August 28, 2011

The Bottle Flu & Near ~ Two songs by John S. Crocker

Thanks John for the lively entertainment at our fifth community vegan/vegetarian potluck. I uploaded my first YouTube upload. **giggling** We managed to get about five or six videos on our little Sony point and shoot camera. I am surprised how good they are. When I sent John's wife Mary a Facebook message telling her I was posting it on, the phone rang immediately. It was John and I was afraid he disapproved. He just wanted me to include his middle initial because there are so many John Crockers. :-)

LV Community Vegan/Vegetarian Potluck, August 21, 2011

 We had another successful potluck last weekend.  The sun came out and so did our friends.  We had thirty-five friends, new and old, enjoy dinner outside in the parking lot of Payton's Produce. It's been in the high 70's and 80's the last couple of weeks. It was a perfect summer afternoon.  My friend John came and played his original folk/blues music. Nothing I like better than Sunday afternoon in the sunshine with some live music, good food, and friends.  We put up a few canopies, some tables and chairs, and set up the food.  It's getting much easier now.  It's our fifth one and a core group has formed.  There are about ten friends who try to make every potluck so we all know what it looks like and the set up just takes place.  I am so grateful to friends and coworkers, the tables and chairs and canopies were the would be a big expense. Everybody pitches in to help.  Jimi brought some nice door prizes such as: fresh flowers, fruit, lavender products, and other items from local farms and businesses.  We were able to give a  few copies of Forks Over Knives away.  If we don't have a speaker for our December or February potlucks, maybe we'll just show the movie.  That would be fun.

When I first began this potluck I talked to the people I know at Northwest Veg who've been sponsoring a potluck in Portland for over twenty years and another in Vancouver for the last five years.  I asked them some questions about what works and what doesn't, what to provide, or not, how to get speakers, etc.  One of the things Jill told me was that they weren't always culinary wonders.  She said sometimes it's only six people and sometimes one hundred or more. That's usually the January or February potluck, health and fitness are pretty popular those months. But, ours have turned out to be culinary adventure.  Some of the friends who come to the potluck think about what they might make a month before and even practice some recipes.  We've had some absolutely wonderful food.  It's changing with the seasons too.  This time zucchini was the star of the show.  Our next potluck is in October.  I'm looking forward to the pumpkin and winter squash meals that show up. We're all learning from each other too.  Most of the food this time was vegan, raw, and quite a bit was even gluten free.

Some people took their ingredient cards home so I don't remember them all, but of the wonderful food we had was:

Raw Sweet Potato Salad
Vegan Potato Salad
Organic Fruit Salad
Wheat Berry Salad
Raw Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Trail Mix Cookies
Vegan Potatoes, peppers, onions, and green beans salad
Little apricot tarts
Zucchini Hummus
My Cheesy Chili Flax Crackers with fresh carrots & zucchini
Eggplant walnut paté
Flowerless Chocolate Torte ~ This one was very popular
Vegan Peach Banana Cream Pie
Carrots, snow peas, and honey, with lemon juice
Raw Zucchini Ravioli
Two versions of raw zucchini spaghetti, one with bean sausages

The next potluck is October 21, 7:00 p.m. Dr. Richard Heitsch from the Integrated Medicine Group in Portland is going to give a talk about reversing heart disease. I'll be sure to post the details as it gets closer.

August 21, 2011

French Bean & Spelt Berry Salad ~ The Perfect Vegan Meal

I've made it a habit to shop the liquidation stores in town.  We have about four or five in the area and often there are many items I use to cook with that are marked down considerably.  Sometimes the packaging is damaged or the original price was just too high and the items didn't sell well in the local markets.  That is a big deterrent when people are just beginning to incorporate plant based cooking in their diet.  Organic fruits, vegetables, and many products are more expensive in the grocery stores.  It doesn't have to be that way though.

Yes, if you shop in the conventional grocery stores, it will be more expensive to eat whole foods. But, shopping the local farmer's markets and buying what's in season, getting to know the local gardeners and farmers, shopping the discount stores like the liquidation stores, and growing your own veggies, are good ways to keep the cost low.  Many items seem to be more expensive at first glance.  For example, Celtic Sea Salt usually costs about $6-$8 a pound.  But, that pound lasts me for months and months.  I use coconut milk quite often, the only thing I use from a can, and the brand I like is usually $2.29 a can.  I can find it now & then at the liquidation store for sometimes as low as $1 a can.  I usually buy all they have and stock up. I use pre-made organic, low sodium vegetable broth for cooking my beans.  I used to be happy when it was two for $5.  I've found it in the liquidation store as low as ten for $1.

Recently there were a lot of Bob's Red Mill products on the shelf.  I picked up some French beans I'd never seen before, Flageolet Beans, and there was a great recipe right on the back of the bag.  It's the perfect vegan meal, "protein, greens, & grains". The original recipe calls for Kamut berries, but I used some spelt berries I have already.  Any whole grain or combination of grains can be substituted for the Kamut berries such as:  whole oat groats, hull-less whole barley, wheat berries, long grain brown rice, or spelt berries.  I substituted fresh beet greens for the spinach and a fresh white onion from the garden for the green onion.

French Bean & Kamut Berries Salad

2 cups cooked Kamut berries or other whole grains
2 cups cooked Flageolet Beans
1 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 cups spinach or other fresh greens, chopped


1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 TB white wine vinegar (I used organic apple cider vinegar.)
2 TB Dijon mustard
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Tarragon (I used fresh rosemary)
1 TB fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper.

Soak beans, about 1 cup, overnight.  Drain water and rinse off beans.  Place beans in a pot covered with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer placing lid on pot.  cook beans until beans are soft, about 1 hour.

Place Kamut or other Spelt berries, about 11/2 cups in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and place lid on pot.  Cook until berries are soft, about 1 hour.

While the beans and berries are cooking, mix vinaigrette ingredients together in a large bowl.  Chop veggies and place in bowl.

Drain beans and berries and rinse in cold water. Measure out 2 cups of both the beans and berries and add them to the other ingredients in the bowl.

Blend together  all ingredients and chill for a few hours or overnight.  Serves about 10.


August 16, 2011

Cheezy Crunchy Kale Chips

I mentioned the kale chip marinade in my last flax cracker recipe post, but I don't think I've actually posted a kale chip recipe yet. I've been making kale chips quite regularly this year since I am growing plenty of beautiful purple kale in the garden.  I spotted them in the local health food store recently and, my goodness, they were about $7+ a package for what I thought was about $.50 worth of kale.  The packaging must be expensive.  I made up my mind right there to find a good recipe we liked.  This is a very tasty recipe.  I brought some to the baby shower for Gracie and Rhonda really thought I used cheese to make them.  She had a surprised look on her face when she tasted them and said "You used cheese."  Nope, they're vegan.

I had a recipe I was using that was adequate, but this one came in summer recipe Newsletter from VegNews.  I really like it.  With the kale and tahini, they're a high calcium yummy chip.  I made just a couple substitutions:  I used the fresh kale from my garden and tamari in place of the Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  I have recently heard that Bragg's Liquid Aminos have some of the same qualities as MSG so I've decided to avoid it.

The recipe calls for 1 bunch kale, not sure how much I really used as it was more like an armload.  I doubled the recipe and it worked out just fine. Kale dehydrates faster than most the fruit I dry.  I think these were done before I went to bed, about 6-8 hours in the dehydrator.

These are a big hit at my house even with the guy who doesn't like raw kale. In fact, the last time I made some he enthusiastically helped me clean and ready all the kale.  The chips don't hang around too long when I make them. 

Cheezie, Crunchy Kale Chips
     by Kittee Berns

1 bunch kale, cleaned and de-stemmed
2 tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons warm water
1-1/2 tablespoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos or Tamari
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, divided
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated

1. Cut kale into 2-inch pieces I just tore them in the sizes I like, I like them a bit larger with the leaf shape still pretty much intact.

2.  In a small bowl, place the tahini and tablespoon by tablespoon, mix in the warm water until smooth.  Stir in the aminos or tamari, chili powder, and cayenne, and 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, and mix until smooth. Stir in grated carrot.

3.  In a giant bowl, or in batches if necessary, combine kale with sauce.  Toss to cover every leaf with sauce and carrots. Then add the remaining 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, so that it clings to the leaves.

4.  Divide the kale evenly over the dehydrator trays and dehydrate between 105-115º for about 4-6 hours until dry and crispy.  I put one of the dehydrator trays on top of the kale to keep it from blowing off when they dry. 

They can be made using an oven on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Follow the directions for dehydrating, but when you lay the kale on the tray, try to get it in as much of a single layer as possible.  Heat the oven to its lowest temperature.  Watch carefully and flip several times at 16 to 20 minute intervals until dry and crispy.

August 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Gracie Marie Camba

Gracie Marie Camba

Born Saturday night, August 13, 2011 at 8:50 p.m., 8 pounds, 20 1/2 inches and very beautiful.

