FOK 20: I’m Going Skinny Dipping!

It’s Superbowl Sunday this weekend, so I’m popping over to a friend’s house for a bit of skinny dipping and a bowl of chilli (her hubby make a wickedly hot meat-free one for me) for our annual tradition of sitting in front of a screen repeatedly asking “So what’s happening now?” I offered to take some dips to help with the festivities, which gave me a great excuse to spend time playing in the kitchen in preparation for a skinny dip or two. No, I’m not going to hack a hole in the frozen river and jump in wearing nothing but icicles – even though turning blue would probably suit me. I’m trying to create dips which don’t require me to fry anything in oil. It would be a shame to totally blow my forks-over-knives diet plan for the sake of a dip or two, especially after 20 days of being (mostly) good.

This is why I’m not actually skinny dipping: DSC09534 (Copy) That’s blowing snow in my backyard, in case you’re wondering.

My friend is a big fan of the Atkin’s diet, which makes life interesting when the two of us eat together. I say “No meat! No butter! No cheese! Bring on the wholewheat carbs!” while she is happiest when served a plate of meat cooked in a buttery cheese sauce. One thing we do agree on though is the value of a good dip or two when watching a game we don’t understand. I’ve made a few for us to try: a creamy garlic cashew “cream cheese” dip, a gorgeously green tofu “sour cream”, and a totally magic mushroom tapenade, made from non-hallucinogenic mushrooms of course. I may also take some Indian dips (watch for the recipes in the next blog) if my dinner party guests don’t polish them off on Saturday.

Garlic Cashew “Cream Cheese” Dip

You need a powerful blender to make this. I tried making it in my pre-vitamix days and I was disappointed with the grainy texture.

  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water in the fridge
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Makes about 1 cup.

Drain and rinse the cashews and put into a blender along with the nutritional yeast, cider vinegar, lemon juice and water. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender periodically. Fold in the green onions, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper then cover and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. If liquid has separated out from the “cheese” either stir it back in or gently pour it away.

garlicCreamCheeseDip (Copy)Mushroom Tapenade

This is best made the day before and stored, covered, in the fridge to let the flavours develop.

  • tapenadeMushrooms (Copy)About 3 cups white mushrooms, cut into thick slices
  • About 2 cups baby portabella mushrooms (see photo), cut into thick slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, if you love garlic)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp each salt & pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 avocado, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • ½ cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tbsp drained capers, rinsed, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Makes about 2 cups.

Put the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper into a large frying pan or wok and cook over a medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add a drop of water if needed. Tip: if your avocado is on the hard side toss the pieces in with the mushrooms for the final 5 minutes of cooking to soften it. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a blender and add the olives, capers and parsley. Process until blended but still chunky, then taste and add more salt if needed. Serve cool or at room temperature. It will be happy in the fridge for 4 days or so.

mushroomTapenade (Copy)Gorgeous Green Tofu Garlic “Sour Cream”

  • 1 (540g / 20-ounce) package silken tofu
  • 3 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt

Makes about 2 cups.

Combine the tofu and vinegar in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the garlic, parsley and salt. Pulse to blend then taste and add more salt if needed. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up a 1 week.

greenTofuSourCream (Copy)I hope you’ll consider doing a bit of skinny dipping with me! I’ll be back blogging on Monday, but in the meantime have a Happy Superbowl Sunday!

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 19: A Problem with FAT!

I’ve been eating a non-meat diet for many years, and I’ve heard frequently that people are concerned about the amount of protein vegans eat. But for some reason people keep telling me I should eat more fibre. These are usually people who wouldn’t know a whole grain if it chased them around the yard and bit them on the butt. “Eat more fibre!” they cry. I want to tell them that if I ate any more fibre I could auction my body off as granola. Perhaps they should worry less about my fibre levels and try eating some of it themselves. Beans, lentils, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, oats – they’re all over my menu for the week. The item currently missing is fat. I used to add a splash of olive, coconut or safflower oil to my cooking, but this is frowned upon in the forks over diet plan, which I’ve been following for the past 18 days. So where is my dietary fat supposed to come from? I’m not a fan of toast…but apparently I shouldn’t be covering that with evil Earth Balance vegan margarine anyway. There’s a limit to how much pure-peanuts peanut butter I can add to meals – although I did put some in a soybean stew earlier on in the week. Avocados are not cheap – and Alan hates them so even if I use them to add fat to my diet it won’t work for Alan. And nuts? Aw, nuts. I’m really not a fan. I tried a raw food diet a while ago out of curiosity and quit after 3 days because I couldn’t face eating even one more feckin’ nut.


