May 20, 2018

From the Kitchens of YamChops: review and recipe



When I was first offered a review copy of From the Kitchens of YamChops, a cookbook by Michael Abramson, chef and founder of YamChops, the first vegan butcher shop in North America (Toronto, Canada), I suspected it was all about seitan and other meat substitutes, but I was wrong. That's Wrong with a capital W. When I started looking through the recipes, I was bookmarking so many I wanted to try I ran out of bookmarks, and had to tear up a sheet of newspaper so I could keep saving pages. And none of them involved seitan. Don't get me wrong, I love(d) seitan, until I realized I could continue to endure cramps and intestinal disturbance, or stop eating gluten. So I stopped. But while YamChops has its share of gluten-based recipes, if you are gluten-free, there's a ton of stuff for you, too. There's something for everyone, and it's delicious.

"Some might say that a vegan butcher is an oxymoron, but we believe plant-based proteins can (and should) be staples of any kitchen or diet," writes Abramson in the introduction. "Our recipes appeal to all types of eaters: vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians — those who are trying to reduce their meat and dairy consumption."
 
There are six chapters — Mouthwatering meatless mains; Selfie-worthy appetizers and sides; Bold bowls, broths and brews; Remarkable salads, slaws and dips; Sensational sauces, salsas and chutneys; Scrumptious chocolate endings. There are no ingredient chapters, no how-to chapters, no substitutions chapters, etc. It's all about the recipes. There are easy and basic recipes for everyday, and more exotic ones that would work well for entertaining.  When I look through the book, I get hungry.   

Lemon lentil soup.

The first recipe we tried came from a disagreement. My husband wanted lentil soup for dinner and I did not. I think he would eat lentil soup every night, and I get sick of it. However, when I saw there was a lentil soup recipe in YamChops, I compromised — he could make lentil soup if he used the YamChops recipe. I wasn't expecting it to be so good! This easy-to-make soup was so flavorful and delicious it's become our go-to lentil soup recipe. It was a lentil soup revelation. Really.

Cumin-lime, black bean and quinoa bowl.

Next we tried the Cumin-lime, black bean and quinoa bowl. We tend to go for the simpler, everyday recipes that we happen to already have the ingredients for, since we're not the greatest at planning ahead. Although the ingredients seemed quotidian, the results were anything but. The sauce and the roasted sweet potatoes made the bowl scrumptious and satisfying. We cut back a bit on the oil, and used arugula instead of spring mix, but the bowl was still fabulous. (The publisher has given me permission to share the recipe, and you'll find it at the end of the review.)

mozzarella cheese.

In the sauce chapter there's a recipe for mozzarella cheese, and I was curious to see if it was better than other mozzarella recipes I've made in the past. It called for a small amount of coconut oil but didn't specify virgin or refined. I knew if I used virgin, the coconut flavor would be there, but maybe the cheese flavor needed that. There was no clue from the recipe so I used half and half.

mozzarella cheese, sliced.

The cheese is slice-able, grate-able and it melts and browns. At first I didn't like it — it had a sweetish, slight coconut taste. It didn't taste like mozzarella and I thought it needed more salt. I personally wouldn't serve it sliced as an appetizer.

Mozzarella, melted.

Then, I melted it on toast in my air fryer, and I became hooked. So what if it doesn't taste exactly like mozzarella? When I sprinkled it with oregano, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, it tasted so good I just couldn't stop eating it, which was fine since I had a refrigerator full of the stuff. Look at it — you can't deny the melted beauty of this cheese. (Although the cheese is supposed to be grate-able, I didn't test this out. All of the melted mozzarella you see in the review was melted from slices.)

Black bean meatless meatballs.

I wanted to make something from the meatless mains chapter, and since I had a ton of cheese, and a stack of frozen pizza crusts from a local restaurant, it seemed logical to make a meatball and mozzarella pizza. Wouldn't you? The meatballs were tasty, with a slightly chewy texture. Though they didn't taste like meat, they looked like it, and they tasted great.

