Sunday, August 29, 2010


Best Blog Tips

Our dinner salad last night-- heavy on the home-grown tomatoes!

Friday evening I came home from work (my "day job"-- managing a small branch of our island library system) and checked our little garden for anything that needed picking. Tomato bonanza!  (And some basil, as you can see.) We love the "Black Cherry" tomatoes that you can see nestled among the red ones!

I found an interesting-looking tiny purple frog sitting under a basil plant!  (Or is it some kind of little toad?  I don't know much about amphibians, I'm afraid!)  We have other tiny frogs that we see often on the deck, but they are bright green.  These pics don't do it justice (it was evening when I took these):

I also picked a little lettuce and mesclun for my solo dinner salad. (DH was off in Vancouver to see his youngest son's new Celtic band play.)

For lunch yesterday, DH back home, we had vegan BLT sandwiches on Brian's white bread (an occasional treat!), toasted .  The "bacon" part was provided by a generous sprinkling of my Homemade Smoky Veggie Bacon Salt-- recipe on my blog here.  The low-fat (and very tasty!) vegan mayo recipe is here . (There's also a Hemp Milk Vegan Mayonnaise.) Yum!

Last night we simply had salad and Denman Island corn (picked that day) for dinner:

I'm keeping things pretty simple these days, due to The Book!  BTW, if you're looking for tasty low-fat vegan salad dressing recipes, here are some posted on my blog:

Spicy Vinaigrette

Dijon Maple Balsamic Dressing

Pomegranate Molasses Dressing #2

Creamy Orange Vinaigrette

Creamy Pear-Based Vinaigrette (Tarragon Version)

Oil-Free Creamy Bean-Based "Caesar" Dressing

Low-Fat (or No-Fat) Creamy Pear-Based Vinaigrette

Happy Salad Days!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Best Blog Tips


I'm posting this because I've noticed, over the last few years, that many people are confused about how to use the word substitute as a verb, and it causes much confusion when people are discussing substitutions in a cooking context.  For instance (as you will see from the expert opinions below), if you want to replace butter with margarine, you can say one of the following:

"substitute margarine for the butter" (preferred)
"substitute butter with margarine" (seems to be frowned upon by grammar experts)

Better yet (and I have to remember this myself!), for clarity, simply say
"replace the butter with margarine"!

Unfortunately, I often see phrases like this: 
"I substituted the cocoa powder for chocolate milk mix" (this is a real example)
In fact,  the person actually meant (and I could tell this by reading the original recipe): 
"I replaced the cocoa powder with chocolate milk mix"
"I substituted chocolate milk mix for the cocoa powder"

This interests me because I want my recipes to be clear and understandable, and I'm trying to improve my own language in the recipes I write.

Some expert opinions:

To substitute means to put a person or thing in the place of another; it does not mean to take the place of another.

When A is removed and B is put in its place, B is substituted for A and A is replaced by B. 

Substitute is wrongly used in:
"The Minister said he hoped to substitute coarse grain with homegrown barley"

The Minister ought either to have used the verb replace, or, if he insisted on the verb substitute, to have said
"to substitute home-grown barley for coarse grain" 
**From “Some Points Of Idiom”, The Handling Of Words by Sir Ernest Gower

if in a recipe butter is replaced by margarine, margarine is substituted (is the substitute) for butter. ... To avoid confusion, use replace instead of substitute as a verb.
See quote on Google books. From the book Quite literally: problem words and how to use them  By Wynford Hicks

For a more scholarly take on this, see also:
An article by Gunnell Tottie “On Substituting with for for with substitute” (pps. 203-207), from the book Contexts-- historical, social, linguistic: studies in celebration of Toril Swan  By Kevin McCafferty, Tove Bull, Kristin Killie, Toril Swan. (I read this is on Google Books, and you can’t quote it or copy and paste it.)

All the best!

Monday, August 23, 2010


Best Blog Tips

Thanks so much, Gail Davis, for posting this on your "Hungry Vegan" blog! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!


UPDATE, Aug. 26, 2010: Well, last night I tried steaming the mugs as an alternative to using a microwave-- it was a flop, I'm afraid!  For one thing, it ended up taking 18 minutes steaming time, which kind of defeats the whole exercise of a 5-minute cake!  But, perhaps more importantly, it didn't rise and get fluffy like the original.  It was, as the British say, "stodge"-- yuck!  Sorry, no solution there. 

I thought about pressure cooking, but it might be more trouble than it's worth, with the getting up to pressure, cooling down, etc. 

