Vegan San Francisco Garlic Noodles

I discover so many random videos through Youtube’s “autoplay” function. I once fell asleep watching a vegan recipe channel and woke up in the middle of the night to a video of a woman making nineteen definitely NOT vegan meals for her adult son who had recently moved out. The video went on for what seemed like hours and the meals were not in the least bit appealing to a vegetarian, but there was something oddly comforting about watching this mum chat away about frozen meatballs and her adult son while she prepared meal after meal. The comments following the video were the funniest part, especially the first one: “Who fell asleep and woke up to this?” Lol.

I discovered today’s dish through autoplay as well. I wandered away from my laptop yesterday and when I returned, there was Kenji making an apparently famous dish called “San Francisco Garlic Noodles.” I swear I’ve been to San Francisco at LEAST half a dozen times and have never heard of this famous dish, but he was raving about it, so I thought I’d have a whack at veganizing it. I researched a bunch of recipes, including this one and this one and came up with the following…

Vegan San Francisco Garlic Noodles

Whisk together and set aside:

  • 2.5 TBS soy sauce
  • 1/2 TBS hoisin sauce*
  • 2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (or 1 tsp vegan Worchestershire powder, which I have)
  • 2 tsp DIY vegan fish sauce
  • 1 tsp Maggi sauce (if you don’t have any, just leave it out)
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 pinch cayenne

*The original recipe calls for 1 TBS oyster sauce, so I researched vegan replacements and found the best proximity is 1:1 hoisin sauce/soy sauce. Thus, I upped the soy sauce by 1/2 a TBS and added 1/2 TBS of hoisin to replace 1 TBS of oyster sauce.

Next, melt in a medium saucepan:

  • 4 TBS vegan butter

Add and saute until fragrant (for about a minute):

  • 8 cloves minced garlic AND
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Quickly mix in the sauce you set aside and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook four cakes of ramen noodles for four minutes. You can also use spaghetti noodles, which is the more traditional approach to the recipe.

My favourite healthy ramen noodles!

When the noodles are done, do not drain them; rather, use tongs to remove the noodles from the water into the sauce pan, so you’ll get some starchy water. Mix the noodles well into the sauce. If the noodles seem dry, add a little more of the starchy water until smooth and creamy.

Serve up with chopped chives or green onions and a big dollop of spicy chili crisp–this stuff is bomb–Bid brought us a jar in the summer, and we’re falling in love with it fast! Read all about The Cult of Spicy Chili Crisp here!

And our San Franciso Garlic Noodles are indeed as delicious as everyone on Youtube claims!!

We’re having our noodles with some leftover chickwheat kebabs James cooked on the grill last evening. I added some sauteed portobello mushrooms as well. So delicious!!

And the song of the day is Van Morrison singing “I Get a Kick out of You.”

Vegan Coq au Vin!!!

Gastown in the 1970s was a happenin’ place–it was weird and funky with an odd mix of vintage stores, great hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and cool little boutiques like Beau Brummel, Fox and Fluevog, House of Orange (where my twelve-year-old self obsessed over beading supplies), and Sarah’s Boutique (where I had my grad dress made).

And then there was my underage sixteen-year-old party-girl self, who was frequently served Harvey Wallbangers by the accommodating servers at The Town Pump and The Medieval Inn.

And Gastown was where I first tasted French food. It was 1973…at Brasserie de L’Horloge–a lovely little French restaurant by the old steam clock. My grade ten French teacher–the formidable Madame Rêche–had arranged for our class to go out for a meal at a French restaurant: we were to order and conduct all of our conversations that evening in French. Some girls weren’t allowed to go, so I have a vague recollection of a group of about fifteen of us, all dressed up and feeling very grown up.

And we all loved Madame Rêche, who spoke to us like we were sophisticated young women, not the idiot children that we rightly were. Her tendency to treat us like adults sadly turned out to be her undoing, but that’s another story.

Now, I was a bit (…okay, a LOT) of a party girl back in the day, so it’s funny that I remember that nerdy evening with my French class as so special, but that was the charm of Madame Rêche: she made it special.

So when my best friend–the sophisticated Esther, who was trilingual and had European parents who went to foreign films every weekend–told me she was ordering coq au vin, I heard “cocoa vin” and assumed it was some kind of delicious chocolate wine. She very helpfully explained to me that I was an idiot and told me to “just order the damn dish”…which I did. And, indeed, Esther was right: coq au vin turned out to be a culinary revelation to me–I was in love with French food from that moment forward.

As such, I was delighted yesterday when James declared that he was going to be making a vegan version of coq au vin on Saturday evening. For the past day or so, he’s been poring over recipes looking for the perfect coq au vin recipe. He eventually settled on this one and made the appropriate veganizing adjustments.

Dr. P’s Vegan Coq au Vin

  • 1 pound of chickwheat, shredded into large chunks
  • 4 ounces vegan chewy bac’n bits
  • 12 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • ½ large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 TBS Maggi sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 2 TBS vegan butter
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup Madeira
  • 2 TBS dried thyme
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • Heat oil and saute mushrooms, onion, carrots, and shallots with salt and pepper and Maggi sauce in a large dutch oven.
  • Stir flour and vegan butter into vegetable mixture until completely incorporated.
  • Pour red wine into the pan and bring to a boil while scraping browned bits of food off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in bac’n bits and thyme and simmer until wine is about 1/3 reduced–about four minutes.
  • Pour in chicken broth and continue simmering.
  • Meanwhile, saute chickwheat in a separate pan until lightly browned.
  • Combine browned chickwheat and vegetable mixture in dutch oven and place in oven at 350 for thirty minutes.

Serve up with a freshly baked baguette, roasted potatoes, and coleslaw for a super sumptuous dinner! Add champagne and Edith Piaf to make it even more special.

And, in honour of my high school best friend, Esther, the song of the day is Charles Aznavour’s “Ne me quitte pas.” In addition to introducing teenaged me to French food, art, foreign films, and all things sophisticated and cool, she introduced me to the amazing man who was once Edith Piaf’s chauffeur…..Charles Aznavour.

Vegan Apple Fritters…and They’re AIR-FRIED!!

James purchased a ton of apples a couple of weeks ago because he was making plum-apple chutney. As usual, however, he “overbought,” so he was anxious to use up what was left before the apples started to rot.

He settled on apple fritters and decided that they should be vegan and air-fried, not deep-fried…or even pan-fried. This, quite frankly, surprised me because James loooooves himself some oil. I was also surprised that he veganized the fritters since he’s been buying quite a bit of dairy since the plague times started back in March.

He found this promising-looking recipe, doubled it, and adapted accordingly. The result is surprisingly delicious!! I mean, they aren’t your doughnut-shop, deep-fried fritter, but they are damn good and super easy!

Dr. P’s Apple Fritters

  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 1.5 TBS baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 4 TBS melted vegetable shortening/margerine
  • 6 apples
  • 6 TBS lemon
  • Peel and chop apples into half-inch pieces. Toss with lemon juice and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce, vanilla, and almond milk, and pour into dry mixture, mixing until almost combined.
  • Add apples and mix together until apples are coated.
  • Add melted butter and mix.
  • Line a tray of air-fryer with parchment paper and spray lightly with oil.
  • Using a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, scoop fritters onto parchment paper leaving space in between. You’ll need to do fritters in two batches unless you have two air-frying trays for your air-fryer.
  • Lightly spray the fritters with vegetable oil.
  • Air-fry at 400 for 16 to 20 minutes; fritters should achieve an internal temperature of about 210 degree and should be crispy and brown on the outside.
  • Remove fritters to a cooling rack and drizzle with glaze.

Glaze

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 TBS lemon juice fresh
  • 1 TBS water
  • Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Add more water if need be.

This is a perfect dessert for a chilly, overcast Denman Island evening!

And the song of the day is Paloma Faith’s “Better Than This.”

Coconut Curry Bowl–OH HELLS, YEAH!!!!

I’ve been on a bit of a Buddha bowl jag for the past week–likely because last April when the news of the world started becoming particularly bleak, I responded by making FAR too many comfort-inspired meals that relied heavily on things like white flour, air-fried potatoes, and some kind of veggie burger or seitan creation. And when you haven’t had a Buddha bowl for a while…well, it tastes like heaven.

You remember the contents of the Buddha bowl, right? A green, a bean, a grain, and a sauce!

Today’s concoction consists of a variety of roasted vegetables, a few pickled ones, and a delicious coconut curry sauce. I got the idea for this bowl from Peas and Thankyou’s Veggie & Farrow Bowl, but changed up the grain, the choice of vegetables, and the cooking method. I also adapted the sauce by adding tahini, broth, and a bit of my secret weapon–BTB!

So, first off, make this sauce!

Coconut Curry Sauce

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 TBS yellow curry powder
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 2 TBS tahini
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

Blend in the Vitamix until smoooooth!

Coconut Curry Sauce

Next, cube…

  • 1 large russet potato
  • 1 medium yam or sweet potato

…and air-fry for 10 minutes.

Stop the air fryer and add….

  • 2 cups broccoli florets

…and continue air-frying for another ten minutes. Remove from air-fryer and set aside.

Next toss with a few dollops of the coconut-curry sauce until nicely covered (not too much now!)….

  • 2 cups trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets

Air fry until al dente–about ten minutes.

Cook up some brown basmati rice in the Instant Pot and…..

ASSEMBLE!

Place a cup of rice in each of two bowls, top the rice with a generous portion of each of the air-fried vegetables, top with a nice big blob of the coconut-curry sauce, and then add some quick-pickled beets, quick-pickled red onions, quick-pickled cukes, and some sliced avocado on the side. Sprinkle the top with unsweetened coconut flakes and black sunflower seeds and there you go!! Don’t forget to add the pickled vegetables because the light sweet-vinegar-y taste provides a nice contrast to the rich coconut-curry sauce.

And the result is DEEEE-licious!!

And the song of the day is Alexi Murdoch’s “Through the Dark.”

Butter Bean Hummus

For a few years now, I’ve had a big jar of butter–or lima–beans in my pantry, and, though they are beautiful to look at, I had no idea what to do with them….until today!

Butter/Lima Beans

As I may have mentioned, James and I usually have a preprandial snack of hummus and vegetables at four PM, and though we never tire of the hummus, I have been thinking that we should shake it up a bit. I also recently realized that chickpeas have a higher fat content and greater caloric density than most other beans–check out the difference between butter beans and chickpeas:

With this in mind, I decided to finally take a whack at that big jar of butter beans, so I cooked them in the Instant Pot and then whipped them into a fine, creamy, buttery hummus.

I was astonished at the amazingly smooth, rich texture, and the taste is divine!

Now, I know I will receive some flack for calling this dip “hummus,” since, as we all know, the word “hummus,” is derived from the Arabic word for “chickpeas,” but I’m flouting logic and calling it “Butter Bean Hummus” because it sounds SO much more appetizing than, say, “Lima Bean Dip.”

Butter Bean Hummus

  • 1 cup dried butter (lima) beans (don’t worry about pre-soaking)
  • 6(ish) cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 heaping TBS tahini
  • 6 capfuls of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (if you don’t have this, just add some salt)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional, but gives it a nice smokey flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, but gives it a bit of heat)
  • vegetable broth (you decide how much)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

Add the dry butter beans to the Instant Pot with four or five cups of water and a little salt. Set for forty minutes. Once the cycle is finished, do a quick release of the Instant Pot, drain them, and run them under cold water until they are cool. Add them to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend.

As I’ve mentioned a thousand times, the trick to good hummus is that you have to blend the hell out of it: you want it SMOOTH, so you need to leave that blender on forever. Once it’s super smooth, check the texture: if you like your hummus thinner (which I do), add a bit more broth until it’s the consistency you like. Then blend it like hell again. Check the seasoning and there you go–Bob’s your uncle!

Though it’s a bit hard to tell from this picture, the butter bean hummus is a bit lighter in colour than regular hummus; it’s also slightly lighter in texture, but the creaminess is what you’ll really notice if you make this lovely dip!

Butter Bean Hummus, Kalamata Olives, Carrots, Red Pepper, Celery, Cukes, and Mary’s Seed Crackers

And the song of the day is Gregory Alan Isakov’s “3 AM” because for the past week I’ve been wide awake for hours in the middle of the night. This is likely because I’m not getting enough exercise during the day–we can’t walk outside because the air quality is dangerously bad because of the fires in California and Oregon.

Vegan Blue Cheez Dressing, Fat-Free Kitchen’s Black Bean Soup, and Quick-Pickled Red Onions

I’ve tried half a dozen vegan blue dressings, but the one I always go back to is the “Blue Cheese Drizzle” from my Plant-Based Foodie: Vancouver cookbook because it’s quick, easy, and delicious. The dressing is part of a Virtuous Pie recipe–the Stranger Wings pizza–but I usually double the recipe and use it as a salad dressing for the next few days. The one ingredient I’m not crazy about including is the vegan mayo, so I thought I’d give the dressing a try with silken tofu in its place.

The dressing is surprisingly rich and creamy!

In addition to switching out the tofu for the mayo, I also increased the tahini by 1/3 (to increase creaminess and richness), added a teaspoon of BTB Vegetable Base, and pulsed in a tablespoon of parsley at the end.

Vegan Blue Cheez Dressing

Blend until smooth and creamy:

1 12-ounce package silken tofu

2 TBS tahini

2 TBS apple cider vinegar

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base

3 TBS water

1 TBS lemon juice

1 heaping TBS nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

Add…

1 TBS dried parsley

…and pulse once or twice.

This recipe makes about 20 ounces of creamy blue cheez dressing at 45 calories per 1/4 cup serving.

The other thing I made today was a big pot of the best vegan black bean soup I’ve ever tasted.

Notice my grandmother’s silver soup spoon–the perfect size for soup–and the gorgeous purple napkin woven by my talented neighbour!

It’s a Fatfreekitchen.com recipe, so I knew it would be good, and Susan Voisin knocked it out of the park once again. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I do not know why she doesn’t have a TV show and a bunch of cookbooks like others who’ve entered the vegan recipe scene much more recently.

I topped my soup with quick-pickled red onion from another great blog–frommybowl.com–created by Caitlin Shoemaker (of quick-crispy-tofu fame!).

As I write this, James is making plum chutney from a big batch of plums Bid and Paul brought over from Hornby Island on Friday–our last Friday Feast of the season.

The last Friday Feast of the season included Paul & Bid’s nephew, Alex, visiting from Waterloo. Vegan pepperoni pizza, grilled Caesar salad, and Bid’s peach cake were on the menu!

He’s also making a batch of fennel-and-sweet-onion relish (and I think I see a pot of sugar shine fermenting away in the corner). His busy-ness in the kitchen is invariably accompanied by his singing of ancient, obscure, and/or arcane songs (known only to him….and likely Leon Redbone). Today, he was belting out a particularly dour version of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” so I insisted on playing him The Beatles’ version of “My Bonnie” from 1962, so THAT, my friends, is our song of the day!

Vegan Tapenade and Fougasse!

I’ve been on a bit of a bread jag of late. I’m particularly interested these days in breads that employ preferments. The three main types of preferment are the biga, the poolish, and old dough.

Preferments are simply mixtures of a small amount of water, flour, and yeast that are allowed to ferment twenty-four hours or so before you make the actual bread. The biga differs from the poolish only in that it contains less water. The attractively monikered “old dough” refers to a piece of dough you keep back from earlier loaves to add fermented flavour to future loaves. I realize I’ve been using the old-dough method with my no-knead bread for years since I always keep a bit of old dough back in my refrigerated jug of bread dough. And it does indeed give the baguettes a slightly sour-dough-ish taste.

So last week, I discovered a new focaccia recipe that requires a preferment, and I ended up making it THREE times: once to try it out; once to take to a [physically distant] visit with friends; once for a [physically distant] dinner with Bid and Paul.

This week, I decided to try fougasse–a lovely crisp flatbread with a leaf pattern; the idea is that the crust-to-bread ratio is almost even. Years ago, when I first started making bread, I used to look at pictures of fougasse and think I could never in a million years hope to accomplish a bread as gorgeous as that.

As it turns out, fougasse is pretty easy!

It’s a bit time consuming because of lots of stops and starts, but it’s not in the least bit complicated and the result is absolutely delicious. James declared it the best bread I’ve ever made (though he said that last week about my new focaccia–haha). I used the Cooks Illustrated recipe and did not deviate at all, so I’ll just include the link here. While this recipe doesn’t require a biga or poolish, the entire dough is prefermented in that you let it rest for at least sixteen hours in the fridge.

As I was waiting out one of the many stages of the fougasse dough, I decided I needed to make a tapenade to pair with this fabulous new bread recipe. I settled on the very well-reviewed Alton Brown tapenade recipe, which I halved. I also eliminated the anchovies because ewww, but also to make the tapenade vegan. The tapenade is delicious and SUPER salty, so I can’t even imagine how much saltier the dish would be with anchovies!

Vegan Tapenade

  • 4 ounces pitted mixed olives
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 TBS capers
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS olive oil

Blend into a paste-like consistency in the food processor.

And, of course…the FROSTY BEVERAGES!! James has become a dab hand at these frosty cocktails!

And, of course, no preprandial snack is complete without a frosty beverage! Today’s feature: pineapple-blueberry daiquiris!

And the song of the day is Iron and Wine’s “Freckled Girl”…

DIY Vegan Pepperoni

If you recall from my last post, I was shorted one pepperoni in my Big Box of Plant-Based Meat order from The Very Good Butchers. When I alerted the company, I was hoping they’d send me the missing sausage lickety-split. They did respond quickly, but with a refund for the missing item, rather than another pepperoni. Oh, they also gave me a discount code for future orders–pretty sweet!

