Friday, December 25, 2009

Iced Star Cookies

I love cutout cookies but I always avoid making them because they are more labor-intensive. But I do love how they look and since these turned out so cute I thought I'd share them. I can't even remember where I wrote this cookie recipe down from -- the only change I made of course was to change out the 2 eggs with my ever faithful flaxseed-egg mixture and that was that. I also rolled out the dough much thicker than recommended and I would suggest the same to anyone trying this recipe. Unless of course you prefer very thin and harder type cookie. I made them both ways and definitely prefer the thicker size as the flavor of the sugar dough comes through better that way. The glaze is your standard icing sugar mixed with water. I love this glaze -- it hardens so nice and by using just water you don't have to worry about refrigerating the cookies.

Recipe3/4 cup hard margarine softened1 cup granulated sugar2 tbsp. golden ground flaxseed plus 6 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream thoroughly (preferably with electric beaters) until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add flour (preferably sifted with baking powder and salt) to creamed mixture. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Roll between wax paper to make things easier. I left dough about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out in desired shapes. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes. Tops will be very pale but underneath should be nicely browned when done. I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper and re-used the same piece several times. Make sure your cookie sheet is cool before putting on new batch of cookies. Cool, then glaze with icing sugar/water mixture.

Veggie Prairie Girl RamblesMerry Christmas Everyone! Oh and in case you're wondering what's on my dinner menu tonight besides the iced star cookies here's a clue:

Don't you think all the colors are very appropriate for Christmas? I thought so and since I needed to keep the stove burners open I opted for this crockpot recipe that I tried in November thanks to Tami. I rounded out the dinner with mashed potatoes, country style gravy, bread stuffing and unlimited amounts of dutch style tofu croquettes! I would have liked to have had a few more items on the menu but I've been down with a case of the sniffles these last few days so the energy level wasn't high enough to do so. Ah well, there's always next year! And next year -- I'd better mark my calendar in October for the hunt for almond paste if I don't want to make my own like I ended up having to do this year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Non-Drip Fruitsicles

This doesn't seem like a great post when it's so frosty outdoors! But inside there are a few sniffles, sore throats and low grade fever going on so we needed something to soothe those over. I looked through the cupboard and once again canned fruit to the rescue. So for anyone else suffering the "flu-blues" this might be a comforting treat to enjoy. Nutritionally i'm quite sure it beats most of the prepackaged frozen pops on the supermarket shelf.

For these I used a regular size can of fruit salad and a 1/2 banana. I threw out almost all the red cherries because I didn't want to use them. I figure they probably have a lot of red dye added to them to make them look that bright so hence my reason to discard them. One may have escaped my wrath :) Drain all the juice except for about 1 tablespoon. Put the fruit, the 1/2 banana and 1 tablespoon of juice in the blender and whirl until smooth. Spoon (it's fairly thick) into your molds and freeze. I'm looking forward to making some 100% peachicles as I am a big fan of peach flavored stuff! The big unexpected bonus to these was how very drip free they were. My grandson nico held it in his hot little hand for 1/2 an hour and still no mess! He's only two so he's a novice at this and I daresay it's probably the first frozen treat we've given him. He seemed to really enjoy it so between that and the fact that it didn't drip all over him is a good enough reason for me to keep these stocked.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week Before Christmas Wonderland

This is what we woke up to this morning -- it's definitely enough "frosty winter wonderland" to put you in the christmas mood. It's actually the view from my kitchen window and I certainly appreciate having it! I especially love it when the birds drop by for a visit and though I haven't seen any lately -- in the fall I had a steady stream. I don't know the names of birds but it seems there's a lot of fluffy little black and white ones this year, the odd bluejay and the even rarer red and grey/white. They are more or less the size of baby chicks -- so totally adorable. Today I also enjoyed watching my husband shovel the driveway and then seeing how lucky he was that our next door neighbor drove over on his snow blower (he rigged up an amazing snow blower -- looks like a mini zamboni) to join in the fight against the accumulation of white stuff! We are lucky to have an awesome neighbor and he's been helpful with many things besides "snow removal" for almost as long as we have lived here (17 years). With only one week until the "big day" I decided to proceed with another batch of my GF Peanut Butter Almond Cookies that proved to be very popular. I really like them too (I'm sitting here typing and enjoying several with a cup of hot chocolate). Here's a sampling of what I whipped up this morning. I stashed some away in the freezer with the hope they stay put until next week :)