Congratulations to my dear friends Rhonda and Lupe on their first grandchild.  I feel so blessed to be included in such a special event.

I have many pictures of Rhonda in this pose with a baby, but none with a smile this big.

 Proud Abuelito, He looks like it's love at first sight.


Cheezy Veggie Flax Crackers & Cucumber Dill Cashew Cheese Dip

Inspired by a Facebook post from Viva Institute of some very appealing carrot fax crackers they prepared in their kitchen I tried some of my own with some fresh baby carrots and zucchini from the garden.  I was chatting with someone on their site and they mentioned they used 1 cup of flax seeds to two cups of nuts for a crispier, flakier cracker.  I also thought the tahini marinade I use for my kale chips might add a little cheezy zing to the crackers.  Here's what I came up with.  

Cheezy Veggie Flax Crackers

I used: 1 cup flax seed, 2 cups macadamia nuts, 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes soaked in 1 cup filtered water, finely grated zucchini & carrots, a few fresh herbs from the garden, and a little sauce made with the water from the sun dried tomatoes, 1 1/2 TB tamari, 2 heaping TB of tahini, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, and a dash of chili powder, cayenne, and sea salt.

I soaked the flax seeds in 1 1/4 cups water and the pumpkin seeds and macadamia nuts for two hours or more.  I blended half the macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds in the food processor with the tomatoes and soak water from the tomatoes with the herbs and seasonings.  I tossed the grated zucchini & carrots in with the flax seeds,  nuts, and pumpkins seeds and dehydrated for not quite 18 hours, turning over half way through so they would dry thoroughly.

I made a nice cool cucumber dill cashew cheese dip to go with them. These crackers came out really great.  It made for a nice summer meal.

Cucumber Dill Cashew Cheese

2 cups cashews
1 cup filtered water or rejuvelac
1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 1/2 TB green onion, chopped, I used a fresh white one from the garden.
2 TB dried dill or 1 TB fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes

Dash of fresh ground pepper.
1 medium to large fresh cucumber, diced

Blend the cashews and filtered water until very smooth. Place in a 1/2 gallon open-mouth glass jar or pitcher.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band.  Cover with a towl and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

Pour cashew mixture into a large mixing bowl, combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. 

What a journey, a couple of years ago I could say we were almost vegan.  Now, we're mostly vegan and getting very much into the raw food fun.  My stovetop resembles a prep table most the time now instead of a place to cook food.

August 8, 2011

Creamy Coconut Milk Marionberry Ice Cream ~ It's an Ice Cream Party

You scream, I scream, we all scream for Ice Cream.  Yum.

Had sort of an ice cream party this weekend.  A few of my friends made ice cream and we all posted on FB. It began with Felicia, she just bought an ice cream machine last week and she was anxious to get started.  She asked for some ideas and I gave her some tips as well as went shopping with her to pick out some key ingredients. She promptly whipped up some chocolate chip ice cream using bananas and coconut milk as her base.  I got to try some and it was delicious. I didn't get a picture of hers though.

Last week I gave Rachel some of my organic cherries I put up in the freezer last weekend.  This weekend she made some Cherry Pecan frozen yogurt. She used: Greek Yoghurt, Coconut Milk, Homemade Vanilla (w/alcohol to ensure it doesn't turn to a brick in the freezer), Fresh Cherries, Honey, Handful of Pecans.  She described it as "Rich and Delightful".  It looks like it is.

Rachel's Cherry Pecan Frozen Yogurt

Barb made homemade apricot preserve cream cheese ice cream.  Looks very creamy. 

Barb's Homemade Apricot Preserve Cream Cheese Ice Cream

It all looked so good, I had to join in with my vegan version of ice cream.  Wasn't sure which flavor I wanted to play with.  It was a toss up between cherry and marionberry.  I mentioned it to Barb and she said she wanted some marionberry. I was lucky enough to be at Payton's Produce when a berry picker came in with his berries a couple weeks ago.  He had fresh raspberries and two flats of plump fresh marionberries.  I took home three flats of his raspberries and one flat of the beautiful marionberries.   I mixed up a creamy coconut milk marionberry ice cream.  

Deb's Creamy Coconut Milk Marionberry Ice Cream

Creamy Coconut Milk Marionberry Ice Cream

Makes 6 cups

Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 cups fresh marionberries, or substitute your favorite fruit
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended.  I strained the berries and used the juice in the ice cream mixture.  About five minutes before the mixture was finished I added whole berries.   Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to your maker's directions.  Mine takes about half an hour. Once processed, pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

I mixed about 1 TB pure maple syrup to about 1 cup berries for a juicy berry topping.

August 7, 2011

Pine and Macadamia Nut Stuffed Squash Flowers

Yesterday morning I couldn't help but gather a few squash flowers for dinner.  I have to be careful not to take too many because I want the squash to grow.  So, I took just a couple flowers from all the squash in the garden:  zucchini, delicata, pumpkin, crookneck, acorn, and butternut.  I am amazed how all the flowers from the various varieties of  of squash all look the same.  I don't get to see them blooming too much as I usually get out to the garden in the late afternoon and they've mostly closed up by then.  Yesterday morning they were all standing up and showing their beauty. I can and do pick them occasionally and have a raw flower snack in the garden. I didn't know they were so delightful until last year when I heard about cooking them. If you haven't tried your squash flowers, I think you should.  It surprised me how much a flower can taste like a fresh zucchini.  Be sure to be careful when cleaning them and always look inside before eating them in the garden.  I have brought home some guests like bumblebees and cucumber beetles.

I made a nut cheese for some raw zucchini ravioli from a Vegan Fusion Recipe.  It's from the The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Raw.  I made the Turnip and Pine Nut Ravioli, page 230, substituting fresh zucchini for the ravioli. I thought the cheese would also make a lovely cheese filling for my flowers.  I squeezed about 1 tsp of cheese into the bottom of a cleaned flower with my handy tool and dipped in a mixture of ground flax seeds and non-dairy milk, then dredged in a little flour and cornmeal, and gently sautéed in hot grape seed oil with a fresh sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary.  A small teaspoon works well for stuffing the flowers, that's what I used last year.

Pine & Macadamia Nut Cheese
      The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Raw.

1 cup pine nuts soaked at least 2 hours
2 cups macadamia nuts, soaked at least 2 hours **
1 TB fresh rosemary, minced
4 tsp fresh parsley, minced
4 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2 TB nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup rejuvelac or filtered water, as needed

**Other nuts may be substituted such as: cashews, Brazil nuts, or almonds.

Rinse pine nuts and macadamia nuts, and drain well for at least 10 minutes.  Place in a food processor fitted with an S blade, and process on high speed for about 10 seconds.

Add rosemary, parsley, thyme, nutritional yeast, salt, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar.  Blend on high speed for about 20 seconds while adding rejuvelac through the top until a smooth, cheesy consistency is reached. 

Squash Flowers, stuffed with pine and macadamia nut cheese, dipped in a mixture of ground flax seeds and hemp milk, then dredged in a little flour and cornmeal, and gently sautéed in grape seed oil with a fresh sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Garden Update ~ Early August

I don't remember the name of these bulbs, but I sure love them.  I have to get out to the garden in the morning to catch them in full bloom though, they close up and go to sleep by early afternoon.

Despite the few days of sunny weather, our garden is moving along.  I'm pulling out onions and zucchini daily and just about everything has something that looks like a vegetable growing.  The corn is almost to the bottom of the second pink row going up on Molly's overalls.  I figured out I can watch the corn's progress by comparing it to the color rows on her pants. I walked around and got some photos of just baby veggies the other day.

Yesterday I filled a box with lots of treats: two kinds of zucchini, crookneck squash, three kinds of beets, red cabbage, broccoli, a dozen artichokes, shallots, onions, squash flowers of every kind of squash I have, (Don't want to take too many from one plant.), fresh rosemary and lavender.

The husband of a dear friend of mine, who passed away in 2009, lives in the house behind my garden and there was some interesting commotion going on.  I recognized his daughter, whom I haven't seen in awhile, Wasipi.  I was glad to see her. I've been wanting to thank her for reminding me of the Green Tortoise's Baja adventure.  Something, we'd want to go on, but I had forgotten about.  After she told me of her 15 day whale watching adventure, I checked it out.  We ended up having an unforgettable Thanksgiving on a secluded beach in Baja with a small group of wonderful people. Turns out, yesterday was Steve's 90th birthday and they were getting ready setting up the celebration in his backyard.  I was happy to fill a bag with some fresh veggies and nasturtiums for their salad.

I dropped some veggies off to another friend on the way home who likes to cook with fresh ingredients. She's just started doing some cooking and baking without animal products.  Felicia told me she had never eaten a beet in her life.  Lucky her, most of us were introduced to beets as canned, overcooked, remnants of their original form.  I am not surprised when someone's first reaction to beets is negative. She gets to try beets for the first time, tender and fresh out of the garden.  My husband never liked them until we started eating them fresh and most times raw. The golden beets are so tender when fresh picked I can eat them like an apple.