However, I am now almost pepperoni-less, and it’s the item we’ve liked best so far. I’d order another couple, but they’re currently taking four to five weeks to fulfill orders.

So I decided to take a whack at making my own pepperoni. To this end, I read through every vegan pepperoni recipe on the web and went through all my vegan cookbooks to come up with just the right one. I was hoping to find a recipe that included beans and did not include oil. Unfortunately, I did not find one that fit the bill, but I did find one–from Allrecipes.com–that is very well reviewed, so I made a few adjustments and had at it.

Update: After making this recipes a few times, I watched a Gaz Oakley video where he added crumbled tofu to the dough, so I’ve started doing that too. I love the result in terms of the look and the texture, but I also love that the recipe now contains beans, which I was striving for in the first place because, if you recall…

A 3-ounce serving usually contains between 15 and 21 grams of protein, which is roughly equivalent to animal proteins like chicken or beef. However, while seitan is high in protein, it does not contain enough of the amino acid lysine to meet your body’s needs. Since it is low in lysine, an essential amino acid that humans must get from food, seitan is not considered a complete protein. But many vegans and vegetarians easily solve this problem by eating lysine-rich foods, such as beans, in order to meet their needs.” –from “Is Seitan Healthy?” Healthline

So…on to my recipe!

My adjustments: I used broth, rather than water; I cut down the fennel by 1/2 teaspoon and omitted the aniseed; I used red chilli flakes, rather than cayenne; I added vegan Worcestershire powder and BTB for a greater umami taste, and I subbed soy sauce for liquid aminos. Finally, I subbed tahini for oil. I also decided to steam the sausages in the Instant Pot for thirty-five minutes, rather than bake for ninety. Most of the other recipes I found online recommended steaming and one of the reviewers of the Allrecipes recipe said she’d steamed it in the IP, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Vegan Pepperoni

  • 1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp vegan Worcestershire powder
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • 1.5 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (or Sambal Oelek if you like it hot…or half and half)
  • 2 TBS tahini
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 125 grams crumbled firm tofu (optional, but gives great texture!)

Mix the dry ingredients together…

Add the wet ingredients. At this point, you can crumble 125 grams of crumbled tofu into the mixture to give the pepperoni texture and mimic the fat globules in regular pepperoni. The tofu isn’t necessary, but I got the idea from a Gaz Oakley video. His recipe is quite different from mine, but I think adding the crumbled tofu is brilliant!

Mix in a stand mixer until no dry flour is evident.

Let sit for about ten minutes and then knead with the mixture for five minutes. Shape into three sausages of about 200 grams each.

I know what this looks like, okay?!!

Wrap tightly in parchment paper…

…and then tightly in foil.

Steam in the Instant Pot for thirty-five minutes.

The IP comes to pressure quicker if you start the water boiling early with the “saute” button!

As soon as the little packages are cool enough to open, you can slice them up and devour on a charcuterie table or use as a pizza topping!

It slices very nicely!

And this is what the pepperoni looks like if you add the crumbled tofu:

Vegan Pepperoni with Crumbled Tofu added

We had a few slices with our preprandial snack today at four…along with the last few slices of The Very Good Butchers’ pepperoni…

The recipe made three 200-gram pepperonis, so I’ll freeze a couple to have on hand for pizzas and snacks. This is one of the easiest seitan recipes I’ve ever made, and, best of all, everything gets thrown in the stand mixing bowl, so the dishes are minimal! It’s also pretty cheap–I made three pepperonis for about $4-worth of ingredients!

And the song of the day is The 1975’s “Loving Someone”…

A Great Big Box of Plant-Based Meat and My Honest Review of The Very Good Butchers’ Pepperoni

Focaccia, Vegan Pepperoni, Carrots/Celery, Hummus, Kalamata Olives

When I think back to the early 1990s and my pathetic attempts to make a wobbly tofu burger, I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self about the amazing world of plant-based meats that would emerge over the course of the next thirty years.

So desperate was I for a burger facsimile that I still have a soft spot for the Money’s Gardenburger of the late 1990s–this was the veggie burger that was on the menu of every forward-thinking burger place of that era. I still remember trying to convince my carnivore friend, Bruce, to try one claiming that he would never be able to tell that it wasn’t meat.

He still teases me about that.

Soon after, Yves–a Canadian company–emerged…with not only veggie burgers, but veggie dogs, and even veggie ground round! To this day, we always keep a supply of Yves Veggie Burgers on hand for a quick dinner.

Since then, hundreds of companies that produce plant-based meat have been competing with each other to produce amazingly tasty (and not-so-tasty) products for the plant-based diner.

Over the past couple of years, the market has exploded. Oddly, the front-runner seems to be Beyond Meat, whose burgers and sausages have made quite a splash on the market. In my opinion, the company’s made a larger splash than it deserves. I’m still not quite sure why their products, which all seem to have the same monolithic fake meat taste and lack any kind of gustatory complexity, have gained such popularity, but there you are.

A much more deserving company in my opinion is….

The Very Good Butchers

The Very Good Butchers, a Victoria-based company that produces plant-based meats, started on our very own Denman Island, and went public in June of this year. Within days, their stock went from $.25 to $2.00 per share, which goes to show not only how popular plant-based meats are becoming, but how good their products are.

Still, it’s surprisingly difficult to get one’s hands on their products, so I decided to purchase their Big Box of (Plant-Based) Meat online when they ran a special with reduced shipping costs in June. The box contains…

2 packs of Very Good Burgers

1 pack of Smokin’ Burgers

1 pack of Smokin’ Bangers

1 pack of Very British Bangers

2 packs of Taco Stuff’er

1 pack of BBQ Jackfruit 

2 packs of Ribz

2 packs of Pepperoni

I’ll be reviewing each of these over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Today, I’m reviewing their pepperoni!

But before that, back to the ordering business…

I made the order on June 28th and quickly learned that the order would not be fulfilled for three to four weeks because of high demand, which was a bit disappointing. There is an option to pick the order up in Victoria within only one week of making the order, however.

The order eventually arrived on July 29th–just a bit over a month of my order date.

The Very Good Butchers uses Purolator for deliveries, so I was a bit concerned about delivery because we live on an island and Purolator hands all packages over the Canada Post rather than come on island…which means my package would not necessarily be delivered to my door.

I was concerned that the box would be delivered to our community mailbox and sit in a metal box in the hot sun all day, so I was checking for shipping updates compulsively for two days. And that is, in fact, what happened, but fortunately James ran up to the community mailbox midday and found the package so it was in the metal box for only two hours.

The box was well insulated within its shipping box with an insulated bag and several mini freezer packs interspersed within. Everything was still cold, though the package left the facility in Victoria two days ago. The products are all individually vacuum packed as well, so we had no worries about spoilage.

We did a quick inventory of the items and discovered we’d been shorted one pepperoni stick, which was disappointing. I e-mailed the company and am awaiting their response.

So…here’s my first review!

The Very Good Butcher Pepperoni

We were invited over to our friends across the street in the late afternoon for a socially distant glass of wine. We had a lovely visit, but ended up staying much longer than we intended and, when we arrived home, decided to have more of a picnic than a cooked dinner. I’d made a couple of focaccia earlier in the day, and I’d made some hummus yesterday, so I put together a little platter which included a few slices of pepperoni from our order.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t cut much of the little sausage because I thought the pepperoni was the one item in the order I wouldn’t like. I thought it might be good on a vegan pizza, but felt it certainly wouldn’t be good “raw.”

How wrong I was.

After snipping the end, I easily peeled back the covering of the pepperoni. The texture is smooth, but obviously not as firm as meat-based pepperoni. Because of this lack of firmness, I expected I might have difficulty slicing the pepperoni cleanly, but it sliced very nicely–perhaps not as thin as regular pepperoni, but fine.

The texture and mouth feel is not as slick as regular pepperoni, but it is surprisingly pleasant–slightly grainy, but not unpleasantly so. The taste is nicely complex and engaging. My one–very minor–complaint is that the fennel is, at first blush, slightly too profound, but this became less evident as time went on.

I’ll admit, I went back to the trough and sliced off many more slices for our little vegan charcuterie.

The ingredients for the pepperoni are surprisingly healthy. The only oil is sunflower and it comes quite low down on the ingredient list. Further, the ingredients for this seitan pepperoni include both vital wheat gluten and adzuki beans. If you recall from my earlier posts, seitan becomes a complete protein when its wet ingredients contain beans because beans contain lysine. According to The Very Good Butcher website, their pepperoni contains organic wheat gluten, water, onion, organic adzuki beans, apple cider vinegar, garlic, pearl barley, organic sunflower oil, paprika, fennel seeds, salt, chili flakes, natural flavour, and black pepper.

Final Verdict: 9/10

I will buy this product again in a hot minute and I can hardly wait to try it on a pizza. My main complaint (other than the fennel) is that I was shorted one of my pepperoni sticks in the order, so I might not have enough to try it on a pizza!

And the song of the day is Mason Jennings’ “Never Knew Your Name”:

Quick Pizza Sauce….and it’s RAW!

Em has been visiting for the past few days to celebrate her birthday with us. We picked her up in Nanaimo last Tuesday and, to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure it was actually my darling girl in the car since she was wearing a mask and sunglasses for the entire trip! Fortunately, when we arrived at Sideways Cottage, and she removed the glasses and mask, it was indeed my sweet Em!

She’s had a bit of a rough spring since she manages a bar in Vancouver–not the best profession during the plague times when everything’s been closed for months.

Last year, for her 30th birthday, I made her a kind of Advent calendar for her birth month. I was terrified she’d roll her eyes and think it was cheesy, but she was delighted with her present-a-day for twenty days, so this year, I thought I’d do the same thing to cheer her up a bit.

She had very few food requests for her visit, but she did ask for the Stranger Wings pizza, which we had last evening.

Stranger Wings Pizza

She also asked for James’ puttanesca pasta, but not until she was already ensconced at Sideways Cottage…and we’d bought NO fresh pasta! Not wanting to disappoint our Em, James proceeded to make fresh pasta on Thursday evening that was so delicious I can’t imagine that we’ll ever BUY fresh pasta again.

In any event, since Bid and Paul were also coming for dinner last evening, I decided to make a couple of regular pizzas as well as the Stranger Wings one. However, the SW pizza is VERY labour intensive, so I wanted to keep the regular pizzas simple. To that end, I made this super fresh, simple pizza sauce. It was delicious and SO fresh tasting!

Fresh Raw Pizza Sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 15 ounces of grape tomatoes
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Blend until smooooooth and creamy and then add a big handful of basil from the garden and pulse a couple of times.

So we had a fabulous Friday feast last evening for Em’s birthday. We ate outside on the deck because Em was worried about potentially exposing her auntie and uncle, who are both immunocompromised, to the virus. Bid made an AMAZING lemon layer cake for the birthday girl….

The layers were separated by lemon curd! SO delicious….but we made the mistake of letting Bid cut it after a couple of bottles of Prosecco–hahahaha!

And in case you were wondering what Emvent 2019—for Em’s 30th birthday—looked like, here you go. I bought a shoe holder to make it look a bit more like an Advent calendar, but ended up with three extra slots, so I included a few little gifts for her trip to Vegas.

Emvent 2019!!

And the song of the day is The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” because James recently told me that when he comes back from any trip into town (and he happens to be alone), he blasts it in the car and it covers most of the twelve-minute trip!

Vegan Staffordshire Oatcakes!

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, my mum is from England, specifically The Midlands, more specifically, Staffordshire, and even more specifically, The Potteries or Stoke-on-Trent, a polycentric city consisting of six towns: Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton, and Longton.

I found all of these names for the place she grew up very confusing as a child, almost as confusing as I found my mother’s multiple names.

Her name is “Kathleen,” but her parents called her “Kath” when they spoke to her or “Our Kath” when they spoke about her; her Canadian friends called her “Kay”; her Air Force friends called her “Paddy” or “Pat”; my father called her “Kate.”

So confusing were these many names that when I split my lip in grade one and had to be taken to the hospital, I couldn’t give my mother’s name to the intake nurse.

She finally asked, “What does your father call her?”

“Cake,” I said, “It really sounds like he calls her ‘Cake’.”

This, of course, became a family joke because what kind of six-year-old child doesn’t know her mother’s name?!

In my defence, I was the fifth of six children, and the effort to impart essential information was expended on the first four kids. I never even got the sex talk! I had to learn about reproduction from an Art Linkletter recording played over the PA system at school. My sister whispered the gritty details on the school bus ride home.

But back to Stoke-on-Trent….from my mother’s oft-told formation stories, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Stoke. However, on one of my backpacking trips around Europe, I stayed with my Auntie Sheila, who was horrified to learn that I had never tasted (or even heard of) the Staffordshire Oatcake–a Stoke-on-Trent specialty.

From the name, I expected a cross between a scone and a cupcake, so you can imagine my surprise when Auntie Sheila produced what looked like a huge, thin pancake with a pat of butter in the middle. “Delicious!” I declared, but my twenty-year-old self really wasn’t sure whether I liked these odd floppy pancakes at all.

But I got to thinking about Auntie Sheila’s oatcakes the other day when I was making lentil tortillas and I decided to try mixing up the ingredients a bit. First, I tried half almond flour and half lentil flour, and then I tried half oat flour and half lentil flour. James and I did a taste test and both enjoyed the oat-lentil ones much better, and then I remembered Auntie Sheila’s oatcakes.

So I set about researching the oatcake, starting with my Stoke relatives. As it turned out, my cousin’s son’s wife has an entire blog post about the oatcake!

I was also informed that Stokies don’t make their own oatcakes; they buy them!

Since it’s unlikely I’ll find an oatcake distributer on Denman Island, I decided to attempt my own version, and what the hell, let’s make it vegan!

I used this recipe as my guide, but replaced the milk with almond milk, added a teaspoon of maple syrup, reduced the flour by 20 grams and added 20 grams of vital wheat gluten because the original recipe calls for “strong flour,” which apparently means higher protein (which means a higher gluten content). Oh, and there’s really no need to add bacon fat to the pan–if it’s the right temperature, it will cook just fine without any fat or oil.

As an aside, I have to say I love British recipes not only because they call eggplant “aubergine” and zucchini “courgette,” but also because their directions include things like, “heat until about blood temperature.”

Vegan Staffordshire Oatcakes

450 ml almond milk

450 ml warm water

1 tsp maple syrup

250 grams oats, ground to a fine flour

90 grams whole wheat flour

90 grams white flour

20 grams vital wheat gluten

1 tsp sea salt

4 g yeast

Mix the water, almond milk, and maple syrup and microwave for a minute and a half–it should be about 100 degrees–don’t let it get too hot or it will kill the yeast. Add the yeast to the mix and let it get a bit frothy. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients; mix well and let it sit, covered, it a warm spot for an hour. The batter will bulk up and start bubbling:

Pour a couple of ladlesful of the mix onto a hot pan and spread out quickly with the back of the ladle. You can also try moving the pan, so the batter spreads out, but you have to move quickly. The oatcakes should be very thin. Bubbles should form on top–like a crumpet–and when the top is mostly dry, flip the oatcake and cook the other side for another minute or so. When both sides are nicely brown, remove from the pan to a cooling rack.

The result is exactly what I was hoping for! The flavour is kind of neutral, but a bit oaty-nutty. The texture is nicer than the lentil version–not quite as rubbery. Plus, they have more tensile strength–somewhere between a flour tortilla and a lentil tortilla. And, most important, James loved them, so I think they’ll be replacing my beloved lentil tortilla for the next little while anyway.

We had the oatcakes as wraps last evening: I made James a couple of BBQ seitan steak strip wraps, and I had an avocado wrap–both versions were delicious. The recipe above makes ten large oatcakes, so we’ll be eating them for a couple of days with various fillings. Apparently, they are good with sweet fillings as well, so I might try one filled with PB&J!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why my mum’s RCAF friends called her “Paddy” or “Pat,” it was because she was (and is) Irish. Apparently, the minute they heard her Irish name–Kathleen Gallagher–they started calling her “Pat” and “Paddy” and never stopped…even when she married a Canadian and moved to Montreal. I wonder how that would go over today.

And if you want more information on the Staffordshire Oatcake, here is a documentary. I truly wish the video had subtitles though–some of those Staffordshire accents are a bit hard to understand!

And the song of the day is from Stoke-on-Trent musician, Robbie Williams, of course!

Best Ever Almond Feta and Instant Pot Hummus

I was not feeling in top form today, so I was schlepping around the cabin late morning in my leopard-print robe (as one does) when the doorbell rang. Since we’re in the year of the plague, I expected it to be the mail carrier, who is used to seeing me in all states of undress, so I blithely answered the door. It was not Lucas-the-mailman.

It was, however, our lovely (and always put-together) neighbour with handfuls of fresh produce she’d just picked from her garden!

Since it’s nice to eat fresh produce on the same day, I decided to serve the peas with hummus, veg, olives, and freshly made pitas for a preprandial snack.

Though the drinks you see in the background look like wholesome glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, they are not! They are mango margaritas James whipped up from some overly ripe mangos and Dr. P’s Sugarshine (in place of tequila). All was delicious!

