December 28, 2010

Vegan Sweet Potato Pancakes

I made potato pancakes with my sweet potatoes this weekend. Mashed sweet potatoes, some grated raw red potatoes, diced onion, spelt flour, and baking powder. I used ground flax seeds and water as an egg substitute. Served with some curried cherry chutney on top. I received the chutney as a gift. It's not for the culinary squeamish, it's got a really strong curry flavor. It went very well with the pancakes.

December 26, 2010

Lemon Pudding Cake - The Process

I made this Lemon Pudding Cake from the Vegan Dad's Cookbook again so I could get some pictures of the cake in process.  It's the strangest looking cake I think I've put in the oven. If I had not been experimenting with so many things I would have no confidence that this would come out as pretty and tasty as it did.  This cake looks like dishwater in the cake pan when it's put in the oven.

It's a simple cake and made with few ingredients.  First I started with simple batter: whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, (I used a zero calorie, low glycemic, natural sweetener this time, Erythritol.  Erythritol has not been found to affect blood sugar or insulin levels and has a zero glycemic index.), baking powder, baking soda, a dash of salt, 1/2 cup non dairy milk, 2 TB sunflower oil, 1 TB lemon zest and 1 TB orange zest, and the juice of 1 lemon.

Then I whisked together 1 cup of the Erythritol, use the same quantity as the sugar required, and 1/4 cup flour and sprinkled that evenly on the batter. Then poured 1 cup boiling water mixed with the juice of 2 lemons on top of that.  It looks so strange, like dishwater going into the oven. 

See the layers:

In 40 minutes it looks like cake with a wonderful lemon pudding on the bottom and bubbling up the sides.

It's great warm with homemade coconut milk vanilla ice cream.

December 25, 2010

Vegan Winter Squash Scones

We were lucky enough to be blessed with some children's laughter around the house for the holidays.  Kaylee and Eryk were here all day Christmas Eve.  This is new for Eryk, Kaylee's little brother, and I.  We haven't spent any time getting to know each other in his four years. He is physically challenged in that he can't walk or talk so communication was fun yesterday. He does sign and I know a little bit.  We found our way.  We made some decorations and just hung out together. He found out it's fun at Grandma's house too.  We did some drumming and some tambourine shaking and just had a great time.

Grandpa came home from work in the early afternoon.  We enjoyed a nice lunch of vegan potatoes au gratin and steamed broccoli. Then we had some Christmas fun. We took pictures of the kids unwrapping gifts on the living room floor.  Eryk enjoyed ripping the paper much more than what was in the box.  Theirs were the only gifts we gave this year that weren't hand made.  I didn't spend much time in the stores shopping this year. I've been doing it less and less over the years.  I'd rather feed you, give you a hug, and a warm pair of socks for Christmas.

After the Christmas gifts we all had some of the lemon pudding cake and vanilla bean ice cream I made Thursday. That was a big hit.  Eryk wasn't too sure about the lemon cake and ice cream at first, but he was soon asking for more.

Christmas Breakfast was warm and homey. Just the two of us, no plans, just a relaxing morning at home together. I roasted a winter squash Friday and pureed it with a couple tablespoons avocado oil and a little water.

I used another of the recipes from the Vegan Dad Cookbook for pumpkin scones replacing this squash for the pumpkin.  I also added some toasted almonds and dried cranberries.

Served with home made blueberry preserves and maple coconut butter. They made a fine Christmas morning breakfast.

December 23, 2010

Forbidden Rice Tacos with Citrus Tofu

This taco recipe is also from the Vegan Dad Cookbook.  It's really called Red Rice Tacos, I had black rice in the kitchen today. It doesn't look like the recipe is posted on his blog, but he seems to have a few other taco recipes posted.

This one is made with the black, forbidden rice cooked with chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt, and a pinch of cayenne in the water.  While the rice was cooking, I sauteed tofu cubes until they were browned and the moisture evaporated.  Then I added 1/4 cup tequila and simmered until the liquid was cooked out.  Then added the juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange and did the same thing, cooked until the liquid was gone. The tofu cubes were very flavorful.

Served on a whole wheat tortilla with avocado, vegan cheese, red onions, and shredded collard greens. Lots of flavors in this taco. We really enjoyed out dinner tonight. I don't think I've ever had tofu cooked this way.  I made extra rice to go with our beans this weekend.  I think I'll cook up a little more tofu this way too.

