Thursday, May 30, 2013


Best Blog Tips

I meant for this blog to be the one I promised about the flatbread dough I've been playing with, but, alas, I am not quite ready to put that up yet-- still working on some variations and photos.  It should be ready in a few days.  In the meantime, I'm offering up this flavorful, crunchy stir-fry that we had for dinner tonight.  Quick and easy and a just a little different-- not really Chinese, except in spirit!  We had just done our shopping yesterday and I had fresh asparagus and snap peas, oranges, mangoes, and also fresh mint in pots on the deck, so this is what I put together to serve with some brown basmati rice that I had cooked last night.

 I hope you'll try it and enjoy it!

Printable Recipe
Serves 3 to 4
NOTE: I used Soy Curls for the protein, but you can use any kind of vegan "chicken strip", reconstituted textured soy protein slices or chunks, or strips of seitan, marinated tempeh or tofu-- your choice!

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 cups (400 g) reconstituted Soy Curls (read about them here) OR any of the alternatives noted above
8 oz. asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off, cut into about 3-inch lengths
8 oz. sugar snap peas
4 cloves garlic, chopped
zest of 1 large organic orange
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and slivered
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large ripe mango, pitted, peeled and sliced
Cooking Sauce: (Mix together in a cup)
1/4 cup vegan broth
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons medium dry sherry or rice wine
1 tablespoon agave nectar
a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

Heat the sesame oil in a large, well-seasoned stir-fry pan (flat-bottomed wok) or skillet (cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel) over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the Soy Curls (or alternate) and saute, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently with a spatula and keeping the Soy Curls moving.  When they are browned a bit, scrape them out of the pan into a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Add the asparagus and snow peas to the pan and keep them moving (over medium-high heat in a cast iron pan; otherwise, over high heat), adding a splash of water when necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking.  When the asparagus is getting tender, but still has a bit of a bite to it, add the garlic, orange zest, ginger and chile flakes.  Stir-fry for another minute. Add the mango slices and the cooking sauce and bring to a boil.  Add the mint and toss the mixture for a few seconds, then serve immediately with rice.


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Best Blog Tips


WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK!  Comment on this post and 2 contestants will be chosen randomly to receive a copy (US and Canada only, I'm afraid).  CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED!  THE WINNERS ARE CLAUDIA AND VEGINTRAINING-- I'LL BE IN TOUCH!

If you are laboring under the impression that whole grain baked goods are dark, heavy, and too "healthy" to actually taste good, and that VEGAN whole grain baked goods must be even moreso, "Whole Grain Vegan Baking" will change your mind in a hurry!  The authors are both experienced and innovative vegan bakers, so you will be in capable hands! (Celine Steen is the co-author of “Vegan Sandwiches Save theDay!”, “500 Vegan Recipes”, “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions”, and “Hearty Vegan Meals”. She is the founder of the award-winning blog Have Cake, Will Travel
Tamasin Noyes is the co-author of “Vegan Sandwiches Save theDay!” and author of “American Vegan Kitchen” and “Grills Gone Vegan”. She is the founder of the blog Vegan Appetite .)

I was honored to be invited to participate in this "Blog Tour" for Celine and Tamasin's new book, but it was difficult to select a recipe for this post from such an array of goodies!  The breakfast chapter alone beckoned with delectable recipes, from Lemony Spelt Scones to Chocolate Sesame Granola and Chocolate Stout Spelt Doughnuts, to Breakfast Pie Pastries, to yeasted Lemon Ginger Rolls (can you tell that I love chocolate and lemon?).  But there were still chapters of quick loaves and muffins; artisan yeast breads, rolls, bagels, pretzels and pizza; a jam-packed (not to make a pun) snack chapter of crackers, quiches & tarts, flatbreads,  bars and cookies; and the one many of us may open first, "Perfectly Wholesome Desserts". Lots of photos, too-- groan!