I’ve been making hummus in the Instant Pot these days because we have it almost every day when we break our fast at around four in the afternoon. It’s honestly almost as quick to make hummus from dried chickpeas as it is to make it from canned since I don’t bother to soak the chickpeas. I’ve found that even the most tenacious legumes–like chickpeas–don’t really need soaking, especially if you cook them in the Instant Pot. Here’s what the folks at Rancho Gordo say about soaking:

Soaking the beans will speed up the cooking but you have to wait to do it so how much time are you really saving? We often soak in the morning and cook the beans in the afternoon for dinner but we also just cook the beans and wait for them to be done. Most employees here start as avid soakers and end up just cooking without soaking.” 

Here’s my method!

Instant Pot Hummus

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

Add the dried chickpeas to the Instant Pot with four or five cups of water and a little salt. Set for forty-five minutes. Once the chickpeas are done, do a quick release of the Instant Pot, drain them, and run them under cool water until they are cool. Add them to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend.

As I’ve mentioned a thousand times, the trick to good hummus is that you have to blend the hell out of it. Turn the blender on and go do your shopping.

Well, not quite, but you want it SMOOTH, so you need to leave that blender on forever. Once it’s super smooth, check the texture: if you like your hummus thinner (which I do), add a bit more broth until it’s the consistency you like. Then blend it like hell again. Check it for saltiness and add more salt if you need to!

As for the strawberries and romaine, I decided to make a salad similar to this one.

I’m still not satisfied with my tofu feta though, so I decided to try an almond flour version. I found this recipe, which I adapted a bit, by replacing the olive oil with tahini, and the water with the brine from kalama olives. Oh, and rather than coating it with olive oil, I just used my little oil spritzer a couple of times over the top. IT IS SO GOOD!

Here is the adapted recipe:

Almond Feta Cheez

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS tahini
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olive brine

Mix all the ingredients together and press into a 1/2-inch-thick round on parchment paper; spritz with a bit of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for eight minutes.

The top will not look brown, but flip it over when you remove it from the oven. It should be a nice and crispy looking!

And here is our beautiful dinner salad!

And the song of the day is The 1975’s “Paris.” Bob sent me a link to this gorgeous song last week…

Vegan Crumpets…from Sourdough Starter Discard

A few days ago, our lovely neighbours across the street gave us some of their sourdough starter, which I fed for a couple of days, and then divided into three to experiment with different flours–white, whole wheat, and rye. I now have a set of triplets I feed every morning at around eleven AM. And, as I’m loathe to waste food at the best of times, I’ve been looking for ways to use the daily discards.

Yesterday, I had only half a cup of discard, not enough to do anything with really, so I dumped it into the jug of no-knead bread dough I always keep in the fridge. I was surprised at my dough’s bubbly response this morning!

Today, I had a good two cups of starter discard, so I thought I’d try a recipe for crumpets Biddy sent me from the Washington Post food section. I doubled the recipe and was shocked that the two cups quickly turned into about FIVE cups of batter with the introduction of the baking soda!

Regular crumpet recipes call for milk, but this one is entirely vegan and very simple!

There are a few keys to the crumpets turning out well: first, you need oiled ring molds; second, you need to leave the batter for at least fifteen minutes so the bubbles develop; third, you need to get the heat right–not too high–so the bottom doesn’t burn before the bubbles on top burst; five, you need to wait until the top is covered with burst bubbles before you pull off the ring mold and flip the crumpets over.

The first six I made were more like pancakes because I didn’t follow the keys above. The last five, however, were just perfect: golden and full of holes!! Unfortunately, we have no vegan butter because we haven’t been into town for supplies for a full month! I scraped the last of our strawberry jam on the most perfect of my crumpets and served it to James, who pronounced it “pretty good….pretty, pretty, pretty good.”

Vegan Crumpets

2 cups unfed sourdough discard

4 tsp sugar

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

Mix well and allow the batter to develop over fifteen or twenty minutes. Oil a flat pan or griddle and a few ring molds; heat pan to medium–make sure it’s not too hot. Measure 1/4 cup of the batter into each ring mold. When the top is covered with burst bubbles, remove the ring mold, flip, and allow to cook through for another few minutes.

And the song of the day is one of my favourites from Brigadoon: Gene Kelly singing “It’s Almost Like Being in Love.” It’s the song of the day because I woke up singing it on this glorious sunny Denman day…

Vegan Chick’n Noodle Soup

As I may have mentioned, I was an incredibly picky eater as a kid. I never even tasted a hamburger until I was twelve because I didn’t like the look of them. When my dad would take us to White Spot, I’d order a hot dog on a hamburger bun (I still enjoy veggie dogs this way!). But I was an easygoing kid and I hated to disappoint my mum, so I’d always try to eat what she made even if I hated it…and there were SO many things I hated: Spanish rice, spaghetti, chili con carne, ham, mashed potatoes, and every kind of soup except one: Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup!

Lipton’s Commercial from 1991

Now, I haven’t tasted that soup for close to fifty years, but I still remember those noodles and that salty, salty broth. I hadn’t thought about that soup for decades until I was watching a Youtube video of French chef, Jacques Pépin talking to his daughter about her favourite recipes from her grandmother’s kitchen. She mentioned soupe a la vermicelle, which is apparently chicken stock with vermicelli noodles, which got me thinking about how much I loved that Lipton’s chicken noodle soup of my childhood. Now, I have no doubt Madame Pépin made chicken stock from scratch…and likely made her vermicelli noodles from scratch as well, but I can’t exactly do that since I don’t eat chicken, but I do have some vegan chick’n broth powder from The Bulk Barn. And I do have millet-and-brown-rice ramen noodles and a batch of recently made chickwheat, so I thought I’d give my old favourite a vegan shot!

Vegan Chick’n Noodle Soup

3 ounces shredded chickwheat

3 cups water

4 tsps vegan chick’n broth powder or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Broth Base

1 celery stalk very thinly sliced

1 – 2 bundles of millet-and-brown-rice ramen noodles

Bring three cups of water to a boil, add chick’n broth powder/base and stir until dissolved. Add noodles–if you like it super noodley, add two bunches; if not, add only one. After one minute, use tongs to break up noodles and continue boiling for another four minutes. Add celery and chickwheat in the last minute. And there you go: a great big bowl of comfort food!

IT IS SO FREAKIN’ GOOD!!

YUM!!

And the song of the day is Andrew Bird’s version of the Handsome Family’s “Cathedral in the Dell” because lately we’ve been hiking through an area of the the woods that reminds me of a cathedral of trees. Much to James’ embarrassment, I belt out the first few bars of this song every time we enter that area of the woods.

Vegan Halifax Donairs and Healthy(ish) Chocolate Mousse!

I’ve been holed up in our little cabin for the last two weeks because of a flu I picked up on our trip to Vancouver at the end of February. No…it’s not THAT flu, but I sure felt like hell for a couple of weeks. I’m almost back to my old self again, but it looks like we’ll be staying put for at least a couple more weeks because of the global pandemic.

And, sadly, I had to miss the Frazey Ford concert to which I was very much looking forward. James reported on a wonderful evening with Bob and Susan, however, and a fabulous meal at the entirely plant-based restaurant, Eve Olive. They’ve promised me we’ll all go again when we’re allowed to leave the house and sit closer than one metre apart.

🙁

So far, Denman has no cases of the novel corona virus, and Vancouver Island has only one and that’s very much south of us in Victoria; nevertheless, apparently the stores in Courtenay-Comox are overcrowded and running low on supplies.

Anyway, I’ve had LOTS of time to cook, so I’ve been trying out new recipes, and we’ve been enjoying some rather fabulous feasts. As you know, I made Gaz Oakley’s seitan steak a month or so ago and have been trying a few different recipes with it, one of which I will share with you today: an entirely plant-based version of Dash’s Famous Halifax Donair!

According to allrecipes.com…

“In the early 70’s, a Greek restaurateur in the city of Halifax introduced the Donair. Within a few short years, virtually all pizzerias had added their version of the dish to their menus. Not to be confused with gyros, the Donair has a vastly different flavor. Originally the dish was made with ground lamb, but this proved too costly and ground beef was later substituted. Technically, this resulted in an aberration of sorts, as the final product was not what the originator had intended. What resulted, however, is the legendary East Coast Donair.”

I consulted several recipes and learned that the meat is basically ground beef mixed with spices and baked into a dense meatloaf and then sliced into thin strips. So I figured I could slice up one of my seitan steaks into thin strips, toss it with the appropriate spices and tapioca flour and saute it in a teensy bit of oil.

According to various recipes, Dash’s Halifax Donairs are drizzled with a sweet garlicky sauce made of condensed milk, lots of white sugar, vinegar, and garlic powder. I adjusted this to make it both vegan and healthy by replacing the condensed milk with cashews and almond milk and replacing the sugar with medjool dates. Now, the sauce should be white, but mine is a bit pink from the dates. It does taste delicious, however! No idea how close it is to the original, but it got the double seal of approval from us!

So….here we go!

First off….

Make these amazing vegan pitas! Alternatively, you can buy the pita (but warm, freshly made pitas are SO good!).

Next, make….

Donair Sauce

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

Blend in the Vitamix until smoooooooth.

Next, you’ll want to chop up some…

  • onions
  • tomato
  • iceberg lettuce

Finally, make….

The Donair “Meat”

  • 12-ounce seitan steak, sliced in strips
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 TBS tapioca flour
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Mix the spices, water, and tapioca flour in the Magic Bullet and pour in a bowl with the seitan strips and mushrooms; mix well so the strips and mushrooms are well coated. Spray a saute pan with a bit of oil and saute until browned and heated through.

Now, the assembly:

For each donair, take a freshly baked pita, place a handful of the chopped onions, tomatoes, and lettuce on top; place some of the donair “meat” and mushrooms on top, drizzle with some of that sweet donair sauce, fold in half and EAT THAT SUCKER UP!!

Serve it with some Greek salad because that’s what we did!

Oh, and now for the Chocolate Mousse!! This dessert is SO good that you won’t believe how quick and easy it is to make.

All you do is microwave for one minute….

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Then dump it in the Vitamix with…

  • 1 12-ounce package of silken tofu
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • a nice big blob of peanut butter

…and blend like hell until super smooth. Decant into six ramekins, top with a few extra chocolate chips and refrigerate for an hour or two. The texture is amazing! This is my new favourite dessert. Oddly, James would not even taste it, so I got to eat one every night until they were gone. I think he objected to the peanut butter, so I’ll have to remember to add it every time!

Chocolate Mousse

And the song of the day is The Cranberries “Zombie” because as I was saying to James today, it kind of feels a bit like the Zombie Apocalypse is going on out there these days:

Quick Crispy Air-Fried Tofu!!

One of my recent vegan discoveries is Caitlin Shoemaker’s Frommybowl.com blog, Youtube channel and Instagram. Her recipes are invariably quick and incredibly tasty….and her “What I Ate in a Day” videos are oddly fascinating. I’m hoping Caitlin is working on a cookbook I can buy multiple copies of to send to my daughter and all my darling nieces.

In any event, I was watching one of her many batching videos, and she happened to mention her quick method of making crispy tofu. I thought it sounded too good to be true, but was intrigued enough to give it a try. Sure enough, the tofu was excellent, and her method has now become my quick go-to for preparing tofu. I even use this method for stir-fries and ramen soup, where in the past, I would’ve just chucked the cubed tofu into the dish.

Her method for the tofu starts at 8:00:

Caitlin’s method for crispy tofu!

Now, of COURSE, I adapted her recipe a bit by adding a few less-than-healthy ingredients (as is my wont), but I like it even better with the adaptations. Here’s my version:

Quick Crispy Air-Fried Tofu

1 454-gram package of tofu, pressed and diced

2 TBS soy sauce

2 TBS nutritional yeast

2 TBS tapioca flour

several dashes Maggi sauce (or vegan Worcestershire sauce)

several dashes liquid smoke

Toss the cubed tofu in the soy sauce and, once saturated, toss with the rest of the ingredients. Place well-spaced on lightly sprayed parchment paper in the air-fryer (at 400 degrees) for approximately eighteen minutes. Flip it at the halfway mark (and keep a close eye on the tofu to ensure it’s not too well done).

And there you go! Now you can add these succulent chunks of deliciousness to stir-fried vegetables over basmati rice (with a quick peanut sauce) or toss it into your ramen soup!!

Delicious, healthy, and SO DAMN QUICK!!

Delicious all by itself!
Stir-fried vegetables and crispy tofu with peanut sauce on brown basmati rice
Ramen with portobello mushrooms and crispy tofu

And the song of the day is Andrew Bird’s haunting “Fatal Shore”:

Vegan Steak-Frites!

Even back in the days when I ate meat, I never much cared for steak. This was likely because the first time I tasted it, I was a child at the beach with my family and another family…and dinner was barbecued steak. The steaks must’ve been the other dad’s idea–my own parents were never big meat eaters, and steak would’ve been the last thing the ever-thrifty Kate would ever have served us.

Well, the adults were chatting up these steaks as though they were the greatest thing you’d ever taste in your life, so I was anticipating something really special.

The lump of meat on the plate that was eventually handed to me was enormous–something that my mum could’ve spun out for days to feed our family of eight. Once I managed to get a lump in my mouth (it took a few minutes of sawing), it tasted okay for the first few seconds…but the chewing bit seemed to go on forever. I finally gave up and sneaked off into the long grass to spit the damn thing out.

I did not return to the overwhelming hunk of meat at my place at the picnic table, and the experience tainted my idea of steak for the rest of my carnivorous days, which ended almost thirty years ago.

And even with my various forays into seitan-making over the last couple of years, I’ve avoided any recipe for seitan steak…until today when one of my nieces (a particular carnivore!) teased me in an online chat this morning with this:

…at the exact moment when I was researching recipes for dinner. I figured it was a sign, so I decided to make Gaz Oakley’s seitan steak recipe.

Now Gaz’s recipes are invariably so tasty that I rarely make too many adjustments.

I made only a few:

I replaced the marmite with a tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base;

I added a teaspoon of liquid smoke;

I pressure cooked the steaks in broth in the Instant Pot (for one hour) instead of simmering them on the stovetop;

I used the stand mixer to knead the dough for eight minutes instead of hand-kneading it for ten.

Instead of the peppercorn sauce, James made Gordon Ramsay’s Shallot & Red Wine Sauce, but he replaced the shallots with red onion and the butter with vegan butter. The sauce is thin and similar to jus, rather than thick like the peppercorn sauce. The sauce reduced to just under a cup and we used only half that for our “steaks,” and it was the perfect amount.

I won’t reproduce the recipe here since I’ve listed my adjustments above, and Gaz’s website offers both the recipe and a video to explain the method. Oh–and I managed to get seven “steaks” out of the recipe!

James barbecued the “steaks” for about two-and-a-half minutes per side; the barbecue added a bit of smokiness, which was perfect.

We had our seitan steak with frites, Greek salad, and a freshly baked baguette and it was delicious!! I doubt it tasted anything like real steak, but it was perfect to my non-steak-loving palate!

Look at that tasty bite!!

I’m also excited at the prospect of using the leftover seitan steaks to make donair with this new vegan pita recipe I’ve made a number of times with great success!

And our song of the day is Frazey Ford’s “Indian Ocean.” When I asked Google to play Frazey Ford yesterday, I was told it was Ford’s 47th birthday, so belated birthday greetings, Frazey–see you in Nanaimo on the 4th!

Grilled Vegan OLA Bread (with a Gluten-Free Option!)

I made this new version of Mags Killer Bread a few days ago, and we’re absolutely loving it grilled and schmeared with hummus for a little preprandial snack.

The differences between this and my other versions is that 1) I used almond flour rather than sprouted spelt or chickpea flour; 2) I added hemp seeds; 3) I baked it in a casserole–more a focaccia than a loaf; 4) I topped it with sliced kalamata olives and serrano peppers; 4) I covered the bread with foil once the top was brown (about ten or fifteen minutes before the bread reached an internal temperature of 207).

This is a yeast bread, so I’ve added VWG so the yeast has something to act with; however, I have included a gluten-free option below (with pictures of the difference). The gluten-free option tastes the same, but does not rise and is quite a bit denser after baking.

I’m calling this creation “OLA bread” because oatmeal-lentil-almond bread sounds only mildly less disgusting than oatmeal-lentil-almond-hemp-seed-sunflower-seed-quinoa-olive-serrano-pepper bread.

AND THE BREAD IS SO DELICIOUS, it deserves a catchy little name!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

OLA Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water (divided)
  • 2 TBS hemp seeds
  • 2 TBS quinoa flakes (or quinoa)
  • 2 TBS sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 2 medjool dates
  • 1 cup oat flour (I made this by blending whole oats in the Vitamix)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1.5 tsp baker’s yeast
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 4 TBS vital wheat gluten

Step One:

Mix together:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBS hemp seeds
  • 2 TBS quinoa flakes (or quinoa)
  • 2 TBS sunflower seeds

Leave to sit for twenty minutes while you get the other steps ready.

IMG_20180810_093912.jpg

Step Two:

Blend in the Vitamix until as smooth as pancake batter:

  • 1 cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 2 medjool dates
  • 1 cup water

If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, you’ll need to soak your lentils for several hours first.

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Step Three:

Mix together in a stand mixer bowl:

  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp baker’s yeast
  • 4 TBS vital wheat gluten (if you want to make this loaf gluten-free, leave out the yeast and VWG and ADD 1/4 cup psyllium husk and 1 TBS baking powder)

Step Four:

Pour the seed/water mix from step one and the lentil mix from step two into the dry mix and blend with the dough hook for a good two or three minutes.