Here's a few things I learned this morning in my endeavor to be creative - I'm going to post them just in case inquiring minds want to know :)
#1 -- Jam sinks and shrinks a bit when you put some in indent of cookie before you bake so next time I'll have to put double what I think it needs.
#2 -- Almond paste rises so a little less is needed than you think.
#3 -- Mix melted chocolate chips (plus 1 teaspoon hard margarine) and an equal portion of white sugar glaze (water & icing sugar) -- that way it drys shiny and hard just like the white glaze alone does.
#4 -- The plastic baggy tip is awesome -- tried for the first time ever (I've never been much for decorating in the past -- just starting to get a little creative hence the tips above probably everyone knows but me but hey I need it on here so that I'll remember what to do next year). The first batch of cookies I decorated I drizzled icing from a spoon but this definitely beats that all to heck. So all I did was take a small fork and poke a hole in bottom corner of baggy and spooned in my liquidy glaze and it was done lickety-split and much more evenly that's for sure.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Chickpea-Crockpot Update: I finally cooked chickpeas from scratch using the slow cooker. I soaked 1-1/2 cups of dried chickpeas overnight. Then the next day I drained, rinsed and put them in a large pot and pre-cooked them at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes. I then drained again and put chickpeas in my slow cooker with fresh water. It took about 10 hours (at HIGH) to get soft enough for my preference. I couldn't believe how long it took but I guess that's why they are called "slow-cookers"! I was also glad I was home to keep an eye on it because I did have to add water twice during that time as the level was starting to drop ever so slightly below chickpea level. I made sure to use boiling water so as not to decrease the temperature.

I did some research and one suggestion was to soak the chickpeas with 1 tablespoon of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Then drain & rinse of course and then to use spring water especially if you live in hard water area. Which of course we do -- and I know this -- but I forgot. Next time -- spring water only! See if these tips make a difference in how long it takes.Perhaps my chickpeas were old -- I did buy them bulk recently but with bulk who knows how old it is. You would hope not that old but next time I'm going to see if I can buy them pre-packaged with indication of expiry date and see if that helps. There were also a lot of chickpea skins floating around which I don't like but it's not a problem when making hummus. And it did make absolutely wonderful tasting hummus so all in all it was worth the effort. I also did read that a lot of women in India apparently don't care for chickpea skins either in their cooking and take the time to remove them before use in dishes where appearance is important.

Wishing everyone a good time with their baking and hoping to get a few more posts in before Christmas. Right now I'm backtracking through my recipes and trying to get a few more dishes in the freezer cause a lot don't seem to be making it there or lasting too long once they are :)
P.S. Here's a photo I took of the christmas card my sister sent me in the mail - she always sends beautiful cards and so thought I'd share this one with you all! Happy Holidays!

Amaretto Almond Paste

I was planning to try out a dutch recipe called gevulde speculaas (filled spice cookie or bar) and the filling is almond paste. I tossed around the idea of whether to make or buy and decided I'd just buy. It just wasn't that easy. Seems they were already sold out at all the stores in my area so I was back to "guess I'll try and make it". Scanned out several recipes and decided to go with a combo of two different ones. It's pretty straightforward. It's also fine if you happen to have some amaretto liquor around or don't mind buying some for this recipe and having lots leftover :) I used almond meal so that made it real quick.

1-1/2 cup ground almonds (blanched)
1-1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons *amaretto

Mix together. Knead well -- if too sticky -- add a few teaspoons icing sugar until it's a nice cohesive consistency (see how mine turned out in photo above). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest (in the fridge) anywhere from overnight to a week before using. Apparently it is supposed to develop more flavor the longer it sits. I'm planning to let mine sit until December 24th.

*2 teaspoons almond extract + 4 teaspoons syrup can be substituted for amaretto.*

If you don't want to purchase a full-size bottle just for one recipe see if your liquor store sells single serving bottles - these contain 50 ml (approx. 4 tablespoons).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

GF Peanut Butter Almond Cookies

I have been wanting to make a gluten free cookie for a while now and today was the day. The results were better than I expected. In fact the combination of several types of "flours" made for a very hearty and reasonably "healthy" cookie. I was primarily making these for my grandson and since I'm looking for a "good" higher fat cookie I kept the margarine low but added 1/2 cup of peanut butter for the fat as well as the extra protein factor. Photo shown is the decorated version as I was feeling festive! They don't need the decorations obviously but it's a nice touch for christmas. The glaze is made with icing sugar, water and almond extract. I then made another small batch of glaze and subbed some amaretto liquor for the almond extract and I daresay that's a mighty nice sub if the cookies you are making are for adults only. This batch of cookies was for my DD Rachel who has wheat allergies and she was just as happy as my grandson with the results. Indeed she was quite elaborate in her praises of this cookie so I hope you get the same response.

1/4 cup EB buttery vegan stick margarine
1/4 cup sweetened applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup organic granulated sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons *eggy-flaxseed mixture*

3/4 cup *gluten-free flour mixture*
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons quick oats
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

l. Cream first seven ingredients together in a medium-size bowl and whip well with electric mixer - I only have small hand-held type and it works excellent for this.
2. Mix next seven ingredients together and then combine with the creamed ingredients. Mix together thoroughly. If necessary add another tablespoon or two of any of the above flours to give dough required consistency. Refrigerate dough for an hour or so.
3. You can make small or medium size cookies. Make balls and roll them through white sugar, press down with a glass and add almond if you so desire. For small cookie use 1 tablespoon dough each and bake in 375 degree oven for about 6 minutes. For medium size cookie use 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dough each and bake at the same temperature for about 9 minutes. DD preferred the larger size cookie as they are slightly softer at that size. However the smaller ones do get softer too if , after cooling, you store them in a plastic container. Makes 24-28 cookies if you make the medium size cookie (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dough).