You know that I am not a "purist" when it comes to baking-- I have nothing against some unbleached white flour once in a while!  I use a great deal of whole grains and whole grain flours because they are nutritious and full of flavor. But this book is so full of variety that I'm sure it will move you (and me) well beyond whole wheat flour and oats.

I almost had to do the eeny-meeny-miney-mo thing to choose my recipe for the Blog Tour, but, in the end, I chose the following cornbread recipe for this post. It's jazzed-up with jalapeño peppers and one of my favorite baking additions, dried cranberries.  I sincerely love cornbread and this one not only sounded interesting, but it contains only 1 tablespoon of oil!  I also liked the combination of whole wheat pastry flour, cornmeal and corn flour, which is finely-ground cornmeal.  (Chapter One is full of baking tips and information about the various flours and other ingredients.) Using the two varieties of corn products gave the bread a smoother texture than most cornbread, but still with a bit of graininess. 

We enjoyed this cornbread with some of my vegan Habitant Pea Soup for a hearty supper.  It was moist and very flavorful (and yummy heated up for breakfast the next day with a drizzle of maple syrup!).  Now I have lots of experimenting to do with more than 100 recipes in this book--  poor me!

Bravo to Celine and Tami for producing such a lovely, inspiring and user-friendly cookbook!

 From "Whole Grain Vegan Baking" by Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes
Yield: 6 servings
A wee bit sweet, a wee bit spicy, and all very savory, this cornbread has the perfect crust thanks to the hot cast-iron skillet. Cornmeal is packed with nutrients, minerals, and amino acids. Plus, it tastes great! Start with this recipe, then tweak it to your taste. Double the scallions, jalapeños, or cranberries to make it your own.

11⁄2 cups (355 ml) unsweetened plain vegan milk, more if needed (I used soy milk: BCG)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
60 g (1⁄4 cup) unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure maple syrup
18 g (3 tablespoons) minced scallion (I didn't have any, so I used minced leeks, green & white parts: BCG)
18 g (2 tablespoons) minced jalapeño peppers (I used rinsed pickled jalapeños: BCG)
15 g (2 tablespoons) dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) neutral-flavored oil
60 g (1⁄2 cup) corn flour (see page 10) (grind some yellow cornmeal to flour in a clean, dry coffee/spice grinder if you don't have any: BCG
88 g (1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 g (1 tablespoon) baking powder
Nonstick cooking spray (or oil from a pump-spray bottle: BCG)

Put an 8-inch(20 cm) cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, or gas mark 6).

Combine the milk and vinegar in a medium-size bowl: The mixture will curdle and become like buttermilk. Stir in the applesauce, syrup, scallion, jalapeño, cranberries, and oil.

Combine the flours, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and baking powder in a second medium-size bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined, but do not over-mix. If the mixture is too dry, add additional milk 1 tablespoon (15 ml) at a time as needed. (I didn't need to add any extra: BCG)  The mixture should be pourable.

Carefully take the skillet out of the oven and coat it with cooking spray.

Pour the cornbread batter into the skillet and put it back in the oven. 

Bake for 33 to 38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.


Monday, May 20, 2013


Best Blog Tips
Cinnamon Focaccia for Victoria Day brunch-- see below for details

I'm working on my flatbread experiments, plus a recipe for a virtual potluck blog post this coming Thursday, and testing a recipe or two for another author friend -- delayed due to 4 lovely days of  family visiting.

My youngest daughter and her husband and son came from Vancouver to stay for the whole long weekend.  We don't get to see them very often, so it was wonderful to spend time with them, despite the variable weather.  My daughter's siblings all came to spend time, as well, on different days.  So, there was lots of conversation and, of course eating.

Several days ahead, I made some of my no-knead crusty bread dough (4 loaves-worth) to store in the refrigerator and bake fresh when we needed it.  It came in handy!  Most of the meals I made over the weekend were decided on pretty much on the spot because my plans to make up the menus ahead of time were thwarted by time taken up by shopping, cleaning house, etc. (that's my excuse, anyway!).  But we managed to eat well, nonetheless.