(BTW, for anyone who is wary of microwave ovens, I have compiled some info in a Google doc: Read here.)


My youngest daughter, Justine, gave me a challenge yesterday.  Devise a Weight Watcher-friendly, preferably vegan, 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake.  I vaguely remembered hearing about this cake before, but hadn't looked into it.  So, I set about meeting her challenge.  I looked up various recipes and comments  on the recipes, first of all.  Then I set to work.  I wanted it to be vegan, of course, no-fat (except for a very few chocolate chips), and whole grain, but also nicely chocolate-y and slightly gooey.

We tried 2 of my versions last night-- one was too dry, so we didn't eat it!  I was pretty happy with the other version, though.  I ultimately made it in smaller servings than the original cake-- the larger size was too big for a healthy snack.  To refine the recipe, I made the ultimate sacrifice and had the final version for breakfast this morning! I must say, I'm happy with it!  I hope you like it, too!

NOTE: The updated 2018 version below has a an easy GF AND low-glycemic option.

(Worried about using a microwave oven?  Read here.)

Printable Recipe

Yield: 1 or 2 servings
UPDATED on October 27, 2018

Quick, 3 WW points, gooey and satisfying! The ultimate quick chocolate hit (well, maybe second to Drinking Chocolate!). The chocolate chips may sink to the bottom, but no worries-- that makes an “icing” on the bottom that you can scoop up with each bite of cake! (BTW, I tried removing the cake from the mug to a plate, but it doesn’t look very attractive and dirties another dish, so better to eat it right out of the mug!) See Variations below for Gluten-Free version.

NOTE: One of my readers suggested quadrupling the dry ingredients and the brown sugar to make a quick mix-- great idea! (You could even multiply it further, I would think.) Measure out equal servings of the mix and bag them in little sandwich baggies. Maybe print out labels with the wet ingredients and stick them on the baggies.

FOR 2 SERVINGS (see Variations below for 1 serving)
Wet Mix:  
2 1/2 Tbs    water or strong coffee    
2 Tbs    thick, smooth unsweetened applesauce  
3 Tbs    packed brown sugar OR coconut palm sugar (both brown sugars deepen the chocolate taste)
1/2 tsp    lemon juice or cider vinegar  
1/4 tsp    pure vanilla extract  
Dry Mix:  
3 Tbs    whole wheat pastry flour 
1 Tbs    oat flour (or barley flour)
(OR, for a gluten-free AND low-glycemic mix, use 3 Tbs oat flour [you can blend oat flakes or quick oats in a dry blender to a fine flour] + 1 Tbs chickpea or white bean flour.)
2 Tbs    organic dark unsweetened cocoa powder  
scant 1/4 teaspoon    (more like 1/5 teaspoon!) baking soda  
1 pinch    salt  
1 tablespoon    organic, vegan, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips  

Lightly spray two 1-cup mugs (such as cappuccino mugs), or 1-cup ramekins, with oil from a pump sprayer.

In a small bowl mix together the Wet Mix ingredients well with a whisk.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together (with a dry whisk) the Dry Mix 

The ramekins in this picture are the right size to use for microwaving the cakes if you have no suitable mugs, BTW.

Pour the Dry Mix into the Wet Mix and whisk together well. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared mugs. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon chocolate chips over the batter.

Microwave at High power for 1 minute, 10 seconds
. (Note: My microwave is 1200 watts—if yours is less, you may need a few seconds more.)  

Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes.  Eat right out of the mug or ramekin!

1.) If you have no leftover coffee, you can add 1 /2 teaspoon coffee or espresso powder to the water, or just use water.
2.) Freeze unsweetened canned or homemade applesauce in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into zipper-lock bags-- each one is 2 tablespoons! You can thaw them quickly in the microwave.
3.) For oat flour, just whiz rolled oats or quick oats in a DRY blender to a fine flour.


