Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Best Blog Tips

Sorry I don't have time for much more than this recipe that I've been meaning to post for a long time-- many deadlines last week and this week!  I hope you enjoy this-- it's great for Easter (or any) entertaining, or potlucks, or just general snacking.

Printable Recipe

This makes a delicious and elegant appetizer. You can play with the flavourings for this—for instance using olives instead of sundried tomatoes. 

9 oz extra-firm silken tofu, crumbled
1/2 Tbs. agar powder
2 Tbs. raw tahini
2 Tbs. water
3/4 Tbs. nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp organic sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs. light miso
4 tsp fresh (or organic bottled) lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 large sundried tomatoes, chopped (either soak plain sundried tomatoes in boiling water to reconstitute, or rinse oil-packed sundried tomatoes under hot water to rinse off the oil and pat dry)
2 Tbs. chopped green onion ends or chives
4 Tbs. chopped toasted nuts of choice (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, etc.)
3 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs
Optional: 1/4 cup minced parsley
Blend the crumbled tofu, agar, water, tahini, nutritional yeast, sugar, and salt in a food processor until very smooth.  Place the mixture in a small, heavy-bottomed  saucepan and stir over medium heat until it bubbles for a few minutes and thickens. Microwave Option: Place the mixture in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on High for 2 minutes.  Whisk briefly.  Cook 2 minutes more. Scrape the cooked mixture back into the food processor.

Add miso, lemon juice, and crushed garlic to the cooked mixture. (Add these last because the lemon juice the acid may with the gelling of the agar if cooked with it.)  Blend briefly, then add the sundried tomatoes and green onions.  Pulse briefly.

Have ready a 1 1/2-cup-capacity storage container, preferably one 2 or 3 times longer than it is wide, lined with plastic wrap which extends over all sides. You could also use a 5 x 2 1/2” small loaf pan (called a fruitcake pan), or even a sturdy little box that’s the right shape. If the container is too long or too wide, you can stuff some rolled-up aluminum foil into the appropriate space(s).  The goal is to have it firm up in as close the the dimensions of a small "log" as possible.

Scrape the hot mixture into the prepared container.  Refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes, or until it starts to firm up.  Meanwhile, mix your coating ingredients in a clean food processor or mini-chopper and spread them on a piece of plastic wrap on your work surface.

Working quickly and using the plastic wrap to help, unmold the cheese onto another piece of plastic wrap, roll it up in the wrap and press and shape in a "log".  Unwrap the log and gently roll the log in the coating mixture, coating all over (press the coating on with your fingers if some spots are missed), then roll up again in the plastic wrap, twist-tie the ends and place back in your container.  Your "log" can be a roll, or you can square up the sides as in my photo.

Refrigerate several hours until firm. Unwrap carefully from the plastic wrap onto a serving plate. Slice and serve with whole grain crackers, crusty bread, pumpernickel slices, etc.

Serves 12
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 53.5 calories; 50% calories from fat; 3.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 182.3mg sodium; 95.5mg potassium; 4.0g carbohydrates; 1.0g fiber; 0.8g sugar; 3.1g protein.


Monday, February 20, 2012


Best Blog Tips

This last weekend on the CBC Radio One program "North by Northwest" they were asking for readers'  stories and experiences looking for lost childhood favorite recipes or foods.  That got me thinking about my own childhood favorites.  Of course, like most of us, I was not raised vegan, so some of my old favorites were "meaty".  My late mother, Eve Urbina, was a great cook, but not a baker, so not many homemade desserts came to mind (we mostly had yogurt and fruit for dessert).  But one of my real favorite from my Mom's repertoire  was chicken sauteed in olive oil with white wine and rosemary, which resulted in a sticky, flavorful "goo" at the bottom of the pan, which she would mix with steamed long-grain rice to serve with the chicken.

So, I attempted a vegan version for our Saturday night dinner, using some Gardein-made meatless "chicken breasts" we can buy frozen in our local Great Canadian Superstore.  The most difficult part is getting the "goo" at the bottom of the pan.  I tried a trick from my Italian cookbook "Nonna's Italian Kitchen", agar-jelled broth, but made with Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Vegan Broth Paste instead of my homemade broth from the book. However, despite my jelled broth addition and cooking it down, the residue in the pan refused to get as “sticky-gooey” as the original.  That’s probably because there was much more fat in my childhood version.  But no worries— the resulting sauce was absolutely delish!

