Thursday, October 31, 2013


Best Blog Tips

I apologize for not blogging for so long!  Since (Canadian) Thanksgiving, we've had lots of family staying over, in and out, and I've been just keeping up with work and day-to-day stuff.  Consequently, I've done more quantity cooking than innovative cooking, and made many dishes from leftovers and/or foods that need to be used up.  But I did make a few dishes which were tasty enough to jot down (and take some pictures), and I'd like to share two of them with you today. One is based on chanterelle mushrooms, which are in abundance here right now, and the other on one of my current favorite vegetables-- leeks.  Leeks are so delicious, and not only in soup!  When roasted, they are out of this world!

The first recipe is a soup I made with chanterelle mushrooms picked here on Denman Island, BC.  If you don't have chanterelles, use any favorite mushroom instead.

Serves 6 (Can be GF and/or Soy-Free)
Light and a bit sohisticated, but satisfying.

3/4 lb. mushrooms (preferably chanterelles, but use whatever variety available to you), cleaned
1 Tbsp oil or vegan butter (try my homemade vegan palm oil-free Buttah)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped vegan "ham" OR 1/4 cup vegan bacon bits soaked in 1/4 cup very hot water
(For GF and/or Soy-Free, you may have to use homemade Shiitake "Bacon", chopped)
3 Tbsp dry sherry (or non-alcoholic white wine)
1 Tbsp unbleached flour (can be GF)
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves (or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh)
4 cups "chickeny" vegan broth + 1  extra tsp. broth paste or powder (I like Better Than Bouillon Vegan No-Chicken Broth Paste)
1 cup whole cooked or canned white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked or canned white kidney or cannellini, rinsed, drained and pureed with a bit of the broth until creamy (use a hand/immersion blender or regular blender)
NOTE: Other beans  you could use would be Great Northern or small white beans
To Finish:
1/2 cup So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer (or other favorite non-sweet  vegan creamer)
2 cups cooked quinoa (or 1/2 quinoa and 1/2 medium bulgur or millet)

Slice the mushrooms.  Heat the oil or butter in a large heavyskillet over high heat.  Add the mushrooms, salt lightly, and turn the heat down to medium-high.  Saute until the mushrooms exude their juice.  Add the onion and garlic and keep sauteing (adding small squirts of water as needed to keep from sticking).  When the onion is soft, stir in the flour until well mixed. Stir in a little of the broth to distribute the flour throughout the mixture. Scrape all the contents of the skillet into a soup pot with the remaining ingredients (EXCEPT for the creamer and quinoa). Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the creamer and the cooked quinoa.  Taste for salt.  Serve hot.

Note: If leftover soup gets too thick, add a bit more creamer or any plain nondairy milk.


Serves 6
The roasted vegetables add so much flavor to the simple sauce and pasta-- you'll be amazed! Not much oil is needed for roasting the vegetables and the sauce is very low in fat, BTW.

Make ahead and set aside: 1 recipe Bryanna's Low-Fat Quick Creamy Sauce for Pasta (recipe here)
NOTE: Use the wine option in the recipe (can be non-alcoholic) and also the miso option.  Use the tahini also, if possible.
3 large leeks, or 4 medium leeks
12 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
about 8 oz. of cauliflower, trimmed and sliced to make about 4 cups
olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup of vegan "Chickeny" broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Vegan No-Chicken Broth Paste)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
12 oz. dry farfalle (butterfly or bowtie pasta-- can be GF variety)
salt and pepper
Go Veggie! Soy Parmesan or other favorite vegan parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut off the very dark green parts of the leeks (I save them to add to other soups) and trim away the root ends. Cut the white parts in half lengthwise and clean them thoroughly under cold running water. Place them cut-side-up in a large baking pan oiled with olive oil.  Nestle the garlic slices around the leeks. Spray with olive oil from a pump-sprayer  and sprinkle with salt.

Place the cauliflower slices in another oiled baking pan and spray with olive oil from a pump sprayer. Sprinkle with salt.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth.  Place both pans, uncovered, in the hot oven.

While the vegetables roast, heat salted water for the pasta in a large pot.  When it boils, add the pasta and cook about 10 minutes, or until "al dente".

Keep an eye on the vegetables.  I stirred the cauliflower around a bit-- the broth should evaporate and some of the cauliflower will brown, but add more broth if necessary to tenderize it.  I didn't stir the leeks-- they gave off enough juice to keep them moist and brown them and the garlic nicely, as you can see below.

Chop the roasted garlic and slice the roasted leeks:

When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it back to the drained pasta pot, along with the roasted vegetables, olives and the pasta sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in shallow pasta dishes with vegan parmesan to sprinkle on top.


