Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Some Tried-and-Trues: Jambalaya, Spicy Red Dragon Pie

Lately we seem to have been going over old tried-and-true recipes here - what's called 'in a rut' or 'in one's comfot zone', dpending on the point of view. Yesterday I got 'creative' and decided to revamp my Jambalaya recipe. Well, it wasn't a huge change, but it was a good meal, as you can see below.

Okay, as you see in the photo, I added more mushrooms - way more - than the recipe called for, and I also decided it didn't much matter what colour the peppers were as long as they were pretty (of course it doesn't), and I used a couple of jalapeno peppers instead of the thai chilies I usually use - a less subtle flavour, but I think it is better with this robust dish.

Then, instead of the tofu, I used a little over half a pack of tempeh - which had been marinating in a Tbsp low-sodium soy, ginger, garlic and chilies with a Tbsp hot water while I was dealing with the vegetables in the pan. Actually, I like tempeh much better than tofu, and some say it is even better for you :) Here it is added to the pan.
And here you see the completed dish, bar a little extra simmering time, with the cooked rice added. Surprisingly good, I always think - and wonder why I don't make it more often.

And here's the finished dish - all ready for lunch, cilantro garnish (cuz we love cilantro) and all.

I also had a craving for SPICY RED DRAGON PIE - so I made enough for three luncheon meals for the two of us. We're having a re-run of it today :) Yayyyy!!! On Monday we had it with some broccoli florets steamed with crushed chilies and garlic and a little ginger (love ginger) and
a salad with baby spinach, apple, etc. Not quite sure what it will be today!


(Serves 4)

This is a great soup because it uses very few and simple ingredients and is ready in a little more than twenty minutes. It can be kept in the refrigerator for about three days or it can be frozen. You can add spices of your choice or leave it pretty well as is. We leave it as is usually :) OR add a little crushed chili flakes to the pot while cooking OR stir in a little garam masala at the end.

1 small onion, chopped
5 oz (ca. 300 g) sweet potato, chopped (OK, that's about 1 small-medium, right?)
1 cup red lentils
3 cups veg stock (your own, preferably, or cheat)

In a large pot/saucepan, heat a little stock or water and add the onion and stir over medium for a couple of minutes until it is soft.

Add the sweet potato, lentils and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until sweet potato is soft (the lentils only take about 15 - 20 minutes, so this timing depends on the sweet potato).

Blend in batches (either in a blender or using a stick blender/wand) until mixture is smooth, and return to the saucepan to reheat before serving.

You may find you need to add more stock or water - this can be VERY thick :)

It’s a great combo of flavours to which, as I say above, you can add your own for variety.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I usually do what so many people do - have artichokes as a first course hot or cold, lightly dressed, or in salad or pasta. A couple of days ago we saw some lovely young artichokes at the market and bought something like nine of the little dears. Then what to do with them! We have sworn off oils (except for a very little), so having them in a vegan 'butter' or a vinaigrette was out of the question. Hmmm, pasta or salad. Or something else? I have always enjoyed them stuffed in restaurants, so - nothing loath - I gave it a try.


I selected four artichokes and prepared them in the usual way, although I chose to leave an extra layer of leaves (not to be eaten) around the outside for ballast, as it were.

While they were steaming upside down in a little water, I threw together a stuffing made of a slice of bread (all I could find was dark rye - very un-Italian!) reduced to crumbs, around one-third of a package of firm tofu, crumbled, a couple of green onions, finely chopped, about half of an orange bell pepper, finely chopped, some sage, some minced garlic, nutritional yeast, crushed chilies (yeah I know, I put them in everything nearly), black pepper, a little low-sodium soysauce and lemon juice. I think that was all.

