Long Noodles, Power Plates, and Templates

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December 31st- wow! Today is long noodle day, which means an easy lunch that my daughter loves- long noodle soup to symbolize living a long life. I add lots of veggies to the noodles (symbolizing a healthy life haha). After all, the pleasure of a long life comes from good health.

Recipe (if you can even call it that):
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New Year’s Resolutions: $2013 in 2013 Update

Update- My donation page is here (full explanation below). If it doesn’t work for you to use a direct link, you can also copy this: http://www.canadahelps.org/gp/21903 and paste it into your address bar.

With 2012 nearly over, I have been thinking about how to make 2013 even better. As a result, I’ve resolved to push my limits a bit and I am challenging myself (and anyone else who wants to join in- any takers?) to exercise, run, walk, swim or bike the equivalent of 2013 kilometres in 2013, and in the process I want to earn $2013.00 for charity (credit and thanks to Marc Hemmingway for the original idea). 2013 kilometres is a tad more than 5.5 km. per day throughout the year, which could be quite do-able if I only wanted to focus on distance-type sports like running or walking. However, with careful scheduling, I can still only fit in about an hour a day for exercise and I want to try other challenges, too. So I have calculated how to use other exercise in my resolution. I will count every 10 minutes of hard exercise as 1 km. (for example, if I do a 50 minute “cardio/core” circuit class, I will count that as 5 km). I usually average one km. in about 8.5 minutes when I walk/run races, so I think that is a reasonable equivalent.

I lost my last dog this fall, and the love and happiness all of my animals provided over the years meant that the choice of an animal charity was inevitable. There are many I could have gone with, but I’m really pleased with my final choice- West Coast Assistance Teams, because they work with dogs to help people with disabilities, and also work with at-risk youth, teaching them how to get involved in training assistance dogs. These are both projects that are near and dear to my heart, and they are the type of programs I researched and wrote about in my Master’s thesis.

Presently I am asking for any kind of donation at all directed through the CanadaHelps page (links in bold at top of page), and they will also give tax receipts to those who are eligible. They do take a fee out of the donation (3.9% to 4.9%) but they also take care of lots of the legwork for the charities (giving out the tax receipts, etc), and they also offer things like ecards and donor gift cards if you’d like to send a donation in someone’s name. Check out this FAQ page to see what else you can do about your donation and what they can do for you.

I visualized that perhaps people might want to pledge a small amount of money for each kilometre that I log. At only 1 cent per kilometre, people would only have to donate $20.13, and one hundred people would get me to my goal. I will also try and sort out other ideas over the year to get money into the pot, perhaps by taking on challenges and events to get sponsorship in other ways. I will keep you updated, and it would be great to hear from readers- all creative ideas wil be considered.

I have set up a new category on the right sidebar of my page, labelled “$2103 in 2013”, and I will keep this post there along with a running total of how many kilometres (or equivalent) I have achieved, and how many funds have been raised so far. You can also check back any time to the CanadaHelps page where they have a thermometer thingy with the amount raised.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. I’m very excited to have this new adventure starting just one day from now!

Memories of an Old Partner

Memories of an Old Partner- Barkley (2006)

It’s Pepper Pot Day!

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In case you were looking for another holiday this week (or just a nice warm soup to fortify you in preparation for New Year’s Eve), today is Pepper Pot Day. Somehow this fact was sent to my email ingeniously embedded within advertising. So I deleted the message and googled the day. According to American lore, pepper pot is a thick spicy soup first created on December 29, 1777, during the Revolutionary War. The army was running low on food and morale, so Christopher Ludwick, their cook, gathered whatever food he could scrounge up in the countryside, and made pepper pot soup. It rejuvenated the troops and was dubbed “the soup that won the war.”

Apparently the original soup was made from scraps of tripe (don’t even ask), bacon rind, root veggies, and some peppercorn. I’m sure there are people who adore the original recipe, but it sounds to me like he made it in desperation from whatever he could beg, borrow, or steal from the locals.

