Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mushroom-Coconut Curry

We almost always have mushrooms here, and lately I have been cooking up recipes for which mushrooms are the primary focus. I'm not quite sure where I originally found this one - it was at least 10 or 12 years ago 'and in another country' etc. - possibly it originated with Charmaine Solomon. Because I try, as much as possible, to cook without added fat/oil and without a lot of high-calorie ingredients, I've adapted this recipe so that it won't quite be as Mrs Solomon (or whoever it was) would wish. For example, the soymilk plus cornstarch plus coconut extract replaces the same quantity of coconut milk. In making it for only two persons, the proportions have also changed a bit - and of course seasoning adjusted to my taste. Method is my own. Nevertheless . . . .


* for TWO persons *

1/2 lb (250 g) mushrooms, quartered
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1 tsp grated ginger (I used some from a jar - not as nice, but it was quick)
6 curry leaves (I used dried. If you don't have these, don't worry. It's a subtle flavour.)
1 tsp (or to taste) of curry powder (your own mix, preferably, or a good commercial blend)
1/4 tsp salt, if you use it, or of course to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala (again, your own mix or a good commercial blend)
1/2 cup low-fat soymilk
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
few drops coconut extract
2 tsp lemon juice

'Saute' the mushrooms, green onions, garlic, ginger and curry leaves in a little water until softened. Add the curry powder, salt (if used) and mushrooms and continue to cook over low heat, adding a little water as needed, until the mushrooms are softened and the flavours are nicely blended.

Meanwhile, mix together the soymilk, cornstarch and coconut extract.

Sprinkle with the softened mushroom mix with garam masala. Add the soymilk 'coconut' mix and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Garnish, if you wish, with a few sprigs of something green or another green onion chopped and another dash of garam masala.

Serve with brown rice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mushroom & Tofu Pasta Bake

I'm always searching for new ways to take a lazy way out of cooking - which by the way I profess to love most of the time - without compromising my promise to myself to cook from scratch (well, I don't make my own pasta anymore and never make my own tofu or soymilk, so . . . .LOL ). Somehow - it must be because the oven makes the place so warm and cosy - I've taken to popping pasta dishes and other kinds of things in the oven and then sitting back and waiting for them to be ready!

Here's what I did the day before yesterday - and I'm including a lot of photos cuz someone asked me to do step-by-step and so here it is LOL

But first a word about the pasta itself. I found the most delectable kamut spirelli in one of my favourite shops and thought I'd try it out:

I'm sure it comes in many other brands, but this one is organic and is actually available in Ontario! Anyway, here we go:


(for 2 hungry people or 3-4 lighter eaters)

125 g (4 or 5 ounces in weight?) spirelli (you could use penne or whatever) pasta, set aside until ready to cook.
250 g (1/2 lb.) Mushrooms, sliced (measurements can vary - use what you have)
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
150 g (around 5 or 6 ounces in weight?) Zucchini, chopped (ditto)
1/2 pkg low-fat tofu (you might want to use more so that you have extra sauce to pass at the table)
soymilk and/or stock - enough to thin out the tofu to a cream consistency
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 - 2 Tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
1 Tbsp white miso
crumbs or vegan parmezan cheez for topping (I used my own mix that I keep on hand)
herbs according to taste

Method of sorts:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Saute your mushrooms - I do it in a little water with a Tbsp low-sodium soy, since I avoid using oil if at all possible.

While you are doing the mushrooms (only a short while - you'll want them to shrink to half size and look 'cooked'), boil some water and drop your zucchini into it for a couple of minutes only - or you could lightly steam them. You don't want them to go at all mushy. When these are done, drain and set aside.

Cook that pasta before you forget!

This kamut pasta is so pretty, isn't it, and it only takes a few minutes. Here it's still in its raw, dried state, but I thought the colours were nicer than I'd ever seen! Pop it into boiling water and keep an eye on the time - I only did mine for about half the time it called for, but you be the judge. You'll want your pasta, regardless of which kind you use, to be a little underdone because it will cook more in the oven.

When the mushrooms are ready, add the zucchini (I cut mine into small pieces so that they didn't take long to blanch and so that they'd mix in with the size of everything else. You might want to decide to do it differently)

and season to taste - but remember that you're going to have a seasoned tofu sauce over the lot, so go easy on salt etc.

Here we are again, all ready for the sauce.

For The Sauce:
Crumble the tofu, add enough soy milk or other liquid (do this a bit at a time) to make it possible to blend into a creamy sauce with a blender or a wand blender. Blend in the garlic and all other ingredients. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Sometimes it's the addition of a little vegan worcestershire sauce that helps a whole bunch, sometimes it isn't needed. Your choice.