The basis of the “no cooking with oil” part of the forks over knives plan is that processed oil is bad for us, but unprocessed plant oils are good for us. OK – I can see some logic in that. So I’ve stopped whining, taken a blueberry oatmeal crisp out of the oven, added some help hearts and walnuts to it and popped it back in again. So now I’ll be having healthy fats with my breakfast for the next few days. How easy was that?

bluberry_walnutCrisp (Copy)But the question of “how much fat is needed to be healthy?” remains. Within the plant-based diet group answers have ranged from “you don’t need any fat in your diet” to “eat all the avocado and nuts you want!”, which is quite a spread. As in a statistical spread, not as in a layer of butter on your toast. If you see what I mean. Pseudoscience articles on the web cover everything from “Eating fat makes you fat” to “Not eating fat makes you fat”, including an article which clearly states “Bacon doesn’t make you fat – Pasta Does!” and another taking the rather obvious line of “Junk food makes you fat!”. But my question isn’t “what makes people fat?” but rather “How much fat should someone eat to be HEALTHY?” And the internet says…………? ARRRGGGHHH! You know, I’m just going to stick with the very simple premise that processed fat = bad and natural unprocessed plant / nut / seed fat = good, and we’ll see where that takes me. In fact, I can see a tofu satay containing coconut milk in my very near future!

Tofu in Satay Sauce

  • 2 packs firm tofu, cubed
  • ¼ cup soya sauce
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 230g / 8oz rice noodles (Or use brown rice noodles or wholewheat spaghettini if you prefer.)
  • Large pot of boiling water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (replace with hot water if cooking without oil)
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups beansprouts
  • 1 cup thinly sliced snow peas

Sauce: Mix together:

  • 1 ¼ cups coconut milk
  • ¾ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp soya sauce
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp unrefined raw sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed dried red chillies
  • ¼ cup fresh basil or mint


  • Baby greens (optional)

Put the cubed tofu in a re-sealable plastic bag. Add the soya sauce, lemon rind and crushed garlic and set aside. This can be left in the fridge overnight if you like. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for 5 minutes, or as per instructions on the packet. Drain. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Pat the tofu dry and place it in the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the carrots, beansprouts and snow peas. Cook for 1 minute or until hot. Stir in the sauce and, stirring constantly, heat without boiling. Serve on top of the noodles garnished with baby salad greens.

tofuSatay2 (Copy)

Try it – It`s totally fat-tastic!!!!

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 18: Cooking Couscous!

In the pre-forks-over-knives days we ate rice most days. White basmati rice, white jasmine rice, white Calrose rose…..and I loved it. Occasionally we ate pasta, even less often we ate potatoes (I’m not a fan), and from time to time couscous would make an appearance. We’ve been eating a lot of brown rice over the past two weeks or so, and to be honest I’m missing the white stuff. So, to change things up a little, tonight is couscous night. I remember the days long, long ago when couscous was cooked over a steaming pan of stew, but now it’s just so easy to soak it in some vegan stock for 5 minutes to create a useful portion of grains. You can even mix it with seeds and warm up left overs for breakfast in the morning. Not that I do that – it’s just a suggestion.

I first ate couscous in a Moroccan restaurant in the north of England (I wish it had been in Morocco!) after my parents returned from holiday. I remember the smell of steaming, spicy vegetables piled in the middle of a mound of couscous, and the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing where to look when the belly dancer came close to our table. I took belly dance lessons for a couple of years, and I still don’t know where you’re supposed to look. Anywhere except at me, preferably! I stopped taking lessons after out local teacher stopped offering classes and I signed up for downtown Ottawa classes instead. Unfortunately both my GPS (Satnav) and I are directionally challenged and I quit after turning up 30 minutes late for 5 consecutive classes, having accidentally driven myself into the neighbouring province of Quebec instead of to the dance class.

No, I’m not going to insert a picture of me in my belly dance costume here! Instead, here’s a rather disturbing cake I made for a competition during my belly dance years. It’s called “Thomas and His Sofa Shared The Same Dream”. I thought you might enjoy seeing his belly more than looking at mine 🙂

thomas_college (Copy)My love of Moroccan restaurants was short lived, owing to the heavy weighting of menus towards lamb, chicken and fish. There’s usually a vegetable couscous dish available, but there’s a limit to the number of times I can get excited about it, especially when they all seem to taste exactly the same. If I’m paying to eat out, I want a bit of foodie excitement. The following dish is something new for me. I’ve only recently discovered tempeh, and I’m enjoying trying new ways of marinating it and adding it to dishes. I like it well marinated to mellow the earthy taste, usually leaving it in the spices for 3 days before using it. I added chick peas to the vegetable stew just in case I didn’t like the tempeh. Did someone just call me a coward?

