh naan bread to sop it all up…P1070887.jpg

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The next morning, I baked zucchini muffins with some of my zucchinis from the garden, but they took so long to bake that the kids had to take them to eat in the car so they wouldn’t miss their ferry.wpid-20150809_141446.jpg

No sooner were the kids out the door than Dana arrived with her new dog, Guinness–a beautiful red standard Poodle!

We spread the table with a lovely array of the left-overs from our vegan weekend and James cracked open a bottle of champagne and we spent the afternoon nibbling on food and sitting in the sun on the deck.P1070895.jpg

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And, after a guest-packed July, we relaxed on the eve of my birth-month (yes, I get a month this year because I’m turning 60!!) in our fabulous deck tub! Note the pink bubbles: Jamie and Brandon brought us an amazing-smelling Karma Bubble Bar from Lush..P1070901.jpgP1070903.jpg

 

 

 

Vegan Charcuterie and a Summer Vegan Pizza

My darling Em has been up at the cabin for the past couple of days, and I was delighted to make her some of my latest vegan food discoveries (and she was delighted to eat them!). She loved the two-ingredient quinoa bread I’ve been making–especially topped with a smear of smoky paprika sauce and sliced avocados!

Her first night was a celebration meal (complete with Jamie-made birthday cake) for her 28th birthday. I asked her what she would like for a meal for her second evening here and she requested a vegan charcuterie!

So that’s what I did–and it was great fun to make and to eat (and everything was succulent!).

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I made three baguettes, a vegan herb cheese, a vegan smoky cheddar, hummus, grilled marinated portobello mushrooms and zucchini (from the garden), and zucchini-chard-chickpea patties with a smoky paprika sauce for dipping. I served it all with some of Biddy’s sweet and sour pickles, medjool dates, cashews and pecans, grape tomatoes, olives, and mango chutney (which tastes great with the smoky cheddar!). Oh, and a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel that Johnny brought up last time he was here.

Em loved it so much that I packed her a mini-version to take on the ferry today (with a couple of fresh baguettes). She also suggested I make the vegan charcuterie for lunch for our guests this weekend, which I just may do!

The other recipe for today is also a bit of an assembly, rather than an actual recipe: Summer Vegan Pizza!

For this, I made some quinoa flatbread, and then topped it with very thin slices of vegan smoky cheddar and placed it under the broiler until the “cheese” melted. I then topped it with sliced avocado, slices of marinated grilled portobello, and thin slices of raw onion.

I would make this again in a heartbeat…even for guests!

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And in exciting garden news, this happened!!!unnamed.jpg

 

 

UH-MAZING Zucchini-Mushroom Tofu Quiche

I’ve been dying to try making a vegan quiche forever, but hadn’t come across what looked like the perfect recipe until a couple of weeks ago. This is an adapted version of a Susan Voisin (of FatFreeVegan.com fame) recipe. If you haven’t heard of this blog, get yourself over there ASAP because Ms. Voisin is some kind of WFPB genius when it comes to creating recipes. I adapted the recipe because I wanted a greater vegetable-to-tofu ratio, I have tons of zucchini in my garden (and no asparagus), and I just had plain old regular tofu (not silken).

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This recipe makes two very pretty little vegan quiches that I’m planning to serve to company this weekend!

Zucchini-Mushroom Vegan Quiche

Step One: Blend until completely smooth in Vitamix….

  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS vegetable broth powder
  • 1 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • tsp salt

Add a handful of fresh herbs and pulse for a few minutes…

  • fresh basil, oregano, chives, rosemary

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Step Two: Saute for a few minutes in a bit of vegetable broth…

  • 1/2 cup shallots or onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • cloves garlic, minced

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Step Three: Mix together and press into the bottom of two quiche pans, lightly sprayed with oil…..

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 3 TBS of the above mixture from the Vitamix
  • 1 TBS vegan parmesan 
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

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BAKE the crusts at 350 for eight minutes.

Step Four: Divide the vegetables from step two between the two quiche dishes and pour the mixture from step one into the two quiche pans.

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Step Five: Slice and press into the mixture….

  • 10 grape tomatoes

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Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes….

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And serve topped with this smoky vegan cheddar sauce….and a side of delicious vegan potato salad!!

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This is a perfect lunch for company on a hot summer day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini-Chard Falafel Patties

Zucchini-Chard Falafel Patties

Mix together and set aside (this is your flax egg):

  • 1 TBS ground flax seed
  • 2 TBS water

Mix in the food processor….

  • 4 cups grated, drained zucchini
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped fresh chard
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS vegetable broth powder
  • 2 TBS tahini
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • the flax egg from above

Pour mixture into a bowl and add….

  • 1 cup chickpea/fava flour

Use a small scoop to form little patties.

Mix together in a saucer….

  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Coat the patties in the panko mixture and place in air fryer.

Bake for twenty minutes at 400 in the air fryer, turning at midpoint.

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An Easier Approach to Quinoa Flat Bread

Since I discovered the recipe for  two-ingredient quinoa flat bread, I’ve been making it a couple of times a week; however, the problem is that I always end up throwing away half because I can’t eat the equivalent of two cups of quinoa in a day….and by the next day, the flat bread is too hard to eat.