Black bean meatless meatballs and mozzarella pizza.

I cut them in half and topped them with extra tomato sauce for a thoroughly delightful pizza.

Meatball sandwich.

In the cookbook, the meatballs are shown in a meatball sub sandwich, which is kind of hard to pull off in a gluten-free version without advance planning to locate the rolls. Here's my version. The only thing I'm missing (beside the rolls) are the fried onions. Next time.

Chocolate banana cream pie.

My review wouldn't be complete if I had ignored the chocolate chapter. After much indecision, I finally decided to make the chocolate banana cream pie. Actually, I made half a recipe, and used a small pie plate rather than the nine-inch size listed. The crust was a bit scarce but I had tons of filling. The crust didn't work well for me, though I tried to follow the directions. Although it's delicious, it's very sticky and doesn't stay attached to the filling. The filling though is spectacular — thick, firm, rich, chocolatey and perfect. I may have to try again with a different crust — the pie is too good to only make once.

Finally, here's the recipe I promised. Enjoy!
(Reprinted with permission from From the Kitchen of YamChops by Michael Abramson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Vincenzo Pistritto)

Cumin-Lime, Black Bean and Quinoa Bowl


"You know the feeling when everything just melds together in perfect harmony? This is that feeling. Warming cumin, tart lime and sweet maple syrup combine to elevate the flavor of everything else in this bowl of goodness."   Serves 6

bowl
  • 1½ cups (200 g) sweet potato peeled and cut in ½-inch (13-mm) cube
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Spring mix
  • 1½ cups (277 g) cooked quinoa
  • 1½ cups (90 g) canned black beans, rinsed well
  • 1½ cups (75 g) grated carrot
Cumin-Lime Dressing
  • 1/8 cup (80 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp (10 g) grated carrot
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp (5 g) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
  1. Place the sweet potato in a bowl, add oil and sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss well to coat and place the cubes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden and just beginning to brown. Mix every 5 minutes or so. When the sweet potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. 
  2. To make the dressing, add the lime juice, syrup, carrot, garlic, cumin and salt to a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Place the dressing in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  3. Start with a base of spring mix in 6 shallow bowls. Divide the quinoa, black beans, carrot and potato among the bowls.
  4. Mix the dressing well and drizzle 2 generous tablespoons (30 ml) over each bowl.

May 14, 2018

Ate the kraut. Didn't get sick.



In my last post I described how I was making sauerkraut for the first time. I used a recipe in which the kraut was massaged with sea salt, then packed into a jar to ferment for two weeks. I've made lots of fermented foods over the years — I used to pickle an eight gallon crock full of green tomatoes every fall — and I've made my share of cucumber pickles. I also made quick fermented vegetables with a Japanese pickle press, and also stuff like cashew cheeses, but for some reason I've never fermented cabbage into sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has never been a favorite food of mine, but when I watched a video of it being made, I was suddenly obsessed with making my own. Go figure.


After the first week, I checked the kraut, and the liquid which had previously been overflowing to the point where I had to keep a saucer under the jar, was no longer covering the fermenting cabbage. I pushed down on the weight, and the liquid rose once again, so I knew I needed a heavier weight. I just want to mention here I have a 'small' problem with rocks. I collect them wherever I go, and there are numerous rocks inside and outside my house, so finding a heavier one wasn't an issue. In fact, family members have even brought me back rocks as gifts when they go on vacation, which is how I acquired the beauty atop my jar. Once I placed it on top, the liquid rose over the cabbage again. Problem solved.



After two weeks were up, I declared the kraut finished, and the weights were removed. The cabbage had gone from green to a much paler krauty color, but it had absorbed too much of the brine, and was unfortunately no longer submerged. After searching the Internet once again for additional kraut wisdom, and finding what I needed to know, I dissolved a teaspoon of sea salt in a cup of water and poured it over. It filled the jar exactly.