Tempeh and Veggie Couscous


  • 8-oz / 225g tempeh, cut into ½” squares
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Marinate the tempeh for at least 8 hours, or up to 3 days. Heat a frying pan (I use non-stick, but I know some people don’t like these) and cook the tempeh until brown, about 3 – 4 minutes a side, adding a few drops of water if it gets too dry.

Vegetable Stew:

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 2 cups / 1 can cooked chick peas, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste (I used 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp crushed dried red chillies, to taste
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into thick slices
  • 1 purple eggplant, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped (optional)
  • sliced green olives to taste (optional)
  • freshly cooked couscous, prepared according to instructions on the packet (usually soak 1 cup couscous in 1 cup just-boiled water or stock for 5 – 6 minutes)

Put the carrots, sweet potato, onion, parsnips and spices into a large pan with enough water to almost cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini, eggplant, garlic and tomatoes. Stir well, bring back to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the eggplant is meltingly soft. If you’re using preserved lemon and olives, stir them at the end of cooking. Serve on a mound of hot couscous, topped with tempeh and sprinkled with fresh coriander.

tempehCouscous (Copy)No, the couscous is not abnormally yellow – I used gluten-free corn couscous.

I suggest eating this while listening to Shakira’s “Eyes Like Yours”, which is fabulous for doing a belly dance to!

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 17: Old Habits Die Hard!

Every week I sit down and create a menu plan. Usually before I go shopping (obviously the more sensible option) and sometimes after I get back. It’s a good habit to have got (gotten?) into. I know what I’ve got in the fridge and pantry, and I know what I plan to do with them. Do I always stick to the plan? No. But it’s a start. I also plan at least one meal a week less than we will actually be eating, because there are always stray forgotten veggies waiting to be used up at the end of the week despite my careful planning. But here’s the problem. I’m so used to making these meal plans that I can do it on autopilot instead of actually thinking about things like nutrition and…..dare I say it……green things. I’ve been sticking to the forks over knives plan as closely as I can for 17 days now – whole grains, not cooking with oil, with more veggies in my already vegan diet. The first two are no problem, although my body is not totally happy with so many high fiber grains appearing in front of it at mealtimes. But the veggies? I’m still struggling. Salads just aren’t going to happen until the temperature outside gets above freezing (probably sometime in March / April), so I need to keep working on getting other green things into the plan. Kale. Collards. Not dandelion leaves. I used to feed those to my pet rabbit as a child, so they really ARE rabbit food!

I was going to insert a picture of one of our local wild bunnies, taken during the summer, but I can`t find it. You`ll have to make do with one of Ms Bigglesworth stopping to smell the roses. Just use your imagination – she`s got big ears for a cat, so it won`t be difficult to pretend that she`s a rabbit.

biggles1 (Copy)I quickly wrote up my weekly plan on Saturday, then took a good look at it. Not good. I’ve been reading one of my old cookbooks – “The World in your Kitchen” by the New Internationalist, which is a vegetarian book focusing on how people eat in developing countries. Most of the recipes are bean, lentil or grain based, some with the addition of nuts and others which contain dairy, which I don’t eat. It was easy to create a few meal ideas based on the recipes in the book, but they all had one thing in common. No greens. I was lucky if there was anything veggie-like in them at all. Back to the drawing board. A  kidney bean curry was easily enhanced with the addition of spinach, even though there`s no spinach in yesterday`s photo. Tofu-in-satay-sauce is now scheduled to sit on a pile of mache or other baby greens. A mixed vegetable couscous dish has appeared on the list. OK. I can do this. Without struggling with a salad. Or turning into a rabbit. I hope.

Soybean and Kale Stew (oil free version)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed dried red chillies (or more to taste)
  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp just-peanuts peanut butter
  • 1 can / 2 cups cooked soy beans, well rinsed
  • 1 large bunch kale
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • To serve: boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed rice or a grain. I used farro.

Put the onions, garlic, tomatoes and chillies in a large frying pan and sauté over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions are soft. Add the pumpkin seeds, peanut butter and soy beans. Mix well. Top with the kale, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir the kale into the stew and add salt and pepper to taste.

soybean_pumpkinseed (Copy)It might not look like much, but it was yummy! Are you green with envy?

