About Aloha

Author of the Peaceful Table vegan food blog. Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in Talbot County.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

  This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

DIRECTIONS
Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce

     This Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce is quick, easy and delicious.   Sweetened with pineapple juice and colored with ketchup, it’s a bit healthier than the store-bought stuff.  I made this to go with the Whole Foods 365 Chickenless Nuggets, but it’s also good on vegan egg rolls, battered and fried tofu, etc.  More photos below.

VEGAN SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 Cup sugar
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 Tablespoons ketchup  (for color)
1/4 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce

DIRECTIONS
Put cornstarch and sugar in small saucepan and dry whisk together.  Add rest of ingredients, and on medium heat, stir often and bring to a simmer.  Stirring constantly now, continue to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until it thickens and becomes glossy.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in fridge, where it will thicken a bit more.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes:  If you must, you can add 2 drops red food coloring to make it look like Chinese-restaurant sauce.  Whisking the dry ingredients first prevents the cornstarch from clumping.  You can buy the pineapple juice in packs of six-ounce cans.
  I buy the pineapple juice in a pack of 6 oz. cans.
  So good!

Three Bean Salad

   This classic American Three Bean Salad is lighter than many of the recipes out there, but it’s the best one I’ve had.  Filling and tangy, with plenty of protein, this salad travels well.  The fresh, raw crunch of the celery and shallot are a great contrast with the silky beans.  Three Bean Salads have supposedly been around since the 1800’s, and possibly became so popular because they needed little refrigeration, and hence were often brought to picnics and outings.  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain off most of the marinade.

THREE BEAN SALAD

Makes about 8 to 10 servings?

INGREDIENTS
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed,  reserve 3 Tablespoons of bean liquid
15 oz. can green beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can yellow wax beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-to-large stalk celery, diced fine
1 large shallot  chopped fine,  or 1/3 of a medium white onion
1/3 Cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch cayenne  (a pinch = 1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Take three Tablespoons of bean liquid from the can of kidney beans, and set aside.  In a large non-metal bowl and with a wooden spoon, gently mix the green beans, wax beans, celery and onion.  In a separate small bowl or glass, whisk together the bean liquid, vinegar, oil, sugar, and seasonings.  Add the rinsed-and-drained kidney beans and the vinegar dressing to the green-bean mixture.  Fold this salad gently with a wooden spoon to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  Stir gently with wooden spoon before serving (we are trying not to mash the kidney beans).  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain most of the marinade off and back into the serving bowl.

Notes:  This would also be good in a salad-in-a-jar situation.  For more salad ideas, check out the Salad category on this site.

Vegan Pots de Creme

img_3215     This recipe for Vegan Pots de Crème is excellent the way it is, but there are some simple variations you could do (see below).   This is really easy, delicious, and elegant enough for a dinner party or New Years, or Valentines Day.  I topped mine with easy, homemade coconut whipped cream, but So Delicious also makes non-dairy whipped cream in a tub.

VEGAN POTS DE CREME

Makes about 6 generous servings

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup full-fat coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. Mori-Nu Silken Firm tofu, drained  (organic if it’s available)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Cup vegan chocolate chips  (dark or semi-sweet)
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, heat the coconut milk until very hot, but do not simmer or boil.  In a blender, put silken tofu, sugar, salt and chocolate chips.  Measure out only 3/4 Cup of the hot coconut milk, add it to the blender along with the vanilla extract, and blend until smooth and silky.  Spoon the mousse into small ramekins, espresso cups, demitasse cups, etc.  It’s rich, so keep the servings small.  Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours, but you can make this a couple of days ahead even.  Serve chilled or, I like it halfway to room temperature.  When ready to serve, top with vegan whipped cream, such as coconut whipped cream, So Delicious, etc.  See other variations below.

EASY VARIATIONS
For Black Forest flavor, make with dark chocolate chips, and top with a few pie-filling cherries and a dollop of whipped cream.  For Mocha flavor, make with vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips and add a couple teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee to the saucepan of hot coconut milk.  Or before serving, drizzle on some vegan caramel sauce.  You could layer the bottom of the ramekin with a few caramelized banana slices, or go for an almond-joy flavor with sweetened coconut and toasted almonds, etc., etc.
IMG_2875  I prefer the organic if I can find it.

Easy Cold Brew Coffee in A Mason Jar

img_3207     With all the Cold Brew coffee on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops, I can never find any decaf cold brew.  I also wanted something without syrups in it.  So after combining tips from several youtube videos, here’s an easy way to get smooth, delicious cold brew at home without any fancy equipment.  This quick method makes a smooth concentrate that you can dilute with water, ice or any plant milk.  I like coconut creamer in mine, and about 1/2 teaspoon of agave syrup.  This will last about a month in the fridge.  More photos below.

EASY COLD BREW COFFEE IN A MASON JAR

Makes about a quart

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup freshly-ground coffee beans
water

DIRECTIONS
For cold brew, we want a medium grind.  I have the simplest little old $20 Krups coffee grinder that I also use for spices.  Place the beans in the Krups and pulse 12 times for a basic medium grind, waiting about one second between each pulse.  This might look a little bit coarser than you’re used to, but don’t worry about it.

Place grinds in jar and add filtered water, filling it almost to the top, stopping when the water is about 1 inch below the jar threads.  Place lid firmly on jar and tilt/invert jar gently a couple of times to mix the grinds with water.  Place jar in fridge for at least 16 hours, up to 24 hours.

Now strain the brew a couple of times.  The first time, strain through a sieve to get out the large particles.  When straining, tip the jar gently and slowly so as to leave most of the saturated grinds sludge on the bottom of the jar.  The second straining can be done through a paper coffee filter, changing the filter once or twice when the dripping slows way down, but be warned this is a bit time consuming.  Cheesecloth might be faster but you also might wind up with some tiny fibers in the coffee, not sure.  What I do is filter it through a nylon nut-milk bag and it’s done in 15 seconds.  There are many nut milk bags to choose from on amazon.com.

Notes:  I prefer freshly-ground organic coffee for smoothest flavor.
img_3196  This Medium grind was achieved by PULSING a simple Krups coffee grinder 12 times.
img_3198  After chilling in fridge for 16 hours, there’s a thick “sludge” at the bottom.”  You will carefully strain the cold brew, while trying not to disturb this sludge.  This is about how full the jar should be.
img_3201  First strain.
img_3203  Second strain.  If you don’t have a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth, dampen a paper coffee filter and use that.  It will be slow, and you will have to change the filter once or twice.  Do other things while it’s dripping.  Unbleached coffee filters are best.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

img_3146     This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices is perfect for Fall, and good enough for Thanksgiving too.  I love it.  Sauté shallots and a little garlic in olive oil and white wine, add an apple and a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness.  Warming spices and coconut milk round it out.  Dress it up any which way, with homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple slices, etc.

INGREDIENTS
2.5 to 3 lb. butternut squash  (cooked, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Cup chopped shallots  (about 6 shallots, depending on size)
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf,  one thyme sprig
1 Cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric  (for color–you won’t taste it)
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
4 Cups vegetable stock
1/2 Cup coconut creamer or coconut milk
one single star anise

Any toppings you desire, such as homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple bits, etc.

DIRECTIONS
In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter and then add shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.  Cook until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Add squash, chopped apple, maple syrup, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and the single anise star.  Cook on low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, thyme and star anise.  Let soup cool.

Puree soup in blender.  Re-heat and serve with any toppings you desire.

Notes:  I like Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” base for this soup, but any vegetable stock will do.  Substitute onion for the shallots if necessary.   An easy way to cook the squash is to poke some slits down one side with a sharp knife, and then place it in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  Place in cold oven, set oven to 375 and bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I add the anise star later in the cooking process so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but instead gives a delicate hint.

Vegan Haupia Cake

img_3068     I adapated this Vegan Haupia Cake from a recipe by Roy Yamaguchi, a famous chef from Hawaii.  Haupia (pronounced HOW-pee-ya) is something we would enjoy at luaus on Kauai, back in the day.  It’s traditionally a cool and refreshing coconut pudding, often cut into squares.  Here it’s a softer pudding that’s been infused into a sponge cake.  It’s a bit richer than the original this way, but so ono (delicious).  We’ve eliminated the animal cruelty and the cholesterol, but added a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  You could use a vegan white or yellow cake, but the original recipe uses a sponge cake, which provides great texture.   Here is the vegan sponge cake recipe I use.  I make both layers and leave one in the freezer for future use.

VEGAN HAUPIA CAKE

Makes one 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS
a single 9-inch layer of vegan sponge cake, frozen and set to partially thaw
4 Cups unsweetened full-fat coconut milk  (two 15 oz. cans is fine)
1.5 Cups water, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 teaspoons coconut extract
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS
Remove the single layer of cake from the freezer to let it thaw by half.  You will slice it into two layers, and it’s easier to slice if it’s about half frozen at that time.  In a small dry skillet, stir and toast the shredded sweetened coconut over medium heat–do not walk away, it only takes a couple of minutes.

To prepare the haupia, place the coconut milk, 1 Cup of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring a bit.  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 Cup water together to make a smooth slurry.  Add the slurry to the coconut mixture, and stir until the mixture returns to a low boil and thickens.  Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes, and then stir in coconut extract.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cake layer to level it flat.  Slice the cake in half horizontally to make two somewhat-even layers.  Place the bottom layer in a cake pan.  Pour the haupia over the bottom layer to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (this will save some for the top).  Place the top half of the cake layer over the haupia-soaked bottom layer, very gently pressing down.  Pour more of the haupia over the top of the cake, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 to 4 hours to set the haupia.  When ready to serve, garnish with the toasted shredded coconut.
img_3064  Bottom layer back in the cake pan and soaking in haupia.

Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake

img_3091     I made this recipe for Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake three times before it came out right.  On this side of the pond, the winning flour turned out to be Gold Medal Self Rising Flour.   I could see serving this for birthdays, afternoon tea, and other special occasions.  It’s humble but rich and so very English, with its layer of fruit jam and judicious dusting of powdered sugar on top.  Because this is a British recipe, I got out my trusty food scale.  Then I made sure my baking soda was fresh, and stuck with soy milk for these trials.  I also successively reduced the Golden Syrup, with good results.  In future, I’d like to try making it with almond milk and coconut milk.  And there will be a next time because this cake is good, really good.  Take that, Great British Baking Show.

VEGAN VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE RECIPE

Makes one 9-inch cake of two layers

INGREDIENTS
400g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
250g vegan sugar
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks  (for greasing the pans)

115ml safflower oil  (2/3 Cup)
400ml soy milk, plain organic unsweetened  (supposedly 14 oz.)
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons strawberry jam
5 oz. strawberries, halved or quartered, for decoration  (optional)

for the vegan buttercream
125g Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread  (not the baking sticks)
250g powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease well two 9-inch regular cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper traced and cut to fit.  Flour each pan and tap to shake out any excess.   In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda and sugar.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, plant milk, Golden Syrup and vanilla, lifting the whisk to see that all the syrup is dissolved.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and using an electric hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake about 35 minutes until risen and cooked through.  Use a cake tester (such as a skewer) and make sure it comes out clean.  Leave pans to cool on racks for 15 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the inside sides of the pans,  remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks (an hour or two).

While cakes are cooling, make the filling.  With the electric hand mixer, beat together the Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Store in fridge if not using right away.

Spread the jam evenly over the bottom layer, pushing the jam a bit over the edges (so it will be seen once the cake is assembled).  Spread the buttercream on the underside of the top layer.  Put the top layer onto the bottom layer, so that the jam and buttercream meet.  Holding a sieve up over the cake, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.  If the top layer is sliding at all, push 2 or 3 shortened skewers into the cake.

Notes:  You could lighten this up and just use one layer, sliced horizontally in two, and then reduce the frosting.  Many bakers use a food scale for measuring ingredients, as it’s more accurate.  It’s interesting to note that I’m baking at sea level and this recipe worked fine for me anyway.  I notice many of the Victoria Sponges online have only a dusting of powdered sugar on top (no frosting on top), so that’s what I’ve done here.  I like Dickinson’s Preserves, particularly the Pure Cascade Mountain Red Raspberry, and the Pure Pacific Mountain Strawberry.  I found the original recipe had barely enough jam and frosting, so have increased those a bit, and reduced the fat ratio in the buttercream.  For this recipe, you will need two 9″ cake pans, some parchment paper, and a sieve for the powdered-sugar dusting.  I use this method to get cakes out of pans, except I use a baking rack instead of a plate or cardboard, and I don’t use plastic wrap.  Let the cake sit on the rack for an hour at least, to cool completely, before wrapping for the freezer, or icing.  Do NOT try to use the baking sticks for the buttercream, because they are made only for baking.  The Buttery Spread has a nice butter flavor.
img_3097  Fresh strawberries can go in the middle, but it’s optional.  I just wanted the pure jammy preserves.
img_3081  My cake layers came out different sizes, so I just used the shorter layer on the bottom, no worries.

Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.

TOMATO TART WITH ALMOND FETA AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Makes 6 to 8 slices

INGREDIENTS
2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

DIRECTIONS
Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

IMG_3000     I adapted this Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole from a recipe on VegWeb.    Under the spaghetti sauce, there’s a layer of cream cheese with green onions and chives, and I added a layer of meatballs in the middle.  This is easy and pretty quick to throw together, and surprisingly delicious.  It makes plenty, so there will be leftovers, or you could serve it for a dinner party, with salad, garlic bread, and maybe a sorbet for dessert.

VEGAN SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS CASSEROLE

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
8 oz. thin spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/2 Cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 Cup vegan sour cream
1/3 Cup chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
12 oz. vegan meatballs  (about 16-20 is good)
24 oz. pasta sauce  (from a jar is fine)
1 Tablespoon vegan parmesan, such as Go Veggie brand

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a pot of water, break spaghetti in half and start cooking pasta per package directions.

With a fork, mix vegan cream cheese, sour cream, scallions and chives in a bowl.
When pasta is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1/3 Cup of pasta water and set it aside.  Remove from heat and strain pasta.  Into the empty, still-warm pot, put the butter, nutritional yeast and the 1/3 Cup reserved pasta water.  Add strained pasta back to the pot and with a wooden spoon, mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.

Add half the pasta to the casserole dish and level it somewhat.  Place the vegan meatballs on top of this bottom layer of pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta on top of the meatballs.   Add dollops of the cream-cheese mixture to the top and spread gently with the back of a spoon.  Pour the pasta sauce over all.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes–you should see the edges bubbling.  I bake the first 15 minutes with the lid on, but am not sure if this is necessary.

Notes:  I use an old Corning Ware 3-Liter casserole dish that is about 8″ square by 4″ tall.  This tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good one to make ahead.  I set out the sour cream and cream cheese for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  The variations are endless:  you could lean into a more whole-foods, gluten-free version with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Or instead of meatballs, mix chopped walnuts into the tomato sauce, to mimic ground beef and add protein and omegas.  During that summer glut of garden tomatoes, fold some in.  Or mix some chopped spinach into the cream-cheese and scallion mixture, etc.  Buon appetito!

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

IMG_2951     There are quite a few vegan key lime pie recipes out there, but none were ever quite perfect for me.  The no-bake ones tasted of cornstarch, or I couldn’t get the vegan pudding packets required, etc.  So after a couple of tries, here’s one that’s really delicious, with easy-to-get ingredients.  It’s got that balance of sweet-to-pucker, it’s easy, and it’s pretty.  As with many cream pies, you make it the day before, so it’s perfect for a dinner party

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

Makes one pie, approx. 8-10 slices

INGREDIENTS
3 medium-size regular limes, organic  (enough to yield 1/2 Cup fresh lime juice)
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I used Trader Joe’s)
12 oz. box Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Extra-Firm, pressed
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons zest from the limes, plus more for grating on top
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
9-inch vegan graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler has one that’s accidentally vegan)
vegan whipped topping, such as coconut whipped cream, or So Delicious Coco Whip

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Zest the limes and reserve 1/3 of the zest for garnish on top of the pie.  Juice two of the limes and see if it comes to 1/2 Cup of lime juice.  If not, juice the third lime.  In a food processor, mix cream cheese, tofu, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, lime juice and 2 teaspoons of the lime zest.  Mix well, add green food coloring and mix again.  Pour into crust, place on baking sheet and bake 35 minutes.  It might jiggle just a bit when you take it out of the oven–that’s okay.  Let cool on rack.  Refrigerate overnight.  Grate or sprinkle fresh lime zest over the pie, and serve with vegan whipped cream.  When you cut it, rinse or wipe your knife between slices.  It cuts even better after two days in the fridge.

Notes:  Depending on the depth of your crust, there might be about 1/3 Cup extra filling, that you can cook alongside the pie in a ramekin (for a pudding snack) if desired.  If you don’t have a food processor, a hand mixer would probably do just fine.  The color of the pie will deepen a bit upon cooking.  Do not add extra vanilla, because it will muddy the green color.  Bottled lime juice does not taste as good as fresh–I tried it.  Mori-Nu silken tofu in the box is what is called aseptic packaging, see photo below.
IMG_2875  Silken tofu in an aseptic box.

Easy Blueberry Sauce

IMG_2946     If you have a bumper crop or windfall of extra blueberries, you could freeze them for smoothies or pies, or you can make this fabulous easy blueberry sauce.  It can be used on pancakes, or vegan ice cream, stirred into vegan cream cheese for bagels, swirled into vegan cheesecake batter, etc.

EASY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Makes about one pint

INGREDIENTS
2-1/2 Cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/3 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon  (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Set aside 1/2 Cup of the blueberries, and the vanilla.  In a blender, add all other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  In a small saucepan, stirring often over medium heat, bring blueberry mixture to a boil.  Immediately turn heat down a click or two, and add reserved blueberries.  Cook at a low boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, let cool, and chill.  Use or freeze.

Notes:  If you let the raw blended mixture sit around without cooking it, it could clump, maybe from the pectin.  If that happens, you can re-blend or use a potato masher.
IMG_2943

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

IMG_2868     After seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars where they eat the Dragon Carrot Risotto, I knew I had to make it.  So last Fall, I ordered organic seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, and began planning a few dishes to make.   I found this recipe online and veganized it.  Swapping out the animal products still produced a classic, restaurant-style risotto, with a real flavor of parmesan.  Caramelizing the carrots is genius, and this is good enough for company, for a birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  In the end, I did use a mélange of carrot cultivars to make this dish, because that day, along with the Dragon carrots, I also pulled Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots from the ground.   This dish makes a lot and reheats well.

VEGAN CARAMELIZED CARROT RISOTTO

Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided  (not canola oil)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 Cups)
(I used a food processor for the carrots)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
1/3 Cup minced onion
1.5 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 Cup vegan parmesan, I like Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon roughly-chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add carrots and stir until well coated.  Ad 1/2 Cup water, salt and sugar, cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender.  Uncover and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown.  Reserve half of these cooked carrots.  In a blender, puree the other half with 3/4 Cup hot water.

Bring broth to a simmer and keep hot, covered, over low heat.

In same (unwashed) pot used for carrots, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, 1 minute.  Add wine and cook, stirring until wine evaporates.  Add carrot puree and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

Add 1/2 Cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Repeat process, adding 1/2 Cup broth at a time and stirring often until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).  At least 1 Cup of broth will remain.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the caramelized carrots.  Fold in the remaining carrots, cream cheese, parmesan, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and the thyme.  Add up to 1 Cup broth (1/4 Cup at a time) to loosen the risotto.  Season with pepper.

Garnish each bowl of risotto with the remaining parsley and reserved carrots.  Serve immediately.

Notes:  Better Than Bouillon also makes a very good Seasoned Vegetable Base that would work fine.  When reheating, add some leftover broth or water to loosen it up again.

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

One Pot Pasta

IMG_2843     One Pot Pasta is a thing–it’s all over the internet, so I tried it.  It’s good, but be aware that since you’re NOT draining the pasta, there is a slight starchy quality to the sauce.  It was quite good though, and it makes a quick meal with no colander to wash.  Also, there’s no walking to the sink with a heavy pot of boiling water (to drain the pasta).  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, except I prefer thinner pasta, so I used spaghetti instead of linguine.

EASY ONE POT PASTA

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces spaghetti
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, or chopped fresh tomatoes, if in season
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4.5 Cups water
vegan parmesan for sprinkling, such as Go Veggie Grated Parmesan Topping

DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet with straight sides, or a small stock pot (which is what I use for everything), combine uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, salt, pepper and water.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Keep at a low boil, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente, and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Divide among bowls and garnish with basil.

Serve with any toppings you like, such as vegan parmesan, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, cannellini beans, sautéed vegan sausage, blanched broccolini, etc.

Notes:  Can also be made with linguine.  Do not try this with capellini or angel hair, because finer pasta sort of breaks down into a starchy mess (speaking from experience).  I made this twice so I could be sure of the technique.  If there are no fresh tomatoes in season, I suppose one could try using well-drained canned tomatoes, and a few Tablespoons less water.
IMG_2849  I used red and yellow Amish tomatoes.
IMG_2848  Toppings.
IMG_2846  Still cooking.

Easy Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

IMG_2860     This is kind of the perfect peanut butter pie, adapted from a recipe called Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, on the Mori-Nu web site.  I simply made it no-bake, switched out the honey, and used a store-bought crust.   It only takes about 15 minutes to make, although it does have to chill in the fridge overnight.  The texture holds together well, but it’s silky and pudding-like.  It’s so decadent that you’ll have to reassure people it doesn’t have dairy or eggs in it.

VEGAN CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER PIE

8-10 servings

INGREDIENTS
graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler Ready Crust is accidentally vegan)
1 package Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, extra firm
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
2/3 Cup vegan cane sugar
1/2 Cup organic creamy no-stir peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup  or  agave syrup
chocolate syrup for drizzling  (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Place all ingredients in a food processor, puree until smooth, and pour into crust.  Chill in fridge overnight.  If desired, serve with dollops of Coconut Whipped Cream, and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Tips:  It’s possible that this would NOT work with one of those natural peanut butters where you have to stir in the oil–I don’t know.  I had good success with organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  I used O Organics brand.  Maranatha also makes a good organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  This would also be a great recipe for kids since it’s no-bake.
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Chana Masala or Chole Masala

IMG_2657     Popular in Northern India and Pakistan, chana or chole (cho-lay) masala is made in a variety of ways.  It can be cooked on the dry side, or with a sour tang, but here I’ve made it richer with lite coconut milk, and served it with a spoonful of mango chutney for a sweet/hot finish.  Serve over fragrant rice, with naan or pappadums, etc.  I love the hint of cinnamon and other floral notes in Garam Masala, which can be found in most grocery stores in the regular spice section.  I’ve added a few other spices to round out the chana-spice flavor profile.  Canned chickpeas make this a more-convenient weeknight supper, but it’s delicious enough for company.  Please check out the Indian Category on this site for other recipes, including Dal Makhani and a Hawaiian Coconut Curry.

CHANA MASALA  OR  CHOLE MASALA

Makes about six servings

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons coconut oil,  or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
one medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon finely-grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons garam masala spice blend
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon amchoor  (amchur, dried mango powder)  (optional)

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste  (optional)
1 large tomato seeded and diced
15 oz. can lite coconut milk  (or water)
2  (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

chutney, such as Patak’s Mango Chutney (found in many regular grocery stores)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium-to-large saucepan or small stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.  Stir in onion and ginger, and turn heat down a click.   Cook until onions are beginning to brown, stirring often.  Stir in spices and garlic, and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly.  Add tamarind (if using), tomato, coconut milk and garbanzos, and simmer for a few minutes.  Stir in salt.  With a potato masher, mash at least half the chickpeas, so the mixture begins to look finer and thicker.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes.   Pick out the cloves and discard them.  Add a teaspoon of chutney on each serving, and serve with naan bread, pappadums, Basmati rice, etc.  When reheating, I stir in a little water for better consistency.  Can be made a day ahead.

NOTES:  My favorite brand of tamarind paste is CTF “Pure Fresh Tamarind,” it comes in a 14 oz. plastic jar with blue label and blue lid.  Chole (cho-lay) means chickpea curry,  and Chana means chickpeas or white garbanzos (as opposed to black).  I like the Garam Masala spice blend from Penzeys, but any will do.  If tomatoes are out of season, I would not hesitate to use a can of chopped tomatoes drained well.
IMG_2670  Instead of using a thickener, just mash some of the chickpeas like some Indian cooks do.

