Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pineapple Filled Bars

This will have you dreaming of Hawaii. It's one of my favorite bars ever and I've been making it for years. Here's the header from the recipe: There is a thick layer of pineapple which gives this its flavor and helps to keep it moist. Freezes well! This is from one of my first Company's Coming cookbooks I purchased (in 1981) called 150 Delicious Squares by Jean Pare. She puts together some of the best cookbooks I've ever seen. I've rarely had a failure with any of her recipes and because of that I've gone on to purchase many of her subsequent cookbooks. Lucky for me the original recipe is totally vegan and very easy to make. Make two pans of pineapple filled bars -- one to tuck in the freezer (for the upcoming festive season) and one to sample. I'm almost sure this will become one of your new favorites too!

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hard margarine
(such as Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
1/8 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups shredded coconut

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
1 tbsp. margarine
3 tbsp. cornstarch

Bottom layer: Mix first 5 ingredients together until crumbly. Spread about 2/3 in greased 9x9 pan. Set aside.

Filling: Stir next 5 ingredients together in saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring over medium heat. Cool slightly. Spread over bottom layer. Cover with remaining crumbs pressing down with your hand. Bake in 350F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown in color. Cut while warm into desired number of squares but let cool completely before removing squares from pan for best results.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I have made this recipe using oat instead of wheat flour. It would probably also lend itself very well to using the pre-packaged gluten-free flour mixes on the market. The cookie base of this recipe is very sweet -- if you prefer less sweet I'd try cutting down the brown sugar to 3/4 cup and adding an extra 1/4 cup flour in it's place so you don't end up with less mixture in total. You can also cut another 1/4 cup sugar from the filling. That should help quite a bit as that would be a total of 1/2 cup you are eliminating from the entire recipe. If you can find your crushed pineapple in 8 oz cans that's perfect for this recipe -- I used to be able to at one time. I'll have to check Save-On Foods as I think that is where I found them a few years ago. I used the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks and I think I could get away with using slightly less than the 1/2 cup (next time I plan to try with 2 tablespoons less). I'll update here when I do and let you know if it's a go or a no! I used the Let's Do Organics finely shredded unsweetened coconut. If you haven't had organic coconut without sulphites before you'll be surprised at the color -- no snow white happening here -- it's a kinda of creamy vanilla color. If you click on the photo above you'll get a close-up of the crystal goblet -- it contains the organic coconut of which I speak. It worked very well in this recipe.

Whole Vegetarian Food

I recently discovered this store while on my way to Padmanadi Restaurant. I was intrigued to see the sign Whole Vegetarian Food and of course could not help myself from pulling over to see what kind of vegetarian food would be inside. It's mostly freezers lined up around the walls containing every possible kind of faux meat product you can imagine and can't! There are a couple of shelves stocked with some unusual and interesting things such as instant drinks, soups and noodles in varieties (such as Royal Jelly Fungus Almond Powder) that I've never heard of before. I will have to go back for a container of oat milk powder as I want to try to make a vegan condensed milk for my xmas baking and I didn't have any luck the other day finding an instant soy or oat milk powder at Planet Organic.

The clerk running Whole Vegetarian Food was very friendly and helpful. A few items I did recognize were veggie fish ham, veggie smoked drumsticks and citrus ribs. They do have a web site so you can peruse to your hearts' content in the privacy of your own home and that way you won't have to go through each and every freezer wondering what's what! It will save you lots of time too if you know exactly what you want to purchase. I picked up some veggie fish & chicken pieces -- the photo above will give you a good idea of what it looks like. The veggie fish was very easy to prepare -- just steam in a shallow saucepan with a bit of veggie broth powder and it's ready in under 10 minutes. The chicken pieces were just as easy -- stir fry in a pan with a bit of olive oil until browned. A note of caution to vegans -- make sure you read the labels carefully -- a lot of products do contain whey protein.

The store, located at 9738 - 107 Avenue is open Monday to Sunday 10:30am to 6:30pm. It's definitely a nice addition to the vegetarian scene in Edmonton as previously it would be difficult to find such products let alone such a wide selection. There are stores in Vancouver and Calgary as well. Go check out their website make a list, go visit the store and pick up something new to try for dinner. If you want to call ahead to confirm that what you want is in stock at Whole Vegetarian Food and/or that their hours are still the same call 780-756-6186.

And since you're in the neighborhood you might as well stop by Padmanadi Restaurant - 10626 - 97th Street  for a bite to eat since it's so close. One of our new personal favorites right now is their ginger beef and if you've never tried it you're in for a treat -- it's divine. Also on the 4th, 11th, and 18th of December (all Fridays), Padmanadi will be having a buffet from noon until 10pm. If you have never been before it's a great opportunity to sample all kinds of dishes for a very low cost ($15).

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I'm trying to create a tasty vegan strata and did put together one last night. I'll give you the photo here but no recipe yet as it's a work in progress. I'm not satisfied with it so I'm going to give it another attempt.

Thanks goodness it wasn't a total inedible mess and I was able to eat it for lunch and will be having more for dinner tonight :) For tomorrow's lunch I have plans to transform the remainder into a cream of veggie strata soup in the blender with 2-3 cups of soy milk and a few tablespoons of flour. I have some good ideas for revamping this dish and hopefully I'll be able to share a much improved recipe in the near future. The first layer of broccoli and a bit of cheesy sauce was perfect but the 2nd layer needs to be replaced with mashed sweet potatoes/red potatoes. The 3rd layer needs to be double the volume and the spinach needs to be replaced with bread cubes. I'm looking forward to trying it again with those modifications as I think this has the potential to be a real showpiece for special occasions.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tofu Ala Mixed Veggie Shepherd's Pie

The ever popular crowd pleaser we all know as Shepherd's Pie. There are probably as many versions as there are Shepherds and this one is my latest favorite. The Ala Tofu part of the recipe sure helped to boost the flavor of the frozen mixed veggies I put in. Well let's roll up our sleeves and get the party started. With any luck you'll have this on the table in less than 1.5 hours. If you're planning this dish a day ahead you could marinate your tofu overnight for even more flavor per square bite! If not, stir frying the tofu separately with the listed spices or your favorites will make a big difference to the final product and will be sufficiently tasty for sure. I am very impressed with the 100% organic Morton & Bassett granulated garlic with parsley. One sniff had me wanting garlic toast - very aromatic.

1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 stalks bok choy or celery
2 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
2 cups mixed frozen vegetables
1 package tofu 175gm (about 8 oz)
4-6 potatoes for topping
3-4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon Vegetarian Base
1/2 cup plain soy milk
spices - chili powder, sage, garlic & parsley
veggie broth
paul bragg or tamari

1. Grab your bag of frozen mixed veggies and measure out two cups. Put into a strainer and rinse them off with some water. Let them sit in the strainer to drain and thaw out a bit.

2. Peel and quarter about 4-6 potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).Drain potatoes and save a few tablespoons of cooking water to add back. Mash, add a bit of margarine, salt, a few tablespoons of cooking water and soy milk if required.

3. Saute onion and garlic for a bit until softened. Add bok choy or celery and the diced carrots.Dice 1 large or 2 small potatoes about the same size as the carrots. Add the potatoes along with the slightly thawed 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies. Add a few tablespoons of water, a few teaspoons of veggie broth powder, put on a lid and let simmer for about 5 minutes or so.

4. Get a small bowl. Put in about 2 tablespoons of flour. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup of plain soymilk. Whisk to get rid of any lumps. Add the bouillon, ketchup and a few teaspooons paul bragg and blend together. Add to the cooked veggies, stir and let sit on low while you fry the tofu.

5. Heat up a little olive oil in another small fry pan. Dice the tofu into small cubes. Throw in the frying pan and season with chili powder, paul bragg and granulated garlic with parsley. Stir around for a bit until it gets lightly browned.