The dough will be very shaggy–not something you can knead, so let the dough hooks do the kneading. Here’s a video so you can see the texture once mixed:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qPNU4gj8Lz7Zojgw9

Line a 9X9 pan with parchment paper on the bottom (I didn’t do this, and it stuck a bit!!) and spray a bit of oil around the sides. I’m not sure if this is necessary since the bread does pull away from the edges.

Cover with saran wrap and let sit for an hour until it doubles in height.

Top with sliced kalamata olives and serrano peppers and pop in the oven for twenty minutes. Insert an internal thermometre and cover with foil and bake until an internal temperature of 207 degrees is achieved. This will take about twenty more minutes (for a total baking time of around 40 minutes).

If you choose to make the gluten-free version, the dough will not double in height–in fact, it will rise very little, but that’s fine. Cover and let it rise a bit for an hour.

Remove from pan and let cool.

Here is the difference between the baked yeast-VWG loaf and the baked gluten-free loaf:

Yeast-VWG Version vs. Baking Powder Version

The gluten-free loaf tastes pretty much the same as the yeast loaf, but it’s quite a bit denser. Still delicious though!!

To serve, slice and toast or grill on the stove top. It’s a dense bread, so it’s best eaten warm.

The texture is similar to corn bread, but the crumb is a bit cakier.

As I said, it’s delicious with a schmear of hummus, but equally tasty with a bit of vegan butter…or simply dipped in soup or stew.

And the song of the day is Frazey Ford’s “Done” because we just made plans to meet friends in Nanaimo to see her in concert!

The Prepdeck!! My Honest Review!

As I’ve mentioned a few times, last spring I enrolled in Rouxbe’s plant-based cooking course, where I learned the importance of mise en place in cooking.

As you’re likely aware, mise en place is a French culinary term that means, simply, “everything in its place.” The idea is that before you begin the cooking process, you gather, measure, and chop all the ingredients.

Mise en place for Pho

Mise en place really makes all the difference…and yet I still rarely do it. When I DO actually do it, however, I’m so self-congratulatory, I can barely stand myself! There is something so satisfying about having everything ready at the exact moment you need it…..as opposed to having to dash into the pantry for broth while your vegetables are sticking to the pan.

And it was my love affair with the idea of mise en place that led me to……the Prepdeck!

I’d seen ads for the Prepdeck back when it was still a concept on Indigogo, but I’m far too impatient to order something and then wait a year and a half for it to be delivered, so I just kind of forgot about it….

The Prepdeck!

….until last November when someone mentioned in one of my many vegan Facebook groups that you can now order the Prepdeck online and, well, it was on sale, so I couldn’t resist. I have, however, come to realize that the Prepdeck is always actually “on sale,” so there was no real rush.

I paid $109 USD, which translates to just over $149 CDN. I did not buy any of the extras, though I was tempted by the nifty little knife holder that fits into one of the drawers. That knife holder would’ve brought my bill up to over $200 CDN, so I’m glad I resisted. Plus, my darling James made me a lovely knife holder from $5 worth of cedar…and it fits perfectly!

My Prepdeck arrived twelve days later and I was quite pleased with how everything fit together so perfectly and by the number of tools included.

Image from DesignSwan
Image from DesignSwan

The tools fit nicely onto the tops of the large and medium containers and all are surprisingly sturdy, particularly in comparison to other parts of the unit. The grater, mandoline, zester, and juicer all work just fine, as does the herb stripper on the 4-in-1 tool. The peeler on the same tool is awkward to use, however–I sliced my finger just trying to turn it, and peeling vegetables is no easy feat since it doesn’t fit well in your hand.

Prepdeck Tools

The tools all fit quite nicely into a drawer on the left side of the unit. The lids for the large containers also fit into this drawer.

Tool Drawer

The drawer on the right can be used as a compost container or to hold knives, which is how I’m using it–notice James’ handiwork!

Knife Drawer….and Stella hoping for a dropped morsel

The Prepdeck fits nicely on our small kitchen island, and with my compost bucket attached to the drawer, the workspace is very efficient for chopping and measuring. The large containers each hold 2.5 cups, the medium 1 cup, and the small 1/4 cup. The mini containers hold just over 2 TBS each. That said, the markings on the containers are next to impossible to see, so you can’t really use them for fine measuring. If you know you need two cups of broccoli, for example, they’re fine, but if you’re measuring out 1.75 cups of broth, you’d be better off with a measuring cup with clear markings. The same is true for the mini containers–you still need a set of measuring spoons unless you’re measuring out 2 TBS of spices. The main issue I have with the containers, however, is that the lids do not close properly–they just sit on top of the containers.

Mise en Place for Vegan Chick’n Stew
Aerial View of Prepdeck

The cutting board itself detaches from the unit for easy washing, which is handy, but, it’s not the best quality cutting board. According to Prepdeck, their cutting boards are made from “durable, high-quality polypropylene, a BPA free, antibacterial, food-safe material,” but every slice you make on it will result in a knife mark. Further, I once placed two warm pitas on the cutting board and the heat from the pitas caused the board to buckle up along the seam and stay that way until I placed a weight on it for several minutes.

Knife marks after two months of use

It addition, the black design on the reverse side of the cutting board–the side that acts as a cover for the unit–was slightly bubbled when I received it and has now started actually peeling away from the edges. The skin (for lack of a better word) seems like cheap, poorly applied contact paper.

My other main issue with the Prepdeck is that, other than the tools, which are quite sturdy, the unit feels a bit flimsy–in fact, I’m always worried a corner of one of the drawers will snap off or I’ll shatter a container by dropping it on the tile floor.

I do love the convenience and design of my Prepdeck, but I have to say that I’m disappointed in its lack of quality, particularly since the unit was so expensive.

Had I paid, say, $49.99 for the Prepdeck, I would be perfectly satisfied, but I paid three times that amount, so I did expect a product of much higher quality.

Update: April 28th, 2020

As I mentioned above, the cutting board for the unit detaches for washing, slides back in easily, and attaches with three very strong magnets. One magnet fell out after three months and a second after four. The magnets are small, so they could be easily lost; fortunately, the tiny magnets stuck to a metal clamp on the island, so James glued them back in. Had the magnets have been lost or been scooped up and eaten by the dogs (a real possibility with the pebble-eating maniac, Poppy), they would be impossible to replace and that feature of the Prepdeck would be lost. A small detail, perhaps, but it does speak to the quality (or lack thereof) of the unit.

So that’s my honest review–the good, the bad, and the flimsy.

And the song of the day is, of course, the theme song to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Okara-Lentil Tortillas

Well, my obsession with the famous lentil tortilla continues…today, I tried an experiment I’d been thinking about for the past few days.

It all started last week when I finally found a bottle of nigari, which is a coagulant used to make tofu. I’d been using lemon juice or “pickle crisp” (calcium chloride) as tofu coagulants with varying degrees of success, so I was anxious to get my hands on the elusive nigari and make some decent tofu. I made two batches that, in all honesty, weren’t much better than the tofu I made using pickle crisp, so I’ll have to continue to experiment with proportions.

The good news is that I was left with a couple of cups of okara–the pulp that’s left after you make soy milk. Apparently, okara “has more or less the same nutritional profile as its parent the soybean, meaning that it contains a good balance of amino acids, and also has plenty of dietary fiber, helping to lower cholesterol, AND it’s packed with lecithin and choline, which help improve memory.”

Okara is also much, much lower in calories than lentils.

As you know, the recipe for about twelve lentil tortillas is two cups of dry red lentils (1520 calories) and two cups of water. I wondered whether I could replace one of those cups of lentils with a cup of okara (at 93 calories) to both expand the nutritional profile AND lower the calories.

Surprise! IT WORKED BRILLIANTLY.

Okara-Lentil Tortilla

The tortillas are oddly both more robust in structure, yet more delicate around the edges than regular lentil tortillas, and the batter has more bubbles and holes. They also seem to cook slightly quicker than regular lentil tortillas, and they are less filling.

And though I was making vegan enchiladas with the tortillas, we both wanted to ensure that they tasted okay before I baked up a giant casserole dish of enchiladas, so I made a small wrap for James and I to split as a pre-dinner snack. I smeared the tortilla with a vegan blue cheez dressing, then loaded it with James’ sweet-and-sour coleslaw, tofu halloumi, and a handful of air-fried sweet potato. The tortilla passed the taste test (and the wrap was actually amazingly delicious (especially considering I threw it together from a bunch of leftovers in the fridge!).

Tofu Halloumi, Slaw, and Sweet Potato on Okara-Lentil Tortilla

The chick’n enchiladas were delicious, which is surprising considering that we have been unable to go to town for groceries since January 2nd and had no fresh produce except an onion and a sweet potato (which I air-fried first). I managed to scrounge up a bit of kale and chard from the veg trugs outside as well, and we had a half jar of red peppers in the fridge–oh, and a can of black beans. For my regular enchiladas, I usually use fresh tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, and serrano peppers, but today’s recipe was just as scrumptious as usual!

Chick’n Enchiladas!

Oh, and by the way, I did go a step further and try to make tortillas with okara alone….NOT a success.

Don’t try this at home!

We also had a lovely dessert—key lime tarts from a Minimalist Baker recipe. Not bad for an empty larder!

Key lime tarts with Cool Whip….it’s vegan, okay!!!

And the song of the day is Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Walz.” And let us make it the version from seventy-five-year-old Lenny with the croaky, cigarette voice. I somehow prefer this one…

Vegan Chick’n Tikka Masala…and Adam Driver

It’s been snowing for a few days at Sideways Cottage, but we’re very cozy in our little cabin with no place to be but here. Indeed, our only real concern is that the electricity could go out at any moment, so I spent the afternoon making a big pot of sumptuous chickwheat tikka masala and baking pita bread just in case. It’s always good to have something that can be easily heated up on the woodstove. And don’t worry…we’ll get to Adam Driver in a moment.

So cozy!

My usual tikka masala is made with cauliflower and chickpeas in place of the traditional chicken, but I actually had a half-pound of chickwheat I’d made before all our guests arrived in late December/early January, so I decided to try the dish with that instead. I kept about half the cauliflower in the recipe, but ditched the chickpeas. The result was brilliant–really, really delicious!!

If you recall, chickwheat is a form of seitan made with vital wheat gluten and a kind of runny hummus, flavoured with poultry spices and vegan chick’n broth powder. When you rip it apart, the loaf really looks like chicken…and it tastes pretty close too! I feed chickwheat-based dishes to omni guests up here on the regular–in the form of chick’n enchiladas, butter chick’n, chick’n pot pies, barbecue chick’n sammies. Everyone gobbles it up without a squawk (har har). I can now add chick’n tikka masala to the list.

So, here we go with delicious….

Chickwheat Tikka Masala

Mix in the Vitamix:

  • 1 TBS coriander
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (if you use smoked paprika, you don’t need to include this)
  • 1 TBS dehydrated cilantro
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 28 ounces fresh, chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
  • 1 can coconut milk

Saute:

  • 1 onion, chopped

Once, the onion is translucent, add…

  • 1/2 cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1/2 lb. shredded chickwheat
  • 1 chopped red pepper

…and saute for a few more minutes until the chickwheat is nicely browned.

Next, add the contents of the blender and…

  • 1 cup frozen peas

Stir it all up, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer until the cauliflower is soft (but not mushy–you want it al dente).

Once it’s ready, stir in…

  • 2 TBS lime juice

And there you go! Serve it up with brown basmati rice, chutney, and freshly baked pita bread…

Tikka Masala on Brown Basmati Rice with some of James’ Plum Chutney

We’ve decided to once again attempt to watch all the movies nominated for Oscars this year. We did this last January–it was a bit of a slog because the list included so many films we would never normally watch, but it’s always good to stretch yourself a bit. Anyway, so far, we’ve watched Marriage Story (excellent!), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (visually evocative, but somewhat vacuous), and tonight’s offering, Bombshell (promising, but ultimately, a bit disappointing).

So the song for the day is Adam Driver singing “Being Alive” (from the play Company) in Marriage Story. I love the way his character–Charlie–starts singing the song almost as a joke when the pianist begins to play the song. He even does all the interjections of the other characters from the play…at first. And then gradually, he’s singing as though his life depends on it and seems to come to an understanding of exactly what he’s lost with the end of his marriage. It’s a stunning moment.

Amazing Beets and Healthy Dog Treats

First off…The BEETS!

Our young friend, Jamie, gave me a link to a super simple way to prepare beets several months ago. I’ve probably made five batches of these beets since then and each batch lasts ten days. We eat them as a side dish, on salads, and, best of all, on SAMMIES!! They taste like pickled beets, but take a fraction of the time. The method is from Alexandracooks.com and can be found (with pictures!) here.

Basically, you throw a bunch of beets with a couple of cups of water in the Instant Pot and set for 35 minutes. Once they’re done, let the IP release naturally for ten minutes, then remove them. Let them cool a bit, then peel them, and slice them suuuuuper thin.

Cover with a bit of sea salt and white vinegar while still hot and there you have it. They are delicious hot and SUPER delicious cold. They seem to keep in the fridge forever because of the salt and vinegar, but they never last too long around here because they are so delicious. Tonight, we’re having them on tofu-halloumi sammies!

And Now…The Dog Treats!

The other thing I’ve been working on today is healthy training treats for Poppy. I found some relatively inexpensive ones online, but we go through so many while training Poppy with various commands that I was hoping to find a recipe for tiny treats I could make myself.

First, I found dehydrated sweet potatoes, so I tried that–I sliced a bunch of small sweet potatoes and baked them for an hour or two at 250 in the convection oven.

I then sliced them in to small bits, which can be broken into even smaller bits. The dogs love them and they’re cheap and healthy.

Sweet Potato Treats

I couldn’t find a grain-free recipe for training dots, so I tried winging it based on various healthy ingredients I’d read about. The treats turned out well (if a little labour-intensive because I used a piping bag to pipe little dots onto parchment paper).

And the dogs love them, so mission accomplished!

Poppy’s Healthy Training Dots

Mix together and leave for ten minutes:

  • 2 TBS ground flaxseed
  • 3 TBS water

Once the above mix is gelatinous, pour into your food processor and add:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cooked unpeeled potato
  • 1 large cooked unpeeled carrot
  • 1 chunk of turmeric root (cook in the microwave in water for a few minutes to soften)
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp salmon oil
  • 1 heaping TBS beef liver powder

Blend until as smooth as humanly possible. It should be the consistency of icing.

Using a piping bag, pipe tiny dots onto a sheet of parchment on top of a cookie sheet.

Bake at 170 degrees for a couple of hours. Loosen them from the parchment paper and spread them around to dry out for another thirty minutes or so in the oven. They should be completely dry before you put them in a jar.

I also tried the fruit leather method for the last little bit of the mixture because the piping is a bit onerous, and it was fine as well. For the fruit-leather method, you just spread the batter over a sheet of parchment, cover with another sheet and push to the edges of the parchment to get a very thin coating and bake for a couple of hours at 170. Use a pizza cutter to cut into small pieces.

Next time I make these, I might use the fruit-leather method, but place in my convection oven set to “dehydrate” at 140 for eight to twelve hours.

And the song of the day is “Raglan Road,” because pictures of my visit to Em in December four years ago keep popping up in my Facebook feed. Grafton Street in Dublin is so festive around Christmas–and I loved seeing the garda on horseback (in some cases, juxtaposed with Storm Troopers–haha!).

Grafton Street in December

Sweet Raw Vegan Balls, Baby!!!

….never gets old

As I’ve mentioned before, my mum was more of a processed-food cook than a from-scratch cook–to this day she swears that instant mashed potatoes are better than scratch ones. She was always, however, an amazing baker of sweet things.

Alas, I am NOT.

In fact, I made a vegan cobbler a couple of days ago and ended up pitching it in the bin. However, I woke up this morning with a desire to make something sweet and festive and vaguely Christmasy. My mum always started her Christmas baking in early December: mince tarts, almond cookies, shortbread cookies, rum balls, and something she called “frying-pan balls.” All of these, of course, involve copious amounts of butter and white sugar, which I’m trying to avoid. And, let’s face it, if I had anything that delicious in the house, I’d be nibbling away all month.

As I thought about my mum’s Christmas baking, I recalled that I do have a couple of recipes for healthy vegan balls. And, though they are nothing like my mum’s Christmas balls, they are actually delicious! Instead of sugar, they contain dates and/or date syrup; instead of butter they contain nut butter; instead of white flour, they contain millet or oats or sprouted spelt flour. They might not be my mum’s balls, but they are still sweet and crunchy and satisfying.

Now…as you can imagine, James hates my healthy treats; in fact, the poor man always looks vaguely betrayed when he tastes my approximation of cookies or squares or balls.

In any event, to address my selfish hankering, I decided to make my Chocolate-Peanut-Butter Balls, Dr. Greger’s Almond-Chocolate Truffles, and a new one suggested by Chazz: Vegan Carrot Cake Bites. Oh, and the nice things about these balls is that they require no cooking. Sure, there is a bit of melting, but that’s the only heat applied!

Carrot-Cake Balls
Almond-Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate-Peanut-Butter Balls
A Trio of Balls!

The peanut-butter balls are delicious–I mean…how can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?!! …even if there is a little millet thrown in there for good measure.

As for Dr. Greger’s balls, they are also surprisingly good and taste like slightly healthy rum balls. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect it’s that I always add extra vanilla extract, which I make myself from vodka and vanilla beans, so they have a bit of a boozy quality.

The carrot-cake balls Chazz suggested turned out to be delicious as well! 10/10…will make again!! Mine are a bit homogenous since I over-blended, so I’ll have to remember to pulse next time.