Servings: 4
This dish is extremely quick and easy to make, but one of my all-time favorites for flavor. I was trying to more-or-less replicate the chicken with white wine dish that my mother often made when I was a child growing up in a California winery. She would mix steamed long-grain rice in the pan in which the chicken and herbs had been cooked and scrape up the delicious, sticky  residue to mix with the rice. You could do the same with this dish, if you like.
UPDATE: This reviewer loved the dish and he made it with my "Breast of Tofu" (recipe in most of my books and online here), known as "Crispy Marinated Tofu" in "World Vegan Feast", instead of the chicken sub. You could also use homemade seitan "cutlets". We can no longer get the Gardein or PC Blue Menu vegan products (made by Gardein) in Canada, so I will be using my "Breast of Tofu", or my homemade cutlets (see Light Seitan Cutlets" recipe, p.5 in "World Vegan Feast" from now on.

8 pieces Gardein Turk’y Cutlets (or Chick’n Scallopini), or Gardein Chick’n Filets in the US; or equivalent in poultry sub available in your area (See Update above.)
1/4 cup   Seasoned Flour (see below)      
1 Tbs   extra-virgin olive oil   
3 cups  sliced mushrooms, white, cremini, or chanterelle     
4 cloves   garlic, minced         
1 cup   jelled "chicken-style" vegetarian broth (see below)   
3/4 cup   white wine, such as a Riesling (can be non-alcoholic) or a dry white wine with a little medium sherry mixed in        
2   sprigs fresh rosemary, stripped off the stalk and chopped           
freshly-ground black pepper to taste 

Dredge whatever chicken sub pieces in Seasoned Flour (see below). Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, arrange coated pieces in the pan. Cook until one side is golden, then turn them over and cook until the other side is golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan and sprinkle with a little salt. Stir-fry them over high heat, adding a tiny bit of water if they seem to be sticking (the mushrooms will exude a little liquid), until they start to wilt. Add the browned pieces back to the pan, along with the wine, jelled broth (see below) and rosemary. Cook over high heat, stirring gently now and then, until it cooks down and forms a thick sauce. Quickly remove from heat and grind pepper over the dish. Serve immediately over steamed rice or mashed potatoes (or mix the rice with any sauce left in the pan and serve the dish over that.)

 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 251.4 calories; 23% calories from fat; 6.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 794.0mg sodium; 842.7mg potassium; 14.9g carbohydrates; 2.6g fiber; 2.4g sugar; 12.3g net carbs; 27.3g protein; 5.1 points.

 Cooking Tips
JELLED BROTH:  Adding agar to vegan broth gives it even more body, enabling it to coat foods the way melted fat does. Mix 1 3/4 cups hot water in a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Vegan broth paste.  Add 3/4 tsp. agar powder with 1/4 cup cold water and stir into the pot.  Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Keep any leftovers refrigerated in a tightly-covered container. The jelled broth will melt when heated.

Keep some of this in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator-- you'll find many uses for it.

Mix together 2 cups whole wheat, or other wholegrain, flour, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1 tsp. salt, and, optional, 1 tsp. onion powder and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Best Blog Tips

I meant to post this recipe for Valentine's Day, but it didn't happen!  But, better late than never-- these beauties would be delicious any time of the year.  I based them on the white bean/oat waffles that I developed for the first version of Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes-- low in fat; high in protein, fiber and other nutrients.  They also just happen to be gluten-free.

My two 12-year-old granddaughters ate quite a few of these for brunch this last Sunday after a sleep-over at our house.  They were quite surprised when I revealed the "secret ingredient", white beans, but that didn't deter them from eating more!

Don't be put off by having to put the beans in water to soak the night before. This takes just minutes before you retire for the night and then, in the morning, the batter is quickly made in the blender while the waffle iron heats up. They can be reheated quickly in a very hot oven for a short time (you just want to crisp and heat them, not dry them out), or in a toaster. Keep some ready-made in the freezer for quick toaster snacks-- they are great eaten out of hand with a little low-sugar jam.