My pepper pot soup is exactly nothing like Ludwick’s soup, but then again you don’t have to be starving in a field to love it, so you choose.

Jo’s (Made Up on the Spot) Pepper Pot Soup

Ingredients (all amounts approximate- this is soup, so just go with it):
– 1 cup of dried pantry items (lentils, beans, barley, rice, etc- whatever you have)
– 1-2 cups of root veggies (carrots, onions, celery, leftover Brussels sprouts, etc)
– 2 cloves of garlic.
– 3-4 cups of bell peppers (I used traffic light colours)
– Any kind of hot or spicy peppers you have- to your own taste (I used jalapenos, pickled banana peppers, dried paprika, crushed black peppercorns, and dried red pepper flakes- it is called pepper pot soup after all).
– 4-5 cups of vegetable broth.
– Any other “scrounged” items you desire- I threw in a few tomatoes that needed using up, and some dried shiitakes. Soup is always good for using up leftovers.
– Meat substitute if desired. Since I was grabbing my dried items anyway, I threw in a cup or so of dried soy chik’n pieces.
– 1/2 tsp. thyme.
– 1/2 tsp. marjoram.
– 1 tsp. cumin (secret ingredient).
– salt to taste.

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Directions:
– Clean and soak the 1 cup of dried pantry items. (I chose all items that do not take a long soak time, and I just threw them in the crockpot and poured boiling kettle water over them. Then I set the crockpot on low and did some errands for an hour or two).
– Drain the soaked items and put them back in the pot. Add vegetable broth.
– Meanwhile, cut up the root veggies, garlic, and fresh peppers. Soften them in a frying pan with a little vegetable oil, and add to the crockpot.
– Rehydrate the shiitakes and chik’n (I use boiling water, drain, then soak for a few minutes in Bragg’s aminos) and add to the pot.
– Finally, add the spices, salt and dried peppers to taste.
– Cook on high for 1/2 hour, then turn down low and leave in the pot until you are ready to eat (the longer it cooks, the more flavourful it becomes.Taste and check the seasonings at least 1/2 hr. before eating).
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Getting Back on Track- New Year’s Resolutions: $2013 in 2013

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I have not forgotten the resolution posts that I started several weeks ago, but I’ve been wrestling with technology. With the clock ticking down, I decided to go ahead and post anyway. I already mentioned one of my resolutions for next year (lose the weight that found me again this fall), but that is the narrowest part of an overall plan I have been working on for a while (my “Fork in the Road”).

So, here is the entire resolution articulated: In 2013 I will continue improving my own life physically, mentally, and emotionally/spiritually, and I will extend that holistic wellness outwards toward others and the planet.

Sounds like I’ve gone straight from narcissism to grandiosity, but let me explain what this looks like: In 2013 I plan to continue having just as much fun exploring healthy eating and new physical challenges, but I am now going to consciously strive to extend the good feelings in any way I can. I follow Marc Hemmingway’s hilarious blog, and I will be starting the year by taking him up on his challenge with a few modifications:

I will exercise, run, walk or bike the equivalent of 2013 kilometres in 2013, and in the process I want to earn $2013.00 for my chosen charity, West Coast Assistance Teams. (The technology I am wrestling with is the fundraising platform giving page that I am trying to set up to take any pledges or donations- I’ll get it sorted before Jan. 1st, though). Update: I have my donation page up and running here. Read my full update here. 2013 kilometres is a tad more than 5.5 km per day throughout the year, which could be quite “do-able” if I only wanted to focus on running or walking. However, I want to try other challenges, too, so I have also allowed other exercise in my challenge. I will count every 10 minutes of hard exercise as 1 km. (for example, if I do a 50 minute “cardio/core” circuit class, I will count that as 5 km). I usually average one km. in about 8.5 minutes when I walk/run races, so I think that is a reasonable equivalent.

So here is the challenge I offer to you: for 2013, do one (or both) of these things:
1) Donate to someone else’s challenge (if 100 people sponsored me for 1 cent per km., they would only need to donate $20.13 and I would reach my goal!)
or:
2) Set up your own 2013 challenge like Marc Hemmingway and I have done, and collect your own funds for the charity of your choice.

Once I’ve sorted out the giving page, I will link to it, and I will also create a page here on my blog that I will update to keep track of my progress. Check back to see how I am doing and also to let me know how you are doing on your resolutions- if I get really clever, maybe I can create an interactive page where we can all share our progress. Also, check out “Run Hemmingway Run” to see how he is doing with his challenge.

Three more days to go (two for some of you!), so get your resolutions out there!

Update: I have my donation page up and running here.
Read my full update here.

Last Minute Gifts- Popcorn Flavours- Earthquake (Furikake) Popcorn

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Between sampling the Nanaimo Bars and the VI Popcorn for my last two posts, I was ready for something a little less sweet for my other popcorn flavours. I also wanted to add something to the gifts we’d got for my daughter’s kung-fu sifu and his wife. I don’t know their tastes very well, but I do know that they like sushi, and it just so happened that I had recently picked up some new flavours of furikake- a flavoured mix of seaweed flakes, spices, and other dried natural flavourings. Furikake is usually eaten sprinkled on rice, but we use it on all sorts of things. If you cannot get it where you live, you can mix your own with crushed seaweed and other flavourings (herbs and spices, dried salmon flakes, etc)

I thought I had invented a new popcorn idea, but I gave it a quick google and discovered similar things have been done before. In Hawaii they also add rice crackers and call it hurricane popcorn (I’m not sure why- maybe it was invented after a hurricane when someone had nothing else left in their cupboards?) I don’t know if there is a particular furikake flavour they use, but I decided just to make an assortment, and I cribbed their idea and added rice crackers to one. Since we don’t worry so much about hurricanes on the West Coast, and since this popcorn will rock your world (especially the version with wasabi furikake and wasabi peas), I decided to call my version “earthquake popcorn”.

The recipe couldn’t be easier:

Earthquake Popcorn

Ingredients:
– Popped popcorn
– Furikake
– Olive oil
– Light oil (such as canola)- optional
– Salt to taste- optional
– Other goodies ( rice crackers, dried shrimp, wasabi peas, sesame seeds, etc.)

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shiso fumi furikake and rice crackers

Directions:
– Drizzle a (very) small amount of olive oil over the cooked popcorn and stir it up. The oil is just to help the furikake to stick to the popcorn, so you may want to mix it half and half with a lighter oil, or leave it out altogether if you are using popcorn that has been freshly cooked in oil. Use your own culinary discretion and taste buds.

– Sprinkle on the furikake and stir to coat the popcorn. Add a small bit of salt if needed- again, to your own taste.
– Mix in some other goodies if desired. I’ve listed a few ideas above, but I’d love to hear what other variations you come up with- please do share.

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wasabi bonito furikake & wasabi peas

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pickled umi furikake & nori

Last Minute Gifts- Popcorn Flavours- Vancouver Island Popcorn

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I was chatting with an elder in a checkout line and she told me that every Christmas she fills huge stockings for all of her ten grandchildren. Since she lives on a fixed income she needs to be very creative about it. Before Christmas she pops a massive tub of popcorn, and puts a large bag of popcorn into the top of each stocking. I laughed as she explained- it’s cheap, takes up lots of room in the stocking, and as a bonus, it gives the grandchildren something to munch on, keeping them busy and giving the adults just a wee bit longer to sleep on Christmas morning. Brilliant! (of course the little ones still need some supervision and children under four shouldn’t have it- popcorn can be a choking hazard)

Afterwards it got me thinking- what could I do to popcorn to make it something special to add to gifts? Since I had just been making Nanaimo bars, that was where I started. I experimented until I got a fun and easy new recipe- “Vancouver Island Popcorn” (I go further afield than Nanaimo). Make a bag and pair it up with a paperback and you have a perfect last minute gift.

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Ingredients:
– 8 cups of popped corn.
– 3/4 cup icing sugar
– 2 tablespoons butter or vegan spread
– 1 tablespoon custard powder
– 1/8 cup coconut
– 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
– 1/8 cup crushed walnuts
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chocolate chips or pieces100_3439
– 1 teaspoon canola oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
– Divide the popcorn into two bowls (4 cups/bowl).
– Blend the icing sugar, custard powder, and butter or spread, and mix until smooth and creamy. Blend this 100_3446custard cream into one popcorn bowl, mixing to coat all popcorn. Spread the coated corn out onto a baking tray or parchment paper to dry.
– Mix the coconut, graham cracker crumbs, and crushed walnuts and set aside.
– Spread the remaining bowl of popcorn out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
– Melt the chocolate and mix with the oil.100_3457
– Drizzle the chocolate mixture over the unflavoured popcorn and then sprinkle with the dry coconut/crumb/nut mixture. Stir until popcorn is evenly coated and most of the dry mixture is clinging to the chocolate. Spread the coated popcorn out to dry.
– When both flavours are dry, stir them together in a large bowl.
– Add the salt and stir again. For some 100_3290reason (anyone know the science of this?) the salt wakes the Nanaimo bar flavour up in your mouth and finishes the taste.

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– For an extra sweet and pretty treat, you can also stir in chopped up Nanaimo bar pieces.

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Vegan Aspirations in Holiday Recipes- Nanaimo Bars

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It isn’t Christmas without Nanaimo bars, and they are sooooo easy to veganize. I’ve seen a few recipes online that use things like vanilla pudding, but I am here to tell you that THIS is the original recipe for Nanaimo bars (named for the city in British Columbia where I now work- go figure). I grew up in the 1960’s helping my Mom to make big batches of these every year for Christmas. Most everyone we knew in Alberta had the recipe- they were a brand new sensation and people only made them at Christmas because they were so rich and a bit expensive to make in those days. Now you can buy them year-round in many varieties, made with all sorts of chemicals and odd ingredients. But the store bought ones do not taste remotely like the real thing, so do yourself a favour and make a batch of these instead.

As a teen in the early seventies, I re-wrote the recipe in my own notebook. I still work off the same handwritten recipe, and this year my daughter suddenly became curious about whose handwriting it was. She found it highly amusing to learn that it was mine, and that teen girls would spend hours practicing handwriting to find a style to call their very own. I was very proud of my style at that time- backhand to show just the right amount of rebelliousness, with circles instead of dots for femininity. My handwriting evolved, and kids rarely write anything by hand anymore. But Nanaimo bars are still here.

Top

And here is the veganized version (in much easier to read type):

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer:
– 1/2 cup vegan butter-flavoured spread
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 3 Tablespoons cocoa
– 1 flax egg
– 2 cups graham wafer crumbs
– 1 cup coconut
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix ingredients, press into a 9 inch square pan and chill for 1/2 hour.

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Middle Layer:
– 2 cups icing sugar
– 1/4 cup vegan butter flavoured spread
– 1/4 cup (or less) soymilk
– 2 tablespoons custard powder (I use Bird’s- it’s vegan and gives a bright yellow colour)

Combine, beat until smooth and fluffy, and then spread on bottom layer. Put back in fridge to chill while you make top layer.

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Top Layer:
– 1/2-3/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips or pieces (sweetened)
– 1 tablespoon of vegan spread or canola oil

Melt together and spread over the top. Cool until all layers are nicely set, and then cut yourself a square for a taste of Christmas in Canada. Best savoured with a hot drink after playing in the snow.
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p.s. As children we discovered that Nanaimo bars are also divine frozen. My poor Mom used to try and bake ahead in bulk and freeze some of her baking to save for Christmas entertaining. One year my younger sister and I, left to our own devices, discovered the stash of Nanaimo bars in the freezer and pilfered some to eat, frozen, in the barn. A guilty pleasure indeed.

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Vegan Aspirations in Holiday Recipes- Mushroom Wellie

100_3055A few years ago, when I was still eating meat, one of my sisters started the journey to vegan eating. Christmas dinner for the extended family was at my house, so I ambitiously decided to provide a vegan roast along with the regular turkey. Somewhere I found a recipe that used wheat gluten and nutritional yeast- things I had never heard of at that time. I boiled up a bland, chewy chunk of seitan with no seasonings to speak of. In a pathetic attempt at humour and to dress it up, Continue reading

Cookie Exchange Recipes #2

As promised, here are the other recipes from our cookie baking day. One of the amazing things about that day was that we did not exchange recipes beforehand, and yet between the three of us and the six recipes, there were no repeats, and none that were even very similar! From oatmeal to white chocolate to ginger spice, each one had its own distinct flavours.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (modified from the book: “Part-Time Vegan” by Cherise Grifoni)

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

• 1/3 cup vegan margarine• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup applesauceGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 tablespoons soymilk
• 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger
• 1 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats
• 2/3 cup raisins (or dried cranberries would be good for Christmas too)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix margarine and sugars. Add applesauce, vanilla, and soymilk. Combine well.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger and combine with wet ingredients.
4. Stir in oats and raisins or cranberries.
5. Drop balls of dough onto greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper or a silicone sheet), and bake for 12 minutes.

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Ginger Spice Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

• 2 cups flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1 1/2 tsp ginger
• 1/2 tsp cloves
• 1/8 tsp allspice
• 1/8 tsp nutmeg (or replace the last 5 spices with a favourite similar mixed spice)
• pinch salt
• 1 cup vegan butter replacement
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 vegan egg replacer
• 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Scoop dough by large tablespoons and roll into balls. Flatten and press into granulated sugar to coat tops and place on cookie sheet. Parchment paper or silicone sheets make cleanup easier.
3. Bake 8–10 minutes- only until lightly browned around the edges.

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Jam-filled Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

• 2 cups flourGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 cup vegan butter replacement
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 vegan egg replacer
• 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix all ingredients until a soft dough is formed. If dough is too crumbly, add a few drops water, soymilk, or oil.
3. Scoop dough by large tablespoons and roll into balls. Flatten and press into granulated sugar to coat tops and place on cookie sheet. Parchment paper or silicone sheets make cleanup easier.
4. Make a “thumbprint” dent in each cookie.
5. Bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove pans from oven and re-indent each cookie and place a blob of jam into each dent.
6. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes, until jam is bubbling and cookies are cooked through. Jam will set as the cookie cools.

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And finally, what bake-off would be complete without the good old….

Monster Cookies!

Recipe makes 6 dozen. (yes it does! This one just kept on going and going, so actually Stacy got several extra dozen of this type). If this is too much, you can halve the recipe or freeze the pre-baked cookies for later.

Ingredients:

• 1 cup butter (or substitute)GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
• 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 2 cups granulated white sugar
• 4 eggs (or substitute)
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 3 cups flour
• 5 cups rolled oats
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups chocolate chips
• 1 cup M&Ms

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
4. Add flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir well.
5. Finally, add in the chocolate chips and M&Ms and stir until combined.
6. Drop by tablespoons onto greased or papered cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes until edges are browned.

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Cooking Club Chronicles- Having Fun With Christmas Cookie Exchanges

A short while ago a very caring young guy (that’s you, Kevin!) asked several of us to join an event that another young person, Stacy Cameron, has been hosting for the last 5 years. She calls it “Caring With Cookies“, and this is how she explains it:

I ask volunteers to bake a few dozen cookies, maybe something that was a tradition for you growing up. If you aren’t a baker but want to help, you can pass this along to your friends, family or co-workers. Once I receive all of the cookies I (along with my helpers) package them up in bags of 6 or so and deliver them to the Cool-Aid Society homeless shelter in Victoria and this year in the Cowichan Valley as well. I have people in Parksville, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan and Victoria that are kind enough to act as a drop off center for cookies, making it easier to get them to me in Duncan. I’m accepting cookies NOW until DECEMBER 22nd. Many of you have made my dream a reality by donating every year and I thank you from the bottomest part of my heart!

Here is a picture of her kitchen during the packaging stage.

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