FOUR-WW-Point Vegan Pizza!!! And No, the Crust isn’t Cauliflower!

As I was lazing in bed this gloomy Sunday morning, I came across this picture of pizza on the Hornby Island FB page and thought, “I must have pizza!”

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Now, clearly that pizza is neither vegan nor low in WW points, so my task for the day was to figure out a pizza recipe that would ring both those bells. The only real problem was the crust because I already had a recipe for a super low-point sauce and a very low-point vegan mozzarella.

As for the crust, I realllllly didn’t fancy one of those cauliflower crusts that you have to eat with a knife and fork because they fall apart so easily. What I ended up with is a version of my healthy low-point bread dough.

The result is very good and the recipe makes two very large pies–you’ll need a couple of cookie sheets for these pies–a pizza pan won’t do it!

So here we go!

Pizza Dough

Step One:

Mix together:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1.5 tsp yeast

Leave to sit until the yeast blooms.

Step Two:

Blend in the Vitamix until as smooooth as pancake batter:

  • 1 cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 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. Once the mixture is smooth, add a big handful of….

  • fresh basil
  • fresh oregano

Pulse a few times until the herbs are in bits, but not fully blended.

 

Step Three:

Shred one medium zucchini and microwave for one minute; squeeze as much water as possible out of the zucchini with a kitchen towel.

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Step Four:

Mix together in a stand mixer bowl:

  • 1 cup sprouted spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1 TBS vital wheat gluten

Step Five:

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

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Cover and let rise for an hour or so.

Next divide the dough in half and roll it out.

The dough is extremely wet, so you’ll need a scraper and a sprinkling of flour. The good news is that the dough pushes out easily with your hands, however, and makes two huge crusts. Use a cookie tray or focaccia pan for each crust.

In fact, I’d recommend lining a focaccia pan with parchment paper, dusting the parchment and your hands with flour and just pushing the dough out toward the edge of the pan.

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Parbake the crusts for 8 minutes at 450.

Next, load up the crusts with your sauce, vegetables, vegan bacon, and vegan cheese and bake for 15 – 20  minutes at 450. Exchange the pizza racks and turn the pizzas halfway through cooking time.

WW Points for Crust: 2 for 1/6 of one pizza; 4 for 1/3 of one pizza

Fresh, Vegan Pizza Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes (grape tomatoes work very well!)
  • handful of fresh oregano
  • handful of fresh basil
  • handful of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 (5.5-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Blend it all up in the blender well in advance of pizza preparation, so the fresh herbs have a chance to meld into the sauce.

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This sauce makes enough for three pizzas, so you’ll have some left over.

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WW Points for Sauce: 0 for 1/6 of one pizza; 0 for 1/3 of one pizza

The sauce WILL eventually cost you if you eat 1/2 of the pizza, but only 1 point!

 

Shreddable Vegan Mozzarella can be found here!

It’s super quick to make and will firm up to shreddable-ness in a couple of hours in the fridge!

WW Points for Vegan Cheese: 2 for 1/6 of one pizza; 3 for 1/3 of one pizza

You can top your pizza with any vegetable and herb you want and that will cost you exactly ZERO points, but you may want something a bit succulent, so I recommend a nice sprinkling of my Chewy Vegan Bacon Bits. If you sprinkle a quarter cup on each pizza, that’ll cost you only 2 points.

WW Points for Vegan Bacon: 0 for 1/6 of one pizza; 0 for 1/3 of one pizza

This lovely pie is topped with onions, red peppers, artichokes, mushrooms, and a handful of fresh basil leaves (scattered on the pie immediately after removing from the oven). My vegan cheese didn’t have long enough to set, so it didn’t shred as well as usual, but it was still delicious!

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So I had two pieces of this lovely pizza for only SEVEN WW points!! I added a salad with this zero-point Caesar dressing and was more than satisfied! I’d planned a fruit salad for dessert, but was completely satisfied with my ‘za-and-salad combo!

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And the song of the day is Van Morrison’s “You Don’t Know Me” from Days Like This, because the song always reminds me of my Jamie-boy and today is our 11th anniversary. Here’s a picture of us about a week before we set up housekeeping together. It was taken at my 50th birthday party at Bid and Paul’s place.

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And here’s Van singing one of my favourites.

Homegrown Turmeric and Lemony-Asian Zero-Point Dressing (WW)

Remember how amazingly healthy turmeric is for you? No? Well, here’s a quick reminder!

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And, as for ginger, well….

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Because of all that healthiness, I’ve been trying to grow my own turmeric and ginger this summer and, while my turmeric seems to have taken, I’ve had little luck with my ginger. I started one pot of turmeric in April and another in July. Neither have flowered, but the five-month-old pot has started turning brown–an indication that it’s almost time to harvest.

When I was watering today, I noticed one of the roots emerging through the soil, so I plucked it to make some turmeric-ginger-pepper tea.

Then, at the urging of a friend, I decided to try a turmeric salad dressing….or one that contains turmeric anyway!

This one is adapted from a CFDG recipe in order to reduce the fat content. I changed at least five ingredients, so I think it’s okay to post here. I quite like result!

Lemony Asian Dressing

Makes 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • 5 ounces tofu
  • 2 scoops Naked Peanut Butter Powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 2.5 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 medjool date
  • 1 chunk of ginger (about 1.5 TBS)
  • 1 chunk of turmeric root (about 1 TBS)
  • 1 tsp ume plum vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • a couple of turns of pepper (to help absorb the garlic-turmeric goodness!)

Blend it all like crazy in your Vitamix!!

2 TBS = 0 WW points!! Now, a 1/4 cup will cost you 1 point, but half a cup is STILL only 1 point! Not bad, eh?!!

And the song of the day is Ray LaMontagne’s “Let it be Me” because his voice is amazing:

 

 

 

 

 

WW Zero-Point Hummus and Caesar Salad Dressing!!

I know, I know….I’m always posting hummus recipes–almost as often as I post peanut-sauce recipes!! These are the two sauces I can’t live without!

Anyway, commercial hummus tends to have points because it contains olive oil AND tahini, both of which are high in points. I never add olive oil to my hummus, but I do add tahini. I’ve tried the various Forks-Over-Knives recipes where you just leave out the tahini, but something seems to be missing. It’s just not as smooth and creamy.

I tried something today, however, that resulted in a nice creamy hummus without the added fat: I added 4 ounces of tofu and one scoop of Naked PB–a de-fatted peanut butter powder. The result is VERY good! And did I mention….ZERO points!

So here is the recipe, which I’ve taken from my recipe maker on the Weight Watchers site (just in case you don’t believe that it’s ZERO points!!!!).

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 3.39.48 PMNow, the other cool thing is that you can make a ZERO-point Caesar salad dressing from this recipe!

WW Zero-Point Caesar Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup zero-point hummus
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2.5 TBS grated garlic
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2.5 TBS dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 TBS capers and brine
  • 1 tsp BTB vegetable base

Oh, and the song of the day is Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” because I can’t stop singing it today!

