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Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Best Blog Tips
The new soy version, refrigerated

Please read this post, which explains why I've been messin' around with this recipe.

The new soy version on the left, and the new non-soy version on the right, frozen so that you can just scrape some of the spread off the top.

Servings: 24 tablespoons
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
This is an inexpensive, delicious and easy-to-make butter-y spread to use on bread, toast, muffins, etc., in sauces on and cooked vegetables.  It may not be firm enough to use in place of butter or solid margarine in some baking-- though it may work if it was frozen first and used quickly.  I have added just a small amount of coconut oil so that it firms up. (Refrigerated, the non-soy version is softer than the soy version, but not runny. Refrigerated, the soy version is similar to a tub margarine in consistency. Frozen, both are firm and can be scraped with a knife to use on toast, etc.)

New Soy version, refrigerated
Instead of soymilk, use Silk or So Delicious Coconut Creamer (Original), which are both cruelty-free, or you can use a creamy sort of plant-based milk. (Rice milk is too thin). Use 3/4 tsp. guar gum and 1 Tbsp. sunflower lecithin in the non-soy version.
NOTE: Silk and So Delicious use cruelty-free coconut products: See
Non-soy version, frozen.

1/2 cup soy milk (I used Silk Organic Original-- have not tried it with homemade soy milk yet)
1/2 Tbs soy or sunflower lecithin
3/4 cup neutral tasting oil
1/4 cup cruelty-free coconut oil (see brands here), melted but not hot.
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum

Pour the soy milk  and the lecithin into the blender container and place the cover on it, with the central cap off.  Turn on to Low speed and pour a thin stream of a mixture of the two oils slowly into the milk until all of it is used up.  Still blending, add the lemon juice, salt, and guar or xanthan gum. Increase the speed of the blender to High. Blend for a short time, just until it thickens to the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise.

Use a small silicone spatula to scoop the mixture into a shallow glass refrigerator container or a butter dish.  Scrape as much of it out of the blender container as you can. Smooth the top.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before using. You can also freeze it, or freeze it until the mixture is firm and then refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts (Serving size: 1/24 of a recipe/0.5 ounces/1 tablespoon.)
Calories 84.17, Calories From Fat (100%) 84.04, Total Fat 9.45g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Monounsaturated Fat 4.2g, Polyunsaturated Fat 2.24g, Trans Fatty Acids 0g , Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 41.29mg, Potassium 7.01mg, Total Carbohydrates 0.2g, Fiber 0.07g, Sugar 0.13g, Protein 0.15g , Vitamin A 0.02IU, MyPoints 2.46 

See this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil:
Published earlier this month, the most comprehensive article I read, Pay Coconuts, Get Monkeys,  gives us an idea  of what life is like for these monkeys, how valuable they are economically, and how legal loopholes enable trainers and “zoos” to essentially get away with animal abuse and neglect.

Early on in the piece a man called Noi Petchpradab, who has been training macaques to harvest coconuts for thirty years, was interviewed and discusses daily life for these working monkeys: "When they are not working, the animals are chained to tree stumps, which Mr. Noi said is due to their aggressiveness. They are given three daily meals, consisting of rice mixed with Lactasoy milk."

The article also goes on to say:
"Due to their ability to work for long hours, the macaques are capable of collecting 600-1,000 coconuts per day, compared to only 100-200 for humans. On a few occasions, he admitted, the monkeys are so tired they faint.
This practice will surely continue as long as there is both a market for coconut oil and consumers who are ignorant to the fact that this is even happening. Also, there will always be an economic incentive for people in these areas to use monkeys as performers as long as tourists are willing to spend money to visit them."


Saturday, March 18, 2017


Best Blog Tips

This will be a short little post.  I have posted this recipe on Facebook a couple of times, but never here on my blog.  I thought it was about time to post it here.