IMG_2668  My favorite brand of tamarind paste.

Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread

IMG_2593     This Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread is buttery, with a light crunch from the oats and almonds, and sweetness from the raspberry jam.  This is more of a delicate shortbread–amazing with tea, or any time.  Other raspberry bars on this site include Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars (thicker and nuttier with a touch of caramel), and plain Raspberry Oat Bars (more of a rustic crumble bar).  Yes, it would seem I have a thing for raspberry bars. . .

VEGAN RASPBERRY OAT SHORTBREAD

Makes:  16 squares

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cold vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I like Dickinson’s Red Raspberry)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/16th teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter an 8-inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.  Mix the jam with the vanilla and almond extracts, stirring until it’s a somewhat smooth consistency, and then leave it out at room temperature.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Then add oats and pulse a few times.  Cube the vegan butter and add it, pulsing until the mixture starts to cling together in bits.  Then add almonds and pulse just until incorporated.  The idea is NOT to grind up the almonds–you just want them in pieces throughout the dough. We also do NOT want to overwork the dough, it’s going to be a bit crumbly.

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the dough.  Press the rest GENTLY but evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough, leaving at least a 1/4 inch-wide border (in other words, do not spread the jam all the way to the edges).  Sprinkle the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake until the edges are starting to turn golden, about 20-23 minutes.  Within 5-10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.  You can also make your cuts after about 10 minutes, cutting straight down (do not use a sawing motion).  The end of a thin flat spatula works well for this.  The shortbread will firm as it cools.  Store in fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes:  This recipe took me three tries to get right.  I started out adding fresh raspberries but the end result was then too gooey and wet.  I pressed the dough too firmly in the pan and it was hard to cut into squares, and a bit tough.  I also found that for best results, it kind of matters in which order you process the dough ingredients.
IMG_2588  Leave the edges of the dough bare, as the jam will spread on its own.

Vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce

cherry sauce     I created this easy and delicious vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce specifically for the Daiya New York Cheezecake I was serving at a small dinner party.  This sauce can easily be made without the alcohol too.  And because we’re using frozen cherries, it can be made in any season.  Also, if you want organic–it’s possible to find frozen organic cherries, while it can be difficult to find fresh organic cherries.  This would also be good on a vegan Black Forest Cake.

BRANDIED CHERRY SAUCE

Makes enough for the top of a cheesecake or black forest cake.

INGREDIENTS
10 oz. bag frozen cherries
1/3 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon scant fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser  (or water)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In small saucepan, dry whisk sugar, cornstarch and sea salt.  Add Kirschwasser or water, and stir.  Add cherries and cook over medium heat, stirring often until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Add extracts and stir to combine.

Note:  It takes 15 or 20 minutes for this to thicken up, so I make this while I’m working near the stove, so I can stir it often.  I used Dekuyper brand Kirschwasser.  If you can find Oregon brand Dark Sweet Cherries in the 15 oz. can, they are a good substitute for frozen cherries, but remember to drain them first, and discard the can liquid.

Vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake

german chocolate cake     This vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake is directly from that fabulous recipe site, VegWeb.  It’s so good, and it’s easy!  Please note that this is really only enough for one layer of cake, and I have not tried doubling the recipe.  It would also be great on a pan of brownies.  The classic recipe for this frosting calls for four egg yolks and 12 ounces of evaporated milk.   No need.

COCONUT PECAN FROSTING FOR GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Makes enough for one 9-inch layer of cake, or a pan of brownies

INGREDIENTS
1.5 Cups sweetened flake coconut
1 Cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3/4 Cup vegan sugar
1/2 Cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
In a medium-to-large saucepan put all ingredients except vanilla.  Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 12 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and immediately stir in vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes, and then pour on cake and spread while frosting is still warm and pliable.  Let set up for a few minutes before serving.  Supposedly, it sets up faster if you cover it and place it in the fridge, but I found this unnecessary.

Notes:  In my opinion, this is really only enough to frost one layer of cake.  I have not tried doubling the recipe.  Measure out one Cup of pecan halves and then roughly chop them.  I used WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Plain Soymilk.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Vegan Horseradish Aioli

IMG_2220     With a couple little tweaks, I veganized this quick and easy recipe from another site.  Now it’s just as delicious, but also cholesterol-free and cruelty-free.  You can have these in the oven in 5 minutes!

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH VEGAN HORSERADISH AIOLI

Serves 2 to 4 as appetizers.

VEGAN HORSERADISH AIOLI
1 Tablespoon ground horseradish
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS
9 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients for Horseradish Aioli and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Toss frozen artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once or twice during baking, until crispy on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve with the aioli.

Notes:  Kelchner’s Horse-Radish (the plain one is vegan), can sometimes be found in the seafood department of the grocery store, in a 6.5 oz. jar.  I prefer Wizard brand Worcestershire sauce.
IMG_2218  These were the only frozen artichoke hearts I could find, but the original recipe calls for a 12-ounce bag.

Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

IMG_2079     Cheers and Happy New Year  to you!  This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.  On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon.  My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge.  I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%.  I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor.  My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together.  This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor.  One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous.  Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts.  I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day.  Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation.  Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails.  I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good.  The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation.  If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base  which makes plenty!

BEET AND LEMON SHRUB

Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

INGREDIENTS
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained  (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice  (from about 5 large lemons,  or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired

DIRECTIONS
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside.  Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans.  Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice).  In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved.  Refrigerate 48 hours before using.  Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur.  Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.

Notes:   I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice.  I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it.  Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage.  If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate.  You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off.  Filtered water is best.  Other beet posts on this site include Growing BeetsCinnamon Stick Quick Pickled BeetsRoasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.

IMG_2108
IMG_2111

IMG_2177  One of my essential old kitchen tools that really came in handy for this recipe.  Lemon squeezer by IMUSA.  Tip: cut the ends off the lemons to get the best squeeze.

Lemonana

IMG_2104     We had frozen “Limonana” (Lemonana) at Dizengoff in Philadelphia recently and I was struck by the herbal flavor of it, and by how well it went with their very excellent hummus.  Lemonana is basically lemonade with a generous dose of mint, and it’s been called the national drink of Israel.  This aint your Grandma’s lemonade–it’s assertively tart with a divine herbal edge.  It can be made in a good variety of ways, but I know they make a mint syrup at Dizengoff, and they choose to serve it frozen.  I looked at a bunch of Lemonana online and developed this easy recipe, which tastes a lot like the one at Dizengoff.  I’m convinced, however, that Dizengoff uses a secret ingredient–some savory herb or something.  I’ll be trying that in future, but in the meantime, this is so good and refreshing that I’m satisfied.

LEMONANA

Serves:  2 to 3

Mint Syrup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1.5 oz. fresh mint
Combine water and sugar in a very small saucepan and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and wait 10 minutes for the syrup to cool slightly.  Stir in fresh mint, cover and let steep for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and discard mint leaves or strain syrup through a mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in refrigerator for up to one month.

Lemonana
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup water
2/3 Cup mint syrup
2 drops orange blossom water  (optional)
20-30 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS
To a blender, add lemon juice, water, mint syrup and orange blossom water, and stir.  Add ice and blend until frozen, adding a little more ice if necessary.  Taste.

Notes:  My ice cubes are those smaller crescent-shaped ice “cubes” that come out of an ice dispenser in my freezer.  You may need more ice than this, unless you’re using the old-fashioned, big rectangular ice cubes.  Any leftover mint syrup can also be used in iced tea, of course.  To save time, make mint syrup ahead and have it well chilled.  Two photos of Dizengoff below.  Dizengoff has a cult following for their hummus and their pita bread.
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IMG_2046

Vegan Tofu Ricotta

IMG_2081     If you have a block of tofu and a jar of capers in the house, you’re all set for this easy, delicious vegan ricotta spread.  We recently had dinner at Charlie was a sinner. restaurant in Philadelphia and loved it.  Our favorite dish was a chargrilled Caesar salad, but we also really liked their house-made “ricotta with agave, black peppercorn and olive oil”  served with grilled bread.  The waitperson said it was made of “whipped tofu.”  My version below is adapted from Tofu Ricotta Crostini by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg.  It’s good, easy and  versatile, and would be great for an appetizer.  Alongside a salad, it would also be good for lunch or dinner.  If you’re looking for other starter ideas, check out the appetizer category on this site.

TOFU RICOTTA

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. block of firm organic tofu, drained well  (not pressed)
2 Tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or some fancy pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 to 2  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
baguette to grill, or crackers

DIRECTIONS
In a medium mixing bowl, break up tofu with a fork until it’s the consistency of ricotta cheese.  Scrape 3/4 of this mixture into a food processor, along with the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Pulse until smooth and then scrape the processed tofu back into the crumbled tofu in the mixing bowl, add capers and stir to blend.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then sauté garlic for a minute or two, just until golden.  Add tofu mixture to pan, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir to mix.  Top with a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkle of your best salt (I used homemade basil salt).

Notes:  Some changes I made were to use the entire block of tofu, and to whip part of it for the creamier consistency of the restaurant dish I had.  I also reduced the initial oil and salt and then added a little more at the end to finish.  This recipe can be flavored any which way.  You could add a teaspoon of agave syrup when processing, and then top with thin slices of grilled fig or dried date,  or candied pecans, or toasted pistachio nuts.  Or use preserved lemon when you process, for a deeper lemon flavor.   On canapés, you could top it with slices of pear, or fruit compote, with shards of coconut bacon, etc.  It could even be used to enhance avocado toast.
IMG_2048  One photo from Charlie was a sinner.

vegan Hawaiian Coconut Curry

IMG_1909     This vegan coconut curry 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.

VEGAN KAMA’AINA COCONUT CURRY

Serves 5-6

INGREDIENTS
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.), Beyond Chicken, crispy tofu cubes,  nuts such as peanuts, cashews or walnuts, chick peas,  etc.

DIRECTIONS
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.

ZIPPYS VEGAN CHILI

INGREDIENTS
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)

Toppings of choice, such as vegan sour cream, avocado chunks and nacho chips.

DIRECTIONS
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 vegan sour cream, 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.
IMG_1885
IMG_1887IMG_1888

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!

THYME ROASTED GRAPES AND CHEESE ON GRILLED BREAD

Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

INGREDIENTS
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.

DIRECTIONS
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.

ANTI-AGING SMOOTHIE WITH RED GRAPES AND WHITE MULBERRIES

Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

INGREDIENTS
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

DIRECTIONS
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.

VEGAN HOLLANDAISE SAUCE USING THE VEGG

Makes approximately 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
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)

DIRECTIONS
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    A friend who is originally from Guatemala 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.

GUATEMALAN GUACAMOLE

Makes approx. 3 Cups

INGREDIENTS
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 water

DIRECTIONS
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 she makes it for her family, including her small children.  However, for our palates, I did remove the seeds from the jalapenos (after boiling them).  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_0390  BEFORE
IMG_0392  AFTER, with underwear on the right
IMG_0393  ALL TEE SHIRTS, INCLUDING TANKS on left, SHORT SLEEVES AND LONG SLEEVES.

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.

INGREDIENTS
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)

DIRECTIONS
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.

 

Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

IMG_0281    If you can’t tell by my Instagram, I’m currently a bit obsessed with Superfood Smoothies  by  Julie Morris.  To date, I’ve made eleven of the smoothies from this book and am crazy about some of them.  My favorite so far is the Pistachio Cherry,  with the Lucuma Macadamia coming in at a close second.  Sometimes we want a lighter, fruity smoothie for breakfast, and then a creamy rich smoothie for an afternoon snack.  Some of these smoothies are on the level of luscious desserts but are actually good for you, body and soul.  Superfood Smoothies has opened my eyes to a whole new world of true superfood ingredients, such as Maca, Maqui, White Mulberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Protein Powder, etc.  I started out buying one superfood per week, and found them to be cost effective in that most of them had long expiration dates–some up to two years.  And a little goes a long way on most of them.  For example, even 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder is effective.  Each superfood is profiled in the front, with tips on what form to buy it in, how to store it and the exact benefits.  Each recipe has a row of simple graphic symbols above it, to indicate its bonus benefits (such as a little red heart for cardiovascular health).  There’s a Smoothies by Benefit Index in the back so you can tailor the smoothies to your needs, like Bone Strength, Low Calorie, Protein, etc., and all the smoothies have multiple benefits.   Julie Morris is a firm believer that smoothies must taste good, even when incorporating vegetables like beets or broccoli.   Although I juice a couple of times a week, this gorgeous book has me excited to try new smoothies.  To see more from Julie Morris, check out her other superfood cookbooks on amazon, or check out her Youtube channel.
IMG_0285  Grapefruit Pomegranate
IMG_0329  Cacao Mocha with Soyatoo Rice Whip on top
IMG_0275Orange Goji

Quick and Easy Homemade Gochujang Paste

 

IMG_0270    I found this quick and easy recipe for Gochujang paste here, and simply reduced the amounts, and converted them into Tablespoon and Cup measurements too.  I don’t use a lot of Gochuchang, and this will supposedly last for 6 months in the refrigerator, as long as all your ingredients have that long of a shelf life.  Most authentic recipes call for letting the Kochujang ferment at room temperature for 30 days, or covering and uncovering the paste outdoors on a daily basis, which involves a lot of salt to prevent spoilage, etc.  I looked at buying some Gochujang paste, but was put off by added ingredients like corn syrup, calcium phosphate, etc.  Some store-bought pastes also contain wheat starch in the form of  isomaltooligosaccharide, which may not be good for those who are gluten free (not sure).  By making it at home, we can also use organic miso, and organic sugar.  Use Gochujang in stir-fries, sauces, dressings and marinades–anywhere you want a little spice!  On to the brilliant little 5-minute recipe.

QUICK AND EASY GOCHUJANG PASTE

INGREDIENTS
4 oz. mild white miso  (1/2 Cup)
1.75 oz. sugar  (3 Tablespoons)
2 oz. Tamari  (2 Tablespoons)
.88 oz. Korean red pepper powder  (1/4 Cup)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Dry whisk the sugar into the pepper powder.  Add miso and stir until moist and blended.  Add Tamari and stir again.  In smallest saucepan, heat mixture over medium-low to melt the sugar a bit.  Add water by the Tablespoon, and stir with a wooden spoon to blend.  Cool and put in clean glass container with lid.  Supposedly will keep in fridge for up to 6 months.  This makes enough Gochujang paste for one or two recipes, but you can double or triple the first 4 ingredients and then add a little water as needed.
IMG_0262IMG_0263
A nice big bag of Korean red pepper powder was $4.99.

Coconut Bacon

IMG_0231    This fast, easy and delicious Coconut Bacon recipe takes five minutes to prep for baking.    I adapted this from the wildy-popular recipe by Fettle Vegan.  Of course, you can always buy coconut bacon from Phoney Baloney, but it’s so easy to make your own.  Wherever you get your coconut bacon, it’s great strewn over salads, and chowder, in BLTs, or eaten out of hand.  I plan to try this in an Elvis Sandwich someday.

COCONUT BACON

Makes 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups large flake coconut, unsweetened
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon real maple syrup
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Set coconut aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients, whisking or stirring to blend.  Add coconut and fold gently with a wooden spoon or spatula to evenly coat the flakes.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread coconut flakes evenly onto it.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  BE VERY CAREFUL during the last five minutes, checking it several times to make sure it does not burn.  Coconut will crisp up as it cools.  Strew over salads, chowder, use in sandwiches or eat out of hand.  Cool completely and store in fridge for two weeks (I store mine for a month if the flaked coconut is not due to expire soon).

Notes:  Bigger coconut flakes may take longer to cook.   After cooling, if your coconut bacon is not crisp, put it back in the oven for 2 to 5 minutes, checking carefully to prevent burning.
IMG_0230

Blackbird Pizzeria – vegan Philly

IMG_0102    Blackbird Pizzeria is a GREAT vegan restaurant located at 507 South 6th Street in Philadelphia.   The food is so good that when I go back to Philly, it’ll be first on my list of places to eat.    After reading Yelp reviews, we ordered the Cubano sandwich, and also the Philly Cheesesteak for Lars.  And, especially for me, we ordered the Pizza Patate, which was DIVINE.  The Cubano came first and since we had a cooler in the car, we split one half of it, and it was surprisingly good–I didn’t want to stop eating it.  Mr. Seitan (Lars) enjoyed the Philly Cheesesteak while I waited for the Pizza Patate, which was my favorite thing we ate in Philly that whole weekend, including a superb dinner out at Vedge, not kidding.

Blackbird’s menu is not too large, but perfect, in my opinion, with five good-looking salads, sides like vegan hot wings and sautéed kale, and tons of toppings including avocado, tofu ricotta, seitan bacon, artichokes, garlic, caramelized onions, pineapple, etc., etc.  All items are not only vegan, but kosher too (not that I care if anything is kosher).  The neighborhood is nice and friendly, across from a children’s playground.  Blackbird’s pizza dough recipe is in the Happy Cow Cookbook, and I plan to try it because their crust was killer.  They even have homemade cookies, “warmed to order,” such as the Kitchen Sink cookie (chocolate chips, potato chips, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, oats) or the Early Bird cookie (oatmeal cookie, assorted breakfast cereal, melted marshmallows) (see photos below) (we got one of each to go).  In short, Blackbird Pizza makes me want to move to Philadelphia.
IMG_0100  A nice, friendly neighborhood.
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IMG_0105  the blackboard at Blackbird
IMG_0110  Cubano sandwich.
IMG_0112 Pizza Patate to die for.
IMG_0126  Early Bird cookie
IMG_0127  Kitchen Sink cookie.

IMG_0106   Yesssssss

IMG_0198_1  Hell yeah I bought a t-shirt.

Italian Market – vegan Philadelphia

IMG_0091    On our last morning in vegan-friendly Philadelphia, we decided to brave the December cold and walk Philly’s Italian Market.   I was told by someone who grew up in South Philly that the Italian Market is not what it used to be, but I’m so glad we went!  It was a quiet Sunday morning and we had gotten advice from a couple of locals as to where to park, and ended up walking a couple of  blocks back to the market.  My old Frommer’s guidebook calls it a “gritty outdoor market–part of Rocky’s famous run.”  Yes, it seemed like a lot the vendors were Asian or Hispanic, but there were also a few Italians and even a pallet fire in a barrel that we warmed our hands by at one point.  All the vendors were super friendly and we had a great walk up and down both sides of the little street, buying produce that was ridiculously cheap (see photos below).  My advice is to walk the market first, and then go back and buy the produce you want at the best price.  For example, the same pineapples or pomegranates varied in price by up to $2, depending on the vendor.  Also, the condition of some produce was pristine, while another seller had it at the same price but in a more wilted condition, etc.  One of the highlights for me was Fante’s kitchen-supply store.  We had ducked in there to get out of the cold for a minute, and left half an hour later with a shopping bag of goodies.  Open since 1906, picture a vintage hardware store packed to the ceiling with shelves of colorful, whimsical and practical cooking supplies–everything you can think of.  My haul included a Silpat (something I’d never used before), a rabbit-shaped cookie cutter, a perforated Chicago Metallic cutting wheel for homemade vegan marshmallows and mochi, and an $18 steel colander that I now don’t know how I lived without all these years.  Loaded up with fresh fruits, vegetables and greens, we left the old Italian Market ready to eat healthy for the next week.   I loved the diversity of all the vendors and shoppers, the convivial atmosphere, and knowing that for the price of a dead-animal burger, anyone on a budget can leave that market with real, whole food at an affordable price.  Food that doesn’t go to waste, and that provides the vendors and their families with a living too.  As a bonus, just the act of walking both sides of the street, and walking to and from the market was great exercise too!
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Sip-N-Glo Juicery – Philadelphia

IMG_0080    Here’s another post for the vegan Philadelphia categorySip-N-Glo Juicery is located at 932 South Street in Philadelphia.  After an amazing dinner at Vedge the night before, I was jones-ing for juice on Sunday morning.  Real juice, where they make it in front of you, because seeing is believing.  And Sip-N-Glo Juicery did not disappoint.  From the easy parking at the Whole Foods across the tiny street, to everything else, including the clean kitchen, quick service, and delicious juice, I was happy.  When I asked if I could have a Green Beast but with added carrot and light on the ginger, the reply was, “Of course!”  Check out their stellar menu here.  They offer juice cleanses, shots, and a Kids Menu.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy a t-shirt.  I’d be at this place every week if I were lucky enough to live in vegan-friendly Philadelphia!
IMG_0084  No seating, but easy parking directly across the tiny street, at Whole Foods.
IMG_0085  See your juice made to order in a clean kitchen.
IMG_0087  Lots of add-ins, big menu, t-shirts!

Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Cheeses

IMG_2814    We ate a lot of good food on Thanksgiving, but the highlight for me were these vegan cheeses by Miyoko’s Creamery.  These are gorgeous, cultured nut cheeses that taste like good European cheeses.   It’s possible that my favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive (above photo), which is like a rich Boursin with a lovely herbal flavor from organic chives.    I admit to eating too much of it on Thanksgiving.  Like, I could hardly wait for lunch the next day to break out the crackers, not kidding.  A few days later, that wheel was polished off, and we broke open the Fresh Loire Valley cheese which is wrapped in a fresh green fig leaf (see photo below).  Talk about presentation!  The Fresh Loire Valley cheese is a bit similar to the Classic Double Cream Chive except perhaps a bit milder, with a nice subtle tang–addictive in its own way, let me assure you.  I thought I tasted a hint of lemon in it, but it’s probably the organic wine that it’s made with.  The last one we tried was the Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, which, despite its name, tasted like a delicious very-mild smoked-cheddar cheese ball.  These are KILLER, the bees knees, the awesome sauce, the cat’s pajamas, and the bomb.  Thank you, Miyoko!  In case anyone doesn’t know, Miyoko has also written a cookbook called Artisan Vegan Cheese.  I’ve made a couple of the cultured cheeses in the book, with good results.   To make simpler vegan cheeses at home, please check out the Vegan Cheese category on this site.  To order Miyoko’s incredible cheeses, go to Miyoko’s Kitchen.  If we are eating dairy, we are killing veal calves, and subjecting female cows to lifetimes of extreme suffering, while simultaneously ruining our planet, giving ourselves cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, and starving children across the globe.  As we awaken, we can choose a different path.

IMG_2804  My favorite so far.
IMG_2807   Classic Double Cream Chive
IMG_0026  Fresh Loire Valley cheese in fig leaf.
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IMG_0019  Fresh Loire Valley cheese.

Vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

IMG_2784    These vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits are especially good.   If we follow a few simple guidelines, Southern biscuits are easy to make.  With the addition of mashed sweet potato whisked into the vegan buttermilk, these achieve a bit of nutrition, and a lovely golden color.  The sweet potato flavor is not pronounced, so don’t look for it.  These would make good vegan ham biscuits.  Other vegan biscuits on this site include Yogurt Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits by Nava Atlas, and plain Buttermilk Biscuits.

VEGAN SOUTHERN SWEET POTATO BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Makes about 6-12 biscuits depending on cutter size

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups self-rising flour  (I used Gold Medal)
1/4 Cup Spectrum All-Vegetable Organic Shortening
2/3 Cup cooked finely-mashed sweet potato, chilled
3/4 Cup full-fat plain soy milk  (I used WestSoy)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

BUTTER GLAZE
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, melted
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder  (no more)

DIRECTIONS
Put rolling pin and pastry cutter in freezer.  Cut shortening into chunks and chill in  freezer.  In a mug, stir vinegar into plant milk and chill in fridge (this is your buttermilk).  Measure flour into bowl and chill in fridge.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a very small dish, stir garlic powder into melted vegan butter.

With pastry cutter, cut shortening into flour until lumps are pea sized or smaller.  Whisk mashed sweet potato into buttermilk until well blended.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour and stir with a wooden spoon just until dough comes together.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and gently fold dough over onto itself 4 or 5 times, adding more flour by the Tablespoon if the dough is sticky.  Folding the dough creates the layers.  Gently roll dough out until it’s 1/2 inch tall, no less.  Cut out biscuits close together with a biscuit cutter, using a straight up-and-down motion–do not twist cutter.  Lay each biscuit immediately upon the baking sheet.  Brush all biscuits with the melted butter.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown (not brown).  Remove from oven and immediately brush biscuits with butter again.