 

WW Two-Point Peanut Sauce!!!

As I may have mentioned, I’ve been endeavouring to follow online Weight Watchers for the past few months. I was doing quite well and losing weight, but then the summer–with lots of guests and holidays–happened and I’m right back to where I started!

This week I am trying to get together a series of low-point meal ideas for when I start back in earnest on Labour Day….after Bid and Paul have left their cabin on Hornby and headed back to the city. I mean, sure, I could start today, but there’s next weekend and our last Friday Feast and our last Sunday at The Thatch to consider!

So today I give you a 2-point peanut sauce made with a handy little product called Naked Peanut Butter. It’s kind of like that powdered peanut butter I was so keen on a couple of years ago, but it contains no added sugar.

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It’s very good and makes a great peanut sauce as long as you add something to make it a bit creamy. If you recall, my previous attempts at making creamy peanut sauce from powdered peanut butter involved corn starch, which didn’t achieve the best result, so I thought I’d try adding tofu. The result is VERY good! And….tofu has no points!

So here we go!!

Naked Two-Point Peanut Sauce

  • 2 scoops Naked Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 ounces tofu
  • 1 medjool date
  • 1 chunk of ginger–about a TBS or so
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 – 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (or 1 tsp salt)

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth and creamy. You can heat it up or serve it as is–up to you!

This recipe makes 1.5 cups; each serving is half a cup and will score you two WW points.

Now, here comes the tricky part. This sauce tastes best on these amazing (and healthy!) millet-and-brown-rice ramen noodles, but the noodles will cost you a bomb in WW points (as most grains will).

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Indeed, each little nest is six points, and who ever has only one?! But if you manage to stop at one nest and include a TON of vegetables (which are zero points), you’ll have a pretty satisfying dinner for eight points. If you decided to go for the two nests of noodles, it’ll cost you fourteen points for dinner, so you’d need to keep your breakfast and lunch points under nine in total. There is a ton of zero-point foods on WW, however, so it’s entirely possible!

Anyway, here’s my delicious meal (with only six points of noodles) with tons of vegetables and a healthy portion of peanut sauce!

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And the song of the day is “God Only Knows” because though I was never a big Beach Boys fan in my youth, I’ve developed a huge respect for Brian Wilson’s musical genius in recent years–particularly his Pet Sounds album of 1966.

 

 

Mags’ Killer Sammie Bread!! Oh, and an Awesome Fat-Free Sammie Spread!

As you know, I’ve been experimenting with my healthy loaf to try to reduce or eliminate the amount of white flour it contains. I tried some dark rye flour and it was so horrible, I had to bin not only the loaf I baked, but also the uncooked dough in a jug in my fridge.

Today, I was reading about lentil flour and thought, hey, I may as well give it a try! Now, because I’m used to working with the no-knead type dough, I made a super shaggy dough and hoped for the best. It turned out brilliantly–SO much better than I thought it would be!!

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So here’s the process, which, what the hell, I may as well call…

Mags’ Killer Bread!!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Step One:

Mix together:

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

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

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Step Two:

Blend in the Vitamix until as smooooth as pancake batter:

  • 1 cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 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 sprouted spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (you could also try Bob’s Gluten-Free Flour)
  • 1.5 tsp baker’s yeast
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1 TBS vital wheat gluten (you can try leaving this out if you don’t mind an even denser loaf)

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.

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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:

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Next, pour the mix into a loaf pan or a Pullman pan (my preference), cover and leave in a warm place for one hour. I put mine on the deck because it’s hot as Hades right now.

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Sprinkle on your sesame seeds or some Everything But the Bagel topping from Trader Joe’s and bake for 30 – 35 minutes…until the loaf achieves an internal temperature of 207 degrees.

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Wait until it cools to slice.

The bread is quite dense and moist, so it’s best to toast it–even if you’re making a sandwich for later. It’s easy to slice quite thinly–a quarter inch or so–because it’s so dense.

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I like using the Pullman pan so the crust is soft and good for sandwiches!

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And each 1/4-inch slice is exactly ONE Weight Watchers point!!

Here it is toasted….

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And here it is loaded!!!

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And here’s the dessert version with nut butter, bananas, date syrup, and walnut bits!

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And James is chowing down on a couple of pieces with Earth Balance vegan butter (and a schmear of Old Nippy he snuck in with the groceries yesterday!).

And if you’re wondering about that delicious-looking dip for my cherry tomatoes in the above pic, check out my super-low-point recipe, which I’ll call (just to go with the trend)….

Mag’s Killer Dip (and Sandwich Spread!)

Throw this in the Vitamix and blend until smooooooooth:

  • 200 grams tofu (1 cup)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Medjool dates
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBS capers with brine
  • 1 TBS dill (or 1/4 cup fresh dill)
  • 1 TBS yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp BTB vegetable base
  • 1 tsp salt

Refrigerate!! The dip gets thicker in the fridge!

And the song of the day is apparently going to be the wedding song of my niece, Annie, and her fiance, Chris, who became engaged at Graham Lake when they were up here visiting last weekend!!

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I give you Father John Misty’s “Chateau Lobby #4″…

An Absolutely Perfect Day…Oh, and a Super Healthy Sandwich Loaf!

Yesterday was one of those perfect summer days on Denman Island–it was the kind of day you think of when your guided meditation compels you to mentally transport yourself to your ideal imaginary spot of peacefulness and tranquility. (Now, I don’t actually DO this…in fact, meditation is something that continues to elude me because….IT’S SO BORING! But in my younger days, I used to TRY to meditate, and I would use guided meditations so my mind wouldn’t wander).

The temperature was a lovely 18 degrees with a very slight breeze, so we started the day with a long paddle around Chrome Island–the lighthouse island at the tip of Denman. We paused for lunch in a little bay and ate delicious avocado-cucumber-onion-tomato-lettuce sammies made on my no-knead sprouted-spelt-whole-wheat-oat-quinoa-sunflower-seed bread and drank coffee from thermoses. We finished our meal with a couple of my new energy bites (which James still claims ARE NOT cookies even though he was starving!).

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At least he’s smiling this time!!

 

We were out for a good three hours though and the sun was shining rather relentlessly, so we arrived home exhausted from the exertion and the sun. James wandered off to his workshop to work on a walking stick he’s making for Paul (who actually has no trouble walking, but he brought James a giant stick to carve earlier in the summer). He’s carving various sea creatures onto the stick–an orca at the top (as you can see) and otters, star fish, seals, and an eagle. IMG_20180719_154307.jpg

And I set about making a couple of batches of my no-knead bread and puttering a bit in the deck garden. We later had a quick dinner of Sideways Burgers and air-fried taters…

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…and then walked the pups around the neighbourhood for a bit.

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Back home after an early evening stroll.

….after which we soaked our aching shoulders in an outdoor bubble bath.

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Edited to cut out James’ head…because apparently some people don’t like their pictures taken while they are in the bath!

A perfect end to an absolutely perfect day.

