May 27, 2011

May Veggie Potluck

We had another very successful vegan/vegetarian potluck in Longview.  I am pleased how well it's turned out.  There were about 25 people and we're seeing new faces each time.  I am impressed at the wonderful dishes we're all getting to try.  This time there were a lot more gluten free choices as well as many raw choices.  Desirée did a great job demonstrating raw cinnamon rolls.  They were very tasty.  I had enough walnuts at home to whip up a batch the next day.  Had to have some more of that.

Just some of the items at the buffet tables:

Arugula-Orange Fennel Salad
Lentil Apple Potato Salad
Black Rice, Mango, & Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Vegetarian Pie Crust Pizza
Sugar Cookie Fruit Bites
Potato Salad with tofu and herbs with a little cumin
Penne Pasta Primavera Salad
Collard Green Roll-Ups
Gluten Free Brownies
Three Bean Salad
Vegan Mac & Cheese with Broccoli
Live Lasagna
Israeli Cous Cous
Raw Berry Cheezecake
Vegan Five Grain Cookies
And Lester grabbed a few pounds of fresh asparagus, steamed and tossed them with herbs and olive oil.

The next one will be on June 26 and this time we have some folk musicians coming to entertain with their songs about plant based living and animal rights.  I was contacted by a couple out of Eugene Oregon who travel around singing, sharing poetry, and telling stories.  They are on a year long tour spreading the message about plant based eating and the benefits.  They will be bringing some vegan soaps, lotions, and fun. If you are interested in adding plant based meals to your life, come on down.  Maybe the sun will show itself and we can have an old fashioned Sunday afternoon party outside. I know, all you PNW residents are giggling at me right now.  But, we do call it liquid sunshine.

May 21, 2011

Asparagus Tamales ~ Fresh, Local, & In Season

It's asparagus time of year again and I've been enjoying it.  I think I've eaten steamed asparagus spears at least twice a week for the last month.  My favorited grilling it just until it turns bright green.

I made tacos with grilled asparagus with black rice, roasted red peppers, avocado, and Daiya Cheese, in hand made corn/flour tortillas.

We're planning a trip to southern Oregon pretty soon and as I planned our drive around some of my favorite farmer's markets and produce stops, I remembered the asparagus tamales a Mexican woman sells at the Salem farmer's market.  She sells frozen tamales by the dozen, but I've never bought that many as it's a two hour drive and no matter how I kept them on the way home, they'd have to be cooked an eaten as soon as we got home.  I thought I'd try it myself.  It's been a long time since I made tamales.  They're a bit labor intensive, so I don't make them very often.  This is a simple recipe, but including all the prep, it took me four hours from start to finish.  I washed a lot of asparagus so I could put mostly the nice tips in the tamales.  I steamed the rest of the asparagus and mixed it with some of the chiles I roasted and some spelt berries and some pineapple.  That made a great salad, cold or warm for my lunches this week.

I don't usually use a recipe for tamales, but I thought I'd look around for some vegan ideas and I'd like to share, so I need some measurements..  I found a recipe I liked pretty well, changing just a few things as I went along. I made the filling with a little more chilies than in the recipe.  I had some dried Pasillo peppers I soaked in filtered water until they were soft and easy to use.  I strained the seeds and bits out of the chili water and used that as a liquid while sautéing the peppers and onions.  I also used fresh jalapeño peppers and one large sweet red pepper I roasted, peeled, seeded. The cheese sauce called for vegetable broth powder and that's something I just don't have in my kitchen so I thought a little light miso might be nice.  I've used that in a number of vegan cheese sauces.  It worked out just fine.

Traditional tamales are prepared with lard, which is technically dairy-free, though certainly not vegan and not exactly healthy. These dairy-free cheese and jalepeno tamales are lard-free, vegan tamales that can be filled with many different kinds of fillings, from beans to veggies to sweet potatoes, and they are so much fun to serve!

I used dairy-free cream cheese in this recipe, but if this is not available, dairy-free soy margarine or even all-vegetable dairy-free shortening will work as well.

I doubled this recipe and ended up with about thirty tamales, half went into the freezer for a quick meal later.