Lemon Pudding Cake with Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean Ice Creme

I just made this Lemon Pudding Cake from The Vegan Dad Cookbook.  I got to browse through his book last night and it wasn't difficult to find a few recipes I wanted to try.

This is a very easy cake to make, I used fresh lemon juice, date sugar, and sucanot for the sugars. The date sugar is what gives it the brown color. If this were to be made with white sugar, the pudding would be more lemon yellow.

It tastes like lemon meringue filling with a crispy cake. It's a very different recipe. I should have gotten a picture before it went in the oven. First a thick batter is made and poured on the bottom of the pan. Then flour and sugar are blended and sprinkled evenly over the top of the batter. Then a cup of boiling water with lemon juice is poured over the top. I've never made a cake like it. Next time I will get a picture because it is strange wet looking mess going into the oven. But, it sure came out nice. I made some coconut milk and vanilla bean ice cream too. They went very well together.

December 21, 2010

Herb to Skin - Homemade Herbal Soap

I haven't talked about the garden for awhile.  The daylight will be getting a little longer now and I'll start to look forward to spring and getting back out into the dirt.  Meanwhile I'm looking to January and thinking about how I'm going to set up the downstairs nursery.  Soon it will be time to start some seedlings.  I'm thinking about what to plant and when. Last year I learned how to garden indoors and get a jump on the season.  The second year at the seedling planting, we've learned a few things, it should go better than last.

I met my friend Morgaine out in the our garden a few seasons ago and when she saw the all the herbs she asked me what I did with them.  At that time all I did was dry them.  She asked if I made my own essential oils and I said no, but there was an immediate,  loud, conversation in my brain.  Essential oils are expensive, I buy them, I did make some of my own cleaning products with them and use them on dried flowers, etc.  I would make them if I knew how.  Is it something I can learn?  Of course it is, I don't have a problem learning how to make anything I've tried. Yes, next year I will make oils. Does she know how to make oils? Last Christmas she made some wonderful herb soaps and body sprays. She gave us some of her sage soaps, lotion, and sprays right before we went to Baja.  I took it with us and every time I used it thereafter, I thought of our wonderful trip in Baja, a little aroma therapy working. Is it difficult? do I have to buy equipment? maybe she'll teach me how. How cool is that, I must do this!

So this year I planted a few more of the herbs: lemon basil, Thai basil, the big leaf green basil, two kinds of sage, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, lavender, and fennel. I call it herb hill.

Lemon Basil

Isabelle stood on herb hill this season.

I picked the herbs, dried some as usual, and this year I made oils.  I also picked some organic lavender in Sequim in July.  I couldn't grow enough here for oil The lavender oil takes quite a bit of flowers.  It was 16 tablespoons per steeping and I think it was strained and steeped four times.  The oils came out great, I used organic olive oil so I can also use them in cooking.  The sage and rosemary I picked the first hour of the full moon in September and steeped them until the next moon.  They are supposed to have the fullest potency then according to some old Farmer's Almanacs and a pretty good book I read this year about the lunar cycles, Lunar Calender, The Art of Timing.

Last night for the first time I found soap making.  It was easy and fun.  I bought the materials hoping to do that on a day off soon.  This time of year is very slow at work, it will be pretty quiet until January 3 when the holidays are over.  I usually end up taking a couple vacation days. I thought I'd just try a little this weekend and turns out it was so easy I ended up using all the soap base I purchased, eight pounds.  I do have some holiday gifts to give that I didn't count on.  That's pretty fun.

For one batch I used a goats milk base and added lavender and sage.  To the olive oil base I added rosemary and sage oils.  I also added some quinoa seeds and crushed sage for texture and skin softening.  The third batch is an avocado cucumber base which I added rosemary oil, citrus zest, and quinoa seeds.  The fourth soap is a Shea butter base with lavender oil and quinoa, lots of lavender oil. It smells wonderful.

Thanks for the inspiration Morgaine. You've helped me realize that I'm a kitchen witch too.