When I was mucking about with my bread batching in the afternoon, I decided to adjust my no-knead sprouted-spelt-whole-wheat-oat-quinoa-sunflower-seed bread  because, while it is an ideal sandwich bread, the loaves were a little too structured and dense. Plus, I was making the loaves in a round covered casserole to keep the crust soft for sandwiches, so the sammie slices didn’t always match!

So, first, I made a couple of adjustments–I increased the water from 3.25 cups to 3 and 2/3 cups. I also halved the vital wheat gluten. The result was a much shaggier dough, which is what I was after because I wanted a loaf that took on the dimensions of its pan rather than retaining the shape I rolled it into (if that makes sense).

My friends at Amazon had recently sent me a Pullman pan…

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…so I thought I’d give that a try.

Now I always assumed a Pullman pan was so named because of its resemblance to a train car. How wrong I was! Indeed, the Pullman pan was used in the compact kitchens of Pullman dining cars to maximize space. It’s also called a “pain de mie” or “soft bread” pan.

And further, according to Joe Pastry,

“….baking in a Pullman pan is also functionally different from baking in an open-topped loaf pan. In an open-topped pan the bread can expand freely. Not so in a Pullman pan, at least one that’s been loaded properly. There the rise of the loaf is constrained, not a lot but a little, and that tends to keep large bubbles from forming, so the crumb of the bread is fine and tight.

“Just another aesthetic thing? No not really, as sandwich bread with big holes in it can be perilous for the sandwich eater, especially if he’s wearing an expensive tie. Tight holes keep condiments in and soak up melted butter, which make Pullman sandwiches and toasts more civilized experiences with a smaller dry cleaning bills. And really the eating experience is different too since texture effects mouthfeel and flavor.

And speaking of texture, the main reason Pullman pans were first invented in Europe was to do away with crust. I know what you’re thinking: quelle horreur! There were once Europeans who baked bread without crust? On purpose?? Indeed there were, and still are. Think of Pullman loaves like pain de mie as a special-purpose bread where crust isn’t welcome.

Again, consider sandwiches. Lots of people like to try to dress up sandwiches by using hearty country loaves or baguettes. It’s a nice idea, but try biting through one of those. You end up clamping down on one end of the sandwich with your teeth and pulling with both hands on the other. When the portion in your hands suddenly comes loose the fillings go flying in the opposite direction, onto your dining partner and we’ve got cleaning bills again.

No, a pleasant eat-able sandwich is soft all the way around. This is what the Euros were thinking when they invented the lidded loaf pan about 150 years ago.”

So…FINALLY, I give you….

The Healthy Pain de Mie!

Mix together…

  • 3 2/3 cups warm water
  • 1 TBS yeast
  • 1 TBS sea salt
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup quinoa (or quinoa flakes)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Leave for half an hour. Next add…

  • 2 cups sprouted spelt flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 TBS vital wheat gluten

Mix until no dry flour appears and put into a large jug.

The dough will be very shaggy. Leave on the counter until the dough has risen to the top of the jug. Place in the fridge until you fancy a loaf of bread. The recipe should make about four-and-a-bit pounds of dough–enough for three sandwich loaves.

Now, when you want a sandwich loaf, scoop out about a pound and a half of the dough and place in the Pullman pan; cover and allow to rise until it achieves room temperature.

Bake for thirty-five to forty minutes–until an internal temperature of 207 degrees is achieved.

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Ideally, the dough would rise right to the top and the resulting loaf would be perfectly flat, but it’s pretty amazing just as it is! And, though soft, the loaf is structured enough to allow a very thin slice–delicious toasted with a bit of peanut butter and date syrup!

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And time for a reprise of my favourite Lou Reed song, “Perfect Day”…

Oh, it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Bites

Today was a glorious day on Denman Island, so we loaded up the kayaks first thing and headed down to the beach for a bit of a paddle.

Of course, when you’re retired, “first thing” means about ten AM–haha!

IMG_20170702_180730.jpgWe paddled down the island for a couple of hours and were famished when we arrived home, so I made us a couple of avo-tomato-onion-lettuce-air-fried-tofu sammies on my no-knead white bread. The sandwiches were delicious, but I felt a bit guilty about the white flour business, so when James had a hankering for cookies, I decided to make a healthier version of an already healthy cookie recipe.

I had no apple sauce, so I had to use ripe mango…an adaptation I ran by my WFPB friends online since I’m not much of a baker. As I described my other adaptations to Chazz, she said, “That’s not a cookie…that’s an energy bite.”

And apparently, she’s right: as an energy bite, these are delicious; as a cookie….not so much.

I like them, however, and perhaps if I starve James of real cookies for long enough, he too will come to love them!

I’m posting the recipe here, so I can continue to make adaptations. Who knows? With enough adaptations, they might eventually find their way back to being cookies again!

Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Bites

Directions:

Throw in the Vitamix and blend until smooooooth:

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (or banana or super ripe mango)
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS ground flaxseed

Sift together:

  • 1/2 cup sprouted spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add the mixture in the blender to the flour mixture and mix. Once it’s smooth, add…

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup pecans

Form into 24 cookies and bake at 350 for ten minutes.

I pressed them down (to fool James into thinking they were cookies), but next time, I’m going to leave them in little lumps like the energy bites they are!

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And here’s James’ honest reaction. Keep in mind he was expecting a delicious fat-and-sugar-filled cookie!

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Hahahaha!!

And the song of the day is Van Morrison’s “Coney Island” because whenever I use the word “famished,” I think of the line “Stop off at Ardglass for a couple of jars of Mussels and some potted herrings in case we get famished before dinner.” And then I think of the last verse of the song/poem, and it makes me happy because it’s a song about Morrison’s childhood and driving to Coney Island in Ireland with his mother:

I look at the side of your face as the sunlight comes
Streaming through the window in the autumn sunshine
And all the time going to Coney Island I’m thinking,
Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Turmeric Face Cream

As you may have gathered, I’m slightly obsessed with turmeric. I’ve even started growing the stuff!

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I often rub turmeric on a rough patch on my cheekbone, but it then looks like I have a bruise on my cheek (which James seems particularly freaked out by–particularly when we’re out for a walk and I’m wearing sunglasses!).

Anyway, I decided to make a face cream out of the fresh stuff because I noticed that when I throw a chunk of turmeric in my morning smoothie, I wake up without a red, blotchy face. And I have SUPER sensitive skin–for example, if the shower spray is too strong, I get red streaks all over my chest from the spray–so my face is often blotchy.

Anyway, I figured I’d try a topical face cream with fresh, as opposed to dry, turmeric, and it makes a lovely cream that’s very effective in eliminating blotchiness! The advantage of using fresh turmeric is that it doesn’t stain (in this particular potion). The cream is a lovely light yellow and the colour doesn’t transfer.

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Stamp Out the Reds! Face Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 small, unpeeled chunk of organic turmeric
  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 1 TBS castor oil
  • 5 drops tea tree oil

Directions:

Blend together in the magic bullet. Place in freezer until solid. Apply to face every night and wake up with a face clear of redness!