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 16: The Privileged Diet

There’s recently been some in-fighting in a group I belong to, with the discussions focusing mainly on the morality of eating eggs and dairy products. The vocal supporters of both veganism and vegetarianism have been bombing each other with words and pictures, with both sides supporting their arguments well. Pictures of engorged cow’s udders competed with pictures of happy chickens running around a farmyard. Everyone involved in the discussion believed, rightly or wrongly, that their view and their way of expressing their stance was correct. The result, as expected, was not that vegans decided to raise chickens, nor that vegetarians suddenly stopped riding their horses or putting rennet-free cheese in their omelettes. It did, however, make a lot of people in the group very sad. And it reminded me how totally privileged we are to be able to have such debates. We don’t have to ask ourselves “Shall I feed myself tonight, or shall I give it all to my children?” or “Can we afford to have beans with dinner, or are we just having porridge tonight?”. We can sit at our leisure and discuss the inhumane way factory animals are treated in our society, and think about the ethical implications, pros and cons of owning a chicken or two, but those of us in such groups are rarely starving. And I wonder how grateful we are for being in such a privileged position. cowAlan (Copy)Alan and I recently spent 3 weeks in India, mostly traveling around Rajasthan. We saw a lot of cows wandering around the villages, fields and streets, each owned by someone living nearby. One evening we dined in a family home in Mandawa, and when we were ready to leave we found a cow standing outside the house next door, mooing loudly. “She’s hungry, so she’s come home for her dinner” we were told. Cows in India are sacred. They live out their full lifespan, providing milk for the family they belong to and roaming at will, then at the end of their lives their skin is turned into leather. The families we met in Rajasthan were all very poor. They ate mostly beans or lentils with rice or bread, supplemented by cheese and yoghurt supplied by a cow owned by themselves or a neighbour. We didn’t see many vegetables, just the occasional desert bean dish or spiced eggplants. They didn’t sit around discussing veganism vs vegetarianism – they ate what was available and what they could afford. There are vegans in India – we visited a couple of beautiful Jain temples – but the people we met and with whom we shared family meals were all vegetarian, sometimes because of their religion and sometimes for economic reasons. Did I eat the paneer and yoghurt they offered to me? No. And did we have long, heated discussions about why they eat dairy and I don’t? No. They respected my right to be vegan, and I respected their right to be vegetarian. And we were all grateful for having something to eat.

I think that, here in the so called first-world, we forget how privileged we are. We can make the choice of whether or not to eat meat, dairy, eggs, fish and seafood. We can also make the choice to eat beans, lentils, vegetables, tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, herbs and so much more. We can choose the best diet for our health – I obviously believe this is the vegan option. But we can also chose to be kind to others who make a different choice. To show respect. Kindness. Compassion. And gratitude for being able to make the choice in the first place.

Dinner tonight will be a simple affair. It’s adapted from a recipe given to me by a family who shared a meal with us in the suburbs of New Delhi. This version is made without oil because I’m trying to stick to the forks over knives diet.

New Delhi Kidney Beans

  • 1 can diced tomatoes (28oz)
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 green chillies
  • 1 black cardamom, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I used 2 because mine are really old)
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom, crushed
  • 1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 can / 2 cups cooked red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 of a block of creamed coconut (use about 60g / 2oz)
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • Fresh coriander ( for garnishing)

Put the tomatoes, ginger, chillies, black cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, green cardamom, salt, paprika, coriander and cumin in a frying pan and sauté over a medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have thickened. Stir in the beans and coconut, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the spinach, recover and cook gently for a final 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander before serving with rice or chapattis. kidneybeans DELHI (Copy)Yes, I know the photo is lacking in spinach. I forgot to put it in (duh), so I had to return dinner to the pan and finish cooking it with the greenery. By which time I was too hungry to take another photo, so you’ll have to cook it yourself to see the finished result.

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 13: Date Night!

It’s Friday! Date night! Literally AND metaphorically. Tonight is the night when neither Alan nor I are out at book clubs or martial arts clubs or Argentine tango (although we do that together, so technically that is also a date night). It’s a night for cuddling up on the sofa, sharing a furry blanket with our 3 cats, watching a movie while nibbling on snacks and drinking a finger or two of whiskey. Whiskey? Can we drink whiskey on the wholefood plant-based diet? I don’t know. Probably not. But tonight that’s not going to stop us I’m afraid. Whiskey is made from grains…….so for now that’s good enough for me.

However, the sweet treats we would normally nibble on are out of bounds, at least for now. I was unsure what to replace them with until I remembered. It’s DATE night! Could there be a better time to try out some date-based treats? And – bonus – I can sleep in tomorrow morning if they happen to give me enough gas to keep me awake all night. Was that too much information? Sorry.

