April 24, 2011

Garden Update

We're finally getting some sunny days, not too many, but they are beginning. Friday and Saturday this week were not only dry, but sunny and warm. I managed to get out into the garden both days. Friday I planted carrots, beets, some nasturtiums, and pansies. Saturday was 70º, I wore a shirt with no sleeves and short pants. Woo Who! We both got out there Saturday, Scott weeded around the onions and garlic giving them room to grow. Some of the garlic I planted is elephant garlic and I can see the stalks getting quite thick. I cleared out a mound and planted some slicing cucumbers and a row of delicata squash.



I'm pretty pleased with the plants that are coming back or still alive from last season. The herbs are rockin', we have lots of oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The artichokes are all showing some life and when I was out there Friday I accidentally dug up some bulbs from the Mystic Spirit Dahlia I have out there. There was some green shooting out the tops of them. I gently put them back in the dirt and said a few encouraging words. I hope they grow. I do like that flower, it added such life to our garden.

Mystic Spirit

The gardening indoors has been going along a bit slow. I have had some disappointments in the germinating department, but that's how it goes. I tried some Stevia seeds this year and none of them germinated.  Too bad too, they are kind of expensive seeds.  But, I did order some seedlings, just in case, which were delivered last week.  I will have my Stevia in the garden this year.  I only grew four plants last year and that provided quite a bit of Stevia for myself and a couple friends. I have some broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, and a couple other veggies started. I'll get some corn started in a week or so. I don't want to be too early with the corn this year. I ended up planting it a few times last year. This is the time I get quite anxious and concerned that I won't get everything planted when I want to. It always works out, I'm just impatient.

Kaylee and I decorated some wooden dolls last weekend.  She took them out to the garden with my point and shoot camera and had her own little photo shoot.  I think her pictures came out rather well.  I also bought her a pair of her own gardening gloves this year.  She had a good time trying to move the weeds with the gardening claw. It's much taller than she.

April 12, 2011

The Potluck Adventures Continue In Longview

The potluck adventures continue. Our next vegan/vegetarian potluck in Longview, WA is Friday, May 20th at Payton's Produce.

This time we're having a raw foods demonstration by Desirée Livingston Ouellette. Desirée is a Live Food Certified/Raw Food Enthusiast & RYT, Registered Yoga Teacher. She teaches Raw Foods preparation with the Parks and Recreation Department of Longview and the reviews have been awesome.

This is for anyone who is interested in plant based eating. No matter
where you are on your journey, if you are interested in adding more
plant based meals to your life or are vegetarian or vegan already. We
can share some food, ideas, maybe a recipe or two and learn together.

The potluck is at Paytons Produce, 1132 Washington Way, Longview, WA.

If you are participating in the potluck, please bring a vegetarian or
vegan (vegan contains no animal products, including honey) main dish,
salad, or dessert; a card listing its ingredients; and plates and
utensils for your use.

Need plant-based ideas? Send me a message, I can direct you to a good
location. If you come alone, figure the amount to serve 4–6 generously;
increase the amount 4 servings for each additional person in your
party/family. This is an alcohol free event. For more information,
email A donation of $2–5 per person is suggested.

Dairy Free Coconut Milk Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

My friend mentioned she was making a rhubarb pie the other day.  I got to thinking about the rhubarb I canned this summer.  I also still have some strawberries in the freezer.

What a combo, coconut milk vanilla ice cream with the rhubarb mixed in.  I made a strawberry sorbet, mixed just a little in the ice cream and then placed it in the bottom of the freezer containers.  I poured the ice cream in the middle.  The sorbet froze around the ice cream nicely.  It's almost like strawberry 50/50 bars. Very Delightful and dairy free.

Dairy Free Vanilla Ice Cream
Begin by making a substitute for condensed milk.

Condensed Milk Substitute

1/3 cup thick coconut milk (The cream at the top of the can)
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave
1 TB melted coconut butter

Whip all above ingredients together and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Vanilla base for ice cream

3 TB egg replacer
9 TB filtered water
3/4 cup sucanat or agave
Remaining can of coconut milk from condensed milk substitute
Condensed milk substitute (above)
2 pint coconut milk coffee creamer
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 TB vanilla extract or the seeds from a whole vanilla bean.

In a large mixing bowl whisk 3 TB egg replacer with 9 TB filtered water until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Add the condensed milk substitute. Add 3/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar) and again mix thoroughly. Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and the coconut creamer, 1/2 tsp sea salt and the vanilla. Chill mixture for about four hours before freezing according to the directions for your ice cream freezer.

April 10, 2011

The Good Shepherd's Pie ~ Vegan

This is a recipe from one of my most favorite vegan cookbooks, Vegan World Fuisine Cuisine.  The weather is still a bit chilly for me and I felt like some warm food today.  I've been craving something with potatoes, white or sweet.  I just wanted some potatoes. I remembered the Vegan World cookbook had a great shepherd's pie recipe.  It was worth a short trip to the store today for some more potatoes.

I used a bit less tofu in the recipe, only a 10 oz package and some dried soy protein strips.  I soaked them in vegetable broth to rehydrate them and diced them.  They have a taste and texture like chicken breast strips. I also didn't have any barley malt syrup and I think it was really expensive when I did find it. I used a little barley miso mixed with a little vegetable broth instead.  I used my one ounce scoop to place the potatoes in little bite sized mounds across the pan. I also cooked mine a little longer than the recipe asked for.  I think it took about 50 minutes before I was satisfied with the texture of the potatoes and the filling.

The Good Shepherd's Pie
     Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, page 137

10-12 medium Potatoes, 1/2" cubes
1 C Coconut, rice, or soy milk
2 TB Olive oil
¾ C Onion, diced
1 TB Garlic, minced
¾ C Carrots, ½" cubes
½ C Celery, sliced Thin
½ C Red bell pepper, diced
½C Mushrooms, sliced thin
2 lbs Tofu, extra firm, crumbled
¾ C Peas, fresh or frozen
¾ C Corn, fresh or frozen
1/4 C Tahini
4 tsp Shoyu (optional)
1 TB Basil, fresh, minced (1½ tsp dry)
1 TB Italian parsley, fresh, minced
1½ tsp Sea Salt, or to taste
1 tsp Thyme, fresh minced (½ tsp dry)
1 tsp Sage, fresh minced (½ tsp dry)
2 tsp Barley malt syrup
½ tsp Black pepper, ground to taste
½ tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350º

Place potatoes in a large pot with filtereed water.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft, approximately 15 minutes.  Drain well, place in a large mixing bowl with coconut milk and mash well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic, cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add carrots, celery, bell pepper and mushrooms, cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Place in large mixing bowl with remaining ingredients except potatoes and mix well.

Place tofu vegetable mixture in a well oiled 9" x 13" casserole dish.  Top with mashed potatoes, using a spatula to create a smooth surface.  Score pretty desings on top with a fork.  Bake until slightly golden brown and completely cooked, approximately 25 minutes.  Cool for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with mushroom gravy...

Weekend Ramblings

Nice weekend. The weather could have been better, but it was good enough for my husband to get out into the garden and do some weeding.  I guess I did have some lettuce out there, but the slugs thought it was delicious.  I do remember having a bit of a slug problem last year. We'll take care of that.  I do hope this blog does become more about gardening soon, I am getting anxious.

Our artichokes are coming back, all of them.  I was a little leery about them coming back, but I went and looked at the master gardener's artichokes at the fairgrounds.  Theirs looked as bad as mine did, that gave me some hope.

I attended a spiritual, meditation, workshop this weekend.  It was a very relaxing and educational day.  Met a few women who are working through challenging times in their lives. I am pretty sure I just opened up a new channel of support in my little word. I met a local composer, Tami Tack, who shared her wonderful music with us. Small world event, she is the sister of someone my husband knew as a child.  I left with some new personal tools and a very relaxed, but energized feeling. I did manage to find six more people interested in attending our next potluck.  That's scheduled for May 20th, by the way.  I'll get a flyer posted soon.

Kerycia and Randy got married Friday night.  Seems pretty weird, I see Kerycia's pictures on Facebook and I still see a little girl in a pretty little dress getting ready for church.  I've known her since she was a baby.  It feels like one of my own children just got married. Seems like there's a line up of weddings to attend in the next couple of years.  The babies we raised are getting married now.  The wedding was very warm and sweet.  Not too big, but big enough and it had all the elements a girl could want at her wedding.  Rhonda and Lupe were both glowing.  The whole family was glowing actually.  It was pretty cool to see all Rhonda's children grown up and being gracious hosts at their sister's wedding.  Rhonda should be very proud her parenting.  I've seen her children, being siblings, wanting to tear each others hair out at times, but Friday night, there was nothing but love in all of their eyes.