As I mentioned, in the morning, my face is normally pretty red and blotchy, but this picture was this morning after sleeping with a slathering of the turmeric cream on my face. I actually have WAY more wrinkles than are evident in this picture, so I’m not sure if my phone is set to iron-out-the-wrinkles setting (I don’t normally take selfies, so I’m not sure) or the bathroom light was just good–hahaha!

BUT, as for the blotchiness, the only red on my face is the mark from my reading glasses because I was reading the paper before I took the pic. AND I KNOW, RIGHT? That’s how easily my face blotches–a couple of minutes wearing reading glasses and I have two red marks on my face!!

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A New Healthy No-Knead Loaf: Sprouted Spelt, Whole Wheat, Oat, Quinoa, Sunflower Seed Bread

I know, I know….I JUST posted a healthy bread!! THAT was a seed-nut bread though! This is a healthy sandwich bread!

I adapted the bread from a recipe I found online that called for 1/3 whole-wheat flour and 2/3 white flour–I thought I’d try a mix of 1/3 whole wheat, 1/3 sprouted spelt, and 1/3 white. I also added a bit of vital wheat gluten because of using the lower protein flours and adding the seeds, quinoa, and oats.

This recipe makes about four pounds of dough. Keep it in a jug in the fridge and tear off chunks as needed. A one-pound chunk makes a nice baguette; a one-and-a-half pound chunk makes a nice boule for making sandwiches.

Mix together…

  • 3.25 cups warm water
  • 1 TBS yeast
  • 1 TBS sea salt
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Leave for half an hour. Next add…

  • 2 cups sprouted spelt flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Mix until no dry flour appears and put in a large jug.

The dough will be shaggy, but nowhere near as shaggy as the no-knead white loaf.

Leave on the counter until the dough has risen to the top of the jug. Place in the fridge until you fancy a loaf of bread.

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To make a loaf, tear off a baguette or boule-sized hunk of dough (about a pound) and shape loaf.

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Let the loaf sit on the oven while it heats up to 450 degrees. It’s ideal if it achieves room temperature.

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Pop the loaf in the oven and pour a glass of water into a roasting pan beneath the loaf.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread achieves an internal temperature of 207 degrees, it’s done! You’ll notice that the vital wheat gluten creates a VERY structured bread–in fact, I shaped the loaf like a softball assuming it would flatten down a bit. It did not! It’s a vibrant little loaf though! Quite dense, but a nice complex flavour and a perfect crust. The nuts, quinoa, and oats are not discernible within the bread at all, though you can see a few quinoa grains on the crust.

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Here’s a good video on the technique (though the recipe is different):

If you want a softer crust for sandwiches, bake in cast-iron enamel-covered covered casserole dish for 30 – 40 minutes.

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And look at the amazing sammies this toasted bread makes!!!

And the song of the day is Don McLean’s “And I Love You So” because James was just playing it (and I love it when he plays that song!). We arrived back from dinner at The Thatch with Bid and Paul and James sat and played his guitar for a good hour and a half! The poor man will have blistered fingers!

Vegan Reuben Sandwich

Last weekend, on my way to Vancouver, I travelled to Victoria to hang out with my imaginary friends, Chazz and Frances, and to meet up with some fellow plant-eaters from the Clean Food, Dirty Girl Facebook group for lunch on Sunday.

We had a great meal at Rebar, where I ordered a tempeh Reuben sandwich.

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And I’ve been thinking about that delicious sandwich ever since. Today, I decided to make my own vegan Reuben sammie!

Now, a classic Reuben is corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye, so the only actual resemblance my sandwich has to a classic Reuben is my homemade sauerkraut!

I had no rye flour, so I made a loaf of my no-knead bread in a covered casserole to get a nice soft crust:Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 7.08.14 PM

I marinated the tempeh in my universal marinade and baked it.

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I made this vegan thousand island dressing and pulled out a jar of my homemade sauerkraut.

Next, I assembled that sucker!

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And served it up with the first corn of the summer–compliments of Bid and Paul, who brought it over from Hornby Island last evening!

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A perfect meal for a hot July Saturday evening!!

 

 

 

 

Super Healthy Seed-Nut Bread!!

I’ve been looking for a healthy, filling bread to eat with soup or a fruit salad and today I stumbled upon just the thing in this post from mynewroots.org. I was a teensy bit worried because I once made the seed bread from The Happy Pear and it was so dreadful I had to bin it!

This one turned out brilliantly! I made a few adjustments in terms of ingredients and prep, so I give you my revised version here!

Super Healthy Seed-Nut Bread

Mix together:

  • 2 TBS chia seeds
  • 3 TBS psyllium husk powder
  • 3 TBS almond milk
  • 1 TBS date syrup
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Add:

  • 1 ½ cups boiling water

Let sit for a minute or two until the mixture becomes gelatinous. Next, add:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (or other seeds)
  • ½ cup flax seeds
  • ½ cup almonds (or other nuts)
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats (or flaked quinoa)

Mix VERY well, and pour into a loaf pan. Let sit for an hour or so. It should feel super solid by the time you put it in the oven–almost like it’s already been baked!

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Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30 – 40 minutes until it achieves an internal temperature of 207.

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Wait until it cools to slice it.

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I tried my first slice with roasted garlic spread on top–yummy!!

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I tried my second slice with roasted-garlic hummus and kalamata olives–SUPER yummy!!

This bread is quite dense and with the oats, nuts, and seeds, will keep you full for a long time. Two slices will cost you seven WW points–a bit high, I know.

However, a couple of slices with a zero-point fruit salad for breakfast OR a couple of slices topped with roasted garlic or zero-point hummus for lunch with a bowl of zero-point lentil soup and you’ll be full for hours.

Oh, and speaking of roasted garlic, I roasted a huge batch of bulbs yesterday and am keeping them in a big jar in the fridge. I used two full bulbs in a batch of hummus yesterday and it was DELICIOUS!!

All you do is cut the tips off a bunch of garlic bulbs and place them face down for about 40 minutes at 375.

 

And the song of the day is “Precious Time” by Van Morrison. The song seems particularly appropriate to me because I visited my mum in her new assisted-living facility in Vancouver this week. As we sat and watched Cabaret on my laptop and sang along with Sally Bowles, I realized that there are so many small things my mum will never do again.

I’m not talking about big things like traveling to Singapore or smaller things like swimming in the ocean.

I’m thinking of the tiny daily things that gave her pleasure…things like having a luxurious bath in the morning or a vodka tonic when the sun was over the yardarm (what my parents always jokingly called their early evening cocktail hour).

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One afternoon, we were sitting cozily in her lovely new room, listening to music, drinking cups of tea, and I asked my mum if there was anything else she wanted.

“What I’d really like,” she said, “is a DRINK.”

Anyway, I give you “Precious Time”:

 

Perfecting the Lentil-Tortilla Technique

As you may have gathered, I have a tendency to become temporarily obsessed with things that catch my interest, and my current obsession is the lentil tortilla.