Date Turtles

  • 20 Medjool dates (not dried dates)
  • 20 Pecan halves
  • 200g Vegan dark chocolate

Replace the date stones with half a pecan. Coat in melted vegan dark chocolate and allow to set. OMG – I could eat all of these in one go!!!! Yummy!

veganTurtles (Copy)

Orange Date and Nut Balls

You need a good blender to make this recipe.

  • 500g packet of dried pitted dates
  • 500g packet of raw cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup sesame seeds or finely chopped nuts for rolling

Coarsely chop the dates and soak in very hot water for 15 minutes then drain well. Put the nuts into your blender and process until finely ground. Don’t get too enthusiastic and turn them into cashew butter! Add the dates, maple syrup, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Process until the dates are turned into a paste and the mixture forms into a ball. Put the mixture into a bowl, cover and put into the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls. It will be soft and sticky!!!! Roll the balls in the sesame seeds or ground nuts and store in the freezer until you want a sweet treat.

cashewDateBalls (Copy)

I LOVE these sweet treats! The only thing I hadn’t taken into account was Alan. Turns out he doesn’t like dates! The edible type, that is. He’s more than happy to have a night on the sofa as planned, just without the sweet treats. Fortunately I have a freezer full of wholewheat brownies as a result of yesterday’s blog, so he won’t feel too deprived. On with the show!!!!!

Just so you know – there won’t be another blog until Monday. I’ll be way too busy having fun on the weekend to spend time sitting here typing. So, until then, be good to yourselves and eat something nice and healthy. And, even if you’re spending the time alone, have a date night!

Karen 🙂

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

FOK Day 12: Chocoholic? Not Me!

I like (vegan) chocolate. I don’t like it to the point where I want it every day, and my life would continue quite happily without it if it were no longer available, but every now and again the chocolate urge hits me. Usually when I’m on some sort of modified eating plan. Or when it’s been cold and dark for what appears to be months, with no apparent end in sight. Like now. In a few weeks someone will wake up a grumpy Canadian groundhog, who will no doubt tell us that winter will continue until the middle of July. Again. I think it’s time for some chocolate!

I asked members of a plant-based-diet group what their favourite chocolate treats are, and those lovely people gave me quite a few to choose from. The specification was that it shouldn’t involve bananas. I hate bananas, even though I occasionally hide them in a smoothie for a bit of richness. But if they’re hidden in cakes, cookies, brownies or puddings I can always taste them, and it doesn’t make me happy. Chocolate treats should taste of chocolate. Not bananas, not pumpkin, not nuts, and definitely not cinnamon (what is with Canadians and chocolate chip cinnamon cookies? Give it rest people!!) Chocolate treats should taste of chocolate. Period.

I’ve had a lovely time playing with chocolaty things, and these are the winners in my opinion.

Chocolate Pudding

Out of the two I made, this one was my hubby’s favourite, even though he would have preferred it to be a bit sweeter. I left out the maple syrup – I’ll put it in next time for him.

  • 1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate (about ¾ cup when melted)
  • ½ cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 8 oz / 225g silken tofu
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • ½ – 1 tsp pure vanilla essence, to taste

Melt the chocolate then pop everything into a blender and process until smooth. Cover and chill for a couple of hours or until set.

choc_pud (Copy)

Choc Peanut Butter Pudding

This is one of my vegan staples. Friends like it served with sliced bananas but I prefer it without the peanut butter and served with    a fruity sauce. It’s very rich, so this makes 8 small servings.

  • 2 avocado, pitted and scooped out
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup organic maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp smooth just-peanuts peanut butter (omit if you’re serving it with berries)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup dairy free chocolate chips, melted

Berry Sauce:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used blueberries)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup maple syrup

Put the avocado, milk, maple syrup, peanut butter, salt, vanilla and cocoa in a blender. Process until smooth then add the melted chocolate chips and blend again. Divide between 4 cups, cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.

To make the sauce, put the berries in a medium pan with the lemon juice and maple syrup. Stir constantly and bring the mixture to a boil over a medium heat, then allow to simmer gently for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Allow to cool.

chocPud (Copy)

Avocado Brownies

  • ½ cup ripe avocado, mashed until smooth
  • ½ cup sucranat / unprocessed raw sugar
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350’ F. Beat the avocado and sugar together then add the maple syrup, soy milk and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Don’t over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Put the batter into a non-stick 8” x 8” pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes then allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

avodcadoBrownie (Copy)

Engine 2 Brownies

I don’t usually follow recipes, but this one looked good enough to try as written. It’s certainly chocolaty!

  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp Ener-G egg replacer mixed with ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1½ cups (dairy-free) chocolate chips or chunks

Heat the oven to 375’F. Combine the sugars and applesauce with an electric or hand-held mixer. Beat in the Ener-G mixture, non-dairy milk, vanilla and vinegar. Combine the dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips) in a separate bowl. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a parchment lined (or non-stick silicone bake-ware) 9” x 13” baking dish. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  These are best made a day ahead for the best flavor.