Notes:  If freezing biscuits, freeze the cut-out biscuits unbaked.  Then bake from frozen as normal.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can use an empty 15-oz. can.  If you don’t want to use parchment paper, make sure to use a greased shiny silver baking sheet, because dark baking sheets can over-brown the biscuit bottoms.   Here’s a good  video.

100% Pure Vegan Cosmetics in Annapolis, MD

20141115_141926    I stumbled upon this  100% Pure  shop in the Annapolis Mall, in Maryland.  They sell vegan cosmetics and lines for skin care, hair and nails, and makeup brushes, and also baby and children’s products.  This shop has only been open a month or two, but I was told they have plans to open 20 more stores around the country.  I bought the Vanilla Bean Nourishing Body Cream for $17 and I do like it a lot.  They’ll give you a product sample if you ask, so that’s something to take advantage of.  They have lots of products and I’ll be trying more.  Be warned that various items do contain honey, but many of their other products are indeed vegan.  Please note there is also a very nice Lush store in this same mall, and that some vegan lines like Too Faced can be found at the Sephora store.  And all products can be had by mail order online.  You can listen to my podcasts on vegan makeup  and  vegan personal products on this site, or on ITunes, Stitcher, and other podcatchers.
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Jamaican Rice and Peas in A Rice Cooker

IMG_2742    In the Turks & Caicos last winter, we drove to a resort at the end of a long, unpaved, chalky road.  When we arrived, there were no other customers and no restaurant menu like we had seen online.  We were seated in an empty outdoor bar, and we asked them to bring us something vegan.  There was one local guy cooking in the kitchen and he was really just cooking a simple meal for the staff of Belongers, but we were welcome to have some.  The revelation of that meal was the Rice and Peas.  Wanting to try it in the rice cooker, I watched several youtube videos, and it turned out well.  In Jamaica, Pigeon Peas are called Gungo peas (pronounced goongo), but you can find them in the Latin section of many grocery stores, and it will say Gandules Verdes on the label (see below).  Pigeon Peas contain high levels of protein, and the important amino acids.  There’s much debate between countries and cooks as to whether one should use long-grain or medium-grain, or Jasmine rice.  One lady on youtube even uses parboiled rice, and some cooks use the entire can of beans, liquid and all (a practice I’ve adopted).  Some use creamed coconut and some use coconut milk.  Some mix in a bit of chopped Scotch Bonnet pepper, and some simply lay the uncut fiery pepper on top of the rice while it’s cooking, and many don’t use any spicy peppers at all.  The main elements are here below.  Peas also often refers to kidney beans, so if you cannot find the pigeon peas, you could substitute them, but I do love the flavor of the Gungo peas.  Please read the full recipe, including the notes at the bottom, before you begin.  When I say “cups” in the recipe, I’m referring to the measuring cup that came with your rice cooker (see notes).  Once you make this, you’ll see how easy it is.    p.s. See my little Thyme patch below, and think about planting some, as it’s a perennial in many climates.

JAMAICAN RICE AND PEAS IN A RICE COOKER

Serves about 6

INGREDIENTS
2 rice-cooker measuring cups of medium-grain white rice, or Jasmine rice, rinsed of starch  (I’ve also used un-rinsed white Jasmine rice)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions/green onions, sliced using the white and pale-green parts only
1 can pigeon peas, drained, but save the can liquid
3 sprigs fresh thyme  (strip leaves and discard stems)
15 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks

DIRECTIONS
Add rice to rice cooker.  Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and let it sizzle for a minute or two, taking care it doesn’t burn.  Add scallions, pigeon peas and thyme leaves, and sauté stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes.

To the rice in the cooker, add bean liquid, and enough lite coconut milk to bring your contents up to the appropriate mark on the rice cooker.  For example, I used 2 rice-cooker measuring cups of rice and added just enough liquid to bring the contents up to the #2 on the inside mark of the rice pot under the White Rice/Mixed Rice column (see photo)Now add skillet contents, salt, pepper and vegan butter, and stir contents.  Set rice cooker on the White Rice or Mixed Rice setting.  You may have a “Mixed Rice” option and that may be what you want (not sure, as every rice cooker is different).  In my old Zojirushi, I do use the Mixed Rice fill level mark.  When the rice is done cooking, open lid briefly just to stir contents with a rice paddle, and then close lid again.

Notes:  I’ve also used long-grain organic brown rice.  Every rice cooker comes with its own measuring cup, and they often do not equal a standard 8 oz. Cup measure.  For example, the cup in my 15-year-old Zojirushi NS-ZAC10 holds less than 8 ounces–it holds 3/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water, or only 14 Tablespoons of water (a standard Cup is 16 Tablespoons), and this is measuring level to the very top of the cup.  If I’m using brown rice in my old Zojirushi, even though I’m filling the liquid to the Mixed Rice level mark, I am then choosing “brown rice” on the electronic settings.  It’s important to add the skillet contents after adding your liquids, because the skillet contents will displace a lot of the liquid, and enough liquid is needed to properly cook rice, especially if you are using brown rice.
IMG_2727  I really like the flavor of these Goya pigeon peas.
IMG_2735   2 “cups” dry rice and enough liquid to reach “2” on the inside of the rice cooker pot, of my Zojirushi NS-ZAC10.  Note the “Mixed Rice” option under the white-rice heading.
IMG_2745  Fuzzy Logic.
IMG_2737  Here’s part of my thyme patch, peeking out from under Fall leaves and mums.  It often comes in handy, even late in the year here in Maryland.

vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding by Vedge

IMG_2721    This vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding is from the Vedge cookbook.  It does taste like the excellent dessert we were served at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.   I increased the baking powder in the cake by 1/2 teaspoon because there are three cups of flour in this recipe and a baking standard is to use 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder per cup of flour.  Aside from that, I followed the recipe exactly, and the cake rose very nicely, but was still somewhat dense.  Now that I’ve made this, I recommend reducing the butter in the Figgy Toffee Sauce by half.  It was oily enough that I chilled it in the fridge and with a spoon scraped off most of the butter that rose to the top, and it was still very good.  The cookbook calls for serving this with a homemade madeira-quince ice cream.  I was short on time, so served it instead with Coconut Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream, which was also delicious.  No fresh figs on my tree this time of year, but the sauce came out great without them.  Heavy on the sugar, a half serving is plenty.  This is delicious enough for special occasions and Holidays.  Figgy Pudding dates back to 16th century England, and was traditionally served at Christmas.  As Dickensian a dessert as it gets, it was even on Bob Cratchit’s table in A Christmas Carol.   This is the fourth recipe I’ve made from the Vedge cookbook so far (two others are blogged here), and they’ve all turned out splendidly.  Vedge is my favorite vegan cookbook right now.

Vegan Treats Bakery Halloween Box

IMG_2712    In yesterday’s mail, I received the Trick or Vegan Treats Box from Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   This is one of the best Halloween treats I’ve ever gotten and so thank you to Josie and Tim!  This bakery is so awesome that we once drove two hours out of our way to get there.  Vegan Treats Bakery does ship their goodies, and you can pre-order boxes of deliciousness like this, or even regular or gluten-free Easter Baskets–just go to their super-cool web site and look for merch.  Last night we split a pumpkin whoopee pie and I ate two white-chocolate-peanut-butter eyeballs (I swear I can see better).  On this Hallowed Eve, we will sup on Skeleton Gingerdead Men, or maybe the Swiss Chocolate Mummy Pop with bloody Red Velvet filling, or the Speculoos Brownie Bat with Belgian Cookie Butter filling, etc.  Bwa ha ha. . .
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Vegan DC – Woodlands Vegan Bistro

20141019_142046    This is post number three in a series about  eating vegan in Washington DC.  For lunch on Sunday, we easily found parking across the street from Woodlands Vegan Bistro, at 2928 Georgia Avenue NW.   This is now in contention with Vedge for my favorite vegan restaurant–Woodlands Vegan Bistro is great.  I love Vedge, but I also doubt they could make mac and cheese or fried chicken as good as Woodlands, and I really like the comfortable atmosphere at Woodlands too.  Check out the big 100% vegan menus.  The system is that when you come in, you walk straight to a back room and get in line, cafeteria-style (photos below).  You’ll move up to some deli cases where there is only one laminated menu on the counter.  So if the line is short, you need to think fast, or know what you want beforehand.  Luckily for us, there was a nice young woman in line ahead of us and she was very helpful–recommending the fried chicken, garlic kale, collards, and mac and cheese, which she always gets to go.  Once you order, you backtrack out of the back room and come to a cash register at the bar to order your beverages and pay.  There are no caffeinated drinks here, so we got Izee sodas and paid for our food.  You get a number for your table so they can bring your food to you, and then you sit where you want.  Note; had I seen the self-serve, porcelain jugs of ice water at the end of the bar, I would have skipped the soda.  We found a table against a wall near the door, so we could enjoy the musician who was singing Marvin Gaye at a keyboard.  It turns out we were there during Brunch, which is served from 10 to 3 every Sunday.  So, how did we like the food?   The breakfast sandwich was unremarkable, and we were stunned by the amount of garlic in the kale, so next time I would order the plain kale.  Forget that and let’s focus on the creamy and flavorful macaroni and cheese–it was so good that I’m sure the recipe must be a secret.  Also, the chicken burger was KILLER, with a thick, crunchy batter and served on what seemed like a soft, buttermilk-biscuit bun.  This place was buzzing with happy diners–small families, college students, and little groups of friends lounging on the sofas along one wall.  Prices are decent, portions are large, and I’ll definitely be back whenever I’m in DC so I can try other things on the menu.  My only regret is that we did not order a piece of the outrageous-looking Red Velvet Cake to go.
20141019_134239   The service line at the back of the restaurant.
20141019_135112  You can see the back room where you select and order your food.  The register is just before the back room door, and the jugs of water at this end of the bar are for customers to help themselves.
20141019_135120  A little Marvin Gaye with brunch!
20141019_140519  On the right is the best chicken sandwich on the planet.  Crunchy batter served on a buttermilk-biscuit-type bun.
20141019_140525  The best-tasting macaroni and cheese I’ve had.

Vegan DC – Smoke and Barrel restaurant

20141018_173354(0)    This is post number two about eating vegan in Washington DC.  On a hopping Saturday night, we went to Smoke and Barrel tavern and restaurant at 2471 18th Street NW, in the heart of Adams Morgan.  We got a small table along the brick wall as you come in.  The downside of this place is that they serve a LOT of dead animals.  The upside is that intermingled throughout their menu are some really good vegan options, recognizable by two little symbols after the menu item (a single symbol indicates vegetarian).  Vegan options include chili, sweet potato fries, French fries, smoked asparagus, cole slaw, a vegan chicken cutlet sandwich, a vegan fried fish sandwich, and an interesting salad, among other things.  We settled on a basket of Fried Pickles with Chipotle Aioli that turned out to be totally addictive.  The batter is almost paper-thin, as are the pickle slices, and the chipotle aioli is smoky but not too smoky.  One of the tastiest things I ate all weekend were the Smoked Vegan Wings.  You can get them different ways, and the friendly waiter recommended the Buffalo Blue style, which we liked a lot.  The texture of these wings is like white-meat chicken, very much like the vegan turkey we had last Thanksgiving.  There is a small wooden stick in each wing, so you do have to cut the meat off the stick, and then there are two additional BBQ sauces on the table for you, and they were killer good too.  I was disappointed in the Vegan Spare Ribs, which are possibly made out of Whole Foods General Tso’s Vegan Chicken.  I like the vegan General Tso’s in a stir-fry, but it’s not what I want in a barbecue joint, especially when I could have other menu items instead.  Smoke and Barrel has a few vegan dessert options, you can get any four sides for $10, they’re open 7 days a week AND they even do Brunch every Saturday and Sunday, also with quite a few vegan items.  All in all, I would definitely go back the next time I’m in DC.
20141018_173248   Smoke and Barrel tavern
20141018_174218  Fried Pickles with Chipotle Aioli, totally addictive
20141018_175613  Skip the vegan ribs and go for these vegan wings.

Vegan DC – Native Foods Cafe

20141018_121341    This is the first in a small series of posts about eating vegan in Washington DC.  Our first stop was Native Foods at 1150 Connecticut Avenue NW (at 18th and M).  When you arrive at this address, you must walk around the back of the building to find the restaurant, and it’s a nice spot.  With the help of a $15 million investment from two private equity firms, Native Foods is slated to open 15 to 30 new locations across the U.S. by the end of 2015.  Soon, there will also be two more Native Foods locations open in the DC area.  One at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Penn Quarter), scheduled to open November 4.  And one at Falls Church, VA (1216 West Broad Street), opening December 9, 2014.  We found the restaurant clean and bright.  At first glance, there didn’t appear to be much seating, but there were tables in another room on street level and then a lot of seating in the basement as well.  It helps to peruse the menu before you go up to order, because there’s a lot to pick from.  Once you pay, they give you a number for your table, and then you sit wherever you want and they bring the food to you.  Lars wanted the Chicken Run Ranch Burger and he also chose the Saigon Roll.  Both were good.  This is fast food that will not clog your arteries, and the portions are large.  There’s a children’s section on the menu, desserts, and beer and wine.  Next time I’ll try the Caribbean Jerk Kale Stacked Salad, or the Bangkok Curry Earth Bowl, or the Classic Deli Reuben or the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, or Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, and Lavender Lemonade.   I only wish we had a Native Foods Café here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
20141018_121543  Chicken Run Ranch Burger, and Saigon Roll
20141018_121255  One small section of the basement seating.
20141018_121321  More downstairs seating.

Cheesecake Factory Kale Salad with Vegan Low-Fat Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing

IMG_2654    I’m obsessed with this Kale Salad with Vegan Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing.  It’s a low-fat vegan copy of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant menu.  Finely shredded kale, sweet golden raisins, salty roasted Marcona almonds, and tart apple batons tossed in lemon juice, all drizzled with a cool Buttermilk dressing.  So damn good–even better than the original.  Thank you to Susan Voisin for her brilliant Hidden Cashew Ranch Dressing.  I found that adding one more Tablespoon of cashews to Susan’s dressing (bumping the cashews up to 1/3 Cup) made the dressing thicker and richer, without affecting fat and calories hardly at all.  Nutritional values below.

For each individual salad, use about 2 Tablespoons chopped Marcona almonds, 2 Tablespoons golden raisins, 50 grams small, unpeeled apple batons tossed in lemon juice, and 33 grams finely shredded kale.  Be sure to chiffonade your kale.  Any leftover acidulated apple batons will keep in the fridge for a day or two.  Notes:  I like using Penzey’s Buttermilk Ranch dry seasoning and in that case, you would use 1 Tablespoon of it and omit the other seasonings in the salad dressing.  Trader Joe’s has salted Marcona almonds that have been roasted with rosemary, but any will do.

VEGAN LOW-FAT BUTTERMILK BLACK PEPPER SALAD DRESSING

Makes twelve  2-Tablespoon servings

INGREDIENTS
1/3 Cup cashews, soaked at least four hours, or overnight
1.25 Cups organic unsweetened soy milk  (I like WestSoy)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (adjust to your taste)
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,  orfrozen parsley cubes, thawed and drained
1-2 teaspoons finely-snipped chives  (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Drain and rinse cashews.  Place all ingredients except parsley and chives into blender and process on high until smooth.  Add parsley and/or chives and pulse just until incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Nutritional Values per 2 Tablespoons of dressing:  Calories 33,  Fat 2g,  Saturated Fat 0.3g,  Trans Fat 0,  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g,  Monounsaturated Fat 1g,  Cholesterol 0,  Sodium 128,  Potassium 32,  Carbs 1,  Fiber 1,  Sugars 0.3,  Protein 2g,  Vitamin A  0.7%,  Calcium 1.3%,  Iron 2.4%.

Vegan Dal Makhani

IMG_2613    Dal Makhani is my favorite dal.   Translated from the Hindi, it supposedly means Buttery Lentils.  A Punjabi dish from the North of India, it was so heart-cloggingly rich and time-consuming that it was usually made only for special occasions.  With this relatively-quick, vegan Dal Makhani, we can have it whenever we want.  There are many online recipes for this traditional dish, all remarkably similar.  All I did was substitute in vegan butter, and coconut milk creamer.  I used products from Whole Foods, and substituted a jalapeno pepper for the traditional Indian chili peppers.  Nutritional values are below.  Despite being lower in fat, this still tastes rich.  This balance of heat is for our Western palates, but if you can find the real Indian chili peppers, feel free to set it on fire.

VEGAN DAL MAKHANI

Makes six generous one-cup servings  (about 6.5 Cups total)

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup whole black lentils  (urad dal)  (soaked overnight)
1/2 Cup kidney beans  (rajmah)  (I use canned kidney beans)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced and chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds  (not ground)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and pith removed,  do not chop
(protect your hands with gloves when handling the chili pepper)
1 cinnamon stick,  3-4 inches long
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
15 oz. can plain tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 Cup water
3/4 Cup So Delicious Creamer  (original plain flavor)
2 Tablespoons freshly-chopped coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS
Sort through lentils, rinse in a very-fine sieve, and soak in water overnight.  Drain and keep aside.  Put 3 Cups water in an uncovered saucepan and simmer lentils for about 25 minutes until soft and a bit overcooked.  Drain.

Mash garlic and ginger together into a paste.  In a small stock pot, heat butter and add cumin seeds.  When seeds crackle, add chili pepper, cinnamon stick, ginger/garlic paste and onions, and sauté over medium heat until onions turn brown.  Add cayenne, turmeric and tomato puree, and cook over medium heat until oil begins to separate from the tomato gravy (10 minutes or so).  Add the cooked legumes, garam masala, salt and the 3/4 Cup water, and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Add half the cream and stir to blend.  Just before serving, swirl the remaining cream onto the top of the dal, so streaks of cream are visible.  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, and serve hot, with naan or parathas, etc.  I served mine with Trader Joe’s vegan Uttapams this time.

Notes:    To save money, hit the bulk spices at your local health food store.  This freezes well.  If using dried kidney beans instead, soak and cook them with the lentils.  I like the Punjabi style garam masala from Penzey’s, but you can find Garam Masala in most grocery stores now.  Garam masala often has cloves and cardamom in it, and saves trying to fish cloves and pods out of the stew when it’s done.  Whole Foods has whole black lentils, the Organic 365 brand.  I will sometimes also add chopped garden tomatoes too.  I never increase the amount of cayenne, even if I don’t add the hot chili pepper.

Nutritional Values per 8-ounce serving:  Calories 199.  Fat 5.  Saturated Fat 1.  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5.  Monounsaturated Fat 1.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 226 (depending upon tomato sauce).  Carbs 28.  Fiber 7.  Sugar 7.  Protein 8.
IMG_2630IMG_2627

Vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings

VEGAN HONEYDEW MATCHA BUBBLE TEA

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
IMG_2584IMG_2582
IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Cinnamon Stick Beets or Quick Pickled Beets

IMG_2556      These Quick Pickled Beets are an easy and delicious way to preserve fresh beets for weeks in the fridge.  They bring a rare and beautiful color to salads, but my favorite way to eat them is in hummus wraps with pan-toasted almonds.  Many recipes for pickled beets call for cloves, but I found that flavor too medicinal.  After making these three times, I settled on a three-inch stick of cinnamon in each jar, for a complex hint of spice that tempers the earthiness of the beets.   For other preserving recipes, check out the Pickles category.

CINNAMON STICK BEETS  or  QUICK PICKLED BEETS

Makes about 3 pints.

INGREDIENTS
6 fresh beets of medium, uniform size  (better for slicing and fitting into jars)
1 Cup white vinegar
2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt  (not kosher salt)
small cinnamon sticks  (one 3-inch stick per jar)
whole peppercorns      (about 8 per jar)  (totally optional)
brown mustard seeds  (a pinch per jar)  (totally optional)

DIRECTIONS
Do not preheat oven.  Trim greens off beets, leaving about one inch of stems.  Wash beets very well, and wrap in tin foil.  Place foil packet in a pan and place in cold oven.  Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 90 minutes.  Let beets cool a bit, and then peel, and slice however you like.  Consider thick batons, or circular slices or half circles.  If you want to make a stacked salad, whole circles are best.

In a small stock pot, heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a simmer, and stir to dissolve any visible salt or sugar.  Remove pot from heat and let liquid brine cool a bit, maybe 10 to 15 minutes at most.  Into each clean jar place one small cinnamon stick, and, if using, any peppercorns or mustard seeds.  Pack sliced beets into each jar.  Pour brine slowly into packed jars and let cool on counter for about 30 minutes.  Store in fridge.  Use diced into salads, drained and sliced in sandwiches, etc.

Notes.  Make sure jars and everything are very clean.  I prefer plastic jar lids because they’re non-reactive to the vinegar, and I like them to be BPA-free, but any lid is fine!   I keep my beets about a month in the fridge.  A good tip is that Vegenaise lids will often fit on small-mouth canning jars.  Using medium-size beets of uniform shape will make it easier to get them into jars, and you’ll have more whole, round slices.

You can see my post Growing Beets.  Other recipes on this site that use beets include Roasted Beet Salad and Salad in A Jar.
IMG_2487  Scrubbed beets ready to roast.
IMG_2509   The jar on the right is a recycled Vegenaise jar.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie

IMG_2542    This Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie is incredibly refreshing in the heat of summer.   Sweetened with dates, only a few ingredients but packing a wallop of nutrition, and it tastes like good vanilla ice cream.    It’s almost like magic.  Thanks to Gail, my lovely neighbor who delivered three monster cantaloupes from her garden yesterday.

CANTALOUPE VANILLA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2 to 3

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen cantaloupe chunks
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 Cup organic soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Scrape seeds out of cantaloupe, and cut into chunks .  Freeze chunks on dinner plates or a cookie sheet, for several hours.  Freezing the cantaloupe chunks is important so you get individual chunks of cantaloupe, not big lumps of frozen-together cantaloupe that won’t fit into the bottom of your blender.   Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then discard pits and chop dates.  Put all ingredients into blender and blend just until smooth.  Enjoy one of the most refreshing shakes ever.  This makes 2 medium smoothies or three small shakes of about 3/4 Cup each.

Notes:  You can stretch this a bit by adding another half cup of cantaloupe.  You may need to add a little more liquid to finesse the blender.  If you want it less sweet, use only one date.  If using smaller dates, adjust accordingly (the Medjool dates are big).
IMG_2534  Frozen chunks of cantaloupe on cookie sheet.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

IMG_2479    This Greek and Italian style Pasta Salad is simple to make, but deceptively complex in flavors.  It’s very versatile–you can make the basic salad and add or subtract whatever you like, or whatever you have on hand.  Perfect for a barbecue or picnic and especially good in summer.  With the beans, it’s great as a main dish too.   I make this at least once every summer, and it’s developed over the years.

MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD

Serves about 6 as a main dish, or about 8 as a side.  (?)

INGREDIENTS
For the dressing:
1/4 Cup white Balsamic vinegar  (or red wine vinegar)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard from a jar  (Dijon style, or spicy brown, etc.)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Basic Salad
2 Cups pasta cooked  (measure before cooking)
15 oz. can Cannelini beans  (or other white beans)
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes chopped
1/4 Cup Kalamata olives chopped
2 Tablespoons capers, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/4 Cup diced red onion  (I use Pickled Red Onions)
2-inch piece of preserved lemon, minced into oblivion  (optional)
(or just use the zest of a lemon)

Other possible additions:
cooked broccoli florets
fresh raw corn off the cob
raw cucumber, seeded and diced
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh spinach

Optional Garnishes:
1 avocado, diced
1 large garden tomato, cut up and salted
toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS
Make dressing and pour into a large bowl.  Drain and rinse beans and set them aside.   As you chop ingredients, add them to the dressing so they start to marinate.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and add to the dressing bowl.  With a wooden spoon, mix all bowl ingredients.  Fold the beans in gently.  If not serving right away, store in refrigerator.  Let salad come to room temperature before serving.  Garnish before serving, with fresh tomatoes, or avocado, toasted pine nuts, etc.

Notes:   Use smaller pastas, such as penne or fusilli, etc.  If you want to add broccoli florets (fresh or frozen), blanch them for two minutes in simmering water, and then rinse under cold water in a colander.  If you want to add fresh garden tomatoes, add just before serving (do not chill the tomatoes).  If using avocado, add just before serving (so it doesn’t turn brown).  Trader Joe’s has good artichoke hearts in a jar.  I make about a pint of Preserved Lemon once a year and then it’s on hand.