When I could handle the artichokes, I pushed the stuffing down wherever I could between leaves, etc., and then set the artichokes in a baking pan, covered lightly with foil, and shoved them in the oven (at around 325 F for 10 minutes to warm them up. Very nice to eat, but a little lacking aesthetically :)


These were today's effort. It is much the same as in Donna Klein's Vegan Italiano, except of course adapted to our peculiar dietary habits. I prepared the rest of the artichokes (about a pound was left) as usual, then cut them in half lengthways. While they were sitting in a bath of acidulated water (gotta do that or they turn brown), I steam-fried 5 finely chopped cloves of garlic until softish, then added half of a 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes, which I had attacked with a potato masher to crush them in their juice. Works for me.

I cooked these with half a tsp of oregano until well blended then drained the artichokes and added them to the tomato mix along with quite a few grinds of black pepper. When it all came to the boil, I reduced the heat and simmered until the artichokes were tender, stirring it all now and then. Somewhere along the line I added half a cup of water or more, because it was fast disappearing on me. Indeed, as the photo shows, there wasn't overmuch sauce, but I added more from the pan after snapping the photo :)

We had them with bread and a version of the spinach and pear salad you've seen here before.

CALDO VERDE (Portuguese Kale & Potato Soup)

This has to be one of the simplest and most comforting of soups. It has everything - potatoes (which we all love), lovely dark greens, onions and garlic (the inseparable duo, in my book), and as much or as little hot chilies as you like. It's ready in the time it takes to cook the potatoes plus a little extra for the kale.

CALDO VERDE (Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup)

1 large onion, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
pinch of crushed chilies (or to taste - we like it HOT!)
4 medium potatoes - abt. a pound - cubed (I leave skin on)
4 or 5 cups low sodium vegetable stock (or mix of water and stock)
1 small carrot, very finely chopped
6 ounces kale, washed, tough stems removed
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
Dash of tabasco
salt and pepper if needed
Garnish - your choice (parsley, green onion, etc.)

Use a large pan. Over medium-high heat, ‘saute’ the onion in a little water until translucent. add garlic and chilies and cook a minute or two longer.

Add potatoes and carrots to soup pot and add the water or water and stock. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until potatoes are soft.

Mash the potatoes very very slightly (just crushing them, not turning them into mashed potatoes!).

Roll the washed and de-stemmed kale up into tight bundles and slice as thinly as you can with a sharp knife.

Add kale to soup pot and add in the reduced sodium soy sauce. Bring back to the boil, then lower heat to simmer to cook the kale. When the kale soft, add tabasco and freshly ground pepper and taste for seasoning, correcting if needed. (Note, depending on the size and shape of your pan and the heat you use to cook the soup, you may need to add a little more liquid to bring it to the desired consistency.)

Garnish, if you like, and serve.

We had it tonight - didn't bother with garnish - accompanied by some homemade rye breads: a pumpernickel style sourdough which is improving each time I make it and an almost all-rye rye sourdough, which was imperfect in shape but deliciously dense and flavourful. I'm working on that one some more.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTo all who have been kind enough to ask:
Made' my lovely beagle is well and happy, recovering beautifully from her adventure in the surgery ward of the veterinary
hospital a couple of weeks ago. The tests were all okay - no nasties - so she is a little lighter now, sans gallbladder, but we don't have any immediate worries about her future with regard to that particular procedure or anything they found 'while they had the hood open', as the internist liked to put it (not funny - she's not a jeep!).

She's been a brave little thing, and it has been heartbreaking seeing her so unwell. The sad thing is that the gastro problem she had which brought about the initial tests and x-rays does have a cause - a couple of thickened bits and pieces, one quite inflamed, in her tum - which has been what has been flaring up from time to time and will obviously continue to do so. Unless these occurrences increase, however, we are advised that 'benign neglect' is the best treatment. (Oh right!!!) She is, however, gradually returning to her former diet, heartily approved by our veterinarian, after being fed some (to her) delightful muck out of a can. Mama begins to cook for her as well as her adopted sister again!