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. Put through a sifter to make sure it's blended together very well.This makes 3-1/2 cups gluten-free flour. You only need to use 3/4 cup for making the above recipe.*

*flaxseed mixture -- Stir about 6 heaping tablespoons of golden ground flaxseed into 1-1/2 cups water, whipped it a bit with a fork and put it in the fridge. You can use a blender but fork method worked just fine for me. Should have approximately the consistency of egg whites. Store in the fridge for 3 days. Use 4 tablespoons of this liquid (stir each time before using) to substitute for one egg.*

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Potato-crusted lentil hot pot

I was looking for something else to do with red lentils besides soup and found this here . The original recipe is listed below so you can decide whether you want to go with that one or implement a few of the changes I made. I rarely use celery so substituted a small bok choy in it's place and also added half a small zucchini . I used one onion instead of two because to me, for a dish that only serves 4 people, two onions seems excessive. Five fresh organic tomatoes would cost a small fortune on the prairies in winter so I used one 14 oz size can of diced organic tomatoes including the juice which I figured eliminated the need for the 1 cup stock. I also cooked the lentils for closer to 20-25 minutes. I scrubbed my potatoes, buttered them on the outside and cooked them in the oven until tender. I cooled them and then removed the skins before placing on top of the lentil mixture. I used my own spices that I prefer (my usual -- lots of chili powder, garlic/parlsey powder, 4 teaspoons of veggie broth powder, 1/4 teaspoon tumeric, dash of pepper & paul bragg). I forgot the curry powder. All in all a very nice way to use red lentils -- not the most photogenic dish in the world but very tasty. I'll definitely be making this again as it's hard to beat the nutritional value of this combination. Maybe I'm slow but the preparation time took me longer than 20 minutes -- by the time I peeled, cleaned & chopped everything and had the dish oven ready it was more like 45 minutes. They must have speed cooks in these kitchens -- anyhow doesn't matter -- the dish was totally worth spending 45 minutes on!

Serving size: Serves 4
Cuisine type: Modern Australian
Cooking time: More than 1 hour
Special options: Low fat, Vegetarian
Course: Main

Preparation time 20 minutes. Cooking time 1 hour 25 minutes. Recipe is best made just before serving. Not suitable to freeze or microwave. Per serve 9.8g fat; 1719kJ

¾ cup (150g) red lentils
5 medium potatoes (1kg)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium brown onions (300g), chopped
2 medium carrots (240g), chopped
3 sticks trimmed celery (225g) chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
l teaspoon curry powder
5 medium ripe tomatoes (950g), peeled, chopped
1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
15g butter, melted
¼ teaspoon paprika

Cover lentils with water in large pan, bring to boil, then simmer uncovered, about 10 minutes or until lentils are just tender; drain well.
Boil, steam or microwave potatoes in their skins until tender.
Heat oil in large pan; cook onion, carrot, celery and garlic, stirring, over medium heat about 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Stir in curry powder; cook 1 minute. Add tomato, stock and paste, bring to boil; simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and lentils.
Spoon lentil mixture into oiled large ovenproof dish (8-cup capacity). Slice potatoes; arrange over lentil mixture. Brush potato slices with butter, sprinkle with paprika.
Bake hot pot, uncovered, in moderate oven(350F) about 45 minutes or until lightly browned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maple-Flavored Banana Smoothie

This maple-flavored banana smoothie is silky smooth goodness! The agave syrup maple flavor gives it a powerful boost that won't disappoint. I'm hoping to buy this by the gallon. Seriously -- it doesn't get much better than this. Listen to the rest of the lineup of flavors: Blueberry, Hazelnut, Vanilla, Irish Creme, Amaretto, Raspberry and Cappuccino. Which one wouldn't you want? Madhava's Agave nectar Glycemic Index measures in the range of 32. In comparison, Honey is 58 and table sugar measures about 64. Agave has more sweetening power than sugar so you can use less. Generally, 2/3 cups of agave will replace 1 cup of sugar. One note of caution: Agave, like honey, should not be fed to infants under the age of 12 months.

20 oz cold soy milk
1 banana frozen
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
3 teaspoons maple-flavor agave nectar

Whirl until smooth. I highly recommend a Vita-Mix Blender if you do lots of smoothies -- it's a worthwhile investment that delivers. I find that the flavor of one frozen banana and one regular banana works really well together. Serves two for a quick and delicious energy boost.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
How's everyone else doing with their pre-xmas duties? I was busy today putting together another 3 dozen tofu croquettes - dutch style because acccording to my DD there is just no such thing as too many croquettes. She picked me up a bag of frozen "veggie ginger chicken" from the whole vegetarian food store so that I can try making a new flavor croquette that we've never had before. It will be interesting to see how it works out. There is a dutch restaurant called Danku in New York City whose signature menu item is the croquette. They stuff their croquettes with many non-traditional fillings such as: mac & cheese, artichokes & spinach and cinnamon-apple to name a few. Those sound like some fun food projects to try out in the future so stay tuned! Perhaps 2010 will be my own personal "year of the croquette"!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Double-Layered Pear Coffee Cake