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I had lots of fun today, but now I’m totally sick of chocolate things! Alan will work his way through the chocolate puddings (I only made a half a recipe for both of them, so we’re not drowning in puddings) but I’ll be popping the brownies into the freezer to pull out when I invite friends for dinner, or when I go to a pot luck. The exception is the blueberry sauce – I’ll be eating that with a spoon later.

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 11: Weekend on a Wednesday

Dear blog followers (thank you!), it would appear that some of you noticed that I didn’t post a blog last weekend. While I suspect you secretly enjoyed not having my rants appear in your mailbox for a whole two days, I appreciate you letting me know that I did not meet your expectations. No, I didn’t spend the weekend guzzling “forbidden fruits” and, apart from Saturday night, going into early Sunday morning, I didn’t just party the weekend away. I spent it doing fun (?) things like grocery shopping (while comparing the prices of fresh and frozen green things) and menu planning – although I suspect I should have done that the other way round!! I was so sick of foodie-stuff by mid-afternoon on Saturday that, in an almost unprecedented move, Alan, under instruction from the breakfast bar stool, cooked dinner. We tried the twice-baked potatoes from, which is not the type of thing we usually eat but I thought we’d give it a go. It seemed like a lot of work, and by the time Alan had got to the “scrape out the inside of the potatoes and put the stuffing in” part we were both a bit fed up with it all. We scraped out the potatoes while they were still hot, mixed the innards with the stuffing and ate it from a bowl. I’ve saved the skins to sprinkle with salt and bake at a later date when I want a crispy treat. As for the meal – it was OK. Quite tasty, but it could have done with some chillies in my opinion. It wasn’t pretty to look at, but the left-overs came in useful as Alan’s breakfast for the next few days. It’s not our sort of thing, but if you like potatoes give it a go. I mashed extra baked potatoes with cooked parsnips and carrots yesterday and served them with a quick, ever-so-easy sauté of tofu, garlic, baby spinach and “Montreal chicken spice” for a no-effort dinner. Now THAT was yummy!

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We spent Saturday night playing games with a couples group. Let me be clear here – it’s NOT a swingers group! It even says so on the Meet-Up intro page, after some mis-understanding by people who wanted to join the group when it first started. The confusion apparently arose because the first meet-up involved a hot tub. We didn’t go to that one! Anyway, the non-swingers on Saturday spent the evening drinking copious amounts of wine and / or beer (or, in my case, sipping occasionally on a virtuous glass of sparkling elderflower) and snacking. I couldn’t believe how much cheese was eaten over the course of the evening, unaided by Alan and I. It was easy for us not to be tempted – I can’t eat dairy products without disastrous consequences in my digestive system and Alan simply doesn’t like the stuff, except for a couple of crumbly British cheeses which occasionally appear in our Canadian stores. We didn’t want to try the creamy dips next to the raw veggies, and there was no way either of us would ever nibble on cheesy corn puffs. Woo hoo! This wholefood plant based diet is SO easy! It made me realise, however, that I needed to look for healthy, low fat snacks for movie nights at home. We sometimes make air popped popcorn but, to be honest, it just tastes too healthy to be any fun. It almost makes us want to pull on our snowsuits and go for a jog. Almost. I’ve bought some pretzel sticks, but they’re really boring. My local grocery store doesn’t sell baked chips or baked tortilla chips anymore, and all the veggie-chips (claiming to be a “healthy” snack) have almost as much fat as regular chips. I have some baked potato skins lurking somewhere in the fridge waiting to be sprinkled with salt and re-baked until crispy, but that sounds a bit desperate to me! But let me introduce you to my new nibble-friends. They’re all a lot healthier than potato chips and have a lot less fat than a handful of nuts. And, of course, they’re all vegan. Alan is out at krav maga (a martial art) this evening, and I think a chick-flick is on the agenda for me, enhanced by a salty nibble or two.

chips (Copy)

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 10: Tasty Tempeh!

