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 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 loathe 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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Best Ever Black-Bean-Avocado Dip

I first experienced the deliciousness that is black bean dip in California in the early 1990s. I had only recently become a vegetarian and hadn’t even realized that such things existed. In fact, I’d barely paid attention to beans before that…except to shove them to the side of my combo burrito plate at Mexican restaurants.

And like all black-bean dips, the one I found in the cooler of that hip San Francisco grocery store looked less than appetizing, but I was desperate for something other than hummus, so I gave it a whirl.

I couldn’t believe something that looked so unappetizing could be so delicious…and healthy to boot! I was hooked. And now, all these years later, I make my own on the regular. In fact, my black bean dip, refried black beans, and black bean soup are all pretty much the same recipe, but the first one’s cold, the second’s one hot, and the third’s one just the second one thinned out.

Now the one shortcoming of this delicious dip is that it can be a teeeensy bit dense, which is why I always serve it with guacamole and salsa, both of which are much lighter.

Today, in an effort to lighten my traditional black bean dip, I decided to create a combination black-bean-dip/guacamole and WOW is it ever good…and kind of light-ish!!

I will make this again in a heartbeat!

Black-Bean-Avocado Dip

Throw in the food processor and process until finely chopped:

  • 1 roughly chopped small onion
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 roughly chopped jalepeno (if you like it hot, leave in the seeds)

Transfer to a saucepan and saute until the onion is translucent. Add to the pan and mix around:

  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS vegetable broth powder

Once mixed, transfer back to the blender and add:

  • 1 can rinsed and drained black beans
  • 2 small avocados, peeled and pitted (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup lime juice (depending on the consistency you prefer)
  • salt to taste (I added about 1 tsp)

Run for twenty seconds or so. Check for consistency–you’ll likely need to run it for another 10-15 seconds. The dip should not be a smooth as hummus, but no big lumps should remain. Aim for the consistency of an artichoke dip.

The result is astonishingly good–even with chopped vegetables (yeah, yeah, I had no damn tortilla chips)!

I was initially under the delusion that the dip would look a bit prettier than that first black bean dip I found in the hip San Francisco grocery in the early 90s, but alas, it remains as grey and unappealing looking as ever. Don’t let the colour fool you though!

MAKE THIS DIP NOW AND GET IT IN YOUR MOUTH!!!

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And here is my pretty bouquet of sweet peas, nasturtiums, lavender, and snap dragons I picked from the deck garden–it smells divine!

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And check out these crazy-looking seeds I’ve been collecting from my nasturtiums! I’m going to dry them out for next spring….if I don’t pickle and eat them in the meantime. Apparently, they’re known as “the poor man’s caper”!

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Corn Tortilla Technique

I’ve been practicing my corn tortilla-making technique and refining my recipe and today I had success: all of my tortillas were perfectly formed and one even puffed up perfectly!

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So the combination is….

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 3/4 cup hot water (and a little more as needed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Beat with the stand mixer until it forms a ball around the dough hook.

Let sit for at least twenty minutes.

I’ve started to use a cookie scoop so that my tortillas are the same size; I also use the plastic from a thick liquor store bag to line my tortilla press.

Apparently, the best technique for getting the tortillas to puff up is 40 seconds on one side, forty seconds on the other, then flip and pat the top with your fingertips to initiate puffing and leave for another 30 seconds.

 

 

Vegan Quesadilla

I was practicing my corn tortillas today because we’re having a Mexican tofu scramble for dinner, and my tortilla-making skills aren’t the best. After all the fussing around with the cast iron skillet on the stove top last time, I decided to try my electric grill, and it worked brilliantly!

I was left with a couple of little “practice” tortillas, however, and I was a bit peckish, so I decided to try making a little quesadilla.

Now…before I started avoiding dairy, quesadillas used to be one of my favourite things to eat, so I wasn’t holding out much hope for the vegan version.

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I topped one of the tortillas with my vegan smoky cheddar sauce and a handful of chopped onions, put the other tortilla on top and let it grill until the cheese was warm.

Topped with salsa and a bit of cilantro, the little quesadilla was delicious!!!

Next time, I’ll try it with my vegan smoky meltable cheddar,

 

Quinoa Flatbread

The other day, someone posted a recipe for “two-ingredient quinoa bread” on the CFDG Facebook group and I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be brilliant–and my new favourite alternative to bread, pita, wraps, etc.

And it really is only two ingredients.

Or it was until I started adding stuff!

The original recipe can be found here. It’s basically one cup of quinoa blended with one cup of water and baked, but I added a couple of things to make it tastier. The result is a nice neutral flatbread suitable for pizza crust or just as a vehicle for getting hummus and tomato/avocado/etc. into your mouth!

So—here’s the method:

Quinoa Flatbread

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 TBS vegetable broth powder (I use this instead of salt)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Blend in the Vitamix for a minute or two. You don’t need to rinse the quinoa (if you do, the batter will come out much thinner). The result will be the consistency of a thick pancake batter.

Throw in a handful of…

  • fresh basil
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh rosemary

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Pulse a few times so the herbs aren’t completely blended (you don’t want a green batter!).

Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper sprayed with a bit of oil spray…

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…and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for ten more minutes.

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Now you can use it as a pizza crust or slice it up to use as flatbread. You can even toast it.

Avo-toasties on quinoa flatbread with capers, white onion, and a drizzle of sriracha:

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Here’s a mini-pizza with a quinoa crust:

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I did try grilling it (rather than baking), and the result was fine, but rather floppy, like a thick wrap or pancake, and quite rubbery in texture. The one on the right is baked, the two on the left are grilled:P1070438.jpg

James isn’t 100% crazy about the quinoa flatbread, but I LOVE it. The taste is pretty neutral and it’s a perfect vehicle for those open-faced sandwiches of which I am so fond.

I’m going to try it as a pizza crust for a large pizza this evening to see how it fares. I’ll report back with my results!

Update!

Not at ALL bad as a pizza crust!!

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Toppings: tomato sauce, onions, olives, mushrooms, red peppers, grape tomatoes, vegan cheese:

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Served with a kale-romaine-tomato Caesar salad–YUM!!!!

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Take Two: Smoky Meltable Vegan Cheddar–This is IT!!

If you recall, I attempted a smoky vegan cheddar a few days ago, but I tried to leave out the coconut oil. The flavour was delicious, buuuut the texture was a bit off–kind of gelatinous–for lack of a better word. Well, James fancied nachos this evening, so I thought I’d try the cheddar again. It tastes GREAT right out of the pan (before hardening in the fridge).

Smoky Meltable Vegan Cheddar 2.0

(Oh god–remember when everything was “2.0 this” and “2.0 that”?)

Throw in the Vitamix:

  • 1 and 1/3 cups cashew milk (homemade)
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted
  • 4 TBS tapioca flour
  • 4 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 4 tsp kappa carrageenan
  • 1 TBS miso paste
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1.5 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Once it’s blended, pour the mix into a pan on medium heat and stir until the mix gets shiny and smooth. Pour into a mold and refrigerate for a few hours.

This stuff tastes GREAT, but doesn’t adhere to nachos when it melts. Next time, if I’m making nachos, I’ll just do the sauce version (which actually has no oil!).

It’s the smokiness that makes the flavour so good! This solid version will be great for a melted cheez sammitch!

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Vegan Omelette

I’ve been dying to try making a chickpea flour omelette or quiche for ages but have been reluctant because apparently if chickpea flour is not cooked properly, it can taste terrible.

Well, today was the day, my friend: I tried the vegan omelette.

The recipe can be found here on Fatfree Vegan, so I won’t repost the recipe because I changed only one thing (I added a TBS of Knorr Vegetable Broth powder to the dry mix).