So I guess that’s it for my Christmas rawing (I can’t call it baking since no baking is actually involved)!

And I guess we can kick off the season with our favourite Christmas song–The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”!

This song always reminds me of Ireland because I visited Em in Dublin once in early December–an absolutely lovely time to be there. She got me a deal at a lovely boutique hotel in the nightclub district, and the music from the clubs went on into the wee hours. Since it was near Christmas, all the DJs ended the night with this song….and every single person in every single club sang along at the top of their lungs.

It was rather sweet.

Vegan Chick’n Burgers ReDux–SO GOOD!!

I’m sure you’re tired of my various posts on seitan chick’n, BUT in my defense, what I’ve been seeking is the perfect recipe for a chick’n burger.

The problem to date has been that the centre of the patty is often a bit “mushy” according to James. I thought I’d try a combination of the best parts of my seitan chick’n recipes and then try baking the loaf, rather than simmering it in broth or steaming it, both of which methods add more moisture.

However, I was worried that, with the baking, the patties would end up too dry. In fact, the patties turned out to be quite delicious and the texture nearly perfect!!

So here we go with the rather labour-intensive (but less labour-intensive than previous recipes) process:

Air-Fried Vegan Chick’n Burgers

Step One:

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

  • 3 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup almond milk

Add and blend again until smooth

  • 1 cup firm tofu
  • 2 TBS vegan chick’n broth powder
  • 2 TBS tahini
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
IMG_20181013_171014

Step Two:

Drain, add to food processor, and pulse:

  • 1 can of jackfruit
IMG_20181013_171606
IMG_20181013_171642

Step Three:

Add to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk together:

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
IMG_20181013_172251.jpg

Step Four:

Add the contents of the Vitamix and the contents of the food processor to the mixing bowl and mix using the dough hook. Once everything is mixed together, let the dough rest for fifteen minutes, then run the mixer on low for six minutes to knead the seitan.

IMG_20181013_172441.jpg

Once the seitan is all mixed and kneaded, it will look like this:

IMG_20181013_173421.jpg

Notice that the jackfruit gives the seitan a loose structure, but that’s the idea: regular chicken doesn’t have as dense a structure as seitan, so the jackfruit creates some variety (for lack of a better word) in the otherwise dense structure of seitan chick’n.

Step Five: Roll the dough out to about a half-inch thickness on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and bake it at 375 for 25 minutes; turn and bake for another 15 minutes.

Let cool and then cut into eight pieces:

Step Six: For this step, you create a kind of skin for the seitan chick’n. It’s not as tricky as it seems and is completely worth the extra effort. Just wrap each piece of seitan tightly in the rice paper….like a burrito.

Take a large dish and fill with very warm water and insert (one at a time):

  • 8 sheets of rice paper (one for each piece of seitan)

Wrap each of the seitan pieces in one piece of rice paper.

IMG_20181013_184410
IMG_20181013_184407

This process is fairly quick and the result looks like this…

Step Seven:

In this step, you bread the seitan pieces. I use Vegg Egg replacer because it creates a gooey vehicle for the coating. You could also use aqua faba, which works very well!

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 10.45.01 AM

Mix together in one bowl for the dredge:

  • 2.5 tsp Vegg vegan egg yolk
  • 2 cups water

Mix together in a second bowl for the coating:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup vegan chick’n broth powder
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBS coconut sugar
  • 1 TBS cayenne
  • 1 TBS dried chilli flakes
  • 2 TBS poultry seasoning
  • 1 TBS smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
IMG_20181013_181952.jpg

Line up the seitan, the dredge, and the coating….

IMG_20181013_185612.jpg

Dip each piece in the dredge and then coat thoroughly in the coating.

Place the coated piece on the air-fryer sheet.

Spray the sheet with oil, and then spray each piece of chick’n with oil. I know this step adds a bit of oil, but it’s not much and it makes a difference.

Air-fry at 400 for 20 minutes, turning at the halfway point.

Remove the patties and serve them on a well-dressed bun! I added a bit of vegan mayo, avocado slices, shredded lettuce, sliced pickles, and sliced onions.

The result is very good!! The recipe makes eight very large chick’n patties.

Add avo slices, pickle, onion, lettuce, and a bit of vegan mayo
Delicious Chick’n Burger with Air-fried Taters and Coleslaw

James ate two chick’n burgers and is so full he claims he can’t have any of the vegan blueberry cobbler I made for dessert!

Vegan Blueberry Cobbler

And the song of the day is Niall Horan’s “Nice to Meet Ya.” I like the song because he sounds like an upbeat version of Jack Savoretti. Of course, Em made fun of me about this song because apparently Mr. Horan was a member of the boy band, One Direction, but I am unashamed!

I’ll freely admit that I’ve always had the musical taste of a thirteen-year-old girl, so I’m cool with that!

Intermittent Fasting, Autophagy….and Vegan Chorizo Burritos!!

A few years ago, I came across a study on cancer and something called “intermittent fasting” or “IF.” The study showed that women who had survived breast cancer stayed in remission if they limited their eating to an eight-hour window that ended prior to 6:00PM every day. Intrigued, I started reading about intermittent fasting and the positive effects of autophagy in terms of longevity, avoidance of disease, dementia, etc., and I began trying to keep my eating within a certain period every day.

The basic idea behind autophagy is that in the absence of external sources of food, the body begins to eat itself (auto: self, phage: eat), destroying and recycling its own damaged cell bits and proteins, so that new and healthy versions can be built. Autophagy is believed to be essential for helping protect against diseases like cancer and dementia, among others.

–from The Cut, “What is Autophagy” by Edith Zimmerman

Over the last few months, I’ve read more recent research and realized that I had been IF’ing imperfectly in the past because I’d often have almond milk in my coffee or chew sugarless gum (both no-nos in the IF world)!! IF is apparently also very good for slow and steady weight loss. Sir James (his new title–coined by my niece, Sharon) has heard me going on about autophagy for a few months now, so we started intermittent fasting together more seriously a few weeks back. Of course, I’ve had to travel a few times and have disrupted my fasts far too frequently for any success; James, on the other hand, has embraced IF with vigour…and the bugger has LOST ALMOST FIFTEEN POUNDS!! And he wasn’t even doing it to lose weight; he was just interested in triggering autophagy! Now I’m determined to be as good as Sir James over the next six weeks (no deviations!) to see if I can match his success!

In any event, after the first couple of weeks (which are insanely hard), Intermittent Fasting actually becomes easy: during your fasting window, you eat nothing and drink only water, black or green tea, or coffee; the fasting window can be anywhere from twelve to twenty-three hours in length. There’s also something called “Alternate Day Fasting,” but we’ve realized that’s not really sustainable for us, so we just try to keep to our fasting-eating windows every day.

As a result, when we “open our window” in late afternoon, we’re ready for something really satifying and delicious. Today, I woke up thinking about burritos, so that is what we broke our fast with this afternoon. I wanted to use tofu rather than seitan, however, because I think I’ve been relying on seitan in its many forms a bit too much of late.

So…this evening’s meal was Tofu Chorizo Burritos in Lentil Tortillas–super delicious and VERY satisfying!!

First, make a batch of lentil tortillas–one batch (made with a cup of red lentils and two cups of water) makes nine tortillas, which should be enough for three or four people.

Next, make a batch of tofu chorizo. I used a recipe similar to this one from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, but used tahini in place of the oil and chipotle powder in place of chili powder.

Make a batch of Smoky Cheez Sauce and fire up the Instant Pot for some Beans and Rice.

Finally, chop up some romaine, serrano peppers, red onions, and black olives.

Add some Green Tomato Salsa Verde and, what the hell, some plain old salsa too.

And you’re ready to assemble!!

Ingredients for Chorizo Burritos!!
A Perfect Meal!!
Chorizo Burrito Bowl

And the meal is just as good as a burrito bowl as it is as a full-on burrito!

So delicious!

And the song of the day is “The Lost and Found” from the Modern Love soundtrack–such a sweet, sad song by Gary Clarke and John Carney:

Vegan Korean BBQ Ribs

I was in Vancouver last week to visit my mum and do a bit of estate business and had the pleasure of staying with my darling Em in her charming West End apartment. Now, I’ve lived in more neighbourhoods of Vancouver than I can count on two hands, but, for some strange reason, I’ve never lived in the West End (odd, since from the time I was fourteen and would hang out on Denman and Robson street with my best friend, Esther, I longed to live there…it just never happened). Em and I walked and shopped and stopped at wine bars for wine and ate at vegan restaurants and ordered Chinese food (very exciting if you live on Denman Island!). We stayed up late into the night sipping Irish whiskey and watching old Alfred Hitchock movies on Em’s ridiculously enormous TV.

And since I hadn’t seen my sweet girl since July, Em also presented me with some lovely birthday gifts, one of which is a very intriguing vegan cookbook, the focus of which is mock meat!

Jackie Kearney’s Latest Cookbook

I was intrigued since I’ve become a bit obsessed with seitan of late (ever since Chazz and Francie sent me the fabulous Gaz Oakley cookbook), so I’ve been dying to dig in and I did just that on Friday with Kearney’s recipe for Korean Barbecue ‘Ribs’. Now, I’ve been told that if you change at least three things from the original, you can reproduce the recipe (as long as you give credit to the original) and I changed more than three, so I think it’s fine to offer my adaptation here.

The recipe reminded me of the fabulous Susan Voisin’s Jacked-Up Ribs, so I thought I’d follow her advice and add a can of chopped jackfruit to the recipe to create a more rib-like texture. I also doubled the recipe and replaced the gochujang in the original recipe with sambal oelek. Oh, and I reduced the sesame oil and used tapioca flour, rather than corn starch.

The next time I make it, I’m going to try to replace the brown sugar with dates, which are much healthier.

The result is absolutely delicious, but VERY spicy–which surprised me since the author is British–haha! That’s likely very unfair, but I do recall my British relatives not being able to eat the breakfast sausages my mum made them because they were so much spicier than the ones they were used to! In any event, you could probably half the spices in both the sauce and the ribs without compromising the taste too much. We loved the heat though!

This recipe serves about six hungry people.

Vegan Korean BBQ Ribs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

BBQ Sauce

Throw the following in the Vitamix and blend until smooth:

6 medjool dates OR 1 and 1/4 cups of brown sugar

1 and 1/3 cups soy sauce

2 TBS seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup Thai chili paste

1/4 cup sambal oelek

2 tsp white pepper

2 thumb-sized chunks of ginger

6 cloves of garlic

Pour into a saucepan and simmer for half an hour. Mix together:

2 TBS tapioca flour

2 TBS water

Pour slowly into the BBQ sauce mixture, mix well, and simmer for five more minutes. Remove from heat.

BBQ Sauce

Vegan Ribs

Wet mix:

Throw the following into the Vitamix (don’t bother washing it from the sauce!):

1 cup of water (I didn’t double this because I added a can of jackfruit)

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup ume plum vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tsp liquid smoke

Dry mix:

300 grams vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup chipotle powder

2 TBS onion powder

2 TBS garlic powder

2 TBS red pepper flakes

Mix well and combine with wet mixture in a stand mixer with:

1 can jackfruit, drained and chopped (just pulse a few times in your food processor)

Mix on low for five minutes.

Dry Mix
Dry Mix, Wet Mix, and Chopped Jackfruit

Press into a 9×13 pan very lightly sprayed with oil and bake for about an hour, flip the ribs and bake for another hour. The original recipe calls for 30 – 40 minutes, but I’ve tried it both ways and it’s best cooked for 2 hours.

Ribs Mixture in Stand Mixer

Let cool a bit and then cut the ribs into pieces about the size of a pack of cards (maybe a bit bigger) and score the pieces by cutting strips about halfway through (to make them look more rib-like). Slather generously with the BBQ sauce and place sauce-side down in a hot, oiled grill pan for several minutes. Slather more BBQ sauce on the top, flip, and cook for several more minutes. The ribs should have nice black grill marks on each side.

Full disclosure: the original recipe called for forty minutes in the oven, but (so embarrassing) I forgot and went for a dog walk around Graham Lake. The ribs ended up in the oven for TWO FREAKIN’ HOURS. I was sure that I’d have to pitch the lot, BUT not only did I NOT have to bin the ribs, they were not really affected by the extra time! I subsequently tried the ribs at the original time of 40 minutes and they weren’t nearly as good!

Oh–and the ribs were actually much better on the second day! I will definitely keep these ribs on my roster of meals, BUT I will replace the brown sugar with dates next time and will update you with the results! If you recall, I did this with my Asian Brown Sauce recipe and the result was no different from the original that used brown sugar.

So yummy!
Looks very “Ribby”

I served the ribs with James’ always excellent coleslaw and some air-fried potatoes. An absolutely delicious repast which we ate while we watched The Game Changers. James normally isn’t much interested in watching movies that promote veganism, but was VERY intrigued with this one…as apparently many men have been. You’ll find out why when you watch it!

A movie about veganism that all men should see!!!

And I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s Hard-Nose the Highway quite a bit lately because it’s the perfect album for fall. And thirty-odd years ago, I remember listening to it compulsively on my little Sony Walkman on the bus to UBC during the fall I’d quit my full-time job to go back to university. It was a difficult time in my life–I was in my late twenties and had quit uni years before to travel. After a few years of travelling and then getting married and working at a job I hated while supporting my then-husband through his education degree, I couldn’t imagine what exactly I wanted to be; I only knew what I didn’t want to be. And I hated that first year back at university, but I plugged on and eventually discovered what I DID want to be while taking a required English lit course completely unrelated to my major (Psychology) with Dr. Bob Attridge. Bob went on to teach at KPU and eventually he and his partner, Susan, became our very good friends. In fact, several of my music recommendations on this blog were suggested to me by Bob.

So I give you Van Morrison’s gorgeous “Autumn Song” that somehow sustained me all those years ago:

Oat-Chickpea-Lentil Bread–Surprisingly Delicious (…and, as you can imagine, verrrry hearty!)

Ever since I started making lentil tortillas and quinoa flatbread, I’ve been on the hunt for a bread recipe that uses flours that are a product of the entire edible part of the plant, rather than flours that use only a portion. To this end, I experimented a bit with an earlier recipe that uses lentil, sprouted spelt, and whole-wheat flour. I replaced the spelt and whole-wheat flours with oat and chickpea flour and came up with this surprisingly good loaf. It does contain a tiny bit of flour– four TBS–because I added vital wheat gluten to act with the yeast and ensure that the result wasn’t too….ahem, brickish.

Oat-Chickpea-Lentil Bread

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Step One:

Mix together:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBS hemp seeds
  • 2 TBS quinoa flakes (or quinoa)
  • 2 TBS sunflower seeds

Leave to sit for twenty minutes while you get the other steps ready.

IMG_20180810_093912.jpg

Step Two:

Blend in the Vitamix until as smooth as pancake batter:

  • 1 cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 2 medjool dates
  • 1 cup water

If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, you’ll need to soak your lentils for several hours first.

IMG_20180810_094244.jpg

Step Three:

Mix together in a stand mixer bowl:

  • 1 cup oat flour (I made this by blending whole oats in the Vitamix)
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1.5 tsp baker’s yeast
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 4 TBS vital wheat gluten

Step Four:

Pour the seed/water mix from step one and the lentil mix from step two into the dry mix and blend with the dough hook for a good two or three minutes.

The dough will be very shaggy–not something you can knead, so let the dough hooks do the kneading. Here’s a video so you can see the texture once mixed:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qPNU4gj8Lz7Zojgw9

Next, pour the mix into a loaf pan or a Pullman pan (my preference), cover and leave in a warm place for one hour.

Sprinkle on your loaf with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and bake for 30 minutes (until the loaf achieves an internal temperature of 207 degrees).

Wait until it cools to slice.

It’s great toasted with a schmear of vegan butter, and it’s delicious spread with peanut butter.

And the song of the day is Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow” because it’s currently playing on Google!

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve given up on tomatoes. As it turns out, however, tomatoes have not given up on me: this year we had close to a dozen rogue tomato plants that emerged from my flower beds with no provocation from me! And that’s not even counting the ten or twenty little plants I ripped untimely from the soil in late spring. On top of our compost tomatoes, our friend, Chris, brought over half a dozen more plants.

On the principle that my focused attention on my tomatoes in previous years resulted in a tiny harvest of flavourless, thick-skinned fruit, I did my best to ignore the plants this year. And though I wouldn’t suggest they thrived on my neglect, we did end up with a healthy harvest of green tomatoes at the end of September.

James decided to make green tomato salsa verde and enlisted my help as a sous chef. Within minutes, of course, I was ordering the poor man around, so it turned out to be less of a chef/sous-chef situation and more of a cooperative effort.

We used this recipe, but made some changes: first, we didn’t bother to peel or core the tomatoes; second, we doubled the recipe; third, we used a mix of red and white onions; fourth, we increased the tomatoes and onions; fifth, we did not seed the jalepenos; sixth, we used a food processor for all the ingredients.

The result was twenty-one cups of delicious….

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

  • 20 cups green tomatoes
  • 10 jalapeno peppers (just cut the stem end off)
  • 8 onions, half red, half white
  • 8 cloves garlic

Loosely chop the above ingredients and run through the food processor in batches until everything is very finely chopped and everything is about the same size. Mix together and pour into a very large pot on the stove.

Add…

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice

Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer and add….

  • 1 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Stir and simmer for five minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your canning jars by placing them in a pot of boiling water and simmering for twenty minutes. Add the tops for the last five minutes.