Thanks, everyone, for your concern. Hugs, all.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I guess "Italian" truly is the national cuisine of vegetarians and vegans. It seems whenever my dh and I are at a loss as to what to have for a meal (as in 'What language are we eating in today, dear?'), if it's not Indian then it's Italian - and many people I know say the same. Pasta lends itself beautifully to being combined with wonderful vegetables and varied sauces, so that even the most ardent carnivore (do you like that oxymoron?) enjoys a veggie meal. We don't use vegan cheese for lasagna, however, preferring to add flavour and texture in other ways, but I appreciate that others like to use some of the excellent vegan cheezes available. Anyway, here's the lasagna I made the day before yesterday (yes yes, I'm late with getting back to this blog! Sorry, everyone!):


whole wheat lasagna - as much as you need for your lasagna pan (most take nine for 3 layers) - cooked al dente
1 smallish yellow onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can (28 ounces) tomatoes, chopped
a little more than half a 5.5-oz can tomato paste (save the bit that's left to help out later - or to freeze)
1/2 tsp dried thyme or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 tsp crushed chili peppers, or to taste
1 pkg soft or medium tofu, beaten to creamy texture
1 flax 'egg' (I add a little soy lecithin to mine)
several Tbsp nutritional yeast, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce (optional)
salt to taste
1 10-oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed and chopped and pressed VERY dry (I use a strainer and a wooden spoon)
more nutritional yeast for the final topping, sprinkled

While the water for the lasagna is coming to the boil and all that, start the sauce.

Put your onion in a large skillet over medium-high with a little water to saute it until translucent. (You could use olive oil, but it works just fine without.) When the onion is soft, add the garlic and the mushrooms and 'saute' a little longer, until the mushrooms start to give up their liquid. Add the tomatoes but NOT all of their juice yet - you may need it later, or not, depending on the heat of your pan etc. Add the tomato paste, stirring it in well, the thyme and chilies, bring all to the boil, lower the heat and continue to cook until the tomatoes have broken down more and the whole thing is starting to look like a nice chunky sauce. Add any extra juice from the can of tomatoes as needed.

While the sauce is simmering, beat your tofu into a creamier state. Add nutritional yeast, pepper, salt if using, perhaps a dash
of vegan worcestershire sauce (if using), and taste for flavour. More nutritional yeast will give a stronger 'cheezier' flavour, but remember that this will be in the whole lasagna and so the flavour will diffuse a bit.

When you have the tofu as you like it, add the VERY dry spinach and stir it around so that it is a nice green and white mixture. (This looks pretty - wish I'd snapped a photo!)

Assuming that your noodles are cooked by now (plunged into cold water to stop them cooking further and to await your pleasure) and that the sauce is ready, assemble your lasagna.

Preheat your oven to 375F.

A couple of spoonfuls of the liquid part of the sauce gets smeared in the bottom of your lasagna pan, then the first row of lasagna noodles. From then on, alternate the tomato/mushroom sauce/mixture with the spinach mixture and the next layer of noodles, as in any lasagna. Save enough WET sauce for the top (you can thin this out a bit with a little of the remaining tomato can juice and/or thicken with a little of the leftover tomato paste - this is not an exact science). Okay, wet sauce over the top, sprinkles of nutritional yeast over the sauce (I use a couple or so Tbsp), and you're ready to pop it into the oven.

Bake for around 45 minutes, covered in foil for the first half of that time. The top should have browned and the juices should be bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Feeds 4 - 6. Serve with a nice salad :)

Okay, I was on a roll with the spinach (love spinach!), so had some lovely organic baby spinach fresh from the greengrocer. Here's my salad -

For two people, around half a bag of baby spinach, stems picked off (I save for stock), 1 lovely ripe pear peeled and sliced in smallish pieces. 1 -2 Tbsp dried cranberries, soaked in as little water as I could manage. A few slivers of onion.

