Thursday, April 24, 2014


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One-pot Cheesy Farfalle (Bowtie Pasta) with Asparagus, Zucchini & Soy Curls, recipe below

I must apologize for not posting much lately.  I seem to be suffering from bouts of IFS.  I was just thinking of it as "Internet fatigue", but, apparently, it has a name already-- Information Fatigue Syndrome.  So, I've been curtailing some of my Internet activities and reading actual books.

But I have not been totally inactive.  Actually, my husband and I have been (and still are) on a mission-- to use less energy in our home.  And, in two weeks, we have lowered our energy consumption by 40%!  (This is according to our BC Hydro website, our provincial electrical company, where we can see our monthly, weekly and daily electrical consumption.)

So far we have lowered our energy consumption by: 
**Turning the water heater down to 120 degrees F
**Using only cold-water wash and rinse in our front-loader washing machine
**Hanging laundry to dry (outside, or inside on racks + one line) and only using the dryer on medium heat for short time to fluff up towels or get out the wrinkles
**Turning off the power bars for electronics at night and unplugging the laptops
**Putting the laptops in sleep mode between uses during the day
**Being very careful about not turning on so many lights in the house
**Taking short showers and not necessarily every day (bring back the old-fashioned "sponge bath" on some days)
Note: we don't heat with gas or electricity-- only wood-- and our house is very tight, so we are lucky that heat is not wasted.
But we also discovered that many savings can be made in the kitchen. For instance: 
**Not OVER-preheating the oven before use
**Using the "Eco-Wash" cycle on the dishwasher and turning off the heat-dry option
**Not running hot water without really thinking about it-- You can rinse dishes for the dishwasher in cold water, and wash out the sink and wash your hands with cold water and soap.  When I do use hot tap water now, I'm very concious of it and don't waste it down the drain.  I use the electric kettle to boil water for cooking.
** Cooking several things in the stove oven at once, if we must use it; otherwise using the little counter-top oven.
**Using the microwave for making sauces, puddings, etc., and sweating vegetables for soup and other dishes; for steaming veggies in their own juices, with no added water; making risotto, and many other tasks.
**We found out that our electric stove burners use alot of energy. So, I'm now utilizing my small appliances more frequently (pressure cooker--mine is electric-- and slow-cooker; electric frying pan; electric kettle; microwave [which can save up to 80% of the energy used to heat in a stove]; and our small counter-top oven.)
When I do use the stove burners I turn the heat down as low as I possibly can while still completing my task properly, and I turn the burner off slightly before the dish is finished, utilizing the residual heat.
**What more can we do in the kitchen? We plan to replace our ancient chest freezer as soon as we can afford to, and I'm looking into getting an induction burner plate for stir-frying, etc.

I've also been experimenting with some different cooking methods, especially to avoid boiling pots of water.  For instance, when we felt like having mashed carrots and potatoes (a favorite of DH) I cut the potatoes in chunks and the carrots in smaller pieces and pressure-cooked them together, using only 1/2 cup water, in 8 minutes.  Perfect!

These days, our preferred method of cooking pasta is this:  Bring a pot of water to a boil-- but not as much water as you might be used to. I use about 2 qts. for up to a pound of pasta, and I bring the water to a boil in an electric kettle, then pour it into the pot before turning on the heat. When it comes back to a boil, add your pasta, bring back to a boil, stirring a bit, turn the heat off, cover and let stand for 8-10 minutes or so. (Spaghettini will take 8 minutes, other pasta, such as rotini or other shapes will take 10.) Drain and serve as usual.  Trust me-- this works beautifully!  The pasta is tender but al dente and there is no stickiness.

Gemelli pasta cooked by the no-boil method in the paragraph above.

This method can be used for cooking other foods and it is also known as "passive boiling".  It is mentioned in two books that I recommend (actually the ONLY books on reducing energy-use in the kitchen that I could find): "Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen" by Kate Heyhoe (she calls it "reducing your cookprint"-- clever), and "The Green Kitchen" by Richard Ehrlich, a British journalist. See if your library has them, if you prefer not to buy them-- they are full of good ideas.

Another energy-saving pasta-cooking method (can you tell that we like pasta?) is the self-saucing one-pot method.  I first heard about this about a year ago and I was intrigued by Martha Stewart's recipe for a recipe from the province of Puglia inItaly, in which all of the ingredients, including the dry pasta, are cooked in a pot together with water for about 9-10 minutes (I used vegetarian broth in mine, of course) until the pasta is al dente and a creamy sauce results.I used tagliatelle nests instead of linguine. The dish was quite tasty-- we sprinkled it with Go Veggie! soy parmesan (which used to be Galaxy Vegan).

My version of Martha Stewart's One-Pan Pasta, before cooking.
Now there are many recipes online utilizing this method.  Below is the recipe for one that I threw together the other night-- and very yummy it was.

Anyway, I should get to bed-- work tomorrow!  But I'd be interested to hear your energy-saving kitchen ideas and explorations.

Printable Copy

  Serves 4  
A quick, self-saucing one-dish meal, and only one pot to clean!

1 tablespoon    olive oil   
4 cloves    garlic, chopped   
3 cups    "chicken-y" vegan broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Vegan “No-Chicken” base)
1/2 lb. (8 oz)    farfalle (bowtie pasta)
2 cups    reconstituted Butler Soy Curls (see this post for info) or other sliced vegan chicken sub
1 tsp    dried basil (or some chopped fresh, if you have it)
8 stalks    asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2” pieces 
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick "coins"
12    red grape tomatoes, halved   
3    green onions, thinly-sliced   
1/2 cup    vegan mozza cheese shreds (I used Daiya)
1/4 cup    vegan parmesan sub (I used Go Veggie! soy parmesan)  
   freshly-ground black pepper  

In a large heavy pot or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and sauté briefly—do not brown the garlic.  Add the broth, pasta, Soy Curls and basil. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Add the asparagus and zucchini, cover again and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, green onions and the vegan cheeses.  Toss gently, grind pepper over the dish and serve immediately.
 Nutrition Facts 

Nutrition (per serving): 405.1 calories; 21% calories from fat; 9.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1696.0mg sodium; 427.0mg potassium; 60.8g carbohydrates; 5.6g fiber; 4.5g sugar; 55.2g net carbs; 19.3g protein. 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Best Blog Tips

NOTE: Apologies for my lack of posting and this short post!  I'm trying to get ready for Easter company and I have a knee that's acting up, so I'm not getting as much done as I would like.  I'll post a proper post very soon!

Above is a photo of our dinner the other night-- Farinata (Italian chickpea flour "pancake") with a topping of lightly sautéed veggies and a bit of vegan cheese, accompanied by roasted cauliflower. This is one of my favorite dishes. The recipe for the basic Farinata (and some history, too) is at this post on my blog (and it's in my book "Nonna's Italian Kitchen"). It is far more delicious than the simple ingredients might suggest. The modern way to eat this very old peasant dish is to use toppings on the already-baked farinata, a bit like pizza (it doesn't taste like pizza, though). Personally, I like vegetable toppings, cooked ones in colder weather, raw or cooked ones at room temperature in warmer weather. You can let your imagination run wild, but I think less is more in terms of number of ingredients.

The topping in the photo (added AFTER the 10 minute baking and then pop it under the broiler or into a very hot oven to melt the cheese) was a combination of thinly-sliced onion, chopped brocolette, thinly sliced baby zucchini, and some organic oven-dried Roma tomatoes from a jar (they are from Costco, Kirkland brand, and contain herbs and oil-- I rinse much of the oil off them in a strainer before using), along with some basil and about 4 cloves of garlic, slivered. I added a bit of vegan  parmesan and sprinkled a handful of Daiya mozza shreds on top (but you could use whatever type you prefer). 

Honestly, it's such an easy, inexpensive meal and so very nutritious and delicious! DH is crazy about this!
PS: I usually make this in a 14" round pizza pan, but I this time made it in my little Cuisinart countertop oven (energy-saving!), so I used the 12" square pan that comes with the oven, lined with parchment.

Do give this a try!


Monday, April 7, 2014


Best Blog Tips

This recipe is an old one in our house-- I developed it for my book "The Fiber for Life Cookbook", published back in 2002.  Nothing fancy, but nutritious and delicious. My granddaughter has been enjoying them today, too.  No need for butter on these-- just a little of your favorite jam!

Printable Copy

Makes 12     
All you need is a little jam or jelly on these delicious and healful muffins.
ALLERGY NOTE:  If you are allergic to peanuts, use any other favorite nut butter instead. And I’m sure they would work well with a whole grain GF flour mix, too.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cups wheat bran
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons flax seeds blended with 1/2 cup water until “gloppy”
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chunky natural peanut butter (nothing added)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Oil 12 muffin cups. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the Dry Mix ingredients.

After blending the water and flax seeds together until “gloppy” in your blender, add the remaining Wet Mix ingredients and blend again briefly.

Pour the Wet Mix into the Dry Mix and stir briefly, just to mix.  Spoon the batter equally between the muffin cups.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they test done. 

Loosen the muffins carefully with a table knife and turn them on their sides.  Place the muffin tin on a rack, cover the muffins with a clean tea towel and cool for a few minutes before serving.  Cool thoroughly before storing in a plastic bag or rigid plastic container.  These muffins freeze well.

Nutrition per muffin: 192 calories; 6 g fat; 4.6 g fiber; 29 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 179 mg sodium.