Sunday, October 20, 2013


Best Blog Tips

Soup weather is definitely back in our neck of the woods and I make it several times a week. And not just for us! Last week I made this simple soup with some pantry staples, a little leftover spaghetti sauce, one lonely Field Roast Chipotle vegan sausage from the freezer, some kale from the garden, and some zucchini that needed to be used. 

NOTE: I noted in the ingredient list below that canned creamed corn does not contain any dairy products. But you can make your own and use it in this soup, if you prefer. (Though this would take it out of the category of a "quick and easy soup!) You don't need any cream (dairy-free or not) in homemade "creamed corn", BTW. Here is a southern recipe without cream:  It does call for butter, but you could use a vegan version, or oil, and I would definitely use less.

Serves 8-10

1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups tasty vegan broth (I use Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Vegan Soup Base)
1 can (14 oz.) cream-style corn (yes, this is vegan)
1 cup vegan spaghetti sauce (can be homemade or a good commercial brand)
1 Field Roast Chipotle vegan sausage, cut thin thin slices, OR 2-3 oz. vegan chorizo, crumbled
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups thinly-sliced zucchini or other summer squash, cut into wedges
about 4 cups of thinly-sliced trimmed and washed greens (kale, chard, collards, etc.)
1 cup small egg-free dried noodles, OR broken egg-free tagliatelle, fettuccine or linguine

Microwave the chopped onion in a covered microwave-safe dish or casserole for 5 minutes OR you can saute it in a nonstick pan with a little oil (or water) until the onion is soft.

Mix the onion and all of the other ingredients in a 4-quart pot and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the noodles are tender.  Serve and enjoy!


Friday, October 11, 2013


Best Blog Tips
Lobster Mushroom & Corn Chowder
Lobster Mushrooms
We picked some more lobster mushrooms on our walk this morning (got some chanterelles yesterday!), so I decided to make a creamy chowder with some of them.  I wanted the chowder to be creamy but low in fat, so I decided to make a "cream" with cooked white beans, instead of using tofu or cashews.  It worked beautifully and was perfect for sunny, but chilly, October day.

I know that lobster mushrooms are not available to everyone (especially for free!), so you could substitute oyster mushrooms for them if they are easier for you to find.

Printable Recipe

(PS: Substitute oyster mushrooms for lobster mushrooms if they are more easily obtainable)

Serves 4-6  Low-fat, GF and can be Soy-free

1 large onion, chopped
3 cups water
2 tablespoons dulse flakes
1 tablespoon low-salt vegan “chicken” broth powder or paste
4 medium yellow potatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled and cut in 1/2” dice
1 1/2 cups chopped sautéed lobster mushrooms (see PS above)
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed in hot water and drained
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon vegan bacon chips
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
White Bean "Cream":
1 cup rinsed and drained cooked or canned white beans
1 cup plain non-dairy milk of choice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
smoked paprika

Sautéed lobster mushroom pieces-- chop them smaller after cooking
In a medium non-stick skillet, steam-fry (see Cooking Tip below) the onions over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes, adding a squirt of water as needed, until softened. (OR, what I do-- place the onions in a covered microwave-safe casserole or dish and cook on 100% power in the microwave oven for 5 minutes.)

While they cook, bring the water, dulse flakes and broth powder to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Simmer at medium heat for about  5 minutes. Strain off the dulse flakes through as fine a strainer as you have and discard the dulse.  Strain the liquid once again through a fine tea strainer into a 1 quart measuring pitcher. Add water if necessary to make 2 1/2 cups. Pour the broth back into the pot (which you have rinsed out).

Add all the ingredients to the pot, EXCEPT the White Bean "Cream" ingredients and the pepper, sesame oil and paprika. Simmer the mixture, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, process the White Bean "Cream" ingredients in a blender or with a hand/immersion blender, until VERY smooth. When the potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf, stir in the White Bean "Cream",  add pepper to taste, and the sesame oil, and heat gently. Taste for salt. Sprinkle each serving with smoked paprika.

Cooking Tips
You will often see the term "steam-fry" in my recipes. Here is a description of what it is and how to do it.

"Steam-fry" simply means sautéing without fat. To do this, use a heavy skillet  (use non-stick, hard-anodized aluminum [aluminum does not leak into food when it is hard-anodized], or cast iron), or a well-seasoned spun-steel wok or stir-fry pan, sprayed lightly with oil from a pump sprayer, or with cooking spray, if needed.

Heat the pan over high heat, add the chopped onions or other vegetables, and one or two tablespoons of liquid (water, low-sodium vegetarian broth, or wine), depending on the amount of vegetables. Do not crowd the pan, or your vegetables will "stew". Cook over high heat until the liquid starts to evaporate, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the vegetables are done to your liking, adding JUST ENOUGH liquid to keep the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (I use a squirt bottle.)

You can brown onions perfectly by this method. As soon as the natural sugar in the onions starts to brown on the bottom and edges of the pan, add a little liquid and scrape up the brown bits, mixing them into the liquids and around into the cooking onions. Keep doing this until the onions are soft and brown, being careful not to scorch them.

TO "STEAM-FRY" IN THE MICROWAVE, use a glass dish, such as a round 10" Pyrex casserole dish or pie plate. Spray with oil from a pump sprayer or cooking spray. Add the chopped onions, garlic, carrots, celery, or whatever vegetables you want to sautè. Cover the dish with a glass lid or microwavable plate, and microwave 5 minutes, or however long it takes to soften them. This method is convenient because you don't have to watch the vegetables- you can be preparing the rest of the recipe while they cook. Just add the softened vegetables to the recipe.


Monday, October 7, 2013


Best Blog Tips
Dessert-- Chinotto Cake!

UPDATE FOR CANADIANS 2021: Since Nestle took over San Pelligrino in North America some years ago, Chinotto is harder to find in Canada.  There are some other brands, however, such as Brio brand, from Ontario, which I understand is a little sweeter than San Pelligrino, and Walmart Canada carries it. carries Niasca Portofino Chinotto at a decent price, but I haven't tried it yet. 
The San Pelligrino version is still available in the US and Australia, as far as I can tell. carries it. also sells an organic brand: 
Galvanina Chinotto, Premium Organic Italian Sparkling Soda; 12 fl oz (12 bottles)

There seem to be many places that sell chinotto in Australia (though, not necessarily San Pelligrino). Just Google "
buy chinotto australia".

Last Saturday was our 22nd anniversary, so I made a lovely meal using, for the most part, recipes and inspiration from my friend and fellow Vegan Heritage Press author, Betsy DiJulio, author of the wonderful book, "The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes" and creator of exceptional recipes on her blog, The Blooming Platter. Betsy, who is an artist and art teacher, has such a way with color,texture and combinations of flavors-- she's an artist in the kitchen as well as at her easel or in the classroom.

I was not able to get off island for special ingredients, so I chose the recipes according to what I had in my pantry, garden, refrigerator and freezer.

For our starter, I made two spreads to serve on rye crisp crackers:
Orange-Scented Olive, Parsley & Sundried Tomato Tapenade (made with our homegrown Italian parsley) and White Bean "Cheese" (from The Blooming Platter Cookbook)
I had a feeling that the lusty flavors of the tapenade would contrast well with the smooth, mild "cheese", and I was right-- they were wonderful together!

For the Soup course I made the following with our homegrown squash:
Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata (from The Blooming Platter Cookbook)

For our salad:
I just made a simple green salad with marinated artichokes, avocado slices and grape tomatoes, topped with Dreena Burton's Hummus Dressing, which is deliciously creamy and a favorite of ours.

The Main Event was:
Vegan White Bean and "Chicken" with Caramelized Onions, Golden Raisins and Toasted Pine Nut Ragout (I had to use slivered almonds, as I had no pine nuts, and I used Soy Curls for the "chicken"-- read about Soy Curls here), served with egg-free broad noodles tossed with some of my palm oil-free vegan Buttah. I had a hard time choosing one of Betsy's entree recipes for the main dish, but in the end I chose this easy dish, which is complex in flavor and texture (as are most of Betsy's creations). The caramelized onions and white wine nicely complement the golden raisins and maple syrup. I added some chopped cooked rapini to the noodles-- it added a bitter note to contrast with the slight sweetness of the ragout.

For the Dessert: 
Chinotto Cake with Fudgey Chinotto Frosting and Toasted Pecans ala Betsy (recipe below)
The idea for this cake has been percolating in my mind for quite some time now and it seemed like as good a time as any to try it out. I'll explain more about this below (and what the heck Chinotto IS!), but Betsy's Southern-style Vegan Coco-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting was the inspiration for this luscious cake.  I hope you'll try this recipe, and some of Betsy's delicious creations, very soon!
See Updates about where to buy Chinotto (or a similar drink) at the top of the page.
I liked Coca-Cola well enough as a teenager, but we never actually had it in our house when I was young. We would drink it at the soda shop in the corner drugstore just a couple of blocks from our apartment in San Francisco (yes, corny but true!), but I haven't had it for years.  When I discovered the Italian carbonated drink, Chinotto, a few years ago, I thought, "This is like a grown-up Coke!". It's sweet and it's fizzy and it's brown, but it has a refreshing bitter edge to it. Saveur magazine describes it as "an intriguingly bitter, cola-like Italian soda". The bitter edge comes from the bitter fruit that flavors it-- myrtle-leaved orange tree (Citrus myrtifolia).  

(An anecdote: One of the few places in Courtenay, BC, the town where we shop, where you used to be able to buy Chinotto, is a pizza place where we occasionally get a vegan pizza with a whole wheat crust if we're in a hurry.  Onc time I asked the teenage counter clerk for a Chinotto along with our order and he asked, with a bit of a grimace,"Are you sure you want that?")

Now, I'm not advocating drinking this as  a regular habit!  It's still a sweet carbonated drink (no artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup or phosphates in it, though-- at least in the San Pelligrino brand [see photo below])!  But I enjoy it once in a while as treat, and every time I have it I think, there has to be an interesting way to use it in a recipe.  There are Chinotto cocktails on the internet (like this one), but I'm not much of a drinker, so...

This is the brand I used when we were able to buy it here in Canada, but you can find others-- see the update at the top of this post.

...enter Betsy DiJulio, my friend from afar and fellow vegan blogger/cookbook author.  She posted a recipe back in March for a Vegan Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting .  She's a Southern gal, and it's a Southern cake that I had never tasted.  I read the recipe and her description and I thought Chinotto would maybe add an extra edge to this cake.

Betsy's cake is very rich, and I wanted to cut the fat back a bit, so the cake part of his recipe is actually a riff on my Mudpie Cake.  Mudpie cake is a deeply chocolate cake.  This cake does have cocoa powder in it, as does the frosting, but only a bit.  To me, it doesn't taste like chocolate.  The flavor is deep and mysterious-- hard to explain-- and we love it!  So, the cake recipe is essentially mine, with inspiration from Betsy, but the frosting is her recipe EXCEPT that I substituted Chinotto for the cola.

I hope that you can find some Chinotto, either online or in a deli or Italian grocery store.  If you do get your hands on some, I hope you will try this cake and let me know your verdict. 

Makes 12, 15 or 18 servings
Many thanks to my friend and fellow Vegan Heritage Press author, Betsy DiJulio, author of the wonderful book, "TheBlooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes" and creator of exceptional recipes on her blog, The Blooming Platter, for the inspiration for this cake and for the frosting recipe, which I made directly from her recipe, only changing the cola to Chinotto.

NOTE ON COCOA: Dutch-process cocoa powder is made from cocoa (cacao) beans that have been washed with a potassium solution, to neutralize their acidity. Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.  Aside from neutralizing the acidity, Dutching cocoa powder makes it darker and can help mellow the flavor of the beans.

NOTE ON FLOUR: It is important to use cake or pastry to ensure a tender cake in this recipe.  If you have no pastry flour: for white, use 3 tablespoons cornstarch [can be organic] and add unbleached white flour to make 1 1/2 cups. For whole wheat, use 2 tablespoons cornstarch with finely-ground ordinary whole wheat flour to make 1 cup. Process your ordinary whole wheat flour in a DRY blender until very fine.)

1 1/2 cups white cake or pastry flour, sifted after measuring  
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour  
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light organic unbleached granulated sugar
1/3 cup organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cocoa Camino brand, which is Dutch-processed—see note in recipe intro above)  
2 teaspoons baking soda  
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 1/4 cups Chinotto (Italian carbonated drink (see text above)
I used to use San Pellegrino brand in cans, before they discontinued it in Canadam but there are other brands (see above)--
 pour with the cup angled so that no foam is created) 
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon plain soy, nut or hemp milk MIXED WITH 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup oil  
5 tablespoons smooth applesauce 
1 lb organic powdered sugar  
1/2 cup vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah)
1/4 cup organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cocoa Camino brand, which is Dutch-processed—see note in recipe intro above)  
6 tablespoons Chinotto (Italian carbonated drink (see text above)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans  
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13" baking pan by greasing with Cake Release/Baker's grease (see my homemade palm oil-free vegan version), or grease the bottom and sides with coconut oil and dust with flour.

Whisk the dry ingredients together well in a medium bowl. Blend the liquid ingredients in a blender until smooth, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix BRIEFLY with a whisk (important) until smooth-- DO NOT beat the batter. The batter will be quite runny. Scrape the batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a cake rack while you prepare the Frosting.

With the cake just out of the oven, make the icing:
Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the vegan butter, cocoa powder and Chinotto and bring just to a boil. (You can also do this in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl or pitcher in a microwave oven at 100% power for about 1 minute, or until it just starts to bubble.)  Pour the hot liquid over the powdered sugar and whisk to combine until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir to distribute.

Immediately frost the still-warm cake and distribute the chopped toasted pecans evenly over the top of the cake. Cool thoroughly before serving. When cool, cut into 12, 15 or 18 squares and serve. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.