6. Mix tofu into the veggies. Put into 8x8 glass pan. Top with mashed potatoes. Put in oven at 350F for about 1/2 hour.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Says it's made from the world's best ingredients and I'd say they aren't kidding. One whiff of this will have you sold. Really perks up lots of what it does for quick stir fry of tofu cubes. I'm not going to want to run out of this one.

The classic ingredient for almost any recipe! Sprinkle liberally into marinades, butter sauces, pasta, stir-fry and rice dishes. Substitute one-quarter teaspoon for one fresh clove in your favorite vegetarian entrees. Contains: garlic and parsley.
USDA Certified 100% Organic, all natural, salt-free, preservative free, no MSG, non-irradiated, not genetically engineered and KSA kosher certified.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Puffed Kamut Squares

Slight twist on an old favorite! Traditionally known as puffed wheat squares and a staple sweet from the 60's. This is one that my mom made many times and we all loved. Eight kids can't be wrong and you won't go wrong with this simple recipe! Beware for sure -- I looked on the internet and various recipes abound for this (some I question if they would hold together) and they go under the name of puff wheat cakes (never heard that one before), puffed wheat bars, and the one I know it as - puffed wheat squares. Apparently it's not that well known in the united states but here on the prairies during the 60's I'm sure it was being made in practically every household. Back than neither organic nor kamut were terms that were common. Well we now have organic puffed kamut and naturally it works perfectly in place of the puffed wheat in this recipe. 1960 meets 2009!

1/3 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
1/3 cup *golden syrup*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa
6 cups puffed organic kamut (nature's path)

Put your 6 cups of puffed kamut into a large size bowl (so you have lots of room to stir it around and coat all the puffs evenly).

Put your margarine, syrup, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the puffed kamut and stir until all puffs are evenly coated. Press into a greased 8x8 square pan using your hands. Then I go over it with the back of a flipper pressing as hard as possible to make sure it's compressed really well. Cool. Loosen edges. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into whatever size pieces you prefer.
*corn syrup can be used in place of golden syrup*

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles

I don't know about anyone else but I personally get a huge chuckle out of these cookbooks that say you can get 24 pieces out of anything that fits in a 8x8 pan! I'm lucky to get 12 pieces of a size that somebody would actually want to bother with. That's why I'm not going to say how many pieces this recipe makes -- that's for you to decide! Heck it could be anywhere from 4-24 depending on how many are in your family and what mood you're in!

I should have subbed agave syrup for the golden syrup but too late! Next time I'll give it a try for sure. Especially since I was lucky enough to pick up a bottle of maple flavored agave syrup on my last trip browsing the organic food aisles. As you can well imagine it's delicious. Unlike some of the recipes I've seen out there my mom's recipe has never let me down and you should be happy with it. Just a few pointers -- makes sure you use hard margarine (soft tub margarine won't set as hard and could make it crumbly), make sure you use proper measuring cups for dry and liquid, use an excellent quality cocoa (Camino) and it should all be good!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carrot and Cashew Nut Roast

With the Christmas holiday season a mere month away you might want to start thinking about some festive roasts that will appeal to veggies and non-veggies alike. This is an easy to make loaf that I've made in the past for various family get-togethers and it's very well received by omni's so put this on your to-do-list while you still have time. Bonus points here as this recipe is freezer friendly. Those kind of recipes are always at the top of my list because you sure don't want to be the one left behind on Christmas Day slaving over a hot stove. This nut roast is also delicious served cold so no need to even worry about keeping it hot if you don't want to. I got this recipe from a beautiful cookbook called "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" (Chris Hardisty/Smithmark). I love this cookbook because it has a full color photo with each and every recipe! I received this book as a xmas gift from my DD Nicole in 1994 so it's been on my shelf for quite a while. Seeing photos inspires me more than anything else to try out a recipe. I personally think cookbooks without photos should be illegal! j/k!! But it makes such a impact to actually be able to visualize the finished product. I'm sure that factor is what makes food blogs so popular. Works for me! Now on to this fabulously easy recipe.

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups carrots, cooked and mashed
2 cups cashew nuts, ground
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. tahini
1-1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
*1 teaspoon yeast extract*
Juice of 1/2 lemon
*1/3 cup stock* from the carrots
salt and pepper

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.
2. Mix together with all the other ingredients and season to taste.
3. Place in the mixture in a greased loaf pan.
4. *Cover with foil* and bake at 350F for one hour.
5. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Leave to stand in the baking pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out.

Freezing: This loaf can be frozen at the end of step 3. When required, remove from the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue from step 4 or freeze at the end of step 6.

*I used Better than Bouillon (vegetarian no chicken soup base) because I didn't have yeast extract. Don't think it's crucial -- whatever you have on hand should suffice.*

*If you are leaving your nut roast to eat cold the next day I would use 1/2 cup of carrot stock as overnight the breadcrumbs tend to absorb some of the moisture causing it to be a little drier. *

*Foil -- if you can the next time you need to replace your aluminium foil roll consider buying the If You Care 100% recycled aluminium foil. It is made using only 5% of the energy required for regular foil. *

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I think you could easily sub either 1 cup of quick oats or cornflake crumbs for the 1 cup breadcrumbs and still have a very nice loaf. Also, I'm quite sure any ground up nut would work in the place of the cashews even though I know that cashews are a very nice rich tasting nut. If you have allergies to cashews or don't have the means to grind up nuts you could always buy a package of ground almond meal from your local health store. I'm a huge peanut butter fan so I think I might try fresh roasted peanuts next time round.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

I've been wanting to make a stuffed dish for a very long time but always hesitated because it seemed like so much work! My overwhelming desire to try to make something with the amazing purported "gold of the Incas" supergrain we know as Quinoa finally led me to peruse an extensive selection of zucchini stuffed dishes scattered all over the internet. I got a few pointers and then went with the ingredients I know and love the best. I'm thrilled beyond belief with how delicious this turned out and I'm glad I have this blog to record it on so I'll have a reference for the next time I want to make it! That's actually one of the main reasons I'm doing this blog -- it's because my DD's have complained over and over to me that I never make the same recipe twice and of course they are right. I never ever wrote anything down before but having a blog forces one to do this and now even I will know how to duplicate this gift from the quinoa gods next time the mood hits. So now, get your chef's knife sharpened and let's get chopping!

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk bok choy or celery
few sprigs parsley
175 gm crumbled extra firm tofu
1 can plum tomatoes, drained (save sauce)
3 medium size zucchini (halved & scooped out)
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
sage (1/2 teaspoon)
chili powder & garlic powder (to taste)
veggie broth powder -- about 2 teaspoons
paul bragg -- a few shakes

Pre-cook quinoa -- you'll need 1-1/2 cups cooked for this recipe. One cup raw quinoa will give you approximately 4 cups of lightly packed cooked quinoa. Freeze the leftover or just cook up 1/2 cup of raw if you don't want much leftover. I'm going to recommend Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa here as it's vacuum packed and gives an expiry date. For Quinoa I would hesitate to buy bulk as I've had some bad experiences where it doesn't taste as fresh as it should. Also, Bob's is totally pre-washed so you don't have to worry about rinsing and rinsing to remove the natural bitter coating that quinoa has if this has not been done for you. Once you remove it from the vacuum sealed package I would recommend putting into the fridge or freezer to keep it as fresh as possible.

Wash your zucchini (buy organic if you can as you'll be eating the peel). Dry, slice in half length wise and using a small spoon scoop out the zucchini pulp leaving a 1/4 inch rim around the perimeter. These will be your small zucchini boats that you will be stuffing so don't scrape too hard and leave enough attached so they will be sturdy enough once cooked. Use the pulp from 3 halves of the zucchini for your stuffing and put the other half aside for the "side vegetable dish" recipe below.