I will definitely be making this again, because it was DELICIOUS–it doesn’t taste like eggs…more like a savoury pancake.

I did a quick wok-fry of onions, peppers, black olives, mushrooms, kale, chard, and arugula, and once the omelette was cooked, I filled it with the mix, and then topped it with vegan smoked cheddar sauce and fresh cilantro.

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Smoky, Meltable Vegan Cheddar

We loved that smoky vegan cheddar sauce so much that I decided to try to turn it into a solid, meltable cheese with the addition of some kappa carrageenan and xanthan gum. It’s similar to my super fast and easy meltable vegan cheddar, but contains no extracted oil (the only oil is in the cashews).

So…here goes!

Smoky Vegan Cheddar

Blend in the Vitamix for two minutes:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • pinch of salt

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Next, add to the mixture:

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS miso
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Knorr Vegetable Broth powder
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 TBS kappa carageenan (if you don’t plan on melting the cheese, you can use agar agar)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

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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.

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Pour into a mold and refrigerate for at least two hours.

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This turned out VERY well in terms of taste. It does have that firm-creme-caramel texture that James finds a bit off-putting, but I don’t mind the texture. The true test is how well the cheese melts, however….

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It melts very well, buuuut the texture is still a bit gelatinous, so I suspect that removing the extracted oil from the recipe is the problem.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try the flavouring from this cheese, but the rest of the ingredients from my super quick meltable cheddar.

I also tried another crack at my corn tortillas today. Yesterday’s dough was too wet and fragile, but today’s was a bit too dry and, for lack of a better word, robust. Still, they tasted great with our lunch….

Tofu Taco Scramble on a salad of baby kale, chard, arugula, and nasturtium leaves (from the garden) tossed with Cashew-Dill Dressing.

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That’s Smoky Vegan Cheddar Sauce on top….and fresh cilantro from the garden!

I’ve been listening to a super mellow jazz playlist since 9:30 this morning, so the song of the day is, of course, Madeleine Peyroux’s “Between the Bars.”

….which is a cover of the late great Elliot Smith’s song:

 

DIY Corn Tortillas with Tofu Scramble

I’ve been trying since forever to make decent corn tortillas, and today I came close, buuuuut I’m still not there.

I recently realized that the Bob’s Red Mill masa harina in my pantry is too coarse to do the trick, so I picked up a finer version at Galloway’s in New West last time we were in town. The Bob’s stuff cost me close to ten bucks for a pound, but the Galloway’s masa harina was less than three bucks for almost two pounds!!

I followed the recipe in this video, which is basically, mix a cup of masa harina with a cup and a bit of hot water, let it rest for twenty minutes, roll it into balls, press the balls flat and grill them on a hot pan.

I followed the instructions, but ended up with only five tortillas, and they were a little thick, but not that much thicker than in the video. They were also rather fragile, but they cooked well….not as well as hers (I was reallllllly hoping they’d puff up like hers, but no such luck).

Corn Tortillas

Take a heaping cup of masa harina and mix with a cup of hot water. Add up to a half cup more water as necessary. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.

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Let the dough rest for twenty minutes and divide into six balls. Dust your hands with a bit of masa harina as you roll the balls so they don’t stick to the parchment paper when you press out the tortillas.

Using a tortilla press lined with parchment paper, press out the tortillas.

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Be gentle when you peel the tortillas off the parchment paper or they will tear. And check out my fresh pedicure in the picture below!

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Grill on a hot grill or non-stick pan over medium-high heat until both sides are nice and brown.IMG_20170527_115618

I thought the corn tortillas would be too thick and a bit tough, but they were actually delicious and quite fluffy. I was disappointed they didn’t puff up like the ones in the video, but I’ll keep trying!

I served our piping hot corn tortillas with this Tofu Scramble on a bed of chopped kale and chard (from the garden). I topped the scramble with the Smoky Cheddar Sauce I made yesterday, chopped grape tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, and a sprinkling of cilantro (from the garden).

It was all quite scrumptious!

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And now….it’s time to relax!

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Smoky Vegan Cheddar Sauce, Oh YEAH!

I’m on a bit of a posting binge today, likely because I’ve recently joined a new Facebook group called Vegan Cheeze (Hits and Misses) and keep coming across posts that inspire me to try new recipes. Most group members favour a cookbook called The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, which I own (and have mentioned on this blog before), but I’ve tried only a few of the recipes because I find the instructions sometimes rather cumbersome.

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I’ve heard enough raves about the Golden Cheddar Sauce, however, that I finally decided to try it. The problem was that I had no soymilk–the main ingredient. The other problem was that the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil, and I prefer not to use extracted oils.

To replace the soymilk and oil, I used a half cup of cashews and two cups of boiling water. I also subbed a teaspoon of Knorr Vegetable Broth powder for the salt and added half teaspoon of liquid smoke to give the cheese a smokey flavour.

Oh my.  The result is absolutely lick-the-spoon scrumptious.

We enjoyed it drizzled on vegan tacos for dinner this evening, and James loved it so much he ate EIGHT!

Here’s the recipe….

Smoky Vegan Cheddar Sauce

Blend in the Vitamix for two minutes:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • pinch of salt

Next, add to the mixture:

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 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 ground mustard
  • 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.

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The tacos were delicious! I used The Thug Kitchen Quinoa Taco Mix topped with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, avocados, onions, and romaine tossed in lime juice. I finished the tacos off with a nice dollop of the Smoky Cheddar Sauce.

Oh, and of course, a sprinkling of chopped cilantro picked fresh from the garden!

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THE BEST Fat-free Roasted Potatoes, a Garden 2017 Update, and a Couple of Gardening Game Changers!!!!

My Irish hillbilly heart loves me some taters. Indeed, I’ll eat potatoes any old way: baked, hash-browned, mashed, you name it. Of course, the BEST kind of potatoes are deep fried, but we’re trying to be healthy, so we try to avoid those little flavour bombs of fat.

One of my favourite methods of cooking potatoes is from an Ottolenghi recipe James sometimes makes, which involves boiling chunks of potatoes and then tossing them into a chafing dish of oil that’s been heating up in the oven for a quarter of an hour (Ottolenghi calls for goose fat, rather than vegetable oil!!).

I wanted to make something similar, but without all the oil, so I incorporated some of Ottolenghi’s methods, but left out the oil.

Okay, full disclosure: this recipe isn’t ENTIRELY fat-free since I did spray the parchment paper with a quick coating of Pam.

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

  • 3 – 4 large peeled Russet potatoes, cut into large(ish) chunks
  • 1 TBS Knorr vegetable broth powder

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Boil the potatoes until a fork goes in easily. Don’t overcook–the potatoes should be a bit short of what you’d look for if you were making potato salad.

Drain the potatoes and then shake them vigorously in the colander. This step is important because you want to give the potato chunks shaggy edges like this:P1070319.jpg

Spread the potatoes out on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with a bit of Pam (and, okay, you may as well give the potatoes a quick spray as well, so the broth powder adheres to them).

Sprinkle the potatoes with the Knorr broth powder.

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Pop them into the oven for twenty-five minutes. Stir them around after fifteen minutes.

Just look at these delicious little suckers!!!

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I served the roasted potatoes with smoky-maple tofu sammies on freshly baked little (scooped out) baguettes–yum yum!!

Here’s James’s plate with a side of Frank’s Hot Sauce for dipping!

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Now for the….

Garden 2017 Update and Two Gardening Game Changers!

I like to keep track of what I’ve done in the garden from year to year and this blog seems the best place to do so (though I acknowledge it’s likely of interest only to me!).