Vegan Tamales
by Ashley Skabar

Makes 12 tamales


  • For the Tamales:
  • 14 large dried corn husks
  • 1 8-ounce tub dairy free cream cheese
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1 3/4 cups warm vegetable stock

    For the Filling:
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 jalepenos, finely chopped and seeded (I also added a a couple Pasillo peppers I had around)
  • 3 T. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • I added about three large fresh Asparagus Tips, 1 inch sliced, to each one - I put the asparagus in raw as it will steam plenty with the tamales.

    For the Dairy-free Cheese Sauce:
  • 2 cups plain dairy-free soymilk or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 2/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth powder (I used about 1-2 TB light miso paste)
  • 1 T. prepared mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste


1. Place the corn husks in a large bowl. Fill with water to cover, then place a plate or pan on top of the husks to submerge them for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, make the masa dough. In a medium-large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat the dairy-free cream cheese on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until aerated and fluffy. Add the masa harina and stock gradually, beating until well combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, adding the onion and garlic once hot. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft. Add the jalepenos, cilantro and salt, and cook for about 2 minutes more, or until the onions are translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Make the dairy-free cheese sauce. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, heat the soy milk and tahini. When just warm, add the nutritional yeast and turmeric, stirring until well combined, followed by the vegetable broth powder, stirring well until dissolved. Add the prepared mustard and cook until desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. Assemble the tamales. Tear 2 of the corn husks lengthwise (with the grain) into 12 strips and set aside. Drain the remaining corn husks and pat them dry. Place one of the corn husks on a dry work surface. Place about 1/4 cup of the masa harina mixture in the center of the corn husk, pressing the mixture into a rectangle and leaving about a 1- 1 1/2 inch border on the sides. Place 2 T. of the vegetable mixture onto the center of the masa rectangle, followed by about 2-3 T. of the dairy-free cheese sauce. Bring the "long sides" of the corn husk together without folding them over. Tuck in the ends of the cornhusk, then continue to fold the long sides of the husk around the tamale. Using one of the corn husk strips, tie the tamale to secure. Repeat with the remaining corn husks and batter.

 6. Cook the tamales. Fill a stockpot with a steamer insert with water so that it is just about 1/2 inch below the basket. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Place the tamales upright in the steamer basket, cover, and steam for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the batter is firm and easily comes away from the corn husk. Remove from heat and let the tamales stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with salsa, dairy-free cheese sauce or just as they are!

 I added a little tomatillo sauce, some of the dairy free cheese sauce, grilled asparagus, and a pineapple and mango salad.

May 15, 2011

Garden Update

The rain let up for a little while yesterday.  I am so glad we took advantage of the day and made it out to the garden for a few hours.  We planted our potatoes, a few red and green cabbage, some peppers, the broccoli and cauliflower starts, and spread last year's garden around in the form of compost.  We had some plans for today, if it didn't rain.  But, it did, so we did our gardening indoors.  We've got some squash, corn, peppers, and a few other things set to germinate.  Hopefully they will make it outside in a few weeks.

The garden is full of bird life right now.  We saw the usual Killdear, squawking at us and doing the little broken wing dance, to keep us from the neighboring nest. This year there are lots of little yellow finches out there.  I haven't noticed them before.  It was difficult getting a good picture because most of the flowers out there right now are the same bright yellow as the birds.  I think one day, I'll have to just sit in the path very quiet with the camera to get a good shot of them, they're really quick.  We also saw some ducks wandering around.  We've seen them nest out there before.  They'll be gone when all the other gardeners start showing up.  The little black birds were very happy we opened up our compost box and spread it around.  There were some very fat, long worms in the compost.  Those birds starting shopping around right next to us.  They weren't even waiting for us to leave.

Weekend Ramblings and Lots of Pie

Had a very nice time out at Rachel & Damon's place last Sunday. As usual, it was a refreshing break.  As we got a little out of town and around the winding road, we were greeted by the sun.  So glad we ventured out that way, it was raining when we left our neck of the woods.  We have to drive along the Columbia river to get there and took the opportunity for some photo practice on the way out and the way back.  We were only gone the afternoon and evening and managed to take something like 200 photos in that time period. I practiced my skills with Rachel's birdhouses. I love the sculpture-esc way she's arranged them on this old piece of nature's artwork.  Birdhouses she made with her nieces and nephews when they were small.  A project I would have liked enjoyed participating.