I should have taken more pictures of the food, but I forgot to most of the time, in the rush to get everything  on the table at the same time and everyone to the table,etc.  But here are a few pics and menus...

For Friday night, my husband made his famous spaghetti sauce, so we had delicious pasta and green salad and crusty no-knead bread (from my book "World Vegan Feast") for dinner, and Chocolate Mudpie Cake with vegan Coffee Buttercream Icing for a little birthday celebration for my youngest grandson, who turned 9 a few days earlier.

Homemade crusty no-knead bread

Saturday morning we all had whatever we felt like for breakfast-- whether it be toast, cereal, fruit, etc., along with my husband's great coffee for lattes.
My daughter brought me a big bag of whole yellow dried peas from Vancouver (they are expensive around here, when you can find them), so I made some of my vegan French Canadian-Style Pea Soup for lunch...

We had what my son-in-law termed a "truly Canadian multi-cultural meal", since the soup was accompanied by Armenian flatbread that they brought from Vancouver, along with my homemade hummus and Turkish Muhammara (a delicious roasted red pepper, walnut, garlic and pomegranate molasses spread from my book "The Fiber for Life Cookbook"). 

We visited friends in the afternoon (sharing some of the leftover birthday cake with them), and before I knew it, it was dinnertime!  We had more pasta, in the form of bowtie pasta (farfalle) in a vegan creamy sauce with mushrooms, Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage vegan sausage and Soy Curls, wine, fresh spinach, garlic, basil and vegan parmesan, with some Daiya mozza stirred in.  It turned out very well for a made-up-on-the-spot dish.

Sunday was a glorious sunny day!  After a another simple breakfast (too much food the day before!), my oldest daughter came over from our sister island to the east, and we headed out for a family hike with the dogs.  The island is so green and lush right now and we saw eagles, hawks and ravens and, I hope, walked off a few calories!
Grampa and youngest grandson leading the family hike on Sunday

Ringo sunning his belly on a sunny Sunday afternoon... 

Lunch on Sunday was a spicy beans soup with sweet potato and kale, from this blog, which I made with red beans instead of blackeyed peas this time, along with more crusty bread...

Cousins playing cards...

Sunday's dinner was steamed brown basmati rice with two stir-fries-- asparagus, onions, portobello mushrooms and marinated tofu in a vegan "oyster sauce" (actually made with mushrooms)-flavored cooking sauce, and a spicy Chinese mock "roast duck" and bell pepper dish with black bean sauce.

This morning we had a brunch with my daughter and 3 granddaughters coming over from "the big island" (Vancouver island) and my son and his daughter.  I made my favorite tofu scramble, with the addition of a can of ackee that my daughter had brought from Vancouver.  Ackee is actually a Caribbean fruit that makes a wonderful egg substitute!  I don't get a chance to use it very often because it isn't available where i live, as far as I know.

With it we had oven-broiled hashbrowns, fresh pineapple and mango, and a spur-of-the-moment sweet bread-- cinnamon focaccia!
To make the focaccia, I filled two baking sheets with my refrigerated crusty bread dough, one loaf's worth for each pan, let them  rise for about an hour and brushed them with some melted vegan butter.  Then I sprinkled on a generous amount of brown sugar, some chopped pecans and cinnamon.  They baked at 450 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes.  Not one piece was left over!  You should try this-- it's so easy and delicious (not greasy or too sweet) and could be made with virtually any bread dough, I think.

My son chatting with his daughter and his sisters on a sunny holiday morning

Cousins chatting... 

Now the house is quiet and I'm off to my dance practice.  I'm going to miss my family until the next time we get together!