The moment of truth had arrived. You know, anytime I leave food fermenting on the counter for two weeks, I fear tasting it. My husband was out of town so I couldn't risk his life instead of mine — there was no choice but to dig in. It's good! I've been eating a small amount every day, and I like it! It's kind of plain, and I'm thinking of possibly enlivening it with some ginger, or caraway seed, or something.

And, yes, I have another cabbage waiting in the wings for the next batch. Making my own sauerkraut was easy and satisfying, and a lot cheaper than buying artisanal jars at the co-op. I may have to invest in another big canning jar for the next batch!

p.s. My husband has since tasted and approved the sauerkraut, though he says he it could be more sour.

Want to see the video I watched before I made my sauerkraut? Part 1: The kraut is fermenting 

My second batch is now fermenting, and here are some changes I made:

1. I added two thin onion slices, shredded, and about an inch of fresh ginger, grated.

2. Massaging the kraut can be tiring to the hands, but I found I could massage more efficiently, and comfortably, by using my fists.

3. Pressing on the cabbage with a flat, heavy, clean stone is even better and faster!

May 04, 2018

The kraut is fermenting

Day one of placing the cabbage into the jar.

This post is going to be a serial, since the food I'm making takes two weeks, and I thought I'd post my progress rather than wait until the end. I'm making sauerkraut. I've made sauerkraut and other fermented foods in the past, but this time I'm following the lead of Michelle Babb, and making it the way she instructs in the video I'm sharing with you. A couple of weeks ago I took a cooking class from Michelle called anti-inflammatory eating for healthy aging. She made several incredibly delicious dishes for us to try, using anti-inflammatory foods, one of which, to my horror, turned out to be fennel. Fennel, black licorice, anise — I've spent years trying to tolerate the taste so I can eat things like five-spice powder and pho. I've had roasted fennel bulb, and it was excellent, but in our class, we had a raw fennel and spring onion salad, and I ate it and liked it! It was made with the raw fennel bulb, not the greens.

Michelle talked a lot about feeding our microbiome, and one of the ways to do that is with small amounts of fermented foods. During the class, she shared with us that she had posted a video of herself making sauerkraut, on her facebook page, and she then went on to demonstrate the sauerkraut-making process in class. (The video is very complete so I won't spend a lot of time here describing the process.) It looked so easy. Shredding the three-pound cabbage and massaging it take a bit of time and effort, but not so much as to make it a chore. In the first photo above, you can see the cabbage just after I pressed it into the jar, still pretty green. I placed a heavy mortar with a weighty stone in it onto the cabbage to help press it down. The massaging and pressing into the jar created so much liquid it spilled over onto the dish I placed under the jar to catch overflow. I've lifted the towel so you can see my just starting sauerkraut. (I'm using one liter (32oz.) preserving jars from Le Parfait that I bought at the hardware store for about $10 each. There are certainly cheaper jars out there, but I really like this one.)

Foam is forming at the top.

Here's the jar on day five. There is foam at the top of the jar. It smells like sauerkraut, and doesn't seem spoiled, but is foam supposed to be there?

Closeup of the foam.

Even after all the foods I've fermented in my kitchen, I still get nervous about bad bacteria and spoilage. I'll let you know how it turns out! Have you made sauerkraut?



Here is the video I followed to make my kraut. Michelle is a lifestyle and nutrition coach who describes herself as a wannabe vegan. She seems to be moving in that direction but isn't quite there yet, though the class was 100% vegan. Here is a link to the videos on her facebook page. 

UPDATES
1. I've got a second batch going, and I made a couple of changes. I added two thin onion slices, shredded, and about an inch of fresh ginger, grated.

2. Massaging the kraut can be tiring to the hands, but I found I could massage more efficiently, and comfortably, by using my fists.

3. Pressing with a flat, heavy, clean stone is even better!

Want to know how the first batch turned out?  Part 2: Ate the kraut. Didn't get sick.

April 28, 2018

Chickpeas get deliciously hip and snacky



I'm still making my way through the last samples brought home from Vegfest 2018 — I'm a slow snacker, I know. I had a few packets of Hippeas to try, but I had avoided opening them. Maybe it was because I had had a less than pleasant experience with a different chickpea snack, and the Hippeas just didn't seem appealing. I love homemade crispy chickpeas, but haven't been impressed with commercial ones. But, I needed a little something fast to eat, and grabbed a bag of Hippeas organic chickpea snacks — not what I was expecting. I was picturing little, round, toasted chickpeas, but I got a crunchy puffed snack that grabbed my immediate attention.



These crispy little crunchies were delicious. They have a definite cheesy, nutritional-yeasty flavor that I found irresistible — kind of like their bright orange supermarket counterparts, but, you know, organic and vegan. My sample bags were tiny, and I wanted more. We looked at our local co-op and at Whole Foods, but couldn't find them. Then, we went to do our bi-monthly Costco shopping, and were wandering down the snack isle, with Hippeas the farthest thing from our minds, when what did we see sitting on a shelf but a big bag of Hippeas! You just never know what you'll find at Costco — it's always a treasure hunt. (You also don't know if the great product you found will ever be there again!) I now have two bags in the pantry.

I've only tried the cheddar version, but they come in assorted flavors — sriracha sunshine, far out fajita and a few others. Amazon has them if you can't find them locally. They are GOOD! I admit, for the past two nights I had some for dessert after dinner!

I was not asked to write a review. I received my Hippeas as a sample at a public event. All opinions are my own. The Amazon links earn me a few cents if you use them to purchase the product, but mostly I include them as a convenience to readers.

April 24, 2018

Food and weather

Simple split soup based on this recipe from Bittersweet Blog. Perfect for a chilly day.

 Last Monday when I walked to yoga it was 42˚, raining and windy. Although hardly anyone in Seattle deigns to carry an umbrella, I brought one along because I didn't feel like doing yoga in wet clothes. I was thinking about a dog walk recently where my pants were soaked from the knees down, and a repeat was unappealing. I brought an umbrella because, seriously, I'm way beyond the need to look 'Seattle cool.' This sucks, I was thinking as my umbrella blew inside out, and I struggled to get it righted again. Bleh. I didn't want to arrive at yoga in a bad mood, so I began looking for positive notes and cheerful signs along the way.

My 'winter' smoothie. Perfect when it's chilly. Recipe follows.
Sign number one. I passed an elementary school where the kids were at recess, running around the yard shrieking and laughing as if it were just a normal day. Wow, I thought to myself, it is a normal day as far as they are concerned. They're from Seattle, what do they know. They were all so happy it couldn't help but shine a little (not-sun) light on me.

Sign number two. An actual light. The yoga class meets in the community center located at the lake, across the walking path from the beach. At the last intersection where I cross the roadway that circles the lake, and enter the path, there's a walk signal operated by pressing a button. Within two seconds of hitting the switch, the traffic light turns red and the walk signal turns on — instant gratification. Press the button, stop the traffic, walk across the street. I love it! I press it even when there isn't any traffic, just in case. It's the little things, right?

Harira with eggplant and chickpeas from Isa Does It. Recipe here. Perfect when
big flavor is desired. You can read my soup review here.
Sign number three. The first view of the lake always gives me a little thrill. Depending on the weather, and time of day, the water has a different look — always unique and beautiful. Last Monday it was deep blue-grey and glowing, in spite of the gloom.

Miso cauliflower gravy from Chow Vegan. With air-fried tofu, steamed broccoli
and something else over rice.

Sign number four. It's a short walk to class once I hit the lake walking trail, and when I arrived on Monday, I was startled to see a woman in a bathing suit heading from the beach into the lake. She went into the water at least up to her waist before I left to enter the building, and was shrieking and laughing. I watched for a few minutes to make sure she was okay, but saw she had a friend (dressed appropriately in a warm coat) watching from the beach, so I figured she was fine, having fun, and not trying to commit suicide.

This Monday, one week later, the walk was completely different. It was in the low 50s when I left my house, the sun was shining, and the day promised to be gorgeous. There was a chilly breeze but that didn't stop the locals from wearing shorts and tees. By the time I walked home it was in the upper 60s, and so warm I took off my coat— finally! Today it's in the 70s, and although the locals are in tank tops, I'm still sporting my long-sleeved tee.  And, in spite of the fabulous warmer weather, I was craving my winter smoothie this morning.



Back in February, I started occasionally making a breakfast smoothie that I could sip for breakfast during the colder months without making my teeth chatter. I've even made it for the grandkids, who now request it. It's so simple I feel silly sharing a recipe, but in fact, I measured and wrote a recipe — and now I can't find it. It doesn't matter, though. When I made it this morning I didn't have a recipe, but it still turned out creamy, comforting, warming and soothing, so let's just say the recipe is flexible. The key is no frozen fruit — the opposite of a traditional smoothie.

Winter (or spring!) smoothie
  • one medium-to-large ripe banana
  • two medjool dates, pitted
  • three fresh strawberries (optional but good, esp. in spring)
  • 1/2 cup plain soymilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • two tablespoons hempseeds
  • one tablespoon chia seed (optional)

Place all in a high speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth. If it's too thick for you, add more soymilk, one tablespoon at a time, but it's meant to be thick and creamy. The result will be slightly warm and delicious. Serves one adult.

April 16, 2018

Kati Vegan Thai and The Cookie Counter ice cream shop

Two vegan food bloggers go out to dinner.

In my last post about Seattle Vegfest, I mentioned that my husband and I attended a cooking demo by cookbook author and blogger, Hannah Kaminsky, and we three later went out to dinner together. We've been blog friends for a long time, and it was wonderful getting to spend real-life time together.

When we went to pick up Hannah from her air B&B, we were startled to find it located in the middle of the steepest, most alarmingly vertical city street we've ever seen in Seattle. It was so steep that my husband, who was driving, refused to drive down it, so we parked at the cross street at the top, and carefully walked down to meet her. I kind of wanted to drive down the slope just to see what it felt like, but I had to settle for walking. I imagine on snowy or icy days, people who live on the block don't bother to get out of bed. In nice weather, if you wanted some exercise, you could just walk up and down the street a couple of times and call it a day. Lovely house, though, and good views!

We had picked a restaurant relatively close by in South Lake Union called, Kati Vegan Thai. It's always a treat to go to a restaurant that's 100% vegan where you don't have to negotiate the vegan options. My husband and I had been there twice before and enjoyed it, and I already knew they had lots of gluten-free dishes. In addition to having good food, it's a pleasant, quiet place where it's possible to have a conversation as well as dinner. My friend Kati recently dined there, and said she was told by the owner that 'Kati', pronounced Kah tee in Thai, means coconut milk. The food at Kati Vegan Thai isn't exotic, heavily sauced and intensely spiced — it's fresh , simple, delicious food.

According to their Web site, "Making it ‘easy’ is keeping things simple, getting it right, and doing it fast. It’s about picking the best ingredients at the open air market every afternoon. It is trusting in technique over ‘secret sauces’. It’s about channeling natural flavor combinations instead of eclectic fusions and rare ingredients from afar. Says Fon, 'Perfect does not have to be complicated!' We believe in honesty and respect for ourselves and our customers. Kati specializes in healthful and flavorful cuisine made with plant-based ingredients. We choose fresh ingredients with only as much cooking oil as needed. We also want to live in a clean and sustainable world, and choose biodegradable products."

We ordered four dishes —


larb makua, a “sautéed eggplant salad with mushrooms, toasted rice, diced green onions & cilantro;”



tom yum, “the classic sour and spicy herbal soup;"



old-style pad Thai, "a uniquely delicious pad Thai found only at Kati;” and pad pak, “broccoli, cauliflower, napa cabbage, and carrots stir-fried in mild garlic sauce.” I forgot to take a photo of the pad pak, the last dish to arrive at the table. Guess I was too busy eating by the time it appeared. I enjoyed all four dishes!

After dinner we began talking about vegan desserts, with an emphasis on ice cream, a subject dear to Hannah's heart. We decided to travel to the Greenwood neighborhood for scoops of ice cream at the Cookie Counter, an all-vegan ice cream parlor and bakery. The Cookie Counter started as a vegan ice cream truck, then crowd-funded into an adorable little shop where they make and sell delicious coconut milk-based ice cream. It was close to closing time when we arrived but there were still lots of people enjoying ice cream, and more people arriving. Ken got a scoop of chocolate in a waffle cone, I got a scoop of mint chip in a cake cone and Hannah got a scoop of mint chip with a chocolate shell in a waffle bowl. I didn't notice the waffle bowls or I would have gotten one, too! Next time.

Once again I neglected my blogger duty to photograph all food I encounter, but Hannah saved the day by capturing an ice cream moment.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In other news, if you have any interest in entering a vegan recipe contest, read the notice below. There are lots of good prizes!

Call for vegan recipe submissions opens in April with $1,000 as grand prize

DENVER, CO - Kroger’s Live Naturally magazine, along with Kroger’s organic line Simple Truth, are partnering with celebrities and brands within the plant-based market to offer a recipe contest offering $1,000 as the grand prize. A call for recipe submissions began on April 3, 2018 and ends on July 15, 2018.

World-renowned vegan chef and 2017 Vegetarian Hall of Fame Inductee Mark Reinfeld of Vegan Fusion and The Doctor & The Chef created the contest to encourage creativity and create awareness of plant-based cuisine. Celebrity judge Ellie Krieger will help choose the winners. Ellie is the host and executive producer of the new cooking series “Ellie’s Real Good Food” and is well-known from her hit Food Network show.

One winner for the grand prize will be announced on August 15, 2018. Runner-up prizes will include, but are not limited to, the following:

Vitamix Blender
Kroger Simple Truth Goodie Bags & Coupons
Signed copy of Healing the Vegan Way cookbook by Mark Reinfeld
Signed copy of You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy Do-Ahead Meals cookbook by Ellie Krieger
Vegan Fusion Academy & Vegetarian Times Online Course
The Doctor & The Chef One-Year Vegan Wellness Online Membership
Copies of various plant-based cookbooks from award-winning authors and chefs
Additional prizes from national brands and sponsors
And more...

For contest rules, a complete list of prizes and to submit your recipe, visit www.LiveNaturallyMagazine.com/RecipeContest/.

April 10, 2018

Seattle Vegfest 2018: products we loved

TBV (throwback vegfest) from a 2011 volunteer stint.

On Saturday, we did what we usually do around this time of year, we went to Seattle Vegfest at the Seattle Center. We went early to avoid the crowds, and ended up standing in a long line waiting for the ticket windows to open. Avoid the crowds? What was I thinking? This was the busiest Vegfest I can remember. It was packed with people even just after opening at 10 a.m., which I suppose is a good thing, as it indicates a booming interest in vegan and vegetarian food. Vegfest isn't 100% vegan, but this year it seemed that nearly everything I encountered was vegan. I was astonished at all the food tables filled with vegan, gluten free, organic food. I think there were more than 500 foods to try, and everything I tasted (except one fizzy drink) was delicious. In addition to eating enough food to make me feel full long before we reached the last of the tables, we also attended two cooking demos — one an Indian food demo revolving around chickpeas, and the other a demo by none other than Hannah Kaminsky, the intrepid blogger (Bittersweet Blog) and cookbook author, cooking foods from her latest cookbook, "Real Food Really Fast." I was excited to catch up with Hannah after her presentation, and we ended up going out for dinner (and then out for ice cream!) later in the evening. More about this later.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't bring my camera to Vegfest, nor did I take a single photo with my phone, thus the 2011 throwback photo at the top of the page. (We were volunteering that day stationed between Mighty-O doughnuts and Theo chocolate — and I personally took full advantage of that positioning.) When I mentioned to my husband that I hadn't taken any photos, he suggested I recycle old ones, as a joke, I think. Well, looks like the joke's on him. This year my blogging credentials are at risk, I know, but I'll try to make up for my failure by showing you some of the finer things we tasted, then bought and brought home, as well as a couple of samples we acquired. And there's also the dinner...



Our first item bought at vegfest was purchased by my husband, when we came upon Doshi,  a company selling vegan leather products such as purses, wallets and belts, as well as backpacks and briefcases. The business is a new one, and we were told they had held up production until they were sure they could provide a quality product that would last. They are an ethical, vegan company giving 5% of all (profitable) sales to non-profits benefiting animals, people, and the environment. Ken bought a beautiful belt, and it does seem to be of excellent quality.



The purses and backpacks were gorgeous, too, if you're looking for a beautiful vegan bag. The wallets were also nice. Look above at their card with contact information if you want to find out more.



Oh boy, these two items were so delicious. Not just delicious, but easy to use. I was especially taken with the Nutra Kik vegetable broth powder from Kawi Foods, which was the tastiest broth I've tried in a long time. It takes one tablespoon per cup of boiling water to make veggie broth, or you can use it straight from the package to add extra flavor to a casserole or whatever. The ingredients are non GMO nutritional yeast, organic onion, sea salt, org. garlic, org. shiitake mushrooms, org. fennel, org. paprika, org. red beets, org. oregano, org. basil, org. cayenne pepper, org. thyme. There are other varieties as well, and I wish I had realized there was a salt-free version. I like to add my own salt.

The cashew sauce from the Beyond Better company, comes in several flavors but I only tasted the original. It was rich and creamy. Homemade cashew sauce is pretty easy to make but if I'm pressed for time I think I'll be happy to have a couple of packets of Beyond Better cashew sauce on hand for quick, savory and cheesy toppings. The ingredients include org. cashews, nutritional yest, org. tapioca, org. sea salt, org. herbs and spices, org. onion, org. garlic, org. acacia fiber (prebiotic), guar gum, org. turmeric, org. yellow mustard, org. cayenne, xanthan gum, vegan lactic acid. Vegan, no gluten, no GMO, no soy, no grains.



Jilz crackerz may be too addicting for me to have around the house. We snagged a few samples, though, so I can indulge a little until they are gone, then we'll see how long I can last before I buy more. They come in three flavors — original cracked pepper and sea salt, Mediterranean, and Tuscan. You can find the crackers on jilzglutenfree.com, on thrivemarket.com, on Amazon, or possibly in a store near you. Check the Jilz website for a list of stores.

We also love Thin Stackers — a thin, small, square flat rice cake from Lundberg. Our sample was red rice and quinoa. I'm very fond of spreading things on crackers.



I wasn't especially hungry when we finally got home from Vegfest, what with all the delicious foods we sampled, but a couple of hours later I felt a little snackish. I ate an entire small bag of crunchy, Lundberg Rice Chips, and I liked them a lot!



I also want to mention the Kite Hill Greek yogurt sample I tried. It was the best tasting and best textured vegan yogurt I've had — not counting my homemade soy yogurt. My husband purchased a few small containers of Kite Hill almond yogurt (plain) — not Greek yogurt — at the co-op, and I liked it almost as much. The Greek yogurt I had tried at vegfest was flavored, but I prefer to buy plain yogurt and add fresh berries and raisins. Do you have a favorite yogurt?

I was planning to write about our dinner and dessert with Hannah, but I think I'm going to have to do it another day. If I don't publish this now, it might be days before I finish!

January 26, 2018

Potluck

Don't think there's a recipe for spring rolls here, but these look great!

I belong to a vegan group that gets together about once a month for lunch out. It's a fun way to enjoy great conversation and explore all the vegan restaurant options in our city. At the last event, one of my friends from the group, Sandra, told me she belongs to another vegan group in the nearby city of Bellevue, that holds a potluck every month. They choose a theme for the potluck by the 'idea-on-a-piece-of-paper-drawn-from-a-hat' method, and her idea was selected for the next potluck. I think they usually pick a popular vegan cookbook, but she wrote Andrea's easy vegan cooking on her piece of paper, and everyone was supposed to cook something from my blog. Would I like to come?

Roasted veggies

 A more extroverted, confident person might have been thrilled and honored, but I was horrified. I tried to remain calm and 'normal' but I was experiencing thoughts like, "what if the recipes don't work?" "What if everything comes out awful?" "What if they hate the blog?" After recovering from the sensation of having sharp kitchen knives hurled at me, I said I would attend, if the date didn't conflict with my grandson's fifth birthday party. His birthday was occurring on a Tuesday,  and I didn't yet know which weekend day would be selected for his party. I even started to look forward to the potluck, and think about what I might bring.

Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins.

As it turned out, the date of the potluck was also the date of the Women's March in Seattle, as well as my grandson's party. We spent the morning and early afternoon at the march, the late afternoon at the joy-filled birthday party, and the evening at a quieter family birthday dinner at the little guy's house. It was an amazing, exhilarating day, and while I'm truly sorry to have missed the potluck, I'm glad I spent most of it with my wonderful family.

Two chickpea salads.

According to Sandra, 14 people attended the potluck, and it was a success — everyone enjoyed the food. (I hope she's telling the truth!) I had asked her to take pictures, and the photos I'm sharing here are hers, reprinted with permission.

I liked this marcher's sign!
 

Here's a glimpse into what I did on the day of the potluck. As I mentioned, I participated in the women's march, as I did last year. It feels so uplifting during these troubling times, to be surrounded by people who believe in justice, kindness, truth, etc.



I took a couple of photos of marchers and their signs.



And here's the birthday boy, just after blowing out the candles on his cupcake. Some days there are just not enough hours to do everything you want.

January 05, 2018

A mug of hot chocolate-almond-coffee



I was reading the paper the other day, and a recipe for a chocolate coffee smoothie caught my eye. It was in an article on healthy recipes. It wasn't the 'healthy' aspect that held my attention — it was the chocolate combined with almond and coffee in a potentially warming drink. The smoothie aspect was unappealing, considering the outdoor (and indoor!) temperature, but the thought of a soothing hot, delicious beverage was tempting. I adapted the recipe to provide a warming beverage, rather than a cold one. The drink isn't thick or creamy, but it is delicious. If you're in need of a hot beverage to warm you up, you might want to try this one.

I'm not a regular coffee drinker, and neither is my husband — he drinks gallons of tea — so we don't have a coffee maker standing ready. Plus, I'm extremely sensitive to caffeine, and can only drink decaf. I have a jar of high quality freeze dried instant decaf in the cupboard, just in case I occasionally want some, and that's what I used. If you have hot coffee ready and waiting, or prefer your beverage with caffeine, go for it. You could also use a coffee substitute. I'll probably try it with my Dandy Blend herbal dandelion root beverage.



Hot chocolate almond coffee
(adapted from a recipe in Parade Magazine by Alison Ashton)
  • 3 pitted dates
  • boiling water (or hot brewed coffee)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of freeze-dried instant coffee, decaf or regular (if brewed coffee isn't being used)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • generous pinch of cardamom
  1. Place the dates in a one cup glass measuring cup and add  boiling water to make one cup. (OR, place dates and cold water in the measuring cup and microwave two minutes. OR, place dates in glass measuring cup and fill to one cup mark with hot brewed coffee.) Let sit one minute.
  2. Add contents of measuring cup to high speed blender. Add instant coffee (if brewed coffee wasn't used), yogurt, almond butter, cocoa, and cardamom to the blender. Blend until smooth and frothy.
  3. Enjoy.