Thursday, June 28, 2007


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Fresh sage, leek, and dried wild mushroom tofu, just made, drizzled with a bit of soy sauce

Last week I came across this very cool blog post (UPDATE June 2015: The blog doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately) about making homemade tofu with vegetables and herbs added. The authors called it "tofeta", but, since that name conjures up a salty, fermented taste for me, I just call it "gourmet tofu". Whatever you call it, it's a brilliant idea.

That article inspired me (as the authors intended) to think of other flavors, and quite a few combinations came to mind. However, I decided to try it more or less according to their directions for a start. They did not specify the amount of soymilk they started with, so I used 2 batches from my soymilk maker, which is 3 quarts, un-flavored. (PS, June 2015:  the soymilk makers I have are Soyquick, but that brand is no longer in business-- too bad, they are great and have lasted a long time. You can check the reviews on of other brands [or or the one for your country]).

NOTE: There are explicit directions for making tofu, written by my friend Brenda Wiley, at this link. Just follow those directions, with my additions below. If you can't or don't want to make your own soymilk, and you have access to fresh unflavored soymilk from an Asian soy product store (most big cities have such a store), you can use that (but make sure tha the milk is fresh and un-flavored). OR you can use unsweetened, un-flavored commercial soymilk from an un-opened carton, or (preferably) from a shelf-stable UHT carton, you can use that instead.

They added dried mushrooms, dried leeks, and dried sage to the soymilk before coagulating. Since I had some fresh leeks and beautiful sage growing in the garden, I decided to use those, plus some dried mixed wild mushrooms, which I soaked in some hot water. I also decided to chop the sage and leeks (green and white part) in the food processor and then sauté them briefly in a little olive oil, to bring out the flavors and chopped the drained, soaked mushrooms (the directions from the blog mentioned were a bit vague).

I used:
1 cup dried mixed wild mushrooms, soaked them for 15 minutes in boiling water
3 cups roughly chopped leeks
18 fresh sage leaves
(I chopped the leeks and sage in the food processor)
1 Tbs. olive oil for sautéing

I used 1/2 cup of the hot mushroom soaking water instead of plain water to dissolve the coagulator (I used nigari). I added the prepared veggies and herbs to the hot soymilk when it got to just over 180 degrees F, then drizzled in the dissolved nigari, stirred gently and briefly, covered the pan and let set for 10 minutes.

The tofu curds and flavorful sauteed vegetables
I stirred the curds briefly again and then scooped them into two of the little plastic tofu boxes you often get with soymilk machines, but which  you can purchase separately. If you have a nice wooden tofu mold  (or in Canada here) you can do the whole batch in that.

Curds in the tofu molds before pressing
I use a kind of jury-rigged pressing system. (An aside, just for fun! Jury-rigged or Jerry-rigged? Jury-built or Jerry-built? Although their etymologies are obscure and their meanings overlap, these are two distinct expressions. Something poorly built is “jerry-built.” Something rigged up temporarily in a makeshift manner with materials at hand, often in an ingenious manner, is “jury-rigged.” “Jerry-built” always has a negative connotation, whereas one can be impressed by the cleverness of a jury-rigged solution. Many people cross-pollinate these two expressions and mistakenly say “jerry-rigged” or “jury-built.” See also

I used 5/ 28 oz. cans of tomatoes and stacked the last 3 on a wooden cutting board placed over the first two cans to make the pressure even. That's about 9 lbs. and I pressed it for about 15 minutes. It's pretty firm tofu. It made about 1 lb. 2 oz. after pressing.

There are various types of more efficient tofu presses available, such as this one, the TofuXpress:

This press, and others shown on the same page (some of which hold more product) are available on amazon and various other sites. 

This tofu is fantastic! We ate some fresh and warm, just drizzled with a little soy sauce, as the Japanese do.

Last night, as a starter, we had small pieces coated lightly with nutritional yeast flakes, pan-fried in just a little olive oil with a few drops dark sesame oil, and served with soy sauce. Divine!

This morning, I scrambled it with a good sprinkle each of nutritional yeast flakes and soy sauce to eat with toast. Lovely! (I apologize for not being very inventive-- it tastes so good in these simple preparations. I do want to try marinating, deep-frying, etc. at a later date.)

I did not store the remaining gourmet tofu (which is the way you would normally store fresh tofu), because I didn't want to destroy the flavor, and we plan to eat it up soon, anyway.  I just refrigerated it on a plate, covered with plastic wrap.


Monday, June 25, 2007


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It's been so unseasonably cold these days that I made my husband light a fire in the woodstove so that I would feel like having a salad last night! I was busy all day transcribing recipes and catching up on some other writing chores, after a busy dance weekend.