For the dressing, since we don't use oil or add salt, it was mild on the acidic and a little sweeter than I used to make. I mixed a little red-wine vinegar, a little seasoned rice vinegar, the tiny amount of liquid from soaking the cranberries, a couple of tsp. organic raspberry jam, a pinch of sugar and a tsp of mirin. All whisked together and tossed with the rest. Very nice :)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Penne With Artichoke Hearts, Winter Stew and Rye Sourdough

Today I was stretching for something easy for lunch (our main meal of the day) and spotted a lovely can of artichoke hearts. We adore artichokes in any form! So I concocted the following dish, bearing in mind that we are now embarked on a fat-free salt-free regime which requires some adjustments in ingredients (for us anyway) to distract attention from the two items that are 'missing' in such a recipe. I find a sweetish taste (as in red bell peppers) helps to make up for the lack of salt, and added herbs do the rest.


For 2 persons. Can obviously be doubled, using a whole can of artichoke hearts and increasing the other ingredients appropriately.

120 g. penne, cooked according to package instructions
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated (in hot water for 1/2 hour, soaking liquid retained)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large plum tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed chilies, or to taste
1 red bell pepper (half to be sliced very thinly, half to be blended - see below)
2 or 3 canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat with a little water to ‘saute’ the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir well for a minute or two and then the chopped tomato, basil and chilies. Add the sundried tomatoes, chopped, but save the liquid for cooking as needed. Cook on medium heat until the fresh tomatoes have broken down.You may need to add a little water or liquid from the sundried tomatoes.

Slice half of your red bell pepper very thinly and set aside until the tomato mixture is almost cooked.

Chop the remainder of the bell pepper and add a little water to liquify in a blender.

When your penne is almost cooked and the tomato mix is almost ready, add the finely sliced red bell pepper to the tomato mix and stir well, raising the heat a little if necessary to slightly soften the bell pepper. Then add the artichoke hearts and the liquified red bell pepper from your blender jar and heat through.

Drain your penne and add to the skillet, stirring to mix well and to coat the penne in all those lovely juices.

Serve on plates or in pasta bowls (with a ‘cheezy’ topping if you like vegan cheez).


Now yesterday's lunch was a 'Farewell To Winter' Stew, with a white potato, sweet potato, some cauliflower and broccoli, onion and garlic and celery and mushrooms all cooked together with some Indian spices picked not quite at random from my spice rack.

We had it over couscous with a hunk of the RYE SOURDOUGH I had made the day before.

This bread's recipe needs some adjusting, as it happens, before I share it here. I veganized a lacto recipe from the net, but something happened with the proportions of flour. Either I was distracted and measured incorrectly, or the recipe has a typo. Nevertheless, I adjusted as I made it (it was far too wet) and it turned out very nicely, if a bit dry (I think it should be cooked at a lower temperature). I'll report back next time I make it!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Update - and more comfort food: breads

First an update on my little hound: Made' came home from the hospital yesterday - and oh what a pathetic little beagle she was. She cuddled and cuddled all the way back, although I am sure she would have been more comfortable not on a lumpy lap. She's doing much better today, and that little tail actually wags sometimes when it's not firmly tucked between her legs. We are waiting now on the pathology reports - the long weekend getting in the way of the usual turn-around time. Meanwhile, she is well medicated, eating well, and sleeping as hard as she can. Brave girl!

Meanwhile, while I was collecting our invalid from Toronto, my dh was cat and dog sitting and getting lunch ready. The scent of this (quickbread) loaf met me as I came through the door. Absolutely heavenly. Well, it was a loaf once, but this was all that was left after the afternoon was over. It was one of Barnard and Kramer's recipes, he tells me, one we had not tried before. It has, as you see, raisins (he skipped the nuts), cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and I forget what else. Considering how quickly it went, I'd say it's a Must-Try-Again Recipe.