This is a blog I never thought I would write. Tasty tempeh? Really? Tempeh and I have had a bit of a tempestuous (yes, that’s a play on words for you clever folks) relationship over the years. I think the crowning moment in our interactions occurred two years ago on a campground in Ontario, about 45 minutes from where we live. I’ve never been a huge fan of camping – and I mean REAL camping in a tent, not wimpy camping in a fully equipped trailer with plumbing, showers and flush toilets. It was a great activity to do with the kids when they were small, unhooking them from movies and gaming consoles to let them experience the delights of bug bites and deflating air mattresses, but it was never something I really looked forward to. There was way too much planning, pre-cooking, packing, unpacking and washing involved! It was quite a relief when the kids asked (asked!!!) to be sent away to summer camps, where they could enjoy the delights of long-distance canoe trips, cold showers and out-houses without me having to join them!!! To my surprise, one of my indoor geeks even went on a 4-week wilderness canoe trip, coming home happy and mostly undamaged.

The kids have grown up and currently reside in Toronto, leaving Alan and I to re-discover each other and find out what it is that we, as two lone adults, like to do. Last year, in a fit of unexplainable enthusiasm, I suggested that we should try camping as a couple, taking a small tent and with the minimum amount of fuss. We might enjoy the experience if there’s only the two of us. So someone (that would be me) went hunting in the basement and dug out the necessary supplies, stocked up on easy-to-eat-in-the-woods food supplies, checked the current regulations on firewood and beetles, found an ultra-thick queen-size airbed (which completely filled the small tent), and off we went.

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When we arrived there was a small child sitting on our campsite by the river, but he quickly ran away when he saw that we intended to stay. It was a lovely location, and setting up one small tent took a lot less time than prepping a family campground. We’d bought a bug-tent to protect us from the wildlife, and we sat in our uncomfortable folding chairs reading our books enjoying the view. Dinner went well, the fire burnt brightly, and the stars twinkled over the shimmering river. Idyllic. Apart from the bugs. And the outhouse. And the cold damp chill in the air. And the sheer effort of making a hot cup of tea. And the really loud camper-van of French-speakers drinking huge amounts of beer and playing loud music until the wee hours of the morning. And the deflating mattress with a man snoring loudly in the middle of it, elbowing me every time he shuffled trying to get comfortable.

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By morning I was, let’s be honest, quite tired and tetchy. Alan lit the camping stove, made me a cup of tea and cooked breakfast. I’d found a packet of something called “tempeh bacon” in the grocery store, and I thought it might be something nice to try while camping. Oh my goodness – was I ever wrong! I took one bite of my tempeh-on-toast and spat it into the shrubbery. I don’t remember ever tasting anything so nasty. That was the final straw. Within 30 minutes the campsite was emptied, the car packed, and we were sitting in a little roadside cafe sipping coffee and eating a nice breakfast, sans tempeh. Since then, tempeh and I have avoided each other like the plague. Until now.

When I decided to try a wholefood plant-based diet I realised I needed to find replacements for the occasional faux-meat products which appeared on my meal plans. The word “Tempeh” kept cropping up in recipes, so I decided to give it one more try. I made smoky tempeh from a Thug’s kitchen recipe, and gave it a good, long marinade of 3 days before feeling brave enough to eat it. I was really surprised by how good it was! Like, REALLY surprised. So much so that I’ve cooked tempeh again! It turns out that tempeh, properly marinated to get rid of its slightly bitter taste, is not bad at all.

I’ve recently tried 3 types of marinade for tempeh, but if you Google there are many recipes out there waiting to be played with. The method for all three of the following is the same:

Mix together the marinade ingredients, add ¼” – ½” (whichever you prefer) slices of tempeh, cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days. I’ve also thrown the tempeh and marinade in the freezer and left it there until needed. Heat a frying pan (I use non-stick, but I know some people don’t like these) and cook the tempeh until brown, about 3 – 4 minutes a side. Alternatively, heat the oven to 375’F and spread the marinated tempeh on parchment paper on a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. I prefer to fry mine – I find the oven makes it too dry and crispy for my personal tastes.

Smokey Tempeh (Modified from a Thug’s Kitchen recipe)

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tbsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 8 oz / 225g tempeh
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced (optional)

I served it with chunks of potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions, simmered in vegetable stock with 2 crushed cloves of garlic until tender (20 – 30 minutes), partially drained and then mashed into chunks.

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Garlic Miso Tempeh

  • 8 oz / 225g tempeh
  • 2 tbsp red miso paste
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

I served it with store-bought vegan kimchee and buckwheat soba noodles tossed with veggies and ponzu sauce. Buckwheat noodles have a strong flavour, which may not be to everyone’s liking. You can use brown rice spaghetti or noodles instead if you prefer.

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Italian Herbed Tempeh (Modified from a recipe at

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed a bit with your fingers
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz / 225g tempeh
  • ½ tsp salt if needed

I served this with wholewheat pasta and homemade mixed vegetable sauce, but I forgot to take a photo before we munched on it.

So. That’s it. The tale of Tasty Tempeh. Go try it and let me know what you think!!