You know how they have lazy cabbage rolls? This could be dubbed lazy cinnamon rolls! Cause that's the taste flavor happening here. So quick, so easy, so good! What a great way to use up canned fruits that are not too tasty on their own which pretty well describes the pears that I bought back in September. On top of being not so tasty they were also rather hard so I threw them in the freezer hoping for something good to do with them one day. So yesterday when I was searching through my freezer I spotted them and thought these have to get out of here one way or another! Another way turned out to be this seriously addictive, double-layered, pear coffee cake. So tasty I might just have to go buy some more crappy canned fruit -- I'm sure almost any kind would do here. I'm thinking peaches would be divine. Maybe if we lived in sunny California we wouldn't have to resort to disguising fruits with flour and sugar but unfortunately not only do I have issues with most of the canned fruits but alas, also most of the "fresh" fruits available for purchase in our supermarkets. Anyhow, one piece of this pear cofee cake, warm and fresh out of the oven, will help you forget most of your issues. Heel lekker! (dutch for: very tasty).

3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour, all-purpose
3 tablespoons margarine (hard)
1 teaspoon frontier organic cinnamon

1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/4 cup margarine
4 tablespoons *flaxseed mixture*
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup soy milk

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 c. canned pears,
drained & thinly slicedBlend brown sugar, margarine and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in cold, hard margarine in small pieces. Blend thoroughly -- easiest way is to rub it through your fingers several times till mixed well. Set aside.

Combine sugar, margarine (out of necessity, I used 2 tablespoons soft style margarine and 2 tablespoons hard though I think either type of margarine would be fine in this application) and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Cream for one minute. Add the 4 tablespoons flaxseed mixture and whip at medium high speed until fluffy. About 1-2 minutes. Stir in the soymilk.

Sift 1-1/2 c flour,baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir into your creamed mixture and mix only as much as required to blend the two together.

Spread 1/2 the batter in a greased 9 inch square pan. Batter is a bit stiff and might be a little difficult to spread - if it is -- just spray the back of a spoon with pam and use that to spread it out -- it will be much easier.

Cover with 1/2 the pears and top with slightly less than 1/2 of the brown sugar mixture.

Repeat layers.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes. (glass pan)

*flaxseed mixture -- since I've been doing a fair amount of baking this past week I decided to make up my "eggy" flaxseed mixture to keep on hand in the fridge. Easier than making it up fresh each time you need it. I stirred about 6 heaping tablespoons of golden ground flaxseed into 1-1/2 cups water, whipped it a bit with a fork and put it in the fridge. You can use a blender but fork method worked just fine for me. Should have approximately the consistency of egg whites. Store in the fridge for 3 days. I used 4 tablespoons of this liquid (stir each time before using) to substitute for one egg.*

Friday, December 11, 2009

Udon Noodles in Peanut Butter Sauce

Some slurping noises are encouraged when eating these noodles. According to Japanese custom it's okay to do so and supposedly makes it taste better. Though if you are a peanut butter lover you're going to enjoy these saucy noodles whether you slurp or not -- I just wanted you not to feel bad if you did! It's a simple dish but it does take a bit of time and prep to get it all together. I bought fresh Mr. Noodles Udon Noodles at Save-On Foods. They contain only three ingredients -- flour, water and salt.

1 package of fresh Udon Noodles
1 broccoli crown
1 onion, diced
garlic, 2 cloves
175 gm extra firm tofu, cubed

#1 - Boil udon noodles in some water infused with a few teaspoons of veggie broth powder. Drain (save the water) add 2 teaspoons of margarine, cover and set aside.
#2 - Separate broccoli into bite size pieces. Cook/steam your broccoli in the water you saved from step #1 above. Now drain off the water from the broccoli and save this again (it will be used in your peanut sauce). Cover, and set broccoli aside.
#3 - Cube tofu and saute in pan along with the diced onion and 2 cloves garlic. Add some paul bragg and stir fry until everything is nicely cooked and browned. Now it's time to make your sauce.

1 cup water (saved from #2 above)
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2-3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons szechuan sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon

Stir and heat all the sauce ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat for about a minute or two. Now combine your noodles, broccoli and tofu in a large bowl and pour over your peanut sauce. Sauce thickens slightly as it sits and/or cools.
Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
This stuff is so delicious -- you can eat it hot or cold! I love it either way. Of course I just might be one of the biggest peanut butter lovers out there. My favorite sandwich growing up, and that I have not grown out of, was peanut butter and jam. I'd be happy to eat that for breakfast, lunch, supper or in between. This has got me on a roll -- now I want to make some massive-sized peanut butter cookies that melt in your mouth like shortbread. Or some peanut butter rice krispie squares? Or maybe a peanut butter soy milk shake? Isn't peanut butter one of the most wonderfully versatile food products ever? I am so lucky that I have no family members who are allergic to it but if you do there is a new soybutter called SchoolSafe Soybutter that is supposed to be so close to peanut butter in smell, taste and texture that you won’t believe it’s not peanut butter. Interesting indeed -- I'd be curious to try it that's for sure. It's slated for availability, on some Canadian supermarket shelves (like Sobey's, Walmart, A&P), in February of 2010.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If You Care Baking Cups