As a vegan, I just didn't eat honey for a long, long time.  It's not that I crave it, but every so often there's some recipe that just needs it, or it sounds comfy to stir some into tea with lemon when you have a cold.  So one day, I experimented with various syrups and combinations, and this one was our favorite.

Printable Recipe

Makes 1/2 cup—multiply as needed

Closest I’ve come to the real thing.
Check out the photo below for the brands I used and the color of agave syrup I used. You can use your favorite brands, but I think the more caramel-colored agave syrup is best in this recipe.

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

Hint: Very lightly oil the inside of your measuring cup and the syrups will more easily pour out.

Mix the ingredients together well and store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

It firms up a bit after a few hours of chilling.

PS: One could infuse this mixture with lavender or whatever flavor of honey you liked "back in the day".



Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Best Blog Tips

You may have already read my first blog post on making soy yogurt-- a small batch cultured in jars-- in the Instant Pot at this linkIf not, you might want to check that post out anyway, for why I use soymilk, whether or not you should be wary of soy, what kind of soymilk I use, etc..

After having many failures with making soy yogurt, I finally had success using the Instant Pot and that's what that blog post was about.  But on the Facebook Group "Instant Pot Vegan Recipes" there was a discussion about that blog post  and one commenter (whose name I cannot recall and I could not find that particular thread on this popular group) wondered why I bothered making it in jars and why I bothered heating some of the milk up, since the Instant Pot would bring it up to temperature anyway.  I thought it was very covenient having it made in the jars and I had had some failures previously making it right in the Instant Pot insert, so at first I dismissed the idea.

However, I thought about it some more and it made sense to make a larger batch right in the IP insert and not to have to heat up any of the milk.  So, I thought I'd give it ago-- if it didn't work, well then, we would have smoothies all week.  I was afraid that the yogurt would thin out or separate while transferring it to the jars after it had set, but, again, I thought it was worth a try.

It actually worked quite well. The Instant Clear Jel (or Ultra Gel) used as a thickener keeps it stable.  But the yogurt was a bit lumpy and then you had to transfer it to the jars and clean the insert. So, I've been experimenting again. 

My goal was to make a nice creamy, non-lumpy, tasty and tangy soy yogurt with minimal ingredients, minimal fuss, and consistently good results. I preferred not to have to heat up the soymilk first (and, with ultra-heat-treated [UHT] soymilk off the shelf, you don't need to!), and I wanted to avoid using a thickening agent that 1.) needed to be cooked before adding to the soymilk, and 2.) added a starchy taste and/or odd mouthfeel to the yogurt.

I believe that I have succeeded in reaching my goal with this revised recipe of mine, and I hope you will try it, and give me some feedback.

Before I give you the new recipe-- Do we really need to use a thickener?
I've read so many blog posts and FB post and comments about making vegan yogurt and I scratch my head at how some people produce a soy yogurt so nice and solid with no thickeners at all. I have come to the conclusion that soy milks and other plant milks are vary in some way so that some of them thicken without help, and some don't.

I have experimented in the past with cornstarch, tapioca starch and agar powder (each by itself, and then various mixtures of the above) as thickeners and didn't really like the consistency or mouthfeel of any of them, alone or together with another. I also didn't want to have to cook anything in the procedure.  Instant Clear Jel (not regular Clear Jel, BTW) or Ultra Gel proved to be the answer to making nice creamy yogurt that will hold its shape without having to cook it before adding to the yogurt mixture.

And what kind of soymilk?
I use 
organic soymilk, original style, ultra heat treated; in a Tetra Pak carton. The brand I use is PC Organics Fortified Soy Beverage, Original, a Canadian brand-- I prefer "original" to "plain". But brands and tastes vary, so you will have to experiment with brands available in your area to see which brand you like.  Some folks claim they have had success with Silk from a refrigerated carton, but I have not.  ALWAYS use soymilk from an unopened carton, whichever brand or type it is, to avoid contamination.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 2 quarts
It costs me about $4.50 Cnd (about $3.40 US on March 14, 2017) to make 2 qts (8 cups) of yogurt, plus about 1/2 cup extra. When we were buying soy yogurt it cost us about $5.00 Cnd for 3 cups!