December 19, 2010

Christmas Limas - Festive Holiday Pie

The other half of the pot of Christmas Limas I cooked up this weekend became a Festive Holiday Tart.  I was looking through a holiday cookbook I purchased from VegNews Magazine this morning.  I thought since I paid for it, I should probably use it.  I found a recipe for something called a Festive Holiday Tart.  I had most of the ingredients in the kitchen.  It called for canned chickpeas so I used the rest of the Christmas Lima beans I had cooked.  It also called for some frozen spinach and I just happen to have some lovely collard greens and kale.  I lightly sauteed them together, just until they were wilted and bright green,  in a little sage oil and set aside.This is a very unusual pie.  It's very good, but I can't describe it to you by comparing it to anything I've tried before. I thought it would be something like a vegan mincemeat pie, but it's not like mincemeat either. It is truly unique.  It combines the some of the most prominent flavors of the holiday season, thyme, cranberries, fresh greens, and Christmas Limas.  It's a complete meal.


This is my version of the Festive Holiday Tart Recipe,
by Drenna Burton

I made a whole wheat, dairy free, pie crust and put it in the refrigerator to chill. 

1½ TB rosemary oil, divided
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup diced fennel bulb
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked and drained Christmas Lima beans
     Save the drained sauce for making gravy later
¾ cup + 2 TB pecans, chopped and divided
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB plus 1 teaspoons shoyu, divided
1¼ cup slightly sauteed collard greens and kale
    The original recipe calls for frozen spinach, that will work fine, if you didn't have the fresh greens
3½ TB dried cranberries
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1½ TB dried thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400°  In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 TB oil, add onion, fennel, garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook until onions begin to caramelize. Set Aside

2.  In a food processor, add Christmas Lima beans (reserve about ½ cup), ¾ cup pecans, lemon juice, and 1 TB shoyu, and pulse to lightly chop (do not purée).  Remove half of the chopped mixture from the food processor and transfer to a large bowl.

3.  Transfer sautéed onions to the remaining mixture in the food processor.  Purée until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Transfer purée to bowl with lightly chopped beans and pecan mixture.  Add greens, cranberries, parsley, thyme, and the reserved lima beans.  Stir to combine and transfer to the prepared pie shell, spreading evenly.

4. In a small bowl, combine remaining oil and shoyu, and brush on top of pie and crust.  Sprinkle with the remaining pecans.  Bake for about 35 minutes until lightly browned.

Christmas Limas - with Roasted Beets & Quinoa

My boss has some fun with us at Christmas, she does "a twelve days of Christmas" event as our Christmas gift.  It's lots of fun, it sure makes December a fun month at work. Donna and I receive a gift, go to lunch, take an hour at Starbucks, play a light hearted game together of dominoes or cards with the three of us and no phones for an hour, create something crafty and festive, or sometimes it's a scavenger hunt to find a gift.  The scavenger hunts are fun, she goes to quite a bit of work sometimes coming up with her clever clues.  It might catch on too, others in the building have fun watching us wander around the building hunting for the next clue.  Sometimes she involves them in the game.  My husband likes it too, he looks forward to finding out what we did each day.  She also gives most useful gifts.  One of our days' gifts this year was a basket with three different kinds of beans and spices.  I'll get at least eight to twelve meals out of those beans.

Of the three varieties of beans were "Christmas Lima." I'd not heard of these before and the description sound good, "A savory flavor with hints of chestnuts."   

Christmas Limas (Phaseolus Limensis) are related to the lima bean, similar to the giant Peruvian Lima but plumper. This is a large bean with a maroon pattern over a creamy background. The Christmas Lima may be referred to as a speckled lima or butter bean in addition to a calico bean.

I set them to soak Friday night and Saturday morning I cooked them with  filtered water, salt, a diced onion, and a couple carrots.  i wanted to cook them very simply so I could taste the flavor of the bean.  It's a very flavorful bean with a nice texture and doubles in size.

While they were simmering I searched for a recipe.  It didn't take long to find one and I was pleased to find I had all the ingredients handy. 

Christmas Lima Beans and Quinoa

Christmas Lima Beans and Quinoa

 Christmas Lima Beans, Roasted Beets, Quinoa, Avocado, Lemon Juice, sweet onion, honey, and white balsamic vinegar.  The recipe calls this a side dish, but for us it was a perfect winter maindish. 


My husband rolled this collard green like a tortilla and had a Christmas Lima burrito. 