Today, I decided to half the recipe AND to “bake” the flat bread on my electric grill (closed).

The result was brilliant: it’s quicker and the texture is better! Plus, there are no leftovers.

I’m going to make this easy, healthy flatbread every day!!

Here’s the method:

Quinoa Flatbread

Preheat electric grill to 425.

Blend the following in the Vitamix until smooth, white, and creamy:

  • 1/2 cup unrinsed quinoa
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup water (to achieve a consistency similar to pancake batter)
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS Knorr vegetable broth powder

Pour the mixture onto the hot grill. Start in the middle and pour in a circular, outward motion (as though you’re drawing a spiral). You might need to smooth out the top with a spatula to ensure the flat bread is even.

Close the grill and bake for fifteen minutes. Flip at the halfway mark.

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Now smear that flat bread with some smoky paprika sauce, load with a couple of ounces of avocado, some chopped onions, capers, and a few dots of sriracha.

This is ZOMG delicious!

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And in other exciting Sideways Cottage news, I saw a new butterfly this morning as I was watering my garden–a Cabbage White Butterfly.

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Smoky Mushroom-Walnut Burgers

James spent the day constructing a temporary workshop (from a shed-in-box) that he can use to construct….his permanent workshop. I’m now used to James’ staged processes, so this didn’t particularly surprise me, but I wanted to surprise him with a new vegan burger this evening–if you recall, James has never found quite the right burger, either in a restaurant or from a recipe. I think I might be close today, however.

This is a much changed version of my attempt of a few days ago; however, I added quite a few ingredients, changed the spices, and marinated the mushrooms before I started. It’s a bit labour intensive, but anything for my Jamie-boy!

Smoky Mushroom-Walnut Burgers

Make this marinade and marinate the following for at least an hour:

  • 1/2 lb. mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used three portobellos)

After they’ve marinated for an hour, process the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped.

Meanwhile, saute in a non-stick pan…

  • 3 scallions, finely chopped

Add the mushrooms and saute until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.

 

Next, combine the following in the food processor and blend until smooth:

  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base
  • 1 TBS liquid smoke
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp oregano

Add the following and pulse a few times until blended, but not homogenous:

  • 3/4 cup walnuts

Pour the contents of the food processor into a bowl, add the contents of the saucepan as well as:

  • cup cooked basmati brown rice
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Mix well–use your hands here. Now, I’m not sure whether it’s necessary, but I did kind of knead it for a few minutes because of the vital wheat gluten, which I understand needs some kneading to develop (…or at least it does when you make seitan).

 

Refrigerate for at least an hour, so the burger mix can set up.

This recipe will make six nice sized burger patties, but today I used a small scoop to make little 2.5-inch patties because I’m putting them inside pitas, and it’s nicer to have a couple of little patties, rather than one big one.

Next, fill a saucer with…

  • 1/2 cup of panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Mix together and coat each patty with the panko-crumb mixture.IMG_20170706_185301.jpg

Place in the air fryer at 370 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping at the 10-minute mark.

And here’s James’ plate piled high with his favourite fat-free roasted potatoes!

 

Oh, and check out Jamie’s transitional workshop. Note our peek-a-boo view of the ocean in the upper-left-hand corner!

He spent about six hours in the hot sun today putting this baby together….which means our lovely side deck will soon be clear of all of James’ huge power tools. This is excellent news because we’re expecting a series of guests over the next few weeks.

And we’re listening to Leonard Cohen’s “There Ain’t No Cure for Love” as I finish up this post…

Garden Update: July, 2017

My garden this year has been a joy, particularly when I compare it to last year. I was just looking at a post I made on my garden last year at the end of July and, other than romaine, nothing much was happening at all. Even my kale was pretty small.

This year, my kale and chard have been amazing–in fact, my chard is so big I’ve been making wraps out of the leaves. I picked two pounds worth yesterday for a recipe James was making. Unfortunately, it’s now a bit too hot for either one and they’re starting to fade.  In fact, every afternoon as the sun hits the chard, the largest leaves keel over in a dramatic swoon reminiscent of Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind.

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At the back of the cabin, the zucchini is going great guns…

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And my tomatoes may just be a success this year! I have about 23 plants, mostly sweet one millions, but also two sungold plants. All are cherry varieties. I started the sweet one millions under the grow lights in March and staggered their planting into three batches–each about three weeks apart. The group I hardened off first has many more tomatoes, but they’re much smaller. The ones I hardened off last have fewer, but they’re bigger. I think we’ll be eating sweet little cherry tomatoes within a couple of weeks. The sungolds won’t be ready until the end of August though because I didn’t start them until early May.

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Even my little pickle cucumber plants are starting to produce (and they did not look promising earlier in the summer).

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I’m also very pleased with the flowers–the nasturtiums continue to be gorgeous, as do the marigolds and sweet peas. And my snap dragons and zinnias are finally blossoming as well!IMG_20170708_171356.jpg

The “butterfly corner” is coming along, but the Pale Tiger Swallowtail seems to be the only butterfly that shows up on the regular (though one day we watched a Pale Tiger Swallowtail dance around in the air with a Tiger Swallowtail). We get lots of bees and the occasional hummingbird, but we still haven’t managed to entice the elusive Taylor’s Checkerspot. Everything I planted in this corner was meant to attract the Taylor’s Checkerspot, which is extinct everywhere except Denman Island.

This picture of the Taylor’s Checkerspot isn’t mine–I lifted it from an online source.

So desperate am I to spot this little sucker that I embarrassed James at Gravelly Bay last Sunday. We were waiting for the ferry to go over to the pub on Hornby Island where we were meeting people for dinner. James pointed out what he thought was a Taylor’s Checkerspot, but it quickly vanished from view. A few moments later it emerged again and headed toward the water. Of course, I dropped everything, yelled, “THERE IT IS!!!!” and chased it toward the water.  Happily, with retirement, I seem to have lost what little dignity I ever had, so the only one embarrassed by my little display was poor old James.

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The Butterfly Corner on the Front Deck

 

 

The corners at the back of the cabin are looking lovely as well, though the snapdragons and zinnias are taking forever to bloom….

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Back Deck

And the ivy I planted by the outdoor bath has filled out beautifully–I can’t believe I bought these plants as four little sticks last fall and they’ve turned into these lovely bushy things. I may have to trim back these nasturtiums because they (and the sweet peas) are starting to look a bit like a jungle.

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Back Deck

Oh, and the other end of the front deck from the butterfly corner is populated by my parents’ deck furniture. They gave it to us three years ago when they moved into their fancy seniors residence. The furniture must be twenty-five years old, but it’s still in perfect condition because my mother always took such good care of everything (this is the woman who had a dishwasher last FORTY years!). She used to take in the patio chair cushions every night and put them in a special Tupperware trunk to keep them moisture free. I wish I could say we were as conscientious!

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Finally, the little patio at the front of the cabin is rather shady, so we’ve tended to just rely on geraniums (which I didn’t grow from seed). I did start a little wildflower garden just in front of the patio, but the seedlings are taking forever to grow because of the lack of sun. I’ll post a picture in late August if they turn out well.

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Front Porch

And all these flowers outside are giving me lots of blossoms for centrepieces….though Bid and Paul were over for dinner on Friday, and Paul did balk a bit at the giant vase of flowers blocking his view of everyone else at the table.

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Oh, and I had another whack at the mushroom-walnut burgers and they were delicious tucked into a pita with vegan gouda sauce and a side of tater salad–yum yum!!

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And the soundtrack of the day is The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs because I’ve been listening to it for two days while I garden and cook. Poor James: I know every word to every one of the sixty-nine songs (and, boy, am I belting them out!).

 

 

Vegan Mushroom-Walnut Burgers

 

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Today, someone on the CFDG Facebook group mentioned a Miyoko Schinner recipe for The Real Burger and it looked very promising, so I thought I’d give it a try. I decided to make quite a few adaptions, however, so I’m including my version here.

The first thing I did was quarter the recipe, which according to Schinner, makes sixteen burgers, because if we didn’t like it, I didn’t want to be stuck with fourteen frozen burgers that we’d never eat. In addition, my version ended up making six burgers (likely because I added several ingredients), so if I’d kept to Schinner’s quantities, I would’ve ended up with twenty-four burgers!

I also decided to dip the patties in panko flour to improve the crunchiness and air-fry them as opposed to baking them. Oh, and I sauteed the onion and mushroom before adding them to the patty mix.

Texture-wise, the burgers turned out VERY well, but next time I try them, I’ll likely add more BTB base and spices (perhaps cumin and smoked paprika) to make them more flavourful.

Mushroom-Walnut Burgers

  • 1/2 lb. mixed mushrooms, quartered (I used a combo of white button and portobello)
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped

Roughly chop the onion and throw in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a non-stick pan and saute for a few minutes. Roughly chop mushrooms and add to the saucepan with the onions; saute until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.

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Next, combine the following in the food processor and blend until smooth:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 tsp miso
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 TBS fresh basil (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1 TBS fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1/4 tsp dried savoury
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice

Add the following and pulse a few times until blended, but not homogenous:

  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Pour the contents of the food processor into a bowl, add the contents of the saucepan as well as:

  • cup cooked basmati brown rice
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Mix well–use your hands here. Use a medium scoop (or your hands) to form six patties.

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Next, fill a saucer with…

  • 1/2 cup of panko crumbs

Coat each patty with panko crumbs.IMG_20170706_185301.jpg

Place in the air fryer for 20 minutes, flipping at the 10-minute mark.

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Meanwhile, make these easy vegan buns! This recipe is very quick and easy, and the buns turn out very soft and fluffy. I scooped out some of the dough from middle, so they wouldn’t be so bready. I recommend keeping them in the oven until they achieve an internal temperature of 207.

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Don’t forget to make this Uh-mazing vegan dill mayo. Slap some on the burger with chopped romaine, onion, and pickle….

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And make some of these awesome fat-free roasted potatoes, and have yourself a good ol’ vegan burger feast!

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