My group dancing a Saidi cane dance (I'm on the right)
I wanted to make a comforting hot dinner (with a salad) that was quick to make and a little on the exotic side. So I took out a book that I bought recently to add to my Middle Eastern cookbook collection, Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine by Sanaa Abourezk (who trained at the Masha Innocenti Cooking School in Florence and the Cordon Bleu Baking School in Paris; is a food writer, and has also worked as a nutritionist in South Dakota, where she now lives). It is a book of lower-fat versions of the wonderful dishes of the Levantine culturea (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine). It does have meat recipes, but there are LOTS of vegetarian recipes.

I had some mushrooms that I wanted to use up, and I had some cooked black-eyed peas. Bulgur cooks quickly, so I looked for recipes using that grain. I found two recipes that fit the bill (the mushroom recipe could even use up that piece of red bell pepper that languished in the refrigerator vegetable drawer), and served them with a simple salad of island-grown greens with cucumber, tomato and olives, and a lemon-garlic-olive oil dressing. It was just perfect! (And both recipes would be suitable for the Weight watchers' Core plan!)

serves 4

MY CHANGES: I had very large mushrooms, so I sliced them. I didn't parboil them as the recipe instructed (I was lazy!). I also had no cilantro, so I used some dried basil to taste-- fresh parsley could also be substituted. 1 tsp. seemed like alot of chili pepper, so I used a couple of large pinches of cayenne.

1 lb. small fresh mushrooms
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 T. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp red chili pepper (see note above)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chopped cilantro

Parboil the mushrooms in 4 cups boiling water for 2 minutes, drain. (See my note above). Saute the onions in the oil until transparent. Add the mushrooms, garlic and both peppers. Stir-cook 5 minutes. Add pepper and cilantro (and salt to taste). Simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve in a flat dish.

4 servings, each 90 calories, 4 g fat, 2.7 g fiber

serves 4

MY CHANGES: I used cooked, dried black-eyed peas-- canned could also be used. Again, I had no cilantro so I used 1 tsp. dried basil and 1 tsp. dried mint instead (if using fresh, use 1 tablespoon each).

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 cups black-eyed peas, frozen (see my notes above)
3 cups water (I used vegan broth)
1 cup medium bulgur wheat
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (see my notes above)
pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil in a large pot.

Thaw the black-eyed peas, if using frozen ones, and simmer over low heat in the pot with onions for 5 minutes. (No need for this if you use canned or cooked ones, just add to the pot--BCG) Pour the water (or broth) into the pot with the onions and peas. Add the bulgur and herbs, bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer on low, covered, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

4 servings, each 280 calories, 4 g fat, and 14 g fiber.


Thursday, June 21, 2007


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A photo by my husband, Brian Grogan-- Huan surveying the water near Sooke, BC.

Huan (pronounced hoon and named after the Hound of Valinor, the Great Hound from J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-Earth) died last week. He was my stepson Sean's dog-- a beautiful big mix of German Shephard and Newfoundland. He also had a loving "mommy", Sean's ex-girlfriend S., and lived partime with both of his "parents", and his "sister" Skeena, a purebred Samoyed.

Sean with Huan and Skeena

S. with sleepy dogs.

He was also our "grand-dog" (as is Skeena) and spent alot of time at our house when recuperating from an accident (he couldn't keep up with Skeena, and needed to be somewhere quiet for a while!) He was good with our cats, who tolerated him better than the speedy, more high-strung Skeena. Huan loved to chase sticks and when he got one you had to have a little tussle with him to get it away to throw again! He also LOVED to get his head scratched and would nudge your hand for more!


Sean and S. found Huan up in Quesnel, BC as a little roly-poly puppy about 10 years ago. Skeena joined the family a little later. Huan had a terrible accident before his first year was out, and was hit by a truck, which broke his pelvis. He was in alot of pain and could just drag his lower body for some time. Sean and S. had to do alot of carrying, and he was a heavy boy! It is only through their patience and determination that he survived!

S. with Skeena and Huan

Lately, Huan had been plagued with a broken tooth, a broken toe, and a benign tumor that had to be removed. But his breathing was labored and they finally found out that he had a tumor pressing on his lung that could not be removed. As his breathing became more difficult, and his pain greater, they had to make the decision to put him to sleep.

His death was dignified and surrounded by love. Sean spoiled him for a few days and then they went to S.'s house where she had set up candles all over the living room, and played Buddhist music. She and Sean held Huan while the vet eased him into his final sleep, and my husband Brian, S.'s husband and baby son were there, too. S. told us that the vet was crying, too (I am, too, as I write this).

Sean brought Huan to our place, and dug a grave beside 4 trees growing together, which I named "The Four Guardians". Huan was wrapped in his favorite Navajo blanket and looked as if he was snuggled up for bed. We had a little ceremony and said our goodbyes. Sean marked the grave with a little wooden sculpture which a local artist had made when Sean's mother died.

Throughout the day we told Huan stories and looked at pictures of him. What a good friend he was!

Monday, June 18, 2007


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It's been a while since I blogged! I don't know where the time goes! This weekend two of my daughters and their families came for a visit, and we were looking forward to it, although I was worrying about making enough food for everyone, having had a super-busy week and no time to make a shopping trip to town. They brought juice and drinks and fruit and snacks, however, and I planned some simple, filling meals.

My house is small, and the weather was not very cooperative! The first night, the 4 little girls were sharing a tent. It was only supposed to "shower" intermittently, but there was a downpour early in the morning. My husband got up about 5 and was in the shower when they all came running into the house sopping wet, dragging their damp bedding!

At that point I got up, too, tucked the three youngest into my bed and set up the oldest (age 12) in the little daybed in my office with a reading lamp, with grandmotherly orders to try to sleep and let the grownups wake up!

The "constant reader" at breakfast!

I managed to shower and have a cup of tea when the others started coming in. We had a simple breakfast, my husband in charge of the coffee and toast (made with his good homemade bread), dried all the bedding and clothes, made lunch for later on, and we left my husband to have a well-deserved rest while we went to the "Free store" (recycling center). Everyone found at least a few treasures, and we visited my mother at her house for a little while before heading home.

Two more cousins enjoying a book

Lunch was a BIG pot of my Japanese noodle soup, which I had made in the morning, with watermelon for dessert.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Everyone went to the beach during a lull in the rain in the afternoon, giving me a little breather, and then brought my mother to our house for an afternoon snack of hummus and baby carrots, and salsa and chips.

Creamy Low-Fat Hummus (see recipe)

A dinner of my prize-winning vegetarian chili (see recipe below), and homemade cornbread, with a big green salad.

Cornbread (UPDATE: Vegan "Blue Ribbon" Cornbread, my adaptation.  The recipe is here, but I made these changes-- instead of the 4 tsp. baking powder, I used 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and I added 2 teaspoons lemon juice to the soymilk  to make "soy buttermilk". Here's a delicious wheat-free version of cornbread.)

Dessert was the Triple-Ginger Espresso Cake (Update-- from my latest book, World Vegan Feast, and I posted the recipe here .)

We all watched a family movie together, laughed alot, and the kids fell asleep almost immediately (they slept on bedrolls on my dance space/office floor, and in the little daybed-- the youngest slept with his parents in a more water-proof tent!). I slept like a log and didn't hear a peep from them until about 8 am!

Sunday was Father's Day, so my daughters and I made crepes for breakfast, which was much appreciated by all! The sun did come out for while, allowing the kids to play outside and get Grampa to push them on the tire swing. Everyone left around noon, and we had a lazy day after that. It was good to have some time to chat with my busy daughters, and to see my grandchildren interact with eachother. They get along really well. My little three-year-old grandson (who can tell you the bus routes in Vancouver quite accurately!) had a gaggle of girl cousins spoiling him rotten and seemed to be just fine with that!

I hope you all had a great weekend, whatever the weather!


12 servings
This recipe appears in my first book, “The Almost No-Fat Cookbook”. A few years ago, I won first prize in our local chili contest with this chili—beat out all the meat ones!! NOTE: You can use a combination of pinto, small red, and black beans for variety, if you like.

2 lbs. FROZEN tofu (start with firm tofu for best results), thawed, squeezed dry, and crumbled
2 pckgs. Yves Veggie "Ground Round" (or 4 c. other veggie "hamburger crumbles")
3-4 cups ground seitan
3 cups dried textured soy protein (TVP) granules or flakes, reconstituted in 2 and 1/2 c. boiling water

2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 T. chili powder (for a really good chili, use at least half dark chili powder, such as ancho)
1 T. EACH dried oregano, ground cumin, and unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa (can use 2 T. cocoa for a very dark chili)
1 bay leaf
7 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
8 c. water
1 crushed dried chili pepper
2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
4 c. dried pinto beans OR small red beans, SOAKED OVERNIGHT and drained
2 small cans tomato paste
OPTIONAL THICKENER: 2-3 T. cornmeal or masa harina

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT the cornmeal or masa harina in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, then turn down and simmer, covered, for about 4 hours. Taste for seasoning. Add the cornmeal or masa harina if you think it needs thickening and cook for a few minutes before serving. Can freeze.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
329.1 calories; 4% calories from fat; 1.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 457.4mg sodium; 1024.9mg potassium; 56.9g carbohydrates; 15.7g fiber; 7.1g sugar; 41.3g net carbs; 25.7g protein; 5.9 points.


Monday, June 11, 2007


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Oyster mushrooms we harvested off of an alder stump on Denman Is.

Sorry I have been blogging so seldom lately! I have alot of things on the go, not the least of which is starting on a new book with co-author David Lee of Fieldroast. I traveled to Vancouver this last weekend to meet with and work with David, which was really fun! But that's another story!

I wanted to do a short blog on our wild oyster mushrooms, which we are sometimes lucky enough to find this time of year. We only found a small batch this year, but that was enough to inspire a couple of yummy meals!
UPDATE: Both will be in my new book "World Vegan Feast" coming out Sept. 2011.

Homemade vegan rapini and "mascarpone" ravioli with oyster mushroom "cream" sauce

 Pasta with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Oyster Mushrooms


Tuesday, June 5, 2007


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Quick Stove-Top Cassoulet from Robin Robertson's "Quick-Fix Vegetarian"

I've been meaning to review this new book for some time now. I'm not really going to do it justice, I'm afraid! I've been super-busy testing recipes for my next newsletter, and getting started on a collaboration for a new book. But I did try three recipes from the book, and we really enjoyed two of them, which I'm sure I will make again.

Quick-Fix Vegetarian (Healthy Home-Cooked Meals in 30 Minutes or Less), by veteran cookbook author Robin Robertson contains tasty-sounding recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, skillet suppers, pasta dishes, casseroles, slow-cooker dishes, sauces, and quick desserts. I like the combinations of flavors, and the variety. There is a nice emphasis on vegetables! (The title says "vegetarian", but the recipes are vegan, BTW.)

The Quick Stove-Top Cassoulet (p. 101) (pictured above) was really good. I used some frozen, cooked white beans that I had in the freezer instead of the canned beans called for, and I used Tofurkey Vegetarian Italian Sausages. It's simple, but satisfying and very tasty!

The other recipe that we liked was the Mushroom and White Bean Soup(p. 47), pictured below. It doesn't photograph well, but it is delicious! The 8 simple ingredients belie it's robust, comforting flavor.

Mushroom and White Bean Soup

This would make a nice gift for a vegan student or young person setting up housekeeping without much cooking experience, as well as for any busy vegan. I'm looking forward to trying a few more recipes from the book in the near future!


Saturday, June 2, 2007


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The front door

In my last post I mentioned that we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast inn in Fanny Bay, BC, on Vancouver Island, just south of where we live (Denman Island). We were gifted with a night at the Ship's Point Inn, so we decided to spend my birthday night there last weekend.

We had a great dinner at a new Indian restaurant in Parksville, which is a little further south, and then headed back north to the inn, which has been there for many years, but was recently taken over by a charming couple from Quebec via Calgary, Robert Mercier and Agathe Fillion. The historic inn is lovely and beautifully furnished, and you are treated as if in a first-class hotel. No detail is overlooked! We had the run of the house, and a fire was laid in the living room firepalce in case we should want to read by the fire. A tray of tea fixings and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies was left out for us, as well as a small refrigerator full of bottled water and other cold drinks. There are binoculars here and there for bird watching (we saw lots of herons and eagles!), or looking over at Denman Island.

We ventured out into a rather blustery night, wrapped in the fluffy white bathrobes provided for us, to soak in the covered outdoor hot tub. It was a novel experience soaking in the hot water up to our next, being massaged by jets of water, all the while hearing the wind whipping in the trees, and stirring up the perfume of the flowers from Agathe's lovely gardens.

This is a view from the back of the hot tub area, as you approach the front gate.

Our room, the Periwinkle Room, faced the sea, and there was a balcony attached, complete with deck chairs, as well as a private bathroom. The bed was comfy and we slept in until after 7 am-- late for us!

The Periwinkle Room

Breakfast is at 9 am, and many guests go for a stroll on the beach before breakfast. We chose to read in the living room in front of the window facing the sea while we had our tea and coffee.

Part of the living room, in front of the window overlooking the bay

Agathe and Robert are congenial hosts and made a lovely breakfast for us-- orange juice, grapefruit broiled with brown sugar and lemon and lime zest; dark banana bread and homemade jams; and a light creamy vegetable casserole. (They will do vegan breakfasts on request, and also tailor meals for guests who must eat gluten-free, or those with allergies.) After breakfast we went for a walk on the beach before heading home.

The Inn from the beach side.

It was lovely to have 24 hours without telephone, computer or TV, and to be pampered as well!

When we got home, I fixed a couple of simple meals:

Tomato sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper, White Bean and Corn Soup (a variation on the Easy, Savory White bean and Corn Soup in my book "20 Minutes to Dinner")

Vegan waffles topped with Soy Curls™, veggies, and gravy.

Finally, some warm weather is here, so enjoy!