We tend to bake, make soup, and concoct stews when we are stressed, bored, or just plain hungry. Fortunately, we have a repertoir of things that will freeze well, and it's automatic with us to cut a loaf in half and freeze half (which explains my strange method of presenting bread in these photos), since there are just the two of us. Here are some other results of this week's baking:

The first is what we call cranberry bread - another Barnard and Kramer recipe, this time for soda bread. We add dried cranberries (craisins) rather than leaving it plain. Love those cranberries! The second shows two loaves - my rye bread, which you have met before here on this blog, and a yeasted raisin bread made with half barley flour. Right now I'm trying someone's recipe for a pumpernickel bread (really just a rye bread) using sourdough starter and a little yeast to speed things along. I have my doubts about it, though, but I'll reserve judgement until it has risen, risen again and come out of the oven :) If nothing else it will make the place smell wonderful. With luck it may be ready to have with our evening meal. If not, I still have that barley bread and some rye!

Tune in tomorrow in this ongoing saga of the bread! I should mention that breadmaking is to our beagles better than TV to us - smellavision, I guess. And of course they always get a taste!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Here's a lovely soup adapted from Barnard and Kramer's _How It All Vegan_. We had it yesterday - absolutely delicious. We made this in this size, thinking it would be good for the two of us, but we have enough left for another day.


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1/2 cup water
14-ounces canned tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup soy milk
2 green onions, finely chopped for Garnish

‘Saute’ the garlic and ginger in a little water on medium heat until the garlic is softened. Add the wuash, tomatoes, water, pepper and salt (if using) and simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is cooked through.
Blend half the vegetables with the milk in a blender, return to the soup and simmer another 5 minutes.
Garnish and serve.


But first things first. This is our lovely beagle Made' - she is nearly 10 and I've been off the air, as far as this blog and most other things are concerned, for the last couple of weeks because she's not been well. After x-rays, ultrasounds, specialist exams, etc., she had surgery (we took her down to Toronto on Monday) yesterday - removal of the soon-to-perforate gallbladder. She came through it like the trouper she is, but she's not out of the woods yet. We're also waiting on some four biopsies. We should, however, if she recuperates at the expected rate, be able to travel down to collect her in a couple of days - well, sometime over the weekend anyway. (Photo shows her poor little shaved tum - her pre-summer bikini wax, if you prefer.)

But of course we have been eating at the same time as worrying and fretting and staying awake at nights, although it has been mainly quick and easy food, comfort food, nothing much worthy of reporting here. Still, if you're interested in what two devoted animal guardians do between stressing about the fate of one of their lovely companions, here it is:

This should have been a fairly easy thing to give you, since I wrote it down at the time and copied it onto my computer, but I have just succeeded in erasing the whole recipe. Would ya believe!!!!!! Nevertheless, here it is as I remember it now (sigh!).


You'll need the following:

Prepare first-
1 cup polenta prepared according to package directions, poured into a pie plate and kept warm. (I always say 'according to directions' because that makes it not my fault if this stuff doesn't turn out right. Frankly, I find a proportion of 3 to one for water and polenta works fine. I use water (not 'milk' or stock), I add no oil or salt, but I do like to stir in some finely minced/mushed garlic when it starts to thicken. You must please yourself how you like it.)

4 or 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and then chopped finely (reserve the soaking liquid)
4 or 5 sundried tomatoes, soaked and then chopped (reserve the soaking liquid)
Half a pound of green beans, cut into quarter-inch rounds, blanched for two or three minutes and set aside

a couple of slices of a large onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 large mushrooms, sliced

1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
dash of cayenne pepper
4 canned tomatoes (pureed to make a sauce)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet, 'saute' the onion, garlic and fresh mushrooms in a little water until the onions are translucent.
Add the fresh tomatoes, basil, cayenne pepper, the sundried tomatoes and the soaked mushrooms and as much of the soaking liquid for the above as you need to continue to cook the stew, another ten minutes maybe.
Cook until all is nicely blended and then add the green beans, pureed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a few more minutes until it all tastes just wonderful. Taste again to be sure (any left?).

Serve over triangles of polenta with a nice crisp salad.