Er, no pic of the sauce being made. We're going to just have to live with that. Imagine white. Got it? Okay, onwards!

Stir the sauce, pasta and vegetables together and turn into a baking dish which has been sprayed or lightly wiped with a faint film of olive oil. Here it is:

Top it, if you like, with crumbs, vegan parmezan cheez, or other appropriate crumby topping - or leave it plain. Your choice.

Yeah, well, you're right - it's the same image you got at the top of this post. Life's full of surprises, eh?

Bake for around 20 minutes. I cover mine with a layer of foil, very loosely, and take it off in the last few minutes.

And here it is baked. Now a warning for those like me who like to leave it in the oven until they've finished the first course:
If you leave it too long, it will dry out - but hey that's what that extra sauce I mentioned in the ingredients list is for. This recipe is so forgiving of absent-minded cooks!

Serve with whatever you like - we had ours plain the first day. But we did have a salad beforehand! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spicy Hot Pot


Today I felt as if we needed some serious veggies for our midday meal! I had been looking at a recipe in Barnard & Kramer's The Garaden of Vegan a while back, and thought that might be a good idea. Unfortunataely, as luck would have it, I didn't have any home made veg stock in the freezer, I had no green beans, no chickpeas, no cashews, and precious little cilantro, etc. etc. What I did have was an appetite. This is my adaptation of their Spicy Vegetable Hot Pot, simplified in method (don't need to fuss around much if you're not sauteeing in oil, after all). The mushrooms were added for nutrition and for added flavour, considering the kind of stock I was reduced to using.

2 cups vegetable stock (I used a low-sodium cube *sigh*)
5 or 6 ounces onion (half a large one), chopped
2 carrots (about 7 or 8 ounces), chopped
2 potatoes (around the same as the carrots in weight), chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp curry powder (I actually still have some left over from summer!)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 small red thai chili, minced (seeds and all for me - you might want to remove them)
1 Tbsp grated ginger (I used the kind from a jar)
1 cup cauliflower, chopped (from my freezer)
2 cups cooked soybeans (from my freezer)
2-1/2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 apple, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

I scrubbed but didn't peel the potatoes, carrots or apple.

Pan went on a medium-high heat with the vegetable stock. Onions went in next, quickly followed by the carrots, potatoes and garlic. Then the spices, chili and ginger and the heat was lowered to a simmer. After around 10 minutes the root vegetables were no longer hard. I added the cauliflower and soybeans (still feeling the chill) and the mushrooms and raised the heat. Another 5 to 8 minutes and they all seemed ready to have the apple, peas and cilantro join them. These took only a couple of minutes or so, because they really only needed to be heated through.

I served a salad to start, as usual (I'll spare you the photo this time!), and accompanied the hot pot with some wholewheat couscous. There's enough left for one enormous meal for two persons (and probably even three meals for two, depending on how much grain is consumed with it).

NOTE: It was very good. I'll do it again, probably tweaking the spices to make it a little 'hotter' and adding a little more of this and that. But bland it was not; it lives up to its name. Also I liked it with the peas - probably better than I would have liked the green beans, and the mushrooms must stay in, for me, regardless of what kind of stock I use. I love soybeans, but I also like chickpeas. I'm not sure what I'd use next time :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Eggplant Spiced North Indian Style, Baked Macaroni Bolognese

Those who know me know that I am essentially a lazy cook. I cook from scratch, but I take short cuts and I prefer things that can be left to cook themselves while we relax a bit before the meal. It helps if they can be kept warm on stovetop or in the oven (crockpot too) while we have our salad course.

These two meals were easy for me - and for that reason I'm likely to have them on the menu again and again.


I thought a bit about what to call this dish - it originated as one of Madhur Jaffrey's in her Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. However, I adjusted the seasoning quite a bit so that it probably violates the whole idea of naming it after any region. In additiion, I made it for two persons, which always messes with a recipe (you can rarely just cut a recipe by two-thirds anyway, and I didn't), and of course I omitted any added fat/oil, as per usual, and omitted the salt. The proportions of spices were adjusted to suit our taste (and to compensate for the lack of salt). The method and the seasonings changed, that's what :) but the eggplant and onion stayed. The results were very pleasing to us. Here's my renamed version.

1 lb eggplant, cubed (I left mine unpeeled - looks so pretty that way)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste, if used

I put all ingredients except for the lemon juice into a large skillet (I can see what's happening better that way) and stirred over medium-high heat with enough water to keep it all from burning, allowing the spices to get thoroughly mixed through and to coat the vegetables. Then I added around half a cup of water, covered, and lowered the heat for around 20 minutes to half an hour - well, it might have been a little longer - until the eggplant was cooked through but not mushy. Stirring every now and then helps - and it lets you keep any eye out to add more liquid if it looks as if it's going to burn. During one of those stirrings I added the lemon juice.