The recipe for this humble little wrap is simple:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • a dash of salt

If you don’t have a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix, you need to soak the lentils for several hours and then blend. If you have a Vitamix, just blend like hell and you’ll soon have a lovely pink batter similar in consistency to pancake batter. It smells like grass initially, but this eventually dissipates.

Cooking them properly takes a little practice because they have to be super thin and cooked completely or they will taste weird. The knack is to spread them thinly with the back of a spoon once you’ve poured out your little tortilla:

The pan or grill should be non-stick and super hot, but you don’t need to oil it. Once the tortilla is dry on top, flip it. As you can see from the little video, you need to be careful when loosening the tortilla to flip it. If you’re impatient, it will tear.

As an aside, you can repair a smallish tear with a bit more of the batter!!

Once the other side is nicely browned, your tortilla is dunzo and ready to be filled with all kinds of deliciousness!!

Remember: if it’s not properly cooked, it will taste nasty–it’s better to overcook it a bit than undercook it!

Once the tortillas are done, place them in a tea towel until you prepare them, so they don’t get hard. I like to fill the tortilla on a tea towel, so the moist heat can dissipate a bit.

Here’s one with air-fried tofu….

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And here’s one with vegan ribs….

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And here’s the dessert version! Peanut-butter-walnuts-and-banana-with-a-teensy-drizzle-of-date-syrup….IMG_20180607_122355.jpg

As I mentioned in a previous post, these tortillas don’t save well and are best served warm, so I just keep the batter in a big jar in the fridge and pour them out as I need them.

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I’ve even started feeding these lentil tortillas to James and he loves them….and the man can be a bit picky about these things!!

And the song of the day is Paloma Faith’s “You Never Give Me Your Money”….

 

 

Best Ever Vegan Burgers!!

I think I’ve finally discovered the recipe for our house burger–and it’s actually James-approved!!

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, James is an amazing chef–indeed, far better than I could ever hope to be! However, he doesn’t enjoy everyday cooking, and I do. As such, whenever we have guests, he’s the chef, but I tend to cook when it’s just us.

Indeed, last Saturday, he made a lovely six-course meal as a small gesture of gratitude for Jane–a friend who made us a beautiful quilt (more on that later!). The first five courses were vegan,  but the dessert did contain dairy.

In any event, when I go into town for a few days to tend to my parents, James responds, NOT by making himself fabulous vegan feasts, but rather by purchasing a Costco-size box of frozen veggie burgers and a truckload of hamburger buns. And the poor man lives on these things until I return!

So I’ve been looking for a burger recipe to take the place of the Costco burgers, and today’s the day that I think I’m finally there!

I used the jackfruit ribs recipe from Fatfreevegan.com as my base and adapted it slightly. We now have a freezer full of these delicious little suckers! I’m calling them “Sideways Burgers” because they’re now the house burger at Sideways Cottage!

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Makes 16 Burgers

 

Step One: Saute for about ten minutes…

  • 2 cans jackfruit (young jackfruit in brine), drained

…on medium heat in…

Break up the jackfruit as you saute–you might need a potato masher to break up the harder pieces. Set aside and allow to cool.

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Step Two: Saute for about ten minutes…

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

…in..

  • 1 tsp of Better Than Bouillon mushroom (or vegetable) base
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

IMG_20180610_181001.jpgSet aside to cool.

Step Three: In a large bowl, whisk together….

  • 2.5 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • TBS smoked paprika
  • 2 TBS onion powder
  • 1 TBS  garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt

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  • the jackfruit, onions, and mushrooms from steps one and two
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Mix it all up–you’ll need to use your hands–until you have a nice stretchy dough-like mixture.

Divide the dough into quarters and form four patties from each quarter for a total of sixteen patties. Place on parchment paper covered cookie pans.

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Bake at 370 degrees for thirty minutes.

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The burgers are now ready to freeze or slap on the grill!

James loves barbecue sauce, so I’ve been grilling his with a healthy spoonful of barbecue sauce on top. Mine get a spoonful of my smoky vegan cheddar sauce and a sprinkling of chewy vegan bacon bits.

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And while James still loves his white burger buns…

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…I’ve been loving the green “bun” lately. If you haven’t tried it, do give the green bun a try because it makes a lovely, crunchy alternative to bread!

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Oh, and look at the amazing cushions Jane made for us from some ties from James’ dad’s corporate days!

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And I’m listening to Alexi Murdoch again today, so here’s a nice one from him called “Love You More”:

 

 

Vegan Ribs!!

Full disclosure: I never liked ribs even when I ate meat all those decades ago.

In his pre-vegetarian days, however, James apparently did enjoy the occasional Flintstone feast at The Charcoal Steakhouse in good old Kitchener-Waterloo.

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Alas, these days when our boy visits his family and the inevitable trip to The Charcoal Steakhouse occurs, he’s stuck with the one vegetarian item on the menu–some kind of eggplant-like “steak,” (and the man’s not fond of eggplant) while those around him lick the rib juice off their fingers!

Thus, when a video for making vegan ribs showed up in one of my many vegan groups, I was keen to take a whack at it for good old Jamie-boy!

The recipe is quite simple and surprisingly delicious–even to my non-rib-liking self!!

The first time I tried it, I had no barbecue sauce, so used Asian Brown Sauce instead. The result was good enough in terms of texture that I attempted the recipe again a few days later–this time with actual barbecue sauce!

In my second attempt, I also added to the mix sauteed onions and mushrooms with great success!

I made my own barbecue sauce similar to this one and it also received the Jamie seal of approval!

And here is our lovely meal! Oh, and those ‘taters are air-fried!IMG_20180603_210402.jpg

The texture really is amazingly meat-ish! Just take a look at this close-up!

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My next plan is to turn this mixture into a veggie burger!

 

Super Tasty Vegan Sandwich Spread!!

I’m always on the look out for a really tasty spread for veggie burgers, sammies, or wraps. My current favourite–Cashew-Dill Dressing–is a little high on the calories because of all the cashews, and I’m determined to reduce my waist circumference by my birthday in August.

In case you don’t know, a healthy waist circumference is less than half your height, and a larger waist circumference be a predictor of lifestyle disease like type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Now, since I stopped growing many decades ago, my only hope for a healthier WHR (waist-height ratio) is to reduce my girth, which, if you must know, is a few inches off healthy.

Anyway, I came across this recipe on Susan Voisin’s Fatfreevegan.com site this morning and thought it looked promising. I adapted it slightly based on what I had on hand, and the result is super tasty. I also subbed in dates for raisins because I believe dates are more nutritionally dense than raisins, but it likely doesn’t make that much of a difference.

Anyway, the result is quite delicious and not nearly as high in fat and calories as my old favourite, so here we go!

Vegan Sammie Spread

  • 12 ounces tofu
  • 1 cup passata
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 medjool date (if you like it sweeter, add another)
  • 2 TBS white wine vinegar
  • cloves garlic
  • 1TBS Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 1 TBS dijon  mustard
  • tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Blend in the Vitamix until super smooooooth!!

