The Best Salad Dressing in the Whole World!

I’ve had a very busy week, so I haven’t been able to post. Yesterday though, while tearing around doing errands, I ran into my friend Cammy from Lockwood Farms and picked up a great salad and some tender baby pattypan squash from her. Then this morning a group of us drove to Victoria and did the Run for the Cure, followed by a huge restaurant brunch. Needless to say, tonight I did not feel like cooking a big Sunday dinner. Instead, I picked the last of the blackberries in my yard and steamed the pattypan squash.Then I mixed up a batch of my favourite salad dressing ever and we had an elegant salad for dinner. It was the perfect choice to end such a full week. So tonight I will share with you the recipe for the best salad dressing in the whole world.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Emotions, Eating, and Weight Control

Bento by Jo

I see it again and again- weightloss advice that talks about curbing your emotions, or “conquering emotional eating”. Articles talk about how emotional eating can “sabotage” your efforts at weightloss, and give advice for how to regain control when you break down in weak moments. The advice usually involves some method of distracting yourself from your feelings, or fooling your perceptions. This is just plain wrong thinking on several levels, and it actually increases the likelihood of weight gain. I will tell you why you need to do exactly the opposite if you want to lose or maintain weight.

Continue reading

Cooking Club Chronicles

Yes, this is cooking club, version three. Actually, this was some of us at our planning meeting (me in red, with my very cool niece the long-distance runner). While we hiked Mt. Tzouhalem (Duncan, BC) last week we ironed out all the details of how this version will go, and I am so stoked about it I can hardly wait. So far there are four of us and this is how it will look:
Our planning meetings will take place on the fly, like this one. Talking and walking was fun. It got our creative juices flowing and feeding on each others’ ideas was exhilarating. This winter one of our planning meetings will happen while snowshoeing on the Northern part of Vancouver Island. How perfect will that be?

My sister and I at the top

We will meet at each member’s house in rotation to cook. Our cooking days will also begin with a shorter hike or other activity, then we’ll go back and each person will present one recipe. Then we will EAT the recipe and go home with full tummies and new ideas.

We have also decided to follow themes for each cooking day, to give us some focus and help us learn more about things we are exploring. Everything will be vegan of course, and the themes we came up with include flax (hey- I just blogged about this, didn’t I? And it is going to be our first theme- go figure). We also plan to look at egg substitutes, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, tofu, beans, gluten free, vegan desserts, burgers, mushrooms, quinoa, sprouts, lentils, and nuts. Lots to go on here.

Hey Look! A Fork in the Road!

So, we are ready to go. All we need is a name. Perhaps the “Dine and Dash” club?
We’d appreciate some name and theme ideas. Also, if you have stories and ideas about cooking clubs please drop me a line. I’d love to hear your experiences.

Cooking Club Fail/Win

I’ve been trying to do a cooking club for a long time. In cooking club version 1 there were eight of us, but we never succeeded in having all eight there at once. If I were to do all my posts in the right order, the story of version 1 would come first. But that’s not going to happen. Next week the survivors are starting on version 3 of the cooking club, so there isn’t time to tell the whole backstory now. (I don’t mean survivors literally– we didn’t actually have casualties! Just other things happened.)

Continue reading

A Good Challenge- Part 2

In part one of this post, I talked about why I want to stretch my “doing good” muscles a bit. The challenge I presented was to creatively do something to increase the good in the world every single day, in a way that is meaningful to you. I have done some thinking, and some exploring, and I am ready with a list of ideas to get started. They do not require any more money than I would be spending anyway, and most do not require much time, either. Most of them represent some creative problem solving that a person or group of people used in order to maximize available resources. They also usually represent someone’s personal passion and desire to do good in an area they feel strongly about, which captures the spirit of what I’m looking for. Their simplicity makes them beautiful in my opinion.

1. I will start with the more commercial enterprises:
freerice.com is a site where you answer questions and grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Fast, simple.
www.freekibble.com is a similar site, where you answer dog and cat trivia questions and a brand of pet food donates kibble to animal shelters. A nice twist on this site is that you can sign up to have the trivia sent to your email each morning, so you can start your day with a bit of animal trivia, a cute picture or story, and a quick donation.
-Care2Causes (http://www.care2.com/) is a website that informs you of causes in a variety of areas (ie- health, human rights, animals, etc) and allows you to do small things to support causes of your choice. It also has a daily email option.

Continue reading

A Good Challenge- Part 1

If I’d been born at a different time I may have been a quilter, because I get such a satisfied feeling from discovering how diverse things can actually be linked together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In science I loved learning about things like the water cycle. I was thrilled to find in geology the pattern repeated, and there was a counterpart in the rock cycle. I love that there are things that are more momentous than mountains themselves, or conversely, that huge cycles are actually made up of parts smaller than grains of sand. And each of these different systems is also connected in some way to other systems- ecological systems on the Earth, inward in us and outward into the universe. As Richard Dawkins says, “I find the reality thrilling”.