So, if you recall, I started my vegetables and flowers from seed under grow lights in early March and transplanted most of them outside in mid-to-late April.

2017 has been a particularly cold year so far, so the head start the grow lights gave me has been a life saver. Indeed, most years, I would just be starting to plant now, and many of my vegetable (and ALL of my flowers) would have been from plants purchased from the nursery, not seeds.

Anyway, my kale, arugula, and chard are AMAZING–indeed, I’ve been harvesting leaves every day for our evening meals!P1070298.jpg

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The nasuturtiums and sweet peas are developing nicely, as are the marigolds, but the snap dragons are a bit of a disappointment.

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I transplanted half my tomato plants outside on May 1st, and they’ve not grown an inch, though they seem to be holding their own. Meanwhile, the ones I left under the grow lights are ENORMOUS things, but I’ll report in greater detail on my tomatoes in a later post.

The zucchinis I started from seed  and transplanted outside are holding their own and even growing, but the cucumbers (of which there are only two) are stunted little things that seem ready to expire. James picked me up six cucumber plants in town to replace them, so we’ll see how they do.

So the grow lights are ONE game changer.

The other game changer is that I’ve started using a moisture metre and have discovered that the reason my garden was such a disaster last year was that I was over-watering and killing all my poor little seedlings!

Now I jump out of bed every morning and rush out to the deck with my moisture metre in hand. I resist watering anything unless the metre indicates the soil is on the dry side of centre.

I cannot believe the improvement I’ve seen in my garden because of these two products

1. The Floralight T5 Full-Spectrum Grow Light from Lee Valley Tools:

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2. The 2-in-1 ph/Moisture Metre from Art Knapp’s Garden Centre on Marine Drive in Vancouver:

I actually bought this to measure the ph of my soil because I thought the problem with my garden last year was that it was too acidic. Apparently not, but it WAS too moist.

Who knew?!

Vegan Borsin-Type Herb Cheese

I came across this little video for vegan cheese on The Buddhist Chef website and happened to have all the ingredients on hand, so I thought I’d give it a try. I won’t re-post the recipe here because I didn’t change it at all….except that I added fresh herbs–basil, oregano, and rosemary–rather than dried.

I also added the herbs only AFTER I’d pulverized all the other ingredients in the Vitamix because I didn’t want the cheese to turn a homogeneous green colour.

Thus, I threw the herbs in and pulsed a few times to get the Borsin-herb-cheese effect.

If you have all the ingredients, it’s super quick and easy (though you do need a few hours for it to firm up in the fridge), and it’s very tasty with a fresh baguette, hot out of the oven!

The final result is EXCELLENT!

It’s much lighter than previous cashew cheeses I’ve made because it contains only a half cup of cashews and a full cup of water. The agar agar gives it a kind of gelantinous (not in a bad way…in a creme-caramel way), light texture. The fresh herbs REALLY make it though. I will be making this stuff on the regular! If you decide to make it with fresh herbs, go easy on the rosemary, so it doesn’t dominate the cheese.

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Eucalyptus-Rosemary Body Butter….or Why Do My Lotions Always Turn Out Green??!

Paul and Bid were up at Hornby for the May long weekend, and in addition to joining us for one of James’s amazing Friday Feasts, we met them on Hornby on Sunday for a lovely early dinner at The Seabreeze Lodge, where Bid and Paul honeymooned more than forty years ago!

It was lovely to see my sister and brother-in-law looking so relaxed and happy, which is their usual state when they’re on Hornby, notwithstanding the fact that they spent every minute whipping their cabin into shape for the coming summer season.

One of Paul’s tasks was trimming the various trees and shrubs around their lovely cabin, and he brought the product of some of his labour: a huge bounty of eucalyptus leaves.

Since I’m running low on my lotion bars, I figured I’d use the leaves–along with some of my fresh rosemary–to create a refreshing-smelling body butter.

The bonus is that eucalyptus has insect-repelling qualities–good news for my ankles, which are already exhibiting little red bug bites from no-see-ums (at least that’s what I THINK has been biting me).

I also decided to add tea-tree oil and vitamin E because they’re both good for skin.

I used a combination of oils and butters: olive oil, coconut oil, and cacao butter. I also added a bit of beeswax simply to give the lotion some structure.

Anyway, after doing a bit of research, I came up with this recipe…

Eucalyptus-Rosemary Body Butter

  • 2 ounces (by weight) crushed eucalyptus leaves (this is a LOT of leaves)
  • a handful of chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 2 cups refined coconut oil (I used refined because it doesn’t smell like coconut)
  • 1 cup cacao butter nibs
  • 4 ounces (by weight) beeswax

Combine above ingredients in the Instant Pot and set to “Slow Cook” for four hours.

Strain into two pint-sized mason jars.

Add to each jar:

  • 30 drops tea-tree oil
  • 10 vitamin E capsules

Stir well and refrigerate until set.

I was hoping the result would smell more strongly of eucalyptus, but, if anything, it smells very slightly of chocolate because of the cacao butter and of tea-tree oil for obvious reasons.

And, like most of my infused body lotions/bars/butters, this stuff turned out light green. On the plus size, the colour doesn’t actually transfer to your skin.

Anyway, it’s a lovely rich body butter that contains only things that are super good for your skin…and the two jars should get me through the summer!

 

 

Delicious Cashew-Dill Dressing

Throw this in the Vitamix and blend until smooooooooth:

1 cup cashews
2 Medjool dates
1 TBS capers with brine
3 garlic cloves
1 TBS yellow mustard
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vegetable broth powder
1 tsp salt
1 TBP dill (or 1/4 cup fresh dill)
2 cups water

This makes an amazing dip/sandwich spread as well! Just reduce the water to ONE cup if you plan to use it that way.

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A Variation on Thug Kitchen’s Tofu Scramble Tacos…

Yeah, so…it’s been quite a while, eh?

I do have a good excuse: we’ve been super busy over the last month because we sold our little loft and had to go into town and sign all the paperwork and pack up, etc. What we thought was going to be a small move turned out to NOT be all that small, and now we’re packed to the rafters with STUFF at Sideways Cottage. It looks like we’ll be making a few trips to the Free Store to get rid of some of this extraneous stuff.

A big worry for me, of course, was my garden because I’d just finished all my planting the day before we left, and I was going to have to leave all my little seedlings alone for two whole weeks. All fared well, however–some better than others.

Before we left, I hardened off and transplanted half of my Sweet One Million tomatoes outside and kept half inside under the grow lights. The difference was rather profound: the ones under the grow lights have fared much better…

…and even in the three days we’ve been home seem to have grown quite a bit more!

I was also delighted to find a wonderful smelling batch of fresh cilantro under the grow lights! The cilantro seeds I started outside have barely emerged from the soil, but it is awfully cold this year. Indeed, we’ve been having fires in the wood stove every evening since we arrived back at the cabin.

With all that fresh cilantro, I’ve been craving Mexican food, so last night I made tacos with Thug Kitchen quinoa-black-bean taco “meat” and this morning, I decided to try a variation of Thug Kitchen’s Tofu Scramble Tacos. It’s an adaptation for a couple of reasons: 1) I didn’t have fresh jalapeno peppers (only pickled) or bell peppers, and 2) I didn’t like the order of cooking suggested by the recipe. I like adding tofu at the beginning of either a scramble or a stir-fry, so the tofu absorbs more flavours. I also like browning my onions, garlic, and jalapenos at the same time.

Oh, and I made my version burritos, rather than tacos!

Tofu Scramble Burritos

  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 TBS pickled jalapenos
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 tsp Knorr powdered vegetable broth
  • 1 small broccoli head
  • 1 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 8 small flour tortillas

Throw the onion, garlic, and picked jalepenos in the food processor and blend until finely chopped.