NOTE: Use only dried white navy beans or Great Northern beans or split (white) urad dal for making white bean flour, or purchase bean flour made from only one of those varieties. (Chickpea flour is fine, too.)  
DO NOT use cannellini beans, red or white kidney beans, butter beans, broad beans or lima beans for making flour; nor should you use those 6 varieties of beans whole, soaked (but raw) and blended into recipes to be cooked or baked. Those 6 varieties of beans all need to be soaked for at least 5 hours, water discarded, and then boiled in fresh water for 10 to 15 minutes before simmering until tender before eating.  This eliminates toxic lectins which can cause all sorts of digestive distress in some people.  
And be advised that slow-cookers do not always get hot enough to get rid of the toxin, so soak and boil as advised above before finishing in a slow-cooker.  If using a pressure cooker to cook kidney beans or the other 4 varieties mentioned as problematic, you do not need to pre-boil for 10 minutes as the very high temperatures reached inside the pressure cooker are adequate to destroy the toxin, but definitely soak first and discard the water. (Info from this article.)
The toxin in white kidney beans at about 1/3rd the concentration of red kidney beans, and broad (fava) beans, butter beans and lima beans at about 5 to 10%. 

Don't panic about lectins, but be informed-- see https://authoritynutrition.com/dietary-lectins/  and http://www.medic8.com/healthguide/food-poisoning/red-kidney-bean-toxins.html

Printable Copy
Servings: 5
Yield: makes about 10/ 4" waffles or 5/ 7” round waffles

These are crispy, ultra-nutritious homemade waffles, delicious and far superior to any frozen waffle available. These waffles are super-easy to mix up, but take a little longer to bake than ordinary waffles (about 8 minutes), so you might want to make them ahead of serving time, or have two waffle irons going at the same time. They can be reheated quickly in a very hot oven for a short time (you just want to crisp and heat them, not dry them out), or in a toaster. Note: Don't worry, no one will suspect that there are beans in these waffles!

1/2 cup    dried white navy beans or Great Northern beans (see Note above photo.)
2 1/4 cups    fresh water  
1 cup    yellow cornmeal  
3/4 cup    rolled oats (use GF rolled oats if necessary)  
2 Tbs    organic light granulated unbleached sugar  
1 Tbs    whole golden flax seed  
1 Tbs    baking powder  
1 tsp    salt  
1/2 tsp    pure vanilla extract  
1/2 tsp    pure almond extract  
1/4 cup    toasted slivered almonds  
1/2 cup    dried cherries, coarsely chopped  
The night before:
Soak the beans in plenty of water. The beans can soak in water in the refrigerator for up to a week with no fermentation, if you aren't sure when you'll make the waffles.

In the morning:
Drain the beans. Place them in a sturdy blender along with all of the other ingredients, in the order given. Blend until smooth and light and foamy. This may take several minutes.  NOTE: Some blenders are too cheaply-made to grind properly, although beans soaked all night should be no problem.  

Let the batter stand while you heat up your waffle iron on medium setting. 

It's best to use a newer nonstick model in order for this no-added-oil recipe to be successful. I use either a Cuisinart Classic Round waffle maker that makes 7" waffles, or a model that makes two 4" square waffles at a time. Do not use a Belgian waffle iron (one with deep depressions that makes thick waffles), or one with very tiny depressions. Just an ordinary "classic" or "traditional" waffle iron! There are various brands that make them.

When the iron is hot, spray with oil and pour on about a heaping 1/3 cup batter for each 4" square waffle or 2/3 cup for each 7" round waffle. Close the iron and set the timer for 8 minutes. Don't attempt to remove the waffle before 8 minutes is up. If the iron is hard to open, don't force it--  let it cook for a couple of more minutes.  You can usually tell when a waffle is done when there is no steam coming out of the iron anymore. The waffle should be golden-brown and crispy. Remove the waffle from the iron with a fork.

Stir the batter again briefly before pouring out each waffle. If the batter gets thicker on standing, add a little water, just until it's the consistency you started out with. Spray the waffle maker with oil before making each waffle.