Turn your oven to 375F. Lightly grease your baking pan (I used 9x13 glass pyrex dish). Put in a thin layer of some of your leftover tomato sauce -- save a bit to baste over zucchini boats if desired.

Chop everything - the onion, garlic, zucchini, parsley, garlic, stalk bok choy very nice and fine. After all these are small zucchini boats :) Add the spices you are using. Saute everything in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until slightly softened. Now crumble in the tofu and continue to saute until everything is lightly cooked. Drain your plum tomatoes and chop them finely and stir through your veggie/tofu mixture. Stir in your 1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa. Check and adjust seasonings as required. Spoon mixture into zucchini shells. Place into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Check on it at this point -- if bottom is drying out too much add a few teaspoons of water or sauce. Also baste a little tomato sauce on top of zucchini if you like. Cover pan with lid or foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Cook another 15 minutes. Check to see if it's tender (pierce with knife or fork). Uncover and let bake for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from oven. It will probably require two flippers to successfully transfer zucchini from baking dish to plate! If it seems too fragile just cut in half and it will be much easier. A bit of a fussy recipe but well worth the fuss. It got a two thumbs up from my faithful testers!

p.s. If you are on the saucy side, like me, you can whip up a small batch of our old faithful semi-cheesy white sauce (made with 1 tablespoon of E.B. margarine, 2 tablespoons flour,and about 1-1/4 - 1-1/2 cup plain soy milk, garlic/parsley powder, 1-1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, splash of paul bragg or salt and pepper, if desired). Please note: this sauce is not a must -- the dish stands well on it's own but I was in the mood to try it with a bit of topping the second go around. It's good both ways.

Side of Vegetables
2 medium size potatoes - sliced in rounds;then cut into strips
2 medium size carrots, grated medium side grater
leftover zucchini from above - cut into kinda strips - of course it's been spooned out but just do the best you can with it.
1/2 cup frozen peas
toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a few shakes
of garlic powder & dried parsley plus chili powder

Put into 8x8 glass pan, and cook alongside your stuffed zucchini. Will take approximately the same amount of time to cook. The trick to the quicker cooking is to cut all veggies in the manner I've outlined above. Zucchini is an easy vegetable and gets along well with others so throwing our leftovers in with a few old favorites makes for a tasty side dish. A lot of flavor for so little effort!

Quinoa 101
Typically classified as a grain it is in fact a vegetable seed distantly related to beets, spinach and swiss chard! Obviously it's gene pool comes from the super heroes of highly nutritious food. It's so magnificent that the NASA space program is considering it as a staple food for their long-term space missions. Here's a few quick stats:

*higher in protein than any other grain: quinoa is 16% protein. As a comparison rice is 7.5% protein.
*contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a "complete protein,"
*a good source of dietary fiber
*rich in E and B vitamins
*high in minerals including calcium, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese

It's also purported to be very beneficial for migraine sufferers as the magnesium found in quinoa is helpful for relaxing the blood vessels. It's low in fat, high in fibre and gluten free. Bring on the quinoa. Two cups of quinoa seed cooked in four cups of water results in eight fluffy cups of the stuff! That's what I cooked up this morning as I needed 1-1/2 cups for my recipe above and wanted some leftover to stash in the freezer for a rainy day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tapioca - Chocolate or Vanilla?

Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla? It's a hard decision so I decided to make both! They're both delicious in their own special way. Tapioca is another blast from the past that is making a big comeback. And once you make it you'll know why. Something so easy shouldn't be so good! Instead of singing tiny bubbles in the wine you'll be singing tiny bubbles in the pudding! Something else to sing about -- Tapioca root can also be used to manufacture environmentally friendly plastic bags. A polymer resin produced from the plant is a viable plastic substitute that is not only biodegradable, but is also compostable, renewable, and recyclable. The resulting product biodegrades in less than 1 year, as opposed to thousands of years for traditional plastics. Bring on the tapioca shopping bags! Of course it's great to bring your own bags but in reality there are still millions of zillions of plastic bags being used so this would be great if they would do this on a world-wide scale!

I picked up a box of "Let's Do Organic" brand tapioca. The 170 gm box will make approximately 5 batches of pudding as per the following recipe. I'll give you the recipe in case you buy your tapioca in the bulk section.

2 cups water
3 tbsp. small pearl tapioca
3 tbsp. sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
3/4 cup coconut milk

In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Use a whisk or fork to add the tapioca pearls, thus preventing them from sticking together. Let the tapioca cook for about 17 minutes, until the pearls have lost about half of their opaqueness. The mixture will have slightly thickened and the liquid will be cloudy. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, salt and coconut milk together. When the tapioca has finished its initial cooking, whisk in the coconut milk mixture. Let cook for 5 minutes. Refrigerate to room temperature.

Chocolate Pudding -- Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (do 1/4 cup if you like milk chocolate type flavor and do full 1/2 cup if you like super dark chocolate flavor --- I did the full 1/2 cup) to the hot mixture after you take it off the stove. Stir well and in no time you'll have a beautiful rich chocolate tapioca pudding. Yummy!

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I decided to try a third batch made exclusively with soy milk. While it was a little thinner than the ones I made with coconut milk I found that adding a tablespoon of tapioca starch helped set it a bit more. I also added a teaspoon of coconut extract. By the next day it was considerably thicker and the flavor, while of course much different from the coconut, was also very good and I'd have a hard time picking a favorite. The coconut flavor is bold whilst the soy flavor is more mellow. Even though instructions don't say so there is no need to cover your pot with a lid whilst cooking. I would suggest keeping your temperature on medium as if you boil too hard it gets too starchy (desirable to a point but not if it becomes excessive). However, apparently degree of thickness is a totally personal choice as it is made in many cultures with equally varying styles. Its consistency ranges from thin (runny), to thick, to firm enough to eat with a fork. I'm in the middle of the road group myself. I can also tell you that even if it seems a little thin when warm it does set up quite a bit more especially if left overnight. And next time if you decide you like it thicker add the tablespoon of tapioca starch like I did for the soy milk batch -- that will do the trick. Overall I prefer it cold and a little thicker so the next day was perfection for me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gluten-Free Healthy Hempseed Muffins!

I loved the way my wheat version of Healthy Hempseed Muffins turned out but now I had to find my way to make them gluten free goodness. I'm so excited because these turned out even better than I hoped they would! You can barely tell that these are made with organic brown rice flour, organic tapioca starch and almond meal as the main ingredients. I threw in a few tricks to maximize flavor and I think they're a winner. I really wanted to succeed at making a delicious, healthy muffin as my DD Rachel is not celiac but very wheat sensitive. She eats two of my muffins made with wheat and she instantly gets a headache. Not fun. So for her sake I'm always trying to expand my selection of gluten-free recipes. I'm not going to guarantee every ingredient is 100% gluten free in my recipe here but they are definitely super-low gluten. I'm sure those in the know that need to be can sub correctly if and where required. I cut one open here so you can get an idea of the texture and you can see that they are not dense and gummy. They are delicious whether you're gluten sensitive or just want to reduce your gluten load! Either way I think you'll find them to be an amazing replica of a whole grain wheat-based muffin.

*3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. gluten-free flour mixture*
1/4 cup ground golden flaxseed
1/4 cup hempseed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup orange juice (double concentrate)
1/4 cup soy milk
1 ripe banana
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup organic raisins
plus I added another 4 teaspoons each of
almond meal and hempseed to batter at the very end

as it seemed a little thin -- this is probably variable
factor depending on moisture content of your flour etc.