When done - and you know how you like your eggplant to be - taste for seasonings (you might have wanted salt, so add a little more if necessary).

Serve with brown rice and whatever salad-like things please you. Indian accompaniments would be best, but it's a versatile dish. Lovely way to take your veggies!!!

The next one is a really lazy dish -


Yesterday I was stuck for ideas, so I thought why not just re-run Saturday's lunch - spaghetti bolognese (or is that 'bolognaise'? Never mind!). I had made this from mushrooms and tvp plus all the usual suspects required for a good tomato pasta sauce. It had been very good. You can find the recipe HERE - except this time I had lots of mushrooms and therefore used more.

I cooked some quinoa macaroni (love that stuff!) - or I should say I deliberately undercooked it - while I reheated the bolognese sauce and added a little more tomato paste and stock along with another half dozen or so quartered mushrooms, jazzing it up with more chilies and more nutritional yeast - this dish was not going to be boring! I then mixed together the sauce and macaroni, saving a little sauce for the top, and dumped it into a casserole.

As you see I also added a cheezy crumb topping and paved the surface with some sliced mushrooms. Lightly covering with some aluminum foil, it went into the oven (375 F) for around half an hour then spent a little time with its cover off while we had our salad. Easy. (Okay, so it was just 'leftovers' - but it was still good and still easy! LOL)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Catching Up. Cauliflower-Tofu Bake, Spinach- & Tofu-Stuffed Shells

I have been a very naughty blogger, and now it's the end of the month and I haven't posted anything here in over three weeks! Shame on me!!!! I have no excuse except for having such a good time that cooking something new took second place to life with a capital L. The middle of the month we were in New York to see friends, attend opera and ballet, visit museums, wander around, and visit restaurants. Restaurants? Yes, we especially liked Candle 79 (not to be confused with Candle Cafe) and Franchia (sister restaurant to HanGawi, which we visited last time, but less formal). And I mustn't forget Dawat (not vegan like the others, but vegan-friendly), which belongs to actress, chef, and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey (our kitchen saint).

Since then and even just before then, I have been either raiding the freezer for previously cooked yummies or re-running old menus and recipes. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does mean rather lean pickings for blogging here.

But here are a couple of things you might like.


Here's a simple thing we did with cauliflower the other day. It was easy to partly cook the cauliflower, cut into flowerets, then make a sauce from some silken tofu, flavouring it with sodium-reduced soy, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, white miso, and various kinds of pepper - probably including cayenne ;) I used, for the two of us, about a package and a half of the tofu and thinned it to the right creamy consistency, and half a head of cauliflower. Some chopped onion gives a nice zip. Mix the sauce and the cauliflower together and bake until the top browns. Around half an hour should do it, depending on how much you use and how hot your oven is. I topped mine with some flavoured crumbs - ya know, the old ground-up nuts, crumbs, nutritional yeast, paprika, blah blah blah mix I keep in an airtight jar in the refrigerator all the time. You probably have your own favourite.


I have posted a Stuffed Shells recipe here before, but this one, also in the nature of an experiment, was even more successful. That may have been because I made a few changes to my previous recipe. I did however use the same very nice brand of brown rice shell pasta I used before.

Following the basic idea of my previous attempt, I substituted a couple of big handfuls of fresh baby spinach for the basil. This I chopped and then zapped with the wand blender along with some garlic, the tofu, mushrooms, etc., to which I also added a good squeeze of lemon juice, some herbs (what? Probably thyme or oregano), a little vegan worcestershire sauce, pepper (Cayenne too? Probably - just a dash) and two or three Tbsp nutritional yeast. These additions made for a similar looking but stronger tasting stuffing. If there was something else in there, I forget, but I tasted as I went along and kept going until it tasted right :) Proceding as before, this is what it looked like as plated.

You might want to keep some sauce to pass at the table.

And yes, thanks, we had a lovely time in New York! Here we are in Fort Tryon Park on our way to see The Cloisters for the first time in something like 35 years or so. Lovely day!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cranberry Borscht, Cranberry Bread, Eggplant & Okra Stew, green salad


This recipe is such a hit here that we have made huge batches of it twice now and can see no way of improving it. It comes straight from Finlayson's 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes - with the difference that, for some reason or other, we have always made it on top of the stove instead.

Here you see it, returned to a pan to reheat a portion for the two of us after being blended. So rich and creamy! And that colour!!!!!

