Monday, February 17, 2014

Warm and Nourishing Vegan Recipes!

A common misconception seems to be that the word "vegan" in a recipe is synonymous with bland, boring, tasteless, cardboard, too healthy, etc. Well, I'm here to tell you that it isn't true in my kitchen! With a little creativity and some spice, you too can create mouthwatering vegan meals! 

I recently attended a (non-vegan) meeting and brought a vegan snack to share. The resounding response was "ooh! I hope it's as tasty as that snack you brought to our last meeting!" See? Folks can be trained to love vegan food!

I have been preparing vegan meals for several years and they just seem to keep getting better. I think I have only been avoiding sharing recipes on here because there are so many that we love! I didn't think I could ever share them all. But I'm going to try. Some of them are super simple. Others take some time commitment.

Well, without further ado : here are a few of our go-to meals and snacks to beat the chilly winter blues. Feel free to be creative and make adjustments as needed to suit your tastes. (P.S.  these are all gluten-free recipes, to boot!)
I hope they publish the same way that I typed them.  

Butternut Pear Soup
Makes about 6-8 servings

(Photo missing. Ate the soup too fast.)

We first tried this recipe from a vegan cookbook called reFresh. I have since tweaked it to suit our taste buds.

Preheat oven to 400F

You will need:

1 Large butternut squash
2 yams
1 large yellow onion,diced
2 Bosc or Anjou pears (not too ripe- harder is best), diced
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup white wine (any will work)
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp coconut oil
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Halve the squash lengthwise. (Optional: toast seeds in the oven on parchment for a crunchy topping!) Place halves on an oiled baking sheet. Do the same with the yams. Bake in 400F oven for about 30-40 minutes. They will be ready when a fork goes in and out easily.  Remove them to cool. 

Step 2.  Bring water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add cinnamon stick and minced ginger and simmer on low-med heat. 

Step 3. Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a medium skillet. Add diced onion and sauté until translucent. Then add white wine and pears and simmer until wine is cooked off. Set aside. 

Step 4.  When squash and yams are cooled enough to handle, peel the skins off (remove seeds) and cut into cubes. Add to the simmering soup pot. Turn off heat. Using a potato masher (or electric hand blender), purée the mixture in the pot to a texture that you like. 

Final step: Stir in coconut milk, onion and pears.  (Garnish with fresh parsley and/or minced red bell pepper for a flashy presentation! ) Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Potato, Fennel and Leek Soup
Makes about 6-8 servings

This one was fabricated by my talented man one evening while I was working. I was so impressed that I have to share it. (Also, we just started some fennel and leek seeds so that we can make it next winter too!)

You will need:

6 cups cubed Red potatoes (new potatoes work best) we leave the skins ON
1 bulb of fennel, finely chopped (save some of the green feathery tips for a garnish)
1 large leek, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp. dried Italian herb blend
(I think rosemary is a key ingredient here!)
1/2 can coconut milk
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1. Bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add potatoes and dried herbs and keep at a gentle boil until potatoes are soft.

Step 2. Heat coconut oil on medium heat and sauté leeks until translucent. Add fennel and garlic and sauté a few minutes more. 

Step 3. Mix fennel, leeks and garlic into pot with cooked potatoes. Add coconut milk. Turn off heat. 

Step 4. Using a potato masher, mash until desired texture is reached. We left ours a bit chunky. Garnish with fennel. Salt and pepper to taste. mmmmm!

Mango Chickpea Masala
Serves 4-6

I had two beautifully ripe mangoes to use up and we loooove curry, so I thought I would combine the two and...we fell in love.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large red potatoes, cubed
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, cubed  
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large can diced/crushed tomatoes (or use fresh ones!)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 green/red hot pepper minced
(Remove seeds and wash hands!)
1 can coconut milk (optional)

1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin 
2 Tbsp coconut oil 
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1. Melt coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add ginger, hot pepper, garlic and spices and stir for a few minutes. 

Step 2.  Add tomatoes and lemon juice and stir well. Add 1 cup water and potatoes and bring to a low simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. *Stir regularly to avoid scorching*

Step 3.  Stir in mangoes and cooked chickpeas. Add coconut milk if you choose to make this dish a bit richer. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over basmati rice or quinoa. It's also great solo with a few papadums toasted on the side!

These tasty papadums are gluten-free, made with lentil flour. Look for them in the ethnic foods isle!

Mexican Lasagna
Makes 12 servings

I was given this idea back in 2004 by a friend. It's gone through a metamorphosis and now it's a super tasty one-dish meal to satisfy your Mexican food craving!

Preheat oven to 350F

You will need:

1 package large Organic corn or other gluten-free tortillas
1 large can black beans (or 2 cups cooked), rinsed
1 jar of your fave salsa

2 bell peppers (red and green), sliced thinly 
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup sliced black olives
3 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup green onions, sliced thinly
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes

2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil

*Optional: Daiya shredded  cheddar "cheese" to melt on top
And/or guacamole to top it off!