As always, we had a great meal, with plenty of fresh ingredients.  Rachel made a great vegetable and shrimp stir fry and some of her honey bread.  I brought a spelt berry salad and a big raw vegetable salad.  Her neighbor had delivered some fresh pea soup made with the peas from her garden last summer.  I had also made the cherry rhubarb Pie.  Rachel made her berry pie.  And I took another try at the banana cream pie.  The first time I didn't even get a whole piece.  It disappeared so fast. Even though all of our pies with low on sugar, it was a good thing dinner was full of fresh vegetables.  It felt like we so when we've had too much Thanksgiving dinner when we left.

Stir Fry, Peas Soup, Spelt Berry Salad

Spelt Berry Salad

Vegan Banana Cream Pie
They also has a little brood of baby Australorp hens, who provided lots of delightful entertainment.  This one is the only one left after the others were returned to their little home.  She was telling us all about it. There was quite the conversation going on here.

May 8, 2011

Cherry Rhubarb Pie ~ Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

We're headed to Rachel's for the afternoon.  I like it when we get together for a meal.  It's a very relaxing spot out on an island not too far from here on the Columbia River. It's very peaceful out there, she's got a nice spot.  She's a whole foods cook and we really don't know what we're making until we make it.  I usually come up with some kind of salad and a dessert. Most the time we don't even discuss the meal, but no matter what we each make, it usually blends together quite nicely. In the summer, I'll show up with a cooler.  I just throw in a lot of fruit and vegetables and some favorite cooking essentials and figure it out when I get there.  We both like to cook 'in season' and local when we can, so we tend to come up with the same base dishes many times without talking about it.  For instance, I'll post a blueberry cheesecake and later she'll post the blueberry coffee cake she made. It happens a lot.

While looking through the items in my kitchen looking for the inspiration yesterday, I came up with the idea of a cherry rhubarb pie.  I picked up some fresh rhubarb at the farmer's market yesterday and still have some sweet cherries I put up in the freezer last summer.  Cherry Rhubarb pie it is.  Her husband is borderline diabetic so I made this with no sugar.  I used the finely ground dried stevia leaves from the stevia I grew last season.  I also added 1 tablespoon of local honey and the juice of one orange.  This could be omitted or replaced with Agave for a vegan pie. I wanted to mask the potential after taste of the stevia. Stevia is a great sweetener, but it only takes 1 teaspoon to replace a cup of sugar.  It's easy to get a little too much. I'm still not comfortable with the measurements with the dried leaves. I tossed the rhubarb, cherries, stevia, honey, and juice with 3 tablespoons of tapioca.  I tossed in a handful of slivered raw almonds and a half teaspoon almond extract. Baked about an hour at 400º. Very simple.

I made the crust with date sugar instead of sugar.  Date sugar is the best, it's just ground dates.  But, it doesn't dissolve, so it's not a great sugar replacement for everything.  It worked just fine for the crust. I brushed the crust with some hemp milk and sprinkled date sugar on top the last 15 minutes of baking.

And as usual, we think alike.  I sent her a text with a picture of this pie and she returned a picture of her pie.  We did not discuss fruit pies. She returned a picture of the marionberry, raspberry, strawberry pie she just took out of the oven.

Now we will be eating some veggies and grains too.  I cooked up some spelt berries and black rice yesterday.  Not sure what they will be blended with, I'm thinking some cucumbers, red bell pepper, a little jalepeño pepper, some lamb's quarters, and chopped pineapple.  I'll add a little raspberry balsamic vinegar too.  I'll let you know how that works out. I have a couple sweet potatoes. I'll throw those in my bag too.  I'm thinking braised sweet potatoes.

May 6, 2011

A Luxury Yacht and a "Vegan" Banana Cream Pie

My husband always taught the boys to answer the question "What do you want?" with "A luxury yacht and a banana cream pie."  My answer was always "I can't do much about the yacht, but I can whip up a banana cream pie pretty quickly."

The latest issue of VegNews has a nice cream pie recipe.  It's vegan and gluten free. They've listed a few variations like chocolate, coconut, and lemon cream.  This is a pretty easy recipe and can be made a day before.  The recipe called for a package of vegan whipped topping so I thought I'd try it.  There was something called cashew coconut cream in the store, so I bought some hoping I could whip it.  I didn't like it so much as it didn't whip up fluffy.  Luckily I happened to have some of my own cashew coconut cream in the fridge.  I added a bit of that to the smoothie I had made instead of whipped cream and it thickened up rather nicely.  I think next time I make it I will use my own recipe for the creamy topping.  Afterall, it's so easy, just a half cup of cashews, a can of coconut cream (just the cream at the top), a couple tablespoons of confectioner's sugar,  a few drops of coconut or almond milk, and a vanilla bean. I garnished mine with toasted almonds, banana slices, and a couple Kale blossoms.

We took it to my daughter in law's birthday party.  It didn't last very long.

Bodacious Banana Cream Pie
   Vegan and Gluten Free
     by: Beverly Lynn Bennett

For the crust:

1½ cups gluten-free all purpose flour (or your favorite spelt, or WW pastry flour)
2 TB sugar (I used sucanat)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance has a nice organic vegan margarine)
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

6 TB gluten free-all purpose flour
6 TB sugar (agave, stevia, sucanot will all work)
2 teaspoons agar powder (flakes also work just fine)
2 cups vanilla coconut milk creamer
   I just love So-Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer, I use it for my ice creams
2 large bananas, I used 3 bananas for a nice layering of bananas and cream
1-16 ounce package vegan whipped topping, (or make your own cashew coconut creme)

Preheat oven to 400º

For the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add water a little at a time until mixture comes together in a ball.

Place dough between two 12-inch sheets of parchment paper.  Flatten into a disc, roll out to a 12 inch circle, and remove top sheet of parchment.  Flip pastry into a 9-inch pie pan, remove bottom parchment paper, and discard.  Trim pastry, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and flute edges as desired.  Prick bottom of pie crust in several places with a fork.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned around edges.  Allow pie crust  to cool completely.

For the filling, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together flour, sugar, and agar.  slowly whisk in coconut creamer, and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until thickened.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Prepare whipped topping according to package directions.  Decorate top of pie with whipped topping as desired then slice and serve.

May 1, 2011

Simple Vegetable Soup & Raw Chocolate Raspberry Pie

I just did the basics last week, pot 'o black beans, a big salad, a simple vegetable soup, and a raw chocolate raspberry pie. I am lucky enough to still have a few berries in the freezer from last summer.

Vegetable Soup: broccoli, carrots, red onions, sweet peppers, garlic, Jerulsalem artichokes, and brown rice.

Raw Chocolate Raspberry Pie

Crust - Raw Almonds,  Med Jul Dates, coconut flakes
Filling - raspberries, coconut butter (pureed coconut flakes), organic cocoa powder, and agave.
Topping - Cashew Coconut Creme

Happy May Day! Is it Really Spring Now?

I've been slacking on my blogging for the last two weeks.  Time to catch up.  Funny how once I start the procrastination in motion with something, it gets harder to get back in the habit.  I haven't been doing too many culinary treats out of the ordinary lately so I'm not too behind on recipes.  I've been sticking to our fruits in the morning, raw salads, and beans, with a few steamed veggies thrown in now & then.  I've also been anxiously waiting for the change from cooking to gardening.  It's been the wettest and coldest April, I've heard, in about 50 years.  This is the second spring in two years, we haven't seen sunshine in April.  But today the sun is shining and we're going out to work in the garden while we can.  It's supposed to be 70º today, I sure hope so.  It will bring some joy all over town. We'll  hear the sound of lawn mowers, motorcycles, and the outdoor toys as people come outside to play.  We've done a pretty good job of tackling the weeds and decayed plants.  The artichokes are coming back strong and many herbs made it through the winter.  I picked enough oregano yesterday to make a few quarts of oregano oil.
I took a stroll through the farmer's market yesterday and picked up a yellow Mystic Spirit dahlia, a couple Spanish Lavender plants, some rosemary, some fuchsia starts, Italian parsley, and a couple purple daisies. We managed to get most of it planted outside yesterday.  The fuchsia starts are for my deck.  I take pride in starting with tiny little seedlings and diligently trimming them daily until I have a full blooming fuchsia with beautiful big blooms.

 Even though it's early in the season, there are some crafty farmers who have some edibles.  I picked up a nice variety of edible flowers: mustard, turnip, and broccoli.  Those are broccoli flowers in my blog header. Ruth & Mike had some nice spinach and Eva had her herbs and Jerusalem artichokes.  After shopping I took out my camera and went for a walk through the market welcoming the vendors back for the season.

I do have a vegan banana creme pie in the fridge waiting for the cashew coconut creme.  I'll be sure to post some pictures and the recipe once we break into it later on.