1 1/4 Tbs  water or strong coffee  
1 Tbs thick, smooth unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 Tbs    packed brown sugar (both brown sugars deepens the chocolate taste)
1/4 tsp    lemon juice or cider vinegar  
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract  
Dry Mix:  
1 1/2 Tbs    whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 Tbs    barley flour or oat flour (OR, for a gluten-free AND low-glycemic mix, use 1 1/2 Tbs oat flour [you can blend oat flakes or quick oats in a dry blender to a fine flour] + 1/2 Tbs chickpea or white bean flour.)
1 Tbs organic unsweetened cocoa powder  
scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda  
1 small pinch  salt  
1/2 tablespoon    organic, vegan, semisweet chocolate chips  

The directions in the main recipe above are for 2 servingsfor 1 serving, you can mix the Wet Mix right in the mug or ramekin that you are going to microwave the cake in. Microwave 1 serving for only 40-50 seconds.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:       
Calories 190.56, Calories From Fat 26.92, Total Fat 3.22g, Saturated Fat 1.53g, Cholesterol 0.00mg, Sodium 314.72mg, Potassium 240.07mg, Carbohydrates 41.25g, Dietary Fiber 4.15g, Sugar 20.07g, Sugar Alcohols 0.00g, Net Carbohydrates 37.10g, Protein 3.95g 


Thursday, August 19, 2010


Best Blog Tips

I can't believe this week has gone by so fast! Sheesh! And here it is Thursday again! We did have a fun few days with DH's stepdaughter from Montreal and her two lovely 12-year-old twin daughters. We had a picnic the beach with some friends and 2 of my granddaughters, the girls having a great time swimming, canoeing, going out on my stepson's motor boat, and getting to know each other. We went to Salt Spring Island for a night, with the "gang" (as DH calls them) to visit more family-- driving in style in a friend's immaculate white 1972 Chevy Caprice. We would have been squished in our little car, with no air conditioning on the hottest weekend of the year, so our friend offered his ride. Very fun, and a big surprise for the Salt Spring relatives when we drove up!

But, along with company, cooking, the ordinary daily running of a house and job, family, and, of course, the Book-- hours of editing-- it's been mostly work and very little serious cooking, I'm afraid!

I did make an interesting recipe yesterday-- Lucuma ice cream (vegan, of course!). Lucuma is a Peruvian fruit and, as many of you may know, my father was Peruvian. I remember lucuma ice cream from my three months in Peru as a six-year-old. Lucuma is a fruit with a quite dry texture, so it isn't eaten as a fruit, per se. Mostly it is used for a delectable, rich ice cream. Lucuma is rather sweet and has a butterscotch-y sort of flavor. When I was in Vancouver last, I found a store with Peruvian foods and bought some frozen lucuma puree-- what a coup, I thought!

Yesterday I worked out a recipe based on my vanilla gelato recipe made with Instant Clearjel®, with the help of a (non-vegan) recipe from the internet. After splattering the kitchen with soy cream after a little accident (Mercury is in retrograde-- what can I say?), I made the mix and tasted it-- WAY too sweet!! I couldn't figure it out! My gelato is not as sweet as most, and I had used less sweetener than the non-vegan recipe called for (in relation to the volume of liquid, etc.). So, I got out my (new, under-used) reading glasses and read the small print on the bag of lucuma puree-- sugar! I had been assuming that it was unsweetened, since the label did not say "sweetened" and the recipes I found online all called for unsweetened puree. My mistake!

I tried diluting it with more soymilk-- still overpoweringly sweet! (I now have about 2 quarts of very sweet milky liquid in the fridge that I have to think of some ways to use!  Any ideas?) So, I started over and used no sweetener at all. It still tasted too sweet to me, but I know that when food is frozen, the sweetness is not as apparent, so there was hope. I stuck it in the freezer and hoped for the best, as I was hoping to take it to a family dinner with my sister and my mother on Friday-- they will remember this treat, too!

Last night I looked for unsweetened lucuma puree in Canada online-- no luck. But I did find lucuma powder. It seems that lucuma is all the rage in the raw foods community and is even used as a natural sweetener. I found some at a good price from this Canadian vendor, and ordered 2 lbs for future experiments!

BTW, lucuma is being called a "superfood", but I think this is somewhat of an exaggeration. It's true that it has lots of fiber and beta carotene, but, then, so do carrots! It is high in natural carbohydrates, so it was used by the Incas to provide energy, and evidently the trees are very prolific-- no wonder it was a popular food. Tasting sweet and butterscotch-y didn't hurt! I just feel that we should not go hog wild over exotic foods that are supposed to provide miraculous nutrients, when, in fact, we have foods at home that are just as good, more available, and much cheaper! For me, his is an exotic treat to relive some childhood memories.

Anyway, that said, we tried a bit of the ice cream when I was photographing it and re-packing it, and it is delicious! Here is the recipe I used with the sweetened puree, but I plan to try it again with the lucuma powder and will report back!

Printable Recipe

Update Aug. 2012: See a recipe for Vegan Lucuma Ice Cream using lucuma powder here. And stay tuned for Take 3!

Servings: 10
Yield: 5 cups

1 1/2 cups soy creamer (plain)
1 1/2 cups nondairy milk
1 1/2 cups lucuma puree (with sugar)
3/4 cup raw cashews or cashew pieces, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained
(if allergic to nuts, use 1/2 cup more nondairy milk, or soy creamer, and 2 tablespoons oil)
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons Instant Clearjel® (see info below recipe)OR 3/8 tsp. guar gum or xanthan gum

Place the creamer, milk, and lucuma puree into a blender along with the soaked, drained cashews, and blend until VERY smooth and frothy (make sure that it is not grainy at all).

Mix all of the remaining ingredients, into this mixture and blend again until it is VERY smooth.

Chill the gelato mixture thoroughly, and then freeze according to directions for your ice cream machine. Scoop into a quart plastic container, cover and freeze for several hours (preferably 24 hours) before serving.

Cooking Tips
A while ago, I started playing with my gelato recipe from my book "Nonna's Italian Kitchen ". I wanted to make it richer-tasting, easier to make, and with more servings. One of the things I did was to use Instant Clearjel® instead of the cooked tapioca flour mixture that I generally use (tapioca thickens the mixture instead of eggs, and it has better mouth feel than cornstarch). This eliminates cooking the starch mixture, which means the whole thing takes less time and it doesn't take so long to chill the gelato mixture before freezing. Another option is xanthan gum or guar gum, and I have given the amounts in the recipe.

In this recipe, DO NOT use the regular Clearjel® meant for making jam and pies and needs to be cooked.  Instant Clearjel® does NOT need to be cooked.  It is carried on amazon.comhoosierhillfarm.combarryfarm.comand King Arthur Flour for US customers. It has been available in Canada primarily from baking supply wholesalers, but,  good news for finally carries Instant Clearjel®! (Make sure you add a note to your order specifying that you want INSTANT Clearjel®.) According to their website, Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver, BC carries it, too, but I'm not sure if they do mail order (their website is under construction right now).
For information about these thickeners, see (According to this source and others, Instant Clearjel® and Ultra Gel® are both NON-GMO.)

Keep cool!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Best Blog Tips
Piedmontese Rice salad from my book "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" (Update: the recipe is on this blog here now.)

I was rushed today (as usual these days-- book deadline looming-- that's why not much blogging these recently!) and trying to figure out what to make for my husband's discerning (but omnivore) stepdaughter from Montreal, and her 12 year-old twin girls. I was also trying to figure out what to blog about before everyone gets here and I have no time to blog!

So, here's what I made for dinner tonight (well ahead-- everything but dessert can be eaten at room temperature) and they are due in about half an hour, so I'd better get going! I'll try to blog most of our meals over the week or so that they are here.

Italian Romano Bean salad (also from "Nonna's Italian Kitchen")

Summer squash "a scapici"-- the first picture with our own pattypan squash, and the second with a neighbor's green and yellow zucchini. (Also from "Nonna's".)

"A scapici" is a southern Italian version of the Spanish or Caribbean "escabeche" (cooked fish pickled in a vinegar sauce), or Latin American "seviche" (a method of "cooking" fish with the acid of lime or lemon juice, which is a very typical dish in Peru, where my father was born-- now I make seviche with mushrooms). In Italy, many vegetables are prepared a scapici, including eggplant.

Some versions use vinegar instead of lemon juice, add garlic, use other herbs (such as sage), and fry the vegetables in olive oil. I like this very simple grilled version (I "grill" it under my oven's broiler) made with fresh lemon juice. It's such a simple recipe that you might tend to overlook it, but it is one of my absolute favorites! The eggplant melts in your mouth, and the zucchini is juicy and sweet.

Here's the recipe, which is really mostly a guide:

Serves about 4

1 large eggplant or 2 medium zucchini
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
OPTIONAL: chopped fresh mint or basil

If using eggplant, slice it about1/2" thick. Salt it liberally and leave it to drain for half an hour in a colander. If using zucchini (I usually do some of each), slice it 1/4" thick and don't salt it.

Rinse and pat the eggplant dry. Brush both the eggplant and zucchini with 1 T. of the oil and grill or broil it on bothsides about 3-4" from the heat source, or until slightly browned and soft. (This takes just a few minutes per side.)

Cut the vegetables into thick strips and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle them with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Sprinkle with pepper to taste, and salt the zucchini lightly (salt isn't necessary for the eggplant).  Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint or basil.