Brown in a wok for a couple of minutes, then add the crumbled tofu and continue browning until the onion is translucent.

Sprinkle on the powdered vegetable broth, add the broccoli and stir fry for a minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and continue to stir fry until the broccoli is at the appropriate texture–remember to leave it a bit al dente because no one likes mooshy broccoli :(.

Toss in the chopped cilantro and stir it through. Warm up some tortillas and serve the scramble rolled up in warmed tortillas with a side of avocado and salsa!

THESE BREAKFAST BURRITOS ARE DELICIOUS!!!!

Because I’m doing intermittent fasting these days (where I don’t eat between 8PM and noon the next day), I made these for noon. James, who said he’d just eaten breakfast and didn’t want any, ended up eating FOUR of these suckers.

Pan de Agua(ish) and a Vegan Banh Mi Samitch

A few days ago, I came across a reference to Puerto Rican pan de agua and was intrigued enough to fall down an internet rabbit hole until I learned everything there is to know about this Latin “water bread.” The bread is similar to a French baguette, but ideally has a thin, crisp crust.

In fact, the ingredients of pan de agua are identical to the ingredients of my no-knead white bread, which has a hard crust. The difference is in the baking method.

To achieve the soft, crispy pan de agua, which is ideal for sandwiches or veggie-burger buns, you simply have to follow this baking method:

Pan de Agua

  • Pull off a grapefruit-sized boule of no-knead white dough, roll into a baguette, and place on a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Let the dough achieve room temperature(ish).
  • Brush the dough lightly with water and make a slice lengthwise along the top of the baguette.
  • Slide the baguette onto a baking stone in a cold oven.
  • Pour 1 and 1/4 cups of boiling water into a pan beneath the baguette.
  • Immediately close the oven and wait ten minutes.
  • After ten minutes, turn the oven to 400 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes (or until the bread achieves an internal temperature of 207.

Real pan de agua should achieve an internal temperature of about 195 degrees, but that temperature results in a bread too gummy for our liking, so I kept the loaf in the oven until the internal temperature was 207.

The real stuff is also brushed with a mixture of water and egg whites, but, hey, we’re being vegan here, so I used only water.

The recipe also suggests placing the dough on corn meal, but I don’t think I’ll do that in future because the cornmeal becomes embedded in the baked loaf. Oh, and DO NOT place the loaves directly onto the cold baking stone or they will bake to the stone (believe me: I speak from experience). You need to use parchment paper.

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If you want a more authentic pan de agua, here’s a short video that shows the entire method from scratch. As you’ll see from the video, the real stuff relies on a less shaggy dough than my no-knead stuff, but the ingredients are the same. I did get a kick out of the video guy suggesting a twenty-minute wait to let the yeast bloom (yeesh!).

I was not holding out much hope for this baking method, but the loaves are brilliant with a soft, crispy crust that’s PERFECT for a….

Vegan Banh Mi Samitch

This version of the banh mi is based on one from Slate’s You’re-Doing-it-Wrong feature.

First, cook a block of tofu and a sliced onion using this method from The Minimalist in The New York Times!

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Next, grate

  • one large carrot

…and mix it with…

  • 2 TBS rice vinegar
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Slice into very thin slices….

  • 1/2 an English cucumber

Mix together…

  • 1/4 cup vegan mayo
  • 1/4 cup siraraccha

Chop….

  • 1 jalepeno pepper, seeded
  • a handful of cilantro

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Now slice open that pan de agua, dig out a little of the bready guts (to make more room for filling) and throw everything into the baguette (in nice layers, of course!).

It is SO freaking good…and, strangely, like eating a stir fry enclosed in a soft baguette.

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If you’re wondering about the potatoes, I was trying a method I read about on the CFDG site that involves rubbing cubed potatoes with tahini. I had high hopes for this method since everyone on the CFDG Facebook group was raving about them, buuuuut they were just okay.

In fact, they look much better than they tasted.

So it’s thumbs up for the pan de agua and the banh mi sandwich; thumbs down for the tahini-roasted potatoes.

And the song of the day is Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times.” He’s not someone I’d normally listen to, but he sang this on SNL last night, and I was struck by the 1970s Bowie-ish vibe…

And here’s something to exemplify my point….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chickpea Coconut Curry

The coconut-curry soup I made a couple of days ago was SO delicious, but a bit rich for a soup, so I decided to pimp it up a bit and turn it into a full-on curry to serve over rice.

The result is super lush and SO delicious–it’s definitely company food! Even omnis will enjoy this one!

Chickpea Coconut Curry

Blend in the Vitamix (set on “soup” function so it preheats):

  • 28 ounces fresh, chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 TBS red curry paste
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 1 TBS coriander
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Meanwhile, saute in the Instant Pot:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped (keep the seeds in for some extra heat)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped

Once, the onion is translucent, add the contents of the blender and…

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 zucchinis, chopped

Close the Instant Pot and set for 0 minutes. Yes, you read that right: ZERO minutes. By the time the pot is up to pressure, the zucchini, peppers, and grape tomatoes will be cooked and the soup will be heated through.

While you’re waiting for the Instant Pot to achieve pressure, throw the following into the Vitamix and blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp miso
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

Do a controlled quick release and open the Instant Pot. Pour the contents of the Vitamix into the Instant Pot and add…

  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen peas

…and hit “saute” until it re-heats. Next, stir in…

  • 2 TBS lime juice
  • freshly ground pepper

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Serve over brown basmati rice with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro and a dollop of mango chutney.  Don’t forget to bake a fresh pita or naan!

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The other cool thing I discovered today is a quick way to make fresh pita. Because I don’t like to heat the oven up to 500 degrees for one or two measly pitas, I often just slap some dough on my sandwich grill and make flatbread. Up to this point, I haven’t really worried about rolling the dough out thin and perfectly round as I would for a pita.

Well, today, I was trying a new technique and rolled out a small round of my no-knead whole-wheat dough into a thin round, and slapped it on the sandwich grill.

Lo and behold–that sucker puffed up into the most perfect pita I have ever produced!

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Just look at that nice thin pita!

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I did attempt it also with the no-knead white dough, but it was a bust because that white dough is just too tenaciously elastic to roll out. It just keeps rolling back into a little snowball of dough.

And the song of the day is an old song from a new album: “Gentle on my Mind” from Alison Kraus’s new album, Windy City. It’s kind of a cheesy song and not to my usual taste, but I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for old Alison because James likes her so much.

Also, the song reminds me of watching Glen Campbell’s show–almost FIFTY years ago–with Biddy. His show was a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers in 1968 and, for some bizarre reason, Bid and I were completely obsessed with the show.

The Problem with Vegan Recipes…and a Bomb-Diggity Coconut Curry Bisque

A couple of weeks ago, James and I were out for a hike with the pups and stopped to talk to our friend, Jane, who sometimes lives across the street from us on Denman Island and other times lives in Calgary.  She mentioned that she’d been reading through this blog for vegan meal ideas, but sometimes found the list of ingredients in my recipes a little, ahem, daunting.

The moment she said this, I realized it was completely true (though it had not even occurred to me before).

I also realized that the problem is that almost all my recipes are adaptations of a meat/cheese/egg-based recipe OR are my attempt to reproduce something I’ve tasted somewhere. Thus, I keep adding things until I achieve the taste I’m after.

On top of that, I think vegan recipes in general tend to have way more ingredients than omni recipes. In fact, when I first made Rebar’s twelve-ingredient Kung Pao sauce, I was so impressed that I sent the recipe to my brother-in-law, Paul, who is a master chef.