Step Uno: Melt coconut oil in a skillet and sauté onions until translucent, then add the bell peppers, corn, turmeric and half of the garlic and sauté a few minutes more. 

Step Dos: In a bowl, mix black beans, jalepeno, other half of garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and lime juice. Either hand mash or blend in food processor. 

Step Tres: Oil a 9x13 glass baking pan. Place one layer of tortillas in the pan, making sure to push them up the sides a bit. 
Spread a layer of the black bean mixture over tortillas.

Step Cuatro: Add a second layer of tortillas. Then spread the sautéed onion and pepper mix over top. 

Step Cinco: Place final layer of tortillas on top. Spread jar of salsa over the top. 

Step Seis: Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes. 

Final step: Remove foil and sprinkle with green onion, black olives and cilantro (optional Daiya cheese can be melted on top).  Add a dollop of guacamole!

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

Strangely enough, I originally found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website quite a few years ago. (I know.) Thanks Martha. I adjusted it to be vegan and gluten-free. Just as addictive!! Beware!

Preheat oven to 325F (only when you are ready to on, you'll see)

You will need:

3 cups oat flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 cup dark molasses
1 cup melted coconut oil
3/4 cup agave syrup
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated raw sugar (to roll balls in before baking)

Step 1.  Sift together dry ingredients. 

Step 2. Melt coconut oil on low heat. Then stir in agave, molasses, fresh ginger and vanilla until blended well. 

Step 3. Transfer liquid to a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients until dough is formed. (Coconut oil will slowly harden so mix quickly.)

Step 4.  Roll dough into 1" balls and then roll lightly in granulated sugar. Place on parchment on a baking sheet. Place baking sheets in the fridge for 20 minutes until balls are hardened. 

Step 5.  Place baking sheets In preheated 325 F oven for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are cracked on top. Allow them to cool by sliding parchment off of trays. Then enjoy with a cup of chai!

Chai Latte (from Scratch)
(Makes 4 average mugs full)

I lived for 6 months at a yoga ashram when I was 21. I learned to make fresh chai tea and have never forgotten this super simple recipe. 

You will need:

Enough almond, rice or coconut milk (jug, not can) to fill your mugs 1/2 way full
1/2 cup loose black pekoe tea
2 Tbsp minced/grated fresh ginger
8-10 green cardamom pods, crushed
Enough water to fill the other half of your mugs
Agave syrup or honey to taste

Step 1.  Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Add ginger, cardamom and tea leaves and simmer for at least 10 minutes. 

Step 2.  Slowly bring milk to a simmer, stirring frequently

Step 3.  Strain tea mixture and fill mugs half way. Top them off with the hot milk. 

Step 4.  Add sweetener to taste and add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top! Yummmmm!

Holy smokes. That was a lot of typing and thinking. A food blog would be a huge commitment. Maybe someday...

I would love to hear what you thought of these.

End note:
Do your best to purchase locally grown and/or organically grown foods ( or grow some in your own yard). They are less likely to contain chemical sprays, chemical fertilizers and GMO's. Thank you for reading.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Taking a Stand for Farmland

This quote sums up the number one mistake of many ancient civilizations that thought they had it all figured out, until one day...their resources were gone. Forever. This resulted in their eventual demise. We are globally headed in a similar direction, unless each of us takes some responsibility for ourselves and our own food supply. I listened to the audio version of this book, A Short History of Progress, back in 2006, which was probably when I began to think a little bit more about sustainable living. It's really worth a read/listen. 

Last week we attended a meeting regarding the ALR, or Agricultural Land Reserve of British Columbia. It was put in place in the 1970's to preserve farmland across the province. There was a hall full of concerned citizens who want to see the land remain as productive farmland. They're full up on strip malls, fracking sites and housing subdivisions.  I was surprised to learn that something like only 5% of the landmass in BC is fertile farmland. And it's shrinking. 


We signed petitions and shared lengthy discussions about what we can all do. The same group organized a rally that took place today in front of the legislature in the capital city of Victoria.

We woke up this morning to a snowy winter wonderland (of all days) which made for a slushy trip to the Capitol.  Once we arrived, the sun came out and stayed out just long enough for the remainder of the rally. 
Over a thousand supporters from all walks of life came out to cheer on the speakers and show our government that we won't just sit back and watch them destroy this precious fertile land forever. We even enjoyed a local apple, which a fellow hauled by many bushels on the back of his bike trailer. That's dedication to local food. 

My personal response to this issue is to stay informed and to continue to further my knowledge of small scale, natural food production. We are so excited to grow a garden where the growing season can be extended nearly year-round for the hardier veggies.
What steps are you and your family taking to create a sense of ownership and pride in your food supply? It's easier than you may think. And it's fun too!

On the weekend we took a ferry across to Salt Spring Island's "Seedy Saturday" seed exchange event. We left there with a hardy helping of 25 varieties of mostly organic, locally-saved non-GMO seeds.

 There were hundreds of varieties (Many I had never even heard of!) of everything at numerous booths and it was fairly overwhelming. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! Thank goodness we made a list beforehand. The vendors were all so enthusiastic and passionate about saving seeds and they encouraged others to grow their own food and save seeds themselves.

Speaking of local food, I am excited to begin working at the local organic market next week as part of the produce team. We were invited to sit in on a meeting with some local farmers to discuss who would be supplying the store with which produce this season. It's so refreshing to see these kinds of partnerships happening! Things are coming full circle. 

Think about this:

Now it's time to get supplies to start some seeds indoors. The challenge always seems to be finding space to do this. I think we may have a few window sills available...on your mark, get set, GROW!

Monday, February 03, 2014

A New Home at Cedar Grove

It's been a wonderful first week at our new residence, which we have lovingly dubbed "Cedar Grove". The property is heavily wooded and the majority of the larger trees are grand old cedars. Lots of big ones surround ourlittle  home. There is something magical about the morning mist rising from chilly cedars in the warmth of the morning sun. We had a very light dusting of snow last night, only the third time we have seen any "snowfall" in two months. It melted by lunch time.

Throughout the day, we can hear but not see through the surrounding forests, in addition to the abundant bird species, one neighbor's flock of rowdy geese and ducks and another neighbor's sheep calling to each other. It's pretty neat that hobby farms are so common here. 

Today, while pausing in the yard to soak up some precious sunshine, an eagle floated right over our heads. The sun seems to poke through the heavy cloud layer for only a few minutes (if at all) for many days on end. So, when I see it bust through, I stop what I'm doing and go outside to stand there and soak it in.  Pretty sure my skin has not been so pale and unfreckly since I was trapped indoors by high school walls over a decade ago. It's taken some getting used to. I have been supplementing with a liquid vitamin D daily, which traditional and naturopathic physicians have urged that all Canadians should be doing, since we get a lesser degree of the light of life waaaay up North here. Not sure if it helps, but it feels good to think that it does something. 

Also, we purchased a Lite Book. It's a small table top light designed to mimic actual sunlight for dark chilly winter's days. We used it frequently last winter/spring in Alberta when it was gray and cold outside. I was super skeptical about it. But it really does perk us both up when we are feeling blue from a lack of sunlight. Hopefully, over time, we will adjust naturally to the often   monotone skies of island winters. The saving grace is the fact that there is so much GREEN everywhere. The evergreens, holly, ferns, lichens and mosses are vibrant with chlorophyll year-round. The grass IS greener (in the winter) here. Thank you Mother Nature.

We are both adjusting to having an outhouse for a toilet. We had one in northern Alberta, but it was about 10 steps outside of the moHo. One night, at 4am, feeling groggy and a bit grouchy, I measured how far it was to the toilet: one 12-rung ladder, 15 stairs and 80 footsteps. Then back again. I have already thanked the outhouse for teaching me the magic of accepting so-called "inconvenience". We are so darn spoiled in our modern society. Everything has been designed so that we barely even have to stand up to get what we want. Now, something as simple as a trip to the outhouse is an adventure. 

Which leads me to something else. We shamefully purchased some portable plasticky clothes racks to act as a closet in our loft bedroom. We then realized that they were junky and made in China and we returned them and built our own version of a cabin closet using our clothes rod from the moHo and some scrap lumber. It was a close call to giving in to modern conveniences; Buying things pre-made and packaged up all pretty instead of using our intelligence and dexterity to build something from scratch. We felt so accomplished after crafting a closet and a bed frame for our new mattress. I won't recount all of the hiccups and mess-ups but in the end, we loved working in the wood shop and using math and geometry (I know, it's actually useful!) to create useful stuff. 

Something else we are getting used to is hanging our laundry to dry all around our cabin. I have had a clothesline in the past, but always fluffed my fresh laundry in the dryer afterward. Another modern luxury. Fluffy towels. Fluff

On our project list: a permanent stairway to the loft. 

The other night, while walking through the dark woods to the outhouse, I heard an eerie but beautiful owl call, over and over. It stopped me in my tracks. It made me smile. I feel so at home being so closely surrounded by the natural world. It's where we all came from not that many generations back. 

We spent this afternoon helping to build some additional compost bins to accommodate food scraps and other compostable materials, reducing our "waste" to a very small amount. 

We greatly anticipate digging into the raised garden beds. We plan to attend a seed exchange next weekend on another nearby island to collect some local heirloom veggie seeds. Some of the flowering fruit trees are beginning to show tiny pink buds emerging. And another cycle of growth begins...