The recipe makes 3 cups (or 48 TBS).  And one tablespoon is zero Weight Watchers points!! Two tablespoons will cost you one point though, so don’t go crazy!!

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Delicious Tortillas!!

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As you likely know, I go crazy over any kind of wrap, tortilla, flatbread, etc. that’s made from anything other than plain old flour. First there was the chickpea flour crepes….then came the sweet-potato tortillas…oh and who can forget my fling with the amazing quinoa flatbread? I love them all, but today I have something new for you:

the amazing two-ingredient lentil tortilla!!!

These are the most unfussy, amazing tortillas ever! And they taste great, which is to say, they don’t really have much of a taste. I’ve always believed a tortilla should simply be a vehicle for getting food into one’s pie hole, so the more neutral tasting, the better!

Texture-wise, they’re slightly more rubbery than the sweet-potato tortillas, but I wouldn’t call the texture unpleasant. Perhaps “cake-y” is a better description than “rubbery”!

And, hey, they’re only about 60 calories each and they’re packed with nutritional goodness–more goodness even than quinoa flatbread!!

Here’s Dr. Greger’s take on red lentils!

I was given the recipe by one of my imaginary friends–Chazz Rose–who found it here. I’ve found a couple of slight variations here and here as well!

And here’s a quick little video….though this guy’s tortillas look more like pancakes than tortillas!

Red Lentil Tortillas

Here’s all you have to do:

Soak 1 cup of red lentils and a few shakes of salt in two cups of water for at least six hours.

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After the soaking period has elapsed, blend the lentil/water mixture until smooth and creamy. The mixture is a pretty pink colour and it smells a bit grassy (for lack of a better word). The smell doesn’t remain once cooked, however, and the colour is less profoundly pink.

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The consistency will be like thin pancake batter. Pour onto a hot griddle or pan, and spread the mixture outward with the back of a soup spoon to ensure the tortilla will be thin and even. Once the top is dry(ish), like this…

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…you can flip it over:

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It won’t puff up like a sweet-potato tortilla, but do make sure it’s cooked through in any thick spots.

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Others who’ve posted the recipe have said that the tortillas save well, but I found that not to be the case, so I recommend making only as many as you need for the moment and saving the remaining batter in a jar in the fridge.

The wraps are lovely and pliable, but sturdy enough to hold a whole whack of filling!

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Oh, and if you happen to be on Weight Watchers, these little suckers are zero points! Yup, that’s right: ZERO points. Even the quinoa flatbread isn’t zero points!!!

A couple of tips:

  • Don’t try to rush the soaking by using boiling water. My attempts to do so resulted in a gelatinous mess.
  • As I mention above, make only as many as you are going to be using and save the rest of the batter in a jar in the fridge. They can be reheated later in the day, but by day two the edges will become hard and inedible.

And here’s my lunch! A couple of lentil tortillas smeared with hummus, then topped with brown basmati rice, chopped carrot and romaine, crispy air-fried tofu, and a drizzle of Asian brown sauce! And that’s a little dish of my sauerkraut on the side!20180531_112837.jpg

 

And the song of the day is just for you (it’s actually called “Song for You”–haha!). It’s from Alexi Murdoch’s album, Time Without Consequence:

….which, of course, reminds me of “Your Song”–my very favourite song when I was thirteen years old:

Sprouted Spelt Pizza Crust…and (believe it or not) it’s Delicious!!

As you may have gathered, we love vegan pizza here at Sideways Cottage. As such, I’m always looking for ways to up my pizza game. My latest obsession is trying to find a crust that’s both healthy AND actually edible. The whole-wheat version is healthy, but tastes like cardboard; the white version is delicious….but not so healthy.

Anyway, I’ve been using sprouted spelt flour in my sweet potato tortillas and pancakes, so I figured I’d give it a try with my pizza crusts. Plus, Costco now carries 4 Kg. bags of the stuff at a very reasonable price!

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The crusts were perfect and received the Jamie seal of approval. And, believe me, that man is fussy about his pizza crust!

Sprouted Spelt Pizza Crust

  • 3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) sprouted spelt flour
  • 1 TBS vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp each of  salt
  • 1 tsp each of basil, oregano, rosemary

Mix in a stand mixer until the dough forms a ball around the dough hook. You may need to add up a bit more flour or a bit more water to achieve ball-around-the-dough-hook perfection. Let the dough rise for an hour or so in a covered bowl.  Divide dough into two equal balls and roll out on parchment paper. Let the dough rest for five minutes after you’ve rolled it out and then roll it out a bit further.

Do not pre-bake! Just dress it and bake for 15 – 20 minutes at  500 degrees.

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Halfway through the baking time, turn the pizza and pull out the parchment paper, so the dough is directly on the pizza stone–THIS WILL MAKE YOUR CRUST SO DAMN CRISPY AND DELICIOUS!!!

The other new thing we tried with the pizza was vegan pepperoni and vegan sausage from The Very Good Butcher, a plant-butchery that started on our very own Denman Island, but has now moved to Victoria. We’ve been dying to try their products, and our imaginary friends–Frances and Chazz–brought us a selection of their vegan meats and cheeses when they visited last weekend.

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So I loaded up each pizza….

And, of course, I added olives, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and a bunch of my shreddable vegan mozzarella and a sprinkling of my chewy vegan parmesan and baked up those beautiful pies!

And, indeed, they were delicious!

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Next, I’m going to try a vegan Big Mac pizza because my darling niece, Sharon, sent me pics of a vegan pizza she and her son, Dec, tried at Democracy Coffee House in Hamilton:

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Good thing I have a recipe for shreddable, meltable vegan cheddar!

 

Vegan Chick’n Nuggets…Air-Fried!!

We had a fabulous weekend here at Sideways Cottage with a couple of new WFPB friends–Chazz and Frances. We spent all weekend eating super delicious plant-based food made by Jamie and chatting away like we’d known each other all our lives.

Until they arrived, James had been calling Chazz and Frances my “imaginary friends” because we all met through an online plant-based group, and he seemed not entirely sure that they’d actually show up. However, being the good sport that he is, he planned out his fabulous feasts anyway.

Fortunately, my imaginary friends did show up!!

And we dined well on Jamie’s feasts!

I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the dessert for our second evening–a selection of FOUR different vegan cookies!!

Anyway, a fine time was had by all, and Bustie and Francie bonded over Jamie’s famous pecan pie (made in honour of our visiting Southern Belles…and Bustie, who sees himself as an honourary Southern Belle).

And in between all the food, we managed a few nice hikes–to Graham Lake, Fillongley Park, and Boyle Point, where we saw an eagle’s nest full of eagle chicks…or eaglets…or whatever they’re called.

Oh, and we hit opening day of the Denman Farmers’ Market and even visited the little craft store, where I picked up this fabulous little work of art created by a local artist:

 

And after Jamie’s yeoman service as our resident vegan chef, I wanted to make him something special for dinner (though the fridge is packed full of leftovers!). So when a recipe for vegan chick’n nuggets arrived in my e-mail this morning, I thought it would fit the bill for the type of food my boy enjoys tucking into while he watches one of his various spy series.