Ingredients (only 3!):
The Milk:
8 cups (2 x 946 mL) UHT organic soymilk,  original style-- use UN-opened cartons (ultra heat treated; in a Tetra Pak carton-- I use PC Organics Fortified Soy Beverage, Original, a Canadian brand-- I prefer "original" to "plain".)
The Starter:
1/4 cup commercial or homemade soy yogurt with live culture (I have used "Nancy's Cultured Soy" with success), OR 1 tsp. dried vegan yogurt culture OR powder from 2 probiotic capsules (live, nondairy)
The Thickener:
6 Tbs Instant Clear Jel-- DO NOT use the regular Clear Jel meant for making jam and pies (I understand that you can substitute twice as much Cornaby's Ultra Gel, which is easier to find in Canada. Instant Clear Jel is available in Canada only from baking supply wholesalers but it's carried on for US customers. Ultra Gel is available in Canada from
For information about these thickeners, see

an Instant Pot with yogurt-making function 

a blender
measuring spoons (1 tsp./5 mL; 1 Tbsp/15 mL)
1/4/50 mL cup measure (if using yogurt as the starter)
a 10"/25cm or larger fine mesh stainless steel strainer with handle (and preferably with a rim)

a soup spoon
medium-sized wire whisk
a small, flat silicone spatula (the kind for scraping out bowls)
Four 1-pint (2 cup/16 oz. or 500mL) widemouth mason jars with lids 
(Make sure that the jars, with lids, are 4 3/4"/12cm to no more than 5 1/4"/13cm tall.)Two 2 qt./2L Pyrex batter bowls 
        OR one 2 qt./2L batter bowl or pitcher and one 2 qt./2L mixing bowl
(NOTE: You may have a little yogurt mixture left over, so have a small shallow bowl handy to accomodate that. I used a small, shallow dessert bowl that holds about 3/4 cup/177mL. The top INNER circumference of the bowl I used is 4 1/8"/10.5 cm and the height of the bowl is 1 1/2 "/3.8cm. It fit nicely atop the jars in the center and the IP lid easily attached. See picture below-- yes, the lid really does fit over this nicely!)

1.) Sterilize/scald all equipment with boiling water, including the blender jar and lid.

2.) Pour 1 carton of the soy milk, straight out of the newly-opened carton, into the blender. Add the vegan culture powder/probiotic powder OR yogurt and sprinkle on the Instant Clear Jel or alternate. Blend for several minutes at low to medium speed until well-combined, with NO perceptible lumps, but not excessively frothy(This blending is necessary because the Instant Clear Jel clumps easily if only whisked in or blended with an immersion/stick blender.)

3.) Pour this yogurt mixture into the batter bowl/pitcher and add the remaining carton of soy milk; whisk briefly but thoroughly. 

4.) Place the strainer over the top of the second batter bowl or mixing bowl (do not use a pitcher for this step unless it has a very wide mouth).  Pour the blended mixture slowly through the mesh strainer into the bowl. Press the mixture through with the back of the soup spoon if it won't go through easily, scraping any residue that sticks to the underside of the strainer into the yogurt mixture. (This straining step results in a very smooth yogurt and only takes a minute or two.)  Whisk strained mixture gently with the wire whisk, but don't make it frothy.

5.) If the yogurt mixture is now in a mixing bowl, pour it carefully back into the batter bowl/pitcher. Pour it carefully into the 4 prepared jars, right to about 1/4"/.635cm from the top of the jar. Secure the lids, but NOT tightly. (The yogurt will settle and sink about another 
1/4"/.635cm down when it is refrigerated.) If you have a little of the mixture left, see the Note highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the Equipment List above.

