vegan Kama’aiana Coconut Curry

IMG_1909     This is adapted from an old recipe I got from a friend in Hilo, back in the 1980’s.  In Hawaii, locals love their chicken curry!  I’ve tweaked it over the years, and made it vegan, but it’s still a classic 1970’s American-style curry that brings the flavor.  It’s a really good, easy, and flexible recipe that doesn’t take too long to make.  Serve over rice and/or with naan bread or papadums,  with chutney and any of the toppings suggested below.  p.s. For other dinner ideas, there are about 60 recipes in the Main Dish category.


Serves 5-6

1 Cup vegetable stock  (I use Better Than Bouillon, either Vegetarian or No-Chicken)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon curry powder  (I use McCormick Curry Powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh peeled grated ginger (my favorite),  or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
15 oz. can Lite coconut milk
Any extra protein you want, including any one of the following:  Butler Soy Curls (3 oz.), crispy tofu cubes,  nuts such as peanuts, cashews or walnuts,  chick peas,  etc.

Saute onion and celery in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook 10-15 minutes.  To the pot, add the lite coconut milk and only 1/2 Cup of the stock, and stir.  Cover and cook 5 more minutes, but do not let it boil.  With a fork, whisk the flour into the remaining 1/2 Cup of stock until it’s smooth, and set this slurry aside.  When the 5 minutes are up, add the slurry to the pot, and stir until the curry thickens, just a few minutes.  Add your extra protein now and heat through.  Serve over hot rice, or with naan bread.  Serve it simply like this, or add toppings such as mango chutney (my favorite), toasted coconut, salty peanuts or cashews, etc.

Notes:  This can be made a day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  Jasmine rice is the traditional rice to serve with this, but I found it delicious even with Trader Joe’s sprouted red rice.  My favorite chutney is Patak’s Mango Chutney (the plain one or the hot one).  If you don’t have chutney, you can always just put out some raisins to sprinkle on top.  Other vegetables can be mixed in when cooking, such as green bell pepper (tiny dice), or even fresh corn at the last minute.  I do like the McCormick Curry Powder–it’s not gourmet, but it’s got the classic 1970’s flavor of this particular dish.

Zippys Chili Recipe Gone Vegan

IMG_1881    My parents called from Hawaii yesterday, and they had just been to Zippys for breakfast.  It reminded me that I used to like Zippys chili (it’s famous in Hawaii).  After looking at copycat recipes online, I made a vegan version, and it’s really good–a keeper.  Although I’ve made several vegan chilis before, this one is just a bit meatier and richer than the others, and it really does remind me of Zippys.  I could see serving this easy dish for the Superbowl, or any game day.  If you want a healthier vegan chili, try this Perfect Vegetable Chili with Quinoa.  I like to serve chili with these Fruited Cornbread Muffins, or Tostitos Original Restaurant Style chips, Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, etc.  More photos below.


11 oz. package Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles  (or other ground beef substitute)
15 oz. can Kidney beans, with liquid from can
15 oz. can tomato sauce
10 oz. can Ro-Tel Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies  (use 1/2 can, or more to taste)
2 teaspoons peanut oil (or grapeseed oil or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegenaise Reduced Fat vegan mayo  (the secret ingredient)
1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (No Beef, or Vegetarian,  or No Chicken flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sherry Cooking Wine, (or red wine, or vinegar)
2 teaspoons minced dried onions  (from the spices aisle)
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire, such as Wizard brand  (it’s delicious)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cinnamon  (a pinch equals 1/16th teaspoon)

Heat oil in small stock pot, and sauté onion and bell pepper.  Set beans aside for now, but add all other ingredients and simmer on medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Add beans and bean liquid just before serving and stir them gently into the chili.  Serve with Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, nacho chips, etc.

Notes:  I avoid canola oil for purposes of flavor.  I prefer Eden Organic beans because they use kombu to “salt” their beans, but any kidney beans will do.  If you want it spicier, add the full can of Ro-Tel, or the Ro-Tel can simply be put out to dollop on bowls for those who like it hotter.  The mayonnaise might seem an odd addition to this recipe but it’s rumored to be the secret ingredient in Zippys Chili, and it does seem to add an unctuous richness.  I reduced the mayo by 75% here and the chili still tastes really good.  I deleted the MSG from the original recipes, but if you want to add it back in, use about 1/2 teaspoon.  I grew up eating a lot of Ajinomoto, and I didn’t miss it here.

BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America

IMG_0400     Did you know there’s a web site where you can post photos of butterflies and moths you see?  No, it’s not Instagram,  it’s BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America.  With Instagram around, why would we do this?  Because it helps track our little friends, who are also very valuable pollinators.  Some think butterflies are not as effective at pollinating as bees are, but butterflies can travel longer distances, ensuring coverage of equal amounts of flowering plants in a larger area.  So, although they’re only looking for food (nectar), they actually help plants reproduce in an important way, on a larger geographic scale than bees sometimes.  Moths also pollinate and are vital.  I went over all this in episode three of the podcast by the way (the gardening episode).   Posting butterflies and moths on BAMONA is also a great activity for kids.  I caught the image above on a little Canon automatic camera in my backyard.  I realized this fritillary was larger than the tiny ones that I sometimes see, grabbed my camera and got lucky.  You can see my actual submission and another photo of this Great Spangled Fritillary here.

My latest submission to BAMONA is not a good photo–it was taken by my husband with his phone, outside a Chili’s Restaurant on a busy bypass road in Easton, Maryland.  We think he/she was drying her wings, and we didn’t want to get too close and scare her.  It was a huge Silkmoth, about the size of a coffee cup, although the photos don’t show the perspective of her size.  By the way, at Chili’s Restaurant, I got the citrus rice, black beans and sweet potato fries, in case you’re wondering, ha ha!  Anyway, outside this Chili’s, are growing several of the host plants for this gorgeous Silkmoth (the adults do not feed, but these host plants probably supported this Silkmoth when it was a caterpillar).

Caterpillar Host plants for the Cecropia silkmoth include various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix).  Luckily, outside this Chili’s Restaurant on this busy bypass, are growing some birch trees and small dogwood trees.  These are plants that were probably required by the shopping complex as part of the approved landscaping plan, and this really highlights the importance of local plantings at new developments.  We’re already destroying large swaths of habitat with these developments, so a few plantings among the sea of pavement and sidewalks are the very least we can do, and we should be doing so much more.   Anyway, a female Silkmoth laid 2 to 6 eggs on leaves of a host-plant tree or shrub, and these eggs hatched in 10-14 days, and the young caterpillars then fed on those very leaves in a perfect symphony of sustainability, especially since moths and butterflies then help to pollinate the flowers of the host plants.  Then the flowers produce berries that support bird life, and on and on.  And her work is not done, because the flight range for Silkmoths is Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida, and/or west across Southern Canada and the Eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.

Participating in posting and tracking butterflies and moths creates Awareness and Consciousness of caterpillars and who they become, and of the beauty around us and of how we’re all connected.  Every life is important, no matter how tiny their earthly shell!
IMG_1701   River Birch trees planted as part of the shopping complex landscaping, near the entrance to Chili’s Restaurant where we saw the above Silkmoth.   Birch are host plants for various moths and butterflies.

IMG_1703  One of two young dogwoods (host plants) outside the restaurant.

Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread

IMG_1668     Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread is one of those recipes that’s almost too good to be true.  Quick, easy, elegant and especially delicious.  The earliest origin of roasted grapes I could find online was around 2004.  Here, we’re using vegan cheese, because nobody has to die so we can have really good food.  Having a sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy appetizer is wonderful, but knowing it’s also good for your body and the planet and the animals is priceless!


Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

1 lb. seedless red grapes
2 ciabatta loaves, or a baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
spreadable vegan cheese, such as Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Or, Miyoko’s CreameryTreeline, etc.   Or even just Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated).  Any of them should work.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius).  Line baking dish with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, place grapes, olive oil, sea salt and thyme, and fold gently with a wooden spoon to coat the grapes.  Tip ingredients into prepared baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or so, until grapes are a bit shriveled but still juicy.  Set aside.  Also set out your vegan cheese so it can warm up a bit while you prepare the toasts.

Slice ciabatta loaves in half the long way so you wind up with two wide/flat paddles, or if using a baguette, slice into rounds.  If grilling, brush bread with olive oil on both sides.  If baking in oven, brush oil on just the cut sides.  Grill bread 1 to 2 minutes per side–do not walk away, as it can burn quickly.  If baking bread, have oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and bake for about 7 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  Smear bread with vegan cheese and garnish with thyme-roasted grapes.  Serve.

Notes:  If using a good nut cheese, this can easily be a main meal, especially if served with a salad.  I used the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread (made from almond milk) in the Chive flavor.

Anti-Aging Smoothie with Red Grapes and White Mulberries

IMG_1653     Right now, organic grapes are plentiful and so I bought a bunch on sale.  Froze half of them and this resveratrol-bomb smoothie was born.  It has the summery grape flavor I loved as a kid, when I would eat grape popsicles and grape slushies.  This is natural, bright grape flavor in a delicious treat that makes a healthy breakfast too.  Red grape skins contain resveratrol, and so do the white mulberries.  Maqui powder is made from berries that have the most antioxidants of any fruit ever tested to date.  The grapes are naturally sweet, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I threw in an optional Medjool date.


Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

1 Cup frozen red grapes
1/4 Cup dried white mulberries
1 teaspoon freeze-dried maqui powder
1 Medjool date, pit removed (optional)
1/2 Cup coconut water
2 two-inch pieces frozen banana
1 Cup ice

Blend everything but the ice.  Add ice and blend again until smooth.

Notes:  This is also good with granola sprinkled on top. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can put the coconut water, mulberries and date in the blender and let it sit for 5 minutes, to soften the ingredients.  Don’t let it sit longer than 5 minutes, or the mulberries will thicken too much.  As with chia seeds, smoothies that contain mulberries should be consumed within an hour for the best texture.  Grapes are part of the Dirty Dozen and can have up to 50 pesticides, so organic is best.  Wash and dry your grapes and freeze them on a dinner plate before putting them in container(s).

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.


Makes approximately 2 Cups

2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Guatemalan Guacamole

IMG_0398    My friend Florinda is originally from Guatemala, and she taught me how to make this smooth guacamole.  There was no written recipe, just a hands-on lesson in the kitchen.  She had brought us some guacamole one time and I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so good, so I asked her for the recipe.  Instead of writing it down, she showed up at my house with a bag of produce.  Note that there is NO lime or lemon in this recipe, because the natural acidity of the tomatillos helps keep the guacamole from turning brown.


Makes approx. 3 Cups

6 raw tomatillos
2 avocados,  at least medium size or a bit larger
1/2 of a small bunch of cilantro, including stems, rinsed
2 jalapenos raw and whole, but stems removed
1/3 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons water

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Peel the papery skins off the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos to remove any stickiness.   Boil the tomatillos and the jalapenos for three minutes.  Remove them from the pot and set them on a plate to cool.

Remove pits from avocados and reserve one or both pits for the guacamole bowl.  The pit will also help keep the guacamole from turning brown.  In a blender place all the avocado flesh and everything else, and blend just until smooth.  Delicioso!

Notes:  This recipe as written above is exactly how Florinda makes it for her family, including her small children.  However, for our palates, I did remove the seeds from the jalapenos (after boiling them) and I used only 3/4 teaspoon salt.  For another good guacamole recipe, try the chunky Chipotle Restaurant Guacamole also on this site in the Mexican Category.
IMG_0395  This photo is wrong, there is no lime.
IMG_0396  Put the avocado pit in your bowl.  Along with the acidic tomatillos, the pit will help keep the guacamole from turning brown.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

IMG_0384    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by  Marie Kondo is a simple little book, but it can change your life.  At 224 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and the language translated from the Japanese is easily understood.  The concepts seem deceptively simple but the impact can be great if one is open to it.    One thing that might seem unusual about Kondo’s methods is the way she acknowledges the spirit of things.  For example, she thanks her clothing when she hangs it up at end of day.  In clearing out clutter, one must hold each object to see if it “sparks joy.”  This might seem strange at first, but Kondo spent 5 years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine, and this may explain the animism in her teachings.  And by holding each object, we get it out from the back of the closet or down from the shelf, and we consider why we acquired it and if we still really want it.  There are some good articles about the KonMari method, like this one in the New York Times, or this one that actually has an excerpt from the book and a little video of Marie Kondo explaining some of her organizing principles.

In America, many of us have so much STUFF that we rent storage units and we don’t know where things are anymore, so we end up buying multiples of things we already own but cannot locate.  Kondo takes exception to all this storage.  It’s one thing to store a bin or two of seasonal clothing, or holiday decorations in the attic, but the level we have taken it to is indicative of issues that need to be resolved.  And after all the clearing out, we can stop paying for things we don’t really need, stop taking care of things we don’t want, and spend more time living.  In one example, a client of Kondo’s cleared out a lot of books and realized that most of the books she had kept were about a particular subject she was passionate about, and so she changed her career.  Another little bit of magic is that supposedly, all the things you really want will fit easily into your living space.  The things that spark joy will be close at hand, respected and available to use and enjoy.

A few weeks ago, after reading Kondo’s book, I didn’t think much about it, but something in my consciousness was unlocked, and I soon got the bug.  Kondo recommends starting with your clothes, so of course I began cleaning out a large filing credenza in my office, getting rid of about 25% of the papers therein.  Then I began going through old Martha Stewart magazines (I no longer subscribe).  I cleared out 40 of them, and went into the attic and brought down the rest and stacked them all in one place.  Then I got rid of 20 more.  This was a bit time consuming, and my husband was now beginning to wonder if everything else was going to fall by the wayside as I continued on my clearing-out spree, so I put that task aside for another time, but at least the magazines are whittled down and now all in one place.  Also, I realized I had a moral obligation to recycle those magazines (not donate them), because they’re full of recipes for dead non-human animals, and so that’s what I did.  One less bin in the attic.

I’ve already returned this book to the library, but from what I can remember, Kondo recommends beginning by clearing out objects you no longer want, because this is the best way to figure out what you need.  And this involves my favorite concept from the book–amassing all like objects in one place first.  My previous method of organizing was to tackle one drawer, or one corner of a closet, etc.  However, the benefit of putting all like objects in one place is so you can SEE how much of that thing you really have.  This in turn influences how willing you will be to let go of things.  One of my best friends recently called me a minimalist.  She will now see this is not true, for I will show you an example of my most-recent lost weekend of organizing.   I decided to tackle socks.  Not my sock drawer, but socks in general, because the truth is that I sort of knew I had socks in various dresser drawers.  I would buy a pack of socks, and decide the seam was too pronounced on the toe, or that I only liked 4 of the colors in a pack of 6 pair, etc.  So, I would put the extra socks in the bottom drawer or something.  This went on for 10 years or so.  I put a clean bed sheet on top of my comforter to create a flat (and conveniently elevated) surface that would show off all the socks for the photo below.  Well, I was shocked to find I had 90 pairs of socks!  After putting some never-worn socks in the donate bag, throwing away any socks that were a bit worn or pilly, and also tossing the singles, I was left with 45 pairs of socks, and this includes footie socks, hiking socks, cotton socks, knit dress socks, etc.  I will not buy socks again for a long time and will throw them away as they wear out, bringing this number down to a more-reasonable level.  Kondo recommends using regular old cardboard shoe boxes to organize, so despite my penchant for fancy storage boxes, that’s what I did.  I also used this video to fold my underwear.  On a roll now, I next tackled all tee shirts, including tanks that I wear as undershirts in winter, and short-sleeve and long-sleeve tees.  Again, I used the handy YouTube videos for folding–this one for short sleeve, and this one for long-sleeve.  Folding is an important part of the KonMari process, you see, and I am now a Konvert.  See last photo below for tee-shirt drawer results.  Since my tee shirts had been hanging in closets, folded into drawers, and mixed in with sweaters, this process led me to organize my sweaters all into one drawer, and switch out my cold-weather clothing for warm-weather clothing.  Even Lars got into the act, and I stopped to help him organize his three big dresser drawers.  In the process of all this, I threw out things like old sachets that had lost their mojo, and 4 decrepit sports bras.  Into the donate bag went two packs of unopened panty hose (shudder) from God-knows-when.  One thing leads to another, in an inspiring way.  Where will it end?  Who knows?  I will give it some thought later, but right now, please excuse me while I go Kondo the coat closet.
IMG_0392  AFTER, with underwear on the right

Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive, and Preserved Lemon – from the Vedge cookbook

IMG_0374     This Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive and Preserved Lemon is yet another simple-but-superb dish from the Vedge cookbook.  This dish looks gorgeous and tastes even better.  The slightly-bitter and slightly-crunchy broccolini, bright lemon, salty olives and toothsome, creamy toasted nuts are an amazing combination.  I always have a jar of Preserved Lemons on hand for dishes like this.  I cut the oil in half, and also cut down on the salt, and this dish was still extremely flavorful and luscious.  I just used Trader Joe’s Kalamata olives packed in olive oil, and I found organic Broccolini at Whole Foods in Annapolis.   Whole Foods was also calling it Baby Broccoli, which it is not.  The Broccolini seed was developed in Japan, around 1993, and it’s a vegetable similar to broccoli, and is also called different things in different countries–such as broccolette, broccoletti, bimi, and tenderstem broccoli, among other names.  This was my first time cooking broccolini, but now I can say I prefer it to regular broccoli.  In future, I will slice any thick stems down the middle (the long way), while leaving the florets/head intact, to help the thicker stems cook to the same level as the thinner stems and delicate florets.   This recipe is a bit time-consuming if you prepare it all at once–maybe about 45 minutes.  However, you can prepare any or all of the individual components a day ahead, and then it’s quick to throw together.  I used my Calphalon 12-inch round, nonstick grill pan on top of my electric stove and had great results, but this can also be prepared on the outdoor grill.  You can substitute broccoli rabe if you cannot find the broccolini.    p.s.  Leftovers of this dish are fabulous chopped up and tossed with hot pasta!

Ensalada de Aguacate – Avocado Salad

IMG_0348    I love to order Ensalada de Aguacate (otherwise known as Avocado Salad) at Mexican restaurants.  However, I always wish they were a bit richer in flavor, and less oily.  Keeping the simple, perfect ingredients, the main thing was to create a more-complex vinaigrette.  After a few attempts, here’s my latest obsession.

ENSALADA de AGUACATE   (Avocado Salad)

Makes enough for three or four side salads.

1 small head iceberg lettuce
2 Hass avocados, ripe but not mushy
1/4 red onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, pressed,  or smashed and chopped finely
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon smooth stone-ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon scant fine sea salt  (if regular salt, use a bit less)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(if tomatoes are in season and really good, they can be cut into chunks and added)

In a medium non-metal bowl, place garlic, oil, lime juice, sherry, mustard, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well blended.  Add diced onions to this vinaigrette, stir and set aside for the sugar and salt to further dissolve while you work.  The onion will do a quick “pickle” in the vinaigrette.

Wash, dry and chop enough lettuce into shreds.  Cover and protect shredded lettuce with a dish towel and set in fridge to prevent wilting.  When ready to serve, peel, pit and do a larger dice on the avocados, and immediately add them to the vinaigrette bowl (to prevent browning).  Using a wooden spoon, gently stir and fold the avocado cubes into the dressing/onion mixture.  As you stir, the dressing will become a bit creamier from the avocado.  Place a bed of shredded lettuce onto each plate and spoon the avocado and dressing over the center of each plate.  Let each person mix their own salad using their knife and fork.

Notes:  This classic and beautiful salad is popular in many Hispanic and Latin countries.  To stretch this salad a bit, add another avocado.