Remove the jars from the water and decant the salsa into the jars leaving half an inch at the top of the jar. Turn the lids until fingertip tight. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for twenty minutes. Remove jars and cool.

As the jars cool, you’ll hear them pop one by one. If any of the jars don’t pop, put them in the fridge and eat them first! You can see if they’ve popped because the indentation on top of the lid will be depressed. If a jar hasn’t popped, the centre of the lid will be slightly convex. Tighten the lids once they’ve popped.

The recipe made twelve one-cup and four two-cup jars of deliciously fresh-tasting salsa!

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

The final jar contained only one lonely cup, so I figured we may as well dig in right away!

The song of the day is The Low Anthem’s “Don’t Tremble.” The lyrics are appropriate because of my interior chant when it comes to all things gardening and all things cooking: you have to be patient; you have to be brave.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge!!

A few days ago, my sister sent me a twenty-minute video of someone making a chocolate cake. Now, I don’t even particularly like chocolate cake, and I’m not much of a baker, but I was fascinated by the whole process of watching a master chef produce a masterpiece. Since then, I’ve watched dozens of dessert-making videos—ginger tarts and pancake cakes and almond croissants and blueberry scones. Desserts aren’t really my jam (harhar) though, so none of these really tempted me beyond wanting to perhaps try a neat method or trick.

And then….

I stumbled across a modest little video that explained how to make a series of vegan desserts with no more than two ingredients. Once I spotted the two-ingredient, peanut-butter fudge, “…our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key” (apologies to Annie Dillard).

Now, I did add a third ingredient because I’m extra like that!

So here’s all you do:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge!!!

Combine in a pyrex bowl…

2/3 cup of peanut butter

1 – 6.6 ounce can of condensed, sweetened coconut milk

Microwave for a couple of minutes and stir until smooth. Pour into a 9X9 pan or a pie plate and freeze for an hour.

Next, melt in the microwave…

1 bar 70% dark chocolate

Stir until smooth and pour over the peanut butter mixture. Pop back in the freezer for another hour.

Once the fudge is set, cut carefully into squares and there you go….FUDGE!!!

And the song of the day is Noah Gunderson’s “Honest Songs”….

Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce

Even though our own tomatoes–rogue and otherwise–remain green, we’ve been on the receiving end of some lovely ripe tomatoes from a number of friends and neighbours.

Our little friends seem to love hiding in our veg trugs.

Meanwhile, our own basil, oregano, and mint is overgrown to the point of bolting; thus, I was delighted to come across this pizza sauce recipe that uses all of the above! I had to sub a few things to make the recipe vegan and, of course, I left out the anchovies, but the result is wonderfully complex! I was also able to use fresh hot peppers in place of dried because another neighbour gave us some.

We’ll be using some of the sauce tomorrow night on a couple of pizzas, but I suspect we will be freezing quite a bit because the recipe makes so much.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce

Toss together in a bowl and pour into a couple of roasting pans or casserole dishes and roast at 375 for one hour.

  • 4 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • ½ cup red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 5 fresh hot red peppers or ¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dry marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Stir and roast for another thirty minutes. Set aside to cool.

While tomato mixture is cooling, place the following in the Vitamix:

  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 medjool dates
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 TBS miso
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

When the tomato mixture is sufficiently cooled, add it to the mixture in the Vitamix and blend until completely smooth.

Finally, throw a big handful of fresh basil leaves in the Vitamix and pulse a few times.

And there you go! Roasted tomato and herbs pizza sauce!

Very succulent!!

This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, so you’ll be able to cover two pizzas and still have two-thirds of the batch left to freeze!

And the song of the day is Andra Day’s “Rise Up” because it’s an amazing song and she’s an amazing singer:

Vegan Mexican Four-Layer Dip…with Smoky Chipotle Lentil Chips (and a Delicious Pico de Gallo!)

I’m always confused by so-called “Seven-Layer Dips” because they’re usually just four- or five-layer dips….with a few toppings. To count those toppings as layers is a bit misleading it seems to me .

Thus, this recipe, which I adapted from a Fuss-Free Vegan Cookbook recipe (the original of which is actually called “The Ultimate 8-Layer Dip!), is simply called…

Vegan Mexican Four-Layer Dip….with toppings!

This is really just an assembly, BUT you will need to make some refried beans and some cheez sauce….oh, and you’ll need to mash some avos!

First, make these refried beans!

Next, mash three ripe avocados with 2 TBS of lime juice and a 1/2 tsp of salt.

Next, make this simple, but delicious, CHEEZ SAUCE:

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth; if you don’t have a Vitamix, soak the cashews in boiling water for twenty minutes and use a regular blender:

  1. 1 cup cashews
  2. 1 deseeded orange bell pepper
  3. 1/3 cup water
  4. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  5. 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  6. 1 tsp liquid smoke

Next, make this SALSA!!

Pico de Gallo Salsa

Pulse in the food processor:

  1. 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  2. 2 cloves garlic
  3. giant handful of fresh cilantro
  4. 1.5 tsp salt
  5. 2 serrano peppers (if you don’t like it too hot, remove the seeds and pulp)
  6. juice of one lime

Pour into a bowl and then pulse in the food processor:

4 LARGE tomatoes!

Pour into the bowl with the onion mixture and stir well. This will make a lot more salsa than you need, but it is delicious!

Next chop up (for the TOPPINGS):

  1. 1/2 cucumber
  2. 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  3. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  4. 1/2 jalepeno pepper
  5. 2 green onions

ASSEMBLE!!

On the bottom of a 9×13-inch pyrex dish…

  1. spread the refried beans,
  2. follow with the mashed avocados,
  3. then pour on the cheez and spread it evenly.
  4. Top this with a couple of cups of salsa!
  5. Then, top it all with the cukes, olives, jalapenos, green onions, and cilantro.

This dip is SO freakin’ good that even my bean-hating sister couldn’t get enough of it. Mind you, she neglected the bottom layer with most of her scoops, but still!!

My point is that even omnis love this delicious, fresh-tasting dip!

Now, the dip tastes best with regular tortilla chips, BUT if you want to avoid all that fat and go for a healthier vehicle for getting the aforementioned dip into your piehole, you can opt for these super healthy lentil tortilla chips.

They aren’t terrible and, really, with a dip this great, you need only a vehicle (other than a spoon) to pile it on, so why not give the chips a try.

Taste- and texture-wise, they’re similar to quinoa flatbread.

Smoky Chipotle Lentil Chips

1 cup red lentils 

1/4 cup tahini

1 slice red onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp chipotle spice

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp cayenne

1 tsp liquid smoke

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 medjool date

salt and pepper

¾ cup water

1 tbsp dried chili pepper

Throw all the ingredients into the Vitamix and blend until super smooth. Add the dried chili peppers and pulse once or twice. Spread over a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for thirty minutes at 375. Remove from oven and cut into tortilla chips. Place chips on oven rack and bake for another five minutes at 350.

Lentil chips and dip!

We spent a lovely late summer afternoon at The Thatch Pub on Hornby Island this afternoon. The ocean was calm and sparkling in the late afternoon on the ferry over…

Between Denman and Hornby Islands

And the song of the day is Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” because I’ve been listening to Andra Day quite a bit lately and some of her songs give me a hankering for an Amy tune or two.

Seitan Chick’n Patties in the Instant Pot

It’s my BIRTH WEEK this week and we have an extraordinarily busy few days planned. We tend to be pretty low key around here–our big excitement for the day is often simply walking the dogs…or making a new recipe. Thus, the idea of having TWO dinner parties in one week is unusual for us. PLUS, we’re also going into town on Wednesday for my birthday dinner. We’ll be needing lots of extra naps!

The first group is coming up on Thursday (and it’s actually a lunch party for six)–a couple of friends from our old KPU days, who both happen to be visiting Hornby with their families. We are the only vegetarian/plant-based members of the group, but they’ve always been game for our vegan/veg offerings in the past, so James decided to create an abbreviated version of the risttafel–seitan skewers with peanut sauce on coconut rice, nasi goreng, and a beet-apple salad.

The second group is coming Friday evening and includes someone I’ve known for close to fifty years–we grew up a street apart in Montreal. Clare and her husband recently relocated to Port Alberni from Osoyoos. She and Bid were friends growing up and have kept in touch for decades. Two others in the party are also celebrating their birthdays this week, so we should have lots of fun….and hopefully lots of my beloved crappy white Safeway birthday cake!! Again, we’ll be the only vegetarian/plant-based members of the group, so James is making the old stand-by: vegetarian lasagne and grilled Caesar salads.

I promised James I would make a loaf of chickwheat for his kebabs, so that’s what I did this morning. However, I decided to double the recipe and experiment with creating seitan chick’n patties with half of the recipe.

So my recipe for today is…

Instant Pot Seitan Chick’n Patties

First off, make up a batch of chickwheat.

Next, divide the dough into eight to ten patties (depending on how big of a patty you like). I like to weigh mine to ensure they are all the same size and cook at the same rate.

Wrap each patty in parchment….

…and then in foil:

Next, pour two cups of water into the Instant Pot and place the steamer at the bottom of the pot. Slide the patties in lengthwise and use Manual to set the timer for one hour (if you choose to include jack fruit in the dough, make that an hour and twenty minutes):

Do a quick release of the Instant Pot and remove the patties and unwrap to cool. The patties should have a slightly browned look to them:

If you like a less-dense chick’n patty (which we do), you can add one can of drained, chopped jack fruit to the dough before you mix it. Just pulse the jack fruit in the food processor a few times.

The patties will also look more textured and, post-steaming, they’ll be a bit softer:

Vegan Chick’n Patty with Jack Fruit Incorporated into the Dough

If you choose to go this route, you’ll get about fourteen 100-gram patties.

Now the patties are ready for however you’d like to cook them. You could likely just pan fry them at this point, but I like to be extra when it comes to food (nothing else though–haha!), so here’s what I’m doing…

Next, wet sheets of rice paper and wrap the patties like little burritos in the rice paper.

Next, prepare a dredge and a panko mixture. For the dredge, I usually use some Vegg and warm water, but you could just use some aqua faba. For the panko mixture, I use….

1/2 cup panko

3 TBS nutritional yeast

1 TBS poultry seasoning

That should be enough for three or four patties.

Next, air fry those little suckers for 20 minutes, flipping at the halfway mark.

Now serve up the patties on a nice fresh bun with onions, pickles, and iceberg lettuce…and a nice glob or two of vegan mayo. DELICIOUS!!

And I was thinking out loud this afternoon and said that we’d better not have my crappy white Safeway cake this year for my birthday because James is making a carrot cake for Thursday and Bid’s making a birthday cake for Friday night.

Three cakes, I said out loud, is a bit excessive for one week.

James looked at me with a look of disbelief and said, “Who do you think you’re dealing with, Missy? I’ve already got that crappy white Safeway cake stashed away for tomorrow!!”

And so…..the song of the day is for my lovely James….

Vegan Beef Kebabs with Horseradish Sauce and Yellow Rice

Between the chickwheat and the seitan beef, we’re having a very kebab-y summer this year and we’re FINALLY using that barbecue we bought oh so many years ago.

Tonight, we’re trying a faux beef barbecue because I made a seitan roast in anticipation of Annie and Jamie’s visit last week. Unfortunately, their five-day visit was cut short by a couple of days because one of Jamie’s pugs was ill and they had to rush back to Vancouver. Fortunately, Jamie’s little Mimi is fine, but the seitan roast lay languishing in the freezer …until I decided we would try the roast as kebabs.

Now, as you know, I add a can of jackfruit to my seitan roast to give it a looser structure. As a result, the chunks do not stay as well-formed as the chickwheat on the skewers. Next time, I may forgo the jackfruit in the seitan roast if we’re planning to make skewers.

So….here’s the process!

First off, make this vegan roast and cut half of the roast into cubes.

Marinate the cubes for a day or two in this marinade.

Next, make….

Horseradish Sauce

  • 1/2 cup horseradish
  • 1/2 cup Vegenaise
  • 1 TBS tahini
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 TBS white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • freshly ground black pepper

Blend in the Magic Bullet.

Next make…..

Coconut Yellow Rice

1 cup brown basmati rice

1 TBS Earth Balance

1 TBS minced fresh ginger

1 TBS minced fresh turmeric

1/3 cup shredded coconut

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

1 tsp sea salt

Melt Earth Balance in a saucepan and saute ginger and turmeric root for one minute. Add coconut and saute for another minute. Add coconut milk and stir, scraping the bottom of the sauce pan. Add rice, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.

NEXT….

The Kebabs!!

Slide the vegan beef chunks onto the skewers, alternating with grape tomatoes, chunks of red onion, mushrooms, and red pepper chunks.

Barbecue the skewers for 20 minutes, turning every five minutes.

And then serve it all up: a scoop of coconut rice, a couple of skewers, a squirt of creamy horseradish sauce, and, what the hell, a couple of cobs of corn….and we’re done!!

And the song of the day is Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” because in 1972 this song was everything, and this video from 2017 (FORTY-FIVE years later) is AMAZING:

Vegan BBQ!! Chick’n Kebabs with Peanut Sauce!

Em arrived for an early birthday celebration this week and, at her request, we made the Stranger Wings pizza for dinner on the first night, and chickwheat kebabs with coconut rice on her second evening.

She was in Vegas last week for the wedding of her friend, Greer, who she’s known since they were four years old….

The kebabs are an adaptation of a vegan satay James has been making for his various vegan rijsttafel evenings. We all loved them, but had lots of marinated chickwheat left over and decided to have them for dinner again last night. Bid had been for dinner on Friday evening and brought us some luscious corn from Hornby Island, so we had a delightful feast! Here’s the recipe…or process, I guess!

First off, you’ll need to make some chickwheat.

Next, make the marinade.

Chick’n Marinade

Mix together….

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 TBS sesame oil

4 cloves minced garlic

1 lime–zest and juice

2 TBS sambal oelek

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tsp liquid smoke

Next, cut the chickwheat into cubes and marinate in the above mixture for twenty-four hours–you can marinate it for as little as two hours, but it’s MUCH better the longer you leave it.

Soak the required number of wooden skewers in warm water for at least thirty minutes.

Slide the chickwheat chunks onto the skewers, alternating with grape tomatoes, chunks of red onion, mushrooms, red pepper chunks, and fresh pineapple chunks.

Skewers pre-barbecue

Barbecue for fifteen to twenty minutes, rotating every five minutes.

Serve it with a nice big dollop of this peanut sauce:

Peanut Sauce

Blend together in the Vitamix:

1 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup coconut milk

1 shallot

1 thumb-sized hunk of ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 TBS soy sauce

1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base

2 TBS sweet soy sauce

1 TBS lemon juice

1.5 TBS sambal oelek

freshly ground pepper

And here is our barbecued feast!!

And our sweet little Poppy–now seventeen weeks old–has taught Stella how to be playful! Who knew good old Stellie-Bellie was a playful girl at heart?!! Now, if Poppy would just stop eating rocks, we’d all be delighted.

Stella and Poppy

And the song of the day is “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because it’s the first song that came up on the playlist this fine Sunday morning!

Vegg McMuffins!!!!

As I was scrolling through The Tofu Appreciation Society Facebook page the other day, I came across a rather clever method for creating vegan eggs from tofu.

And, yes…yes I do actually belong to a group called “The Tofu Appreciation Society”…and another called “The Seitan Appreciation Society,” and perhaps a few more with equally embarrassing names.

In any event, the method employed by the group member to create the vegan eggs was to blend one 454 gm. package of extra-firm tofu with The Gentle Chef’s tofu-scramble-seasoning recipe, press it into a pan, and bake for twenty minutes at 400 degrees.

I decided to try her method, but pressed the tofu mixture into muffin tins to create little rounds to look like poached or fried eggs.

I used 1 TBS of the seasoning mix and I also pressed a spoon into the centre to create a space for the yolk.

Tofu “eggs” before baking
…and after baking

As for the yolk, though I have some powdered Vegg, I decided to try Gas Oakley’s brilliant method for creating yolks: a mixture of vegan mayo and sriracha. SO simple, but SO perfect!!

The yolk is vegan mayo mixed with sriracha!

Next, I made some vegan sausage patties from this rather amazing recipe. Chazz told me about this recipe a couple of years ago and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try it!

The result was delicious!! James had two Vegg McMuffin…with sliced tomato and lots of vegan butter.

I had one (so virtuous) and no vegan butter…but lots of avocado (virtue be damned!).

The recipe for the eggs makes eight or nine little eggs. The recipe for the sausage patties makes eighteen patties, so in the future, I may double the tofu egg recipe and freeze them for quick Vegg McMuffin breakfasts!

My darling niece, Erin, is visiting with her lovely daughter, Asha, tomorrow. Erin has recently gone plant-based so I’m very eager to try out this breakfast recipe on her. I suspect Asha, who apparently is not as enamoured of the plant-based life, may have cereal!! This shot from many years ago remains my favourite picture of Erin and Asha (and Everett–Asha’s cousin). James and I have been wondering whether Asha will remember Sideways Cottage from her visit her so many years ago, but, since she was only three years old at the time, we aren’t confident she will!

And the song of the day is Miner’s “Bonfire Cabaret” because I’m struck by how much they remind me of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Miner, but every single time they come up on a playlist, I think I’m listening to Alex and Jade.

Baked Vegan Feta!

This recipe for vegan feta is SO freakin’ good!

baked VEGAN FETA!!

