Good things to eat

Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

What do you think of Wheat Grass?

Firstly, I need to apologise for being so absent.

The truth of the matter is I’ve been quite caught up in getting used to my new life.

Earlier this Summer The Chef was offered one of those “too good to pass up” kind of jobs and so with only a few weeks notice, we packed up our whole lives and left our beautiful Victoria, British Columbia and moved to Edmonton, Alberta.

Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that, in fact, Edmonton is a lovely city and I hope to share some of it with you when I get back on a writing track, it’s just that we went from the warmest in Winter Canadian city, to arguably one of the coldest in Winter Canadian cities, which admittedly, I’m not doing too well with.

Anyone who knew me back when I lived in “Winter cities” knew just how miserable I was and how escape from Winter was the number one reason I moved to Victoria some ten years ago.

You see, I went from THIS

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And This

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To THIS

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And This

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So what to do in Winter in Edmonton?

Well……grow some Wheat Grass of course!

Probably like you, I’ve read SO much stuff about just how wonderful wheat grass juice is for you!  92 different minerals alone and filled with chlorophyll.  A wonder food touted with discouraging and perhaps even curing all kinds of diseases and aliments.  But what does it really taste like?

I can’t tell you how many times I have bought a flat of it at the health food or grocery store and brought it home with the intension of juicing it!  But instead I just let it over grow and then watch it turn brown and dies and make me feel sad.  And it isn’t cheap either which is an added annoyance.

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I thought I’d try to grow my own!  Chances are if I grow it myself, I’ll be more inclined to use it?  And at worst, if I don’t, I can just compost it and recycle the dirt and try again.

And, it’s something fun to do in Winter!

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Growing it is surprisingly easy.

You will need:

  • something to grow it in ( I’ve been using left over lettuce boxes)
  • some quality dirt ( preferably organic cause you are growing food)
  • some “wheat berries” – I got them in the bulk section of the grocery store or Bulk Barn

Prepare your dirt in your box or whatever you are using.  Then soak about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup ( depending on how big your box is) of wheat berries in water for about six hours or overnight.  Drain off the water and sprinkle speeds evenly over the dirt and lightly cover them with more dirt.

Keep the dirt moist but not wet.

In a couple of days you will see the grass sprouting up!  Easy as that.

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Let the grass blades get to about 3 -4 inches tall before you use them.

Obviously by the picture here, you’ll see I let them go just a little too long but they were still good.

I then went online and watched a bunch of videos of various Hippies juicing their wheat grass to try to get an idea of just how much I need to actually get a yield of any kind.

There are a lot of variables there, like what kind of juicer or blender or whatever.

Also, some people seemed to drink it straight in shots, while others added water or added the juice to other juices or smoothies………

I think the real point is to try it first….see what you think.

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So when you are ready, hack off some of the grass.  Even though it is in my kitchen, I still washed it, cause it can still be dusty or whatever.

Then I shoved it in the juicer.  As the pulp squished out, I put it back through the juicer a couple of times because I saw one of the hippies doing that.  It still seemed to squeeze out more juice, so I guess that’s good.

I yielded a couple of ounces.  But honestly…..that is about all you need for a shot.

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So?  How did it taste?

Well……..the smell is a bit much.  Literally smells like squished grass.  Don’t know if you ever ate any grass as a kid, cause you saw your dog doing it?  Well….it’s all a similar experience.

I gulped it down in one shot. As it went across my tongue it was very intense and so I was expecting a horrible aftertaste, but surprisingly, it wasn’t offensive at ALL.  In fact, it was almost a bit sweet!  I know!  Who would have thought??

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Many have reported extreme reactions to it.  Like having to run to the bathroom because something was going to happen from one end or the other.  I experienced neither of these.  In fact, it made me feel quite invigorated, like I had just done something terribly good for myself!  Power of suggestion?  Perhaps, but you might want to give it a try for yourself…..to at least to be able to say you’ve done it.

If you don’t want to go to all of the trouble of growing it and juicing it……..go to your local juice bar and give it a try……especially in Winter…..can’t hurt!!

A Warm Lunch at the Office

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I am NO fan of microwaves and have not (knowingly, although I realize it must happen to me some places!) eaten microwaved food in at least 10 plus years!

But when the weather starts to turn this can pose a problem for a girl who is looking for a little warmth at lunch time at the office and there is no way to heat anything up except the you know what!

So imagine my delight when I saw THIS idea!!

Please forgive me, I do like to give credit where credit is due but I do subscribe to a lot of food blogs and can’t always remember where I see what I see and regrettably I couldn’t find this again when I went back to look for the instructions.  So thank you idea giver.

So let’s call them Homemade Noodle Pots.

We’ve all had them.  Some are better than others.  But even the “organic” “healthy” versions are still pretty much weird dried stuff in a cup.

You know what I’m talking about.  Those instant lunch things that come in a cardboard, or worse, cup.  You peel back the lid, pour boiling water over it, cover it up again, let sit for a bit and voila.  A cup full of some kind of warm, usually desperately salty, noodle type stuff.

And they aren’t even that cheap, especially the higher end ones!

So why not just make your own DIY noodle pots?

You can put just about anything you’d like but best of all, you know exactly what’s in them!

And what’s great, on a Sunday afternoon, you can make up all of your ingredients, pack up your jars and have one for every day of the following week!  Imagine?  A whole week of not having to worry about what to bring for lunch??  Fantastic!

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Here is what you will need:

Heat safe jars, like Mason Jars 500 ml size x days of your week

Flavour base: I tried different combos for each day to change it up a little.

1 to 3 teaspoons of organic or quality soup stock base, miso paste or curry paste

More Flavour:

1 to 3 teaspoons of:  coconut milk, sesame oil, hot sauce or Sriracha, tamari or Bragg sauce etc

 

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Fillers:

Chicken, tofu, frozen vegetables, shredded cabbage, cooked lentils or beans, thinly sliced mushroom, kimchi, hardy greens, boiled egg, or whatever else you might find in the fridge!

Noodles:

Cooked Soba noodles, spaghetti, rice noodles, ramen.   I haven’t tried this yet, but maybe dried couscous?

Toppings:

Green onion, Cilantro, shredded carrot, a slice of lemon?

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Start with the flavour bases on the bottom of the jar, spread them around so they will dissolve evenly.

Then add in your filler items.

Then the noodles and pack it down nicely.

Then finally what ever fresh toppers you might be using. ( if you want these really fresh, perhaps store separately and top the noodles just before eating)

Put the lids on tight and refrigerate!

Each morning, grab one to go!

 

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When it’s time to eat, simply add some boiling water and replace the lid.

Let sit for a few minutes to let everything warm up.  Then maybe give the jar a little shake or a twirl before you open it or give them a good stir with your chopsticks to let the flavours mingle.

 

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You can enjoy it right out of the jar or dump it into an awaiting bowl and eat right away while it is warm.

 

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And there you have a nice warm, weird stuff free, bowl of niceness to get you through your afternoon!

 

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Can any ol body make Kimchi?

I’ll admit, the thought of it was very intimidating.

I was picturing something very exotic, or spending all day in the kitchen over large vats of something or other.  Requiring group of friends working feverishly to complete it in one day.

Or the need for hard to find equipment or ingredients.

Trouble was, I guess I didn’t really even know what Kimchi was.

What it comes down to is pretty much Korean style sauerkraut.

Something people have been making for years with little more than a bucket or crock, some salt and a big rock!

So why was I getting myself in a tizzy over it?  Why not just give it a try? Cabbage is pretty cheap, if it doesn’t work out…..oh well.

I’m almost embarrassed at just how easy it really is!

Then again, fermenting of food has been around a LONG time.  That’s how many cultures have survived by being able to preserve the bounty of the Summer for the long Winter ahead.

And then don’t even get me started with just how very good for you it is!  Talk about probiotic!!  This stuff is where it’s at!!

So not even knowing where to start, I did what any smart person would do, I looked up some recipes on the internet!   Admittedly, there were several and true, some did sound a little exotic and involved but I managed to find one that made sense.

Many of the recipes also called for “fish sauce” or “shrimp paste”, two things I actively avoid due to my shell-fish allergy but found no trouble working around that.

There were many many recipes, but I finally decided on this one:  Homemade Vegan Kimchi

I did not have, nor had the time to look for, the Kochukaru ( Korean chili powder) so I improvised on that.

I also didn’t make as huge of a batch as this recipe appears to make, in case it was disgusting and then I would have went to all the trouble and then would have to toss it!!

Here is what I used:

  • 1/2 large napa cabbage
  • 1/2 (maybe less) daikon radish
  • 1/2 red onion
  • Salt  ( Kosher or sea)

For paste:

  • 4 green onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 birdseye Thai chilis ( small red ones)
  • 1 tbsp smokie paprika
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar

I peeled the leaves off the cabbage one at a time until I had taken off about half of them.  Use your judgement depending on how big your cabbage is.   After washing them, chop them into about 2 inch chunks,

I used only 1/2 of the daikon because it was quite large.   Peel it and then cut it into strips.  Smaller than French fries but bigger than match sticks.

Slice the red onion into full circle rounds about 1/4 inch thick.

Place all of these ingredients in a large bowl and then sprinkle generously with salt and toss to make sure everything is getting some salt on it.

 

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Then let it sit for a few hours until it gets quite whilty and releases some liquid.

 

When the cabbage mixture is ready to go, it is time to make the paste.

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Add all of the other ingredients ( except the green part of the green onions, just chop and mix those in   with the cabbage, but do it now, not during the wilting part) to the food processor and combine till it makes a nice paste.  ( Add a bit of the cabbage water if it is too thick)

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Then add the paste to the wilted cabbage and toss well until everything is nicely coated.

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Then carefully shove it all into a super clean Mason jar ( or more).  The other recipe suggests poking it down with a chop stick.  Really pack it in there, making sure there aren’t any air pockets.  And then pour in any remaining liquid from the bowl that will fit.

Seal it up tight and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours, then into the fridge for at least a week before testing it!

 

ONE WEEK LATER:

Time to check out the magic!!

A huge word of caution here that no one seems to mention in any of the recipes I saw…….

Kimchi is ALIVE!!  Fermenting is done by live ( but very friendly) bacteria and so after they have done their work on your cabbage, they are eager to show you!!

So when you open your new Kimchi for the first time, DO IT OVER THE SINK!  It is almost like a bottle of soda that has been shook! And it WILL spew everywhere!!

I had NO idea!!

Once that nonsense was over and I safely got the lid off…….I gave it a sniff.  It had a strong odor and it wasn’t particularly appealing, but the time of truth had come.  Time to taste it.

 

I was fully ready to dislike it, but instead I was surprised, amazed and delighted by the taste of something that I quite honestly can’t say as I have tasted before!   I was expecting something tangy, vinegary or pickley.   But it was none of these.

Instead, it was the most delightful mixture of salty, sour and a little bit spicy.

I was absolutely delighted with my experiment!

Since then, I have become obsessed with my Kimchi!!  As the lady in the commercial says “I put that @#%$@* on EVERYTHING!”

It is particularly wonderful for livening up any old boring sandwich!!  Fabulous as a burger topping, adds zing to any rice bowl type dish.  Add it to salads or as a condiment with eggs or omelets.  I could go on and on and keep trying it with everything!

Just DON’T heat it!  It is a live food, heating it will destroy all of its goodness!!

So don’t be afraid, give it a try yourself.

I would be very interested to hear just you make out!

 

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Savory Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, who are we kidding, they are still called “cookies” for a reason!!

But my problem with things called cookies is that it always conjures up something bad for you, something void of nutrient, something…..silly.

So yes, this is called a cookie and does have many of the ingredients found in traditional cookie, but this one has been jazzed up to pack as much extra nutrients as we can into each little bite.

The other great thing about these is that they contain very little sugar!  BONUS.

If you have been following this blog for any time you will have gathered that I am on a life long quest to find an agreeable substitute to the traditional store-bought cracker!

As tasty as some commercial crackers might be, they inevitably always give me heartburn and usually after I’ve read the package I can tell why!

And some of my home-made cracker experiments have gone better than others but usually turn out to be more suited to people with dietary restrictions who are happy to get whatever they can that they can actually eat.  So compared to “nothing at all” they are fine but not exactly a great snack that you would binge on, if you know what I mean.

But I think I may have finally found what I am looking for with these babies.

They have lots of good for you stuff in them, not too much bad for you stuff and they actually TASTE great!!

Give em a try.

 

You will require:

  • 1 cup large flake rolled oats
  • 1 cup all whole wheat flour ( or combos of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup golden or regular flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar ( or equivalent of sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt ( little more if you like things saltier)
  • 1/4 tsp baking SODA
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese ( I used old cheddar but parmesan would be good too)
  • 1 egg

Optional but strongly recommended additions:

  • 3 green onions finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped herb like rosemary
  • a few turns of cracked black pepper
  • good finishing salt to sprinkle on top

 

Whip out the Mix Master, although a mixing bowl will do just fine and add:

The oatmeal, flax-seed,brown sugar, olive oil and egg, stir together and let sit a couple of minutes till the oats get a bit gooey.

Then add, salt, baking soda, (onions and herbs), grated cheese and mix those thoroughly into the mixture.

Then a few spoonfuls at a time, add in the flour and keep stirring it in till the dough comes together nicely but isn’t too gooey or too dry.  So you might end up using a little more or a little  less than the original cup size asked for.  But the other ingredients can be more or less absorbent, so you won’t know for sure till you are in it.

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Then you are going to line a baking sheet with parchment and if you haven’t already done so, heat your oven to 350 degrees.

I just used two teaspoons, one to scoop out of the bowl and one to push it off the first spoon on to the tray.  Just like any drop cookie you might make.

Then go over them with a fork and squish them down flat.  They don’t spread while baking like some cookies do, so what ever size you end up squashing them to, will pretty much be their final size.   Then sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt and into the oven they go!

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Bake for about 25 minutes or until they get golden brown around the edges.

They are delicious immediately or in as long as it takes to cool enough as to not burn your mouth, or let them cool on a rack and then place in an air tight container and keep like you would any home-made cookie.

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But the best part….to me, they are the answer to my quest for a home-made cracker!  They are great with a bit of jam or some cheese or whatever you like to put on crunchy flat things!!

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Dodgy Beet

It’s hard to say if there is actually anything wrong with this beet.

We have become so accustomed to “cute” vegetables.   “Baby Greens” and mini this and mini that.

The truth is, these quick grown, quickly harvested vegetables don’t have nearly the same amount of nutrients as their older, possibly tougher, longer grown counter parts.

I mean it would it makes sense.  The longer you grow, the more good stuff you have in you.

So I was VERY surprised when someone gave me this beet!

A beet the size of a rutabega!  I’ve never seen such a thing!

But now I’ve been so conditioned by the “small stuff” that I am frightened of the big beet!

Was it grown under a power line?  Near a nuclear reactor?  What’s the deal with it?

Perhaps it just hid from the picking machine on a few harvests?

I don’t know.

I mean you could do great things with such a big beet.   Like slice it super thin and make raw beet ravioli out of it.

Or the biggest pot of borscht?

I don’t know.  I’m afraid of it.

What do you think?Birthday 2014001

 

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World Vegan Month

If you’ve been following along, you might remember that earlier in the year I did a VEGAN CHALLENGE where I adopted the Vegan diet for one month.

I just did it to see IF I could do it and to see if it made me feel different or not.

Well it certainly did.   CLICK HERE if you’d like to read how it turned out.  And read some back posts for some of the Vegan recipes I tried along the way.

So when I found out that it is WORLD VEGAN MONTH, I just wanted to honour all those Vegans for their hard work and dedication!   Good on ya!

And Happy World Vegan month!

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Beet Bread – Happy Fall

I believe that once in a while a person should share their failures and not just their triumphs.

It makes one less intimidating.  And especially when it comes to cooking, for all those people who think they can’t cook things and that those of us who cook a lot always get it right!

And for those people, like me, who don’t always get on too well with recipes and just figure it is okay to “wing it”, hopefully you can learn from the mistakes.

I think this might be the case with my “Beet Bread”.

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I saw some somewhere, on one of the many blogs or newsletters that I get and thought, “I could make me some o that!” as I have long been a fan of hiding innocent vegetables in places they might not otherwise be found.

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I looked up a bunch of recipes and they all seemed rather involved, as bread in general can sometimes be.

Because we are after all talking actual bread with yeast and a crust and not cakey loaf like  BANANA BREAD  or what have you…..

So I decided to do it the lazy way and just use the old faithful POT BREAD tried and true recipe but toss in some beet!

Seemed a no brainer.

I started by adding to the mixer:

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Then while they were getting to know each other, in a blender or food processor squish up:

  • peeled raw beets cubed  ( enough to yield about a cup of puree)
  • 1/2 cut of warm water

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Now here is where  I think I got in trouble because I probably had about two cups worth of squished beet, which turned out to be all together too much.

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Once the yeast mixture starts to foam, add in:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour

The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups warm water.   So I had 1/2 cup in with the yeast,  1/2 cup in with the beets and so then there was still a 1/2 cup to go……which I added but probably shouldn’t have.

I would say, add in the beet mixture after the flour is well mixed in and then just add the remaining water gradually making sure your dough doesn’t get too wet.

Then, as per the original recipe, plop the dough in a bowl and cover it with clean film plastic wrap and put it somewhere safe for 12 – 18 hours.  I always just pop it in the oven out of the way.

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I find doing the prep in the evening gives you nice bread for breakfast!

So when it is time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and only when it has reached full temp, pop your cast iron pot with the lid into the oven for 30 minutes till it gets smokin hot.

Meanwhile, dump your dough on to a well floured board and knead a little.

This is where I really got in trouble!   When I took the dough out it was literally swimming in liquid.   So I had to keep adding more and more flour to the board and rolling and turning it in, to try and dry it out.   Not really sure how good that was for it.

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Then cover with plastic and leave sit until your pot has heated.

Then VERY carefully remove the pot from the oven, take of the lid and plop your dough into the pot, cover it back up and bung it back in the oven!

Bake for 30 minutes, then take off the lid and bake another 15 minutes.

I think mine needed to be baked just a little while longer because it seemed a bit gummy in the centre.

Then let cool on a rack till it is well cooled, but doesn’t have to be cold.

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I was very surprised when I cut it open only to find that the tell-tale beet pink was only on the outside!  And then inside it just looked like some sort of dark, regular homemade bread.

The pictures I saw of other beet bread seemed to be pink all the way through.

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I ended up toasting a few pieces before we ate it, because it just didn’t seem quite done.

But it tasted just fine.   Although not “beety” at all, just pretty much like any other homemade whole grain bread.

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And it was particularly good with some cream cheese and a bowl of soup!

I do think I will have to try again.

The fuss about artichokes

After our recent visit to Earthbound Farms and seeing all the beautiful artichokes they had growing there, I thought that THIS might be the year I actually try and cook or “deal” with one.

As beautiful as they looked still on the plant, which is actually the flower of a thistle and as wonderful and appetizing as they look piled fresh at a market stand, I’ve just never been able to bring myself to buy one because I simply had no idea what to do with it!   They seem very intimidating!

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But they are finally in season around these parts and I saw a cute little four pack at the market and thought why not!

They sat in the fridge for almost a week, every day I would look at them and decide that I would tackle them tomorrow.

But finally, enough was enough, I didn’t want them to end up like a lot of fruit and strange produce that make it into our fridge and then end up in the compost.

I watched a whole BUNCH of people on youtube painstakingly showing me their techniques on how to prepare them.  One more complicated than the next.  Some steamed, some baked, some stuffed.some steamed then stuffed then baked……but what finally got me was the video of a five year old boy teaching us how to eat one.    ( click here to check it out )

He seemed to really enjoy it so how hard can it be??

I opted for the plain and simple, steam and eat with melted butter method.

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Here is what you will need for your little project, according to most of the “Steam” version videos.

  • artichokes
  • large non reactive ( no cast iron or aluminum) pot with a steam rack in the bottom ( I didn’t have one)
  • sharp knife – must be stainless steel
  • kitchen scissors
  • a lemon cut in half

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Start by giving the artichokes a nice wash and pulling off any obvious bad bits or the big gnarly leaves that may be on the bottom.

Then, in what ever order you choose, but work quickly because like avocado, artichoke starts to oxidize and turn grey once it has been cut….

  • So you will need to trim off the end of the stem
  • cut off 1/2 to 1 inch of the top depending on size, with knife
  • with scissors, cut off the pointy bit on each individual leaf

All the while, rubbing the thing down with your bits of cut lemon to avoid them getting discoloured.

Then place them in a bowl of cold lemon water while you finish the rest of them, or into a pot for cooking, depending on how many and how fast you are.

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Then boil the water and steam them.   Please check some of the other web sites and videos to get your own sense for how long.   I steamed mine for 35 minutes and to me they seemed over steamed, while some sites said at least 45 minutes.  So I guess use your cooking sense and poke them often to see if they are done.   Being the first time I’d done it, I wasn’t all together sure what I was looking for.

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Once steamed, take them out of the pot and let them cool long enough that they are comfortable to touch.

Then when that happens, take each one and pry open the leaves  ( although in my case they were over cooked so that was very easy) and then get a spoon into the centre and scrap out the “choke”.  You will recognize it easily because it is this hairy looking bottom of a flower type thing and would SURELY choke you if you ate it!

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Then you are ready to go.

Serve with a little bowl of melted butter.

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I guess start from the outside, although I was pretty random with it, and pull off each leaf one by one, dip it in the melted butter and then draw the end of the leaf through your teeth, scraping it along your teeth ( top or bottom) while sucking the pulp off the leaf.

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That’s it.  The whole deal.

Watch the kid in the video if you don’t understand what I’m getting at!

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So this goes on till you have sucked on every last leaf and you are left with a heaping pile of “used” leaves.

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That’s when you get down to the artichoke “heart”.  This is the good part that we usually buy pickled in cans or jars and put in our artichoke dips and other dishes.

Apparently at this point, you cut it up and just eat that with butter too.  But to be honest, by then I was over it.

It also looked a bit gray to me, which the Chef tells me is because I didn’t put enough lemon in my cooking water……….

But you can chop it up and eat it, or put it in a salad or dip.

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I know that thousands of people can’t be wrong when they say that this is a delicacy.  But I will be honest with you when I say that I simply don’t “get it”.

WAY too labour intensive for so little yield of something that was………interesting……maybe even good………but certainly NOT over the moon, OMG, must have THAT all the time…..kind of thing.

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Maybe next time………I try the stuffed with gorgonzola and breadcrumbs version?

Getting my “Freekeh” on!

I’m kind of embarrassed  that a girl like me has never used the “ancient grain”  freekeh before.

I think I must have seen it on one of the cooking shows  and made a mental note to try it, but simply never got around to it.  So when I saw it on sale at my local store that mental note kicked in again and I picked up a box.

Freekeh

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I looked it up on line to see what exactly I could do with it and found that the options are endless.   Because essentially freekeh could be used in any way that you might use rice. The big difference is that unfortunately it is NOT gluten free for those of you who can’t tolerate it.  Oh well.

But for those of you who don’t have a problem with gluten, I suggest that you might like to try it.

I started with my  heavy bottomed pot with a lid and heated a little oil and then added:

  • one diced onion

and cooked till translucent, then added the well rinsed ( read the instructions on the package) freekeh into the pot and stirred it well to coat in oil and onion flavour!

Let cook for a couple of minutes and then add your water or stock, bring to a boil, turn down, cover with lid and simmer till done.  Just like you would with rice.

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Freekeh

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Just before serving, I stirred in a few toasted pine nuts and chopped almonds just to give it that Middle Eastern vibe but didn’t add too much else because I wanted to get a good sense of what it tasted like.

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We really enjoyed it, found it much nuttier and chewier than rice and then it has this smokey flavour to it that really sets it apart from all the other grain products that can be used like this.  It was also quite filling and substantial feeling in your belly so you wouldn’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied.

I liked it a lot and now just need to source out a place that sells it in bulk because the package it came in was quite small and fairly pricy for what it was.

Please let me know if you have ever used Freekeh and what your experience has been with it.  I’d love to know.

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Wolf and Bear’s – Portland

Well one place that certainly made me happy to eat at and feel that I wasn’t straying too far from my new healthy convictions was a food truck in Portland Oregon called “‘ Wolf and Bear’s “.

 

 

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We had been watching one of our favorite food programs ” Eat Street” on the Food Network, a show about food trucks far and wide, and knew we’d be passing through Portland in a couple of weeks and wanted to check it out!

I was even more thrilled to find that it was located in the East Burnside area which is always a favorite eating area for the Chef and I when we are in Portland.  Tucked into a  little vacant lot on SE 28th avenue, just off Burnside with a few other inviting food trucks is a little oasis of delicious.

I was so excited to order the:  OLEAWolf’s homemade kalamata tapenade, labneh, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, grilled red onions, gorgonzola crumbles, caramelized walnuts, freshly cracked pepper, salad greens drizzled with tahini sauce and olive oil on a warm pita.

The Chef declared that he wanted the same one!  Which would normally make me shift my choice so that we can both taste more than one thing, but on this occasion, I wouldn’t budge and nor would he so we had one each!

Everything is fresh made to order and is well worth the wait.

When our name was called and we picked up our sandwiches they also handed us a wonderful little dish of mixed olives and pickled peppers to go with them!  A perfect Middle Eastern combo!

 

 

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It was a glorious warm summer night as we sat in the court yard and ate our sandwiches and pickles and sipped our lemonades.  What a wonderful treat!

Thanks Wolf and Bear!

Vegan Challenge – Complete!

I did it!!

I here by solemnly swear that not one drop of animal product has passed my lips in exactly one month!!!

Was it hard?   Not really.

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PLEASE NOTE:  IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE 50/50 BLOG, THIS POST IS MOSTLY THE SAME

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Luckily I know how to cook,  have a degree in nutrition and have studied a lot about alternative food preparation.  Because you could be a “Vegan” and eat nothing but French Fries and corn puffs, but I don’t think that would really be the best route!

So what do I have to report from this exercise?

  • I lost 10 pounds.   5 in the first week alone, then nothing till the last week when I dropped another 5.
  • My blood pressure which was formerly in the “elevated” range is down to normal
  • During the first two weeks I found that I slept much better, but that seemed to wear off by week 3.

BUT the question is, did these improvements occur because I was eating Vegan?   Or could it have anything to do with the fact that during this same period I:

  • Never set foot in my favorite coffee and breakfast sandwich place?
  • Wasn’t drinking alcohol?
  • Had barely any caffeine?
  • Didn’t eat chocolate, ice cream or any traditional dessert?
  • Didn’t eat in restaurants?

Hard to say.

Do I feel any different?

Well I hate to say it, but I have felt very low on energy.  But again, was that the result of the Vegan experiment, or just because  I am busy and stressed in general?

I was never hungry or starving or anything like that and in fact, other than just a damn good cup of tea with cow milk, I have had no cravings.

I think that for the most part,  the food I ate was more or less delicious with a couple of experimental exceptions, but by no means did I find myself choking down weird fare while longing for animal products.

There were a couple of times that certain dishes may very well have been enhanced by a sprinkle of cheese but…..

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I did resent that going to Starbucks to get a soy latte cost and extra .60 cents just for the soy milk, and in general I felt dirty going there because I equate people who drink soy lattes from Starbucks with………well never mind……..this isn’t meant to be a Starbucks rant.   But it would be nice if “regular” people coffee places like say Tim Hortons, could start offering alternatives.

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So will I be running out to eat a big steak tonight?

No.

Will I ever eat meat again?

There is a good chance.

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I am here by declaring myself a “flexitarian” ( a trendy term I saw on one of the Chef’s lists of new popular food trends).

Quoted as:  Someone who is predominantly Vegan/Vegetarian but who will eat animal products from time to time.

Which I think I could live with quite nicely.

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I think what it comes back to, is the same philosophy that I have tried to follow for the past few years now.

  • Try to eat foods that are as close to their original state as possible.
  • Try to eat the best quality of food that you can find and afford.
  • Try to eat as many vegetables of all colours as you can.
  • Eat for maximum nutrition and pleasure.
  • Don’t over eat.

I also think that it is very important for you to keep trying new foods and new styles of eating until you find a balance of what works for you and what makes YOUR body feel the healthiest, strongest and BEST!   Because everyone is different and reacts very differently to the same food.

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So what’s next for me?   Not sure.

But I KNOW I’m having a cup of tea…….with some cow milk!!

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Souveggie

Well I couldn’t exactly call it “fake souvlaki” because it just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Being originally from Montreal, I am no stranger to a good souvlaki.  We have a large Greek community there with lots of wonderful restaurants with vibrant flavours like garlic, lemon and mint.    One of my favorites is what we simply refer to as “souvlaki pita”.  Which usually consists of some sort of grilled meat that has been marinated in above flavours, rolled up in a pita bread with tomato, onion, lettuce and a choice of various sauces, usually tzatziki sauce or a tahini based dressing.  Wrapped in a tinfoil wrapper and you are good to go!

So last night, on the second to last day of the Vegan Challenge, I thought I would try and make a Vegan equivalent to the much-loved favorite.

I started by marinating some strips of tofu in the same flavours the meat would usually be in.

  • lemon juice
  • oregano
  • chopped garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

And let that hang out in the fridge for awhile.

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Then for some extra filling I decided to grill some egg plant as well, which I cut into thin slices and brushed with a little olive oil and then sprinkled with crushed garlic, oregano and some S & P.

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Then I made up a nice tahini dressing of:

  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • crushed garlic
  • dried mint
  • S & P

Don’t be alarmed that the tahini just seems to seize up when you add lemon juice to it.   Just add a few drops of warm water to thin it out to the consistency that you’d like.

Pop your tofu and eggplant in a 450 degree oven  and keep an eye on them until they look done.

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Meanwhile on the side I made up a nice fresh salad of:

  • mixed greens
  • shaved cucumber
  • shaved fennel
  • mixed olives
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a splash of red wine vinegar
  • a sprinkle of oregano
  • a slosh of olive oil
  • S & P

Toss well and serve on the side, although it actually goes very nicely on the sandwich too.

So when you are ready, lay out your pita ( slightly warmed or not)  lay down a few strips of cooked tofu then top with the eggplant.

Drizzle on the tahini dressing and sprinkle with chopped red onion, chopped tomato ( not shown here) and some chopped parsley if you have it.

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Sure, it doesn’t even pretend to taste like chicken, but all of the flavours were there and it was perfectly agreeable!

Even the Chef thought so!

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Zucchini Snacks

Even Vegans eat snacks!

I find that sometimes an hour or two after your perfectly healthy dinner of ………whatever and salad……or whatever and rice, you find yourself just a little peckish before the nights end.

Popcorn helps.

And I found a way around the butter problem.   I make up a little concoction of:

  • melted coconut oil
  • dried garlic
  • smokie paprika
  • a little brown sugar
  • bit of salt
  • bit of ground pepper
  • even a dash of Tabasco if you are so inclined

Mix all that up and toss your freshly popped corn in it.

But when I say toss it in it…..I DON’T mean to the point of which everything is dripping in goo.

No, just enough that the oil is the vehicle for the other more intense flavours to have something to help them stick to the corn.   So a light “dusting” if you will.

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But then I noticed that I had a zucchini that was on his way out.  Just slightly too limp to eat raw and I must confess I am not a fan of cooked zucchini, so what to do?

Well……

I got out my trusty mandolin and shaved that zuck into nice thin slices.

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Placed them on a parchment covered tray.

Then I gave them an ever so slight brush of olive oil.

Then sprinkled the first batch with a little sea salt and cracked pepper.   While the second batch got dried garlic and a fairy dust touch of nutritional yeast.   If you’ve never tried nutritional yeast on snacks you are missing out!!  Tastes just like some salty parmesan cheese…..only for Vegans…….I think…….maybe some don’t eat it cause it’s “alive”?  Not sure……but it is delish!!

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Bung those in a low 300 degree oven and let them dry up.  Keep an eye because there seems to be a very fine line between perfect and burned.

I hate to admit it…..but I ate them ALL up!  A whole zucchini worth!!  WAY better than some pesky ol Pringle Chips!!

Try em!

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Vegan Challenge – Week 3

This week was the hardest so far.

I think my biggest complaint about the Vegan diet is that it is a lot of WORK.

I realize that some Vegans are okay with Vegan “convenience food” but in my opinion, that kind of defeats the purpose of this experiment.  I am eating Vegan to see if it makes any health differences and therefore feel I need to eat “healthy”.  Cause let’s face it, French Fries ARE Vegan!!

So I just find that the preparation of meals seems to take a lot of “steps” and use and AWFUL lot of dishes!!

I don’t know how someone could possibly be a Vegan without a food processor??   I know I have used mine every day since the beginning of this experiment!!  There always seems to be something that needs whizzed up!!

I’m not really a big fan of the one taste / texture meal, like a big pot of stew for instance.  I would need to have stew, with something else and something else so that I can mix and match the flavours and textures on my plate.   There ARE exceptions of course, but as a general rule.

So that’s what I mean by Vegan preparations seem to make a lot of dishes.

Say a “quick” Mexican meal for instance.   There is a pot for the rice.  Then a another pan for say some cooked bean product.   Then if you are making salsa, chopping board, bowl, knife.  And then if you make your own tortillas, a mixing bowl, the tortilla flattener, the griddle.  And then some guacamole, yet another bowl……….you get the picture.

I also find that my energy has been low even though I have been sleeping better.  And I AM being very careful to do all of my combining to get enough protean but perhaps it is too much bread or gluten products?

I also have a skin condition that I was hoping eating clean would alleviate, but instead it has actually gotten worse than it has EVER been!

So what does that all mean?  I don’t know.

One week to go.  All I can think about is how NEXT Monday morning I will be having a BIG cup of real tea with cow milk!!

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I made some little Vegan pancakes this morning.

They turned out surprisingly well without any egg in them!  In fact, I’m of a mind to never use egg in my pancakes again after trying this!!

Get your griddle warmed up and then add together in a bowl:

  • 1 cup whole wheat ( or whatever you like) flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp baking powder ( this seems to be the key to the puffiness!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • a handful of wheat germ ( optional )
  • 1 cup almond milk ( or milk of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp neutral tasting oil

Add in all of the dry ingredients first and give a quick stir with a whisk to combine everything, then add the oil, then lastly the milk and keep whisking.

You want a nice, smooth, wet batter.  So add a little more milk if it is too stiff.

Spoon or ladle on dollops of batter on to the griddle and you are in business!

I topped them with some toasted pecans and fresh raspberries.

And some real maple syrup…….it’s only from a tree…..so it’s cool for Vegans right?

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Vegan Challenge – Week 2

Well, as of yesterday, I have completed fourteen days without animal product.

Yep.

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit miserable without my cuppa “real tea”.   I’ve been trying to make do with substitute items, but nothing compares.

People…..I won’t say who……have tried to alleviate my misery by encouraging me to just cheat a little on this, or cheat a little on that…..trying to convince me that it won’t hurt.

But that’s not the point.

I could very well have anything I want at anytime……I’m a grown person with a will of my own.

I’m not doing this as a punishment or even a “diet” or out to prove something…..

I simply want to see if it makes me feel better.  And I can’t very well know unless I actually DO it!!

It was like when I was in nutrition school and learned that peanuts have a substance in them that is a low-grade allergen to many people.

And anyone who knows me well……knows that I LOVE peanut butter.  But I gave it up for one FULL year…..just to see if it actually made a difference in my health.   I was happy to report, that it didn’t make one LICK of difference and I have never forsaken it since!!

I DO feel like I have been sleeping better, but that could just be from the lack of caffeine!!

And my blood pressure has dropped considerably compared to when I started.

Coincidence?

Don’t know.

As for the Chef?  Well, he’s doing the best he can with it.   We eat Vegan at home and then he eats whatever he needs to eat when he is at work.

Last night he made me a wonderful “Cheffy” Vegan meal.

Grilled Vegetables and brown rice  with Panang Curry sauce.

With dishes like this, who needs meat??

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Different Salads

I suppose a staple of the Vegan diet is salads.

All shapes, sizes and colours.

To be honest, you can pretty much chop up anything, put on a little dressing and call it a “salad” these days!  And why not?

One of my favorite meals, Vegan or not, is what I call my “Mediterranean plates” where I just make a bunch of flavorful piles of stuff that go nicely together.

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Here’s tonight’s group:

First I got started with a nice batch of roasted yams and roasted cauliflower.

Get them started.

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Then I went to a white bean and kale with lemon salad:

In a glass or ceramic bowl add:

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon ( but zest it first and put aside)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 large handful of chopped green kale ( hard stems out)

Mix the kale down into the lemon juice and cover well and let sit in the acid until it gets a little wilted.

Then drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add to the bowl.

Then add:

  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh chopped sage
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a pinch more salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

Mix thoroughly, top with the lemon zest and set aside to rest while you perform your other duties.

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Next we have a nice Cous Cous salad.

Again, in a glass or ceramic bowl ( but preferably with a seal-able lid) start with your dressing on the bottom.   I just used more lemon juice, a little olive oil and some fresh herbs.

Then to the bowl I added some left over grilled vegetables, peppers, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini.   If you don’t have any grilled veg and don’t feel like making any, raw ones would work just fine too but try and keep them of the more delicate nature, not hard things like raw carrots.

Toss these in the dressing.

Meanwhile and this is just something I do for added flavour, but by no means essential……

I like to dry toast the couscous in the bottom of a heavy pot or fry pan till they get just a little bit brownish.

Then toss the DRY couscous in with the vegs and dressing and toss them in well.

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Then pour boiling water over the whole thing ( amount according to couscous directions) and then seal the bowl with a lid or place a plate on top and let stand for about 10 minutes.

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Then I whipped up a nice little Tahini sauce to pour over things:

  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • water as needed

Stir this all up in a bowl adding water as needed to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Tahini tends to cease up when you mix it with other things, so you may have to keep adding water for a bit.

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So now with our yams and cauliflower roasted.

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Our couscous absorbed and fluffed.

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Our beans and kale marinated.

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We are ready to put it all together!

Maybe drop a few spinach leaves or mixed greens on the bottom to “green ” it up a little and then pile on the good stuff!   And drizzle with a bit of tahini sauce!

Yummy Vegan Salad night!!

Or anytime really!   In fact this combo cold the next day made a great work lunch!

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Oh and …….note use of home-made bun now as toasted garlic bread!!!

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Vegan Mexican Night

Sunday’s are often “Mexican Night” at our house.

Nice way to wrap up the weekend with something flavourful, easy and satisfying!

So this week it was “vegan version” of what we usually have.

In one pot we have a batch of my “Super Easy Spicy Rice which is already vegan without any adjustments required.

Then in another pot I made up a batch of what would normally be the recipe for my “Pulled Chicken only without the chick of course.  Instead, just near the end I added a package of “Yves Italian Veggie Ground Round“.

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Now just as an aside here and forgive me “real vegans” if I am crossing the line with you, but I’m not really sure that I get these “fake meat” products that you all seem to enjoy so much.

So if you are a Vegan for pollitical / ethical reasons then why eat something that seems like the stuff you are trying to stay away from?  

And if it is for health reasons……..then……..you can’t honestly make me believe  that some factory processed “meatless” product is that much better for me than say some slices of balony being produced at the factory next door?

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you will know that my number one philosphy is that I am a champion of REAL FOOD.  And I’m afraid that I can’t pronounce many of the ingredients in this product.  So how exactly is it better for me?

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And then rouned it up with some nice fresh black bean and pineapple salsa.

And to tie it all together, I made some home made torillas, according to the recipe on the back of the Mesa flour package.

And then of course a little dollop of Good ol Guacomole“,

and there we have it, Sunday night Mexican – Vegan Version!

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Buns of your own

One place that animal products seem to be heavily lurking is in bread product:  milk, eggs and butter

So seeing as this is a Vegan challenge and not a gluten free challenge…..I thought I best whip up some buns of my own to have around.  You can always “slap something on a bun” in a pinch if you are starving and can’t wait for the “rice to cook”!

And having a little “safe” bread is good to have with a salad to just “top you up” and good to put things in for work lunch, which is always a challenge, Vegan or not, because I refuse to use the microwave!

I more or less went with this recipe that I found on line, only I substituted 3 cups of whole wheat flour and then the rest was white flour and only used almond milk.

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They turned out very nice, if I do say so myself……imagine……crackin one of these babies open with a nice pat of butter………..oh yeah……sorry.

Vegan Challenge-Week 1 check in

Well…… I’ve DONE it!!  One whole week with not a hit of animal product past my lips! As suspected, it really hasn’t been that hard because we already enjoy many vegan dishes a week, so it’s not like it feels all “weird” to be eating the things we do, it’s just the every meal aspect of it and of course the cow milk in my tea! Oh and much to my dismay, discovered that most, readily available, chocolate products all seem to contain dairy!!

So what have I been eating you ask?

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On the first night I whipped up a little “Spicy Tofu with vegetables and noodles”.

Start a little before and marinade the tofu for maximum flavour.

Marinade:

  • 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 inch knob of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp sweetener of your choice – I used brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy  or Bragg sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

I whizzed it all up in my mini chopper but if you do your mincing and crushing by hand, just mix it all in a bowl.

Meanwhile, chop up a block of firm tofu into 1 inch cubes.  I put them directly into a glass baking dish in one layer and then pour the marinate all over them and make sure they are evenly coated.

Let sit for at LEAST half hour, but the longer the better.

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When you are ready to eat, assemble your goods.

So now like any “stir fry” type thing, feel free to use what ever vegetables you enjoy but this is what I used:

  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 4 medium size cremini mushrooms cut into fours
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 1 large handful of baby spinach with a rough chopped

Meanwhile:

Put on a pot of water to boil for the noodles.

I was surprised to find out that “Catelli Multigrain” noodles are in fact vegan.  I use these most of the time anyway but had never registered that they were egg free before because it wasn’t a priority, but good to know.

Then while the water is boiling, you might as well prepare a little garnish to go on top.

I chopped up a couple of green onions and made some carrot juliennes ( match stick size) with my new julien peeler ( I’ll show you that another time)

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Okay, let’s get started.

Firstly, in a large skillet or wok,  you want to pan fry your marinated tofu ( adding the marinade in a little at a time till it cooks down)  in a little neutral oil, till it gets  a little crispy on each side, just to give it some texture and the marinade makes a bit of a gooey sauce.

Then remove from the pan and keep warm in a heat safe container.

Add a little more oil and then toss in your vegetables.

Put you noodles in the boiling water and give a little stir.

Keep tossing the veg around until the cabbage starts to get nice and wilted.

Once the noodles are done, drain quickly and keep a bit of the cooking water.  Then toss the noodles into the pan with the veggies and toss them together.

Turn off the heat.

Give them a generous shot of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and then keep tossing it everybody is well acquainted.

Place into your favorite bowl,  spoon on a helping of tofu, then top with the green onions,  carrot sticks and a sprinkle more sesame seeds.

Voila!  Vegan!

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The Vegan Challenge

I know, I know, we’ve been through this together before, where I decide I am going to eat a certain way to “try it out” and insist on dragging you along with me!

We did the “Raw Food Challenge”  and then I went on a gluten-free kick for a while.   All in the name of trying to find the right eating style for my needs.  I need to be able to walk the walk if I’m gonna talk the talk.

So I have decided to challenge myself to “one month of being a Vegan”.

In general, I don’t think it will be that hard.  We already eat several Vegan or Vegetarian meals a week…..but that’s in a week…..not even necessarily for a whole day.

My biggest challenge will be the lack of cow milk in my morning tea.  I have tried all of the vegan alternatives and I’m sorry but none of them quite cut it.  So I fear I will have to go without the tea, until I get desperate anyway.

There really is more and more research that sustains the idea that eating a plant-based diet WILL improve your health.

Do I think YOU should be a Vegan?   Don’t know.

Do I think you should TRY being a Vegan?  Couldn’t hurt.

Do I think that if there were more Vegans it would benefit our planet.  Definately!

I have long been an advocate of the notion that you need to eat what is best for YOU.  What makes YOU feel your best.  Because everyone is different and has different constitutions.  But I DO think that you need to keep trying until you find it.

You also need to educate yourself on WHY you are choosing to do something, not just do it willy nilly because it seems trendy.

If you are interested in taking a walk on the “Veg Side” there are some great documentaries out there that can get you started in the right direction.

Vegucated

Hungry for Change

Food Matters

Just to name a few and currently available on Netflix.

 

 

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I had a friend in town and would normally go out for breakfast on a Saturday morning, but I thought it best not to tempt myself on my first day of Vegan, because going out for bacon and eggs is simply one of my favorite things!

So instead he came over and I made Raw porridge and had some green tea.

Later, the Chef and I went to Starbucks and I had my very first EVER “soy latte”.   It wasn’t awful, but I REALLY don’t want to turn into one of THOSE people…..you know….the “soy latte” people.  But I was desperate, nobody needs to start their first day of Vegan with a caffeine withdrawal headache!!

One thing at a time.

So please follow along if you like and even try a challenge of some kind  of your own and we can do it together!

 

I love Vegans

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