Monday, May 13, 2013


Best Blog Tips
Naan Pizza
I've been taking a wee break from blogging, gathering some steam, so to speak, and also gathering some inspiration.  I haven't baked much for a while and, all of a sudden, I got the baking bug.  So, I made some  flatbread dough-- a very simple one-- and put it in the refrigerator.  With it, I made some stove-top flatbreads.  We ate them plain with some garlicky olive oil and my husband took some for wraps with his work lunch-- I even used one as a wrap for a vegan hotdog for lunch today (better than a crummy commercial bun, I can tell you!).  Last night we had a friend over for dinner and I broiled freshly-made flatbreads with some vegan cheese over sauteed leeks (the green ends most people throw away), which we at as an accompaniment to our soup...mmmmmmmm!

Leek and vegan cheese flatbreads for dinner last night-- so good!
I'm still playing with this recipe-- kneaded or no-knead, for one thing; how much whole wheat flour for another; playing with stovetop vs. baked, etc., etc.. My goal is easy, versatile, low-fat, nutritious, tasty.  Stay tuned for my next blog post!  UPDATE: My 1st flatbread dough; my 2nd flatbread dough-- both no-knead doughs.

All this ruminating on bread reminded me of a  recipe I developed for my old newsletter, The Vegan Feast, a few years ago-- a sort of pizza with a base of vegan naan and an Indian-style pea/tomato sauce, topped with vegan cheese and rich-tasting browned onions. So, I offer it to you here while I make a few more flatbread discoveries for the next post.  Bon appetit!

Printable Recipe

Serves 12  Yield: 6 pizzas

I wanted to have a casual Indian fusion meal for friends one evening a few years ago, and this is the main dish I was thinking about for days before.  It turned out to be a big hit, and a good choice for a casual company meal, because all of the components can be made either early in the day, or even a day or two ahead of time.  

NOTE: Naan for pizzas can be baked several hours ahead of time.  Bake them for only 3 minutes or so, or until they are risen and set, and starting to become golden. You need to underbake them because they will bake again with the toppings. Remove them with a peel or long-handled spatula. Place them inside of an open paper bag until time to make the pizzas.

 Vegan Naan Bread, slightly under-baked (see my book "World Vegan Feast" for my vegan recipe)-- mine are about 9 x 7-inches **You can make these ahead of time-- the day before or in the morning.**

OR use commercial naan (if you can find some without dairy) OR vegan pita (uncut)-- you may need to use 1 or 2 more of these
UPDATE: or use one of these flatbread doughs: My 1st flatbread dough; my 2nd flatbread dough-- both no-knead.

Crispy Browned Onions:  **You can make these ahead of time, even the day before.**
4 large onions, thinly-sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Indian Tomato Sauce with Peas: **You can make this earlier in the day and refrigerate.**

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 pinch cayenne

1/4 cup water or vegetarian broth

1/ 14 oz can tomatoes with juice,  mashed with your fingers

1 1/2 cups frozen petit pois (young green peas)

1 teaspoon sugar


2 cups raw arugula (approximately)

About 8 ounces vegan mozzarella, shredded

Crispy Browned Onions: Heat the olive oil in a large well-seasoned skillet over high heat.  Add the thinly-sliced onions and salt.  Saute for several minutes, then reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the onions, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.   You want them to be deep brown and a little crispy.  When the are done, set the pan aside, off the heat. 
Indian Tomato Sauce with Peas: Add the ginger and garlic to a large well-seasoned skillet over high heat,  and stir-fry with a little bit of water for a minute. Add the onion and stir-fry until it is soft, about 5 minutes, adding a squirt of water as needed to keep from sticking. Add the seasonings and 1/4 cup of water or broth, stirring around well, then add the tomatoes, peas, and sugar, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Set aside. 
Assembling and Baking the Pizzas: About 1/2 an hour before you want to serve the pizzas, set an oven rack in the upper-middle rung. Place a large baking stone (or 2 or more smaller ones) or baking tiles (leaving a 1-inch gap around the border), or a large cast iron skillet (or 2 smaller ones), or griddle or pizza pan , on the oven rack. Heat the oven to 450°F. 

My homemade Naan
Place the naan (or pita) on your work surface and cover all them evenly with the Indian Tomato Sauce.  Distribute the shredded mozza evenly between the pizzas.  