Vegan Mexican Crema

IMG_2345    This quick vegan Mexican Crema takes 5 minutes to make, and it’s great on plantains and anything else that might call for crema.  You can dress it up with finely-chopped cilantro, or spices, but it’s also really good just like it is.

VEGAN MEXICAN CREMA

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup Tofutti Sour Cream  (the Non-Hydrogenated one in the dark blue container)
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise  (the one with the yellow cap)
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed.

Notes:  If you don’t have a fresh lime on hand, you can use bottled lime juice,  such as  Whole Foods 365 Organic Lime,  or  Lakewood Organic Pure Lime.  If you do have a fresh lime, you can add the zest from it as well.

Tints of Nature Hair Colour – bad reaction to hair color

IMG_2148    Postscript dated 05/01/15.  I have stopped using Tints of Nature with foils, and I no longer use it at all, not even the semi-permanent colors, for the following reasons.  Am going to cut-and-paste some comments from a professional here now:  All their comments are in bold before the next poscript.  Am switching to organic henna, people.  Henna often contains pesticides so it’s imperitive that you use ORGANIC henna.  Do your research.  Supposedly, Mehandi and/or Ancient Sunrise is/are good, not sure.

I do not recommend that company, as they use PPD in their regular color and I prefer that my clients not be dead. They also promote false truths like:

“PPD does not accumulate in the body.”  This is not only false, there is no way to remove it once it has entered your system. That’s why it’s called a “cumulative” allergen. It accumulates in your system.

“Use a pharmaceutical grade peroxide.”  This makes absolutely no difference. It’s a statement made to make people have a sense of security about the product. It shouldn’t be necessary. 

“Lowest possible amounts of PPD.”  If this were true, how am I able to run a salon with absolutely NO PPD? 

This is not a trustworthy company.  I have a spanish medical journal that tested several large companies for presence of PPD in color that claimed to be free of the diamine.   Several of the colors showed that it was PRESENT.  

The semi-permanent color you used has AZO dyes in it. You are currently lucky enough to not be reacting to this. This is what clothes are dyed with, as it was originally a textile dye. It’s the same Diamine in Goldwell’s Elumen, and Clairol’s Jazzing.

Foiling is not a safe way to apply PPD, as the molecules that you are allergic to are microscopic. Every time your hair gets wet, you will rinse diamines, or dye. With a semi-permanent color, even if it’s AZO, you are doing the same thing. Does that make sense? Permanent dye cures, and once faded, is done releasing dye. The same with a semi-permanent dye. You may be setting your self up for an AZO reaction. It could be the next time, or in 100 times, or it could be in 1,000 times. There is no way to predict.

Remember, this company loves to promote the 60% organic side. What about the 40% chemical, or “synthetic” side? I enclosed the full ingredients for you. You can google each of them if you like. There are more sensitizers in there than just the AZO dyes, like triethaolamine, Peg-100, And the preservatives are formaldehyde based. I thought you would love that one…

Postscript dated December 16, 2014.  Regarding the post below, I did end up having another allergic reaction to the Permanent Tints of Nature hair color–this time a rash spreading across my face.  Went to dermatologist and was told I was very possibly allergic to a chemical commonly known as PPD, p-Phenylenediamine.  PLEASE BE AWARE that PPDs are cumulative, meaning they build up in your system until your body says “enough” and you suffer an allergic reaction, which can be severe.  If you’ve had a mild allergic reaction, such as an itching scalp, please be aware that in time, you could have a severe reaction, and some people are even hospitalized.  And then you can also suffer reactions from the steroids and creams they will put you on to treat your initial allergic reaction to the hair color.  This is what happened to me.  The steroids lowered my immune system to the point where I caught colds and was on multiple antibiotics for sinus infections, etc.  Urinary Tract infections can result from steroid use also.   And the Metronidazole cream (also known as Flagyl, Metrogel, Metro_____ and several other names) caused me to break out severely–it was unbelievable.  And I developed Rosacea from the steroids, which is very common.  Unfortunately, neither my doctor nor my dermatologist warned me of any of these side effects to the steroids.  I have come up with my own regimen and my face is back to normal, but it took months and a lot of research.

I found Tints of Nature’s ingredients statement online (scroll down to About PPD’s).  In a nutshell, this statement claims that TON permanent colors are still safer than many commercial brands:  The maximum amount of PPD permitted to be used in hair colours is currently set to a maximum level of 2% in hair colourant products. In keeping with our mission to create products that are as natural as possible, our Natural Black (1N) is the only colour that uses 2% PPD, and the average percentage of PPD across our colour range is only 0.42%  However, the statement also says that TON SEMI-Permanent Hair Colour Ingredients are free from PPD’s and PTD’s, etc, with a link to the full ingredients list for the SEMI permanent color.  PLEASE BE AWARE, THERE ARE BAD CHEMICALS IN THE Tints of Nature, and again, I had a very bad reaction after only using highlights.   The semi-permanent color will last for about 12 washes, which is tricky since I wash my hair every day, and this is where the nasty chemicals will leach into your skin.  Doing highlights is a great way to let some gray in, and still retain a bit of color, but I would do them with ORGANIC henna from now on.     When I was a kid, older women had gray hair, and it was normal.   And gray hair doesn’t mean we have to go around looking like we have a Brillo pad on our head either.  Check out my Pinterest board on beautiful gray hair worn with style!  Scroll  bottom to see latest photo of transitioning.

ORIGINAL POST of June 12, 2014:    I tried the permanent color by Tints of Nature Simply Healthier Hair Colour, and, after several colorings had a very bad reaction to it.  I did podcast episodes on vegan cosmetics and vegan personal products, but switching to cruelty-free and vegan hair color took me longer than it should have.  Despite several conversations with my hairdresser about getting vegan products in, no progress was made.  About a year ago, right after having my hair colored at the salon I’ve been going to for ten years, I got what I thought was hives on top of my head.  I tried to figure out if it was just stress or the hair color, and then went to the doctor, but she couldn’t see any visible hives (even though my head itched).  I then had an uncomfortable discussion with my hairdresser where I asked if she washed her brushes and combs in between clients.  Since then, I’ve had these invisible “hives” every now and then, but thought it was stress.  Then two months ago, immediately after a hair coloring at the salon, I got for-real hives on top of my head.  I tried taking Zyrtec, and spraying my head with Benedryl spray about 20 minutes before my evening shower, to no avail.   Went back to the doc and this time there were visible “hives” and she put me on a steroid pack of pills, like the kind you go on for poison ivy.  The technical diagnosis is Contact Dermatitis from exposure to allergens/hair color, and you can see it all over the internet.  The doc also told me if I ever used that hair color again, it would be a lot worse.  Allergic reactions like this can be cumulative–progressively worse each time.  I told my sister about this, and she said she’d gone to a salon and had the same reaction.  She even had these same little hives travel down to the area around her right eye, and that clinched it for me, because I also had little spots traveling down to my right eye.  Browsing online, I found lots of stories like mine, where the hair color they’d been using for many years now caused bad reactions.  And of course, with anything like this, the cause can be a mystery for a while.  I wondered if it was stress, or the unusually-heavy pollen this year, or the fact that my husband sprayed ant spray outside the house, or a combination of all three, etc.  It was a relief to finally solve the case of the “hives.”  On top of all this, I knew I should have tried harder to switch to a cruelty-free and vegan hair color long ago.  No innocent beings should suffer unspeakably-cruel and unnecessary animal testing so I can cover up some gray.

Despite having a 48-hour patch test with no reactions, I still reacted badly to the hair color once it was applied to my scalp.

Salon Negotiations:  If you want to have your self-purchased organic henna color applied at a salon, say, at the same time you have your haircut, you might need to negotiate with your salon.  I’m lucky that my hairdresser was willing to let me bring in my own vegan hair colors.  And she had to learn the product, and she stores the unused product in a cabinet until I see her again.  She suggested that she would take $2 off the price of my usual hair-color-and-cut appointment, and I agreed.  I guess most of the cost is in the labor, and she probably buys her regular hair colors inexpensively and wholesale.  I also factored in that Diane had not raised my salon fees in about five years.  There may be other factors to consider, and you must figure out what’s right for both you and your hairdresser.  I do feel that if your hairdresser is unwilling to work with you, you must then figure out a different path to take.  Also, many, many women color their own hair with organic henna successfully at home, or with the help of a friend.  Please be aware that non-organic henna contains pesticides and may cause reactions.

More photos below, but I want to thank my hairdresser of 12 years, Diane J. Trice, of Diane’s Designs,  305 N. Aurora Street, Easton, Maryland, 21601.  (410) 820-8516.

IMG_0203   Had hair cut short on December 30, 2014, to get rid of a lot of the old colors.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE SHAKE

Servings:  2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Yuan Fu Vegetarian Restaurant

Yuan Fu    Yuan Fu Vegetarian Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, in the Washington D.C. metro area, is a pure vegan restaurant.  And now, it’s my favorite place to eat on the Rockville Pike.   This was my first time going there, but I wish I could eat there once a week and explore the big menu.  Because Yuan Fu is two hours from my home, and for the purposes of this post, we ordered dishes heavy on the vegan meats.  But  there are plenty of whole foods on the menu, including non-fat steamed dishes with brown rice.  Yuan Fu is a casual place, very Mom-and-Pop, which I like.  The service was good, to the point where the waiter took my cousin’s young Thai coconut back to the kitchen to saw it open for her so she could eat the spoon meat out of it.  As per their menu, “All of the vegan meats and seafood at Yuan Fu Vegetarian are made from vegetable products.  For example, beef and pork are made of gluten;  the chicken is made from soybean protein, the duck is made of layers of tofu skin;  fish is made of soybean protein and seaweed;  shrimp and squid are made of Japanese style white yam.  We serve nut products in our restaurant and do not use any MSG or dairy products in our cooking.  If you have any food allergies, please alert our staff members when ordering.” We started our meal with an appetizer of  deep-fried Crispy Black Mushrooms, which everyone liked.  They were kind of rich and chewy with an undertone flavor of Chinese BBQ.  My cousin Scott ordered the Roast Duck appetizer which was a bit fatty and did indeed taste like Chinese Roast Duck. It was a generous portion, and If we lived nearby, I would have taken the leftovers home to make a vegetable stir-fry with.  Scott also ordered the Pan-Fried Dumplings appetizer and they were good, and thankfully stuffed with shredded greens.  Munam ordered the Hot Sour Soup and said she liked it, but I did not try it myself.  Based on a Yelp recommendation, we got the Sesame Chicken with Broccoli, and it was almost polished off, mostly by the men at our table.  I ordered the Peking Duck and again, we all liked it.  I can’t resist those paper-thin pancakes painted with hoisin sauce, and wrapped around “duck” and shredded scallions.  This is a dish my Mom and Dad used to make when I was a kid, so the Peking Duck at Yuan Fu really brought me back.  It was a bit less fatty than the dish of my childhood, which is fine with me.  The one dish nobody was very fond of was the Crispy Orange Beef–it wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t especially good either.  Oh, if only we’d had room to try the Kung Pao Chicken or Crispy Noodles, the Sizzling Rice Soup or the Eight Treasure Steamed Taro Roots Paste Pudding, darn. If you’re not familiar with the Rockville Pike, it’s got everything you could think of.  Two places I like off the Pike are Meixin Chinese supermarket, and Pangea Vegan Store.  In conclusion, I’ll go back to Yuan Fu Vegetarian when I can, and try different dishes (with more vegetables, ha ha).  I think the owners and staff of Yuan Fu Vegetarian are Super Heroes in their own quiet way.  To work so hard to give the public a humane dining option at a reasonable price is in fact, super heroic.  To have the  flavors and textures of classic Chinese-American restaurant food, without the torture and murder of innocent beings is pretty damn Wonderful.  Thank you, Yuan Fu!    ADORABLE ART ABOVE BY CHRIS MURRAY.

Postscript:  I’ve been back to Yuan Fu since this post, and discovered that my favorite dish there is the Kung Pao Chicken (the one without the mushrooms).  Second favorite is the Sizzling Rice Soup.  I also have to give a nod to the Crispy Pan Fried Noodles with lots of vegetables.

IMG_2177 IMG_2175  The dining room. IMG_2168  Crispy Black Mushrooms appetizer. IMG_2170  Roast Duck appetizer. IMG_2171  Pan Fried Dumplings have greens inside. IMG_2172  Sesame “Chicken” with Broccoli IMG_2174  Peking Duck came with pancakes, hoisin and shredded spring onions, and we ordered two extra pancakes. IMG_2167  My cousin’s fresh coconut water.
20140528_114835  Crispy Pan Fried Noodles on left are very good, with lots of fresh vegetables.  My favorite dish is on the right–Kung Pao Chicken with no mushrooms.
20140528_113940  Sizzling Rice Soup is sort of addictive.

Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks

IMG_2133    This vegan Teriyaki is great for the grill, or you can fry it up in a pan.  You can use this Teriyaki Sauce on tofu steaks, or tempeh or vegan meats, such as a vegan burger served with a ring of grilled pineapple on top, etc.  We like the leftovers in sandwich wraps for lunch, tucked in with shredded kale or lettuce, pickled onions, Vegenaise, and grated carrots.  This is my Dad’s teriyaki sauce that we grew up with.  As a young military man, he would go to this little mom-and-pop place in Monterey, California.  He loved their teriyaki and asked the nice Japanese lady there for the recipe.  She revealed the recipe to him (he was exceedingly handsome) and luckily for us, he wrote it down all those decades ago.  To grill tofu, make sure your grill grate is clean and smooth–I rub it with a wire brush, or a steel wool pad and then rinse it clean with the hose. Once the grill is hot, take tongs and dip a wad of folded paper towel into a dish of cooking oil, and swab the grill grate before adding the tofu, and repeat when turning the tofu.  You also want to make sure there’s a little oil in your marinade.  Soak your skewers for hours, and use two skewers per piece of tofu (for stability).

GRILLED TERIYAKI TOFU STEAKS

Serves:  3 to 4

INGREDIENTS
16 oz. block of Extra-Firm tofu,  pressed and drained
 for Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 Cup soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup sugar  (not brown sugar)
1/2 -inch piece ginger root grated
1 jigger sake or gin or whiskey  (a jigger = a shot, or 1.5 oz. or 44.3 ml)
     (I use a mini bottle from the liquor store = 50 ml)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic pressed, or crushed and chopped
1 Tablespoon cooking oil  (not canola)  (I used peanut oil this time)

DIRECTIONS
Soak slender wooden skewers in water overnight, or for several hours.  Press and drain tofu.  Stir all sauce ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Slice tofu thickness in half.  Then cut each piece into two equal rectangles.  Soak tofu steaks in marinade over night, or for several hours, turning them over at least 2 or 3 times.  Before grilling, skewer each piece of tofu using two skewers, so the tips of the skewers protrude out the other end just a bit.  Make sure grill is very clean and smooth, and oil the hot grill before adding the tofu.  Grill each side.  Or, pan fry in a non-stick skillet on medium heat, until a nice caramelized sear is achieved.

Notes:  You can also marinate sliced tempeh.  I use organic Tamari sauce, but in Hawaii, Kikkoman soy sauce is the favorite, and many locals use the Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce, which is good, and my Dad is a Kikkoman man, of course.  Since the original recipe did call for “a jigger” of any of the three alcohols, I used gin this time for that juniper-berry flavor, but I think my Dad usually used sake or whiskey.  The original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon MSG, which I eliminated.
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Vegan Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars

IMG_1971    These vegan Raspberry and Oat Bars by Yotam Ottolenghi have a caramel nut topping,  raspberry filling and rustic oat-pastry base.  You can vary the types of nuts and jam–use what you have on hand.  Although there are a few steps to these, this is an easy recipe,  and you wind up with something rich, decadent and kind of special.  I did add a pinch of salt to the topping, and used Spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour.  There is another excellent Raspberry Oat Bar on this site as well.

VEGAN OTTOLENGHI RASPBERRY OAT BARS

Makes 16 bars

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup spelt flour   (or all-purpose flour,  or whole wheat pastry flour)
scant 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 Cup rolled oats

3/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I prefer Dickinson’s brand)

TOPPING
3/4 Cup sliced almonds
3/4 Cup raw pecans,  chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw hazelnuts, chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw Brazil nuts, chop coarsely

6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
2 Tablespoons So Delicious Coconut Creamer  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper each way so the paper comes up each side of the pan to create tabs to lift the bars/slab out of the pan.  This will take two longer sheets of parchment paper.

To make the base.  Dry whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add sugar and dry whisk again.  Add cold vegan butter in small chunks, and cut in with a pastry cutter to form a crumb texture.  Stir in the oats.  Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool 10-15 minutes.  Stir jam until smooth and then spread the jam over the base crust.

To make the topping.  Place all chopped nuts in a large, heat-resistant bowl and stir  together.  In a small saucepan, heat butter, sugar and plant milk over medium heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, and then stir in vanilla.  Pour this mixture over the chopped nuts and stir together.  Pack nut mixture evenly over the jam/base, and return pan to oven to bake for 30 more minutes, until nuts have turned a nice golden brown.  Leave pan to cool on rack.  When it’s fairly cool, chill in fridge (it will firm up in the fridge).  Remove from pan and onto a large cutting board.  Peel away parchment paper and cut into squares.

Notes:  I reduced the butter in the base and in the topping by one Tablespoon each, as written above.  Measure out and then chop the nuts.
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Avocado Toast

IMG_1825    Yes, Avocado Toast is a thing.  If you’ve already had Avocado Toast, you know how good it is.  If you haven’t, get thee to a kitchen pronto.  Lots of people claim they invented Avocado Toast, it’s all over the internet and in foodie magazines, and famously on the menu at Café Gitaine in New York City.  There’s something rustically beautiful about this dish, and it’s so delicious that I’ve eaten it for lunch three days in a row.  Don’t forget the lemon–it makes it sing!

AVOCADO TOAST

INGREDIENTS
whole grain bread
avocados  (approx. one small-to-medium avocado per person)
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice  (lemon is a must, in my opinion)

DIRECTIONS
Toast whole-grain bread.  Cover toast with slices of fresh avocado.  Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with fine sea salt and black pepper.  Squeeze fresh lemon over the whole thing and eat while toast is still crunchy and before avocado goes brown.

NOTES:  This somehow tastes even better with whole-grain bread.  I used Fleur de sel for salt and Shallot-Pepper from Penzey’s Spices, but it still tastes fabulous with plain salt and pepper.  I would avoid kosher salt (too chemical tasting) and I wouldn’t think of mashing my avo because I prefer the almost-toothsome texture of just-ripe slices.  That being said, make sure your avocado is not overly ripe, not mushy.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

IMG_1810    This is the 2nd delicious and easy recipe I’ve tried from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  I’ve eaten these Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia (see photo below), and this recipe replicates that experience very well.  My comments on the recipe are to make sure to divide your salt and pepper before you begin (I accidentally threw all the pepper into the sauce, which didn’t hurt it).  The sauce takes two minutes to make, so make that first and throw it in the fridge.  Cut the stems/bottoms well off the sprouts and discard.  I just used a knife to cut and shave the sprouts.  Make sure to cook the sprouts on high (as per the recipe) because that’s how you get the roasty bits.  Go easy on the sauce–a little goes a long way, and next time I would probably only make half of the sauce.  Out of the Vedge cookbook, I also made the Salt Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion, which is also an easy and super-delicious recipe.  It’s simple to make the components for both of these recipes ahead.  Once the sprouts are prepped, they take only a 5-minute sizzle in the pan before serving.   In short, I love this gorgeous cookbook.
IMG_1484  Here’s the dish we received at Vedge restaurant.  As you can see, lighting was super-low, and they used a very grainy mustard.  I just used organic whole-grain mustard from a jar, and it was still delicious.

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion

IMG_1784    Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.  This delicious recipe is from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  Although this dish has various components, it’s simple to make.  To save time, I roasted and peeled the beets the day before I needed them.  We also recently ate this salad at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, and it was killer.  I was pleasantly surprised that the dish I made at home actually tasted like what we ate at the restaurant.  In the restaurant, this dish is served in a round stack with a circle of smoked tofu (see photo below).  My comments on this dish are that I used only 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt (since the capers are so salty), and I also reduced the second application of black pepper.  I was unable to procure fresh dill and it’s too early for dill in my garden, so I substituted 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed.  And . . . it was still wonderful.  I grow beets, and cook beets more than most people, and noticed no discernible difference with the salt roasting–so in future, I would simply wrap the beets in foil and roast them in the oven for 60-90 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  By the way, the cookbook is gorgeous, with 100 plant-based recipes that highlight The Vegetable.  It has a soft, matte cover with no pesky dust jacket, and beautiful photographs.  Since I had one of the best meals of my life at Vedge restaurant, this cookbook is not going on the shelf–because I’ll be too busy using it.
IMG_1483  At the restaurant, this is served in a stack with a ring of smoked tofu.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Tuna Rolls

IMG_1458    This vegan tuna tastes so much like tuna fish that it’s freaky.   It even smells like tuna fish.  I ordered these Vegan Tuna Rolls from Healthy Eating, a good resource for all kinds of things.   Here in the U.S., the word roll can refer to a type of sandwich–the exact type of sandwich pictured on the box (see photo below).   However, the world “roll” as used on this box of tuna rolls means you literally get two frozen, sausage-shaped rolls of vegan tuna filling (see last photo below).  So, the tuna filling comes all by itself, with no bread or anything.  You simply thaw and then cut open these tuna logs and use the filling as you would a can of tuna fish.   About price: I had no choice but to order six boxes of tuna rolls for a total of $59.99.  Shipping and handling was another $14.95, for a total of $74.94, let’s call it $75.   However, we got three sandwiches out of each tuna roll, and that means enough vegan tuna to make six sandwiches per box.  $75 divided by 36 = $2.08 per serving, and that includes frozen shipping with cold packs.  Now, the box says there are “about 4” servings per box, and that would make some big sandwiches.  The sandwiches I made were a generous-average size, in my opinion.  So, price would vary depending upon use.

As far as “dressing up” this tuna, the sky’s the limit.  My favorite ingredients include Vegenaise, chopped pickled red onions, sweet relish, salt and pepper.  I had a friend who always put Celery Salt in her tuna salad, and finely-chopped celery.  You could put capers or grated carrots, etc.  If these Vegan Tuna Rolls are not your thing, please check out the other vegan tuna salad also on this site–it’s delicious and easy.   p.s.  Lars never liked tuna fish salad, so I was surprised that he really likes this vegan tuna!
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IMG_1454  Two rolls of vegan tuna filling per box.

Sweet and Pungent Spinach

IMG_1447    The title of this recipe is a traditional Chinese one, in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014.   This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on February 4, and it will be The Year of The Wooden Horse,  or The Year of The Green Horse.  As an Earth Dog, I’m predicted to have a very good year, hurrah!  This fast and delicious recipe is from a Chinese cooking class my Mom took back in the 1990’s.  I’ve reduced the oil and sugar, and added the flake salt.  See photos of the original recipe below, including the Chinese teacher’s chop (seal).

SWEET AND PUNGENT SPINACH

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
5 ounces fresh spinach  (142 grams)    (I usually double it, see notes below)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/4 Cup peanuts  (I like salted cocktail peanuts)
a sprinkle of fine sea salt, or any good salt

DRESSING INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium or one click below medium.  In a little bowl or cup, mix dressing ingredients.  Stir fry spinach until crisp tender but not too wilted–this happens very fast!  I turn my heat off half-way through and let the hot skillet do the rest as I stir.  Toss spinach with dressing and put into individual serving bowls.  Serve immediately with peanuts and salt.

Notes:  Because American spinach is generally very small and tender, I do not remove the spinach ribs.  The spinach cooks down a lot.   I usually double the amount of spinach for the two of us, but I keep the dressing amounts the same.  Spinach is loaded with iron, calcium, protein and Vitamin A.
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Carrot Pear Almond Smoothie

IMG_1435    When I don’t have time to juice, I turn to smoothies.  After the mornings of alkalizing green juices, smoothies feel like dessert, but this is serious nutrition too.  Because I juice and blend what I’ve got on hand, it always varies, but every now and then, some serendipitous combination hits the mark and I know it’s a keeper.  Here we have the sandy sweetness of a fully-ripe D’Anjour pear with frozen banana, creamy vegan yogurt, almond milk, a little almond butter and raw carrots.  A literal pinch of ground cinnamon is very faint, but it marries them all into a happy ending.  You can play around with this–omit the banana for a slightly thinner consistency, change the nut butter, plant milk or spice, etc., but this is the way I like it.   p.s. You will not be hungry after this vegan smoothie!

CARROT PEAR ALMOND SMOOTHIE WITH A HINT OF CINNAMON

Makes enough for 2 to 4, depending on serving sizes.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1 ripe Anjou pear
1 large carrot,  or 2 small-to-medium carrots
1/2 Cup vegan yogurt,  plain or vanilla flavor
1 Cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon almond butter
pinch cinnamon  (1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Blend all, and enjoy!

Notes:  Peel and cut the bananas before you freeze them.  You could add some ice during the blending process too.  The yogurt is providing probiotics.   After drinking a smoothie, it’s a good practice to rinse your mouth well with water, to help rinse the fruit sugars off your tooth enamel.

Vegan Brazil Nut Pate

IMG_1411    What we have here is a really nice vegan pate.  Inspired by a very simple Brazil Nut Pate I saw in Vegan For Her, I referred to my 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking, and also my 1961 copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cook Book.  Pates in those old tomes call for some common elements to choose from, including salt, pepper, Worcestershire, allspice or nutmeg, pistachio nuts, truffles, grated onions, parsley or chervil and lemon juice.  Also, a single type of alcohol, such as brandy, cognac, Madeira or sherry.  A bit of flour is often added, possibly for a binder.  Also, sometimes, whipping cream, which can easily be replaced by cashew cream.  And we now also have vegan substitutes for other commonly-used pate ingredients like gelatin and cream cheese.

Garnishes often include parsley and cornichons, or even stuffed olives and thinly sliced limes.  I would suggest that tiny sweet gherkins would do if cornichons are not readily available.  I added olive oil to mimic the fatty quality of outdated pates.   We like this on Ritz crackers or very thin slices of toasted garlic bread.  I know some consider Ritz a bit lowbrow, but we like the buttery, salty quality of them, and their delicate crispness.

VEGAN BRAZIL NUT PATE

Yield: 1.5 Cups?  (not sure)  This recipe will fill two 4-inch ramekins for a party though.

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup raw Brazil nuts
1/2 Cup blanched almonds
1/3 Cup pickled red onions (or regular red onions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 Tablespoon organic vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard brand
2 Tablespoons Madeira wine  (or cognac, or brandy or sherry)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin organic olive oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Soak all nuts for two hours, or overnight.  Drain and rinse nuts in colander.
In a food processor (not a blender), add all ingredients and process to as fine a consistency as you can, scraping down the sides often.  Add an extra Tablespoon of plant milk or water if necessary.  Set in fridge for a few hours or even better, overnight, for flavors to meld.   Garnish with parsley and cornichons.

Serve with thin slices of garlic bread, crackers, and/or raw vegetables such as slices of sweet red bell pepper, or endive.  I could also see stuffing cherry tomatoes and garnishing with a thin round slice of olive, for example.

Notes:  Read the lead-in for variations suggestions.  Brazil nuts are definitely a power food, providing calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, omegas, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, zinc, etc., etc.  Another vegan Worcestershire sauce is by Whole Foods 365 Organic.  You can also sprinkle with Paprika.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll

IMG_1369    After having such good success with the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey, I decided to give the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll a try.  And I’m glad I did.  I got this specifically for Christmas day, but I could also see having it at Easter.  I was amazed at how much it smelled like ham as it was baking, and the flavor is very hammy as well.  Everyone knows that Ham Biscuits are a Southern Tradition.  For many, Ham Biscuits are served on New Year’s, but I have a girlfriend from South Carolina who always serves them on Christmas Eve.  I ordered this from Vegan Essentials and it was shipped with cold packs around it.  When it arrived, I called Vege USA on their 888 number and was told I could put it immediately into the freezer, which I did.  I paid about $40 for it, including $4 for the cold-pack shipping.   The box says this 2 lb. vegan ham roll serves 14 and I believe it.  When it was partially thawed, I cut it in half and put half of it right back in the freezer, and we had ham every which way for the next 4 or 5 days.  On Christmas Eve I made a bunch of vegan Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits and put them in the freezer (un-baked).  On Christmas Day, I made the ham roll and some of the biscuits and we had them with slices of Daiya cheese and my homemade mustard (photo below).  I did prepare the Apricot Plum Glaze that came in the box and it’s surprisingly good (Lars has been having it on his ham biscuits).  I also made a delicious ham salad, with some Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise, organic sweet relish, and a bit of salt and pepper.  This minced ham salad would be good for a rustic ham roll, or tiny finger sandwiches for afternoon tea, or on the aforementioned biscuits.  With the half that’s still in the freezer, I’m thinking Portuguese Bean Soup, and Lars suggested Ham and Pineapple Pizza.  This is a convenient, delicious solution for those transitioning or entertaining omnivores, and for vegans who want traditional flavors on holidays.  I also like that it allowed me to focus on the baking and side dishes and holiday preparations, and not worry so much about the main dish.  If you want to make this at home for pennies, try this vegan Candied Ham.   We’re talking about vegan ham, of course.  Bless all the pigs and may we never torture and eat them again.  Happy New Year.
IMG_1383  Real Southern Style Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits (vegan) for the traditional holiday Ham Biscuits.

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Holiday or Christmas Playlist

IMG_1276    Here are some of the Holiday or Christmas songs on my ipod, so you can pick and choose and make a holiday playlist of your own.  It starts out with faster songs for the beginning of a party, and then slows down as it goes along.  Within each section, the songs are in no particular order, and there are some duplicate songs done by different artists.

All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Katia Keres
All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Mariah Carey
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree  by  Brenda Lee
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town  by  Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper
Winter Wonderland  by  Eurythmics
Merry Christmas Baby  by  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
Santa Baby  by  Madonna
Christmas in Hollis  by  Run-D.M.C.
Run Rudolph Run  by  Bryan Adams
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)  by  U2
Back Door Santa  by  Bon Jovi
What Christmas Means To Me  by  Paul Young

Blue Christmas  by  Ann and Nancy Wilson
Santa Claus Is Back In Town  by  Jonny Lang
Merry Christmas Baby by  Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown
Santa Baby  by  Eartha Kitt

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas  by  The Pretenders
The Christmas Song  by  Luther Vandross
The Christmas Song  by  The Raveonettes
Christmas Time Is Here  by  Sarah McLachlan featuring Diana Krall
Please Come Home For Christmas  by  Pat Benatar
Silver Bells  by  Jonny Mathis
White Christmas  by  Otis Redding
White Christmas  by  Elvis
25th December  by  Everything But The Girl
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow  by  Dean Martin
I’ll Be Home For Christmas  by  The Platters
Auld Lang Syne  by  Mindy Smith

TRADITIONAL, NON-SECULAR CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Mary, Did You Know?  by  Cee Lo Green
Gabriel’s Message  by  Sting
The Coventry Carol  by  Alison Moyet
The Little Drummer Boy  by  Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
Silent Night  by  Priscilla Ahn
Silent Night  by  Sinead O’Connor
Silent Night  by  Stevie Nicks
What Child Is This?  by  Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige
What Child Is This?  by  Sarah McLachlan
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Enya
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Bette Midler
O, Little Town of Bethlehem  by  Nat King Cole
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen  by  The Platters
Away In A Manger  by  The Platters

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey

IMG_1221  I meant to try this Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey last year, but never got to it.  This comes with gravy and stuffing, which I promptly discarded (see postscript at bottom).  I served this with homemade sides:  classic stuffing dressing with apples and pecans, baked stuffed potatoes, cranberry sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry, and Golden Gravy with chanterelle mushrooms.  We also had some delicious Treeline Scallion French-Style Soft Cheese as an appetizer, with some sparkling cider, and a salad.  For dessert, we had a choice of Pumpkin Pie with Streusel or Pear Crisp.  I basted the non-GMO vegan turkey with a glaze of vegan butter, a teensy bit of maple syrup and sea salt.  My review is that I was very happy with this soy turkey.  The “skin” on the outside does mimic turkey skin, and it could not be easier to make.  I rinsed it, patted it dry, baked it on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet for 45 minutes, with a basting after 15 minutes and again after 30 minutes.  The basting also helped the appearance.  I do recommend stuffing the turkey as it keeps the whole thing moist, but you will need to bake additional stuffing/dressing on the side, because you cannot fit much inside this bird.  I would guess it serves about 10 people and is a great solution for those transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Lars is vegetarian and really liked it.  It slices beautifully, and makes the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had, great for leftovers.  If you eat a bit by itself, there is a faint hint of soy flavor, but with the other sides, you don’t notice it, and in a sandwich, it’s non-existent.  I would definitely buy this again.  This turkey can be bought from Vegan Essentials online, and also from the Healthy Eating Catalog.  Sometimes they run out, so get your order in when you can.  Additional photos below.    Postscript:  Nov. 2014.  Lars requested this turkey again, so I made it and am just as happy.  However, I decided to try the stuffing and the gravy this time, for you all.  I simply sautéed chopped acidulated Fuji apple, and onions, and then used half the dry stuffing and followed all other directions, and it was decent.  About the gravy, it was TERRIBLE–don’t do it, make your own!
IMG_1230  Slices like a dream, and makes killer turkey sandwiches for leftovers.
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IMG_1215  We really liked this cheese on crackers.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make little canapés with it either.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

IMG_1169    This is basically Gena Hamshaw’s pumpkin pie, but I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and also put a pecan streusel on it.  It’s thickened with cashews instead of eggs, and it’s delicious.  The photo above is old.  In 2015, I replaced the molasses with pure maple syrup, to lighten up the color and flavor.

VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE WITH PECAN STREUSEL

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS FOR PIE
1 single pie crust, such as my pate brisee
2.5 Cups pumpkin puree  (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 Cup cashews, soaked 3+ hours (or overnight)  and drained of soaking water
3/4 Cup demerara, brown, or cane sugar
2 Tablespoons tapioca starch/flour
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup  (instead of molasses)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves  (1/16th teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

INGREDIENTS FOR STREUSEL
1/4 Cup chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Stick
1/4 Cup flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 Teaspoon fine sea salt
tiny pinch cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
Roll out pie crust and place in pie pan, pinch the edges decoratively, and put it in the fridge.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make streusel:  Melt butter.  In small mixing bowl, dry whisk all other streusel ingredients.  Add melted butter, stir well to combine.  Set aside.

Blend all pie-filling ingredients in a food processor until super smooth.  I used a Vitamix instead, see photo below.  The mixture should be quite thick, but if it’s too thick, you can thin it with a Tablespoon or two of water or non-dairy milk (I did not thin it).  Spoon into the crust, smooth over, and put a pie shield on the pinched edges of the crust.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Add streusel to the top of the pie, and then bake 15-20 minutes more until edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is dark.  Let cool completely before serving.  Serve with Coconut Whipped Cream or So Delicious CocoWhip.

Notes:  This is a great time to use fresh pumpkin, but canned is perfectly great too.  If you don’t have a pie shield, lightly crumple tin foil over the edges of your pie crust, to keep it from over-cooking.  Next time, I would possibly use all pure maple syrup, and no molasses, but it’s great this way too!
IMG_1156  Filling blended w/cashews in Vitamix.

Ep. 007 – Vegan Thanksgiving

Play

Welcome to the Peaceful Table Podcast.  This is the Vegan Thanksgiving episode.  We’ll talk about some strategies for navigating omnivore get-togethers, and lots of amazing vegan food, from soup to nuts, to bring along with you to any gathering.  And entertaining tips for hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner and potluck.

SHOW NOTES LINKS
Thanksgiving recipes
My Thanksgiving Pinterest Page
Barnivore – catalog of vegan wines, beers, liquors
Thanksgiving Art Project for kids.
Thanksgiving storybook for kids:  Sometimes It’s Turkey
My Life As A Turkey – a PBS film
floating tealight candles
BIA Cordon Bleu ramekins, 4″, on Amazon
BIA Cordon Bleu ramekins, from Chef’s Catalog
Pier 1 copycat ramekins
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2010
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2011
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2012

Two great Thanksgiving podcast episodes by Colleen Patrick Goudreau:
Thanksgiving FOR The Birds – episode dated November 2, 2007,
Celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving Without Compromising Your Values – episode dated September 18, 2008.

Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry

IMG_1145    This might be the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever made.  To temper the astringency of the cranberries, I’ve paired them with cherry brandy and 100% real cherry juice.  I used a potato masher on the cooked sauce to give it a smoother texture while leaving a bit of Early American rusticity.  Kirschwasser is a clear brandy distilled from a fermented mash of cherries.  I’ll use the leftover cherry juice in the juicer, but you could make cocktails with it, or drink it straight in the morning, because it’s great for inflammation.  I don’t drink, but with the leftover Kirschwasser, you could make festive cherry Sidecars for the Thanksgiving bar too.  If you don’t want any alcohol in the house, just substitute more cherry juice for the Kirschwasser.   p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Classic Cranberry SauceHoliday Cranberry Sauce,  and Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry.

CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH KIRSCHWASSER AND CHERRY

Makes about 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Kirschwasser  (I used Dekuyper brand)
1/2 Cup 100% cherry juice  (I used R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry Juice)

DIRECTIONS
Bring cranberries, sugar and Kirschwasser to simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium or medium-low heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cherry juice.  Mash gently with a potato masher until it’s the consistency you want.  Cool completely.  Freeze or keep in refrigerator up to one week, in an airtight container.

Note:  If you don’t want to use the alcohol, just use more cherry juice instead of the Kirschwasser.

Chickpea Zucchini Fries with Sumac and Lemon

IMG_1104    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, this is my riff on Mario Batali’s Chickpea Fries.  We found his version too bland, so these have been spiced up a bit, and this recipe below is halved.  I didn’t bother wringing out the zucchini, just left it to drain longer instead.  Packed with fiber and protein, these golden fries are addictive when served with wedges of fresh lemon and sea salt.

CHICKPEA FRIES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 large zucchini, partially peeled and grated  (approx. 3 cups of grated zucchini)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups water
1.5 Cups chickpea flour  (also called garbanzo flour)
1.5 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Shallot-Pepper  or any other spice(s)
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour for dredging (optional)
1/2 Cup peanut oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
sea salt or other finishing salt

DIRECTIONS
Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix well.  Transfer grated zucchini to a colander set over a bowl, and set aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Occasionally, gently stir and press it with the back of a spoon.

Grease a baking dish and line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used waxed paper and a Pyrex dish of approx. 11×7 inches.  Set this prepared baking dish in the refrigerator while you work.

In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the sumac and shallot-pepper (or other seasonings) into the chickpea flour.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the water over medium heat.  Pour in the seasoned chickpea flour and stir constantly for one minute, making sure heat is not too high.  Add zucchini, stir well and remove from heat.  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared baking dish, and gently press and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Onto a large floured cutting board, turn out the set chickpea mixture.  Peel off and discard the waxed paper.  Cut into fries approx. 3″ x 1/2″.   In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil.  Dredge fries lightly in all-purpose flour (this step is optional but it’s the only way I’ve ever done it).  Working in batches, cook the chickpea fries until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  You’re going for golden brown here, not too dark.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with plenty of lemon wedges,  and sea salt for sprinkling.

Notes:  You can find ground sumac in any Middle-Eastern grocery.  These are worth getting out your best salt for.  Feel free to change up the spices.  I’ll try using black pepper and rosemary next time, to go with the lemon and sea salt.  These are called panisses in France, and panelle in Italy.  Here’s a video of Mario Batali making these.  More photos below.

IMG_1098 Zucchini draining into a bowl.
IMG_1100  Water drained from the zucchini.

Salad in A Jar

IMG_1079    I saw Salad In a Jar in a great blog post on these make-ahead, packable salads.  A few times a year, I have to attend a meeting where a lunch of dead animals is provided for everyone (except me).  This time, I had a beautiful meal instantly constructed on my plate, with just a shake and a tip of the wide-mouth canning jar.

SALAD IN A JAR

INGREDIENTS
wide-mouth canning jar(s), quart size
salad dressing
salad fixings

DIRECTIONS
Put salad dressing on the bottom of the jar(s) and start building.  First, add ingredients that benefit from a marinade in the salad dressing, things like beets or beans or lentils.  As you build up further away from the dressing, you could add chopped nuts, dried fruit, diced vegetables, drained mandarin oranges, greens or lettuces, cooked quinoa, croutons, etc.  Make sure to leave an inch or two of space at the top–this will allow you to shake the salad, and it will also keep your food away from any BPA in the canning jar lid.

Notes:  It’s easy to fill more than one jar at a time.  I prefer to cut my greens or lettuces into smaller pieces.  Ingredients can change with the seasons–in the summer, you could tuck some nasturtium flowers from the garden on top, and in the Fall you could use roasted root vegetables.   Take these flavors in any direction by changing up the dressing and fixings–Mexican, Greek, etc.   I’m thinking cold Japanese somen noodle salad with smoked tofu, green onions, fresh peas and seasame seeds.  Or Middle Eastern with tahini dressing, roasted chickpeas, cucumbers, pistachios or walnuts, and dried apricots.

Ep. 006 – Vegan New York City

Play

Welcome to the Peaceful Table podcast.  This is the Vegan New York City show, but we’re also going to talk about the recipes I made for Vegan Mofo, strategies for keeping warm this winter, including bedding and jackets.  Regional Recommendations, a great kitchen tool, one of my favorite podcasts, and some of my favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween.

SHOW NOTES

Vegan Halloween Pinterest Page.
Vegan candy list.
My four favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween are The Lost BoysThe VillageShaun of The DeadZombieland.
Viva La Vegan Pizza – Ledo Restaurants.
How little doctors learn about nutrition in medical school.
New York City restaurant reviews.
Alicia Silverstone video on Down is less than three minutes long, please watch.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket is also available for men and comes in different styles.
LL Bean Ascent Packaway Jacket is also available for men.
Home Classics Level 1 Down-Alternative Comforter.
Home Classics Level 2 Down-Alternative Comforter.
Home Classics Reversible Down-Alternative Comforters.
IKEA cotton and linen duvet covers.
Threshold Organic Cotton blankets from Target.
TofuXpress.
Acela Train menu.  Has quite a few vegan items.
Recipes I made for Vegan Mofo 2013.
Snap Judgment podcast.
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  Scroll down to see little video!

Hashed Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Zest and Candied Hazelnuts

IMG_1037    Neither of us were crazy about Brussels Sprouts, until now.  I adapted this recipe from a non-vegan cookbook, and made some quick-candied hazelnuts.  These Brussels sprouts are still a bit crisp in texture, and bright with fresh lemon.  For me, the nuts added a missing element.

HASHED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH LEMON ZEST AND CANDIED HAZELNUTS

Serves 5 or 6

INGREDIENTS
Juice of one medium lemon, plus grated zest of 2 lemons.
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons white wine or vermouth
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 Cup chopped raw hazelnuts  (or pecans)
1 Tablespoon vegan butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

DIRECTIONS
Place lemon juice in a large non-metal bowl.  Cut bottoms well off sprouts and discard.  Peel any less-than-perfect leaves off each sprout and discard.  Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise.  As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice.  When all sprouts are sliced, toss them well in the lemon juice with a non-metal spoon, and cover and refrigerate the sprouts for 15 minutes or up to three hours.

For candied hazelnuts:  in a very small skillet or saucepan, heat the butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt on medium heat.  Add chopped hazelnuts and cook and stir until you see a tinge of golden brown on a few of the nuts, this takes just a few minutes.  Set candied nuts on a clean plate.  Do not set them on paper towels, or they will stick.

When ready to serve, in a large skillet heat oil and butter over medium heat.  When hot, add sprouts, garlic and poppy seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add wine and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring for 1 minute more.  Turn off heat and stir in lemon zest, reserving a little zest for the top of the dish.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, sprinkle with some of the candied hazelnuts and the remaining zest, and serve.

Notes:  I recommend prepping some of the ingredients early, to save time, because the actual cooking is fairly quick.   I tried making them with vermouth but did not care for it.  When buying Brussels sprouts, look for fresh, green compact sprouts.  Wilted or yellow leaves are signs of age or mishandling.  Give them a sniff–old sprouts have a strong, cabbage-like odor.  Store up to three days in refrigerator.  The older they are, the less appealing their smell and flavor.  Overcooking also renders Brussels sprouts unappealing (in my opinion).

Vegan Butterfinger Milkshake

IMG_0998    We recently tried the Butterfinger Milkshake at Café Blossom, and it was really good.  The key to this recipe is that old-school candy called Chick-O-Stick, because Chick-O-Sticks taste pretty much like the orange-colored center of a Butterfinger candy bar.  You can also get a vegan Butterfinger milkshake at Terri restaurants in New York City, but I haven’t had theirs.  Here’s my own delicious version of the Butterfinger Milkshake.

VEGAN BUTTERFINGER MILKSHAKE

Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
6 oz. soy yogurt in plain or vanilla flavor  (I used So Delicious brand)
1 Cup cold almond milk  (or soy milk)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 dried dates (pits discarded), roughly chopped
8 Chick-O-Sticks  (sticks, not bites)
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Spoon vegan yogurt into ice-cube tray and freeze.
When yogurt cubes are frozen, get out your blender.
Set aside 4 Chick-O-Sticks
Into blender, put almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and pitted dates, and blend until almost smooth.
Add the yogurt cubes and blend until almost smooth.
Add the ice and 4 of the Chick-O-Sticks and blend until almost smooth.
Add the last 4 Chick-O-Sticks and blend just a bit, so there are some tiny chunks of Chick-O-Sticks still intact.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  More photos below.  I put half the complete milkshake into the fridge, and it was still a nice, thick consistency an hour later.  I experimented, making this shake several times, trying different ingredients and mixing up the order of blending, in order to figure out better flavor and consistency.   I found the pretty paper straws at Target in their Thanksgiving paper-goods display, 40 for $3, and you get two different color combos (orange and brown in this case).

IMG_0993  I got the Chick-O-Sticks from amazon.com.
IMG_1000  I used only one 6 oz. container of yogurt.

Jivamuktea Cafe – New York City

IMG_0826     One Saturday morning, we left our hotel on the Upper West Side and cabbed it over to the Union Square Saturday Outdoor Market.  After we enjoyed that, we had an early lunch at Jivamuktea Café, at the Jivamukti Yoga School at 841 Broadway (2nd floor) in New York City.  We got there right when they opened and they were not busy at all.  The food is all vegan, and it was fine, and it was a great place to rest before the long walk ahead.  The atmosphere of the lobby and desk was hushed and respectful.  I only wish I could have had a yoga lesson, but alas, there was no time.

IMG_0825  This is what you see when you walk in.  Next to this is a little gift shop and then the café.

IMG_0828  IMG_0830

IMG_0831  IMG_0833

Vegan Lychee Buttercream Frosting

IMG_0955    My lovely cousin Munam brought me some canned Lychee from Rockville.  And so I created this Lychee Buttercream Frosting to go with the Lychee Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.   I was a bit skeptical about the recipe for the cupcake itself because it has a whopping 5 Tablespoons of flaxseed in it, but these cupcakes are very good–slightly dense and fruity, but still definitely cake.  I used only 1/3 Cup of finely-chopped lychee fruit and only 1/4 Cup of oil in the recipe, and they were still great.  I remember eating lots and lots of lychee as a kid on Kauai when we would pick them right off the branches.  This is my first experience with canned lychee and although it’s been decades, the fruity floral perfume of this Lychee Buttercream Frosting takes me right back to the Garden Isle.

VEGAN LYCHEE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

4 Cups confectioners/powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3 Tablespoons lychee syrup/juice from a can of lychee
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 drop red food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, bring Earth Balance Buttery Sticks to room temperature.  Add all other ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.  If you want the lychee flavor to be milder, use only 2 Tablespoons of lychee syrup and add 1 Tablespoon of water.  I’m going from memory, but it seems to me that the canned lychee flavor is a bit more intense than the fresh lychee.  Canned lychee are often available in Oriental grocery stores.  I used a 20 ounce can of lychee, so I had plenty of syrup to work with for both the cupcakes and this frosting.

Nice Matin Restaurant – New York City

IMG_0757    For our first vegan breakfast in New York City, we ate at Nice Matin, which is located directly next door to The Lucerne hotel, where we were staying.   Now, Nice Matin is decidedly not a vegan restaurant, but in the interest of time, we made do very nicely there.  First, we walked directly across the street to the little Duane Reade and bought some Silk soy milk and walked it right back to the restaurant.  They welcomed us in and ushered us to a table with no complaints.  I got the Bowl of Ripest Fruits and Berries and the House Toasted Granola, which was chock full of nuts.  Also on the breakfast menu are McCann’s Steelcut Irish Oatmeal with Sliced Bananas, Raisins and Brown Sugar.  Or Perfect Grapefruit Segments with Sliced Apples and Granola.   They also had fresh melons, toast with jams,  juices, etc.  Nice Matin has open-air seating in nice weather and a nice atmosphere–slightly deco, slightly French.  You can also order off their menu for room service if you are staying next door at The Lucerne hotel.    Portions were generous and they even brought us extra fruit for some reason.  We stayed at The Lucerne because it’s within easy walking distance of 3 or 4 vegan restaurants and you can even get vegan food delivered!  This would be a good place to meet friends or family for breakfast in NYC.  One more photo below.

IMG_0762  They let us bring in our own soy milk.

Peacefood Cafe – New York City

IMG_0863    We walked to Peacefood Café for dinner on our last night in New York City.  This is the location on the Upper West Side at 460 Amsterdam Avenue.  Right from the get-go, it was a pleasant atmosphere.  Light and clean with some fresh touches, such as a blooming potted azalea, little oil paintings, and colorful fruit stacked for juicing.  This place was a bit casual, which we liked.  I would come here in my jeans, or in a dress after work.  Also, this was the one place where the food came out piping hot, I was so impressed with that.  The service was great.  Our waitperson was a young woman who kept an eye on us, and there was no annoying delay for the check when we were finally ready to leave.  I liked that she served with no pretense, she was just friendly and efficient.

IMG_0866  I got the PFC Un-Chicken Basket with an aioli and a chipotle sauce.  Excellent and enough for at least three people.

IMG_0867  Chickpea Fries with House Dipping Sauce.  These are actually more like little bricks, and have a hint of Indian spice.  Very good and filling.  These literally had steam coming out when we cut into them.

IMG_0860  Juice anyone?  Yes, please!

IMG_0859  Peacefood pastry case.  We got a Raspberry Jam Spelt Bar, which was big enough for two, for $4.  To make your own amazing raspberry bar, go here.

IMG_0857  The back of the restaurant is a bit quieter.

IMG_0858  The front half of the restaurant.

IMG_0861   Outside the door.

Maple Glazed Walnuts

IMG_0893    These quick and easy Maple Glazed Walnuts are perfect for the Autumnal salad, alongside bitter greens, dried cranberries, etc.  If there are leftovers, I sprinkle them on a bowl of hot oatmeal, granola or vegan yogurt.  These take 5 to 6 minutes to make, literally.

MAPLE GLAZED WALNUTS

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup raw walnuts
3 Tablespoons good/pure maple syrup

DIRECTIONS
In a medium-size skillet, toast the walnuts (occasionally stirring) over medium heat until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn heat to low, drizzle the syrup over the walnuts and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until walnuts are glazed and there is no wet syrup left in the bottom of the skillet, about 3 minutes.  Cool on a plate and store in a jar.

Cilantro Chutney

IMG_0882    You might think of chutney as a chunky concoction, but many are velvety smooth, like this one.  There are at least hundreds of recipes for the favorite Indian Cilantro Chutney, and many are similar.  Some have peanuts or cashews, or lime juice instead of lemon, coconut meat instead of oil, garlic or green apple, etc.  I adapted this one by Indian chef, Vikas Khanna, and fell in love.  The salt, sugar and oil melt down the pungent onions and spicy ginger while they’re being whirled in the blender.  What really hit me was the fresh brightness of the lemon.  This tastes as good as it looks, the flavors are complex, but it’s so simple to make.  I cut the salt and oil in half, and it’s still amazing.  I also decided to freeze the leftover chutney in an ice-cube tray and keep it in the freezer, it’s that good.

CILANTRO CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped  (I discarded most of the stems)
6 scallions, coarsely chopped  (both white and green parts)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
one knob of ginger, chopped  (I chopped a 1″ by 2″ piece of peeled ginger)
1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Place all ingredients in a blender, and start on low.  Slowly increase speed and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as you go.
Store refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Freeze any leftovers in an ice-cube tray.

Notes:  To save time, I used Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice.   The original recipe calls for 2 hot chilis, such as Serrano or Thai chilis.  I often do not have such a thing in the house, so I substituted the cayenne, and then I put Sriracha on the table, because I like it hotter than Lars.

IMG_0889  If you want to elevate a bowl of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental Flavor is vegan), this is the ticket!   If you find you like this, then you might also go crazy for this chunky Ginger Scallion Sauce.

Candle 79 Restaurant – New York City

IMG_0786    Vegan Mofo 2013.  For our first lunch ever in New York City, we went to Candle 79, on the Upper East Side, at 154 East 79th Street.  It was a gorgeous September day, around 75 degrees out, so the bottom of the restaurant was open-air that day.  We arrived when they opened and were seated promptly in a quiet spot.  We were unable to get any caffeinated “regular” iced tea, but a hot tea was poured over ice for me.  The service was great–our waiter was pleasant and attentive without hovering.   Later, one of the managers, Christine, came by our table to see how we were doing and she was so friendly and helpful, gave us some directions around town.  A wonderful lunch, all in all!

IMG_0795  Lars got the BBQ Seitan Burger with avocado, chipotle aioli, red onions, polenta fries and mesclun.  It was kind of excellent!

IMG_0793  I got the Falafel Sandwich on whole wheat pita with Israeli salad, minted tahini, mesclun greens and quinoa tabouleh.  Good and filling.  I especially liked the salad.

IMG_0799  I was dying to try their carrot cake, but we had ahead of us a long walk back to the Upper West Side, through Central Park, so we kept it lighter and split the Housemade Ice Cream and Sorbet Sampler.  From left, the flavors were vanilla cinnamon, peach sorbet and huckleberry.  So delicious.  We really liked the cinnamon one, which surprised us because the flavor was slightly intense, but it was the perfect complement to the creamy vanilla base.

IMG_0789   The upstairs seating was fairly comfortable.

IMG_0800  The kitchen is on the ground floor, semi-visible.

IMG_0787  A fun greeting at the door.

Candle Cafe West – New York City

IMG_0734   Vegan Mofo 2013.  Please excuse my absence from Mofo, but I’ve been in New York City for a few days, just got back last night.  On our first night there, we had dinner at Candle Café West, at 2427 Broadway, on the Upper West Side.  I booked our reservation through Open Table, which I do recommend.  We arrived at 6 p.m. and the restaurant was not busy yet.  There was no caffeinated iced tea on the menu, but our waitress poured a hot tea over ice for me.  Lars got a nice glass of wine, so he was happy.  We ordered two appetizers and split an entrée.   The food came out of the kitchen within 10 minutes after ordering!   I just wish I could go back and order some of their juices and salads (next time).   Let’s just get on with the review and photos below.

IMG_0737  The restaurant inside is sort of warm, cozy, clean, low lighting, lots of wood, wait staff in all black.  Do not wear your pajama pants here, but you would be fine in jeans and a decent shirt, or even all dressed up.

IMG_0739   Fried Seitan Dumplings appetizer.  The seitan was sort of ground up, very good.  I especially liked the still-slightly-crisp baby bok choy in a very light sesame-ginger soy-sauce.  You could also get these dumplings steamed instead of fried.  I liked these.  $13.

IMG_0743  Summer Rolls appetizer.  Pickled cabbage, carrots, zucchini, cilantro, BBQ-ginger seitan wrapped in rice paper with spicy peanut sauce.  Lars liked these.  $13.

IMG_0745  Seitan Piccata entrée with creamed spinach, mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes, white wine-lemon-caper sauce.  This is their iconic dish, so we had to try it.  Lars said this was the best thing he ate the whole time he was in NYC.  I liked it too and the texture was pretty spot-on, just like a classic paillard.

IMG_0750   Lars got the Berry Crumble dessert.  Seasonal berries, almond crumble, vanilla ice cream, berry coulis.  This was fine, and a nice finish, but it honestly could not touch my crumble.  $13.

 IMG_0752   Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Pie dessert.  Chocolate mousse and peanut butter, berry coulis and salted peanuts.  Not quite enough peanut butter for my taste, the peanut butter was overpowered, but the texture is amazing!   Surprisingly light but still rich.  $10.

IMG_0753  This is what you see as you come up the stairs from the restrooms.

IMG_0744  A view from our nice, quiet table.

Chia Fresca

IMG_0709    I’m late to the party on Chia Fresca, but here’s how I like it.  Now, if only I could run like the Tarahumara Indians!  Vegan Mofo 2013.

CHIA FRESCA

Makes 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups Water
1.5 Tablespoons chia seeds
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup

DIRECTIONS
Mix all in a container, and shake or whisk.
Let it sit for 30 minutes, shaking or whisking every now and then.
Drink as is, or chill first.
Store any leftovers in the fridge overnight.

Notes:  You can find lots of info. on chia fresca online, on sites like this oneWhole Foods and health food stores usually have chia seeds now and they’re much cheaper in bulk.  You can also buy organic chia seeds.

Vegan Yogurt Biscuits

IMG_0721    Vegan Mofo 2013.  These quick Vegan Yogurt Biscuits work out to about one gram of fat apiece, which means we can crack them open and slather them with some vegan butter!  They’re really Southern style, if you follow the simple technique below.

VEGAN YOGURT BISCUITS

Makes at least 6.

INGREDINTS
1.5 Cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 oz. container So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt, Plain flavor only
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter and a pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the one Tablespoon of vegan butter, stir the pinch of salt into it, and set it aside.
Whisk the 1.5 Cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl.
Add the yogurt to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
Sprinkle counter with extra flour, and turn dough out onto the floured countertop.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough and fold it in half 3 or 4 times, adding a bit more bench flour as you need it, but be sparing.
Pat dough until it’s no more than a half-inch-tall round.
Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out biscuits without twisting the cutter.
You can use a thin drinking glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter, no worries.
Place biscuits 2 inches apart on baking sheet, and brush them with the salty butter, do not skip this step!
Bake 10-14 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot.

Notes:  These are best served hot and fresh.  For me, nothing compares to Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.  My friend Jan hails from North Carolina, and years ago (before I went vegan) she taught me to brush Southern biscuits with a buttery, slightly-salt glaze, it makes all the difference.

Old Virginia Heirloom Tomato

IMG_0673    Vegan Mofo 2013.  Behold the Old Virginia heirloom tomato.  This is my first time growing this particular variety.  I’m a wicked tomato snob, and one year grew eleven varieties of organic heirlooms, which is no easy feat because if you plant one heirloom variety near another, they can easily cross-pollinate and hybridize.  I planted these seeds on April 14, here in my backyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Lars told me I should have started the seeds indoors 4-8 weeks prior, which I knew, but with the new podcast, lots of things fell to the wayside this year.  Old Virginia is supposedly a mid-season tomato but I started late from seed, and my two 12-foot-long raised beds are behind the garage and don’t get maximum sunlight.  I didn’t even pinch any axil buds this year, something I always do.  Anyway, I think we must have picked the first tomato right around September 1.  And now, of course, they’re coming on like gangbusters.  I figured with a name like Old Virginia, this cultivar could take the heat of a Maryland summer, and it has.  This beautiful tomato is also crack-resistant and has fewer seeds than many varieties.  I got my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Saving seeds is worth it to me, but only if I’m growing heirlooms where I know they’ll reproduce true to the parent.  And it’s important to me to always get an organic seed, especially if I’m going to all the trouble to grow something from seed, and then save the seeds from harvest.  Also, I don’t want to grow GMO.  The flavor of this cultivar is good, although not the best of any heirloom.  However, heirloom tomatoes are often stingy in their production, and prone to cracking and other problems.  I’ve had summers where I have the most delicious heirlooms, but a low yield.  Of course, this beats any restaurant or supermarket tomato to Hell, and the other benefits make this a good, reliable addition to the heirloom tomato catalogue.

On the last episode of the Peaceful Table Podcast, I mentioned a few of my favorite tomato recipes.  Roasted Cream of Tomato SoupFried Green Tomatoes, and a lovely Indian salad called Timatar Ka.
IMG_0697  Fewer seeds than many other tomato varieties.

Vegan Salty Oat Cookie

 

IMG_0662     Vegan Mofo 2013.  People are crazy for the Salty Oat cookie at Teaism in DC, so here’s a vegan version of that famous confection.  We can be conscious of suffering and still eat amazing sweets, and these wicked-good cookies are proof of that.  In my head, I’m calling them Be-ism cookies, because they let the animals be.

SALTED OAT COOKIES

Makes 36 to 45 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1.5 sticks Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, at almost room temperature
1 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch cinnamon  (1/16th teaspoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal 2 eggs  (1 Tablespoon Ener-G plus 1/4 Cup water)
1.75 Cups flour
2 Cups rolled oats
1/2 Cup golden raisins
fine sea salt for sprinkling  (not kosher salt)

DIRECTIONS
Dry whisk the baking powder and baking soda into the flour.  Then dry whisk the oats into the flour mixture, and set aside.  In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high for about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, add the sugars, cinnamon and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well mixed, at least 2 minutes.  Add egg replacer and beat another 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and raisins, just until incorporated.  Cover dough and chill for at least one hour, or overnight before baking.  If you’re putting the dough into a container for chilling, do not pack the dough, just put it in there gently.  Do not skip the chilling, or the cookies may spread on the pan during baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a Tablespoon for a measure, scoop out the dough and form gently into flattened balls (fat discs).  Do not pack the dough in your hands, be gentle.  Sprinkle each dough ball with fine sea salt, just as you would sugar.  Bake one sheet at a time, for 13-14 minutes, until cookies are beginning to turn golden.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely before storing.

Notes:  I made these cookies smaller than some.  I like the cookies to have a little bit of a crispy edge, so I bake them at least 14 minutes.

Platanos Maduros – Sweet Fried Plantains

IMG_0654    Here we have Platanos Maduros, or sweet fried plantains.  Maduros means “mature” and we’re looking for the almost-black plantains here.  So delicious, and so simple that anyone could do it.   Part of the fun of this is going to the Latin market, but you can now buy plantains at most grocery stores.  I found three good YouTube videos on how to cook plantains.  One by Puerto Rican Style, one by Latin Kitchen, and one by Adriana Lopez (from Venezuela).  Each video has something different to impart.  In the last video, the Platanos Maduros demonstration begins at 5:20.  My friend from Guatemala assured me I didn’t need all that oil–she just uses some cooking spray in a non-stick skillet.

PLATANOS MADUROS – SWEET FRIED PLANTAINS

Serves 3 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 very-ripe plantains, with a lot of black on them
2 Tablespoons peanut oil  (or safflower oil)

DIRECTIONS
In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil, over medium heat.
If you want less oil, simply spray the non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
Cut both ends off each plantain.
Make a shallow cut from one end of the plantain to the other, following one of the raised ridges running the length of the plantain.
Using the cut you just made, peel the plantain.
Slice the plantains diagonally, into half-inch-thick pieces.
When the oil is hot, gently place about half of the plantain pieces in the pan, and fry and flip them until they are golden brown.
Immediately place on paper towels and blot them with another paper towel.
Repeat with the 2nd half of the plantain slices.
Serve immediately.  I like to serve these with Vegan Mexican Crema.

Notes:  I’m guessing you could keep these warm for a bit, in a 175 degrees Fahrenheit  oven.  If you buy the plantains very, very ripe (mostly black), you can store them inside a brown paper bag, in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator for another day or two. I do not use canola oil because I don’t like the taste of it when frying things.

Plantains offer many nutritional benefits, including beta carotene, Vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, B12, E, K and folate.  Minerals include iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, chloride and selenium.  They also have Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.  Half of a plantain has about 2 grams of fiber and one gram of protein.

Sesame-Orange-Glazed Tofu Nuggets with Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

IMG_0643    Here’s a link to a great review of this recipe by Your Vegan Mom.   This recipe is from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Donna Klein.  I’ve made this entire recipe and we liked it a lot.  It’s surprising how you roll the tofu cubes in the sesame seeds before you dredge them, and they do stick, and they don’t burn.  But, as an aside, they do benefit from a sauce–the sauce in this recipe being the perfect one.  However, today, for a quick lunch, and let’s be honest, for mofo, I decided to see how quickly I could get this together.   So, I improvised–I left out the tofu, and just cut up some vegan General Tso’s chicken from Whole Foods.  This saved a lot of time, and you could just throw on some cashews or walnuts instead of the General Tso’s.  I made a packet of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental flavor, which is animal-free), drained the noodles and split them onto two plates.  I did steam the vegetables, and consider this important.  But people, it’s the sauce that makes this dish, it’s a winner!  I did not deviate from Donna Klein’s sauce, and it doesn’t take long to make.  With this sauce, you can elevate any stir fry!  I probably only used half a teaspoon of oil to sauté the veggies before I added in the sauce.  I used Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (because I love it), instead of the chili paste called for, but I did cut it down to teaspoons because Lars is a lightweight when it comes to spicy.  Excellent meal in under one hour.   The sauce is mild but very flavorful, with the gentle sweetness of the orange, and the kick of the chili.  I’ve eaten at my share of upscale Chinese restaurants and this dish is comparable.  You can riff on it too, add some fresh grated ginger, mix up the veggies, use some fancy Chinese vinegar, etc.  I can’t wait to try several other recipes from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook, including the Velvet Corn Soup!

Seitan Bacon

IMG_0623    This Vegan Bacon Seitan is adapted from a combination of two recipes–this one from Vegan Nosh,  and this one from Veggie in Milwaukee.    You make two simple doughs that are easy to work with, stack them atop each other, bake and slice.   We had BLTs on sourdough bread with Old Virginia heirloom tomatoes, and we agreed this tastes more authentic than the store-bought vegan bacons we’ve tried.  It’s been years since I had a piece of bacon, but I remember it well.  I tweaked the original recipes–added some smoked paprika, changed amounts, added some oil (it is bacon, after all), etc.  This is meaty, smoky and chewy, and the best part is, nobody got hurt.

VEGAN BACON SEITAN

Red Dough
1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 Cup soy flour  (or garbanzo flour)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 teaspoons regular paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 Cup warm water
3 Tablespoons Tamari
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Tablespoons peanut oil

White Dough
1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons garbanzo flour  (or soy flour)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon peanut oil

DIRECTIONS
Red Dough:  In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
Separately combine all the wet ingredients and stir or whisk until well blended.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Shape red dough into a fat log and cut into three equal pieces.

White Dough:  In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
To the dry ingredients, add in the water and oil, and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Divide the white dough into two equal pieces.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and put one piece of red dough on it.
Cover the red dough with another piece of plastic wrap.
Gently roll out dough until it’s about 1/4-inch tall.  I suggest making it approx. 6″ x 7″.
Spray a piece of tin foil with cooking spray and transfer the flattened dough onto it.  I did this by picking up the piece of plastic and flipping it onto the foil.
Repeat the rolling process, alternating the white and red doughs, and stacking them onto the first piece that you laid onto the foil.  Don’t try to make them perfect.
Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the stacked doughs.
Rest a medium-heavy book on top of the plastic for about 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, and wrap the whole slab of bacon in tin foil.
On a baking sheet, bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Your seitan will be a bit undercooked, but this is good because it will be easier to slice, and it will pan-fry better.
Cool and slice.

When you’re ready to use the bacon:  pan fry in a non-stick skillet with a bit of vegan butter and a few sprinkles of seasoning salt.  I used McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning for some extra bacony kick.

Notes:  It’s my understanding that you can switch up the soy and garbanzo flours.  The red dough won’t look red until you add the liquid.  Once baked, you can freeze this bacon, and it’s good crumbled on casseroles, on mac and cheeze, in tofu breakfast sandwiches, etc.
IMG_0617  After pressing, before baking.

Freezing Herbs – Frozen Herb Cubes

IMG_0607    Vegan Mofo 2013.  I saw this excellent idea for freezing herbs on Pinterest, so looked around at various methods.  I chose this simple recipe for frozen herb cubes because the herbs are slightly blanched in the process, which keeps their colors bright, and kills any little bugs or germs.  Now, when I buy a bunch of parsley or cilantro for a recipe, none of it will go to waste!

FROZEN HERB CUBES

INGREDIENTS
old-fashioned ice cube tray
herbs of choice  (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme)

DIRECTIONS
Rinse herbs.
Strip leaves away from stems, and discard stems.
Mince herbs finely.
Pack minced herbs into an ice cube tray, each 3/4 full.
Slowly pour boiling water into each cube compartment, just until water comes to the surface of the herbs.
Freeze.
Once the herb cubes are frozen, pop them out of their compartments and quickly into a freezer container, and put back in the freezer.
Use as needed.

Notes:  Here’s a two-minute YouTube video on how to remove leaves from herb stems and how to mince herbs.  Packing the fresh herbs firmly into the ice cube tray will help reduce the amount of water you add to each cube compartment.  When thawing, be mindful of any additional water in the herb cubes.  You may wish to let the cubes thaw and drain off any excess water.  For most dishes, though, this small amount of water won’t matter.
IMG_0605

Easy Fig Jam with Lemon and Sesame

IMG_0598    Vegan Mofo 2013.  For weeks, we’ve been having a contest to see who could get to the figs first–me or The Squirrels.  As you can imagine, the Squirrels are way ahead, but I did manage to snag a pound a half of these White Italian Honey Figs, and make some easy, vegan fig jam.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers on a vegan cheese board.  You can double this recipe, and you can use any type of figs–I’ve also made it with Brown Turkey figs.

EASY FIG JAM WITH LEMON AND SESAME

Makes about two 8-ounce jars.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar
1.5 pounds ripe figs, rinsed
zest from one organic lemon
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (no more)
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

DIRECTIONS
In a small skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds, shaking the pan gently until seeds turn golden.  Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, simmer water and sugar, until sugar is dissolved.
Cut each fig into about 8 pieces.
Into the sugar-water, add zest and lemon juice and figs.
Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 1.5 to 2 hours.
Stir in sesame seeds.
If you want to, you can now use a potato masher to break up some of the fig pieces.
I like a mixed consistency.
Let cool a bit and then ladle into heavy little canning jars.
When fully cool, cap the jars.
Keep in fridge for one month, or put in freezer for up to six months.

Notes:  I’ve tried making this with stevia, and did not like the flavor at all.  One time I added extra lemon, but that made it taste kind of like Pledge, so keep it subtle.  I also tried adding more sesame seeds, but it was too much, threw the balance off.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers and vegan cheeses.  If you need to collect figs over 2 or 3 days, gently rinse and dry them, and keep them in a covered container in the refrigerator until you get enough.
IMG_0579  White Italian Honey Figs

IMG_0510  Here’s my haul from day one.  It took me two more days to steal enough from the squirrels to make jam.

IMG_0591  The picture of health, but not ripe yet.

IMG_0589  This fig tree gets cut back each Spring and then it grows about 4-6 feet in one season.  You can see it towering over our one-story garage roof here.  This fig tree faces SW, and is protected from wind by the garage.

Ramen Salad with Slivered Almonds

IMG_0576    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fun salad is popular in Hawaii.  The almonds and noodles are toasted, and provide a great contrast with the cool, crunchy cabbage and sweet carrot. The dry broth packet helps to flavor the simple dressing, along with some rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar.  From what I’ve read online, it seems Top Ramen in the Oriental Flavor does not have any animal products in it.  (one more photo below)


RAMEN SALAD

Serves approx. 4-6,  depending upon how much cabbage you use.

INGREDIENTS
1 pkg. Nissin Top RamenOriental Flavor only
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1 pkg. slaw mix,  or shaved fresh cabbage and 1 or 2 grated carrots
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar  (I use the un-flavored one, such as Marukan)
2 teaspoons sugar

DIRECTIONS
Break up dry ramen noodles and put on baking sheet with the almonds.
Put under broiler on 2nd rack from top, to toast for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until golden. Stir.
These can burn quickly, so don’t walk away.
If you don’t have a broiler, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes, baking first for 5 minutes and then checking every couple of minutes.

In small shaker jar put oil, vinegar, sugar and dry broth packet from Ramen. Shake.
Or you can stir it in a glass.

Wait until ready to eat, then toss vegetables with the toasted noodles and almonds.  Drizzle on the dressing by the Tablespoon, and toss and taste to see how much you like.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  If you toss the salad with the dressing too early, the salad will wilt and be limp.  I use a little latte frother for salad dressings like this.  I like to start breaking up the noodles before I open the ramen packet, just by bending it gently between my hands.   I think I normally use about 1/4 to 1/3 of a green cabbage and grate one large carrot.  It makes a lot!  I’m guessing this dressing is enough for about 1/2 of a medium green cabbage.  I guess the Chili flavor also has no animal products, but I have not tried that one.
IMG_0571

Bangkok Street Cart Noodles

IMG_0437    This recipe for vegan Bangkok Street Cart Noodles is slightly adapted from the March/April 2012 issue of VegNews.  To me, it tastes like a good Pad Thai.  If you make your sauce and chop all your veggies ahead of time, it’s much quicker to throw together at dinnertime.  Both Lars and I loved this dish.  Instead of cubed tofu, I sometimes just use the vegan General Tso’s Chicken from Whole Foods, which also saves time.

BANGKOK STREET CART NOODLES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1.5 packages Kame brand Japanese curly noodles (Chuka Soba)
(or thin rice noodles, maybe vermicelli, not sure)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Sauce
1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce  (I use Mae Ploy brand, a Thai brand w/garlic already in it)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice  (or juice of one lime)
¼ Cup soy sauce or Tamari
1.5 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
½ Cup vegetable broth  (I use Better Than Bouillon, the organic/vegetable base one)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (safflower or peanut or grapeseed oil)  (not canola)
12 oz. pkg. Tofu, pressed and cubed into ½” dice.   (or General Tso’s vegan chicken from Whole Foods, slice pieces in half)
2 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips or tiny dice
1 Cup of some other vegetable here, such as snow peas, fresh corn off the cob, chopped kale, etc.
4 green onions, sliced into thin rings.  Use all the white parts and only half of the green parts

ESSENTIAL TOPPINGS
plenty of fresh lime wedges, at least two limes worth
3/4 Cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped.  About ½ Cup.
Sprouts, rinsed well and dried.  About 1 Cup  (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Cook noodles according to package.   Rinse noodles in cold water, drain well and toss noodles with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and set aside.
In a jar, combine chili sauce, hoisin, tomato paste, tamarind, cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, tamari, ginger and broth.  Mix well and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon oil, and fry tofu cubes until browned.   Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
Add all sauce, seitan (if using), bell pepper, any other vegetables (if using), and green onions, and stir fry one minute.    Add noodles back into skillet and stir to coat.
Serve immediately, with lots of fresh lime wedges, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and optional bean sprouts.

Notes:  Prep as much as you can.  I make the sauce ahead to save time, and keep it in the fridge.  I think the original recipe just called for “rice noodles” but am not sure.  If the cooked noodles sit too long, they can clump together, so don’t prepare them more than an hour ahead.
IMG_2668  My favorite tamarind concentrate

Caramelized Green Beans With Pine Nuts

IMG_0516    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fast, easy dish is also a little bit elegant.  The skinnier beans get a bit more caramelized while the fatter beans stay closer to their original state.  Creamy pine nuts are thrown right in with the beans to toast in the last five minutes of cooking–no separate pan to wash or take up a burner.  I reduced the fat, and substituted in Earth Balance Buttery Spread.  This is a good dish to make while you’re working on other food in the kitchen, because it cooks in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Prep time is minimal.  This is adapted from an old Martha Stewart Recipe.   p.s.  My photo shows more pine nuts than the recipe calls for.

CARAMELIZED GREEN BEANS WITH PINE NUTS

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 teaspoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 pounds green beans, washed, stem ends removed
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
sea salt
pepper (if desired)
lemon wedges  (optional, this was not part of the original recipe)

DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet, heat vegan butter and oil over medium-low heat
Add green beans, partially cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until beans are tender and brown in spots, about 30 minutes.
Add pine nuts, and cook until nuts are toasted, about 5 more minutes.
Season with sea salt and pepper.
Serve with lemon wedges.
IMG_0509

Ep. 005 – Vegan Personal Products

Play

Welcome to the Peaceful Table podcast, where we talk about vegan cooking and lifestyle.  This is the Vegan Personal Products show.  However, we’re also going to talk about some of my favorite Tomato recipes,  I’ll tell you about one of my favorite cookbooks,  a fascinating documentary, and a whole lot more.

FOR FAVORITES AND DETAILS, PLEASE LISTEN TO THE SHOW.

Personal Products Brands that DO test on animals.
Personal Product Brands that do NOT test on animals.
Alba Botanica Hawaiian Hibiscus Facial Toner.
Thayers Alcohol Free Toner.
Desert Essence Pomegranate Face Serum.
Alba Botanica Even Advanced Daily Cream (too perfumey but works great).
Borage Therapy Facial Moisturizer by Shikai.
Crystal Deodorant.
DIY deodorant.
Summer Spice Roll-On Deodorant by Nature’s Gate.
Tom’s Long Lasting Wild Lavender Deodorant  (24 Hour).
Desert Essence Sweet Almond Hand and Body Lotion.
Desert Essence Perfect Pistachio Foot Repair Cream.
Nature’s Gate Papaya Moisturizing Lotion.
Organic Fiji Body Lotions  (shop around for price).
Desert Essence Tea Tree Shampoo.
Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Shampoo.  Video about this shampoo.
Desert Essence Jojoba Shampoo.
Nature’s Gate Hemp Shampoo.
Nature’s Gate Chamomile Shampoo.
Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure Castile Soap (DIY shampoo).
Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner.
Trader Joe’s Refresh Citrus Conditioner (for short hair, not the best detangler).
Nature’s Gate Chamomile Conditioner.
Nature’s Gate Hemp Conditioner.
Tom’s of Maine Soap bars.  (two-packs from Target)
Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Exfoliant Ginger Almond Soap bar.
Kiss My Face soap bar.  Not my fave, but vegan and good ratings on Skin Deep EWG.
Nubian Heritage Soaps.  Not all of them are vegan, please read my blog post on link.
Verve Soap bars by Whole Foods  (three packs).  Good price.
Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps.
Documentary:  Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox
Toothpaste RDA (Abrasivity Chart) (with video)
Toothpaste, all non-fluoride:  Weleda  (the salt one is not vegan, supposedly)
Toothpaste for kids, Tom’s of Maine:  Outrageous Orange Mango, Silly Strawberry, Wicked Cool Mild Mint  (all with or without fluoride, check box carefully).  Some of the Tom’s non-fluorides are NOT vegan, so please check for propolis, a bee products.
Tom’s Cavity Protection Formula,  Peppermint Baking Soda w/ fluoride.  RDA 100-130.
Tom’s Wicked Fresh, Cool Peppermint or Spearmint Ice, w/fluoride.  RDA 100-130.
Colgate Total Toothpaste, Clean Mint.  I do NOT recommend any toothpaste that says “Tartar Control” or “Whitening.”  Notes that there are various Colgate Totals.  I do not know if Colgate Total Mint Stripe is too abrasive or not.  I do not know if Colgate Total Advanced Gum Defense is too abrasive or not either.  The plain Colgate Total Clean Mint says “Gently Cleans” on the label so I assume this is the one recommended in the video linked above.
Preserve Toothbrushes.
Hummus and Tabouleh from Lebanese Café in Annapolis.
Veg DC guide to vegan eats in Washington DC area, by districts.
Vegetarian Guide to Baltimore.
T-Shirt by C.O.K.  (soft, organic cotton)  Soft black.
No Poo method of washing your hair,  video.
Flax Seed Hair Gel,  video.
Flax Seed Hair Gel, featuring Black hair,  video.
Book/novel.  The Lonely Polygamist  by  Brady Udall.
Book/novel.  The 19th Wife  by  David Ebershoff.
Cookbook:  My Bread  by  Jim Lahey.
Recipe:  Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup.
Recipe:  Fried Green Tomatoes.
Recipe:  Timatar Ka.  Indian tomato salad.
Recipe:  Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes.
Recipes:  Vegan Cheese Ball.

Vegan Cheese Ball

IMG_0307    This recipe is straight from Josh Latham of My Vegan Cookbook.  And it’s really good!   For me, Josh’s original recipe here has a flavor reminiscent of mild cheddar, but with the texture of goat cheese.  Josh has suggested variations such as Black Pepper & Rosemary, or Hawaiian-style (with Baco Bits and Pineapple).  However, I’m thinking a swirl of reduced port wine would be just the thing to mix into this vegan cheese ball, especially for the holidays.  The only thing I did differently was to soak the almonds overnight, just to make them a bit creamier.  Josh seems to have a way with making decadent food that’s also healthy, and this easy vegan cheeze ball is no exception.  p.s.  I made another one of Josh’s recipes for Vegan Mofo last year, his Salted Caramel Popcorn.

JOSH LATHAM’S CHEEZE BALL,  ORIGINAL FLAVOR

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup slivered and blanched almonds
1/4 Cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 of a 14 oz. block of firm tofu  (refrigerated kind, well drained)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon canola oil  (I used grapeseed)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons fresh chives  (I like 2 teaspoons)
3/4 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (to coat outside)

DIRECTIONS
(I soak the almonds in a jar of filtered water overnight, but this is my optional step.)
Place almonds and pine nuts in food processor with salt and sugar, and blend for about 2 minutes until clumps start to form.

Measure 1/3 of a block of tofu from a 14-ounce block.  It’s important to use firm tofu.  Silken or extra-firm tofu will not work.  An average block of tofu is about 4.5 inches long, so measure 1.5 inches off.  Drain tofu in a strainer by smashing and pressing firmly.  Using a clean lint-free dish towel to soak up some of the water also helps.  It’s important to get as much water as you can out.   (I just used a Tofu Xpress instead).

Now add the tofu to the almond and pine-nut paste that’s already in the food processor, along with the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oil and onion powder, and blend about two minutes.  Mixture should resemble extra-thick mashed potatoes.

Add chives to food processor and pulse them into the mixture, just until distributed.

Spray a small bowl and a square of plastic wrap with cooking oil spray.  Press mixture into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge and let this chill for at least five hours or overnight.  It will get nice and firm and can now be shaped into a ball and rolled in chopped walnuts to coat.  If you lightly oil your hands, it will keep it from sticking to your hands while you roll.  (I did not bother oiling my hands and did not need to, it was not sticky.)

Here are Josh’s variations on the same recipe.  Just leave the chives out and add:

Black Pepper & Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Coat with pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
or
Hawaiian
1 Tablespoon Baco Bits
1 Tablespoon pineapple, well-drained and finely chopped
Coat with chopped pecans that have been lightly coated with maple syrup and toasted until crispy on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Notes:  I’d like to do a port-wine reduction and swirl it through the cheese mixture (by pulsing it in the food processor) before the initial chilling.  I made this two days in advance, with great results.

Vegan Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

IMG_0247   If you ever enjoyed the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes from The Cheesecake Factory, you might also like these easy, delicious, vegan versions.  I whip up some quick Romesco Sauce to go with them, which really bumps up the protein, but you could use any topping you like.  Even just some vegan sour cream with chopped cilantro would be great.  I only make these when fresh local corn is in season.

VEGAN SWEET CORN TAMALE CAKES

Makes 10

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup corn flour
1/2 Cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
and
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil  (I used safflower oil)
1 Cup Lite coconut milk
2 Cups grated zucchini  (about one medium-to-large zucchini, peeled)
2 Cups fresh corn, cut off the cobs  (about 5 ears of corn)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped chives  (or a chopped shallot)

DIRECTIONS
Make your sauce, and set in fridge to chill  (I made this Romesco Sauce).
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix oil, coconut milk, zucchini, corn and chives.
Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir gently but well with a wooden spoon.
Brush large, non-stick skillet with one teaspoon of oil, and set on almost-medium heat.
Using a 1/3 Cup measure for each cake,  pour out three cakes into skillet.
Cook about 5-6 minutes, until the cakes move when you shake the pan.
Carefully flip,  and cook other side.
Keep warm in 175 degrees Fahrenheit oven.
Serve with Romesco Sauce,  or vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro,  etc.

For reasons of flavor, I do not recommend using canola oil.

Ep. 004 – Vegan Makeup Marathon

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This is the Vegan Makeup Marathon.  However, we’re also going to talk about some of my favorite summertime recipes, and a couple of cookbooks.  I’ll tell you about the letter I wrote to my local newspaper, a fun, new vegan podcast, and some free vegan apps.  We’ll also talk about some great beach reads,  and some books for kids too.  All kinds of good stuff.  MAKEUP LISTED BELOW IS NOT IN ORDER OF MY FAVORITES, but they are all Thumbs Up.   For discussion of favorites and individual colors, please listen to the show.

Table of State Laws That Protect Animals in Parked Cars.
Humane Society Flyer:  Don’t Leave Your Pet In A Parked Car.
ASPCA Flyer:  Pets In Hot Cars
Companies That DO Test On Animals.   Companies That Do NOT Test On Animals.
The Body Shop vegan policy.    Animal Ingredients List.    Happy Cow Animal Ingredient List.    Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.    Buycott app.    Cruelty Free app.   Animal Free app.    Leaping Bunny Logo.    Peta Cruelty Free Logo  and  Cruelty Free And Vegan Logo.

BLUSH.  Wet n Wild Color Icon Blusher –  832E and 833E.    e.l.f. Studio Blush – all colors.
BRUSHES.  e.l.f. brushes – Studio line only!     EcoTools Makeup Brushes.
FOUNDATIONS.    Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation.    Zuzu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation.    Zuzu Luxe Oil-Free Liquid Foundation.    Wet n Wild Ultimate Match Foundation SPF 15.    Wet n Wild Intuitive Blend Shade-Adjusting Foundation+Primer.    Wet n Wild Coverall Cream Foundation.    e.l.f. Studio Flawless Finish Foundation.
EYES.  Wet n Wild Color Icon Brow & Eye Liner – 650D-663C only!
Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio – 331, 380B and 385B only!
Wet n Wild Mega Protein Mascara.
Wet n Wild Mega Volume Mascara.
Wet n Wild  Mega Plump Mascara.   Be careful, not all Wet n Wild products are vegan and some of their mascaras are not vegan.
LIPS.    Wet n Wild Color Icon Lip Pencils – 664C-666 only!
Wet n Wild Silk Finish Lipstick – 505A-553B only!
Wet n Wild Mega Last Lip Color – 900B-919B only!  Mega Last Liquid Lip Colors are not vegan.   e.l.f. Studio Matte Lip Color.
MISC.  e.l.f. Essential Shine Eraser.    Eye Makeup Remover = coconut oil!    e.l.f. Essential Eyeshadow Applicators.    e.l.f. Studio Translucent Matifying Powder.
Crazy Rumors Lip Balm.
NAILS.  ZoyaNo MissWet n Wild Mega Last Nail Color.    Wet n Wild Fast Dry Nail ColorZoya Remove Plus Nail Polish RemoverNo Miss Almost Natural Polish Remover.    Vegan Claws.     Vegan Claws Autumnal Manicure.

Wet n Wild Vegan List  (such as it is).  Please note that NOT all Wet n Wild products are vegan.

YOU TUBE:  Grace’s Most Used Vegan Products.    Make Your Own Makeup!
Raw Organic Makeup Tutorial.

BOOKS:   The Seal Wife  by  Kathryn Harrison.    Consumption  by  Kevin Patterson.
The Beginner’s Goodbye  by  Anne Tyler.    The Outside World  by  Tova Mirvis.
BOOKS FOR KIDS:   Unspoken  by  Henry Cole.  The Beetle Book  by  Steve Jenkins.
Stellaluna  by  Janell Cannon.

DOCUMENTARY FILM:  King Corn.

Tick Tock Organic Insect Repellent.    Tovolo Ice Pop Molds.

We talked about boycotting any events that exploit animals, such as Kentucky Derby parties, and I read the letter that I sent to my local newspaper on this subject.

We also talked about summertime recipes and cookbooks.  Grilled Portobello MushroomsBaked Corn On The CobGrilled Corn On The CobSuper Simple Raspberry Sorbet.

Mineral Fusion Vegan List as of June 18, 2013:  All  Pressed, Loose, and Sheer Tint Bases, Concealers, Mascaras, Eye Pencils, Shampoos and Conditioners Body Washes, and Blotting Papers.  Eye Shadows and Trios: Buff, Prism, Rare, Raw, Sultry, Imagine,  and Stunning.   Lip Gloss: Sheen, Captivate, Reflect, Enlighten, and Polished.   Lip Pencils: Burnish and Graceful.   Skin Care: Eye and Age-Defying Treatments, Renewing Facial Scrub,  Soothing Toner, Mattifying Oil-Control, Skin-Balancing, and SPF 40 Moisturizers, Intense Hydration Cream, and the SPF 30 Brush On Sun Defense.   Nail Polishes.   Please note that not all MF products are vegan!

BANANA FLAXSEED QUICK BREAD

IMG_0159     Bananas and flax seeds are some of the best egg replacers around, so there are no eggs in this recipe (not that we need them any anyway).  Flaxseed meal is simply ground up flax seeds, one of the best sources for Omega 3 essential fatty acids.  I use Florida Crystals brand brown sugar.  Florida Crystals is the first and only certified organic sugar made in the United States!  Unlike most other sugars, It’s processed without bone char or any other animal products, and it is not genetically modified.  Either way, this delectable banana bread is easy enough for kids to make, and is great either served as a dessert, or smeared with peanut butter or Earth Balance organic whipped vegan butter.  p.s.  I love walnuts and dates in this bread, but you don’t have to put them in.

BANANA FLAXSEED QUICK BREAD  (with optional walnuts and dates)

Yield:  one loaf

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 Cup Spelt flour
1 Cup Florida Crystals Brown Sugar  (packed) (or demerara)
2.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular salt)
3/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Flax Meal
1/4 Cup Safflower oil  (or other oil)
1/2 Cup apple sauce
1/2 Cup almond milk  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup banana, mashed well  (approx. 2 bananas)
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (optional)
3-4 dried dates, pitted and diced (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.    Grease one regular sized loaf pan with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.    In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
If using the walnuts and/or dates, add them to dry ingredients now, and stir.
In another bowl, mix together the plant milk, oil, applesauce, vanilla and mashed bananas.    Gradually stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.    Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.    Cool pan on a rack for 5 minutes.    Invert pan onto rack until loaf pops out, and then invert bread again, so it’s right-side-up.    Cool on rack completely.

Notes:  Stirring the walnuts and dates into the dry ingredients just before adding the wet gets them coated with flour which should help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf during baking.  In the Fall, you could replace the Cinnamon with Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I like to keep a six-pack of 4 oz. organic applesauce cups in the pantry, to replace some or all of the oil in baking recipes.  I use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash the bananas on a cutting board until they are a fine consistency.   p.s.  If you want to go crazy, add in 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric for an enhanced golden color and natural anti-inflammatory for the body.

SPICY AFRICAN PEANUT STEW

IMG_0112   This recipe is from the Peas and Thank You vegan cookbook  by Sarah Matheny.  I first heard about it on the Indy Vegan Family podcast.    This is possibly more of a cold-weather recipe as it has beautiful, warming spices, but I needed something to make for supper that night and had all the ingredients.  It was quick to put together, and it made a lot, so I froze some for quick lunches.  Lars ate two bowls.  It’s a nice, rich soup, so packed with protein and fiber that you won’t be hungry until the next day.  I put a spoonful of peanut butter right in the center of my steaming bowl of stew, and it was so good.  A few salted peanuts scattered over it as a garnish made it even more decadent, and perhaps it’s a good idea anyway so people can see that it does contain peanuts.   The recipe as written below reflects my own changes to a few of the spice amounts, and I added in a bit of turmeric.  You can’t taste the turmeric, but it’s great for a golden color, and it reduces inflammation in the body.  Thanks, Indy Vegan Family, for putting out a fun podcast to listen to and sharing your recipe reviews too!

SPICY AFRICAN PEANUT STEW

Serves:  8

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, cubed into 1/4 inch dice (no larger)
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed/crushed,  or minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes,  in juice
14 oz. can light coconut milk
2 Cups vegetable stock  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter
1/2 Cup red lentils,  picked over and rinsed  (you can substitute quinoa)

Optional garnishes:  chopped cilantro,  salted or chopped peanuts,  dairy-free sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt.  You could also offer Sriracha for those who like it hotter.

DIRECTIONS
In a small stock pot, combine all ingredients and simmer on stove top for 30 minutes.
or
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and turn on high for 30 minutes.
Then switch to low for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve, and pass garnishes at the table.

Notes:  Upon reheating, you can add in some extra liquid if necessary.  Also, if you want a creamier soup, you can always puree a portion of it in the blender and then add it back in.  It’s fairly flexible, I might throw in an extra can of tomatoes next time.  Also, I’ll try making a cool cilantro/yogurt to dollop on top, dairy free of course.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

IMG_0089  From the library, I borrowed Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli.   Had to get it through interlibrary loan, and order it twice, but it finally arrived.  These Salted Caramel Cupcakes were very easy to make, despite the caramel flavor achieved in the frosting.  I’ve never wanted to fuss with caramel since those recipes normally involve the words “candy thermometer” but this could not have been easier.  I pre-measured the dry ingredients one day, and made the frosting and put that in the fridge.  So when it came time to actually make the cupcakes, it went very fast, had them in the oven within 30 minutes.  No eggs here, Chloe uses her signature baking soda and vinegar combo instead.  They rose just fine and tasted great.  I sprinkled the frosted cupcakes with a few crystals of Pyramid Salt that I picked up years ago from Fauchon in Paris, but any nice finishing salt would do.   I’d avoid kosher salt, however, for its strong chemical taste.  Ok, so the flavor was perfect, fairly gourmet and a bit different.  My only complaint is that the bottoms of the cupcakes themselves were a bit oily.  Next time, I would sub out half the oil and add in some applesauce to replace it.  It also made too much frosting, so I put at least a cup of frosting in the freezer.  Next time, I would also make sure to spray the paper baking cups with cooking spray, as there was a bit of sticking on the sides, despite the slight-oily quality of the cake bottoms.  But, with these small changes, I would definitely make these for an occasion, such as a birthday, book club, or a dinner party–very good!  You must keep these in the fridge since the frosting is buttercream, so make sure they come to room temperature before serving.   p.s.  Don’t think I’m being harsh–these cupcakes (as per the original recipe) still beat any restaurant cupcake to hell.

HOMEMADE DIY DEODORANT

IMG_0071  In an effort to stay away from products tested on animals, I tried various vegan deodorants on the market, and they all came up short.  I was ok with the crystal deodorant I had been using, but then I saw online that it’s actually made of a type of aluminum.  I looked on Pinterest for homemade deodorants and noticed one common recipe coming up with rave reviews by different bloggers.  So, I had all the ingredients, and gave it a shot, and . . . it works like a charm.  I didn’t go as far as one person went, where she didn’t bathe for a few days and it still worked.  However, I did wear it when I went to walk dogs at the Humane Society one hot, sunny, still Thursday afternoon.  After the 5th dog, I was standing in the shade, perspiring away.  When I got home, I went to change my shirt and gave myself a sniff . . . . no odor at all.  It’s like a neutralizer, I guess.  Even my shirt still smelled good and clean.  I changed it anyway since it drives my own pup nuts to smell a bunch of other dogs on me, but I wouldn’t have had to otherwise.  So, it’s cheap, it’s healthy, it takes 5 minutes to make, and it reduces the chemical soup we all find ourselves in by the time we put on our pajamas.  It’s also a form of activism where we are not supporting the systematic torture of the innocent.  What’s not to like?

HOMEMADE DEODORANT,  DIY DEODORANT

INGREDIENTS
1/4 Cup organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil
1/4 Cup baking soda
1/4 Cup corn starch
10 drops of essential oil  (optional).  I used Aura Cacia Organic 100% pure essential oil of grapefruit peel.  To avoid any possible sensitive skin reactions, omit the essential oil.

DIRECTIONS
In your smallest saucepan, heat the coconut oil on low, and don’t walk away.
Once the oil is melted, take it off the heat  (it will melt very quickly, in about a minute).
In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk the baking soda and corn starch until well combined.
Optional:  once the coconut oil has cooled a bit, add in 10 drops of scented oil and stir  with a wooden spoon.
Pour dry ingredients into the coconut oil and stir well.
Pour into a small, heavy glass jar and chill in the fridge if you like.
Once the coconut oil is set, place the jar in your bathroom, ready to use after a shower.
After a shower, rub the deodorant all around each underarm, in a wide circle.  I use somewhere between 1/4 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon per armpit, maybe closer to 1/4 teaspoon, I don’t know.