Dear Readers: I am in the midst of doing some xmas cooking/baking right now so today I have nothing to share in the way of a new recipe. In fact I'm enjoying leftovers of last nights' Creamy Chunky Broccoli Soup as I'm browsing through all my past posts trying to decide what to bake and/or cook and put in the freezer just so I don't get caught off guard when the calendar all of a sudden hits December 24th. I'm just starting on my first batch of Tofu Croquettes - Dutch Style . Anyhow this rambling is leading to today's topic of "If You Care Baking Cups". I ran out of my old supply of baking cups and purchased new ones recently. However the new ones were so different it floored me. Here I am always pumping them up on my blog because indeed the old ones were amazing. I had several failures of trying my own cupcake & mookie recipes whereby there was some serious sticking and/or not baking properly at all. I was questioning my own sanity. However I decided that the fault had to lie with the baking cups as that was the only part of the equation that was different -- and obviously so. They felt, looked and handled so poorly. I decided that the only thing to do was to send an e-mail to the office of If You Care and you can read my e-mail as I sent it here:

"I have totally loved the baking cups and have bought them many times. However my latest purchase has not been as pleasing. What happened? They seem way way less non-stick then before. Before they practically fell off the muffin the minute you took them out of the oven. Now you must wait until they are totally cool and then there is still a lot of crumbs left behind. Very crazy -- as the ones I used to get were simply amazing and awesome and I told everyone I could about them. However now I'm scratching my head and saying what happened here? Can you explain. code number inside box says 47200019-03 if that is any help. I live in Edmonton , Alberta and purchased them -- six boxes of them at Planet Organic. This is my second box and it's just as bad as the first. Some of the paper cups in my first box had pieces cut away in them so I had to discard them -- also strange. About the size of a 1/2 quarter coin I'd say at the top. I look forward to your response."

So anyhow I'm pleased to say they responded immediately, with apologies and acknowledgement that there is indeed an issue and they are working on it as quickly as they can. They are going to keep me updated and provide me with "new improved samples" as they become available. In the meantime they have offered (and I have gratefully accepted) to send me some baking cups from their supply of old stock which they still have on hand in their warehouse. I am so excited -- I can't wait to get them. So, anyhow my purpose in today's lengthy post is just to let everyone know that if you feel something is not performing the way it used to DO contact the company because you're probably right! Hopefully they will be as honest and forthright as the If You Care people were with me. In the meantime I'm going to advise you not to buy the current If You Care baking cups on the shelves because they certainly won't live up to the praises I've lavished on them in previous posts! It seems the non-stick finish is totally missing and they are now like ordinary paper baking cup liners. Therefore they could possibly be adequate enough for muffins or cupcakes containing moderate amounts of fat but for what I mostly need them for they won't work. That would be for the lower fat and/or gluten-free items.

I'll do another posting in the future to let you know when the new, improved product (that works like the old product) is available on the shelves. Hopefully we here in Canada will also be getting the two new sizes that they have incorporated into their line. I'd love to make some low-fat mini muffins that release easily from their liners because when their product works like it's supposed there is nothing better on the market that I know of. If anybody does please e-mail me and let me know.

I do have some new recipes I'd like to try but I'm awaiting some "special" supplies from Karmavore, the online vegan shopping store, located in Vancouver. Amongst the special supplies I'm awaiting are some Dandies marshmallows, Daiya Cheese and White Chocolate Bars. The Daiya cheese is supposed to be the hottest new thing to hit the vegan cheese scene so I'm looking forward to trying some recipes with that in the new year! In the meantime I'd like to wish a Happy Holiday Cooking Extravaganza to all the busy little kitchen elves everywhere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Creamy Chunky Potato-Broccoli Soup

I love soup of any kind but I particularly like creamy soups. This is a very tasty combination that is easy to throw together. At -22 on the prairies any kind of soup is a "hot" item today. So go buy yourself some broccoli and bok choy and enjoy two outstanding "superheroes" from the vegetable kingdom. And here's something I didn't know before -- I was wondering why sometimes the broccoli tops appear purple - but apparently it means they possess a higher level of carotenoids, which is better for your health. So keep the color purple in mind the next time you're looking for broccoli!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bunch baby bok choy, chopped
4-6 potatoes, chopped chunky style
2 crowns broccoli, chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas*
1/2 cup raw sushi rice
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic/parsley powder
1 tablespoon veggie broth powder
paul bragg to taste
2-3 cups water

2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups plain soy milk
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion,bok choy & spices in olive oil until softened. Add 2 cups water, rice, potatoes, broccoli and *chickpeas* (if you love chickpeas, like I do, put them in -- if not this will still be tasty enough). I used to throw away broccoli stalks and I still do if they are really woody. However usually the ones attached to the crowns are nice enough to peel, chop and add to soups so now I do that as sources indicate they are a great storehouse of lots of healthy nutrients as well. Keep an eye on the water level and add more as required. Stir every 10 minutes or so to make sure rice doesn't stick to bottom of your pot. Whilst the veggies are simmering make the white sauce. It should only take about 45 minutes or so for the vegetables and rice to cook. When they are ready stir in the cooked white sauce. Simmer on low for another 5 minutes or so and you're done. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gluten-free Pineapple Bars

I made these pineapple bars based on the recipe for pineapple-filled bars in a previous post. I used oatflour made in the vitamix from organic quick oats. Most sources now seem to agree that oats are suitable in a gluten-free diet as long as you are able to purchase pure oats. There are several such products available on the shelves of Planet Organic. The brand name is Only Oats and the company, FarmPure Foods Inc., from whom they purchase this line of oats is located in Regina, Saskatchewan. They have some nice gluten-free recipes on their website using oatflour.