The recipe is from Irish twins at The Happy Pear, who have been advertising their new cookbook–Recipes for Happiness. I thought I’d take a crack at their recipe…with a few changes, of course! I removed the oil and added nooch and BTB (of course!).

Air-Fried Vegan Chick’n Nuggets

Soak for ten minutes in boiling water:

  • 2/3 cup cashews

Meanwhile, add to food processor and run until oat flakes are powdery:

  • 1/2 cup oat flakes

Drain the cashews and add to the food processor. Next, add the following:

  • 8 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 3 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

The mixture will form a dough in the food processor. If the mixture is too dry, add a drizzle more water. Form dough into twelve nuggets.

Dip each nugget into….

  • 1 cup aqua faba

Next, coat each nugget in a mixture of….

  • 1 cup whole-wheat panko crumbs
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS pepper

Air fry the nuggets for twenty minutes, flipping at the halfway mark.

Serve with ketchup, honey, or vegan blue cheez dip!

I served the nuggets with a delicious atomic wedgie salad!

Oh, and my imaginary friends arrived bearing many lovely food gifts–date syrup and tahini from Trader Joe’s, a variety of vegan meats and cheezes from The Very Good Butchers–as well as these fabulous socks: perfect for a chilly Denman afternoon!

And the song of the day is Alexi Murdoch’s “Wait” because it’s a gorgeous (though haunting) song:

 

Dilly Flax-Chia Dressing

I’ve been listening to the speakers from the 2018 Food Revolution Summit and two of the speakers–Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. Joel Fuhrman–both mentioned the importance and value of flaxseed and chia seeds.

According to Dr. Greger, a 2011 study concluded that “flaxseed has tremendous potential in disease prevention particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (breast, colon, and prostate cancer), and constipation and also affects immunity favorably.” Further, flax seed consumption may play a role in preventing and treating breast cancer by blocking the inflammatory effects of interleukin-1:

Chia is also a whole food superstar, but it shines not quite as brilliantly as flax. According to Dr. Fuhrman, flaxseed contains 85.5 mg of lignan per ounce while chia contains 32 mg per ounce.

Now, I try to watch my seed and nut intake because I’m trying to lose weight, so I balk at adding ground seeds to a salad, especially if I’m already using a nut-based dressing (which I invariably am!).

After listening to Greger and Fuhrman, I decided to replace the nuts in my favourite nut-based dressing with a combo of chia and flaxseeds. The taste is good, but perhaps not QUITE as good as the cashew-based version.

The other advantage to this dressing is that the chia and flaxseeds both have a viscous quality: chia seeds have a hydrophilic outer shell which is able to absorb over ten times its weight in liquid; flaxseeds contain high levels of mucilage gum content, a gel-forming, water-soluble fibre.

Dilly Flax-Chia Salad Dressing

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

Throw it all in the Vitamix and blend like hell!

It has a bit more of a grassy taste than its nutty counterpart, but that may be a result of my free-handing the dill. The dressing is very rich and creamy, however, so I may continue to experiment with the seasonings.

And, best of all, having the chia and flaxseeds IN the dressing means I don’t have to add them to the top of my salads.

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Oh, and if you’re interested in The 2018 Food Revolution Summit, it’s pretty neat: nine days of speakers on all things plant-based organized by John Robbins and his son, Ocean:

 

Chewy Vegan Parmesan

I’ve been making my way through various vegan parmesan recipes, and I usually like the products…for a little while. However, I invariably stop liking them when I’m halfway through a jar.

What I don’t like about the vegan parmesans I’ve tried is that they’re too crunchy….and it’s always a sharp crunch, not a crisp crunch or a soft crunch.

Ever since I made my chewy vegan bac’n, I’ve been toying with the idea of using TVP to make a chewier vegan parmesan, and today’s the day I tried it out.

The result is pretty damn perfect: chewy, crunchy, salty, garlic-y! This will taste delicious atop some brown-rice spaghetti alla puttanesca!

Here’s the recipe:

Chewy Vegan Parmesan

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

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 TBS Knorr vegetable broth powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Remove from heat and stir in…

  • 1 cup TVP

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Stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Add:

  • 1/2 cup crushed cashews

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Stir well. Leave for twenty minutes or so to ensure all the liquid is absorbed.

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And here it is atop Jamie’s famous penne alla puttanesca!

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And, well, okay, why not toss on a few of those chewy vegan bac’n bits too for a next level of deliciousness!

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And when I was in town, my awesome niece, Annie, gave me these!!! I’ve heard so much about this spice blend–I can hardly wait to try it!!!

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And the song of the day is John Mayer’s “In the Blood.” I’m not normally much of a John Mayer fan, but I was staying with my brother, Johnny, for a week while I was in town and he kept singing this song, so I became a bit attached to it!

 

Lemony Panko-Crusted Tofu

My dad had a medical procedure last Thursday, so I’ve been in Vancouver for the past week. And, while I brought several big jars of soup, a jar of hummus, and tons of fruits and vegetables, I did end up eating quite a few meals out…most of which included some dairy, extracted oil, and white flour. However, I’m back in the WFPB saddle again now that I’ve returned to Sideways Cottage. Since we’re whole-food, plant-based for about 95% of our meals, I try not to sweat it too much when I’m traveling…or just out for dinner!

Last evening, James made some rather amazing air-fried tofu with a delicious lemon sauce to drizzle over it. And, since I recently bought a HUGE new air-fryer (yeah, yeah, I KNOW I have a problem with that small appliance addiction!!), we didn’t have to do them in batches. Plus, the air-frying is always even!

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And the Breville Smart Air Oven can be used in baking mode as well, so we’ve been baking bread in it with great success. In fact, we haven’t turned on the big oven since with got the Breville. Plus, you can use it to dehydrate as well, so I’ve given my little air fryer and my dehydrator to Annie.

In any event, I was rather exhausted when I arrived home, so my darling Jamie-boy made panko-crusted tofu drizzled with a lemon sauce he adapted from this recipe, and I made a salad with cashew-dill dressing topped with vegan bac’n bits–yum!

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Lemony Panko-Crusted Tofu

For the tofu:

  • 1 block of Sunrise extra firm tofu, cut into chunks or planks
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (or other egg replacement)
  • 1 cup whole-wheat panko crumbs (add in some salt, pepper, nooch, unsweetened coconut to your taste)

Drag the tofu chunks through the aquafaba dredge and into the panko-crumb mixture. Place each breaded chunk onto the air-fryer pan. Air-fry chunks at 400 degrees for fourteen to eighteen minutes.

For the sauce:

  • cups vegetable broth
  • 1cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (I’m going to try this with medjool dates next time!)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1cup corn starch
  • 1cup cold water

In saucepan bring the broth to a boil and then add lemon juice, sugar, and zest. Return mixture to a boil. Blend together cornstarch and cold water in the Magic Bullet and stir into the lemon sauce. Cook until thickened, stirring frequently.

Drizzle the sauce over the tofu and top with sesame seeds. Serve with a big salad!

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And the song of the day is Alexi Murdoch’s “All My Days”:

 

Atomic Wedgie Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The All-Vegan Atomic Wedgie Salad!!

 

For 4 servings

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

Devour!

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

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls!

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

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

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

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Peanut Butter Balls

– makes about 28 one-ounce balls

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

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

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

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

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

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

 These balls are really good and actually pretty healthy!!

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

 

 

 

Perfect Instant Pot Cashew Yogurt!!

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

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

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

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

A couple of reasons:

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

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

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

DIY Cashew Milk

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

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

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Instant Pot Cashew Milk Yogurt

Heat up in a medium saucepan….

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

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

  • 3 cups DIY cashew milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mini Vegan Grilled Cheez & Bac’n Sammies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoky Vegan Cheez Sauce

Vegan Bac’n Crumbles

Vegan Cheez and Bac’n Mini Sammies

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

In a separate bowl, mix together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Master and a Hound”

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

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

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

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

On me

Turmeric-Ginger Shots and Beet Kvass

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

Turmeric-Ginger Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only difference? The turmeric-ginger shot!!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Chewy Vegan Bacon Bits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chewy Vegan Bacon Bits

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

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

Remove from heat and stir in…

  • 1 cup TVP

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

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Yum! Perfect chewy bacon bits!!

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

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

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

 

Dessert Oats!

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

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

Make it cold, baby!

Seriously.

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

So here’s all you do!

Overnight Oats

Place in a jar in layers….

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

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Leave for twelve hours. Add the following….

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Vegan Poutine of the Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this one bowl contains all of these good ingredients:

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

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

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

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

 

Hacking the Plant-Based Diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the list of meals from last week…

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

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

Here are a few of the meals pre-baking…

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And here are the finished products…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Least You Can Do….

I had an epiphany about exercise recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I’ve done some research to learn…

THE ABSOLUTE LEAST AMOUNT OF EXERCISE YOU NEED TO DO…

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

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

  1. Aerobic exercise x 40 minutes daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Strength training x 3 times per week.

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

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

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

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

And occasionally, one of these:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Cannellini Hummus

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

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

The other reason I haven’t posted is that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

With sore fingers.

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

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

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

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

Cannellini Hummus

Throw the following in a food processor:

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

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

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

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Variation on a Theme…A New Vegan Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adapted Bosh Protein Bowl

Mix together:

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

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

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

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Meanwhile, grill:

  • 1.5 cups quartered Brussels sprouts
  • 1.5 cups broccoli florets

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Slice:

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

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Prepare:

  • 1 cup hummus
  • 4 tbsp toasted cashew nuts

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Assemble:

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

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

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

 

Shreddable, Meltable Vegan Cheddar

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

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

So here we go!

Shreddable, Meltable Smoky Vegan Cheddar 

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY!!! Shreddable Pizza Mozzarella

SO IT HAPPENED!!

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

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

And it browns and melts like a dream!

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

About Kappa Carrageenan

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

Shreddable Vegan Pizza Mozzarella

Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Peanut Butter Spread!

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

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

….but full of crap….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Peanut-Butter Light

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

Blend in the Vitamix until everything is smooth.

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

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

 

Instant Pot Vegan Mulligatawny Soup

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

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

Instant Pot Vegan Mulligatawny Soup

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

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

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

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

Next, put the following in the Vitamix:

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

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

  • 1 cup red lentils

When the mixture comes to a boil, add:

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

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Close the Instant Pot and set it for 2 minutes.

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

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

Yum–this mulligatawny is wonderfully lush and delicious!

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

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

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

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

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

So here we go:

Vegan Poutine

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

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

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

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

 

A Very Vegan Christmas to You!!

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

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

Christmas Eve Menu

Spicy Beet, Leek, and Walnut Salad

Freshly Baked Baguettes

Beetroot and Acorn Squash Wellington with Kale Pesto

Thrice-Reduced Madeira Sauce

Spice-Stuffed Potato Cakes

Red Cabbage, Ginger, and Turmeric Root Sauerkraut

Vegan Sausage Apple Stuffing

Chocolate Guinness Cake Bailey’s Irish Cream

Lots of Ice Cold Champagne

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

All the recipes are in the links!

Spicy Beet, Leek, and Walnut Salad

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

Freshly Baked Baguettes

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

Beetroot and Acorn Squash Wellington with Kale Pesto

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

Thrice-Reduced Madeira Sauce

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

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

Spice-Stuffed Potato Cakes

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

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

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

Red Cabbage, Ginger, and Turmeric Root Sauerkraut

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

Vegan Sausage Apple Stuffing

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

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

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

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Irish Cream

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

Oh, and then there’s the champagne….

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

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

And here is our amazing, delicious Christmas Eve feast!

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

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

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

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

 

Vegan Fruit Jumbles

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

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

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

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So….here we go!

Vegan Fruit Jumbles

1/2 lb. chopped medjool dates

1/2 lb. raisins

1/2 lb. chopped walnuts

1 TBS ground flax seed mixed with 3 TBS water

3/4 cups sprouted whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup nut butter

1/4 cup date syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Vanilla Extract

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Mysteries of the Human Microbiome…and DIY Sauerkraut

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

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

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

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

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

I chopped up what amounted to two pounds of cabbage…

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And grated one-quarter pound of carrots….

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

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

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After ten minutes, it looked like this:

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

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Next, I mixed in the shredded carrot:

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And packed it all into a large mason jar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Sauerkraut on Day 10

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

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

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

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

Update: Sauerkraut on Day 12

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

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

 

 

Sweet Potato Toasties, Y’all!!!

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

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

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

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

Sweet Potato Toasties

Slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices:

  • 1 large sweet potato

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

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

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

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

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

So here it is for you too!

A Bare Larder and A Faux Tuna Salad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faux Tuna Salad

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

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

Faux Tuna Salad Dressing

Blend until smooth in the Vitamix:

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

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And then I made the salad with…

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

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Then I added….

  • 2 cups of cooked, mashed chickpeas

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

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

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

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This is SO freakin’ good!

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

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

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Are they a slipper…a boot?

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

Anyway, here’s the song!

 

 

 

 

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

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

I deviated from the recipe in only two ways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the best part is…James likes them!

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

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

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

Ginger Bends

Sift together in a bowl:

2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1.5 TBS ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground clove

In a stand mixing bowl, mix together until smooth:

3/4 cup applesauce

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup soy milk

1/4 molasses

1 tsp vanilla

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

West African Peanut Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

West African Peanut Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve over brown basmati rice and top with….

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Vegan Quesadilla

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

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

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

Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!

Vegan Quesadillas!

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

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

Next, fry some sliced onions….

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Vegan Halloumi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh mint? I have lots!

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

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

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

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

Yum!!

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

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