Notes:  This coconut oil melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is good to know in case your house is kept at 80 degrees or above.  My house is kept around 76-78 degrees, and so I keep my jar in the medicine cabinet, which is slightly cooler than the bathroom itself.  It’s a great consistency when I go to use it, soft but not liquid, and it blends right into damp underarms right after a shower.  Dr. Bronner’s Unrefined Organic Virgin Coconut OIl is also Fair Trade, but there are a couple of other brands.   Instead of the essential oil, you could put in a couple of drops of Tea Tree oil, if you want extra anti-bacterial properties.  For safety reasons, I suggest a little 8 oz. canning jar.  I happen to be using a 4 oz. wide-mouth jar from Penzey’s.  It’s important to note, that if you go cold turkey off commercial antiperspirants, your armpits will possibly stream sweat for a few days, cleaning the pores out.  For me, this tapered off and stopped pretty quickly, and then I wondered why I hadn’t done this years ago!

Vegan Chicken Gyro Sandwiches

IMG_9994  I’ve loved Greek food since I was in my 20’s, and these really satisfy something I’d been missing.  These were quick to make and so good, and lasted for several lunches for me and Lars.  The main ingredient is Beyond Meat vegan chicken.    Dressed with my own vegan Tzatziki Sauce, and Pickled Red Onions, they’re kind of special.

VEGAN CHICKEN GRYO SANDWICHES

INGREDIENTS
one package Beyond Meat vegan chicken, Lightly Seasoned flavor
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
vegan Tzatziki Sauce
Pickled Red Onions
Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
shredded lettuce
tortillas or flat bread

DIRECTIONS
Slice vegan chickn slices in half the long way, to make them skinnier.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil, tiny throw in a pinch of salt too.
Saute the vegan chicken on medium heat, just until some color arrives.
Make your sandwiches!  I like to make a bed of lettuce, load up the Tzatziki sauce, layer on the chickn and then dress with onions and Kalamata olives.

Ep. 003 – Vegan Gardening

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Welcome to the Peaceful Table Podcast, Episode Three, the Vegan Gardening Episode.  Here are some of the things we discussed:

Natural Landscaping by Sally Roth.   Peterson First Guides Caterpillars.
The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher.   Bluestone Perennials.
Peaceful Valley Farm SupplyVegan Mix fertilizer.    PVFS Premium Soil Builder Mix cool weather cover crop seeds  with Garden Combination Mix Inoculant powderDocumentary film Vanishing Of The Bees.  The children’s book Stellaluna.
We wondered if Bee Movie is a good film for vegan kids.
Bat RehabilitatorsBat Boxes.
The bat guano section of the book 1493  by  Charles C. Mann.
Request For Exemption From Adult Mosquito Control Services form.
Pesticide Sensitive Individual Notification Program form.
Youtube:  The Beauty of Pollination.
Youtube:  Lil’ Drac baby vampire bat who rocks himself to sleep every night.
The Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler.
A cancer study that shows that vegan blood fights cancer 8 times better than the blood of non-vegans.  The classic cookbook Veganomicon and various recipes I’ve made from it.   Here’s a link to photos of my garden and some of the plants we talked about.

Yuba Barbecue Ribs

IMG_9975This recipe for BBQ Yuba ribs caught my eye on Pinterest.    There are also other recipes for barbecue Yuba ribs, like this one and this one.  I have this 1981 cookbook called Kathy Cooks Naturally  by  Kathy Hoshijo.  Kathy had a TV show on PBS back in the 1980’s, called Kathy’s Kitchen.  The cookbook is not vegan but it’s perhaps closer to vegan than vegetarian, and a lot of the recipes are already vegan and do not need to be converted.   Other recipes are converted simply by switching in agave or plant milk.  I don’t think she has any eggs in this book either.  So, back to our main ingredient–Yuba.  Yuba is a by-product of soybeans.  When soy milk is heated, a thin film forms on the surface, and this is Yuba.  Yuba can be fresh, half-dried or completely dried.  The dried form is often available in Oriental grocery stores and can be labeled as “Bean Curd” and are available in sheets and sticks and rolls.  Fresh Yuba is highly prized in Japan, and dried Yuba is about 50% protein and rich in minerals.  Monks have eaten Yuba for centuries to maintain a compassionate and healthful diet.  So, in Kathy Cooks Naturally, she has Yuba recipes for Yuba Chips, Mock Bacon, Yuba Seaweed Rolls, Mock Peking Duck, Monk’s Ham, Yuba Sausage, Southern Fried Chicken, Festive Mock Stuffed Turkey, Yuba Vegetable Rolls and Monk’s Chicken.  On to the BBQ!  This is my very first time making Yuba and it was quick and easy, and I can see how versatile this food is.  The whole package was $2.50 and could easily feed 3-4 people as a main dish, depending on who you’re feeding.   I followed Miyoko Schinner’s recipe pretty much, except I switched in a bottle of store-bought BBQ sauce, and reduced the oil.  This is a fast, delicious main dish, but I agree with Miyoko, these vegan ribs would make great football food too.  And yes, good enough to serve for company.

YUBA BARBECUE RIBS

Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS

1 package Yuba dried bean curd sticks (see photo below)  (5.3 oz. pkg.)
1 bottle Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut oil, or safflower oil (or some other oil suitable for high heat)

DIRECTIONS
Place Yuba sticks in a 13-inch glass baking dish and cover with water
(the Yuba will float at first,  but it will settle down).
Cover baking dish and place in refrigerator overnight.

The next day:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
With scissors, cut Yuba sticks into 5-inch or 6-inch sections.
Remove Yuba from water, drain it and place it on a plate.
Wash and dry the baking dish, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put 1 Tablespoon of the oil onto the parchment paper and rub it around.
Pour BBQ sauce into a large bowl and stir the remaining Tablespoon of oil into it.
Toss the drained Yuba sticks into the BBQ/oil sauce and mix until well coated.
Lay coated Yuba sticks onto the oiled parchment paper in the baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, turn Yuba ribs over and brush them with remaining BBQ/oil sauce.
Bake another 15 minutes.
It’s good if the ribs are a bit blackened in a few spots.
Although Miyoko Schinner’s original recipe says they should be “somewhat” firm, don’t try to get the ribs totally firm.

IMG_9967  This is how I bought the Yuba from the Asian Food Center, at 2505 N. Salisbury Boulevard, in Salisbury, Maryland.

IMG_9974  Yuba sticks after soaking overnight, and draining.

Early Bloomers for A Back Porch Flower Bed

I like a succession of blooms in the flower bed that runs along our back porch.  This is Act One, and it provides early color while the longer-lasting perennials are maturing for their turn in the spotlight.  Invisibly growing up, hidden under and behind these purple and white blooms, are Butterfly Weed, Cone Flowers, Liatris, tall Sedums, tall Phlox, Russian Sage, tall Soapwort, Veronica, Daylillies, Obedience Plant, etc.  Here below are some easy, early-flowering combinations that I use almost every year.  These flowers bloom for several weeks in Spring, for parts of April and May, maybe a month, or more or less, depending upon the weather that year.  So this year, we have a good example of some of the blooms.  Please note that usually, I also have big red and pink poppies blooming with these, but am just now in the process of replacing poppies that have gotten pushed around and inadvertently dug up over the years during plantings of annuals, etc.  So here we go with some of my favorite old standbys.

IMG_9923 Tall purple Dames Rockets (Hesperis matronalis) are an old-fashioned favorite that used to be planted outside the back/kitchen door of early-American farm houses in Pennsylvania and other nearby states.  They also come in white.  Each year, I let one Dames Rocket go to seed and then save the seeds from the long, thin seed pods once the pods dry out and start to crack.  In August or September, I scratch the seeds into the soil and keep them lightly watered for a couple of weeks until they start to sprout and take.  If you look closely, you can see the dark green leaves of tall phlox coming up.  In this photo, the Dames are fronted by an early daisy called ‘filigran’ as described below.  Oh and p.s., the Dames Rockets have a lovely, faint floral scent.

IMG_9924 Purple blossoms of the common chive are in the foreground of this photo.   I use these chives all Spring and summer for cooking.  When the flowers are spent, I cut the whole plant down to the ground and they re-grow quickly, several times over a summer and into late Fall.  These slowly spread over the years, so that you can always have one little patch flowering while the other regenerates and blooms again.  You can also pot up a little patch to give away.

IMG_9926 The tall red/pink flowers are Centranthus ruber, otherwise known as Jupiter’s Beard.  This is an “ever bloomer” meaning that if you cut it back as you go, it will bloom from May to the first frost.  It does spread and go to seed, so I deadhead the spent blossoms, and pull out a clump of it here and there as the summer wears on.  Later, if it gets leggy or the blooming slows down, I’ll cut a foot off it and let it start over for another bloom.  I planted 3 of these in April 2007 and have had descendants ever since.  They bloom early, and provide that little contrasting pop of red needed to offset the predominant purples and white’s I have going.  You can’t see it, but I always start packs of white alyssum along the bottom front of the beds, so that it smells like honey.  The honeybees love the alyssum and the low alyssum look sweet down at the front edge, and sort of hang over and soften the front edge of the bed.  Alyssum are also easily started by seed.  I have not tried the purple alyssum, always love the look and scent of the white.  Please note the darker-purple spires of Salvia just starting to open on the middle right of the photo.

IMG_9933 Daisy, Leucanthemum ‘filigran’ is the cultivar.  I’ve tried different oxeye daisies and Shasta daisies, and this is my favorite for various reasons.  It’s early, it’s a little shorter, so it’s a bit more manageable than some of the taller shastas.  This one is a winner; it can take a beating under wind and rain and stand back up for you, even when we get the Spring storms off the water.

IMG_9929 A close-up of the dark-pink Jupiter’s Beard.

IMG_9932 The deep purple spires of Salvia are among my favorites, because they bring a different shape and intensity of color to the garden.  There are so many good things about Salvia!  They’re deer resistant, rabbit resistant, can take it dry or even a bit salty.  They attract hummingbirds and bees.  They can take clay soil to sandy soil, and are not invasive.  Once spent, you can cut the individual stems back for a second bloom.  What’s not to like!

Sweet and Sticky Cashew Tofu

IMG_9855I made this last night for dinner and can attest that it is delicious.  This recipe is by Erin at Olives for Dinner.  Why can’t I get a dish like this in my local Chinese restaurant, waah.    The only thing I would do differently next time is run the noodles through the sauce, or fry the cooked noodles in the pan for a minute.  I used Kame brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chukka soba) and they were perfect for this dish.  p.s.  I used white button mushrooms and salted cashews from a can, because that’s what I had on hand, and it was still great!

Breaded Vegan Shrimp by Sophie’s Kitchen

IMG_9824With shrimp being one of the most polluted and earth-polluting things one can eat,  Breaded Vegan Shrimp by Sophie’s Kitchen is a real find.  100% vegan, Non-GMO and gluten free, it tastes a lot like the many deep-fried shrimps I ate over the years.  I served these hot out of the oven, with cocktail sauce, homemade vegan tartar sauce and plenty of lemon wedges.  If you look closely, you can see the faint pink markings underneath the batter, that make it look even more like non-vegan shrimp.  Lars and I agreed they really satisfy that old seafood craving we get every now and then.  I’ll definitely be buying these again.   We found them at Whole Foods in Annapolis, and there were 23 vegan shrimp in the box.  Thumbs Up.

90 percent of shrimp we eat, more than 1 billion pounds a year, comes from foreign farms that decimate natural landscapes.  Because of the terrible density of this farming, the shrimps are swimming in lots of solid waste, and require antibiotics and chemicals to keep them alive.  For instance, health officials in the U.S., Japan and the European Union have found chloramphenicol, a dangerous antibiotic banned in food.  The inspection of these shipments of shrimp is minimal, less than one percent.  Five percent of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed, in some places 80% of them are gone.  This contributes to global warming and then conversely increases storm damage from hurricanes and tsunamis.  Two pounds of sea life is caught and ground up to feed and create one pound of shrimp.  With almost 1/3 of shrimp dying from the filthy living conditions, the dead shrimp, shrimp excrement and chemical additives are flushed into seas and rivers.  These shrimp come in every year, from China, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico, Honduras, India, Bangladesh, Guyana, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.  Carcinogens and bleach in non-vegan shrimp are not the only issues.  In impoverished areas, shrimp farms are surrounded by armed guards, local fishermen are found murdered by guns and machetes, and no one is prosecuted.  Eating American shrimp is no better.  The bycatch is staggeringly harmful,  with 3 to 15 marine animals killed so we can eat one shrimp.  This includes sea turtles, marine mammals, fish, etc.  American shrimp is also very polluted, due to giant garbage patches the size of Texas, oil spills, etc., and this says nothing of the boat/fuel pollution into the oceans.   For more information, see this article.
IMG_9817
IMG_9821

Ep. 002 – Vegan Travel

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Welcome to Episode 002 of the Peaceful Table Podcast, the Vegan Travel Show.  We discuss our recent road trip from Maryland to New Hampshire, to visit my family, strategies for vegan travel, recipes that travel well, and traveling with dog(s).  Commentary on the iconic vegan restaurants, bakeries and cafes along the way.  Other topics include getting organized in the pantry, the reality film Forks Over Knives, Pinterest, one of my new favorite cookbooks, Beyond Meat vegan chicken, a little bit of fiction, and some upcoming vegfests in Delaware.IMG_9704  As promised, here’s a photo of Ipo on the hotel sofa.

IMG_9794  Quart size canning jar with homemade label just under screw ring.  It helps to have a wide-mouth funnel for pouring flour, etc.

IMG_9790  Ball Blue Canning Jars with Zinc Lids.

Reality film/documentary:  Forks Over Knives.   Pinterest as a vegan recipe and information resource.   Talbot Humane.   The Dog Whisperer TV show with Cesar Milan.   Easy Walk Harness.  These harnesses can be found at pet stores and on amazon.com.   I recommended NOT buying greeting cards with photos of animals on them, to avoid animal exploitation.   Happy Cow as a travel tool.   Use the word “vegan” in searches or reviews on Trip Advisor.   Things to bring on a road  trip include:  dish soap in a small travel bottle, a small paring knife, cooler(s), icy bottles, jugs of drinking water, BPA-free water bottles, pre-measured laundry soap, dryer sheets, Trader Joe’s Go Raw Trek Mix, Twinings Oolong Tea, chamomile tea, your own pillows, granola bars, granola, and plant milks.   Our stops included Vegan Treats BakeryVeggie Heaven, X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery,  and Cafe Indigo.  Other places we like to go are Mapletree Farm, and Susty’s Vegan Cafe.

We used a GPS to locate rest stops.  On our old Garmin GPS, the commands are Where To, Points of Interest, Auto Services, and Rest Area or Tourist Info.

The highlighted recipe is a vegan chicken salad, using Beyond Meat vegan chicken, and here is a photo.IMG_9774

We discussed various vegan travel recipes, which are recipes with only a few ingredients, and/or recipes where you can throw all the dry ingredients in a container (don’t forget to bring the recipe itself) and pack it in your suitcase, and then just obtain one or two common/additional ingredients when you get to your destination.  We also discussed some recipes for Spring.

Upcoming events include Rehoboth Beach VegFest,  and  VegFest 2013 in Newark, Delaware.  Our highlighted cookbook this month is The 30-Minutes Vegan’s Taste of The East  by  Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray.  My fiction recommendation is Ten White Geese  by  Gerbrand Bakker.  Here’s a youtube video to cure BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).  And here’s Alexander The Flirtatious Cow.

X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery

IMG_9712On the way back from New Hampshire, we took a detour to visit X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery in Troy, New York.  It cost us about an hour of driving time, but I’m glad we went.  The goodies are vegan, and never made with hydrogenated oils.  This place is not fancy, but I really liked the slightly militant feel of the menu.  The women in this place are on the front lines and they are badass.  One staff member told me to be sure and come back for the vegan brunch.  What?  Vegan brunch?  It’s killing me!  I WISH I could go back for the vegan brunch!  I had to buy a “Canoe Boat” (vegan Twinkie) and Lars got a cookie and I seem to remember someone eating a whoopie pie in the car, but I can’t recall who that was . . . hmmmmmm.  p.s.  All were delicious!

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Vegan Treats Bakery

IMG_9651On the drive up to New Hampshire recently, we made a pilgrimage to Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Although it cost us a couple hours of drive time, it was worth the trip.  The first thing you notice is the 1950’s hot-pink aesthetic.  The second thing I noticed was that there was basically a little factory going on, with staff baking and decorating away.  This is because Vegan Treats bakery supplies baked goods to restaurants and cafes in New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia each week.  This place is like a vegan Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but in the best possible way, where nobody gets hurt.  Owner Danielle Konya is truly an American Pioneer, and she’s created the coolest menu with hundreds of offerings.  There are so many choices that it was a bit overwhelming, so I asked a staff member what the most popular item was.  She told me it was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bomb, and let me tell you, it was the BOMB!  The other thing we got was pretty much something I consider the Holy Grail of vegan food:  ICE CREAM.  They have this little ice cream machine and every day, they feature two different flavors, and that day, it was salted caramel soft serve.  This is hands down the best the ice cream I’ve had.  I don’t know how they do it. but it tasted like dairy ice cream, only better.  Vegan Treat’s glossy paper menu is sort of Steam-Punk cool and is filled with Buns, Whoopie Pies, Truffles, French Pastries, Gluten Free offerings, Pies, Petit Fours, Cannolis, Cheesecakes, you name it.   This is true, compassionate fun.  Usually these types of places look all pink and pretty, while behind the glossy food is unspeakable animal abuse,  but that is not the case here.  The message of compassion at Vegan Treats is loud and deliciously clear.  Thank you, Danielle Konya, for putting yourself out there, for us animals, human and non-human!    Photos below:

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Just as you walk in the door, you can see the
little factory on the side wall.

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The deservedly-famous Chocolate Peanut Butter
Mousse Bomb is the one on the far right.  It was
just before Easter when we arrived here.

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More gorgeous sweets.

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The super-helpful staff.

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The Holy Grail, vegan ice cream that tastes
better than dairy.  Salted Caramel Soft Serve.

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Drinks galore.

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Dogwood cupcakes for Spring.

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Easter goodies on offer.

Veggie Heaven in Denville, New Jersey

IMG_9675Peking Duck, Barbecue Char Siu spare ribs, Thai iced tea, and so much more, and it’s all vegan!  While driving up to New Hampshire, we stayed at the Sonesta ES Suites in Parsippany, New Jersey.  Veggie Heaven restaurant is in Denville, New Jersey, only 3 miles away from this hotel.  The menu is huge, and every single thing on it is vegan, it BOGGLES the mind.  After eating there the first time, we changed our hotel reservations on the way back, to stay again at the Sonesta in Parsippany, so we could eat once more at Veggie Heaven.  This was Lars’ idea, but I readily agreed.   Food photos below.  Be aware there is a large pagoda next door that is also a restaurant, but that is not Veggie Heaven.  Veggie Heaven is the single-story restaurant next door to the pagoda, and when you walk in, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  It’s clean and crisp, with sparkling dishes, lots of warm wood and white drum lights.  The bathroom is clean, the waiters are super friendly.  Go for it!

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Decor is hip, warm and clean.

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Peking Duck – vegan

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BBQ spare ribs, vegan Char Siu

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Mango Bubble Tea

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Compassionate placemat

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Vegan Roast Pork Spring Rolls

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We think the waiter called this “Smooth Duck” but are not sure.
It was different from the Peking Duck, with a crispier outside, good.
Comes with steamed veg, is popular with customers.

Barbecued Tempeh Sandwich with Quick Slaw

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This is one of those fast, delicious things you can make for lunch or dinner.  For anyone not familiar with using or eating tempeh, this is the perfect introductory dish.  No steaming of the tempeh is necessary!

BARBECUED TEMPEH SANDWICH WITH QUICK SLAW

INGREDIENTS
16 ounce package soy tempeh, cut into half-inch strips  (I use Lightlife brand)
18 oz. bottle Kraft Barbecue Sauce – Original Thick ‘N Spicy flavor
bread buns or baguette
raw cabbage sliced very thinly,  or raw slaw mix
Vegenaise
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour half of BBQ sauce into bottom of small casserole dish.
Lay tempeh fingers flat into the sauce.
Pour rest of barbecue sauce over the tempeh fingers to coat evenly.
Bake 30 minutes until some of the sauce is absorbed.
Pile Quick Slaw (see below)  onto buns, top with BBQ tempeh, onions and/or pickles, and then more Quick Slaw.

QUICK SLAW
By the Tablespoonful, mix a little Vegenaise with the mustard, dill pickle brine, and salt and pepper.
Gently fold mayo mixture into the raw, shredded cabbage.

Notes:  We both like our Pickled Red Onions on any sandwich, it really brings it up to the next level.  The Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles also go really well with or on any sandwich.

Ep. 001 – Vegan Survival Kit

Play

Welcome to Episode One of the Peaceful Table Podcast.
In this episode we discuss:
products to ease the transition to a vegan diet;
fast vegan meals to get on the table;
creating a sense of vegan community;
tuning out negative propaganda;
reference web sites;
Trader Joe’s;
my favorite podcasts;
one of my vegan cookbooks;
and recipes on the Peaceful Table blog.

LINK LIST:

Boca Crumbles.  To replace ground meat in any dish. West Soy Unsweetened Organic Plain Soy Milk. Pacific Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk. Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.  Vegan butter that tastes just like cow butter. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.  For baking. Spectrum Shortening.  Non-hydrogenated, organic and free of trans fats! Vegenaise.  Delicious vegan mayonnaise. Butler Soy Curls.  Replaces chicken in any dish. Beyond Meat.  This is becoming more available all the time.  If you don’t see it in the chiller, ask at the deli counter of stores like Whole Foods. Gardein Beefless Burgers. Daiya Cheese.  My new favorite is the Jack cheese for slicing and adding to sandwiches. Tofutti Cream Cheese.  Make sure to ask for the non-hydrogenated plain one. Tofutti Sour Cream.   Make sure to ask for the non-hydrogenated one in the blue container. Trader Joe’s.  Here’s the category of Trader Joe’s items on Peaceful Table.  Also, Trader Joe’s has an online list, and a PDF list too. Get to know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.  Here’s a newer list from a second source that would be easy to cut out and put in your wallet. Realize the old Food Pyramid is corrupt, funded by meat and dairy industries, and look to a better Food Pyramid. Answer your health concerns on objective sites like Nutrition Facts, and click on topics such as Calcium and Protein and hundreds of other topics!.  Watch one a day, or one a week, but get there, get the truth and get informed. Here’s another great resource for any health and diet questions:  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Accidentally Vegan Food List.  A list of many store-bought, accidentally-vegan products. Check out the Kids Category on Peaceful Table. Listen to vegan podcasts, such as Vegetarian Food For ThoughtOur Hen HouseRed RadioBig Fat Vegan Radio, etc. Get a subscription to VegNews magazine, or read it through your library. Get vegan cookbooks through your library. For eating out, use web sites like Happy Cow,  and  Vegan Eating Out. Make some vegan treats, like Oatmeal Cookies or Peanut Butter Quinoa Cookies. Use the Ultimate Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet to veganize your old favorite recipes. Learn about egg substitutes such as bananas, flax meal, and Ener-G Egg Replacer. Check out recipe sites like VegWeb and remember that there are almost 1600 vegan recipes on Epicurious.com.  Even sites like allrecipes.com have over 1200 vegan recipes, including videos! Check out vegan cooking videos on itunes and youtube, such as Everyday Dish TV, and Delicious TV VegEZ. Eventually tune out negative media that glorifies violence against animals and pushes food that makes people and the planet sick.  This would include things like the Martha Stewart show and magazines, the Splendid Table podcast, and shows like Top Chef, etc. The highlighted cookbook is Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook. The highlighted recipes were Curried Chickpea Cakes  and  the Skinny Bitch Macaroni and Cheese. I also recommended reading Skinny Bitch (for women) and Skinny Bastard (for Men).

Podcast Status

Please stay tuned for the Peaceful Table Podcast, coming in March 2013.  In the meantime, please visit the Peaceful Table blog Recipes section also on this site.  Thank you for visiting, I really appreciate it!