What is different and nice about Finlayson's recipe is that instead of cabbage it uses the greens of the beets you use for the soup. No other vegetables, barring garlic, are added, but cranberries, orange and orange zest, etc., instead. Look it up - it's a winner!!!

Oh - I should add that once we didn't have the beet greens to go with the beets ;) so we used chard instead. It was also very good, and okay to remember in a pinch, but the use of beet greens is something I've not run across before (all my borscht recipes have used cabbage) and it's a real treat in this recipe. I haven't found a recipe in here that I haven't loved!


This bread comes from Sarah Kramer's excellent La Dolce Vegan! and is called there 'Jen's Raisin Soda Bread'. The use of cranberries instead of raisins and the addition of orange zest is a suggested variant. Otherwise, it is a standard soda bread (but the best recipe I have tried for it!) with caraway seeds. Absolutely delicious! We've made it twice now and it is absolutely no-fail.


Again this recipe started out to be another one entirely, but really I rarely follow a recipe (except for baking - and not always then) and I like to use what I have in the refrigerator and cupboards - unless of course it's for something special. I had a large eggplant and I had green bell pepper - and some frozen okra, a large can of tomatoes. Sounded like a stew to me, and so it was.

In a hurry as always, I cut the eggplant into smallish pieces and didn't bother with sweating and draining it first.

1 onion, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped into 1-inch or less pieces
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 large can low-sodium tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 Tbsp Annie's vegan Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp crushed dried red chilies
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1 pkg (10 ounces) frozen okra, thawed and trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, diced

Cook onion in a little wataer until softened in a pot large enough to hold everything. Add all but the last two ingredients and bring back to the boil, reduce heat and cook until nearly done. Be careful not to overcook the eggplant - you don't want mush. Add the okra and bell pepper and cook until just done - these should still give a little resistance to the bite. Taste for seasoning and serve with your favourite grain, alone, or with a crusty bread.

And here's a quick photo of the salad we had too - my little bit of propaganda just in case it converts one more person to eating salads too! ;)

Beet & Apple Salad With Avocado, Red Quinoa & Lentil Medley, Tofu Red & Green Pepper Stirfry


[Edited to correct seasonings, etc.]

This salad was the star of the meal, I think, and appropriately we almost always have our salad first these days. (Okay, we used to always follow our main course with a salad course, and that's how I still stubbornly have pictured them in this blog, but lately, well, we have switched back to the North American custom. But don't hold me to it!!!! LOL

I took the time to slice three or four small cooked beets (we were making soup with the rest) and marinate them in garlic, a mix of vinegars (I think I used rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, but cider vinegar might have been there instead of the red wine - I winged it!), 1 tsp or a little more of Dijon mustard, and some pepper (I generally use a mix of red, black, green which I grind fresh). Then the rest was simple, as you see. Some lovely greens on each plate, a few sliced onion shreds on top of them, and sliced red apple (sprinkled with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh looking) and then the beets arranged with avocado over it all. The marinade from the beets - a lovely thick red mixture - I spooned over the top. Simple and delicious.


To follow, we had a 'medley' of some leftover plain cooked red quinoa (so pretty) plus some leftover lentils (previously cooked with herbs, onion, celery and carrot in the Tuscan style) and a few extra vegetables that were hanging around the crisper - celery, no doubt, onion, crushed dried chilies, etc. (I forget exactly - it was nearly a week ago). The vegetables cooked first in a little water in a skillet, the lentils and quinoa to follow with, I think, a Tbsp low sodium soysauce and/or a Tbsp Annie's Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce. Very pretty, very tasty - and very nutritious too I suppose ;)

And to accompany it -


But of course we don't 'fry' but steam or water-'sautee' the vegetables. The tofu was marinated in a Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger, minced red chilies, then added to the 'stirfry' at the end, just to heat through. (Tofu doesn't need to be 'cooked'.) Celery, onion, ginger root, garlic, red and green pepper, etc., were the vegetables that day. Maybe mushrooms too - I usually do something with mushrooms whenever I find the excuse - just love them and always have a bag of them in the fridge.

Sweet Potato & Carrot Casserole With Apple, Spiced Chickpeas, Salad

Last Sunday lunch was a comedy of errors! I foound this great (I thought - and no doubt it is!) recipe in Finlayson's 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes (a book I highly recommend, by the way.) and thought Why Not! It takes a can of (crushed) pineapple (which we don't use, but all the better reason for trying the recipe), so my dh said he'd run down to the Convenience Store (we have two of them in this block alone) for it. Meanwhile I started on the recipe - tried to give a shout out the door to pick up some carrots too (I said it was a comedy!) since it required six, but he'd already left in the elevator. Never mind, I had a couple of small carrots plus lots of sweet potatoes. I was okay for a chickpea topping, since I tend to keep cooked chickpeas in the freezer. Well, wouldn't you know it: neither shop had pineapple - crushed, sliced, chunked or in any form whatsoever, and there wasn't time to wait for the market to open. Also, of course, no time to use the slowcooker anyway - AND we had an appointment early afternoon so had to have our lunch earlier than usual (I remembered just in time).

So what I did was use sweet potatoes and a little carrot, sliced, mostly cooked in a pan on top of the stove. Deciding to abandon any idea of Finlayson's interesting recipe, I flew by the seat of my pants. I layered the veg in a casserole with three apples (I believe they were galas) sliced but not peeled, sprinkled each layer with nutmeg, cinnamon, the zest of a big orange and heaven knows what else, mixed a little flour with a little sugar and a little orange juice to drizzle through the whole thing and put it in the oven to bake for however long I thought it'd take. When I figured it was nearly ready I put some orange chunks on top and a sprinkle of sesame seeds to add 'interest'.

Didn't have a hope! But it started to smell wonderful and we found it was delicious - and it's worth going back to soon to try to work this recipe out properly. It took a couple of days to get through, but we didn't leave a scrap.

I paired this dish with a spiced chickpea dish (the recipe I couldn't make required a chickpea topping and I'd already thawed them). The Indian spices were a nice match with the fruity taste of the sweet potato and apple dish, if a little unconventional. (Er, just a bit!)

This was quickly thrown together - onion, celery, green pepper, coriander, cummin, cayenne, fenugreek, turmeric, and whatever else my hand lighted on, topped with coriander leaves (cilantro).

We had a salad while we waited for the main course to finish cooking.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sweet Potato & Carrot Stew Pie


You may remember the Sweet Potato and Carrot Stew With Chard I posted earlier - well, it was good, but what was on that big square platter was only half the stew, although it was all of the chard that I had cooked. The leftover stew was weighing heavily on me - it improves in flavour, of course, but it lacks something in presentation and novelty. Still, 'Waste not, want not' as my long departed grannie used to say!

I had stored it in a couple of these small oval dishes. While it was in the oven reheating, I thought it looked boring so mixed a kind of 'muffin' or biscuit (in the American sense of the word) topping. I put half a cup of spelt with half a cup of barley flour, added in a pinch of salt, baking powder, paprika, oregano - whatever - mixed in a little soy milk until it looked right. When the mini-casseroles were getting pretty hot, I hauled them out and spread the topping on them and whooshed them back into the oven. Around 20 minutes or so later it was ready. The photo above shows one such dish - the other photo was blurred but, well, was the same.

The photo shows a small serving I set aside for the camera LOL It is sharing a plate with Wild Rice With Tomatoes And Chard - which I'll post next :)

Wild Rice with Tomatoes and Chard

I have actually turned over a new leaf, as it were (lettuce?), and am going to post here even if I have to be boring and show you my mistakes, my leftovers, and my days when I don't eat as well as I should. This next meal was a bit heavy in grain, but it had lots and lots of greens in it and I just adore yellow vegetables so . . . .


We love wild rice, and we mix it half and half with brown long-grain rice and have it with almost anything we would use rice for - not all the time, but often. A couple of days or so ago I had some leftover 'wild' rice (well, wild and brown) - plus half a bunch of chard in the crisper, half a can or plum tomatoes with juice - guess where I'm going with this!

Reminder: We cook for two. (Hence the leftovers too.)

1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
Half a large can of Italian plum tomatoes (around 12 or 14 ounces), roughly chopped
1 tsp oregano
good pinch of crushed dried chilies
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy
half a bunch of chard, chopped (stems thinly sliced)
1-1/2 cups or so (I didn't really measure it) of pre-cooked rice - half wild rice and half brown long-grain rice

Soften the onion and garlic in a little water or stock in a large skillet or with the sliced chard stems. Add the tomatoes, oregano and chilies and simmer for a little while until it all starts to look a little less than raw. Add the rice and keep stirring until all is coated in the mixture. Add the chard leaves and keep turning them to wilt them. Make sure the rice is hot and that the chard is dispersed throughout the rice and tomato mix. Taste for seasoning and serve.

We hadn't finished the menu yet, however - we had some with the Sweet Potato and Carrot Stew 'Pie' of my last post (Blogger is giving me a problem today, as you might have realized, hence separate posts). And of course we preceded with a salad -

Gotta show you our salads - no matter how mundane - because it helps me to be pleased that I'm eating my raw greens (I used to hate salads!).

And oh yes, we finished up with some fresh fruit as usual. Who'd want to eat pastries when there's fresh fruit in the house!!!