Add the following to a food processor:

1 block firm tofu

1 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS ACV

3 TBS tahini

2 TBS capers and brine

2 TBS kalamata olives and brine

1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base

1 tsp stone ground dijon mustard

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

Blend in the food processor until smooth. Press into into a rectangular muffin tins, and bake at 400 degreefor 35 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Meanwhile…make a marinade of kalamata olive juice and oregano.

Once baked, cut each feta rectangle into nine squares, and toss into the marinade for future use in Greek salads…or just toss these little suckers in yo’ mouth!

Alternatively, you can serve it up as a little Greek appetizer dish with hummus, kalamata olives, and a freshly baked baguette!!

Aaaand here’s the song of the day!!

“I’m Poppy!”


My Ultimate Green Smoothie

For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to get back into drinking a green smoothie every day. Several years ago, I had two years of daily smoothies under my belt and could see the health benefits in my nails, skin, and hair. And who even knows what magic the ultimate green drink was working beneath the surface!

And I felt great all the time.

I got out of the habit, however…and getting back into it is a bit of a trial because those blended salads are not exactly….delicious.

I mean, they’re not terrible, but there are a thousand other things I’d rather eat.

For a while I was telling myself I’d get all my greens and fruit in by eating big salads, but, in truth, I just can’t eat that much salad. And I rarely eat (or even think about) fruit unless it’s in a smoothie.

Sure, avo toast for lunch and a tofu-vegetable stir-fry for dinner is perfectly healthy, but even if you add a snack of hummus and raw vegetables, how and where do you fit in the fruit? And what about those essential leafy greens, not to mention turmeric, ginger, flaxseed, amla power….and berries?! And if I don’t make a smoothie, I have to think about whether I’ve had each of these apparently essential foods each day.

So I challenged myself to drink one green smoothie every day for three weeks and, after a few false starts, I’ve made it to eight days straight. My strategy is that I have to have a green drink and ONLY a green drink before I have anything else. Since it takes me a good part of the day to get through a blenderful of green smoothie, it’s pretty much all I’ve been having until dinner.

And, by the way, sometimes my green drink is actually a red drink….if I use a fresh beet, that is!

And, since you asked (haha), here is my standard recipe:

My Ultimate Green Smoothie

2 – 3 cups water

1 raw beet

1 raw carrot

1 cup cucumber

3 cups mixed greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.)

1-inch chunk of ginger

1-inch chunk of turmeric

a dash of black pepper (the piperine in pepper enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%)

1 banana

1/2 cup blueberries (or other berries

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

1 mango or apple or orange (or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand)

1 medjool date

1 TBS flax seed

1 Brazil nut

1 tsp amla powder (apparently, the most powerful antioxidant out there!)

1 big glug of liquid chlorophyll

Then I’ll add a handful of whatever microgreens and sprouts I having growing and another handful of any leafy greens that look good in the deck garden. I’ll also add a handful of ice cubes to make it nice and cold.

Sometimes, it’s just too much to get through and I refrigerate some for the next day, but I usually put a pretty good dent in it!

And since a picture of my green (sometimes red) drink is not particularly inspiring, I give you, a video of our adorable new puppy–Poppy the Bugg!!

I LUH YA, POPPY!

And, if you haven’t already guessed, the song of the day is Jennifer Lopez’s “I Luh Ya, Papi”:

I love you once…I love you twice…I love you more than BEANS AND RICE

Actually, there are few things I love MORE than beans and rice, so I was delighted to discover this simple Instant Pot recipe for black beans and brown rice on Cookincanuck.com today.

Sadly, while James tolerates beans, he’s not as big a fan as I am; he prefers beans as a small part of his dinner, not the main performer. Meanwhile, he has no idea that some form of bean is in almost everything I make. Indeed, my chick’n enchiladas–one of his favourites–contains THREE kinds of beans: chickpeas in the vegan chick’n, lentils in the tortillas, and black beans in the rice!

However, my imaginary friends, Chazz and Frances, brought me a sampler pack of Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans (which you can’t buy in Canada), and the beans are so delicious, I want to make sure that when I use them, they’re highlighted in the meal, not unrecognizable as a top secret ingredient.

The first thing I made with the Rancho Gordo beans was an amazing cassoulet with the Alubia Blanca Beans–I used this recipe from Veganlovlie.com, which also called for vegan sausage, so I was able to use the Beyond Beef sausages Annie brought from town. I also topped the cassoulet with some chopped preserved lemon I made back in March. The result was super tasty and satisfying, but James was not particularly impressed.

Vegan Cassoulet

But back to the simple beans and rice recipe. It’s super quick and straightforward, and the result is delicious! I did change a few ingredients slightly, so I’m reproducing the original CookinCanuck recipe with the changes I made:

Vegan Rice and Beans

Set the Instant Pot on Saute and throw in….

  • ½ medium yellow onion chopped

Once the onions are translucent, add…

  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp cumin 
  • 2 tsp chili powder 
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Saute for another 30 seconds and add the following (and deglaze the pot):

Stir well until the bouillon base is dissolved into the broth and add…

Press “manual” and set the timer to thirty minutes. When the timer dings, allow the Instant Pot to release naturally for ten minutes and then do a quick release.

Add and mix well…

  • 1 TBS lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

I served it (to myself for lunch) topped with a little of my smoky vegan cheez sauce, a dollop of salsa, some fresh avocado, and a healthy sprinkling of cilantro.

I used the beans and rice for burritos for dinner and, in spite of his dread of beans, James absolutely loved them and asked for seconds (which shows he wasn’t just being polite!). I used lentil tortillas and added coleslaw to the beans and rice inside the burritos and topped them with some of my smoky cheez sauce, salsa, avocado, and cilantro.

And a couple of days ago, Bob sent me a link to this great cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” by Michael Kiwanuka. Bob and Susan are coming up next week for a few days, so we should have a fine time talking about music and eating vegan food.

Creamy, Versatile, Vegan Dressing….and It’s Only ONE WW Point!!!!

So as you can see, I’m still into the mis en place because of my Rouxbe plant-based cooking course.

One of the Forks-Over-Knives salad-dressing recipes included in the course turned out to be very rich and creamy, yet its creaminess is derived not from high-calorie cashews or tahini, but rather from only ONE tablespoon of chia seeds. The original recipe was for a spicy chipotle dressing, but after tasting it, I realized that it could be adapted in any number of ways depending on the herb or spice you add.

You blend all of the above ingredients in the Vitamix and then let the dressing sit for fifteen minutes until the chia seeds work their magic and make the dressing thick and creamy.

And, of course, I had to add a big glob of my secret ingredient!

The recipe makes about a cup and a half. A serving of a quarter cup is only one Weight Watchers point!

I’m serving it tonight as part of an enchilada bowl!

And James was singing “Our House” this morning, which started me singing it, which prompted me to ask Google to play the song….and then Google just continued playing a variety of songs from the late 60s and early 70s, so we’ve both been enjoying the songs of our childhood all day. And so…the song of the day is Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me,” a song to which I can’t help singing along whenever I hear it.

Jamie’s Special Granola

When James and I first moved in together, he surprised me by becoming vegetarian. So shocked was I with his decision that I would make him a huge eggy-cheesy breakfast every morning in the hope that he’d see how great vegetarian food is and not change his mind. And in the decade or so we’ve lived together, he never has.

Then, in January, 2016, he surprised me again by declaring that he’d join me on my plant-based adventure, with the proviso that he may occasionally still eat dairy. Since I regularly fall off the wagon myself, the plan seemed reasonable enough.

From that day forward, James’ usual breakfast has been a gigantic bowl of Raisin Bran covered with a sliced banana and a rather generous sprinkling granulated white sugar (the boy loves his sugar!).

He’s been tiring of his regular cereal lately, however, so I’ve been trying to convince him to let me make him some fabulous, healthy cereal to replace it. He’s been sceptical about my proposal, but finally accepted yesterday!

So, naturally, between yesterday and today, I think I’ve read every granola recipe available online. One recipe even had me attempting to pop quinoa (an experiment that was NOT successful!). The first thing I learned about granola from my research is that you can’t leave out the oil; the second is that you can’t leave out the sugar….in one form or another.

Since any extracted oil isn’t really healthy, I just used coconut oil, but since it’s saturated, I might rethink that in future.

As for the sugar, date sugar or date syrup is the healthiest form according to Dr. Greger, so I used 1/4 cup of date sugar and a 1/4 cup of maple syrup (because what’s breakfast without something maple-y?!).

As for the grains, nuts, seeds, and fruit, I figured I’d try to include as many different forms as my pantry would allow. Thus, I included oats, quinoa flakes, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and raisins.

And because I’ve been working on my mis en place in my Rouxbe cooking class, I thought I’d create a visual recipe today…

All you do is chop the nuts, mix all the dry ingredients together, mix all the wet ingredients together and combine them.

Next spread the mixture on two parchment-paper-lined cookie trays and bake at 350 for about twenty-four minutes. Stir the mixture halfway through, turn the pans, and press the mixture down to create some nice chunks.

The resulting granola tastes like a delicious cookie!!

The recipe I used for the proportions is from Cookieandkate.com. I discovered Kate Taylor’s amazing blog only recently and the recipes I’ve tried have been excellent! The recipe that gave me the idea to include quinoa was this one from The New York Times. As I said, I ended up using quinoa flakes because the popping experiment was a bust.

Kate says this recipe makes sixteen servings, but I have no doubt that once James tastes this deliciousness, he’ll be eating double portions every day. Since he spends two hours on his exercise routine every morning and then spends the rest of the day stacking wood, cleaning the roof, mowing the lawn, etc., etc., I figure he can eat as much of it as he wants. I’ll just make him more when he runs out!

And the song of the day is Michael Kiwanuka’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” because this video appeared in my mailbox this morning from my friend, Bob, and it’s just lovely…

My Mum’s Lasagne….Veganized!!

My darling mum was never much interested in cooking–indeed, she had a regular rotation of meals each week: roast beef or ham on Sunday, spaghetti on Monday, fast-fry pork chops (with Noodles Romanoff!!) on Tuesday, beef stew on Wednesday, and, well, you get the idea. Tuesday was my favourite meal, not because of that tough little medallion of pork, but because of that little scoop of Noodles Romanoff, which I LURVED!!! I still can’t figure out how my dear old mum got six servings out of a 5.75-ounce package, but she did!

But when my parents entertained guests, she’d always serve lasagne accompanied by a salad (iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, and green onions) with Kraft Thousand Island dressing, and Black Forest cake (Betty Crocker!) for dessert. And the morning after a dinner party, Bid and I would always tear downstairs to fight over the remains (my brothers were never as enamoured of the lasagne dinners as we were). By the 1980s, my mum expanded her repertoire to include something called “Chicken Elizabeth,” a Best of Bridge recipe that involved placing skinned chicken thighs in a casserole dish and covering them with…..you guessed it: Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Full disclosure: the recipe called for chicken breasts, but my mum used thighs because they were “more succulent” (they were cheaper!).

There is really no doubt where my hillbilly tastebuds originated.

But my mum’s lasagne was actually delicious.

So we’re having a crowd of Pooley relatives in for the Easter weekend next in honour of Stefan’s thirtieth birthday, and we’ve already started the food planning. We decided to simplify things for the Friday evening birthday dinner by simply making a couple of huge lasagnes–a vegetarian one (prepared by James) and a vegan one (prepared by me!). Now I’ve made a few stabs at vegan lasagne in the past and they were always fine, but I really wanted to recreate a vegan version of my mum’s lasagne for the kids…well, the vegan kids anyway.

My mum’s lasagne involved a super thick, meaty sauce, your basic Kraft mozzarella slices, cottage cheese mixed with an egg and a cup of Kraft parmesan (the stuff in the green and red sprinkle can), and no-bake lasagne noodles.

So for my vegan version, I started with this vegan Ragù Bolognese  recipe because I wanted a thick sauce with a sense of meatiness. The result was good, but needed the standard additions of oregano and basil (to taste like my mum’s), so I added those spices. I also left out the refined coconut oil and added a slurry of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, miso paste, soy sauce, and nooch to increase the umami.

For the cottage cheese/ricotta mixture, I used tofu-cashew ricotta, Vegg egg replacer, and this recipe for vegan parm.

For the cheese, I used one of my own recipes for vegan mozzarella, of which I have many! I used this one, but added a cup of melted refined coconut oil and a teaspoon of xanthan gum. It’s richer than my regular pizza mozzarella (though a bit too soft for grating). And my darling niece, Dana (one of the vegans who will be attending the birthday feast!), isn’t a fan of my no-extracted-oil mozzarella.

So here we go!

Kate’s Lasagne, Vegan Style!

First, make the vegan mozzarella.

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup melted refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS kappa carrageenan
  • 1 tsp Better Thank Bouillon or Knorr Vegetable Broth powder
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Blend ingredients on high in the Vitamix 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. Pour it into a (very lightly oiled) mold and refrigerate for several hours. Once the cheese firms up, you will be able to slice it for the lasagne.

Next, make the sauce:

Vegan Ragu Bolognese Sauce

350 g medium yellow onion, finely minced

225g carrots, finely chopped

170g fennel, finely chopped

5 medium cloves garlic, finely minced

6 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

6 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water, drained and finely chopped

1 pound this seitan roast, shaved into small bits

1 5-ounce can of tomato paste

1 1/2 cups (355ml) dry red wine

1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, puréed with a blender

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp sage

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup miso

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 nutritional yeast

2 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base

1/4 cup water

1.In a large saucepan, spray a pan lightly with oil and add the onion, carrot, fennel, and garlic and cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until aromatics are beginning to turn golden, about 8 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and seitan and cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until much of the water in the mushrooms and seitan cooks off and a brown film develops on the bottom of the pot.

3. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer wine until it has almost fully reduced and the raw alcohol smell has cooked off, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in puréed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add spices.

5. Make a slurry in the Magic Bullet with the miso, soy sauce, Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, nutritional yeast, and water. Stir into the sauce sauce and cook at a very gentle simmer until sauce has reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes.

Next, make the ricotta layer:

Make a batch of this ricotta from Onegreenplanet.com. I’d recommend upping the cashews to 1/3 cup and adding a tsp or two of lemon zest (on the recommendation of another of my darling nieces, Annie!).

Add one cup of this parmesan from Cookieandcake.com

Mix together 2 tsp of Vegg egg replacer with 1/2 cup of water and blend well into the mixture above (you’ll likely have to use your hands).

Okay, so now we’re ready for the assembly!

First, line a 9 x 14-inch casserole dish with a little bit of sauce. Next line the pan with oven-ready brown rice lasagne noodles, cover the noodles with half the ricotta mixture, cover the ricotta mixture with the sliced mozzarella, cover with half the ragu bolognese sauce.

Repeat the layers and put a little more mozza on top.

Bake at 375 for an hour or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you place some mozza on top, cover with foil for the first 45 minutes and then remove.

Here’s the little one I made for our dinner tonight. It actually looks like my mum’s lasagne, which was neither vegan NOR vegetarian. It also tastes amazing….I honestly don’t think anyone would guess it’s vegan! You can see the deliciously creamy mozza peeking through the sauce! My one criticism is that it’s a bit too rich. In future, I think I’ll use my mozza recipe with no extracted oil.

And here’s the one I’m freezing for next week. I had a little extra mozza that I put on top….

And here’s a pic of our dinner: grilled Caesar salad, Kate’s vegan lasagne, and a freshly baked baguette!

Now, this entire endeavour was a bit labour-intensive, but I’d do it again in a minute for a special occasion! I am dying to get the verdict from the kids next week….and from Bid, who remembers my mum’s lasagne with as much fondness as I do!

And the song of the day is Lake Street Dive’s “Seventeen.” When I was cooking today, I asked Google to play me something I would like, and she played me a surprisingly good mix, which included this song–I haven’t heard it in ages. Only one song in the mix was off-putting and I told Google I didn’t like the song. “Noted,” she said and skipped to the next tune!

Delicious Vegan Coleslaw!

My imaginary friends, Chazz and Francie, are coming up to Sideways Cottage for the weekend, James and I have been busying ourselves in the kitchen for the past few days.

Our menu is….

Friday Dinner: Indonesian Carrot Soup, Chick’n Pot Pies, roasted potatoes, coleslaw, and pecan pie for dessert

Saturday:

Breakfast: Oatmeal

Lunch: “Beef” Dip Sammies and air-fries

Dinner: Rijzttaffel and vegan apple pie for dessert

Sunday Breakfast:Streaky Vegan Bacon, Tofu Scramble, Fresh Baguettes

I wanted a super tasty coleslaw to go along with the pot pies for tomorrow evening, so I found this well-reviewed one on Minimalist Baker. I made a number of changes, however: I doubled the water, changed the maple syrup to a Medjool date, changed the type of mustard, used shallots instead of onions, and BTB instead of salt. The result is delicious! One caveat: I was looking forward to a gorgeous-looking slaw because of the purple and green cabbage and the bright orange carrot, but the creamy dressing kind of overwhelms the gorgeous colours! Perhaps after sitting in the fridge overnight, the cabbage will release some water and thin out the creamy dressing and the colours will be restored. In any event, it is a super delicious dressing, so I’ll make it again in a heartbeat!

Vegan Coleslaw

Blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 Medjool date
  • 2 tsp dijon
  • 1 1/2 TBS white vinegar
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large shallot (equivalent to about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base

Grate:

  • 1 carrot

Slice (in the food processor):

  • 1/3 head of purple cabbage
  • 1/3 head of green cabbage
  • 2 stalks of celery

Mix the sliced vegetables in a large bowl, pour on the dressing and mix well.