December 18, 2010

Making Memories - Holiday Baking

The winter is not complete without a holiday baking day.  Two or three years ago Kaylee and I had our first holiday baking day together, she was three or four.  She still remembers it and told everyone about our big day coming up this year.  She remembered making gingerbread men and a gingerbread house together.  We made sugar cookies in all different shapes.  This year she's six and able to help more and ask many more questions.  That's what we did last weekend.  Went out to Rachel's house and created wonderful treats all day. I packed up my kitchen, bringing everything I thought we could run out of or would want to play with.  Rachel lives in a beautiful, small island community on the river.  There's a store, but if they have what we would want, it would probably cost more than I'd like. She was ready for us. There were gingerbread men ready to come out of the oven when we arrived, the house smelled like Christmas. Rachel was up early making dough and getting out her collection of supplies and decorations.

I am not sure how many different things we made, we played in the kitchen and made new memories all day.  There were gingerbread men, thumbprint cookies, sugar cookies, shortbread moons, almond cookies, cheerful crispy rice treats, and homemade marshmallow wreaths.  We worked well together in her small space, not getting in each others' way was easy.  Both Rachel and I are at home in the kitchen and know how to move as we prepped, mixed, cleaned up as we went, and wrapped the final treats. We both like to cook with real food ingredients. We use our traditional grandmother's recipes omitting the dairy and eggs where we can, using natural unrefined sweeteners. Kaylee and Grandpa were great Sous chefs, taking on tasks as we needed them.  They wrapped most of the treats individually to be made into holiday gifts later.  Grandpa played with his new camera and caught the moments of the day.


December 17, 2010

Chai Spice Tea

Chai Spice Tea
 One of my favorite Chai Recipes. It's a warm spicy brew to warm the insides on a cold winter day.

Chai Spice Tea

2 quarts cold water

1 TB Star Anise
1 TB allspice pods
3-5 TB cardamon pods

Grind the above in a coffee grinder.

After grinding add:

The zest of a whole orange
3 fingers ginger, peeled and rough chopped

Put the all above in a large pot and boil for 5 minutes.

Add a little more than 1/3 c sweetener.  I used 3 dried Stevia Leaves (I grew Stevia this year.) and 3 TB of black tea leaves.

Strain through cheesecloth and cool. Serve in a cup with 50% non dairy milk and 50% tea. Enjoy!

December 16, 2010

So this is Christmas - John Lennon

A Favorite of mine.

Winter Rituals, Spirit, & Love

My friend, Morgaine, asked a question on her blog about how we see the winter's holidays, what the rituals are that bring us into the spirit of the season, and what makes them special.  I have been thinking about this for about a week.

In the last two years so much has changed in my being, I look at just about everything with new eyes and a guarded heart. Last year I tried to ignore my feelings during the holidays.  I didn't put up decorations, didn't bake to much, and took off to a friends in a secluded place so I wouldn't have to be in our home.  After a year of gradual healing I am embracing the holiday season a little at a time.  I am finding that I am more calm than I used to be during this time.   I know there is some pain when I think of Christmas' in my distant past. I still can't sing a Christmas song, even a very lively one, without crying.  But in my present life I have a wonderful circle of friends and family and I know there's a lot of love in my life. To me it's an entire season of sharing love and warmth with friends, family, people in our daily lives, and strangers. It's not just about one day, the season begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues through to New Year's Day.  I hope sometime along the way I can put a warm smile on someone's face who needs one.  It's a time to remember to say hello, I love you, to friends and family we don't see very often and of course the ones we do see. Share a meal with loved ones, old and new.

Then there's the children.  Christmas is magic for children and if I'm lucky the child comes out in me too.  There's magic for all of us this time of year, we just have to know its there. My children are young men now and life has separated us  for awhile.  I am blessed with my lovely, curious granddaughter around.  We made cookies and candies, and went shopping for the children who don't have a warm home, one of the best Christmas rituals I loved most with my own grandmother. When I asked Kaylee what she wanted to do last Saturday, she looked around my house and said "Get a Tree."  She helped decorate it and in the midst of our fun, she just turned to me and said "I love you Grandma."

We went to Morgaine's and made all kinds of wonderful treats, gingerbread men, wreaths, sugar cookies, and more.  We shared a day of warmth and love around the kitchen and the decorations.  That's what it's all about.

And then there's sugar plum fairies dancing......

Happy Holiday Season!