Serve the waffles immediately, or let them cool on cake racks before re-heating or storing. When they are cool, they can be frozen in plastic bags or rigid containers. Serve with your favorite toppings.
 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 312.9 calories; 14% calories from fat; 5.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 396.0mg sodium; 828.8mg potassium; 59.3g carbohydrates; 8.1g fiber; 5.7g sugar; 51.2g net carbs; 10.5g protein; 5.9 points. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012


Best Blog Tips
Cappuccino with homemade soy milk

I was just reading about the recall of some 900,000 Tassimo coffee makers in Canada, and about 850,000 in the USA.  This article goes on: "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 140 reports of problems with the Tassimo single-cup brewers dousing people, including 37 cases involving second-degree burns.
In one incident, a 10-year-old girl from Minnesota was hospitalized with second-degree burns to her face and neck. The commission also says the coffee maker's "T-disc" — the plastic disc that holds the coffee or tea — can burst while brewing and spray hot liquid. It says a 2-year-old girl in Canada suffered second-degree burns to her face.
Some four million packages of Tassimo espresso T-discs are also being recalled, and about half of those were sold in Canada. They were manufactured by Kraft Foods Global Inc., in Illinois, and were recalled after 21 reports of problems."
Now, far be it from me to say that electric coffee devices are no good.  However, my husband has been making wonderful espresso-style coffee for years with no electric equipment, with stove-top espresso makers that last for many, many years if you treat them right.  I'd just like to make the case for not bothering with another electric device which only has one use, takes up counter space, and has a tendency to break down after a very few years (never mind the possible dangers).

Another reason to consider switching to a stove-top version (perhaps when your electric one kicks the bucket) is the fact that these are sturdily-made from stainless steel, no plastic to throw away. And the Tassimo-- and other similar machines-- requires a plastic "T-disc" to hold little separately-packaged one-serving amounts of coffee-- more plastic to throw away.  It's easy to grind your own coffee beans (organic, fair trade, preferably)-- it takes only a minute, even in a hand grinder-- and the coffee is fresh. 

We use the big one when we have company, and the small ones when it's just one of two of us.

DH even grinds his own coffee manually every time (takes only seconds) on this old Spong grinder that he's had for years.  (The sound of grinding coffee is my morning wake-up call.) Missing from this photo: a little metal dish that fits into the gap below the grinding apparatus. Here's some history of the Spong, plus tips on using and a blog post about Spong grinders.

The full battery of DH's stovetop espresso makers-- all in use at family gatherings.
You fill the bottom part of the pot with water just to the little valve, add freshly-ground coffee (don't pack it down too much-- that firm packing is for the commercial steam machines), screw on the top part and set it on high on the burner.  When it starts to make noise it means that the water is turning to steam and being forced up through the coffee.  If your stove is electric, just leave it on the burner, but turn it off.  The residual heat is enough to finish the process.  If you have gas, turn it down a bit and keep an eye on it.  Open the lid to see if the coffee has all come up, and enjoy!

I don't drink much of coffee, but, when I do, only the best will do (my husband's), and I usually make a soy latte or cappuccino.  To foam the milk for a cappuccino, I use a manual milk frother:

You add heated milk (or heat it right in the container in the microwave)-- just  1/3 to 1/2 cup...

This turns into...

Any store with cookware will have something similar-- this one was only $12.  

Blue-striped cup, rear left: homemade soymilk; white cup, rear right: Almond Breeze; front in blue cup: Soy Dream (They all foam, but homemade soymilk or Soy Dream or Vitasoy are best; hemp milk foams, but is rather weak.)

                                                     Vitasoy Foam

                                                Almond Breeze foam

                                                    Hemp milk foam

Some folks have told me that their coffee curdles with soy milk.  Ours never does.  We use dark roast, but not so dark that it tastes burnt (Starbucks tastes burnt  to me).  Brown (lighter roast) beans are actually more acidic than dark roast beans (and acid is what makes it curdle usually-- even some teas are a bit acidic. Warming the milk before adding to coffee also tends to prevent curdling. I found this on, of all things, the National Dairy Council site (!): "...The acid in coffee, along with coffee's heat, favor curdling of cream." From Oregon State U. site; "The phenolics and acids in coffee may curdle the cream. This is especially true if the coffee is hot ..."

Now, about the coffee: "The acid content in a brew is also greatly dependent upon the roast degree, type of roaster, and brewing method." (from http://www.coffeeresearch.org/) They show the types of acids in coffee and point out that there is a maximum concentration of acetic, malic, and citric acids in light roasted coffee. And: "In regards to the concentration of citric, malic, lactic, pyruvic and acetic acid, Blank found that a typical medium roast coffee consisted of 0.30%, 0.22%, 0.13%, 0.07%, and 0.27% of each acid, respectively (Clarke, 25). At very light roasts, Blank found that the total concentration of these acids was around 1.58%, while at dark roasts these acids could drop down to 0.71%."