3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1-1/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup hard margarine
(such as Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks)
1/8 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups shredded coconut
(such as Let's Do Organics brand coconut)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1-1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice (14 oz can)
2 tbsp. margarine
3-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

Bottom layer: Mix first 5 ingredients together until crumbly. Spread about 2 cups in greased 9x9 pan. Press down firmly with your hand. Save the remainder for the topping.

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 don't take out of the pan until totally cooled.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I made several changes to this recipe including cutting down the sugar by 1/2 cup as I believe that after all these years my tastes are changing slightly. As much as I have loved the original recipe for years this is the first year that I thought they were a little too sweet. I also decided to increase the amount of pineapple so that the layer of fruit is much thicker in this version. Oat flour acts differently than wheat flour with margarine so it seems to taste a lot less fatty than the original recipe. A note of caution -- make sure to use a "hard" margarine for the base part of this recipe as the "soft" will result in a mixture that won't hold together well once baked.

I was surprised that my taste testers also preferred this version so this will now be our "new standard " pineapple-filled bar. Try both if you are able and see which you prefer. The original version is going to be preferred for the times when you are serving a larger crowd (and if obviously gluten is NOT a concern) as they are a little more compact and slightly less fragile. The gluten-free version is great for family when you are able to serve the same on individual plates. They both freeze well and taste good even after only 1 hour out of the freezer. If you are looking to indulge a litte further the gluten free version, with it's much larger volume of pineapple filling, would taste great with a scoop of soy vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Super-Creamy Hummus

This is super-creamy hummus - partially because we make it in the Vita-Mix and partially because there is a fair amount of oil in this recipe. For some reason the Vita-Mix is not very good at making a single batch of hummus so we always have to double it. This is no problem because we're very good at eating a lot of it and also hummus is another one of those items that is very freezable. I never knew that but a middle-eastern lady who had a falafel/hummus stand at earthday one year told me she always made large batches of hummus and froze it. I decided that if she said it was okay it surely must be. I've never had to do it yet because I always manage to clean the bowl before it's been required. Like I said we love to eat it in large quantities. I can eat this stuff with a spoon that's how good it is. Feel free to reduce the fat dramatically -- it will still taste good even with 1/2 the fat I'm sure. I used to be the hummus maker in the family but since we got the Vita-Mix my DD is now in charge of it. This is her favorite way to make hummus.

2 cans of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablesoon paul bragg
1 tablespoon flax oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons veganaise (optional)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic/parsley powder
2 tablespoons plain soy milk

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I'd have to say that after reading the *Wikipedia* page on chickpeas they must win 1st price for being the most versatile legume on the market. Here's an excerpt from that page:

Mature chickpeas can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews, ground into a flour called gram flour (also known as besan and used primarily in Indian cuisine), ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, fermented to make an alcoholic drink similar to sake, stirred into a batter and baked to make farinata, cooked and ground into a paste called hummus or roasted, spiced and eaten as a snack (such as leblebi).

Chickpea flour is also used to make "Burmese tofu" which was first known among the Shan people of Burma. The flour is used as a batter to coat various vegetables and meats before frying, such as with panelle, a chickpea fritter from Sicily.[9] Chickpea flour is also used to make the mediterranean flatbread socca.

After seeing photos of the Burmese Tofu, the *Socca (pictured above)* and reading all the different ways I've never used chickpeas, I'm on the hunt for some new recipes. I already made "Leblebi" (roasted chickpeas) in November - though at that time I had never heard the word "Leblebi" before. I also found out that there are two main kinds of chickpea - Desi & Kabuli. The desi type is used to make Chana Dal, which is a split chickpea with the skin removed. The Kabuli seems to be used for all the other ways to use chickpeas. And apparently in the Philippines garbanzo beans are preserved in syrup and eaten as sweets and in desserts such as halo-halo! That would be an interesting one to see and try. And, now, after reading all the things we can do with our wonderful little chickpea I was thinking how much fun it would be to see an Iron Chef "Chickpea" Challenge! They've probably already done it...but I'd love to see it!

Nutritional Profile for Chickpeas
One hundred grams of mature boiled chickpeas contains 164 calories, 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein. Chickpeas also provide dietary calcium (49–53 mg/100 g).


Friday, December 4, 2009

Simple Red Lentil Soup

I had a request to put up a recipe for a simple red lentil soup. Here's the one I like to make. You could also call it the "add-on soup" because basically once you puree this soup you have an awesome starting point that can feature virtually any vegetable you enjoy or happen to have on hand. As an example I photographed what I had for supper tonight. I just cubed a small potato and a 1/4 zucchini, pan-fried quickly - added a tablespoon of water, put a lid on it and it was steamed and ready in less than 10 minutes. I had already made the base lentil soup yesterday so it was more or less instant dinner. I also stirred in 2 tablespoons of hummus that my DD had just made and that was a really good idea. Extra garlicky goodness! I'll post her recipe later.Lentil soup deserves 5 stars for it's iron content alone. 100 gm of red lentils provides 60% of RDA.

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
curry powder - 2-3 tsp.
chili powder - 2 tsp.
garlic/parsley powder - 2 tsp.
1 large potato, diced
4 cups water
1 tablespoon veggie broth powder
1 cup red lentils
1/3 cup short grain rice (I use sushi)
*1/2 cup plain soy milk*
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, garlic, carrots & spices in 1 tbsp. olive oil until softened. Add the potato, water, veggie broth, lentils and rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer on medium heat until done. Check every 15 minutes to stir and add extra water if required.Takes about an hour or so. Take off heat, add about 1/2 cup plain soy milk, and then using immersion blender whirl until very smooth. Freezer friendly recipe.

*Soy milk is not critical -- I like it. You could also add 1/2 cup tomato soup if you like or just plain water. It all depends on if I feel the soup is too thick or not whether I add anything at all before blending.*

Gluten-free Banana Cupcakes

This is my fluffiest vegan banana cupcake recipe made gluten-free. I was very pleased with the result of this conversion as well. I think all the bananas is what helps make it fairly light and very tasty. The peanut butter icing doesn't hurt either. Neither does the melted chocolate chips and the tamari almonds.

*1-1/4 cups gluten-free mixture*
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 margarine (melted)
1/2 cup organic coconut milk
2 tablespoons golden flaxseed (ground)
2-3 organic ripe bananas (2 large or 3 medium)
2 teaspoons frontier organic vanilla extract
2 tablespoons gingerale

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. Put through a sifter to make sure it's blended together very well.This makes 3-1/2 cups gluten-free flour. You only need to use 1-1/4 cups for making the above recipe.*

#1 -- Stir together the first six dry ingredients and then sift 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! Then add the 2 tablespoons of gingerale - whirl 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).
#5 -- Throw in the oven at 350 for about 20-22 minutes depending on your oven. I suggest checking at the 20 minute mark.
#6 -- Let cool in the muffin tin for about 5-10 minutes -- then carefully transfer each cupcake to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting, if desired.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
These cupcakes were very popular even with those that can eat wheat no problem. They are not as light and airy as those made with wheat but they are certainly not heavy nor crumbly. I have found that most of the gluten-free items you buy are for the most part very dry and crumbly. It's enough to turn anyone off gluten-free baking attempts. However don't hesitate on this recipe -- you should be well pleased with the results. In fact my DD (who can eat wheat) requested that I bake the gluten-free version of this recipe as she said she actually prefers this over the original version made with wheat. I'll get right on that!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Foods that Fight Pain - N. Barnard, M.D.

I thought I would devote today's post to the above issue. I wanted to focus on the impact that foods may have on our health and that for some people it is vital that they have access to information that might help improve their quality of life. I just thought it was so exciting that something as simple as 1/2 teaspoon of ginger each day could potentially help relieve migraine suffering! If that even helps one person out there it would be worth doing this post. I believe that the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) website is an excellent resource and that is why I'm doing this post devoted to them and to one of the directors, Dr. Neal Barnard. What is PCRM? Doctors and laypersons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research, and health promotion.
Vegetarians of Alberta has sponsored lectures featuring Dr. Neal Barnard several times in the past decade and it's always inspiring to hear him speak. He has authored several books/dvd's. Check the public library as I'm sure they'll have several of his books/dvd's on the shelf. The Edmonton Public Library has 12 of his books/dvd's including his latest DVD -- Eating for Cancer Survival. Today I thought I'd highlight one of his articles on migraines as I have some friends and family members that suffer from this condition and according to one statistic one out of four people do as well. In light of that I thought I'd just copy the first page for you to read and if you want to download and/or read the rest just click on migraines above.

A Natural Approach to Migraines
Research has shown surprising links between migraines and food. Certain foods can cause migraines, while others can prevent or even treat them. Coffee, for example, can sometimes knock out a migraine, and foods rich in magnesium, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and fiber have been used to cure migraines. Some reports suggest that ginger—the ordinary kitchen spice—may help prevent and treat migraines with none of the side effects of drugs. ( 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 2 grams) of fresh powdered ginger per day.) The herb feverfew also effectively prevented migraines in placebo-controlled research studies. A migraine is not just a bad headache. It has a characteristic pattern, usually involving just one side of your head. It is a throbbing pain (rather than a dull, constant ache), often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds. See your doctor to evaluate your headache, especially if headaches are new for you, are unusually severe or persistent, or are accompanied by any of these characteristics:

• fever
• a change in your strength, coordination, or senses
• neck or back pain
• a chronic run-down feeling with pain in your muscles or joints
• drowsiness
• difficulty thinking or concentrating
• progressive worsening over time
• the headache awakens you from sleep
• the headache follows head trauma

Find Your Migraine Triggers
In 1983, researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in London reported their results for 88 children with severe, frequent migraines who began an elimination diet. In this group, 78 children recovered completely and 4 improved greatly. In addition, some children who also had seizures found that their seizures stopped. The researchers then reintroduced various foods and found that they sparked migraine in all but eight children. In subsequent tests using disguised foods, the vast majority of children again became symptom-free when trigger foods were avoided. Migraines returned when trigger foods were added to the diet. Since that time, additional research has confirmed that dietary factors can trigger migraines in children and adolescents.Anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of adults experience a reduction or elimination of their headaches when common trigger foods are avoided.