He took one look at the recipe and said, “Not a chance, dude–WAAAY too many ingredients.”

Well….hang onto your hats, my darlings, because today I created a recipe that has a record-breaking number of ingredients. It’s REALLY freakin’ delicious though…and it took me most of the afternoon to figure out. At a certain point, I even went out for a hike: I wasn’t quite happy with the soup when I left, but realized what was missing as I was walking.

Of course, this all started because Annie texted me a link to Happy Planet’s Thai Coconut Soup, with which she is currently obsessed. I had a look at the ingredient list and decided to take a whack at reproducing it. I soon realized, however, that unless I wanted to add a ton of salt, I’d need to add more spices….and more vegetables…and at some point, it shifted from a soup to a bisque.

It now bears no resemblance to the soup Annie wanted me to reproduce, but it is absolutely delicious. I will make this one again in a heartbeat (though I’ll definitely try to streamline it a bit in future).

So here we go!

Vegan Coconut Curry Bisque

8 servings

Blend in the Vitamix (set on “soup” function so it preheats):

  • 1 TBS coriander
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 4 TBS red curry paste
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 28 ounces fresh, chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
  • 1 can coconut milk

Meanwhile, saute in the Instant Pot:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped (keep the seeds in for some extra heat)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange pepper, chopped

Once, the onion is translucent, add the contents of the blender and…

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini, chopped

Close the Instant Pot and set for 0 minutes. Yes, you read that right: ZERO minutes. By the time the pot is up to pressure, the zucchini, peppers, and grape tomatoes will be cooked and the soup will be heated through.

While you’re waiting for the Instant Pot to achieve pressure, throw the following into the Vitamix and blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp miso
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

Do a controlled quick release and open the Instant Pot. Pour the contents of the Vitamix into the Instant Pot, and hit “saute” until it re-heats. Next, stir in…

  • 2 TBS lime juice
  • freshly ground pepper

Top with chopped fresh cilantro.

Oh man, this is SO good, and SO rich. It’s definitely company soup, and because it contains both coconut milk and cashews, a little goes a long way! The recipe makes 12 cups, so about 8 cup-and-a-half servings.

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Instant Pot Hot and Sour Soup

We currently have a surfeit of mushrooms, so I made a mushroom risotto for future consumption, but this barely put a dent in our supply, so I decided to convert my mushroom hot and sour soup to an Instant Pot recipe.

Funnily enough, my first hot and sour soup recipe was a slow-cooker recipe that took four hours. This one takes two minutes in the IP and it’s just as good!!

So here goes!

Instant Pot Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

Blend the following in the Vitamix until smooooooooooth.

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 TBS Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base, Vegetarian
  • 1 TBS corn starch
  • 4 garlic cloves. minced or crushed
  • 2 Tb fresh ginger, minced or grated (do not use ginger powder!)
  • 3 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 6 TBS rice wine vinegar
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms (optional–if you happen to have these and throw a few into the Vitamix, the broth will be even more umami-ish!)

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Next, turn the IP onto “saute” and saute the following for a few minutes:

  • 1 package firm tofu, cubed
  • 4 cups mixed mushrooms (I used a combo of oyster, cremini, and portobello), chopped
  • 6 ounces cabbage, chopped

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Pour the mixture from the Vitamix into the Instant Pot and set for 2 minutes on high.

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Do a controlled quick release and quickly stir in…

  • 1½ cups frozen (or fresh) peas
  •  fresh bean sprouts (if you have them)

The frozen peas will cook quickly in the hot broth.

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Top with:

  • cilantro, chopped
  • green onions, chopped

And there you go–super quick and delicious!

All you have to do is quickly cook up some soba noodles…

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Pour the soup over the noodles….

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And turn on The Forensic Files!!!!

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Instant Pot Creamy Broccoli Soup

It’s a blustery, rainy day on Denman today, so I decided to Instant Pot-ify my “cheddary” broccoli soup for dinner this evening. In truth, it’s Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s recipe–from her most excellent cookbook, Isa Does It!

So…here goes!

Instant Pot Creamy Broccoli Soup

Makes 6 servings (1.5 cups each)

Turn the IP onto “saute,” spray with oil and saute until translucent:

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus a pinch
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Add…

  • 4 cups chopped broccoli – stems and florets
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 cups vegetable broth

Set the IP for 2 minutes on high pressure.

Next, throw the following into the Vitamix and blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp miso
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

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Once the Instant Pot finishes, do a controlled quick release. Next, add the cashew cream to the soup. Use an immersion blender to puree the whole thing. Turn the IP onto “saute” again and let simmer for a few minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally.

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Once thickened, add…

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper

Taste for seasoning, and serve.

This whole process takes only as long as it takes for a fresh baguette to bake, and it’s just as delicious as making it on the stove top!

This soup is good enough to serve to company, and takes almost no time to make in the IP. In fact, I made another batch this morning to freeze (because I was afraid of my broccoli going off).

Also, though the soup tastes very rich (and is very filling), each serving (of 1.5 cups) is only about 250 calories. Serve it with a whole-wheat baguette and it’s a full meal!

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Vegan Nachos

Mmmmmmmm…..just look at this plate of vegan deliciousness!

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Today, I made vegan nachos, and they were pretty damn close to the real thing! Of course, I’ve tried before, but in the past I’ve used one of my many versions of vegan queso for the cheese, which is fine, but the result is more like stadium nachos than restaurant nachos.

This time, I used meltable vegan cheddar and quinoa taco mix. After heating up the chips topped with the cheddar “cheese,” and taco mix, I topped everything off with chopped onions, tomatoes, black olives, and cilantro and a nice big dollop of salsa in the centre. The only thing missing was guacamole, but, tragically, I have no avocados.

SUPER Quick Meltable Vegan Mozzarella and Cheddar

My darling niece, Annie, is the queen of commercial vegan cheese: she’s tried them all– Chao, Daiya, Miyoko’s Dairy–you name it, she’s tried it!

She’s also tried my homemade stuff and kindly pronounced it delicious, but when she asked for the recipe, it occurred to me that I could make the process even more straightforward and quick just for her!

And here is all you need!!

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About the Coconut Oil

Now there’s no need to freak out over the coconut oil because the four ounces you use will produce a 20-ounce block of cheese, and if you’re like us, you’ll use at most four ounces of vegan mozzarella on a pizza, and that’s only about 200 calories of vegan cheese…on an ENTIRE pizza, so even if you eat half, you’ll have eaten only 100 calories worth of the stuff, and everything else on the pizza is vegetables, so no worries there!

About the 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 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!

Kappa carrageenan can be a bit hard to find, however, but it is what gives the cheese its meltable quality. You can find it here on Amazon–it’s a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way!

So…onto the vegan cheese!

First off, I switched from almond milk to cashew milk because you cannot use commercial nut milk for this cheese–it contains too many additives and preservatives, but homemade almond milk is a bit more labour intensive than cashew milk because cashew milk does not need to be strained through a nut-milk bag, while almond milk does.

So first make the cashew milk.

Cashew Milk

The following recipe will make enough milk for a 20-ounce block of mozzarella AND a 20-ounce block of cheddar.

Throw the following in the Vitamix and blend for two minutes on high:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • dash of salt

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Next, make a block of….

Meltable Vegan Mozzarella

  • 1.5 cups cashew milk
  • ½ cup refined coconut oil, melted (do not use virgin coconut oil–it will smell)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 TBS tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS kappa carrageenan powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Directions:

Process the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth and creamy.
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Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a spatula, until very smooth, thick, gooey, and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes.
 Remove from heat and stir in…
  • 1 TBS lemon juice

Pour into a mold and refrigerate for several hours.