Continue reading

Three Magic Vegan Foods- Part 4 (Flax)

Well, this is my final post in the magic food category, and today’s food is….drum roll….flaxseed!

Brown and Golden Flaxseed

Flaxseed is another of those foods that can look super boring, but has a super nutrient punch. It is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, protein, and many phytochemicals. It is very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. We all know one thing fiber is good for, but it is also thought that the fiber in flax seed is particularly good for lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. The fiber and the good amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids contained in flax seed also makes it very useful for losing or maintaining weight. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to keep inflammation-related diseases in check, including heart disease and arthritis, and they keep your brain healthy to help prevent depression and memory loss. Flaxseed has been used medicinally for many other diseases and conditions, but I will let you look that up yourself (try running flaxseed through web md– you’ll be surprised at what it is used for).

Anyway, flax is hardly a vegan secret. Lots of non-vegans sprinkle it on their cereal or stir it in to their morning smoothies to get an extra nutritional punch, but vegans do have a few extra tricks with flax that I will tell you about:

If you remember from my last post, I added ground flaxseed to my cauliflower wing batter. That was because it can add a nutty or more “meaty” flavour and mouthfeel to some foods. The oils add a feeling of softness and moisture that enhances our eating pleasure, so you can often find vegetarian/vegan recipes for things like pizza crust with flaxseed in it. The good oils stay stable during baking, so we still get the nutritional benefits, too.

Another really nifty trick for flaxseed is this recipe for vegan eggs:
For the equivalent of 1 egg, begin with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed.
Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and stir well.
At this point, you can play with the consistency- if you’d like it slightly gelled (like egg yolk), just let it sit for a few minutes. If you’d like it more like eggwhite, refrigerate it for 15 minutes to an hour or more. Alternatively, I’ve heard microwaving it at this point thickens it very fast (for an egg emergency?)
And there you have it- you can use vegan eggs in baking just the way you’d use regular eggs. You can also use them as a binder for homemade veggie burgers and the like.
Oh yeah, the recipe can be doubled or more- just keep the ratio 1:3.

A few notes about the best use of flax:
1. Flax seeds need to be cracked or ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”- the insoluble part is the outer shell).
2. You can also buy flaxseed oil for use in cooking. Just remember that flaxseed oil alone contains neither the fiber nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal.
3. Flaxseeds should be stored as whole seeds in a cool dry place. Once they are ground, the oils go rancid very quickly, so ground seeds should be used quickly and kept in the freezer. Some people use a small spice grinder and just make small a batch for daily use.

Speaking (again) of nutritional benefits, of particular note for vegans, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed contains 3 grams of protein, 24 mg of calcium, and as many Omega 3, 6, and 9-fatty acids as 150 grams of fish. It also offers the full range of B vitamins (which vegans sometimes lack). So now you know- when people ask vegans, “But how do you get enough (protein/calcium/B vitamins)?”, the magic answer to every question is “flax!”.

Three Magic Vegan Foods- Part 3 (Cauliflower)

Time for my second magic food- cauliflower. Disappointed that I would call such a common food magic? Don’t be- I’ve got a long, full post today. This bland white food is suddenly being discovered by calorie-counters because of its magical transformational properties. From cauliflower, you can make rice, popcorn, potatoes, pizza, and even chicken. It is the Isaiah Mustafa of the vegetable world (maybe it should be called chameleonflower).

Easy, peasy cauliflower recipes are made one of two ways, depending on the texture you are going for: either chop up the cauliflower to the size you want and then cook it, or cook it and then chop it/blend it up. There you are- that’s the secret in a nutshell. Now the recipes:

Cauliflower Rice– Put raw cauliflower in a blender and chop it up until it is about the size of rice grains. Microwave it for about 5 minutes (just the cauliflower- don’t add water or oil while microwaving), fluff with a fork and add any seasonings you would add to rice. Alternatively, you can fry the cauliflower with a bit of oil (and perhaps chopped onion and carrot, maybe some garlic, celery, etc). And there you are- low-carb rice.

Cauliflower Popcorn– This is the name many recipes give to roasted caramelized cauliflower. Break the cauliflower up into florets (popcorn sized or larger). Put it on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Stir and season any way you would season popcorn. Cook at a high temperature (425 degrees at least), and shake or stir once or twice to brown evenly. The browner the cauliflower gets, the more caramelization is happening, and you will get a delicious sweet-salty result that is quite addictive.

Mashed Cauliflower– Many calorie-counters have caught on to a new way to take care of their mashed potato comfort food cravings. Simply steam or boil a head of cauliflower, then blend it until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. You can experiment with seaonings. I’ve seen non-vegan recipes that add butter and sour cream (sort of defeats the low-calorie quest if you ask me), but you can also add roasted garlic, silken tofu (the previous magic food!), soymilk, chives, broth, and even gravy.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust– Begin with a cup or more of your cooked cauliflower rice, then mix in:
1 egg worth of egg substitute (more about this to come- soon- hint, hint). Or, for you non-vegans, 1 henfruit.
Garlic to taste
Onion salt
Oregano
3/4 cup almond or cashew flour or paste.
Combine all ingredients well and shape into a crust on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.
Cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees
When done add sauce and toppings
Broil for around 5 minutes to cook toppings

And finally, Screamin’ Hot Buffalo Florets (well, buffalo sure don’t have wings, and Ferdinand liked flowers, so this fits better anyway).
For these, I started with the recipe off the Peta site (http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/spicy-buffalo-cauliflower-wings.aspx), so I will give that recipe first. But of course I can never leave well enough alone, so below that I will tell you the changes I made.

Original Version:
1 cup water or soy milk
1 cup flour (any kind will work—even gluten-free!)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces
1 cup buffalo or hot sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted vegan margarine

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Combine the water or soy milk, flour, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.
  • Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the cauliflower is baking, combine your buffalo sauce and olive oil or margarine in a small bowl.
  • Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

OK- My Version (changes to the original recipe):

First, I added a little more garlic powder to the flour, as well as other spices (a dash or two of cumin, hot mix, & Mrs. Dash extra spicy). I also added 1/4 cup of ground flax seed, a few tablespoons of engevita yeast, and 1/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds (pulsed in my grinder to slightly break them up). I find that just flour and soymilk makes the batter a bit gluey and these add texture. I’m also a bit of a chili-head, so I like the extra spice.

Batter the cauliflower florets and put them on a greased baking dish, or use a silpat mat.

I haven’t tried this yet, but one of these times I may sprinkle them with Panko bread crumbs for more crunch.

The original recipe says to put the wing sauce on and return them to the oven. I tend to use a lot of the hot sauce, so adding it to the entire batch can make them soggy. Instead, I just brown them as they are and wait to add sauce as we eat them. I also do not use nearly as much margarine in the hot sauce as the original recipe calls for, and nobody has noticed yet.

And there they are- YUM! Of course they would not fool anyone, but they do have a similar mouth-feel to chicken wings, and you save about a cajillion fat calories (and many chickens) by eating these ones. You don’t have to cut up slippery chicken and worry about salmonella, either. What are wings, anyway, but a vehicle for getting the hot sauce into you?

So, that’s the last magical trick for today. I rarely make these the same way twice- try your own variations, too. I can imagine they’d be good with pineapple sweet and sour sauce, or BBQ sauce, too.

But after all this there is always the question- other than the (obvious) chicken wing recipe, why would you want to use cauliflower as a substitute for all these things? Well, how about this? Cauliflower is a superfood like its more colorful cruciferous cousins, broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale. It is low in fat, low in carbohydrates, high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C. It also contains several phytochemicals, like indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane which have been shown to protect against cancer. Pretty magical.

Three Magic Vegan Foods- Part 2 (Soybeans)

In the first part of this post I referred to three plain-looking foods (“grey mush” were the exact words I recall taking exception to) that have magical transformative properties when used in vegan meals. Magic food number one is soybeans. I’ll bet most readers guessed this first one, but I wonder if they know all of the powers of this food:

Pick one kind of soybeans when they are young and green and you have edamame. Edamame to me is the ultimate snackfood. I like them salted like popcorn, and served in the pods so you can scrape them out with your teeth (recipe here). They are delicious and beautiful out of the pods also. When young like this they are actually far from grey- they are the bright green crayola color “inchworm” (hex #B2EC5D).

See- “inchworm”- (Well OK- Caterpillar)
Charabento by Jo

Let another variety of soybeans mature and they become white. Then they can be used in soymilk and tofu. Soymilk can be used in virtually any recipe that calls for milk. It can even be used to make soy yogurt. And tofu- tofu is amazing, and -OK- ugly. Tofu cooked poorly can put just about anyone off. It comes in white squishy blocks packed in water and really has not got much taste on its own. There are some tricks with tofu, however. First, choose the right variety for the right use. And second, season and use it properly. People have written entire books on tofu, but I will only cover two of my favourite ways to use tofu in this post.

1. Extra-firm tofu. Here’s the fastest recipe for tofu you will ever find. Presto-changeo!

Dry-Fried Tofu Slices
Take a package of extra-firm tofu (non-gmo/organic, please!) and slice it into slices 5-15 cm (1/4-1/2 inch) thick. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add a very tiny bit of oil. I find my cast iron pan is perfect for this because the tofu does not stick. Lay the slices in the pan and dry fry and brown them on both sides. The texture will change depending on how long you cook them – taste them until you get your own preferred texture and taste. You can add any seasoning you like or leave them plain. I sometimes use my homemade Best Salad Dressing in the Universe (recipe will be posted soon) to season them, but sometimes I just leave them plain. I usually cook the entire tofu block and refrigerate the leftovers to eat cold or rewarmed with lunches or for after work snacks, sometimes with dip or ketchup, or sometimes in a wrap.

2. Silken tofu. This is THE BEST substitute in the world for dairy in cooking. You can make salad dressings and creamy sauces that are better than the versions made with heavy cream and butter, without all the calories and cholesterol. You will see silken tofu in some of my creamy sauce and salad dressing recipes, but here I am going to share the recipe that started all my experiments with silken tofu. And the story of how I discovered it:

My daughter and I were watching an episode of the CBC show, Village on a Diet- a great show about a Northern Canadian town that took on the challenge to collectively lose one ton of weight. One woman (our favorite person to follow and root for), was completely naive about anything food-related, but embraced all the new healthy habits enthusiastically. She had done some of her own reading and had found a tofu recipe she wanted to try on her husband (who was rather less enthusiastic about the changes). My daughter and I laughed hysterically as she poked at her tofu and squealed at how gross it was. She started cooking and it looked as though a hilarious disaster was about to ensue, but when she finished the recipe and mixed it with some pasta it was suddenly transformed into the creamiest looking fettucine alfredo that I’ve ever seen. My daughter and I stared at each other amazed, and immediately went online to find a recipe for tofu fettucini alfredo.

The recipe we loved the best was from the Soyfoods Association of North America (http://www.soyfoods.org/). We replaced the parmesan with a bit of nutritional yeast and salt, added in some extra veggies, and used a pan on the stove instead of a microwave. It was so good that I began making cheese sauces, mushroom sauces, etc., the same way. And, here’s a little bit of extra magic- I don’t even bother with the blender, I simply brown and soften my garlic and some onion and whatever other veggies I fancy in the frypan, dump in the tofu, herbs, and broccoli, and use my immersion blender right in the pan. There is less cleanup, it’s ready in 5 minutes, creamy and thick- honestly people cannot tell the difference in taste. And the proof that it really is a magic vegan food- it makes calories, cholesterol and fat disappear! Your heart will weep for joy.

Tofu Alfredo Sauce

This recipe replaces the traditional heavy cream and butter with Tofu and saves 350 calories per serving for the sauce alone! Makes 4 servings, (sauce alone)

1 package (12oz) firm silken tofu
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt (or less to taste)
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup skim milk or plain soymilk
1 package frozen chopped broccoli
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-4 minutes on high, or until hot. Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen broccoli to cooking water. Drain and toss with Alfredo Sauce.

Nutrition Information:
Tofu Alfredo Sauce Per Serving: 155 Calories, 3 g Protein, 4 g Carbohydrate, 10 g Fat
Traditional Alfredo Sauce Comparison: 505 Calories, 9 g Protein,
5 g Carbohydrate, 51 g Fat

 

Edamame Snack Recipe

Edamame have odd hairy pods that can be a bit off-putting for people who are unfamiliar with them. They have started to become more well-known and more popular around here due to the increased popularity of sushi restaurants. They are easy to make at home and  make a great appetizer with beer, or a snack while watching a movie. Serve them salted and eat them by scraping the beans out of pods with your teeth or squeezing them out with your fingers. In the recipe below, I have not included amounts, because it is all done according to your own tastes- try them after they are boiled, and adjust the salt to serve.

Ingredients:

  • fresh or frozen edamame in pods
  • water
  • salt

Preparation:

Rinse the edamame and put in a pot of salted water. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the edamame are softened. Drain in a colander. Serve edamame in a bowl sprinkled with more salt. Make sure you have a second bowl to drop the pods in.
Nutritional information:Per 1 cup:

  • 75 calories
  • 7 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g protein
  • 2 g fat
  • 3 g fiber
    Edamame is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese. They are naturally very low in sodium, but of course this recipe adds salt.
    The one warning I would give about edamame (and any soybeans) is to try to get organic/non genetically modified (non-gmo) varieties. The dangers of gmo foods are becoming more evident all the time, and soybeans are one of the most commonly modified crops in existence.