Pain-Safe Foods
Pain-safe foods virtually never contribute to headaches or other painful conditions. These include:
• Rice, especially brown rice
• Cooked green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, or collards
• Cooked orange vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes
• Cooked yellow vegetables, such as summer squash
• Cooked or dried non-citrus fruits, such as cherries, cranberries, pears, or prunes (but not citrus fruits, apples, bananas, peaches, or tomatoes)
• Water: Plain water or carbonated forms, such as Perrier, are fine. Other beverages—even herbal teas—can be triggers.
• Condiments: Modest amounts of salt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract are usually well-tolerated.

Common Triggers
Common triggers often cause headaches in susceptible people. Just as some food sensitivities manifest as a rash on your skin, migraine sufferers have a reaction in the blood vessels and nerves. Turn the page for a list of the common food triggers, also known as the “Dirty Dozen,” in order of importance:

1. dairy products*
2. chocolate
3. eggs
4. citrus fruits
5. meat**
6. wheat (bread, pasta, etc.)
7. nuts and peanuts
8. tomatoes
9. onions
10. corn
11. apples
12. bananas

* Includes skim or whole cow’s milk, goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
** Includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.

Certain beverages and additives are also among the worst triggers, including alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and colas), monosodium glutamate, aspartame (NutraSweet), and nitrites. Foods that are neither on the pain-safe list nor the common trigger list should be considered possible but unlikely triggers. Almost any common food, other than those on the pain-safe list, has triggered migraines in an isolated individual in a research study, so these foods cannot be considered completely above suspicion (but they are far from the most likely culprits).

The Two-Week Test
The first step in tackling your migraines is to check whether any of the common triggers are causing them. To do this, you simply avoid these foods. At the same time, include generous amounts of pain-safe foods in your routine and see whether migraines occur, and, if so, how often.
Here is how to start with anti-migraine foods. For two weeks:
1. Have an abundance of foods from the pain-safe list.
2. Avoid the common triggers completely.
3. Foods that are not on either list can be eaten freely.
The key is to be very careful in avoiding the common triggers. See Foods That Fight Pain by PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., for trigger-free recipes.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I hope you find this to be a useful post. I have several of Dr.Barnard's books on my book shelf so I'll go browse through them and try out a few of his recipes. I'll have to lay off the cuppycake recipes for a while but hey that will be to my benefit as well! I also have a book I borrowed from the library entitled Superfoods for Healthy Kids that I plan to try a few recipes out of. Hopefully I will have some to post from both sources later this week.

Cookies by Duncan Hines

Life doesn't always have to be hard when you're trying to bake vegan, does it? I'm not saying these cookies are going to win the Pilsbury Bake-Off but hey they are fast, easy and they do come fresh out of your oven. That's still hard for any store cookie to beat, right? These were a real bargain too -- I picked up this cookie mix from Save-On food a few weeks ago for 99 cents! Even the chocolate chips nestled amongst the dry ingredients were quite tasty on their own. (I picked out a few to try out before baking)! Your baked cookies will be vegan as long as you don't follow the directions on the box. It only calls for one egg so that's an easy deal to replace with whatever you generally like to do. I did it with 3 tablespoons of applesauce -- made them a little moist but next day they were perfect.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Not like I should be searching for more cupcake recipes on the internet but I could not help myself tonight and I was totally captivated by the promise of "the lightest, airiest, fluffy vanilla cupcakes ever -- turn out perfect every time". Well I was hooked and set out quickly for my kitchen to cash in on this wonderful promise. It was not a recipe from someone's personal food blog -- just out there in internet land somewhere. Well I could barely peel them off my non-stick paper liners -- they were heavy, bland & tasted of canola oil. Regretfully I tumbled them all off the plate and into the garbage and that was that. I then proceeded to try to make one of my own cupcake recipes but I wanted to make them gluten-free. Well I shan't go into every gory detail but that made for another plate of cupcakes sent off to never never land!
I felt like a failure but thought I must succeed so I turned to my never-fail Joan's Grandmother's Cake (from Peta cookbook) and quickly whipped up batch number 3 for the oven. Thank the cupcake god's these turned out perfectly and as a testament to that I give you the photo above! This is without a doubt one of the best recipes ever, ever, ever and I will no longer try out random cupcake recipes from the internet! See my post of October 20th, 2009 (Chocolate Overdose Cupcakes) for the original recipe. If I was giving money back guarantees on recipes this is the one I wouldn't hesitate to do it on! Thank you Joan's Grandmother :)