*Gluten-free flour mixture: 2-3/4 cups organic brown rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca starch plus 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal. This makes 3-1/2 cups gluten-free flour. You only need to use 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons for making the above recipe.*

To maximize flavor I decided to soak the 1/2 cup raisins overnight in a mixture of a couple of tablespoons strong orange juice made from frozen concentrate to which I added a teaspoon of vanilla. By morning they were plumped up and full of flavor so it's a good thing to do this if you have the time. Also the 1/2 cup of orange juice I used in the recipe I also made extra strong so that the flavor would overpower any slight brown rice flour taste. I added the teaspoon of cinnamon for the same reason.

I also threw the first 9 ingredients together in my dry vita-mix blender and aerated them together for a bit. I'm not sure if this step is vital or not but that is what I did. I then also put all the dry ingredients through a wire mesh sieve because the vita-mix had caused the almond meal to kinda of lump ever so slightly - at least I think it was probably the almond meal. Anyhow pressing it through the sieve got rid of all my little lumps and I once again had a lovely pile of fluffy looking flour mixture!

Next put the orange juice, soy milk, oil and banana in blender. Whirl until light and frothy. Gently stir the liquid into the flour mixture, adding the raisins a couple of tablespoons at a time until all is mixed together using as few strokes as possible. My batter looked just a smidge too thin at this point so I added an extra 4 teaspoons each of almond meal and hempseed. That did the trick! Line your muffin cups and using a 1/3 cup measure divide mixture evenly. This recipe makes 9 muffins. Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Update @ 6 p.m. -- I can't believe how satisfying these muffins are! I had one with a glass of soy/almond milk at 3 p.m. and still no hunger pangs. That's very unusual for me. I did talk with my sister Nellie earlier today and said she spoke to the person that handles all the calls for a small hempseed distributing company. They told her that a lot of people are taking hempseed to promote weight loss. Might be something to it! At the very least it keeps your tummy from making growly noises for longer than a lot of foods. This might be key!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Healthy Hempseed Muffins

I've been reading the The Hemp Nut Cookbook by Brigitte Mars, Richard Rose and also been browsing through the information on the Manitoba Harvest website with respect to the same. I've decided it's time to start focusing on some healthier foods and hempseed has really got my attention. My younger sister has been adding hemp powder to her diet for about 3 months now and she feels she is seeing a slow but steady improvement in her overall health. We women need all the help we can get when it comes to hormonal balance and after reading the following from the Manitoba Harvest Website I'm going to be looking for creative ways to incorporate this into my diet. I just realized this is going to be easier than I thought -- I just checked their website again and they have an amazing array of recipes for you to peruse Enjoy!

Balance with Hemp:
"Great improvements in hormonal balance have been noted by the addition of Hemp to the diet. Hemp contains the perfect balance of EFA's, and is one of the only plants to contain GLA so the body does not have to rely on converting it. Adding (1-2) Tablespoons of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil, or (3-5) Tablespoons of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Seed a day, is a delicious, easy way to assist in achieving natural hormone balance and vibrant, health." To read the full length article go to:

I couldn't find anything that was really fitting into my criteria to combine flax plus hempseed in one healthy little package so I experimented a bit and came up with the following which I think is surprisingly good. It really doesn't taste low fat or low sugar (due to fairly large amount of raisins and the banana which is being used in this recipe as sub for 1 egg) so I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. This is a small recipe -- it only makes 10 muffins and considering there is 4 tablespoons of hempseed and 4 tablespoons of flax in it you're getting a fairly healthy dose in each muffin. Next time I'm going to try to up it slightly to 5 tablespoons of each and see if it still retains a nice taste and texture. I'll keep you posted.

1-1/4 cup all purpose organic flour
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 cup hempseed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy milk
1 ripe banana
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup organic raisins

Step #1 -- Put first seven dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir together well to make sure baking soda and baking powder are evenly distributed.
Step #2 -- Put orange juice, soy milk, banana and oil into blender and whirl until light and frothy.
Step #3 -- Incorporate the wet into the dry ingredient along with the raisins using as few strokes as possible but make sure it's all nicely blended.
Step #4 -- Using 1/3 cup measure divide evenly amongst 10 muffin tins (I used the If You Care Unbleached liners).
Step #5 -- Bake in 375F oven for about 18-23 minutes (mine took full 23 minutes).

That's it. Really simple and really tasty. If you're a fan of zesting you could add organic orange zest to this recipe along with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I used frozen orange juice so didn't have the zest but perhaps next time! Also, if you're looking to cut calories (which I should be considering for sure) the 1/2 cup raisins could easily be replaced with one fresh organic apple diced very finely.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roasted Chickpeas / 23 Are All You Need (Almonds)!

I've always wanted to try make roasted chickpeas but never attempted it. For some reason I didn't think they would turn, well nutty! Well rest assured that they do indeed and there is very little effort involved. It was so simple. All you do is open a can or if you have your own cooked supply on hand so much the better. There is no need for exact amounts. I used my Western Family Organic Chickpeas. I drained them, rinsed them and put them in a bowl. I then put about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over them and sprinkled in about 2 teaspoons of my favorite frontier chili powder and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. (Choice of spices is of course entirely at your whim. I'm just a big fan of frontier chili powder -- it's a wonderful combination of spices and really works wonderful for so many dishes. If I had to pick only one spice to have in my cupboard that would be it!) The next step is to put the chickpeas on a baking sheet and put them in a 400F oven for 50 minutes. I would suggest lining your baking sheet with either parchment paper or aluminum foil as burnt chickpea marks are hard to remove. Stir at 15 minute intervals and that's it. My next goal is to find an easy way to make home-cooked chickpeas (hopefully in the crockpot) because I can see how that would be a lot more economical. The amount of chickpeas you see in the little dish in the photo is the full amount this recipe made from one regular size can chickpeas. I'm thinking they would make a healthy, gluten-free alternative to wheat croutons for use in salads.

NaturSource Tamari Almonds
Since I'm in a nutty mood today (literally -- I ate almonds and chickpeas for breakfast today) I'd like to continue on for a bit here and tell you about the almonds that I eat and really enjoy and that is NaturSource Tamari Almonds. I purchase them at Costco -- not sure where else they are sold. They have a nice salty flavor that makes it very easy to eat your daily serving and yet the nutritional profile doesn't indicate that it's crazy high in sodium. It's just 120 mg sodium for a 40 gram serving so that is really quite reasonable. Everywhere we're reading how healthy it is to try and include about one ounce of nuts in your diet daily. The following quote is from the Almond Board website. I thought the chart was kinda of cute and a good visual to give you an idea of what one ounce looks like:

"Think about this number every time you’re suffering from a mid-day slump or when you’re ravenous on the go. Remember it when you’re pondering a sugar splurge or feel like you won’t last until dinner. 23 are all you need. Empowering, isn’t it?"

23 almonds = 1 ounce
Here are some easy ways to measure the perfect portion of almonds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Hurry Veggie Curry

I want to thank Tami of Tami Transcends Tofu for her wonderful recipe that she posted recently. Thanks to her I took the plunge and got my slow cooker out of the cupboard. As you know from my post below the first thing I did was make Kutia. The next dish I was eager to try out was her yummy looking curry. I have a few things to learn about slow cooker cooking. The very first thing is to read the recipe correctly!! I did get all the ingredients right but instead of cooking it on low for 6-8 hours I cooked it on high for that amount of time! Well by that time it sure didn't look like Tami's lovely curry any longer. Go check out her blog to see how beautiful it looks when cooked on low.

I should have chopped my carrots a little thicker because that might have worked out better. They were a little overdone. Overall though I can't complain as the preparation was minimal; nothing to stir or try to keep from burning; aroma filling the house was lovely and the taste was terrific. I'm starting to love this slow cooker and am on the prowl for more recipes to take advantage of this helping hand in the kitchen. If you don't have one yet I'd give it some serious consideration. I wish I would have had one years ago. But that's the beauty of blogging on the internet -- we're here to inspire, help and share. Thank you Tami!

No Hurry Vegetable Curry
from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker (pg. 124) by Robin Robertson
serves 4

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I used olive oil)
2 large carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1 medium size yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder (I like less - 1 tablespoon was enough for me)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled & diced
8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the carrots and onions, stir, cover. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to coat evenly.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker. Add the potatoes, green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, and veggie stock. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the thawed peas and coconut milk. Season with salt to taste. Serve over whatever rice you like best.

The recipe says it serves 4 -- well those are 4 very large servings. I'd say it's more like about 6 servings especially since you're putting it over rice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kutia or Kutya (wheat porridge)

Sound the horns and give me a drum roll! I actually broke out my slow cooker for the first time and it was okay! It was actually more than okay! Even if I only used it a couple of times a year making Kutia it would be worth it because it made it almost effortless. I bought about one pound of organic red hard wheat for $3.29. You can make about 18 hearty servings of Kutia for that price. Now that's thrifty! I got this recipe from Company's Coming Whole Grain Recipes.Here's what the author Jean Pare has to say about Kutya. In her book it's called Kutya -- but on the Ukranian Women's Association website it's called Kutia.

"Kutya, a cold porridge, is traditionally served at Ukranian Christmas Eve dinners. It is meant to represent an abundant life--but also makes one heck of a healthy breakfast. The preparation is a tad involved but the kutya will keep in the fridge for 10 days, or may be frozen for longer."

I agree with her on the healthy breakfast -- the nutritional profile is awesome:
1 cup = 393 calories; 10 gm fibre; 13 gm protein

2 cups Hard red wheat - or spelt (see notes in update below)
8 cups water

water - 5-1/2 cups (maybe as much as 7 cups - see expert's pointers below)
salt - 1 teaspoon

poppy seeds - 1/2 cup
water - 1 cup
*golden syrup* -- 1/3 (maybe up to 1 cup - see expert's pointers below)

Step#1 -- Rinse your wheat really well in a sieve under water. Put your 2 cups wheat into a large bowl and add your 8 cups of water. Let stand, covered for at least 8 hours. Drain. Put into slow cooker (should be at least 3-1/2 quart size).

Step#2 -- Add the 5-1/2 cups water to the wheat in the slow cooker. (You might prefer 7 cups of water -- see notes below). Add salt. Cook, covered on high for about 7-8 hours. (Taste your wheat at this point -- you might like to cook it for longer - see notes below). Original recipe instructions say on high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours but there was no way my wheat was ready after that short a time. You'll know when it's ready. The wheat must be split open and liquid should be thick and creamy. Anyhow once you have decided it has cooked enough drain it and reserve 1 cup (or more -- see notes below) of the cooking water and set it aside.

Step#3 -- Combine poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Boil gently, uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve. (I did not have a fine enough sieve so I used the re-usable coffee filter which is mesh and it worked just fine for this purpose).

Step#4 -- Put syrup and poppy seeds in blender and process for about 1 minute until poppy seeds are ground. (I used my magic bullet with small container for this and it worked perfect for this purpose).
Add this to wheat. Stir, adding reserved cooking water a little at a time, until desired consistency.Serve at room temperature or chill until cold. Makes about 6 cups.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Image below is a special "kutia pot". This is the traditional Ukranian pattern. I would say Ukranian people love dishware as it seems they have special dishes for almost everything. I know my mother-in-law does -- she has an overflowing cupboard full of beautiful dishware. I love the white and red contrast of the dishes. It's certainly very festive looking for Christmas.

Ukranian Expert's Pointers for Improving this Recipe
The Ukranian Expert (my husband) advised that the whole cup of reserved cooking water must be added if it is to look and taste the same way mama made it! No problem -- I agree with him. I asked for further pointers in improving it to his satisfaction. He was happy to oblige. He said next time I make this for him to put more than the 5-1/2 cups water called for in the recipe because he likes even more liquid than what we had leftover. So I'll have to remember to put in about 7 cups water and hopefully that will produce the result he's looking for. Plus he told me he likes the wheat even softer so next time I will also be increasing the cooking time by about an hour or two. Also he said it wasn't sweet enough. Apparently 1/3 cup syrup is way too little -- he would like that increased to close to a cup. Overall he said it was good and it must be because he ate a big bowl for breakfast this morning and came back for an afternoon snack as well. There are variations for Kutia that I saw on the internet -- some called for raisins or walnuts to be added to it but my husband said no they never added either of those ingredients. He did tell me that what his mom did, to make it extra special for xmas time, was to add one cherry to each serving and to top with some heavy cream. We're interested to see how it tastes with another grain so we have spelt soaking on the counter now. I'll let you know which one our "resident Ukranian expert" prefers :)

Update Nov.17, 2009-- Well he prefers the spelt hands down. So do I. It's a milder flavor so you don't need as much sweetener to make it tasty. It was also slightly softer. Of course I did do the larger amount of water this time. The wheat also had a significantly stronger "grassy" smell when soaking than did the spelt. All in all quite a few differences but of course it still comes down to personal preferences. I'll have to look for it in Bob's Red Mill brand because I certainly noticed a difference between buying bulk spelt and the hard spring wheat prepackaged (Bob's Brand). The difference was that I had to pick out at least 10-12 little hard black pebbles in the bulk spelt and there was absolutely nothing to pick out in the prepackaged wheat.

*original recipe calls for honey and for vegans that use honey go ahead and use that in place of golden syrup. I read on internet that half maple syrup and half agave nectar is supposed to give you a similar flavour to honey. I'll have to give that a try next time as well. Didn't have either on hand today. *

Chickpea Potato Soup & Imagine Soups!

I love soup. I don't think there is anything I enjoy more than a good bowl of soup. I just want to give an honourable mention to the makers of Imagine Soup because they are truly outstanding. I am one who hates almost any soup in a can -- tasteless, overcooked, mostly plain yucky! I'm not even too crazy about Amy's organic line of soups even though the ingredients are excellent and I do like a lot of their frozen entrees. I find they put way too much onions in the Amy's soup and you end up spewing onion breath for a day and a half. And I've had complaints from my better half to that effect:) The Amy's No-Chicken Noodle Soup is a kind of hit & miss affair -- I absolutely love it when it's a hit. I have started to notice that the longer away the best before date is on the can the less potent the onions are. If your can is close to expiry date it's deadly! If they would only reduce the amount of onions they would be on the top of my list too!

Within the Imagine brand line of soups I particularly enjoy the Creamy Tomato and the Creamy Sweet Corn. Unfortunately, our choices within the Imagine Line of Soups, here in Canada are limited. I look with great envy at their website and can't believe the array of soups that they offer in the USA! Hopefully, one day soon, they'll all make it across the border! After looking over the offerings I decided I'd try my hand at making my own gourmet bisque soup and opened the fridge and threw some things together. I wanted something reasonably quick and easy and I'd say this recipe fits the criteria. I used to think that the Imagine soup line was pricey -- $4.99 per litre here in Canada but after adding up what it costs for all organic ingredients I'd say it's a very reasonable price. I'll definitely be keeping Imagine Soup on my shelf. Of course if you live close to the border -- lucky you. Edmonton is too far north to do any cross-border shopping.

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups diced potatoes
1/2 head fresh cauliflower, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz)
1 can chickpeas (14 oz)
3 teaspoons veggie broth powder
1 teaspoon each sage and chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups spring water

Simple White Sauce
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons margarine
1-1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

I sauteed the onions & garlic with the sage & chili powder. Let them cook until softened. Then add your water, veggie broth powder, potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes and chickpeas. (Unless you're crazy like me -- I actually took all of the skins off of the chickpeas -- totally not required but I can't help myself. I wanted a super smooth soup!) Let it simmer and bubble for a while until the potatoes are tender. Adjust your seasonings. I always add paul bragg at this time - I also added a bit of pepper. I like everything mild and figure anybody who wants hotter (like my husband and daughter) can add cayenne to their bowl. And they do!

Whilst the soup was simmering I whipped up the above super simple white sauce recipe and threw it into the pot. I then got out my heavy duty braun immersion blender and twirled and whirled through my pot until it was almost as super smooth as the Imagine bisque soups are! Not quite but close! This soup does thicken up quite a bit overnight so plan on adding a little extra soy milk when reheating. This recipe made about 10 cups of soup. It might be a little more than that -- I was tasting quite a bit along the way. As usual I'll be putting a few containers in the freezer -- that's the beauty of smooth soups -- they freeze amazingly well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Classic Bran Muffins

This classic bran muffin is the same recipe my mom has made for decades. It's stood the test of time and is as good today as it was yesterday. All I've done is veganize it to bring it into the cruelty-free zone completely (no moo milk and no chicky eggs ). I've also upped the ante a bit by adding some absolutely delicious chopped up dried apricots (organic and sulfur free). A little pricey at $5.69 (for about 24 dried apricots) perhaps but so worth the indulgence. Especially when you consider that if you buy one gourmet muffin anywhere these days it's going to cost you at the very lowest price about $1.00 each but much more likely about $2.50. So that's what I always do to justify my latest luxury food purchases -- just compare to street-market value and you'll soon be thinking you got yourself a bargain! I was judicious in my use of them -- I laced my muffins with 1/2 raisins and 1/2 apricots so I was able to use only 14 apricots for this recipe and have 14 leftover for my next batch! That is if I can keep my hands off them -- they are tasty to eat just like candy! Actually a wonderful alternative for your growing munchkins. The recipe is simple and practically foolproof. Makes 12 full size muffins. And the taste is better than any storebought muffin -- even the gourmet ones!

1-1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup soy milk + 1 tbsp. vinegar
*1/3 cup orphee organic canola oil*
1 tbsp. golden ground flaxseed plus 1/4 cup soy milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup raisins
12 dried apricots, diced finely

Stir vinegar into the soy milk. Mix together the wheat bran and soy milk mixture; let stand. Mix ground flaxseed with soy milk - whip a bit with fork to gel. Combine canola oil, flaxseed mixed with soymilk, brown sugar and vanilla and add to bran/soy milk mixture. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to first mixture and stir until blended.

Add raisins and apricots and spoon into prepared muffins tins. Oh, and as you can see I added a small sliver of apricot to the top of each muffin -- it looked cute going in but not so cute coming out! I would never do this again. So please excuse how ugly they look but rest assured the taste was wonderful. Just keep the apricots inside the muffin and it will be all good! Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
*You could make this recipe lower fat if you so desired by subbing 3 tablespoons of oil + 2 tablespoons applesauce for the 1/3 cup oil. You can also sub with 3 tablespoons oil + 6 tablespoons flaxseed. According to the back of my container of flaxseed they say you can substitute flaxseed for fat at a ratio of 3-1. Three tablespoons of flaxseed is equal to one tablespoon of fat. It would be a great way to up your omega 3 intake.* (organic dried fruits) (unrefined canola oil)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Powerhouse Plus Veggie Burgers

Here's one of my very favorite recipes for a amazingly healthy burger to make, bake and freeze a few! The photo to the right here is how they look just before popping them in the oven. This particular recipe makes about 18-20 Powerhouse Plus Veggie Burgers. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything else that comes in such a small package and packs such a huge nutritional punch! Take a look at the ingredients -- it covers your carbs, protein, veggies and your B12! You'd be smart to make these and tell your kids they are tofu cookies :) These taste great cold (at least to me they do) and are therefore the perfect little item to eat on the go. In fact, if you're going out shopping for a few hours pack a couple of these in a lunch bag and you'll be glad you did. They'll give you enough energy to shop longer than you thought possible! These burgers are popular with my crew here. Hope you all love them as much as we do!

4 x 175 gm (24 ounces total)
Soyganic Super Firm Tofu, grated (medium)
*1 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed*
1 cup finely chopped, cooked mushrooms (about 10-15)
1 medium onion, minced finely (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 cup mashed sweet or white potato
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1-1/2 cups quick oats
1-1/2 tablespoons veggie powder
2 tablespoons paul bragg
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons sage
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

Grate all your tofu into a very large bowl. Season with your dry spices and mix through with your hands, kneading well. If you like your mixture to be smoother yet ... you can take 1/2 of the kneaded tofu and whirl it through your food processor and then mix the two together. I've done it both ways and both ways turn out just fine. Depends what type of texture you like. Drain the spinach -- press any excess water using back of spoon. Add spinach to your tofu mixture.

Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil until softened and very lightly browned. Cool slightly and add to above mixture. Add the oats, nutritional yeast, ketchup, tomato paste, paul bragg, and mashed potato. Mix really well using your hands. Taste and adjust seasonings as required. Now is the time to turn on your oven to 350F so it will be ready for you once you have completed the final step in the making of your powerhouse plus veggie burgers. Keep reading here and soon you'll be putting your burgers in the oven :)

Use a 1/3 cup measure to make uniform size burgers. Scoop out your 1/3 cup and form into burger size patty -- don't flatten it too much. See my pic above for what the burgers look like before I baked them. This should give you about 18-20 burgers. I put parchment paper on my baking tray (with sides) and bake them in two batches as I only like cooking one tray of stuff at a time in my oven. Set your timer for 20 minutes -- then flip the burgers over and bake for another 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy a few for supper and freeze the leftover for a quick meal when you need it. They freeze and reheat well so if you are really ambitious double the recipe!

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I had a request to show the baked burger -- good thing I remembered before I ate the whole thing! It might look a bit lopsided because I had to use one burger plus another one cut in half because this was a jumbo bun. Just enjoying it today with all the fixings -- tomato, pickles, veganaise etc. on a pan-fried bun (so yummy that way). This isn't the best photo (looks a little messy from my crumbs from half the burger I ate already -- plus I see the veganaise isn't looking the most attractive sliding down the tomato and burger) but hmmmm it was delicious!

One note here: I wouldn't pan fry these from the raw state -- they're somewhat fragile, as a lot of homemade patties are, and they honestly do a lot better just baked in the oven. Once they have cooled off and you either put them in the fridge or freezer and then take them out again -- then you can re-heat them by pan frying a bit. They're much sturdier then and won't fall apart on you. I personally don't even re-heat them when eating as a burger with all the fixings -- I just throw them cold on my bun. If you were eating them with mashed potatoes and gravy well then I would heat them.

*1 cup of finely grated carrots could be used in placed of the spinach. As would probably just about any other vegetable that you think might work.*

Monday, November 9, 2009


Empanadas, mini calazones, chili pops -- call them whatever you want but the bottom line is anything enclosed in a flaky crust is going to taste twice as good! I did hold the line a bit on the amount of fat in the pastry for these -- in fact they're a good deal healthier than a lot of "biscuit crust" recipes out there. I was shocked to see some that called for 3/4 cup shortening for the same amount of flour as my recipe uses. That's totally not necessary. I think you'll find these fill the bill nicely. I used the recipe on my blog entitled "Veggie Prairie Girl's Chili" (dated 11/07/09) for the filling. The amount of chili in that recipe will make 24 empanadas. The dough here only makes 12 empanadas so you would have to double it to make 24.

Make sure to use the Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks as this margarine is harder than their tub margarines and therefore more suitable for flaky type dough. They're also easier to work with as they are pre-measured in 4 half cup sticks.

You can certainly use 2 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour in place of what I have used and I would strongly suggest doing so if you don't like the grittiness that cornmeal adds to the crust. I only ever have unbleached white flour on hand so when I prefer something a little more hearty I add wheat bran to it and it works. I do like the addition of a bit of cornmeal to chili-filled empanadas -- gives the empanada crust a nice golden color plus it gives it a little crunch. My DD didn't enjoy the addition of cornmeal so next time I'll try this with cornflour instead because I still like the idea of the golden hue it imparts to the final product. She also requested a spinach,potato,tofu,pesto filled empanada so that will be on the to-try-list as well! The sky is literally the limit when it comes to what you can stuff in an empanada and I am hoping to fill my freezer with lots of different kinds so that we can trim our food budget a bit! DD loves Aunty Trudy's products put they're a bit pricey at $3.99 each! They are very good though so if you haven't tired them give them a look see!

1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup fine grind cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
2/3 cup soy milk (use original flavor)

Measure flour, wheat bran, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and chili powder into a bowl. Cut in margarine thoroughly. Blend with fork or rub through with both hands until it's all mixed in very well. Add 1/3 cup of the milk. Continue adding the remainder at about the rate of 1 tablespoon at a time until flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl.

Gather dough into ball. Divide into 12 equal pieces. With the aid of a rolling pin make circles approximately 5" in diameter. If you want them all to be the same exact size (I do) roughly roll out your circles and then press them to fit into a round plastic lid. I used the lid from a two cup round ziploc container -- it's the perfect size for this empanada and you will achieve cloned specimens -- which is the look you are going for! You can of course also roll out the dough and use a 5" cutter but I find my method is easier and you're not constantly rolling and re-rolling which in my mind is more work plus the more you roll the tougher your dough gets. Nevertheless, this is a method that is shown in many cookbooks so who am I to say it's not right! You choose how to get your perfect circles. Anyhow the next step is to put in about 2 tablespoons of filling. Don't go crazy and overfill or you'll have troubles making a proper seal. Pinch closed, sealing edges well. Put on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about 20-25 minutes.

Rum Raisin Cake

Well I got the organic raisins today and quite a few other things as well. It was super busy at Planet Organic but the up side to that was there was a lot of good sampling going on. I sampled some curry veggie pate, raspberry muffin and an organic vegan truffle! Line-ups at the till were long but shoppers were in a friendly mood and passed the time by discussing some favorite items they enjoyed from the in-store deli! Apparently the kale salad was a big hit with the shoppers behind me. I've never tried it but it was starting to sound mighty appealing! The one shopper was eating her take-out kale salad whilst the shopper behind her was all excited about her fresh bunch of kale and was explaining how she bought the salad once and now makes it twice a week at home. She said it was real easy because all the ingredients are listed on the label on the container. Between the two of them I was wondering why there was no kale in my basket!

Not like I'm not familiar with kale -- my mother grew that in our garden years before anybody had ever heard the word kale. So I had to laugh when shopper #2 said she couldn't believe that she had never hear of kale before finding it in the deli but she did mention dutch people have been eating it for years mashed with potatoes! Absolutely true -- I can vouch for that one. Other than being fortunate enough to be able to buy beautiful organic kale here in Edmonton we're so lucky that the weather has been so warm that I can still get away with wearing sandals barefoot! Beautiful crisp fall weather, nice blue skies and lots of cheery sunshine. But no vegan marshmallows!! The clerk at the till summoned the grocery manager to come and speak with me about the roadblocks standing between us and some of our favorite products.

Apparently we're having trouble ordering many products from the U.S.A. because of stricter nutritional label requirements by the Canadian Government. Just give us our marshmallows for heaven's sake -- like we care about the nutritional profile of junk foods!! In the meantime I'll try a few online stores to see if they have any stock left to sell. The manager also said that there were problems with some small companies going under in the U.S.A. and that is another reason why some products are no longer available. Plus a lot of major corporations (like Kraft) are busy buying up the small established organic "mom and pop" operations and that's putting some items on hold while they reorganize. Who knew there was so much hoopla going on behind the scenes with our favorite products!

Time to get super crafty here and learn to make our own stuff from scratch. Two of the clerks at Planet Organic were both very excited about the idea of the vegan marshmallows and said they would love to have someone in the know do a demo on making them successfully. I might just have to become Edmonton's Marshmallow Expert -- who knew there'd be a niche for that? Something for me to think about! In the meantime let's get back to the business at hand -- my raisins have been soaking in a bit of water and dark Jamaican rum for over an hour so time to forge ahead, get this cake together and in the oven. I got this recipe from Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes Bake It Book. I have to say it's a very tantalizing cake full of spice and everything nice! Do make the glaze -- so easy and so good too -- can't go wrong with a rich caramel flavor.

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup earth balance margarine,softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
*Egg replacer to equal 2 large eggs*
*1/3 cup dark Jamaican rum*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sweetened applesauce
1 cup dark seedless raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 10-cup fluted baking pan (such as a bundt) or 9-inch tube pan; dust pan with cocoa. Normally one would use flour, but in the case of a dark cake like this it is better to use cocoa to avoid a white coating. Also, take the time to invert pan and tap lightly to remove excess.
2. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and allspice into a small bowl; set aside.
3. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat margarine with brown and granulated sugars until blended, frequently scraping bowl with spatula. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.
4. Reduce speed to low; add *150 gm soft tofu plus 2 tablespoons golden ground flaxseed* and beat well. Beat in rum and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and applesauce, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in raisins. (I soaked raisins in 1 tablespoon of rum plus some hot water for about an hour to plump them up).
5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.
6. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Loosen cake from pan and invert directly onto wire rack to cool completely. Glaze cooled cake with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze if you like -- I liked very much!
7. Makes approximately 16 servings at about 280 calories.
*If you prefer non-alcoholic cake you can replace the rum with equal amount of apple or pineapple juice.*

Brown Sugar Rum Glaze
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons margarine
*1 tablespoon dark Jamaican rum*
1/3 cup icing sugar

1. Heat brown sugar and margarine in microwave for about 1 minute 15 seconds, stirring twice during cooking. With wire whisk, beat in rum; then whisk in icing sugar until mixture is smooth.
2. Immediately pour glaze over top of cooled cake, letting it run down sides. Let cake stand at least 20 minutes to allow glaze to set.
* If you prefer to have non-alcoholic icing you could use rum or vanilla flavoring instead of the dark Jamaican rum. Or if you used pineapple juice in the cake I think it would be nice to use 1 tablespoon pineapple juice as flavoring in the glaze as well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vita-Mix versus the Magic Bullet!

I bought a magic bullet last year after having been swept off my feet by the smooth talking pushers on the infomercial channel. They are good aren't they? My god I wanted one, and I wanted it NOW! It was 3 a.m. in the morning but thank god for phone lines and visa cards because in less than 90 seconds I was hooked up and was promised it would be on it's way pronto! True to their word my little box of magic arrived within 4 days and I was so excited. We started whirling everything from parsley to bananas!

Unfortunately my love affair was short-lived as I realized it wasn't quite as fast as on the commercial nor was it particularly wonderful at crushing ice! I put it away and ordered a Vita-Mix! The Vita-Mix is awesome and it does crush ice and oh, btw, it also eats the tamper that it comes with! Yikes -- apparently I'm a little too forceful for my own good and I shoved the tamper down with all my might and omg it ate it! Literally -- what a mess! I can't believe it didn't twist the blender blades -- for that I am grateful! I thought for sure I had demolished a $600 blender with my extra strong biceps! The tamper is that little black "star wars" looking weapon laying in front of the blender! I've been scared to use it since then and I now turn off the blender, push the stuff down and turn it back on! I'm scarred for life! Anyhow we ordered another and I learned my lesson to be a little more gentle in the kitchen.

And with this lesson I realized that perhaps I had been too hasty in relegating my magic bullet to the back of the cupboard! I dusted it off and put it on the counter beside the vita-mix! I'm back in love again (I'm fickle) and realized that yes the Vita-Mix is the monster of all blenders and perhaps the magic bullet is a little pipsqueak but you don't always need a bulldozer to do the job! In fact the magic bullet is perfect for lots of little jobs that you don't want to dirty the big blender for nor does it do as good a job when it comes to small amounts! In fact when doing small amounts the Vita-Mix just doesn't cut it! The magic bullet is perfect for baby food -- it comes with a super cute little size container that is just the right amount for a toddler meal. The cups are perfect for whirling your flax (egg-substitute) mixture, grinding sunflower seeds for pate and bread into crumbs!

The Vita-Mix is super awesome for my peanut butter banana smoothies, green smoothies and vega-shakes! There is not a blender out there that can touch the Vita-Mix when it comes to making smoothies taste well --- smmmmmmmmooooooooth!! So lucky for me I'm happy to have re-connected with my magic bullet and I'm also thrilled that I have a Vita-Mix! There is room for two loves in your life when it comes to blenders -- the mini and the maxi! Together forever on my countertop.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Veggie Prairie Girl's Chili

Well after all the baking it was time to get back to earth and make something that won't make me spin. Actually I did okay with all the baking -- I managed to pass off lots to other family members so it's all good. I'm actually eyeing a recipe tonight for a rum raisin cake with rum glaze that's starting to sound mighty appealing! Stay tuned for that one -- the only thing holding me back is that I've run out of organic raisins so will have to make a run for that tomorrow.

Anyhow thought I'd put down on paper the ingredients that I find the most appealing in a chili so here we go. I've finished it and it's cooling in the fridge overnight. The recipe makes six cups so I'll have a small bowl for lunch and then I'll make the executive decision as to whether to go with a bunch of empanadas (handy for the freezer) or throw the rest into a casserole dish and make a cornbread topping. I don't think anyone needs me to give exact instructions for making the chili. I don't do anything special with it. Just the usual -- start sauteeing the onions, garlic, tofu with spices and add the chopped veggies. Add a little water and let the veggies simmer until almost softened before adding the beans and the tomato sauce.

I don't know if the 8 oz packages of tofu are available everywhere but they are available here in Edmonton at Planet Organic. They're only $1.29 each and I love how they are the perfect size for so many recipes. I was getting tired of using half a 16 oz size and having to put it away so I'm glad the brains behind Soyganic came up with this terrific little package!

Main Ingredients
8 oz tofu, extra firm
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks bok choy, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 medium size carrots, grated
2 tomatoes, diced
14 oz can Eden organic pinto beans
14 oz can Royal City organic tomato sauce

Spices + More
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Double Concentrated
tomato paste (Doppio)
1 tablespoon veggie broth powder
2 tablespoons paul bragg
2 teaspoons chocolate powder
2 teaspoons sugar
chili powder
garlic powder
salt & pepper
2 tablepoons ketchup

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I once made a massive amount of veggie chili with the very honorable founding member of Vegetarians of Alberta, Glen MacLean, for a supper VOA was providing for the Bissell Center. He's the one who told me I should always add some grated carrot, chocolate powder and sugar to any chili I make and since that day I've always done that. I like the nice color that chocolate powder gives to the veggie chili so it's a good thing. The only other thing that I can think of to recommend is that if you have time marinate your tofu the night before as it can't hurt for a boost of extra flavor. I also suggest cutting the tofu into very tiny little cubes as it's nice to have little bites as opposed to big chunks. At least I think so! Plus that way if I do decide to do the empanadas with half of it it works out better for that as well. Oh and the reason I mentioned the brand of my tomato sauce (Royal City Organic) is because I thought it was particularly good -- lots of real tomato flavor -- not watery tasty like some of the other brands can be.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fluffiest Vegan Banana Cupcakes Ever!

I love banana cupcakes! And I LOVE peanut butter!! Consequently, I didn't need much prodding to whip up a batch as per request of my ever faithful testing staff to make a banana cupcake with peanut butter icing! I searched the internet but none were sounding quite what I had in mind. And I also realize that the least amount of flour you can get away with using in vegan baking recipes the lighter your end product will be. Incorporating air is also important wherever possible -- so sift, blend and add bubbles! Yes bubbles -- I didn't want to add vinegar to my product so I thought I would add two tablespoons of good old gingerale to the mixture and voila! These cupcakes turned out so light and airy even I was surprised! I'll be making this one again as I'm only basing my result on one try but I wanted to put it up here so others could give it a whirl and see what you think. The icing on the cupcakes weighed more than the cupcake -- that's the ratio I like :)

My downfall is sweets -- blame my mother. I'll give you an idea why -- some of the favorite lunches she used to make us where homemade cinnamon buns and fresh homemade bread with chocolate icing! We were thrilled when we would come home for lunch to such wonderfulness! I don't know where she found the time to do all this from scratch stuff with 8 kids and a household to run (and many years sans running water and doing all her cooking/baking on a beautiful wood stove -- though she used coal)! And we didn't live out in the bush -- this was circa 1960-67 in North Edmonton. Our house was built in 1905 making it one of the older in the area for sure whilst new homes were springing up around us and young families moving in constantly. The house is still standing and is still owned and being rented out by my folks. My folks are stilling standing straight and tall too. They garden, cook, bake and go dancing weekly -- we're very fortunate and so are they. It's a blessing all the way around to have elderly parents that are in good health. I wish that for all of you out there. After all that rambling I now give you the fluffiest vegan banana cupcakes ever! I hope they turn out that way for you too!

1-1/2 cup flour (I used Western Family all-purpose organic/pre-sifted)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup earth balance whipped margarine (melted)
1/2 cup organic coconut milk
2 tablespoons golden flaxseed (ground)
4 organic ripe bananas
2 teaspoons frontier organic vanilla extract
2 tablespoons gingerale

#1 -- Stir together the first six dry ingredients (from the flour to the salt)and then sifted into a large bowl.
#2 -- Put the melted margarine (cooled slightly), the coconut milk, bananas, the ground flaxseed, and the vanilla extract in blender and whirl till light and frothy! I then added the 2 tablespoons of gingerale - whirled briefly.
#3 -- Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry using as few strokes as possible to blend the two mixtures together.
#4 -- Using a 1/3 cup measure divide mixture evenly into your cupcake liners (I used the If You Care nonstick/unbleached cupcake liners). I had some leftover batter which I ate with a spoon -- didn't feel like having to put one cupcake in another 12 cup pan! Not the best plan but see what you do with it :) The test of a excellent finished end product is an excellent raw product and I'll say it was darn tasty!
#5 -- Throw in the oven at 350 for about 18-20 minutes depending on your oven. I suggest checking at the 18 minute mark. Since these are light they do bake quickly.
#6 -- Let cool in the muffin tin for a few minutes, then turn out to a wire rack.
#7 -- Frost if desired. As you know I had a request for peanut butter icing so I just made the super simple standard icing -- throw in some peanut butter (actually it was quite a bit -- at least 1/4 cup), some margarine (2 tbsp. or so), a splash of soy milk and then enough icing sugar to get the consistency you like.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I was thinking I'd like some chocolate to go with this peanut butter so I melted some chocolate chips...dipped the tops of a few of my cupcakes and then just decorated the outside edges with the peanut butter icing. They don't look as nice on the photo as they did in real but it will give you an idea! I'm on a nutmeg kick right now and I'm thinking next time I might grate a little nutmeg in the cupcake batter recipe. I'm not 100% sure but it sounds like it might be a good thing. Enjoy!