They also showed that a quick-brewing method (such as the steam method of espresso, or the European plunger [French press] method) results in less acid in the brew. Also, oddly, less caffeine, even with the darker bean.

Here is the approximate caffeine content of a variety of coffee products. Keep in mind that the numbers provided are not exact:

Brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 85mg of caffeine

Instant (8 oz./250mL) = 75mg of caffeine

Decaffeinated, brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine

Decaffeinated, instant (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine

Espresso (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine

Cappuccino and Latte (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine

More advice from http://www.coffeereview.com/reference.cfm?ID=120: "Buy a moderately-dark- to dark-roasted coffee. Dark roasting reduces the acid sensation in coffee.

Buy a lower-altitude, naturally low-acid coffee brought to a moderately dark roast (full-city, Viennese, light espresso). To me, this is by far the best solution for acid-shy coffee drinkers. Naturally low-acid coffees include Brazils, most India and Pacific (Sumatra, Timor, Hawaii) coffees, and most Caribbean coffees.

It also helps to buy very good coffee, because the best coffee has been processed from ripe coffee fruit, and coffee from ripe fruit is naturally sweet and lacks the sharp, astringent sensation of cheaper coffee processed from less-than-ripe fruit."

http://www.coffeeresearch.org/ adds: "Acidity is typically a highly valued quality especially in Central American and some East African coffees." So you might want to avoid those.

And "Acidity has been correlated with coffees grown at very high altitudes and in mineral rich volcanic soils. The perceived acidity of washed coffees is also significantly higher than the acidity found in naturally (dry) processed coffees. This is likely due to an increase in the body of naturally processed coffees relative to wet processed coffees since body masks a coffee's acidity."


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Best Blog Tips

Our (vegan) friends Mike and Fireweed have joined us for Super Bowl Sunday for the last few years.  Mike and DH Brian watch the game, with munchies supplied by me.  Fireweed comes a little later and we have a visit together, then the four of us have dinner.  I kept it pretty simple this year because Fireweed, DH and I are all trying to eat low fat and moderately. (Mike can eat like there's no tomorrow and not gain an ounce!)

I decided to serve two hearty dips with vegetables and Ryvita crackers, one a recipe from Betsy DiJulio's blog and one my own recipe, with a little tweak inspired also by Betsy.  Betsy, author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook, is one of my favorite vegan cookbook authors (see my review here to find out why!).

Betsy's dip is a clever take on the old spinach dip-- Vegan Spinach-Three Bean Dip (fat-free if you use tofu instead of vegan mayonnaise).  I loved the idea of sneaking three kinds of beans into a dip!  Here's Betsy's recipe, but I changed it a wee bit according to the ingredients I had on hand.  I didn't have the dry vegetable soup mix, so I added 2 tablespoons of vegan bouillon powder instead, plus a little dried thyme, basil and oregano.  I used my quickly-made silken tofu mayonnaise (with no added fat) because I didn't have any of my usual homemade low-fat mayo on hand.  The guys ate about half of it at one sitting!

The second dip was an old favorite of ours that I've posted on this blog-- Cheddary Spread.-- except that I added a twist from Betsy's book, which she uses in her homemade vegan cheeses--  I added some beer to the recipe!  This ingredient is genius!  It adds just the right amount of tangy fermented taste, which really adds to the over-all flavor of the spread, or dip. Thank you, Betsy!  But, in order to do this and not have it turn  out too liquid-y, you have to crumble the silken tofu into a nut bag or a large square of white cotton sheeting-sort of material and twist and squeeze the bag until you have 1/4 cup of liquid from the tofu squeezed out.  Then proceed with the recipe, but add 1/4 cup of beer to the mixture.  Simple!

For dinner, we had a lovely salad with an avocado dressing that Fireweed brought, and lasagna made with DH's leftover homemade spaghetti sauce (with some red wine and Yves Ground Round hamburger substitute added), Okara/Cashew Ricotta, my vegan Bechamel Sauce, and some Daiya Cheese on top. For dessert we each had an espresso cup of organic drinking chocolate.  A great evening with good food and good friends!