I made Gaz Oakley’s seitan roast today in anticipation of our French Dip Sammies on Saturday, so we had a few slices of that this evening with some air-fried potatoes and a nice big scoop of this coleslaw! It was so delicious we each had TWO helpings…of everything!

Seitan Roast with Vegan Gravy, Air-Fried Potatoes, and Coleslaw!!

And the song of the day is Darlingside’s “The God of Loss” because I’ve been listening to them all day while we both cooked.

Vegan Chick’n Alfredo

I’m so taken with the onion cream I made a couple of days ago that I thought I’d centre our evening meal on it. I also happened to making a couple of loaves of chickwheat today, so I thought I’d throw that into the mix as well and came up with this delicious low-point recipe.

VEgan Chick’n Alfredo

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

1 and 1/2 cups onion cream

1 TBS miso

1 TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base

1 TBS lemon juice

3 TBS nutritional yeast

1/4 cup cashews

2 dried shiitake mushrooms

1 tsp sea salt

1 and 1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 garlic cloves

1 TBS tapioca flour

Heat over medium heat (stirring continuously) until shiny and smooth.

Next, add to the pan:

1/2 pound of shredded chickwheat

Stir until the chickwheat is covered and heated through.

Serve over brown rice rotini with a sprinkling of vegan parmesan and some green veg on the side. I’ve been using the Cookieandkate.com version of vegan parmesan lately–this recipe calls for hemp seeds instead of walnuts, almonds, or cashews. I like it because you don’t grind up the nuts (and mix turning your parm into nut butter!). You can just combine the ingredients in a jar and shake it, shake it, shake it….like a polaroid picture. To the parm recipe, I like to add a heaping TBS of vegan chick’n soup powder mix.

And it’s another glorious day on Denman Island! I spent the day tidying and making a couple of loaves of chickwheat in anticipation of our weekend guests. James needs a selection of seitan loaves because he’s going to attempt a vegan rijsttafel.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, rijsttafel (or “rice table”) is a Dutch-Indonesian meal consisting of a couple of rice dishes surrounded with several small side dishes to serve atop the rice. For larger crowds, as many as forty dishes are served, but since we’ll have only four people, we’re going to keep it to eight dishes in addition to the two rice dishes. We’ve decided our summer project will be perfecting the vegan rijsttafel. We’ll need to rely heavily on seitan, however, because so many of the dishes involve some kind of meat.

And the song of the day is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield’s cover of the late, great Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars”:


Vegan Alfredo Sauce and Buffalo Chickwheat Pizza!!

So I decided to make a vegan Alfredo sauce from the onion cream I made yesterday and it turned out VERY well! I made only one cup of the sauce, however, because I didn’t want to waste too much of the onion cream if the sauce didn’t work. Not only is it delicious and creamy, but it registers only two WW points for half a cup!!

The sauce is for a new take on the Stranger Wings Pizza I’ve made a few times over the last couple of months–I’m calling this new take “Buffalo Chickwheat Pizza.”

As for the Alfredo sauce, I am definitely going to double this recipe in the next few days to try it over some pasta topped with grilled portobello mushrooms.

Vegan Alfredo Sauce (makes one cup)

1/2 cup onion cream

1 tsp miso

1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base

1 tsp lemon juice

1 TBS nutritional yeast

1 heaping TBS cashews

1 tsp pink salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 garlic clove

1 tsp tapioca flour

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth, then heat over medium heat (stirring continuously) until shiny and smooth.

Now, since you’re going to be making a Buffalo Chickwheat Pizza, you’ll also need to make….

Buffalo Sauce

1/4 cup cashews

1/2 cup Sriracha

1/4 cup almond milk

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1 Medjool date (or a 1/2 TBS date syrup)

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth and creamy!

You’ll also need to make a blue cheez dressing like this one.

And now onto the….

Buffalo Chickwheat Pizza

First off, make a batch of your favourite pizza dough. I recommend this dough for this particular pizza.

Ingredients

1/2 pound of chickwheat

1 cup of the Buffalo sauce

Sear the chickwheat in a pan over medium heat…

Once the chickwheat has browned a bit, pour the buffalo sauce over it and mix well…

Now, roll out your dough, schmeer each pie with half the Alfredo sauce and scatter the Buffalo Chickwheat over the top. Pop in the oven preheated to 500 degrees and bake for fifteen minutes.

While the pizza is baking, saute some shallots for topping the pizza and slice up some green onions.

When the pizza is done, drizzle the blue cheez dressing over the top and sprinkle with the sauteed shallots and chopped green onions.

And there you go–super delicious Buffalo Chickwheat Pie!! The only change I’d make for future iterations of this pie is that I’d double the chickwheat and put a 1/2 pound on each pie….which means I’d also double the Buffalo sauce to two cups.

Super delicious meal though…no matter how you slice it!

And the song of the day is Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” because it just happened to be playing on my playlist as I wrote this…

Creamy Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing (and it’s only ONE WW point for a quarter cup!!)

I’ve been dying to try this onion cream created by vegan genius, Susan Voisin, and today was the day I did just that! You basically bake a few whole onions for close to an hour, peel them, throw them in the blender with a bit of lemon juice and salt, and blend like hell until completely smooth. The result is a lovely light cream that can be used as a healthy base for creamy salad dressings or added to soups that require a dollop of cream. You can read all about it over on Fatfreevegan.com!

From the cream, I made the following delicious, creamy, ONE-POINT Caesar dressing. It’s based on this delicious recipe from lovinitvegan.com; however, I replaced the vegan mayo with onion cream and the oil with tahini. I also added a tsp of my secret ingredient that makes everything better (BTB). Oh, and I left out the maple syrup because the onion cream is actually quite sweet to start with.

Low-Point Vegan Caesar Dressing

1/2 cup onion cream

1 TBS Dijon

2 TBS nutritional yeast N

1 garlic clove

1 TBS capers

2 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS soy sauce

1 TBS tahini

1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base

1/2 tsp white vinegar

Toss this all into a small blender–the Magic Bullet or a small cup for your Vitamix and blend until super smooth!

Try it on a grilled Caesar salad, like this one we served with some vegan pizza! The little black nubbies on the romaine are vegan bacon bits.

And the song is the day is Brandi Carlile’s cover of “Madman Across the Water” because I love good covers….and I love old Elton tunes. Oh, and my friend, Bob, who is currently travelling around Spain just sent me the link to the video and I love it!

Smoked Celeriac “Steaks” with Mushroom Gravy

A few days ago, James’ nephew arrived from Medicine Hat, and we went to one of our favourite pubs in Courtenay–The White Whale. The cool thing about The White Whale is that they use all local ingredients and also serve only BC beer and wine on a “rotating tap.”

And this awesome pub is also on the banks of the Courtenay River, so you can sit and watch seals and seal lions…and even kayakers paddle by while you dine.

I should mention that the food is a bit pricey for a pub menu, but it IS nice that they support the local economy, so we’re always happy to dine there. In the past, the vegan/vegetarian offerings haven’t been plentiful, but what they do offer has always been very tasty.

On our last visit, however, I was delighted to see a new vegan item appear on the menu: a celeriac steak with miso gravy, wild rice, and broccolini slaw!

It was delicious, but the celeriac was definitely not roasted or smoked. In fact, it seemed more of a vehicle for the delicious miso gravy–indeed, it was more like a boiled parsnip or potato!

And when I looked for a picture online, The White Whale Instagram showed a picture that looked nothing like what I’d eaten:

I decided that I wanted to make a celeriac steak more like the advertised version of The White Whale celeriac steak, so that’s what I set out to do. I then involved Jamie-boy, which brought the entire endeavour up to the next level!!

So, first off, you need to prep the celeriac by peeling it and stabbing it about twenty times. I bought a couple of celeriac roots that were about a half pound each:

Here they are post peeling and stabbing:

Next, rub those suckers with olive oil and sprinkle them with lightly ground coriander seeds and flaked salt and wrap them in tin foil.

As an aside, my marble mortar and pestle is the first gift Jamie ever gave me!

Bake them at 375 for one hour. I’d say they need about an hour for each half pound.

The celeriac steaks would be absolutely fine to serve right out of the oven, but you can also smoke them at this point, which we did. We removed them from the oven, took off the foil, and smoked them with hickory chips for another 45 minutes:

Smoking the baked celeriac steaks on hickory chips

And while those celeriac steaks were smokin’, I made a succulent mushroom gravy to top them with. I started with this mushroom vegan gravy recipe and made a few variations.

Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1/4 diced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TBS white wine
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 TBS sprouted spelt flour
  • 1/2 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • half a cap of liquid smoke

Instructions

  1. Saute onion and garlic in wine until softened
  2. Add mushrooms and soy sauce and cook until reduced
  3. In a separate pan, lightly toast spelt flour, nutritional yeast, and dried herbs
  4. Add flour mixture to mushrooms and stir well
  5. Slowly add vegetable broth and stir well to combine
  6. Add BTB and liquid smoke and heat to desired consistency

Once the celeriac steak is finished smoking, remove from heat, slice…

And add gravy…

Serve with mushroom risotto and steamed asparagus!!

This vegan meal is amazingly hearty and delicious!!

And the song of the day is Wings’ “Band on the Run” because James and I were talking about how great Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles project was this afternoon:

Preserved Lemons…The Easiest Thing in the World!

A few days ago, I received a text from Em…

Now, my darling girl’s wish is my command, so I set about researching the process of preserving lemons. The fermenting book to which she referred in her text contains surprisingly little about lemons, so I consulted Dr. Internet and watched a dozen videos …and eventually consulted Annie, who consulted her chef friend, who relayed instructions.

All of this resulted in my learning that the process of preserving lemons is remarkably simple:

Cut lemons

Salt lemons

Squish lemons in jar

Pour more lemon juice over lemons so they’re covered

Leave lemons for a month

So that’s what I did. A few of my sources sliced or quartered the lemons, but most left them whole but cut to a half-inch from the bottom of the lemon. Some sources offered a measurement for the salt, but most just used A LOT and specified that the salt must be kosher or sea salt–the salt cannot contain iodine. I used the Maldon Sea Salt Flakes I ordered from Amazon a little while ago:

James bought me twenty lemons because I asked for ten (and, frankly, the man’s a bit of an overachiever in the relationship realm). I cut and salted thirteen….

I then stuffed them into a 1.9 litre mason jar I sterilized earlier and packed them down with my sauerkraut pounder….

I juiced the other seven lemons into the jar to ensure the lemons were covered with juice….

And that’s basically it! Seal the jar, label it and be sure to include the date.

Check on your lemons after a few days to ensure that the juice covers the lemons. If not, add more juice, seal it back up and leave it.

I will report back on the state of my preserved lemons on April 11th!!

We have a full roster of guests arriving over the next few weeks–James’ nephew tomorrow, Annie and Johnny the week after that, Francie and Chazz shortly thereafter, and Em and three friends in May–and that’s all before the summer when we usually have most of our guests. Looks like we’ll be cooking up a storm over the next little while.

I’ve also started an online plant-based cooking course through Rouxbe (pronounced “Ruby”), which I’m enjoying tremendously. I’m currently learning knife skills…at which I need MUCH practice.

And the song of the day is Josh Ritter’s “Henrietta, Indiana” because it is always the first song that plays when I say, “Hey Google, play Josh Ritter radio!”

Vegan Barbecue Chick’n Sammie!

Yesterday evening, James had a hankering for a barbecue chick’n sandwich, so I whipped him up a couple of these sambos and he was so taken with them that he asked for a THIRD. Now, the man is a bit like a snake in that he has a bowl of cereal in the morning and eats nothing else until dinner, so it’s not surprising that he can put away a LOT of food in the evening, particularly since he exercises for…..drumroll please….TWO HOURS A DAY.

And that doesn’t even include things like walking the dogs to the lake (which is, more often than not, my only exercise for the day!).

In any event, this barbecue chick’n sammie is a quick, delicious meal (but, in truth, it’s quick only IF you happen to already have the chickwheat on hand, which I do!).

Vegan Barbecue Chick’n Sammie

First, whip up some of this quick, healthy barbecue sauce. I replace the 1/4 cup of brown sugar with four medjool dates because dates are healthier than sugar. I also add a tsp of dijon.

Next, make some chickwheat (which–full disclosure–takes a few hours because of steaming time). I’ve been making a couple of loaves of chickwheat every couple of weeks, however, and freezing it in half-pound portions. Thus, I usually have some on hand.

Next, make some of this tasty coleslaw.

Okay, so next, you’ll want to slice:

1 white onion

1 cup cremini mushrooms

And shred:

1/2 lb. of chickwheat

Saute the onions for a few minutes:

Add the mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes:

Add the chickwheat and saute for a few more minutes:

Add 1 cup of the barbecue sauce and mix well:

Warm a few buns and load them with the coleslaw followed by a nice big helping of the chick’n mixture.

Serve with air-fried taters and more coleslaw. I’m not even a fan of barbecue sauce and I LOOOVED this meal!

The song of the day is a Kylie Minogue-Jack Savoretti duet called “Music’s Too Sad without You.” Johnny might be right: this guy does seem to specialize in heartbreak. Beautiful song though!

Vegan Chick’n Pot Pie!

Back in the 1970s, my extra-thrifty mum used to keep her freezer full of store-brand chicken pot pies. Those little suckers were exactly forty-seven cents each, and my hillbilly tastebuds loved them almost as much as my beloved Cheez Whiz! Alas, I haven’t had one now in close to thirty years, so when James mentioned practicing his vegan pie crust, I decided to give some vegan chick’n pot pies a go!

Vegan Chick’n Pot Pie

First off, you’ll need to make a batch of this pie crust, but veganize it by replacing the butter with Earth Balance vegan butter (or another similar brand of vegan butter). Then roll out and cut the pastry and press it into six 5-inch pie plates. Parbake the bottom crusts (covered with parchment paper and pie weights) for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. The recipe for the filling is enough for twelve little pies, so it’s a good idea to double this recipe. Alternatively, you could freeze the rest of the filling or eat it over rice or mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

1 pound grilled chickwheat

1 portobello mushroom, chopped

1 chopped onion

2 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white wine

5 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 heaping TBS no-chick’n broth powder

2 heaping TBS nutritional yeast

2 TBS miso

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried parsley

1 chopped carrot

1/2 cup chopped celery

1.5 cups diced potatoes

2 cups broccoli florets

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)

salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Saute the chickwheat and portobello mushrooms for a few minutes and set aside.
  2. Spray a pan and saute onions and garlic for a few minutes;
  3. Add flour and white wine and whisk…then gradually add the broth. Keep whisking until it’s all smooth and bubbly.
  4. Add the no-chick’n broth powder, nutritional yeast, miso, and spices.
  5. Add carrots, potatoes, and celery and let simmer until the carrots and potatoes are al dente.
  6. Add broccoli, cauliflower, sauteed chickwheat and mushrooms, and simmer until everything is tender, but not mushy.
  7. Add pepper and salt to taste.

Once the crusts are parbaked, fill each little crust with the filling, cover with the top crust:

Slide back into the oven at 350 degrees for thirty minutes:

Baked Vegan Chick’n Pies!!

And here’s a delicious pie served up with a salad:

The pies were absolutely scrumptious!! Much better than the forty-seven-cent store-brand pies of my childhood. I will most definitely be making these succulent pot pies again soon!

We finished the Howards End miniseries last night, and though we loved the first three episodes, we were disappointed in the concluding episode. This evening, we’re watching the 1992 movie version because the conclusion is so much more satisfying.

And the song of the day is Ray Lamontagne’s “Such a Simple Thing.”

Vegan Enchilada Bowl

Last evening was a red letter day in that it marked the end of my Valentine’s Day gift to James: I watched the entire eleven and a half hours of Ken Burns’ documentary series, The Civil War, with him–an endeavour that lasted for NINE bloody evenings!

I actually ended up enjoying the series and tonight, I received my reward for such heroism: we watched episode one of Kenneth Lonergan’s 2017 mini-series version of Howards End. I’d been putting off watching it because I love the 1992 movie version so much and because Forster’s novel is my bible. I was afraid I’d be disappointed, but, on the contrary, I’m very pleasantly surprised so far!

But let’s get to more important things: DINNER!

Well, the Mexican obsession continues, so, for this evening’s dinner, I produced an enchilada bowl, which we both enjoyed even more than the enchiladas we had last night.

The Enchilada Bowl!

This is really just an assembly, but the combination of salad, slaw, enchilada filling and rice topped with guacamole and salsa is just so delicious and fresh tasting!

First, make the enchilada filling from this recipe (warning–this involves making chickwheat, which takes a few hours, and enchilada sauce, which takes only a few minutes).

Then, make some guacamole with this recipe.

Next, make some brown basmati rice. Use broth in place of water and throw in a cup of black beans and a sliced jalapeno pepper while the rice cooks.

Next, make this Forks Over Knives coleslaw recipe.

Finally, make this salad dressing:

Tex-Mex Salad Dressing

Throw in the Vitamix and mix until smooth:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBS tahini
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping tsp no-chicken broth powder
  • 1 heaping TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly ground pepper

Add, and pulse a few times:

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Now….assemble your damn bowl!! Fill your bowl with some chopped romaine, grape tomatoes, and chopped cucumbers, top with the Tex-Mex dressing. Place a dollop of coleslaw beside it, a dollop of rice beside that, a serving of the enchilada mix beside that, and top with a scoop of guac and a scoop of salsa. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips and chopped cilantro all over your bowl and there you have it–a fresh-tasting scrumptious enchilada bowl.

And the song of the say is Jack Savoretti’s gorgeous song, “Candlelight”: