Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘Vegetarian’

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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Zucchini Fritters

Here is a surprisingly tasty snack for you.

Over the last few weeks there seems to have been so many “Snack Worthy” things on TV.  All of the award shows and of course the Super Bowl…….

So I was looking for something a little more interesting to serve than all the usual suspects.

I happened to find something similar to this on a Vegan website – no need to tell anyone they were Vegan and spoil the decadent impression that they made!

In the original recipe they were served with a cashew cream, so they were truly Vegan.

I served them with sour cream laced with Chipolte Tabasco sauce, which is still a Vegetarian item!

Start by grating:

  • 3 medium zucchini

Put the grated zucchini into a clean tea towel and squeeze it over the sink as hard as you can to get as much of the liquid out as possible!

Then add to a mixing bowl with:

  • 1 medium grated carrot
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped red onion

Meanwhile grind in a coffee grinder or mini food processor:

  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds

And then add that to:

  • 3 Tbsp water

And let those sit together for about 5 – 10 minutes till they form a thick goop.

This is what we are going to use instead of the traditional egg.

However, if you don’t have any flax, or a grinder and don’t care about egg, by all means use egg!

Then toss together the flax with the zucchini, carrot, onion with:

  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Mix these all together till you get a nice thick batter.

Heat a skillet and add enough oil to coat the bottom, but I don’t like too much so they are swimming, but enough that the bottom is covered.  I even brush the oil around with a pastry brush so the pan is well coated.

Then start adding batches of about a 1/4 cup of mixture, as many as comfortably fits, and flatten them down.

Cook until golden and crispy on both sides.   Keep them warm in a low oven till they are all ready.

And then serve immediately!   With the topping of your choice.

These were really good considering there was no egg or real flour and really kept their shape.

 

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Curried Kale Pancakes with Maple Glazed Onion topped Eggs!

Now I  know that all of the experts say that the key to a good food blog is enticing pictures of the dish that pull people in to read further and maybe even attempt your dish.

But I made something so delicious for brunch today, that I just had to tell you about it immediately.  I wasn’t even thinking that I would write about it because I had no idea it would be so good.   But then we gobbled it down and I never got a chance to take any pictures!

Hopefully just my description of the item will be enough to do the trick for you!

As anyone who has been following this blog for any length of time knows all too well,  I am a big fan of kale!  And that I like to use it in untraditional places.  Case and point in my kale pancakes.  But I have to say that this recipe is one of most looked at postings on this blog.  And in fact, if you Google kale pancakes, it is the first item listed!  On ALL of the interweb!!

So this morning I felt like making some eggs, but was out of bread for toast and it is a bit of a dreary winter Sunday so I didn’t feel like going out to get any.

What to make?  I didn’t really feel like anything too sweet………of course the kale pancakes!

So I whipped up a batch of the pancake batter, only I changed it up a bit and actually this version is completely Vegan.

Into the blender went:

  • 2 whole cloves fresh garlic
  • about 2 cups worth of ripped kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup plain almond milk
  • 1 cup ( or more till you achieve right consistency) chick pea flour (or flour of your choice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp curry powder

Whiz that all up in the blender and then let sit a bit.

Meanwhile, heat up your skillet ( I used two at a time to move things along quicker).

Once they are ready, add a bit of butter or oil of your choice and make your pancakes as you normally would.

Keeping the cooked ones warm in a low oven.

Once your pancakes are all cooked, use one of the skillets to caramelize an onion.

When it is well caramelized, douce it with a generous glug of good maple syrup!

Meanwhile, in the other skilled, fry up as many eggs as needed.  I did them to a nice “over easy” so that when you put them on top of the pancake and cut into them, the nice creamy yoke will ooze all over.

When ready to assemble, place pancakes on the bottom, then over easy eggs and then top with the maple covered onion!

Oh MAN was that good!

And if you were so inclined, feel free to add a little bacon or sausage to the equation and some extra maple syrup on top and you will have an impressive brunch item indeed!

I really wish I had a picture for you, cause it was THAT good!

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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.

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Rice Crackers

How does that saying go?  “Something or other is the mother of invention”?

Well with me, it is “expensive”.  I often come up with some of my best creations after trips to the health food store.  I walk the isles offended that they want to charge WHAT for THAT??

So then I get mad and come home and make my own version.

Today it is rice crackers.  Now with everyone on the gluten-free band wagon, rice crackers are abundant and varied and increasingly expensive.

So I googled “how to make rice crackers” and there were a few variations, but this is what I ended up doing and it was so simple.

You will need:

  • 1 cup cooked rice ( I used brown basmati)
  • 1 cooked potato or yam ( see note)

If you like you could just chop and boil the potato or yam, but I decided to roast the yam with a small diced onion like I do in my side dish ROASTED YAM to add a whole new depth of flavour to the cracker.

Then add rice and yams to the food processor.   Whiz them up until coarsely blended.

Then it is up to you what you might want to jazz them up with.  I added:

  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • splash of olive oil

Whiz that up in the food processor till well blended.

Then dump the mixture out onto a piece of parchment paper that is directly on the counter or other flat surface.  Cover with another piece of parchment paper and with a rolling pin, roll the dough out nice and thin.

You may need to do this in two half batches.  With my first attempt it kept squishing out of the sides of the paper because there was too much in there.  You don’t want that.

Then when you have your dough rolled out to a nice size, remove top parchment and then carefully slip the bottom parchment with dough on top on to an awaiting baking sheet.

Use a knife to gently score shapes into the dough so that the crackers come apart easily when baked.

Then put into a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until they are crisp but not browned.

Can it get easier than that??  And for a FRACTION of the price AND they are gluten-free!

BAM!

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And they turned out delicious, probably my best attempt at home-made crackers yet!

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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Why read food blogs anyway?

Let’s face it, there are thousands of blogs out there now, pretty much about anything anyone can come up with.

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I am always seeing ads or getting emails about ways to “get more traffic to your blog” and some of them have some good ideas but at the end of the day, I just like writing them and sharing stuff I like or have tried or an idea I got some where.  So when other people actually read what I have to say, I am very honoured that they have taken the time out of their day to do so.

And what’s better, is if I can give them some little bit of information that they can enjoy, or that sparks an idea for them to use in their lives, then my work is done.

That’s why I have so many blogs that I have signed up for and read on a regular basis.  Because the best part is, it gives you ideas to do your own thing.

I will see recipes and either think about how I might do it differently, or I might actually intend to follow the recipe verbatim, only to find that I am missing one or more ingredient and then have to improvise and then it can inadvertently become a whole new dish.

But especially with daily cooking and eating, which most of us have to spend a lot of time doing, it is hard to come up with new things.  Or worse, even remember stuff that you like to make!

Sometimes I will look back over the archives of my blog and honestly be surprised by dishes I have made but forgot about and so am happy to make again.

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So the other day I was reading a few blogs and got a hankering for something I wanted to make.

First,I got this idea from my blog friend at EMILY BITES.   I didn’t have all the ingredients that she called for so I had to wing it from what I did have.  But that’s part of the fun, putting your own twist on new ideas.

Click HERE for the original recipe.  She called it “Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken”

I still have the same “slow cooker” that I grew up with that my mother gave me one day years ago because they didn’t use it anymore.   Still works just fine and will probably work for years to come, cause it only gets used a few times a year, so why shouldn’t it.

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So into the slow cooker went:

  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 inch chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup, maple syrup or brown sugar ( whatever sweetener works for you)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy or Bragg sauce
  • 2 heaping tbsps of peanut butter ( I use natural, the other ones will make the dish sweeter and saltier)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice ( vegetable stock would work too)

Stir all that up at the bottom of the cooker till it is nice and saucy.

Then add boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I used four, so if making more than that, just up all of the other ingredients. Basically the rule of thumb is to have enough sauce to cover the chicken, however much it is.

Turn the cooker on high and leave it for a few hours!   Nice!

After a few hours of cooking, poke one of the chicken breasts with a fork, if it falls apart easily, it’s ready!

So then get in there with two forks and pull them all apart till everything is shredded and then stir back into the sauce.  It is actually easier to pull out each breast onto a cutting board and shred it up and then add it back in,, but I was too lazy so I just fought with it still in the cooker!

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But then, what to serve it with?

Well, I saw another blog with an idea for some kind of pancake or patty type thing that I thought might work.   When I went back to see where I had found the idea, I couldn’t find it again, a hazard of reading too many blogs.

So as usual I just “winged it” with what I had.  The one I read had grated zucchini and corn, both things I didn’t happen to have, but no fear, I found other stuff.

In a large mixing bowl, mix:

  • 1 grated carrot or small zucchini
  • half a large red or yellow bell pepper in small cubes
  • 1 cup chopped cooked potato ( left over mash would do too)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smokie paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg

Mix all that together then add:

  • 1 cup milk ( of your choice)
  • 1 cup flour ( also of your choice)

Stir in to the vegetables to make a nice gloopy batter.  You might have to add a little more or less of the milk and flour till you get the right consistency.  It shouldn’t be too runny.

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Then when you are ready, heat a skillet to fairly hot, and add a little oil of your choice then ladle out about a 1/2 cup worth of batter into the pan, until you can get as many as fits.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.   Repeat.

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Keep the cooked cakes warm in the oven until you are ready to eat them.

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Lay a cake or two on the plate and then top with your pulled spicy chicken. There you have a delicious super easy meal!!

And if the truth be known, I had it again for lunch the next day and it tasted even BETTER after having sat together awhile!  Yum-eee.

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Vegan note:

You could easily substitute the chicken for tofu in that recipe.  Only I would cook only the sauce for a while till it was all cooked down and THEN add cubes of tofu only about a half hour before eating so it doesn’t get all mushed.

And then for the patties, just omit the egg and use a non dairy milk and you are still in business!

Just make your own

I was thrilled to find out that a new bulk store opened here in Victoria.

It is a franchised chain that I often enjoyed while living in Ontario and I have missed it ever since I left!

I think bulk food stores are great.  Because you KNOW it is the same product coming from the same place that the brand name grocery stores and even health food stores are selling you prepackaged for three times the price!

I buy most of my dry goods in bulk, rice, beans, peas, nuts, spices, flours and then I bring them home and have a collection of jars that I put them into and away I go!  I find it makes my cooking life so much easier and cheaper!

But sometimes if you just do things yourself, you can make things even cheaper!

Like take tamari almonds for instance.

I was at the bulk store with my friend when she announced that she needed some.   “Why don’t you just make your own?” I asked, seeing the considerable difference in price between the tamari almonds and the plain ones.

“How do you do that?” she asked.

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Well……let me tell you.

You will need:

  • 1 baking tray lined in parchment paper
  • a little bowl or pot
  • about a cup of raw or plain toasted almonds
  • enough tamari ( I just used Bragg sauce) to cover

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Put the almonds in the bowl and then give a few good shots of tamari.   Not so that they are swimming, but enough that you know everybody will get coated.

Give the nuts a few good stirs, making sure everyone is covered and then let them sit for at least 10 minutes, but longer is fine.

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Heat your oven to 200 degrees.

When you are ready, stir the nuts a bit more and then spread them out on the parchment covered tray.  Try to give each nut as much space at possible.

Bung them in the oven.

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Let them dry in there for as long as it takes.   Feel free to take them out and toss them a bit with a spatula.

But you don’t want to take them out until the sauce has completely dried.

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Once done, let cool completely before putting into an air tight container.

If they aren’t completely cooled, they will get sweaty and then go soft and you don’t want that!

And there you have it.   Tamari covered almonds!

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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?

Corn Chower

I know that I have posted versions of this recipe before, but it is just such a favorite of mine.

Especially this time of year when fresh produce is bountiful and in some parts of the land the days are still sunny and hot.

This “raw” corn chower works for me every time!

Click HERE for the original recipe.

My only additon these days is about 1 tsp of smokie paprika in the soup and then another sprinkle for garnish.

Great for a summer lunch or part of a cooling evening meal.

Enjoy

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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.

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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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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 on the Road

Shortly after I had finished the “Vegan Challenge” the Chef and I set out on a road trip to visit family in California.

By no means had I jumped back on the carnivore wagon, I had been easing into things like cow milk, cheese and eggs but had not yet partaken of the flesh.

Regrettably, I must report, that for the average person, on an average road trip, eating completely Vegan is very hard, if not impossible.  And when I say impossible, I mean happily and healthily.  Because like I’ve said before, sure, French fried ARE Vegan!

I’m sure if you plotted your course very carefully and spent weeks before researching the menus of every possible eatery along your route then you might have a little more luck.

For the most part, you are faced with the tantalizing choice of some sort of cheese and vegetable sandwich, a salad with some sort of cheese, or plain salad with NO dressing because even if the bottled stuff doesn’t happen to have dairy in it……chances are…..there is a bunch of other stuff you DON’T want in it!

It was a daunting undertaking.

But like in the challenge itself, I was just trying to do this to see if it was possible and not cause anyone was forcing me to do so.  I got by on my cheese and vegetable sandwiches for awhile until one lunch time when we found ourselves starving by an exit off the I-5 in Oregon.  We got some gas and had a quick scan of the strip malls, but nothing was jumping out, until the Chef spied Rock N Rogers, an old style burger joint with a pink Cadillac on top of it!

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The Chef pleaded with me, he had been very patient all through the Vegan Challenge, but the boy does LOVE his burgers.   So I agreed to go, there must be something I could eat…..even if it was a grilled cheese sandwich.

Well, there wasn’t.   It was a full on burger joint.  But what’s worse, is that normally it would be the kind of place I would love too.   So it made me feel like a loser.  Being on vacation, at a place that looked like it had great, fresh made, big wonderful burgers.

So this is where the big philosophical dilemma/debate comes in that is a big deal with any chosen style of eating.   Where to draw the line between health and enjoyment of life?  And isn’t enjoying your life a big part of good health?   Very hard indeed.

I ended up starting with a HUGE, even though it was only advertised as a regular “side salad” so I got lots of fresh veggies and then I opted for the turkey burger……with mustard on it instead of cheese and special sauce.

Eating the turkey felt really weird.  I mean I know it was all in my head, but I hadn’t had any flesh in about six weeks by this time, so it felt very forbidden and dangerous.   But I got through it and it was all very tasty.   It probably wasn’t as flavourful as the Chef’s double decker bacon cheese burger, but it still did the trick and I didn’t die.

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Our second night in California we were invited over to friends for a Bar B Q.  They were grilling up TWO  different kinds of specialty pork ribs, one with a dry rub and one in a wonderful bourbon sauce.   I believe that this was now considered one of those occasions where my declaration of being a “FLEXITARIAN” would be deemed appropriate.  Because it is all very noble to stick to your convictions and your principles ( if in fact that is what you actually believe) but you also don’t want to be “that girl” who makes a big deal at friendly gatherings.

It really is all quite a difficult balance and I applaud those of you who manage to get away with it, without being annoying!

Any tips on this delicate maneuver would be greatly appreciated!

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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.

popcorn

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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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A great little thing

Here is something I found that can make a Vegan’s ( or anyone really) life just a little easier!

I’m not sure what they are officially called…… a julienne peeler perhaps?

It is a little gadget that looks like a regular peeler, only when you look hard at it, you will see it has all these little teeth instead of the regular blade.

Then you run it along the raw vegetable of your choice and it produces wonderful match stick width , or “juliennes” of stuff.

And they are ready to add to your salad or other decorative dish!

SO much easier than trying to cut them all small and neatly the same……..cause I know that not everyone lives with a CHEF!!

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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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