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 9: People, They Ain’t No Good

According to a song by Nick Cave, people suck.

People just ain’t no good
I think that’s well understood
You can see it everywhere you look
People just ain’t no good

I don’t totally agree with this statement – I know many really lovely folks – but there’s a repeated experience which always leave me wondering about people and shaking my head. It starts simply enough with general introductions, followed by the inevitable question “So, Karen, what do you do?”……

At the weekend I had the pleasure of being at a games night with 5 other couples, some of which I had met before and some of which I was meeting for the first time. There was loud chatting and laughter in the room until someone asked me “the question”. I tried to dodge it with a reply of “I worked as a kitchen designer for Home Depot, but now I just work from home”. Someone who’s met me before wasn’t happy with my answer. “But don’t you write things? I’m sure I remember you saying that’s what you do now?”. I paused and took a deep breath. Here we go again. “I write cookbooks.” “Wow! That’s so amazing! What type of cooking?” “Vegan”. The room grew silent. No exaggeration. It was as if I’d just declared that I was actually a time traveler from the future. Or an alien. Or the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. It was like the scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but without the lady loudly shouting “What do you mean you don’t eat no MEAT!”. Total, absolute silence. Someone reached out and grabbed a cheese slice off the snack table. Nobody looked at me. I waited. The lady to my left was the first to break the silence. “I just love meat. I especially like chicken, and I eat it with most meals. Mmmm. Chicken. It’s so easy to cook and tastes so good.” “Did you read the article this week claiming most chickens in America are contaminated with arsenic?” I asked. Everyone shook their heads, and the chicken-lover said “Oh, I’m sure it’s just fine. Besides, I eat other meat too.” For the next 4 minutes 37 seconds (I timed it) the ladies swapped tales of their favourite animals to eat (I love elk – we kill it ourselves so we know it’s fresh…. We hunt deer – it’s so much better for us than beef…..I really should eat less meat, but I can’t imagine having a meal without it….). When they had safely established that I was the only vegan in the room, and that they all LOVED to eat animals, the conversation took up where it had left off. “So, Patty, what are you doing these days? Are you going away in February again?”.

I’ve seen this happen so many times. The dental hygienist who filled my mouth with tools and talked the whole time about meats she likes to cook. The bored grocery store assistant who comments on my healthy food selections then tells me why they could never eat that way. I’m rarely, if ever, asked why I eat a plant based diet, and people don’t want to hear why I don’t eat flesh. Sometimes they get as far as “But you still eat cheese?” No. “Eggs?” No. “But you eat fish, right?” No, it’s really not necessary in our society. “Sheeeesh – I couldn’t do that! Sheila, do you remember that fabulous cheese fondue Kathy brought to my pot-luck?” And so it goes on.

Why do people get so defensive when faced with a plump, healthy, gym-going, middle-aged woman who eats a plant-based diet? I’m really quite nice when you get to know me! I suspect that, deep down, the omnivores are afraid that I’ll ask them to justify their diet, knowing that I can justify mine. If I’m ever asked. Which, incidentally, I’m not. It’s not just a matter of animal cruelty (although, for me, that’s very much part of my reason), but also a matter of health. I can wave low cholesterol and blood pressure numbers at them for both myself and my hubby. I can talk about movies documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I can refer to statistics about osteoporosis increasing in societies as milk consumption goes up. I can talk about arsenic in chickens. I know about e-coli and listeria. I can mention links between eating meat and cancer. Mad cow disease. Heavy metals in fish. Clogged blood vessels. Heart disease. But I’m never asked. I read recently that “You can never “win” an argument with a vegan because the argument is with your own conscience”. Is this true? Do omnivores feel bad about the possible health issues created by eating meat? Do meat-eaters care about intelligent creatures such as pigs living out their lives in awful conditions but continue to eat them anyway? Or, like a very honest friend of mine said, do they like the taste of meat so much that they would rather not look at the reality of the situation and keep their head in the sand? I asked someone why he still eats meat when he dines out despite enjoying a plant-based diet at home. His answer was “I feel conflicted, but sometimes they just taste so good.” Is that reason enough? For me, obviously, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Not everyone who eats meat is unhealthy. Not everyone who eats a plant-based diet is fit and well. But there seems to be a better chance of living a long healthy life when eating a wholegrain plant based diet than eating meat, eggs, cheese, fish and animal bi-products. I just don’t understand why there is so much resistance to it. I’d appreciate your thoughts / comments on the matter whether you are a plant-based person or an omnivore.


If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

Arsenic in chicken:

Forks Over Knives:

Food Matters:

The China Study:

Engine 2 Diet: