Monday, January 30, 2012


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Sometimes on our walks on Denman Island we are lucky enough to discover wild edible mushrooms (ones that we are familiar with, I hasten to add).  That’s what inspired this particular recipe— one spring morning we discovered oyster mushrooms growing on a fallen log.  We picked quite a few on our way back to the house. I love finding gourmet ingredients in the wild!

The Oyster Mushroom Sauté: For lunch that day, I sautéed about 2 cups of cleaned, sliced oyster mushrooms with some Soy Curls® (about 2 cups), already reconstituted with veggie "chicken" broth, lots of garlic, and some chopped fresh rosemary in a little olive oil. (You can substitute veggie "chicken" strips or tofu, instead.) After the mushrooms have wilted a bit, I added 1/2 cup of veggie "chicken broth", 1/4 cup of dry sherry, salt and pepper, and let it cook down (all this at high heat, stirring frequently). Of course, if you can't find oyster mushrooms in your grocery store, or you have no source of wild ones, or you don't grow them yourself (it's possible!), you can use another favorite mushroom instead.

I served the  sauté on top of the following colorful saffron risotto studded edamamé (green soybeans), and creamy with vegan cheese. 

I cook risotto in a microwave oven. (Afraid of microwave ovens? Click this link.) We love risotto, but I must admit that we would hardly ever have it if I had to stir it for half an hour.  Barbara Kafka, one of America's most renowned food writers and for many years a columnist for Gourmet magazine, writes in her book “Microwave Gourmet”: "If anything could convince the true cook, or even the ardent eater, that the microwave oven is a tool worth having, it would be that it makes risotto divinely, effortlessly, and relatively rapidly while the cook talks to the guests. From being a once-a-year treat, it can go to being an everyday delight." And: "The very idiosyncrasy of cooking that makes the microwave oven generally unacceptable for the cooking of floury dishes makes risotto work well. Starch absorbs liquid slowly in the microwave oven, and it also absorbs too much. That is exactly what you want the rice to do in a risotto."

Printable Recipe

Serves 4 as a side dish or starter, 2 or 3 as a main dish
 (Afraid of microwave ovens? Click the link!)
This is the exception to the rule that it isn't really a time-saver to cook rice in a microwave oven. With this method, you can have creamy, savory risotto in under 20 minutes, with little or no stirring. Another advantage is that you can cook it right in the serving dish, so you have no dirty pot. And it saves energy, as do most countertop appliances.

Have ready the Oyster Mushroom Sauté described above.

For the Risotto:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup arborio rice (or other Italian superfino rice)
2 3/4 cups hot chicken-style vegetarian broth
pinch Spanish saffron
1/4 cup dry sherry (or more broth-- 3 use cups liquid in total)
1 cup thawed frozen (shelled) edamamé (green soybeans)
a large handful of mozzarella-style vegan cheese
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a medium-to-large-sized microwave-safe casserole. Cook on High power for about 30 seconds. Add the onion, cover and cook on High power for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the rice, and stir well. Cook UN-covered on High power for 1 1/2 minutes, then add the liquids and saffron and stir well.

Cook uncovered on High power for 7 minutes. While the risotto cooks, you can make your sauté to top off the risotto. It doesn't have to be what I described above; it can be your own invention.

After 7 minutes, add the edamamé to the risotto and microwave on High power about 7 minutes longer. Stir the "cheese", stirring well but carefully, until it melts.

The rice should slightly sauce-y. I don’t like it too “soupy”, but that’s up to you. Taste the rice for doneness-- you may need to cook it for another minute or so— this will depend on the power of your microwave.

Serve very hot on a heated soup or pasta plates, with the Oyster Mushroom Sauté placed decoratively on top. Add a sprig of fresh herb, if you have some in your garden.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


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Vegan Haggis and Typsy Laird ( a special kind of Trifle)

I've attended only one formal Burns' Supper, in honor of the immortal Scots bard, oh, about 40 years ago (I remember because I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Justine). My late husband, Wayne Clark, was working with a bunch of "Geordies" from northern England and they invited us to the dinner. These folks were so much fun-- kept me in stitches all night.  I wasn't drinking (I can't tolerate hard liquor anyway, even when NOT pregnant!) but, boy, could they drink! It was a really enjoyable evening, despite the elderly band .(I was all of about 23, but they were really pretty elderly.) There was the ceremony of piping in the haggis, which I actually didn't think it tasted too bad--kind of like a bland meat loaf (this was pre-vegan or even vegetarian days.). 

Years later, here on Denman, I tasted haggis again at a friend's house. There was memorable for the moment when one young lady of about 7 years-old put some haggis in her mouth, promptly spit it out and deposited it on the first available receptacle, which happened to be my husband's plate!

In England and Scotland you can actually buy vegan haggis at butcher shops, but here in North America we have to make our own, as far as I know. With my, albeit limited, taste memories, and some knowledge of the ingredients, a few years ago I headed into the kitchen to develop a vegan haggis recipe (I do have some Scots blood on my maternal grandmother's side), for vegans of the Scots persuasion, or Scots of the vegan persuasion.

The recipe is in my new book World Vegan Feast, and it tastes better than the traditional version, in my opinion.  BUT you can also make it from this vegan "meatloaf "recipe on my blog (also with a gluten-free alternative), with about half the amount of herbs seasonings.  You steam it for 2 hours over simmering water in a well-greased 2 qt. ceramic British pudding basin or bowl that will fit into a large pot, covered with 2 layers of foil. (The blog recipe will give you a larger Haggis than the recipe in the book.)

(BTW, if you don't know what a traditional haggis is or how it is made or what it is made from, see this page but, be warned, it isn't pretty!)

I use some oatmeal, of course--it's traditional-- but also potato, which is not, but it is common in Scottish cooking. I tried it originally with ground seitan, then with textured soy protein, then with vegan "hamburger crumbles". It works with all of them. You don't want it too spicy, but I find that vegan foods often need more seasoning, so I use plenty of onion and some traditional spices. I make it in an authentic way called “pot haggis”, which means that it is formed in a bowl or pudding basin, packed into a bowl and steamed. You can wrap it in a cloth first, like a real savory pudding, if you like. It's actually very tasty, especially with some vegan gravy.

We like to celebrate Robbie Burns' Day every year on January 25th-- my husband is only half Irish, after all-- his mother was the only one of her siblings not born in Scotland.  We have the vegan haggis, of course, with gravy. For the rest of the meal, it's traditional to have Scotch whiskey, of course (I don't like Scotch, but DH enjoys it now and then) and Cock-a-Leekie Soup (a chicken and leek soup) to start, but this delicious white bean and leek soup is a great vegan alternative.

Tatties'n'neeps (mashed potatoes combined with mashed turnips) is the traditional accompanying dish. I like to roast the turnips  in the oven first and then mash them into the potatoes-- the turnips have so much more flavor that way-- or even just serve mashed potatoes accompanied by roasted turnips, usually roasted with parsnips, carrots and onions.

An alternative could be a dish of mashed potatoes and kale (in old Scotland, vegetable gardens were called "kaleyards").  You can alter a recipe of mine for Mashed Potatoes with Sauteed Kale and Garlic, also from my book "World Vegan Feast", or at this link. It's easily adaptable to a Scots meal by using kale instead of chard and chopped green onions instead of garlic.


For dessert, a gorgeous sherry trifle called "Typsy Laird" (photo above) is traditional and there is also a recipe for this in World Vegan Feast, including the vegan sponge cake used in this delectable dessert. 

You can obtain the vegan sponge cake recipe (and variations) as a Google Doc at this link:

Vegan Sponge Cake baked in a tube pan

Vegan Sponge Cake baked in mini-Angel Food pans
Vegan Sponge Cake baked in layer cake pans


Chairperson's opening address:

A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace.
(Vegans can  adopt another traditional Scottish Grace without all the references to meat, such as this one:

"Grace be here, and grace be there,
And grace be round the table;
Let ilka ane take up their spoon
And eat as muckle’s they’re able.")

The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns' famous poem To A Haggis (translation included), with great enthusiasm. (My friend Fireweed can read Burns' To a Haggis in its original form -- quite a feat, and she does it beautifully!), in translation, and also in a veganized translation, clever girl.  I'll have to ask her transcribe that..

When the person reciting reaches the line "an cut you up wi' ready slight", he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.  It's customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. 

(An aside: Reading To a Haggis reminds me of an incident when my stepson Sean stopped in Aberdeen, Scotland after serving for a few weeks on a Dutch tall ship where no one would speak English to him. He thought, "Finally, they speak English here!" No such luck-- he couldn't understand a word they said! The Aberdeen brogue was like another foreign language.)

I hope this inspires you to celebrate with a vegan Burns' Supper, if not tomorrow, then next year on January 25th.

PS: Another day when haggis is often served is St. Andrew's Day (patron saint of Scotland), November 30th.  I have even read of "Haggis Puffs" being served-- I assume that refers to the haggis mixture being baked in puff pastry. UPDATE: Here's a recipe for Haggis Puffs, if you're intrigued-- to make vegan, use leftover vegan haggis, such as one of the two recipes above, vegan puff pastry, and brush the dough with soymilk instead of egg wash.


Monday, January 16, 2012


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I have the first two "5 Minute" bread books ("Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day") by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in my growing collection of no-knead bread books, but I've been looking forward to getting my hands on their newest, "Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day".  I'm always on the lookout for a new, fabulous pizza dough recipe, and I hadn't had much  success so far with my own experiments in making a no-knead pizza dough. 

Note: The books are not vegan, or even vegetarian, but most of the dough recipes are or can be vegan and, well, we vegans are good at adapting!

The book arrived last week and yesterday (Sunday), three of my granddaughters were coming over for lunch. Pizza seemed like the perfect thing to serve. So, on Saturday, I stirred up up a batch of  "Crisp-Yet-Tender Pizza Dough Even Closer to the Style of Naples"-- literally stirred; no kneading.  It probably took 5 minutes or under.  After letting it rise for a few hours, I stashed it in the refrigerator in a snap-lid bowl with room to rise overnight.

That odd-looking implement is a Danish dough whisk, perfect for stirring thick batters and soft doughs.

This particular (fat-free) dough is supposed to be made with Italian "00" flour, which is lower in protein (gluten) than North American flour.  "00" flour is available in North America now, at and King Arthur Flour. Both contain about 8% protein ( as a comparison, ordinary all-purpose flour contains about 11%).  I didn't have any of this, but, fortunately, the book contains a formula for making your own Italian-style flour blend using unbleached flour and pastry flour.  I couldn't resist using half whole wheat pastry flour in place of some of the white pastry flour called for, and that worked well, so next time I'll take a chance and use more.  I also used a bit more salt than they called for (the book contains a great section on ingredients and how to change some things to your own taste).

The dough after about 18 hours in the refrigerator.

I should have made the dough a few days earlier, I realize, because, being familiar with no-knead dough by now, I could see that another day in the fridge would have ripened the dough more thoroughly.  But it was still no trouble to roll out and stretch 6 pizzas in a short amount of time. (I roll it out on baking parchment and  also bake it on the parchment-- no sticking to the peel that way!)

(BTW, If you want to learn how to throw pizza dough, see the videos and instructions here: )

I baked one pizza at a time in a 14" cast iron skillet (you could also use a cast iron pizza pan), which is my new favorite way to bake pizza (cast iron pans heat up twice as fast as a pizza stone, and the pizza cooks in about 7 minutes with a nice speckled crust).  I was happy to see that the authors of this book gave this as an option.

I used my pizza sauce from my book  World Vegan Feast and what I had around for toppings-- Daiya vegan mozzarella, green pepper, kalamata olives and Yves veggie pepperoni (thought the girls would like this) cut into slivers, pepper and a little olive oil.

I won't say that I will always use this dough, because I like to change it up, but this is certainly a great pizza dough, and very easy and convenient to make.  The dough will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks, so, if you don't have company and eat the whole thing in one sitting, you can pull out a piece of dough and whip up a pizza (no rising necessary) in no time at all.

(PS: No, we didn't eat the whole batch, but we had collectively eaten 5 of them by the time the girls left -- I managed to save one for my stepson, who came along later.  Fast-growing12 year-old girls can eat alot of pizza!)

I'm anxious to try the focaccia, Cornmeal Olive Oil Dough, Chapati, Corn Masa Dough, Crisp Pita Bread Bowl,  and several other goodies, but I'm only going to make them when we have company to eat most of it-- otherwise my good intentions to lose weight will fall by the wayside!   

Even if you have never made any sort of bread before, fear not-- you can make some mighty good pizza with this book, pizza suited to your tastes and busy schedule. Kudos once again to authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois!


Thursday, January 12, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I'm still toiling away on the palm-oil-free vegan "butter" recipe (and have invented a "shortening" as well, as you can see).  I'm waiting for some more supplies to arrive before I can finish up some refinements and share it with you!  (UPDATE: See this page for the "Buttah" recipe. )
So, for now,  here's one of the few tempeh recipes that my husband actually enjoys!

Printable Copy

Makes 9 burgers 

DH ordinarily dislikes tempeh, but he loves these. They are moist and tasty. I usually double this recipe and freeze leftovers. I use a food processor and/or mini-chopper to mince everything finely, which saves alot of time. The pre-steaming of the burgers cooks the gluten and keeps the burgers moist. After they are cool they can be browned in a non-stick pan (or seasoned cast iron, or carbon steel, or hard-anodized 
skillet, or a flat indoor grill. I have been working on this recipe off and on for a few years. (Sorry the pics are so fuzzy!)
Note:  If you prefer to serve these on a bun, check out the homemade vegan bun recipes at this blog post.

TVP Mixture:
1 cup textured soy protein granules (these are the best) OR Soy Curl Crumbs (either save them from the bottom of your Soy Curl bags, or purchase)
7/8 cup boiling water mixed with a vegetarian broth cube, powder or paste for 1 c. broth
1 Tbs soy sauce
Steam-Fried Mixture:
1/2 Tbs olive oil or dark sesame oil
water, broth or dry sherry for steam-frying, if necessary
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
6 oz raw mushrooms, minced finely
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs yeast extract (Marmite, etc.) OR 2 T. red or dark miso
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
8 oz tempeh (I prefer the milder 5 or 7 grain tempeh), thawed and crumbled
1 Tbs soy sauce
Additional Ingredients:
1 cup well-cooked cooked bulgur wheat (fine [#1] or medium [#2]
(See Cooking Tip below)

1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme and marjoram, or other herbs or spices that you like
1/3 cup pure gluten flour (Vital wheat gluten)
1/2-1 tsp liquid smoke (OPTIONAL)

1.) In a large bowl, mix the textured soy protein with the boiling water, broth cube, and 1 T. soy sauce. Let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.

NOTE: FOR THE STEAM-FRIED MIXTURE, I mince the garlic in a food processor, then add the onion, chunked and mince it well. After I empty that out, I mince the halved mushrooms in the same processor container-- you don't need to wash it first.

2.) Steam-Frying
Stove-Top Option: Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic til the onion starts to soften, adding a bit of water, broth or sherry as needed to keep the mixture from sticking.

Add the mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the tomato paste and Marmite or miso, and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer to cool quickly for a few minutes.

Microwave option: This saves time and effort, so it's the one I use. Place the onions and garlic in a microwave-safe pie plate or casserole with the oil, and cover. Microwave 5 minutes. Stir in the minced mushrooms and microwave 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and Marmite or miso, and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer to cool quickly for a few minutes.

3.) Crumble the tempeh into a bowl and stir in the 1 T. soy sauce. Mash it with the tines of a fork, mixing well.

4.) Add the bulgur, herbs, and optional liquid smoke, if using, to the soaked TVP mixture. Mix in the tempeh and the cooled sautéed mushroom mixture. Mix well.

5.) When the mixture is on the cool side (you can spread it on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for a few minutes for a quick cool-down), add the gluten flour (don't add it to a hot mixture, or it will be” stringy"). Mix well again.

6.) Divide the mixture into 9 / 1/2-cup balls and pat into patties (4" across) with wet hands. I pat them down on a baking parchment-covered cookie sheet to get an even shape.

7.) Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. (I line the steamer with cooking parchment, with holes poked in it with a bamboo skewer.) Place on cookie sheets and chill thoroughly before stacking with sheets of waxed paper in between and refrigerating or freezing in a rigid plastic container with a tight lid.

8.) To brown, use a seasoned cast iron, carbon steel or hard-anodized skillet with a bit of olive or toasted sesame oil, or a flat sandwich grill. Serve on buns, or on their own with a favorite sauce or gravy.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
 138.9 calories; 22% calories from fat; 3.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 221.3mg sodium; 329.5mg potassium; 13.4g carbohydrates; 1.5g fiber; 1.4g sugar; 14.7g protein, 2.8 points.

Cooking Tip:
To cook bulgur wheat--
 use a fine or medium grain bulgur. Bring 1 cup bulgur to a boil in a small saucepan with 2 cups water and a little salt. Turn down to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes. Use leftovers for a dinner grain side dish, like rice.


Thursday, January 5, 2012


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Happy New Year, everyone!  I'm feeling pretty energized and ready for some new projects (three lined up for myself so far) to get me through the winter.  I'd like to tell you a little about one of them in this first post of 2012, and post a successful recipe utilizing an experiment on that project. 

Several people whom I really respect have been reminding me about the problems with palm oil. We generally eat pretty low-fat and don't eat alot of packaged foods or use solid shortening, so I was, I admit, pushing it to the back of my mind.  But the elephant in the room, so to speak, was Earth Balance, the best-tasting and vegan butter substitute around, which is good for baking, too. (Should we start a writing campaign to convince them to change their formula?)   And, yes, we are careful with our use of it, have our toast only with low-sugar jam or marmalade, use homemade low-fat spreads whenever possible, use primarily olive oil in cooking, etc., etc. But, for many of us, unless we are on a fat-free regime, there are those times when you need a vegan butter substitute, particularly for baking.

So, long story short, my first project of 2012 is to develop a homemade version of vegan "butter" that is a.) easy to make; b.) tastes good and "buttery"; c.) is made from simple ingredients that are not difficult to find; d.) has the potential to be made from organic and even some fair trade ingredients; e.)  is similar to butter in the balance between  fat, solids and liquids;  f.) has a better balance of fats than Earth Balance and other solid fats (my goal is more monounsaturated fats than saturated or polyunsaturated fats);  g.) contains little or no coconut oil; and h.) can be used both as a good tasting spread or in baking, substituting across the board for butter or Earth Balance (and instead of palm oil shortening).

After many hours of research and some experiments I think I'm almost there!  Here are some photos of my latest experiment (which meets all the criteria above) and it's pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  I have another version to try before I share it (providing that works!). (Here is my finished recipe.  See below for another version.)

UPDATE- I now use this recipe:

NEWLY REVISED (2020), EASIER, CHEAPER CRUELTY-FREE, PALM OIL-FREE VEGAN BUTTER-Y SPREAD-- made with liquid oil and a small amount of cocoa butter OR liquid oil  and a bit more of coconut oil (instead of the more expensive cocoa butter) for a more solid texture and no separating.  This works well with either soy or non-soy versions.

 Servings: 6
Yield: 6 large scones

Dry Mix:1 cup whole wheat pastry flour       
1 cup unbleached white flour        
2 tablespoons unbleached organic granulated sugar 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder           
1/4 teaspoon salt      
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegan "butter", chilled and cut into small pieces (See UPDATE above)       
1/4 cup organic cocoa nibs      
1/2 cup  organicdairy-free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
Wet Mix:
5 tablespoons non-dairy milk (preferably soy or hemp, in that order-- they curdle better)  
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice     
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract     
non-dairy milk for brushing
about 1 tablespoon coarse unbleached organic sugar for sprinkling
Optional Additions:
chopped organic candied ginger
grated organic orange zest, or chopped candied orange peel 
(If you can't find this-- and it is NOT the same thing as "candied citron"!!-- you will find an easy recipe to make your own here. You can make it up to 2 weeks ahead of time.)

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  Have ready a cookie sheet or 2 cake pans sprayed with oil or lined with baking parchment.

In a large bowl whisk together the Dry Mix ingredients.  Cut in the chilled vegan “butter” until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Stir in the Additions to distribute evenly. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the Wet Mix ingredients.  Pour this mixture into the dry mixture in the large bowl and stir with a fork until just moist.  Turn out onto a piece of baking parchment, lightly floured and pat the dough into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle.  Cut in half to make two 6 x 4-inch pieces.  Cut each rectangle into 3 more-or-less triangular pieces (see photo).

Place the scones on the prepared pan(s), not touching, and brush the tops lightly with non-dairy milk.  Sprinkle evenly with the coarse sugar.  Bake for 15-16 minutes, or until nicely golden brown.

Serve hot with orange marmalade.

 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 343.2 calories; 36% calories from fat; 14.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 144.7mg sodium; 183.1mg potassium; 49.2g carbohydrates; 4.0g fiber; 6.7g sugar; 45.2g net carbs; 6.6g protein; 7.3 points.