For a bread, I made Potato Fougasse, which will be in my new book coming out late this year, I think. It's a sort of French focaccia, with an interesting tree-like design, and very yummy! I sneaked in quite a bit of fiber!

Here it's just placed in the oven:

And, for dessert, we're having what I call "Grown-Up Nanaimo Bars", a vegan, less sweet, and more healthful version of a popular BC sweet:

UPDATE: I forgot the roasted beets with olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper and Italian parsley!

And here is the dinner before everyone demolished it! (It was a hit!)

Hope you're enjoying your summer!


Thursday, August 5, 2010


Best Blog Tips
A rather tippy veggie burger, with all the trimmings, made with one of my new thin buns.

I've been meaning to try some "sandwich thin"-type buns for a long time, and finally got inspired to adapt one of my favorite burger bun recipes-- one I've used for over 25 years! The recipe was an old "yeast batter bread" recipe. In those days, you made a yeast-leavened batter and just rose it for 30 minutes, then formed the bread or buns, rose again briefly and baked. These were tasty enough, but I figured that they could be improved upon by using the newer no-knead bread techniques. The longer rising time with the new techniques develop the gluten and the flavor.

I chose this recipe because it was 100% whole wheat, vegan already (many sandwich bun recipes contain egg), it was "tried and true", and it is fairly soft (due to the added potato). It worked very well, though some might say they aren't big enough for some burgers. I added an option to make bigger buns, if you like. But these just fit the burgers I had around and I thought it was great that the bun didn't overwhelm the other tastes. The bun was soft, but held together well and didn't get soggy.

I did a little research, and whole wheat burger buns seem to range from 110 calories to 210 calories. Mine are 98 calories for the smaller ones and 130 for the larger ones. If you want to raise the fiber level, you can add 1/4 cup of wheat bran to the batter with no ill effects. At any rate, you can control the ingredients, and they certainly are easy and cheap to make! My freezer is now sticked with burger buns for quick meals!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 24
Yield: makes 18-24 buns

These are half the calories of many ordinary sandwich buns, 100% whole grain, and 1.5 ww points! Also, very good!

1 Tbs dry active baking yeast (or 3/4 Tbs instant yeast)
1 cup warm water
2 cups warm nondairy milk
1/4 cup instant potato flakes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs maple syrup or unbleached sugar, or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground flax seed, preferably golden flax
4 cup whole wheat flour (NOT pastry flour), regular or white whole wheat
Soy, hemp or nut milk for glazing tops
OPTIONAL: sesame seeds or other desired topping

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add to the soymilk in a medium bowl, along with the potato flakes, oil, syrup or sugar, and salt.

Add the flour and ground flax and stir with a heavy wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk until well mixed, but rough looking. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 to 18 hours.

First mixing

After 2 hour rise

Then refrigerate the dough, well-covered, for at least 3 hours and up to a week.

When ready to bake, take the dough from the refrigerator. With floured hands, dump the dough out on a well-floured surface and, coating the dough lightly with flour as you go, pat the dough out into a large rectangle about 3/8" thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter (or a 4-inch cutter if you want 18 larger buns).  Here's a set of round cutters that goes up to 4 and 7/16-inches.)

Carefully transfer to baking sheets lined with baking parchment and sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. The rounds should have a little room around them, unless you like them softer, in which case you can have them barely touching.

Note: You could also use a hamburger bun pan, either with 3 1/4” molds (for 24 buns) or 4 1/4” molds (for 18 buns).

Pat down the dough in the center of each round, so that they don't make big "humps" in the middle when they rise.

Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap, or place the pans inside of large food-safe plastic bags,and let rise 40 minutes, while you heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Ready to bake

Brush the buns with nondairy milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds or other topping. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on racks. When serving, slice them in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving [1 of 24 buns]): 98.3 calories; 19% calories from fat; 2.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 169.2mg sodium; 131.7mg potassium; 17.3g carbohydrates; 3.1g fiber; 1.7g sugar; 14.3g net carbs; 3.8g protein; 1.5 points.

If you make 18 larger buns (4" across) the nutrition facts are as follows: Nutrition (per serving [1 of 18 buns])): 131.0 calories; 19% calories from fat; 2.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 225.6mg sodium; 175.6mg potassium; 23.1g carbohydrates; 4.1g fiber; 2.2g sugar; 19.0g net carbs; 5.0gprotein; 2.1 points.