6.) Do not use the little rack that comes with the Instant Pot-- it will raise the jars up just high enough to cause a problem with the lid.  Place the jars right into the Instant Pot insert (topping the jars with the little dish of extra yogurt mixture right in the center, if you wish-- see photo above).

7.) Secure the lid on the Instant Pot, open the steam vent and press the Yogurt function button.  Set the time.  I like a fairly tangy yogurt, so I set it for 10 hours, depending on how long I've been using the starter 
(it gets tangier with age, and then weakens, by which time you need a new starter). You can taste it after about 8-9 hours and add more time if need be.  Remember that it will also get a little tangier as it cools in the refrigerator. (I make yogurt before I go to bed and let it culture overnight, which leaves the Instant Pot empty for daytime duties.)

8.) When it's done, it should be thick and creamy. Remove the jars carefully and secure the lids  more tightly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

9.) Save 1/4 cup for the next batch (use within a week or two), until you judge that the starter is weakening. (Weak starter may cause the yogurt to curdle, separate, and/or be lumpy or runny, and the taste may be not as tangy. If this happens, use the results for smoothies and, next time you make yogurt, start with powdered vegan starter, probiotic powder or newly-purchased soy yogurt.)

PS: If you ever see pink liquid in your yogurt, throw it out.

Servings: 16 to 17

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving): 57 calories, less than 1 calories from fat, 2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 26.1mg sodium, 160mg potassium, 5.9g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, 3.2g sugar, 3.2g protein, 1.4 points.


Sunday, March 12, 2017


Best Blog Tips

These are the Uttapam that I made from Kathy's recipe.
Kathy's Uttapam (picture from the book-- pictured with Cilantro Coconut Chutney, which I didn't make because we're not big cilantro fans. )

With the wild popularity of the Instant Pot these days (a Canadian product, I just have to add!), cookbook author Kathy Hester has done vegans a massive favor with the publication of her new book "The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot".  

I've had an Instant Pot for more than a year now and I love it. It saves counter space, it makes lovely soy yogurt, it's a slow-cooker, a pressure cooker, a steamer and more. I cook big batches of beans in it for freezing, and brown rice, too. Obviously, I highly recommend it.

This new book is full of tempting recipes, but, when I was trying to decide what to make for this review, I was immediately drawn to the uttapam recipe.  I love uttapam and we have it for breakfast or lunch fairly often.  It's a mixture of dal (dried legumes-- usually urad dal, which is white, but is actually split black urad dal, minus the black skins-- it's sometimes called white lentils) and some sort of grain, soaked, ground and fermented before cooking like small pancakes, often with thinly-sliced veggies cooked into the flip side. 

I make my uttapam with urad dal and oats, but I was intrigued by Kathy's mixture of Urad dal, brown rice, millet and quinoa-- wow!  This is a wonderful high protein, whole grain mixture. Uttapam is blissfully easy to make and the batter will last for a week in fridge.

Kathy's recipe makes alot of batter, so I halved the recipe for just the two of us. I also added 1/2 cup more water to the half batch of batter because I like my uttapam a bit thinner. (I also added a bit of salt to the batter because it brings out the flavors-- Kathy avoids salt in her recipes, but I'm afraid I'm not anti-salt.) I usually top the uttapam with thinly-shredded veggies, like cabbage, carrot, peppers, or even thawed frozen peas and/or corn.  You can use Kathy's suggestions, or anything that sounds good to you and cooks quickly.

Uttapam is served with dal, sambar, chutney, etc. If I have nothing else suitable, I just serve them with chutney and soy yogurt, as in my photo above.

These pancakes are light and tasty and full of little holes, but two or three make a substantial meal and leave you well satisfied. A terrific way to eat cheap and nutritious beans and whole grains!

Note from Bryanna: If you are going to have uttapam for breakfast the next morning, soak them in the morning of the the day before. And if you are going to have the uttapam for breakfast the next morning, blend and leave in the IP to ferment, as directed in the recipe below, before you go to bed.)

Printable Copy

UTTAPAM Note: I didn't make the Cilantro Coconut Chutney which went with this recipe  because we're not big cilantro fans. 

(From Kathy Hester's new book, "The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot")
1 cup (151 g) urad dal (which is skinned split black urad dal)
1 cup (190 g) brown rice (I used brown jasmine rice; BCG)
1 cup (119 g) millet
1 cup (170 g) quinoa, washed well to remove the seed coating (Many brands of quinoa are already pre-washed when you buy them now, so check the package info; BCG)
5 cups (1.2 L) water
Spray oil (optional)

Grated carrots
Grated summer squash
Chopped cilantro
Shredded vegan cheese
Leftover curries

Mix the urad dal, rice, millet, quinoa and water in a large bowl. Cover and let soak to soften for 8 hours.

Next, puree the mixture in your blender in batches and add to your Instant Pot liner. Place the liner in your Instant Pot, cover and press the yogurt setting. Leave it at the default 8 hours for it to ferment.

You can store the fermented mixture in your fridge for up to 1 week or you can cook up all the pancakes at once and freeze them to heat for later.

Coat a large skillet with nonstick spray (if using) and place over medium heat. Once hot, add ½ cup (120 ml) of the batter per pancake and shape into a circle. (I use a small ladle to pour the batter and use the bottom of the ladle in a circular motion to form the circle shape. BCG) Cook until bubbles begin to form. (I use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle.  I rub the pan with a bit of oil on a paper towel before cooking each uttapam. In India they often use a halved potato or onion to rub a bit of oil on the pan. BCG)

Sprinkle the topping you choose (I used sliced green onion this time; BCG) over the top of the pancake and press in a little with your spatula. Flip the pancake and cook until both sides are browned.

Place on a plate and cook the next one. You could also have more than one skillet going at a time. (I keep them warm in the oven at low heat while I cook them all. BCG)
Note from Bryanna: I served these with soy yogurt and chutney this time.


Saturday, March 11, 2017


Best Blog Tips

IMPORTANT: See my update on this spread at  The updated version includes a soy-free version and both the soy and non-soy versions are more stable and firm. I have added just a small amount of coconut oil so that it firms up. (Refrigerated, the non-soy version is softer than the soy version, but not runny. Refrigerated, the soy version is similar to a tub margarine in consistency. Frozen, both are firm and can be scraped with a knife to use on toast, etc.)

Some of you may know that I devised a palm oil-free (and coconut oil-free) vegan "butter" (which I call "Buttah") back in 2012.  I devised it as part of my plan to eliminate palm oil from my diet for environmental reasons and also for the animals harmed in the growing worldwide industry. You can see all about it here and the printable recipe is here. Buttah is a solid "butter" which can be used in baking and as a spread or for cooking. Though I use it sparingly, we love it and it has been a hit with vegans and omnivores alike.

Here's the "but" part-- Buttah is made with oil and cocoa butter (organic and steam-deodorized so that it doesn't smell like chocolate).  It only needs a small amount of cocoa butter compared to liquid oil (which makes the fat profile healthier than most spreads). But cocoa butter, and especially organic and fair trade cocoa butter, is getting more and more expensive and the steam-deodorized organic block type that I have purchased in the past is getting hard to find.  With our low Canadian dollar, it is really expensive!

I have some of that cocoa butter left and I will use it for Buttah to use occasionally in (and on) special baking.  (I use frozen oil, and much less than most recipes call for, in my pie crust.) But I wanted a spread for toast or pancakes, and no commercial vegan spread that I can find does not contain palm oil or a derivative or two.  (NOTE: Because we try to keep our fat intake reasonably low, we don't always use a butter-type spread on toast, etc.  Often, we simply use low-sugar jam or my low-fat "Corn Butter", or a low-fat vegan "cheesey" spread of some sort.  But, sometimes a thin film of "buttery" goodness is a good thing. This spread contains 82 calories per tablespoon compared to about 100 for dairy butter or earth Balance.)

I prefer not to use coconut oil, despite the craze for it, because of the saturated fat (no, I am not convinced that saturated fat is good for us!). (See this article and this one.) but the important this is that, when the "developed" world goes crazy for a particular product, it often has a huge impact on the farmers who raise it, the soil and other aspects of the environment, deforestation, loss of habitat for indigenous species of animals, etc., without any real improvement in the lives of the producers on the ground. This is the certainly case with palm oil, which now replaces hydrogenated fats in so many items worldwide, as well being used in cosmetics, cleaning products, etc.  And now there are harmful effects being seen from our addiction to avocados-- for more about this issue see this article, and this, and this, and this, and lastly, this one.

Anyway, back to the recipe in question-- one day it occurred to me that I should try the old method (which I believe originated with Seventh Day Adventist vegans many years ago) of making a vegan mayonnaise by drizzling oil into some soymilk while blending, then adding the appropriate seasoning. Evidently, the natural lecethin in the soymilk enables the oil and soymilk to coagulate into a creamy, spreadable mass.  I had made this in the past, but now use my very lowfat vegan mayo, which can be made with only 1/4 cup oil for a slightly-over-2-cup batch, or with 1/4 cup of certain nuts instead of extracted oil.

So, I tried it, adjusting the flavoring, of course, and adding a bit of liquid lecethin and vegetable gum powder to make it less apt to separate. Well, it worked and I have made it a couple of times since.

This spread is a.) inexpensive, b.) quick and easy to make, c.) keeps well, and d.) tastes yummy, with a good mouthfeel. I have not tried making it yet with anything but soymilk (which is what we use almost all of the time), so I'm not sure if it would work with other plant-based milks, simply because only soymilk contains the lecethin that seems to be the key to thickening this product. However, with the added lecethin and vegetable gum (guar or xanthan), that I included to keep it it from separating, it just might work out with another fairly creamy plant-based milk or perhaps something like So Delicious Original Coconut Creamer (which is not sweet).  Let me know if you try it before I do!

Printable Recipe

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Servings: 24 Tablespoons

This is an inexpensive, delicious and easy-to-make butter-y spread to use on bread, toast, muffins, etc., in sauces on and cooked vegetables.  It is not firm enough to use in place of butter or solid margarine in all baking-- though it might work if it was frozen first and used quickly.  Note on March 14, 2017: Yesterday I used this spread in place of butter or margarine in a coffee cake (one leavened with baking powder, but I see no reason why it wouldn't work in a yeasted coffee cake as well) and I could see no difference in the result.
I have not tried making this with a non-soy milk yet, but plan to soon. (See text above recipe.)
NOTE: Butter contains 102 calories per tablespoon; Earth Balance contains 100 calories per tablespoon; this recipe contains 82 calories per tablespoon.

1/2 cup soymilk (I use Silk Organic Original-- have not yet tried it with homemade soymilk; see text above.)
1/2 Tbs soy or sunflower lecithin
1 cup neutral tasting oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum

Pour the soymilk and the lecithin into the blender container and place the cover on it, with the central cap off.  Turn on to Low speed and pour a thin stream of the oil slowly into the milk until all of it is used up.  Add the lemon juice, salt and guar or xanthan gum. Increase the speed of the blender to High. Blend for a short time, just until it thickens to the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise.

Use a small silicone spatula to scoop the mixture into a shallow glass refrigerator container or a butter dish.  Scrape as much of it out of the blender container as you can. Smooth the top.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before using. This can be frozen and used when partially thawed. It can also be re-frozen.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1 tablespoon): 84 calories, 84 calories from fat, 9.4g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 41.3mg sodium, 7mg potassium, less than 1g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, less than 1g sugar, less than 1g protein.