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!

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Meltable Vegan Cheddar

  • 1.5 cups cashew milk
  • ½ cup refined coconut oil, melted (do not use virgin coconut oil–it will smell)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5 TBS white miso (you can use brown miso, but the colour of the cheese will be muddier)
  • 5 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 5 TBS tapioca flour
  • 1 TBS kappa carrageenan powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Directions:

Process the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth and creamy.
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Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a spatula, until very smooth, thick, gooey, and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in…
  • 1 TBS lemon juice

Pour into a mold and refrigerate for several hours.

The mozzarella tastes almost identical to the almond-milk mozzarella, but the cheddar is even better. In fact, you don’t even need to melt it–it’s delicious just on a cracker!

We used about a third of the mozzarella (about 6.5 ounces on TWO pizzas this evening), and it was fantastic!

I added marinated, grilled portobello mushrooms to the pizzas, so the pies were particularly succulent!

And I’m still on my Mick Jones jag, so here’s another B.A.D. song,”The Globe”!!

Hardening Off Sweet Peas….and a Delicious Peanutty Dressing for Fruit Salad

I had a lovely afternoon puttering about the deck preparing the various containers and trugs for planting. I even managed to plant some herb seeds–cilantro, chives, and oregano. I also transplanted the heather and marigold plants I bought last week into some hanging baskets–it’s always nice to have some colour early on in the season…

I also decided to take a stab at hardening off some of my little seedlings today. I chose the sweet pea flowers because I have tons of little seedlings, so I snipped off one little ice-cube tray of about ten and placed them in the mini greenhouse to see how they fare.

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If I’m being fully honest, I was ready to by-pass the hardening off stage and just plant them straight into one of the hanging baskets, but James suggested I forego “the Pooley method” and not throw my little sprouts “into the deep end.”

I’m quite certain he was referring to the story I told him of the first and only time my dad took us to the crowded public pool in Cedar Park. I was five at the time and couldn’t swim yet, so was clinging to my father. At a certain point, he decided he’d had enough, so he tossed me in the air and I plunged under the water, only to be rescued a moment later by my older brother, Tony.

DAD, she can’t swim!” he said, “She’s only five.”

In my mind’s eye, I picture my dad as he always seemed when I was a child: looking far into the distance likely wondering how he came to be responsible for this motley passel of raucous children. I also picture him with a pipe in his mouth, yet I’m quite sure that part can’t be true.

“Ah,” he responded to my brother, “I didn’t know that.”

I’ve never been sure whether “that” referred to my age or the fact that I couldn’t swim.

So my sweet peas were saved from the deep end by James, who seems to have taken on the role of the conscientious older brother in this scenario. It’s a little disconcerting that I’m my dad in this imaginary scenario.

As penance for my (almost) neglect, I watched a couple of videos on growing sweet peas and learned that you have to pinch off the growing tip, but only AFTER the seedlings have four sets of double leaves.

Ah, I didn’t know that.

Anyway, after all that gardening, I needed a hearty snack, and a fruit salad seemed just the thing. I’ve recently discovered a rather delicious (and very straight forward) fruit salad dressing.

Peanutty Fruit Salad Dressing
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 – 2 TBS maple syrup

That’s it–throw it all in the magic bullet and blend until smooth and creamy!

I also topped my fruit salad with some pumpkin and hemp seeds–yummy!

Oh, and in defense of my dad, he did eventually teach me how to swim one afternoon in the indoor pool at the Island Hall Resort in Parksville, BC. I recently told him both these stories–that he almost drowned me and that he taught me how to swim–but he remembered neither!

Anyway, here he is smoking his pipe with that faraway look in his eye. We’re with my grandmother–his mother–and my brother, Tony, who dragged me from the bottom of the pool all those decades ago.

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I’m the squinting, slack-jawed little hillbilly in the foreground.

Oh, and we had an entirely Jamie-made amazing dinner this evening: vegan pulled “pork” in freshly baked pitas! Check out the ubiquitous Buster photobomb:

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The Garden, 2017

I often wake up in the early hours of the morning and rather than lie awake fretting about some highly unlikely eventuality, I open my MacBook and browse Netflix until I find something that appears to be the perfect balance of interesting and boring.

The selection must be interesting enough to distract me from absurdly catastrophic thoughts, yet boring enough to allow me to drift back to sleep. Forensic Files is my usual go-to, but the episodes play one after another (long after I’ve gone back to sleep), so I sometimes fear I’ve incorporated far too much murder into my slumbering psyche for my own good. In fact, I’ve noticed that I’ve recently been peppering everyday conversations with terms like “epithelial cells” and “mitochondrial DNA,” so it’s likely for the best that I’ve started to seek out more benign fodder for my night time consumption.

When I awoke at 4:30 this morning and opened my laptop, I stumbled across a movie that appeared to meet my requirements–Len & Company–and was asleep before the opening credits were over. I awoke to the last few moments of the film, in which Len, a former punk musician and present-day successful music producer sings The Clash’s “Stay Free” in a rather sweet impromptu moment with his Britney-Spears-ish protégé.

The song is so melodic and so surprisingly sweet (thematically speaking) that I’ve been listening to acoustic versions of it all day. I was struck particularly by the final line–some advice from Mick Jones of The Clash to his childhood friend who’d just served three years in Brixton prison:

Go easy…step lightly…stay free

The advice is to his friend who has an apparent tendency to go hard, to step heavily, and to become imprisoned, but it’s a mantra reminiscent of Taoism, a philosophy which emphasizes a harmonious relationship between nature, humanity, and the universe, and suggests that liberation (from the suffering of everyday life) is accessible through living in harmony with the Tao–or way–of the universe of which we are all part.

Now, I know that’s a pretty lame explanation of Taoist philosophy, but “the tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,” so it’s a losing proposition to even try.

I will say, however, that when I first read Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao te Ching thirty years ago, I was fresh out of grad school and the philosophy of “action through inaction” was a revelation to me–likely because grad school often seems like relentlessly bashing one’s head against the wall, a practice Taoism would advise against.

In any event, today I decided to work a bit on my seedling beds and, as I listened to various versions of “Stay Free” throughout the day, I became determined to take a Taoist approach to my garden this year, particularly the principle of “effortless effort”–or, ahem, not relentlessly bashing one’s head against the wall. I will “go easy” and “step lightly.”

In other words, I am determined to do what Carol Deppe (The Tao of Vegetable Gardening) suggests:

Do that which gives maximum effect for the minimum effort, so that unnecessary action has been eliminated. It is about balance: not watering too much, not fertilizing too much. [It is about] creating a relationship with the garden, knowing what needs tending what needs to be left alone.

So…on to gardening!

Now 2017 has been an uncharacteristically cold year, but I was determined to start everything from seed, so I bought a Floralight from Lee Valley Tools and on March 20th planted some kale, which I’m hoping to get into the veg trugs by the middle of next week.

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I also started some sweet pea flowers and nasturtiums because I also want to grow my flowers from seed this year.

Unfortunately, the Denman General Store had only those two types of flowers, so that’s what I started. The sweet peas sprouts are brilliant–they sprouted within a couple of days and almost every seed took, but the nasturtiums took much longer to sprout, and when they did, produced only TEN out of thirty-six potential plants!! And they were from West Coast Seeds, which is supposed to be a good seed company, so I’m rather surprised!

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Look at all those empty cells! Meanwhile, my sweet peas are glorious!

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The reason I’m waiting until next week to transplant my kale is that Dr. Internet says that seedlings should have four genuine leaves (as opposed to the two weird little leaves that first emerge) and two more genuine leaves starting before transplanting….and we’re not quite there yet.

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We managed to get into Courtenay last week, so I picked up more flower seeds: zinnias, snap dragons, and marigolds, which I grew from seed last year–they were gorgeous, and SO easy to care for. I planted those in little cells yesterday (March 31st).

I also planted some chard and a few sweet one million tomatoes. I’ve never planted tomatoes from seed before, so I was startled to realize how few seeds were in the package…and how small the actual seeds were. And as I poured the precious little items into my little seeding trowel, I had a moment reminiscent of Alvy Singer sneezing into a box of cocaine in Annie Hall: I knocked my hand and the contents of my seed trowel spilled into the box of earth. Of course, it was impossible to figure out which little white things were the tomato seeds and which were bits of perlite in the soil. I eventually managed to find twelve of the potential twenty-five precious seeds, but who knows, I could have planted perlite.

I guess we’ll know soon enough!

Now the seedlings are all crammed together under the floralights at this point–each trying to get its share of the T5 light spectrum!

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The two seed starters in the foreground are an experiment: each cell comes with a little dried pod of seed nutrition. You just pour in warm water and watch them expand–it was quite neat!

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I also picked up a couple of big heather plants (because they were 50% off!!) and a few marigold plants because they were also very reasonable. I’ll start figuring out my flower boxes next–I have a few plants that are perennials, so I’ll clip those back and then prepare the other boxes with fresh soil.

I also bought this cool mini greenhouse that I can use to harden off my little seedlings before planting them.

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So that’s where I am with my 2017 garden at this point. I expected to be further along by April 1st, but the weather has dictated otherwise, and the Taoist gardener goes with the flow of the Tao: Go easy, step lightly….stay free!

And as we were eating dinner this evening (Mushroom Strogonoff, Vegan Caesar Salad, and freshly baked baguettes–YUM YUM!), I was telling James the focus of my blog post when he suddenly asked, “And will there be NO charming Jamie story to include?!!”….which became my charming Jamie story (very meta, I know!).

And, of course, the song of the day is an acoustic cover of The Clash’s “Stay Free”…

And because I’m on a bit of a Mick Jones jag at the moment, here’s another of his songs from when he was with Big Audio Dynamite. From the most excellent album, The Globe, here’s the song “Rush”…

Homemade Vegan Tortillas and Best Ever Vegan Queso!!

We had the most delicious meal this evening…and oddly, most of the meal consisted of leftovers from a few nights ago when I made Thug Kitchen Quinoa Taco mix and served it with taco shells we happened to have on hand.

This evening, however, I made some homemade tortillas, which were absolutely delicious–so hot and fresh tasting! And all the fillings I’d laboured over a few evenings before tasted so much better in the warm fresh tortillas than they did in the taco shells. I also made some hot-diggity vegan queso–yum yum!!!

So…here’s my tortilla recipe, which is a conflation of a number of tortilla recipes.

Vegan Tortillas

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8th tsp vinegar
  • 3/4 cup WARM water
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

In a the stand mixer bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in water, vinegar, and oil until the dough is smooth. Turn onto a floured surface and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into eight portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a six-inch circle.

Cook each tortilla on cast iron skillet over medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned.

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Keep warm and soft by covering with tea towels.

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And here’s the recipe for….

Best Ever Vegan Queso

Throw the following in the Instant Pot, click “Manual” and set for five minutes on high:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups peeled potatoes
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 chopped white onion
  • 3 tsp garlic
Meanwhile, throw the following in the Vitamix:
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 TBS soy sauce

Run the Vitamix until the mixture is smooth and, once the Instant Pot beeps, do a slow controlled release, and add the contents of the Instant Pot to the Vitamix and run the mixture until everything is smooth.

Next add…

  • 2 TBS lime juice
  • 1 serrano (or jalapeno) pepper (leave seeds in), roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups chopped roma tomatoes (can use canned, if need be)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Pulse the Vitamix a few times so that the last three ingredients are in chunks (not fully blended).

And here’s our fabulous dinner!!

Homemade tortillas, taco shells, chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, guacamole, vegan queso (see above!), chopped onions, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, quinoa taco mix, and chopped lettuce.

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Yum-bitty-yum!!!

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CHOMP!!!

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And the song of the evening is The Milk Carton Kids’ song “New York”:

Gluten-Free Vegan Bread Sticks

James has been making the most delicious filled bread sticks with my no-knead bread of late, and today he decided to try making them with gluten-free flour since we’re going to our friend Jane’s home this evening, and she follows a gluten-free diet.

The original recipe calls for two kinds of spelt flour, but I’ve never had much luck with spelt flour, and, indeed, the recipe appears to be quite forgiving because, as I mentioned, James has been using my shaggy dough–both whole wheat and white–with great success. Oh man–these little flavour sticks are the serious bomb-diggity!

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I adapted the recipe by using 500 grams of cup-for-cup gluten-free flour and including some psyllium husk for binding purposes.

2 cups (500 grams) Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour

2.25 tsp yeast

2.25 tsp salt

2 TBS olive oil

2 TBS psyllium husk

1.5 cups warm water

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Let the dough sit in a warm spot for a couple of hours until it doubles in size.

Next, put the dough onto a floured surface (make sure to remember to use gluten-free flour for this step!), and divide into three equal parts:

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Roll out each piece into a rectangle and spread with your topping of choice. We filled these with sun-dried tomato pesto, basil pesto, and a quick tapenade (basically kalamata olives, green olives, and olive oil blended roughly). The first two are also sprinkled with vegan parmesan.

 

Holy crap! Someone needs to put away all those clean dishes in the background!!!

Oh, jeez, that last picture looks like the fake barf you can buy in joke stores.

Next, fold over the dough like this:

Roll it a bit thinner and slice off thin strips:

Twist the strips. This is a bit tricky with the gluten-free dough because it tends to come apart a bit. Be gentle!!

Pop them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 480 degrees for 14 or 15 minutes.

They turned out VERY well–not as chewy as the regular dough, but very nice. The best are definitely the tapenade ones, a topping which had quite a bit more oil than the others.

And….TADAAAAA….

And here they are all ready for the dinner party we’re attending this evening!

And our dinner was lovely…and Jane made a wonderful meal AND this amazing dessert!

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Homemade Hipster Ketchup

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Okay, we all love to hate the hipster. Honestly, who among us hasn’t rolled their eyes at collectors of vinyl…or mason-jar weddings…or guys wearing toques and scarves in July?

But I do have to admit that I like the hipster(ish) movement toward craft everything.

And I do have a weakness for (and a collection of) mason jars….and, okay, if we’re being completely honest, I like to drizzle artisanal honey on my pizza.

Last week, we had a collection of guests up at the cabin–Johnny, Annie, and Em. They are all delightful to cook for, and each evening over dinner, Annie would share her extensive knowledge of hip Vancouver (…and Washington…and Oregon) restaurants, and Em would share her suggestions for appropriate craft cocktails, which she would then miraculously produce. My favourite was the post-prandial Irish Coffee she made after a particularly sumptuous Jamesian feast:

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One evening, Annie went into raptures about a ketchup she’d eaten that was so amazing, it changed her hatred of cilantro to love. Indeed, she loved the ketchup so much that she pestered the management of the restaurant for the secret recipe, which they would not disclose. They did, however, send her the list of ingredients, along with a few tips. No proportions were forthcoming, however.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Now, as I’ve likely mentioned a few dozen times, I am not a lover of ketchup, but my darling James is, and he does so many amazing things for me that I’ll do anything for him. Thus, I decided to try to create this amazing artisanal ketchup for my sweetheart.

I have made ketchup in the past with another recipe, and James prefers it to commercial ketchup. He has pronounced this new recipe even better though!

Of course, a big part of the problem is that I don’t know what the original tastes like…but what are Sunday mornings for but to create a huge mess in the kitchen in pursuit of the perfect ketchup? So I got Annie to send me the list of ingredients and then set about trying to figure out the proportions and the process. One of the original ingredients was chipotle paste, but we don’t like chipotle here at Sideways Cottage, so I used Fresno peppers. If you’re someone who does like chipotle, I’d roast the peppers and blend them, rather than using paste though.

So…here we go!

Homemade Ketchup

Place the following on a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper under the broiler until blackened. You’ll need to start the onion slices first, then flip them once and add the peppers:

  • 4 seeded, halved Fresno peppers, roasted until black (you can use jalepeno, serrano, or chipotle, depending on your taste)
  • 1 sliced red onion, roasted until black (you can also use white)

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Next, in a non-stick pan, toast…

  • 1 TBS coriander seeds
  • 1 TBS cumin seeds

Once toasted, grind the spices with a mortar and pestle (if you are hip…or the Magic Bullet if you are not!) and add back to the pan, toast for a few more seconds and then add the following to the pan (on medium heat)…

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika,
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Stir continuously until smooth and just starting to bubble.

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Next add to the Vitamix (or any high-powered blender) the contents of the pan, the roasted onion and peppers, and….

  • 1 1/2 cups water (you can add more or less…depending on how thick you like your ketchup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro, stems and leaves
  • 4  whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (if you use chipotle peppers, you likely will not need this)

And blend like hell. I think the original was chunkier, but chunky ketchup is far too hip for the old inhabitants of Sideways Cottage.

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Because I was tasting and adjusting and tasting and adjusting, I lost all sense of taste, so I had to get James to taste (a task he hates!). He did oblige, however, and pronounced it perfect!!

After giving my taste buds a bit of a rest, I tasted my previous version of homemade ketchup against this new one. The new one is the bomb-diggity!!! Even I, a non-ketchup lover, like it!!

The process is a bit labour intensive, but I’d say it’s worth it because the recipe makes a litre of ketchup!

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Fortunately, my reflection in the jar is blurry…otherwise, you’d see me in my highly unflattering grey KPU onesie! Part of the “charm” of this particularly strange piece of clothing is that the zipper does not stop, so I could zip my entire head up into the hood if need be.

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And the song of the day is Kate McGarrigle’s “Talk to Me of Mendocino” because James has been playing it all morning. And the original is so funereal to begin with that James barely has to slow it down to his own dirge-level preference when he sings it!

Instant Pot Lentil Stew

Jeez–I can’t believe I haven’t posted in almost a month!! I’m not even really sure why, but I suppose that I now have so many recipes on here that I’ve been making those, rather than discovering new ones!

Today I was experimenting with making my favourite lentil stew in my Instant Pot, however, so I thought I’d post my process so I can make it again.

Because the lentils cook slower than the potatoes/carrots/celery, and the potatoes/carrots/celery cook slower than the broccoli/red pepper/zucchini, I figured I’d better break the process down into three “pressure achievements” (I made that expression up) of 4 minutes, 1 minute, and 0 minutes. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

So…here we go!

Instant Pot Lentil-Vegetable Stew

Start boiling the kettle and turn the Instant Pot onto “saute.” Spray the IP with a bit of olive oil, and saute for a few minutes:

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic

Add:

  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp pepper

Saute until the kettle boils, and the pour in…

  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • 3 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 4 cups sprouted green lentils (let them sprout for three or four days)
  • OR 2 cups of dry red lentils

Set the IP for 4 minutes, and while it’s achieving pressure, chop up….

  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cups peeled potatoes
  • 1 cup carrots

When the IP finishes up, do a slow controlled release, and then dump in the above vegetables. Set the IP for 1 minute….

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….and while it’s achieving pressure again, chop up…

  • 2 – 3 cups broccoli
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 red pepper

When the IP finishes up, do a slow controlled release, and then dump in the above vegetables. Set the IP for 0 minutes. The last three vegetables are soft and will be cooked by the time the stew achieves pressure, which is why you set the pressure for “0.”

 

Once it’s done, do a slow controlled release, and your stew is DUNZO!!!!

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It’s perfect!! None of the vegetables are too mushy (though I did chop the potatoes a little small, so some of them seem to have blended into the stew (which is fine–it just makes the stew a bit thicker).

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We’ll feast on this lovely stew this evening with freshly baked mini baguettes…and perhaps a few leftovers from the past week. We had a houseful of guests, so there has been MUCH cooking and eating.

And I set up my new Flora-light grow system for starting my seeds. I’m SO excited to start my garden this year….particularly after last year’s garden fiasco!

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We’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with the vegetable garden was that James put some sawdust from pressure-treated lumber into one of the compost bins, and I used the compost in the planters. We consulted with a fellow at the Denman Island Harware Emporium and he agreed that sawdust from treated lumber could both inhibit and kill certain plants because the wood contains chromated copper arsenate.

Well….that explains my stunted garden last year!!

 

Crispy, Delicious, Fat-Free Hashbrowns

Because of the snow (and more than a little snow-induced lethargy), we haven’t been into town to grocery shop for close to three weeks. Our produce fridge is bare….with the exception of half a cabbage, a few stalks of celery, a couple of apples, and a knob of ginger (yeah, yeah…we have a “produce” fridge, but only because we have to buy so much produce when we go into town that we need a separate fridge to hold it all). We do, however, have tons of potatoes and onions as well as more dried beans than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and flour–we have lots of that (mind you, we’ve run out of white flour, but we have lots of whole wheat, chickpea, brown rice, and tapioca flour).

It’s all cool though because I like the challenge of making delicious vegan meals out of a few ingredients (ingredients that also happen to be incredibly cheap).

So our lunch today is shredded grilled potatoes (basically, hash browns) and spicy refried beans. Now, you may think it’s a weird combination, but it’s surprisingly delicious and I didn’t want to serve the refrieds with rice because we’re having dhal served over brown basmati rice for dinner and whole-wheat flatbread. Oh, and a side of coleslaw made with that cabbage, celery, apples, and onions–the only things left in the produce fridge!

So…about the hashbrowns:

About a year ago, I spent ages scouring the frozen section of various grocery stores for frozen hash browns that contained no oil and no salt. I finally found these ones, which are great, buuuuut I wondered why if they were just shredded potatoes, I couldn’t make them myself. diced-vegetable-hashbrownsHowever, every time I tried to make my own, they’d become a gelatinous mess….until I came across the secret to perfect homemade hashbrowns, which I will now share with you!

Perfectly Crisp Hashbrowns

First, scrub a couple of potatoes well. Don’t bother to peel them–just cut them into large chunks.

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Next, grate the potatoes. I use my food processor with the grate wheel and it works brilliantly.

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Next, is the trick!

Soak the grated potatoes in cold water for AT LEAST ten minutes. This little step is essential because it rids the potatoes of excess starch.

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Drain the potatoes well–you’ll need to squeeze the shreds with your hands to get out all the water, but the shreds are surprisingly resilient–they won’t disintegrate. Finally, lay them on a tea towel and dab off any excess water.

At this point, you could saute the shreds on your stove top or bake them on parchment paper, but they will get SUPER crispy if you cook them in an electric grill (very lightly sprayed with vegetable oil).

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Just spread them across the grill and close it for fifteen minutes.

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After fifteen minutes, you will have the crispiest, most delicious hash browns ever!

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And here’s lunch: hash browns, refried beans, a dollop of salsa, and a sprinkling of chopped onions. This odd combination is actually one of my favourite lunches…even when the larder isn’t bare!

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