April 2, 2011

Chocolate Tofu Pudding ~ Vegan

I finally got a decent blender for the food I want to prepare.  The blender has really become my main cooking tool.  I bought a Blendtec. It came with a pretty nice cookbook too.  I've tried quite a few recipes already.  This pudding is of the first I tried.  I made really good creamy chocolate pudding in like 90 seconds.  The pudding was as warm as if I simmered it on the stove top. It also made the cashew coconut creme the way I like it, creamy not grainy.  This blender made it with a smooth creamy texture in just a couple minutes.   Before this, I ground my cashews and nuts in the food processor then transferred them to the blender, stopping and scraping them down for quite awhile.  I am pretty impressed with it already.  It took me a long time to break down and buy one.  I've bought whole cars cheaper than this blender.  Of course, I probably would drive cars most people wouldn't. A fancy new car has never been one of my top priorities. But, if I put together all the cheap blenders and food processors I've killed because of the use I put them through, I've probably spent more.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding
 10.5 oz soft tofu
¼ cup non dairy milk, plain or vanilla
5 TB vegan margarine, melted
2 squares semisweet chocolate, broken
½ cup agave, maple syrup, or sucanot
1 tsp vanilla

I put this on the soup cycle twice.  It took about 90 seconds.  If you don't have a blender like this, I would blend it all up in the blender anyway and then simmer on the stovetop a few minutes until it was bubbly and getting thick.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  Top with cashew coconut creme.

Cashew Coconut Creme
about a 1/3 cup raw cashews (soaked in water for an hour or more)
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
the creme from a can of coconut milk
the seeds from one vanilla bean blended until smooth and creamy.

Red Lentil Soup with Homemade Naan Bread

I took it easy last weekend, my neck has been bothering me so I kept the chopping and slicing down to a minimum. Pitchers get pitcher's elbow, I had knife shoulder and neck I think.  This is a pretty easy dish.  Just a chopped onion, a shallot, red lentils, and some brown rice.  I found an organic mix for the Naan at the local liquidation store.  It contained  whole grain spelt flour, yeast, and flax and caraway seeds for the Naan. Naan is pretty basic, flour, yeast, hot non diary milk, and a little warmth.  It came out pretty good.  I rolled out one and showed my husband how and he rolled the rest.  It's been pretty cold around here so they came out more like tortillas.  Yeast and bread rising doesn't work out too well for me on a cold day.  I made a cucumber dill sauce too.  It gave the meal a nice freshness.

Red Lentil Soup with Brown Rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
6 cups low sodium vegetable stock (or water)
1 1/3 cup red lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
sea salt to taste
slivered almonds, toasted

In a big soup pot, over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Let them brown, and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and rice. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is very tender, and not at all toothsome. By this time, the lentils will have collapsed into a thick slop of sorts. If you need to add more water/broth at any point do so a splash at a time, until the soup thins out to the point you prefer.

Unless you used a salty broth, you will likely need to salt generously, until the the soup no longer tastes flat. Serve each bowl topped with almonds, olives, and a slight drizzle of olive oil if you like.

Serves 4 - 6.
Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 30 min

Cucumber Dill Sauce

1 cup veganaise
6 oz. vegan cream cheese or firm tofu
1 medium cucumber (equivalent to 2 cups) chopped
2 tsp fresh dill or ½ tsp dried dill
2 green onions, rough chopped
1 TB fresh lemon juice
dash cayenne

Place ingredients into blender and blend to desired consistency.  

Still Indoors ~ Garden 2011

 I was hoping to get outside this weekend and begin clearing the weeds the rain brought in the garden.  No such luck, it was cold and very rainy today. We did have a couple breaks in the clouds, but it never lasted very long.  I feel like I am in a big holding zone, just waiting for warmth from the sun. There are quite a few plants coming up out there, but it's hard to see most of them right now through the weeds.  I've got some garlic, onions, radishes, peas, lettuce, and herbs growing.

We've had a record breaking raining streak in the pacific northwest. I think, 28 days of continual rain. There was a short break in the afternoon Thursday.  It was warm and clear.  I spent some time playing with our camera in the backyard while we had the sun.  Almost gave me some hope that we would see some spring sunshine this weekend.  I am used to the rain in the northwest, but this time of year I am anxious to get out in the garden and get to work.  I feel like that old Mervyn's commercial where the gal is at the door at 6:00 a.m.on the morning of a big sale, "OPEN, OPEN, OPEN". The seedlings are doing well indoors right now.  Most of these are from the indoor greenhouse, a few of the herbs are out in the garden waking up from the winter, the columbine and artichokes are coming up out there too.

Today was the first day of our farmer's market season.  It's always muddy and a bit rainy the first few weeks.  I welcomed back some of my regular vendors. Right now the most that's available for about a month at the market will be plants, crafts, breads, and locally roasted coffee. There are a few farmers with greenhouses that have some lettuces and greens. I purchased a few things from Eva: a couple rosemary starts, some Jerusalem artichokes, and some kiwis.  I've heard that some people have started growing kiwis in the northwest.  I'm anxious to try hers. I took my camera ready to take some shots at the market, but it began to hail and rain very hard.  I stood under one of the canopies waiting for it to stop, but it just kept coming down. I was pretty drenched by the time I got back to my car. Those photos will have to wait.