See ya later!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sweet Potato & Carrot Stew With Chard, Red Quinoa, Salad

[EDITED - to allow insertion of missing ingredient]

About three days ago (?) I had this urge to cook up some lovely root vegetables - I get this way in the autumn, just as I go crazy over Anything Green in the spring. I found a recipe in my slowcooker cookbook, but soon found I didn't have all the ingredients - short on carrot, no parnips, not even half enough mushrooms - oh dear! So the above dish is what I finally made, bearing about as much relationship to the original as a cat has to a dog. The idea for using caraway seeds, however, belongs to the original. Adding green leaves to the pot (in my case chard) was mine. It looked and smelled fabulous, and it tasted lovely, just lovely, with no fancy spices (unless you count the caraway seed), letting the flavour of the vegetables shine through. NOTE: Although I made this in my slowcooker, it could just as easily be cooked on the top of the stove. Your choice.

We had it with red quinoa and preceded it, as usual, with a lovely crisp salad.

What went in the pot:

1 small onion, chopped very fine
3 large stalks of celery, also very finely chopped
3-1/2 ounces mushrooms
2 carrots
1 sweet potato
3 dried mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes and finely chopped (stems discarded)
1/2 cup TVP chunks
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 tsp caraway seed
2 Tbsp wholewheat flour
2 cups homemade vegetable stock
salt and black pepper to taste
1 green bell pepper (red would be nice for a change too, I think), chopped
half a bunch - about 7 ounces - fresh chard leaves, cut or torn into manageable pieces

I put all but the last two ingredients (the green papper and the chard) into the slowcooker and left it on high for three hours. At that time I gave it a quick stir (my it smelled good!) added the chopped green pepper, gave it another stir, then laid the chard leaves over the top, snapped this photo . . .

. . . and put the top back on quickly, timing it for 15 or so minutes, since I guessed the pepper would still have texture at the end of that time and that the chard wouldn't have disintegrated but would certainly have wilted. (Guess who had never done this in a slowcooker before! LOL)

Well, it worked just fine. To serve, I pulled the leaves out with a large fork and laid them a large (in this case square) platter, saving the ones that had been in contact with the stew for the centre of the platter. Then I piled the root vegetables etc. in the centre (yes, the green pepper was just right!) and cut a few wedges of lemon juice for the chard.

We had it with red quinoa and preceded it, as usual, with a lovely crisp salad.

The quinoa is the kind I was writing about in an earlier blog this week. It was the first time I had used it - or even tasted it - and I have been given some hints on how to cook it very nicely by the person behind the counter. I decided, however, that for the first try I would like to see what it tasted like on its own, not 'messed around' with other flavours! It's lovely and nutty and imho a welcome change from plain ol' white quinoa! I LOVE the colour as well as the taste! And I keep thinking what a hit it would be on a buffet table.

The salad is of course another one of my crazy concoctions that helped me to get over my general dislike for 'boring old greens'. Snowpeas, craisins (dried cranberries, to those who live on the other side of the world, maybe) and apple made it a little different - but that doesn't stop me adding onion. I feel greens never taste quite right without at least a little onion, red onion being a favourite of mine (and boo-hoo I was out of them too!) The dressing - can't quite remember that now, but a good guess would be rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar with, maybe, a little pureed fruit? Or did I use a little sherry or mirin? Hmmmmm!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Orange Soup, Barley Banana Cornbread, Boston Brown Bread

The best Orange Soup I have tasted was in Austria last month at a little veggie (around 95 per cent of the menu items vegan) restaurant - Die Bio Bar Von Antun - in Vienna. I suspect that they put lots of orange juice in it, but it also had a certain something that made it absolutely delectable. I recognized most of the ingredients (since they had very finely grated or chopped but hadn't actually pureed their soup), but . . . Barley, yes. Carrot, yes. Pumpkin? Orange zest? yes, maybe. Or was that . . . ? And before I could work it all out my spoon had unaccountably moved rhythmically until it was all gone. We went back, but it wasn't on the menu the next time, although other delicious and satisfying things were. Siggggghhhhhh.

Still, orange soup is a wonderful idea, and I am grateful to many recipes I have glanced at on the internet and one by Lisa Walford (in Roy Walford's The Anti-Agin Plan which I have modified considerably to suit our particular taste prejudices. With all respect to the original recipe, when we first tried it we found we were unable to enjoy it because the flavours were too strong even for us - and that's saying a lot, since we tend to use very powerful spices in our cooking for ourselves. (In modifying the original, I hasten to add, I will no doubt of destroyed the delicate balance of nutrients in the Walford version. So be it. Those who want the Real Thing can turn to his book.) My modifications are along the lines of suggestions I have read elsewhere :)

And I'm still hanging out for the orange soup I tasted at the Bio Bar Von Antun!!!!!