Place the raw arugula over the mozza.  Top with the Crispy Browned Onions.

Place the pizza on a baking peel, a large dough scraper/bench knife, cake or cookie lifter, or a small rimless baking sheet-- whatever you are using to transfer the pizzas to the baking stone or alternate.  Transfer to the baking stone and bake as directed below.
To use a peel, or alternate, dust it lightly but thoroughly with flour, cornmeal or semolina, gently pull the pizza onto it, letting one edge hang off the rim a bit, if necessary. As you place the front tip of the peel AT THE BACK END of the hot stone or skillet, etc., pull the peel out sharply, and the pizza will slip onto the hot surface.  Close the oven door quickly.  If your stone is big enough, add a second pizza.
Bake each pizza (or pair of pizzas) for 3-5 minutes each, remove immediately and repeat until the others are cooked.  Cut them in half and serve immediately!

Nutrition (per serving): 338.0 calories; 36% calories from fat; 13.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 900.6mg sodium; 281.2mg potassium; 45.0g carbohydrates; 3.8g fiber; 5.5g sugar; 9.3g protein; 7.1 points.


Friday, May 3, 2013


Best Blog Tips

We planted two rhubarb plants last year and this year they have grown amazingly!  Yesterday I picked several stalks and then had to decide what to do with it.  I didn't feel like making a dessert , so I decided a savory dish with rhubarb added for some tang was just the ticket.  Rhubarb (which is actually a vegetable) is used in savory dishes in Iran, Afghanistan, India (three cuisines which continue to intrigue and delight me), and also Eastern Europe, where it is often paired with potatoes (which actually makes alot of sense to me), and used in soups and even salads. Lots of inspiration here, which I may need if these plants keep producing at this rate!

Some time ago, I had seen a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine for rhubarb-stuffed chicken breasts and a lemony rhubarb sauce.  The sauce sounded delightful and, since I had just received a case of Soy Curls™ (see about this versatile  product, made with the whole soybean, here), I thought I could make a simpler, vegan version with them-- a little less sweet and using less fat, but keeping some of the richness to complement the tangy quality.  We enjoyed the results immensely, and the leftovers were even more delicious for lunch today!

Printable Recipe

Serves 4
This was loosely adapted and “veganized” from a recipe in the February 2007 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

8-ounce package Butler Soy Curls

(If you prefer,  substitute 4-5 cups strips of any chicken sub you like.)
4 cups boiling vegan “chicken-y” broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 1/2 cups diced rhubarb, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons vegan butter (try my homemade vegan palm oil-free Buttah)
1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger (don't bother peeling)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup dry sherry (or white vermouth)
4 cups vegan “chicken-y” broth
one whole star anise
1 bay leaf

freshly-ground black pepper
Steamed rice
Chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slices

Reconstitute the Soy Curls by soaking in the 4 cups boiling broth while you prepare the onions, etc.  When they are tender (this takes only about 10 minutes), drain them.  (You can use any leftover broth as part of the second 4 cups of broth further down in the recipe.)

Sauté 1/3 of the onions and 2 cups of the rhubarb in the olive oil in a medium non-stick, cast iron or hard-anodized skillet for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is just beginning to soften. OR, you can microwave the mixture on 100% power in a covered microwave dish or casserole for about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Melt the vegan butter in a heavy 
non-stick, cast iron or hard-anodized pot. Add the remaining onions, rhubarb and ginger slices and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the agave nectar and sherry, bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute. Add the “chicken-y” broth, star anise, and bay leaf, and simmer over medium heat (un-covered) for about one hour, or until the broth has been reduced by about half. Strain the sauce through a sieve, discarding the solids. You should have about 2 cups of broth left.

Return the strained sauce to the cleaned pot, add the reserved rhubarb/onion/lemon mixture and the drained 
Soy Curls .  Heat through and taste to for salt and pepper.

Serve over hot steamed rice, garnished with parsley and lemon slices.