December 6, 2010

A Yummy Vegan Pink Mess

Or, Dairy Free Strawberry Cream pie with Peaches, Cashew Coconut Creme, and Brazil Nut & Coconut Crust

This was a great idea in my head. But by being shy on the Agar because I didn't want it to gel too much, I didn't use quite enough so I didn't get that layered look I wanted. I'm still working with Agar trying to get the right amount for the desired texture. After the first piece was cut this beautiful pie became a big delicious pink mess.  I'll try again, practice is yummy.

The crust is a mixture of 1 cup raw Brazil nuts, soaked for 2-4 hours, 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut, 1/2 cup spelt flour, 1/2 cup sucanot, 2 tsp. cinnamon, and about 5 TB vegan margarine. Mix in the food processor until it becomes a coarse dough.  Press on the bottom and sides of a springform pan and bake at 350° for about 7- 10 minutes.

When the crust was cooled, I added a layer of my canned peaches and a layer of sliced strawberries, frozen right after they were picked in July.

The strawberry filling: I blended 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2-4 hours, about 2 cups strawberries, 2 TB Agave, and a bit of coconut milk.  I added about 3/4 cup hot water and 3/4 TB Agar flakes, until they were dissolved, to the strawberry mixture, blended a little more, and poured it on top of the layers of fruit. (I should use the whole cup next time.) I poured the filling on top of the fruit.

The topping: Cashew coconut cream with a mixture of 1/4 cup hot water and 1/4 TB of agar flakes.  This chilled for about an hour.  The topping came out with a really nice texture and gelled nicely.  The strawberry portion could have used a little more agar, but this is really a tasty mess. 

Winter Squash Polenta - Vegan

I made some polenta this weekend with a roasted sweet meat squash.  I made the polenta per the basic directions, 6 cups water, 2 cups polenta.  Simmer about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  When most the liquid was absorbed, about 15 minutes in, I added about 2 cups roasted squash puree and a can of coconut milk and continued to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring a lot.  Then I removed it from the heat, added about 3 TB sage olive oil, a dash of sea salt, and a TB of pumpkin honey.

I served it warm in a bowl of marinated mixed vegetables.  The vegetables all came from our garden and were marinated and canned by my friend, Morgaine.  She has a real knack for combining herbs and oils in interesting ways.  The flavor is really nice.  That is one of the fun parts of sharing the garden, sometimes it comes back in different forms.

Winter Sun

We had some sunshine all around this weekend.  Clear skies most the weekend. We even got a chance to get out to the garden and do some winter clean up and just be outside.  My son is in Alaska awaiting a plane to Hawaii, it's taken about three days so far to get from Afghanistan to California.  He called from Siberia Friday morning, stopped in Germany, Alaska, Hawaii, and then will be in his own home sometime next week.  I know his family is thrilled, I am.  His wife called last night to tell me she received a text and then he called right after that. He made it back!

The Brussels Sprouts are Happy

New Garlic

The other son has also been given a clearance to be able to live at our house when he gets to come home.  We were told that wouldn't be possible and the thought that this could never be his home again hasn't been fun. That was a ray of hope.

So, it's on to the holiday season and I've decided to get a tree, decorate a little, and celebrate the love this holiday season.  I went to a few bazaars to see if I could drum up a little holiday spirit and it worked.  I wandered through the pretty things and handmade goodies and talked to artists and old ladies and shared some smiles. I picked up some nice gifts and got some great ideas for my own crafty projects. We are still a family, if only two, but we are a family.  Our granddaughter has also been placed in our daily lives to help with this empty nest. That is a big blessing. There is a lot of love in my life!

"If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow." 
Chinese Proverb

December 4, 2010

The Jewels of Remembrance - Rumi

The spirit is like an ant, and the body like a grain of wheat
which the ant carries to and fro continually.
The ant knows that the grains of which it has taken charge
will change and become assimilated.
One ant picks up a grain of barley on the road;
another ant picks up a grain of wheat and runs away.
The barley doesn't hurry to the wheat,
but the ant comes to the ant, yes it does.
The going of the barley to the wheat is merely consequential:
it's the ant that returns to its own kind.
Don't say, "Why did the wheat go to the barley?"
Fix your eye on the holder, not on that which is held.
As when a black ant moves along on a black felt cloth:
the ant is hidden from view; only the grain is visible on its way.
But Reason says: "Look well to your eye:
when does a grain ever move along without a carrier?"

The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi
Mathnawi VI: 2955-2962