1/4 cup barley
1 cup water
1 large sweet potato, freshly cooked and chopped
2 medium- large carrots, freshly cooked and chopped
2 cups canned pumpkin (the UNsweetened, unspiced kind - not the pie filling! LOL) - or use fresh cooked squash
kombu - a strip approx 3 by 2 inches, or a little more if you like it, soaked in boiling water then finely chopped
2 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock - homemade if possible - or a little more if you have it and need it
3 Tbsp nutritonal yeast
pinch of dried rosemary
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch dried chilies
2 Tbsp wheatgerm
2 or 3 Tbsp wholewheat flour
2 Tbsp wheatgerm
freshly ground pepper to taste
Zest of two oranges
2 oranges, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped

Cook the barley for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, cook the sweet potatoes and carrots in some of the broth if you haven't already done so (the smaller you cut them, the quicker they'll cook, eh?). Combine these with the rest of the ingredients, including the barley and softened soaked kombu, in a large pot or bowl and start pureeing (in batches), adding the rest of the stock as you go along. You may need to add more stock or water. Reheat, test for seasoning and serve. Garnish if you like with a curl of raw carrot or orange zest or a bit of greenery such as coriander/cilantro leaves - wonderful taste with the cumin, ginger and orange.


This is on our table in the evenings more often than not - it must be one of three quickbreads that my husband counts among his favourites (one of the other two is pictured further down in this entry)! It has the virtue of cooking as quickly as a tray of muffins and of being both tasty and nutritious. (I put 'tasty' first because no matter how healthful something is there's no point in recommending it to anyone unless it also tastes good. Tastes vary, of course, but it's a good rule of thumb for me to follow.) This is a variation on a variation on a variation on a traditional cornbread, which I understand is cooked in an iron pan on top of the stove, not in a ceramic oven dish! (But what would I know??)

The suggestion to replace the traditional oil in cornbread with banana comes from a post to (and I hope I remember this correctly!) Susan V.'s Fat Free Vegan group last winter, and I have noted that the poster also referred to hers being a variant on Dr Neal Barnard's. My use of barley flour instead of all-purpose or wholewheat flour, which other 'diet' gurus suggest, came from Dr Barnard's website. Dr Barnard used applesauce instead of oil in one recipe I saw (and tried - very good, but different!) - and apple is also lower on the glycaemic index for those who have a problem with sugar. The additions and slapdash method are more or less mine, but as I say there are soooooo many variants around!

Preheat over to 425 and lightly spray a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan or equivalent.


1-1/2 cups light soymilk (keep aside a Tbsp or two to help puree the banana)
1-1/2 Tbsp vinegar
1 medium to large banana, pureed with Tbsp or two of the soy milk)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup barley flour
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar (optional if you have a problem with it, but it's traditional, they tell me, for some sweetener to be included)
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of crushed chilies (optional)
3/4 cup corn kernels (either canned and drained or defrosted frozen - I use the latter) - this is optional, obviously, but it goes so nicely with the flavour of the corn and, yes, the banana.

Put all but a couple of Tbsp soymilk in a small bowl with the vinegar and let it sit while you blend the banana (I use a small container and one of those near-indispensible wand blenders).

Carefully combine the dry ingredients (including the chilies, if you're using them, since you don't one them to be clumped in one part of the finished dish) in a large bowl (I use one of the french whisk things that non-vegans use to torture eggs), whisk the banana into the soymilk mixture, and turn the whole lot into the dry ingredients and stir. You will not want to over-mix this, but stir until just mixed together without any dry clumps :)

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and pop it into the oven for 25 minutes or 30 minutes, depending on your oven, and serve it HOT! :) Lovely with anything that is even remotely South Of The Border, and with most robust soups and stews.

As you see below, it isn't your traditional yellow-coloured cornbread at all, which comes as a surprise (but I hope not disappointment) to some people. It's a lovely mellow caramel colour, smells glorious and tastes like heaven. (The one in the photo was made without the corn - we were out of it yesterday - and chilies.)

Heh heh, I mentioned the colour (although the colour of baking - indeed the difference in appearance and texture - shouldn't come as a surprise to most vegans!) because we had out-of-town visitors here earlier this year who were being re-introduced to veganism (they are omnis) at our table. We usually dine out so that we are spared the kitchen hassle and can talk more, but I had everything hot and waiting in the oven or on the stove.

I had made a lunch which included brown rice, a bean casserole, etc. etc., and cornbread - which I brought out last because I suddenly remembered 'Whoops - the cornbread!' as I was sitting down. They exclaimed that they loved cornbread and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. When it appeared a couple of moments later there was puzzlement because it 'isn't yellow!'. I explained that I used a different flour from the usual white flour with the cornmeal. They said it was lovely - and seemed to enjoy it (well, it disappeared!) - but I guess I'm going to have to dream up another name for it when serving it to omnis in future! LOL Best not to risk dashing anyone's expectations!


We make this so often, that I thought it was time I mentioned it on this blog. (Thought I had, but a quick search of the archived posts shows nothing, nada, zilch for Boston Brown Bread. How could that be? It's a staple here! It's not made in the conventional way for this traditionally-named loaf, but it is excellent and
My recipe for this is lifted straight from Baranard and Kramer's The Garden of Vegan, with minor exceptions. I make mine with spelt flour rather than any variation on regular wheat flour and add a quarter tsp more baking powder than called for; I sub sultana raisins for the currants and/or sometimes even craisins (dried cranberries for those who don't live on this continent); and I use organic rolled oats - sometimes some of the flakes are actually highlighted in the photos by the camera flash ;)

This bread freezes well, carries well, goes with most soups, stews, is great with chilies and would only be a stranger to asian food :) - and I'm not so sure it might not work there too! It's somewhat sweetish in flavour (the fruit and molasses). It's grrrrrreat for breakfast! and, if you like vegan sliced cheez, I remember it was lovely sitting with a little cucumber on top of a slice of this bread for any time of day.

Hmmmmm! Next time I make it (I still have some in the freezer) I'll do one of my way-out versions so that I CAN post the recipe, okay? It's worth knowing!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pasta Bolognaise, Field Greens Salad With Orange & Apple


I kinda threw this together yesterday lunchtime, a quick pasta sauce (since my freezer was bare of any at all - catastrophe!) with quinoa pasta, preceded by a Field Greens Salad With Orange & Apple.

About the quinoa pasta: this is really really good! For those who know quinoa, you know how nutritious and tasty it is, and those who don't, well you need to discover it soon! It's usually seen as a tiny grain, and comes usually in white. I discovered the red quinoa recently, and that is a real treat! The pasta I bought is macaroni, made from both red and white quinoa - not together, but half of them are the red quinoa noodles and half made from white. It's delicately pretty to look at and delicious in taste!

The package says to cook for 13 to 15 minutes, but that's far too long imho. I give it around 8 or 9 and find it's good.

Now the sauce:

1/2 cup tvp granules and equal boiling water to rehydrate them
1 small rib of celery, chopped very finely
1/2 carrot, chopped very finely
1 small onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 or 5 medium mushrooms, chopped
12 or 14 ounces canned plum tomatoes (and a little of their juice)
Oregano to taste (or an Italian mix of herbs, if you prefer)
black (or mixed, your choice) pepper, freshly ground
pinch of crushed chilies, again to taste
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

I boiled the kettle, poured the required water on the tvp granules and chopped the vegetables.

I put the celery, carrot, onion and garlic into a skillet with enough water to soften them.

While the veggies were cooking, I crushed the plum tomatoes and then used the wand blender to puree around 2/3 or so of them - your choice as to how chunky you want it to be.

When the veggies were softened I added the mushrooms, tomatoes, oregano, pepper, chilies, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. After stirring these simmered until they had blended nicely - it depends how much time you have. We were hungry, but not desperately so, so I guess they got around half an hour in the pan. Part way through cooking I realized it was going to be a bit watery, so I thickened with tomato paste. That worked just fine.

We had the salad (see below) as a first course, so I put those to cook while we had that.

When the pasta was cooked, I drained and tossed it with the sauce and garnished it with cilantro (not trad but we like it!). I used a sprinkle of my own cheezy crumby mixture on top, but vegan parmezan-type cheez would be fine.

And here it is:

About the salad:


This doesn't really have - or need - a recipe, but I figure that I pick up ideas from other people's books and websites and maybe someone who sees this who isn't keen on salads might be attracted to trying some of our combinations. Besides, we all oughta eat more salads, and here I am being a good girl and eating mine and I'm taking their photos and posting them, by golly!

One salad looks pretty much like another once you get it reduced to a tiny photo, and if you eat salad as often as we do, then the trick isn't so much in the mix of things (although variety and a few surprise elements help a lot!) but in the dressing. Not using oil in dressings, I find that the lighter the better, but sometimes I break out. This one took a little sweetener - mirin - and orange juice along with some seasoned rice vinegar. Otherwise, you can see that we love to mix fruit into our salads (and match the dressing to it - or even just use a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of one of the vinegars we keep in.