Inspired Inspirilisation

I’ve been “doing the veggie thing” for many, many years now, but I’ve always felt like I was missing something. Some secret. Some trick. Something that would make me, a long-time plant-eater, into a lover of raw vegetables. You know – salady stuff. Yes, I’m still munching my way through more lettuce than even a salad-lover would like (see the lettuce eat blog from a couple of weeks ago) but it’s more of a duty than a delight. And then it struck me. What I needed to get inspired was a spiraliser!

Last year I tried following recipes in a book called “Raw, Quick and Delicious”, and found that I disagreed with 2 out of those three claims. The recipes were definitely raw, but the quick and delicious components somehow evaded me. Yes, I was severely handicapped by my dislike of salads, and I quickly loose interest in nuts, but I was also hampered by my lack of a magical spiralising machine (and juicer and dehydrator and, at the time, a decent blender).

I bought a really cheap hand-held spiraliser after failing to stick to a raw diet for 36 hours, but succeeded in spiralising my finger and very little else. So, at the recommendation of some of my FB friends, I’ve now bought something more substantial. It came with 3 different blades. It came with suction cups to stop it from moving. It came with a piece broken off. I decided to give it a test drive to see if I wanted a refund or a replacement, and started to play.

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Did you ever see the you-tube “will it blend?” videos? They’re a lot of fun (but don’t try it at home). Anyway, my kitchen turned into a spiralised version of this. Zucchini, yellow beet, carrot, onion, potato, tomato (I think mine was too soft to be successful), apple, pepper…..will it spiralise? Yes it will! I’ve had soooooo much fun that I’ve requested a replacement rather than a refund.

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This is one of my early attempts at a salad. Beet, zucchini, chopped green onion, chopped fresh basil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raw corn, all tossed together with a splash of avocado oil, a pinch of salt and lashings of black pepper. I ate the whole dish, even returning to it after a mid-munch phone call. I think I might be on to some thing here.

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An enhanced version of the salad materialized at dinner time, with the addition of spiralised red pepper and carrot. I served it with spiralised potatoes tossed with a drop of olive oil and baked at 425’f for 20 minutes. I thought they would go crispy, but I think being spiralised damaged the cell walls too much and they were soft. Tasty, but not quite what I expected. The fish-patty like object sitting on the plate is a Sophie’s fishless fillet, which really isn’t like fish in any way, shape or form. Gardein makes fishless “fish” in batter which is, in stark contrast, a bit too fishy for me!

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I’m looking forward to playing with my food over the next few weeks – although this may be hampered by my impending trip back to the UK, the return of my Indian book from my editor (no doubt there will be comments that some of my sentences are too long…again), and my current self-imposed challenge to veganise some of my great Aunt’s 1922 recipes AND make them gluten free. Watch this space for all the fun as it unfolds!

Karen 🙂

Help! There’s a Vegan in the Garden!

Yes, I know it’s been 6 month since my last post, but I’m back 🙂 Where have I been? Oh, you know, here and there. Recently got back from Japan (yes, I have some tales to tell) in fact. And what have I been doing? This and that. You know. Stuff. But, the point is, I’m blogging again. Once a week (or more if something really profound happens), starting today. Hurray?

You’ve probably spotted the blog title by now. The vegan I refer to isn’t me – it’s a really cute, speckled, furry, bouncy, adorable bunny, hereafter referred to as “that damn rabbit.”  I’d post a picture of the beastie if she didn’t keep running away at lightning speed whenever I point a lens at her. Boy can that bunny move! Sometimes she moves so fast that it looks like there’s more than one rabbit in my garden….. Fortunately Biggles let me photoshop her slightly to show you what the damn rabbit looks like. You can barely tell the difference!

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Last year, as some of you may recall, I planted an herb garden (please note the correct use of “an”) at the side of the house. This year I decided to embrace the whole vegan-hippy-gardener thing and added some new crops. Alan’s got garlic growing (which is kinda odd since he didn’t plant any this year) alongside his leeks and carrots. I really pushed out the boat and bought 3 broccoli plants and 4 brussel sprouts. There should have been 4 of each, but one was MIA so I got a discount, saving me a whole 20 cents!!!!! Bargain! Anyhoo, I diligently planted these in the garden, watered them well and went to bed after asking our resident gnomes to keep an eye on them.

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The next morning someone had eaten most of the leaves on my broccoli plant. The small round pellets nearby gave me some clue as to the perpetrator of the crime. It was that damn rabbit. The one who ate my cucumber plant last year within a day of it arriving, and may or may not have also demolished my basil plants. I frowned at the destruction then went inside to have a fortifying cup of tea. When I came back out my sprouts had all been nibbled. Grrrrrrrrr. Something needed to be done. I’m not running a restaurant for feckin’ bunnies, no matter how cute their twitchy noses are.

And then I had a fabulous (?) idea. Alan and I spent a very hot, humid Saturday putting together the heavy metal den our cats enjoyed at our previous home. Our current home has a screened porch with carpet and comfy chairs and a fab view of the bird feeders, so they don’t need their den. We put up a few of the original wood shelves, added some plastic shelving I found lying around in the shed et viola! A rabbit-proof pot house, so called because we put pots in it. I might be turning into a hippy vegan, but the only weed I have here is the type you pull up and dispose of 🙂

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In a fit of madness I rushed off and bought enough lettuce plants to feed a family of 20 for a year, some baby eggplant plants, green beans for growing in a pot and bok choy (spellcheck wants to change that to bonk soy for some reason) along with some kohl rabbi and white radish to plant in the garden where my broccoli and sprouts used to be. Rabbits don’t like kohl rabbi, do they? I’ll go check. Be right back. Phew – so far so good!

I’d like to see those bunnies trash my veggies now! Although, of course, they might bully the squirrels into climbing up the cage and ripping leaves off from them to much on. In which case I’ll have to cover the whole thing in fine mesh chicken wire and ponder the cost of growing veggies when I could have gone to the farmer’s market and just bought some instead….

And what am I going to do with all that delicious lettuce when it grows big enough to harvest? Make a meal or two and probably feed the rest to the rabbits. I’m not a big fan of salad lol.

Karen 🙂

India: Bean there, done that!

Last year the hubby and I took a trip to India with a small adventure travel company, touring mainly around Rajasthan. We ate some meals in local homes, visited artist co-operatives and saw more palaces, forts and temples than you can imagine. In Jaipur we saw elephants being used to transport tourists up the long, steep, winding stone path leading to the Amber Fort. Our group made the journey on foot – and it was hard work – stopping from time to time to get our breath back under the pretense of admiring the view. Someone asked our guide why we were walking when there were elephants available. I really liked his answer. “Elephants are not supposed to walk on stones up to forts. These elephants are not treated well. They are worked hard and hit with a stick if they are too tired and want to stop. Our tour company does not support such cruelty”. Everyone agreed, and on we went, wiping the sweat off our brows with our Indian shawls.

amber (Copy)Two days later we found ourselves in a camp not far from the border with Pakistan. Every now and again fighter jets flew over, shattering the otherwise total stillness of the desert. We rested for a while on our camp beds, sweating in the afternoon heat, then headed out to meet our guides for a camel safari out into the desert. With thoughts of the Jaipur elephants in my head, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The camels, all chewing in what appeared to be a contented manner, were lined up waiting for us. They looked strong and healthy, obviously well cared for and well fed. Our guides ranged from small boys to wizened old men, and they were among the few we met in India who didn’t speak much English. They’d spent their entire lives living in the desert plains, and now made a living catering to tourists. I know that some people will frown deeply and cry “animal exploitation!” at this point, but I climbed on a camel and headed off into the desert to watch the sun set over the dunes. We journeyed for about half an hour before stopping somewhere in the dunes and dismounted. The camels sat down and relaxed while our guides  lounged around and chatted amongst themselves. Our group held an impromptu sand-dune race while waiting for the sun to set, with one representative from each of our countries – India, England, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. We all expected our local rep to win, but our police lady from Australia beat them all. We then settled on the sand, occasionally moving to get out of the way of dung beetles, and watched the sun sink over the desert landscape. It was a truly magical experience.

camels (Copy)Our evening meal in the desert camp was the usual fare of breads, yellow dhal, and an assortment of meat or dairy dishes which I couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. There was an additional dish of something which looked like twigs in a spicy sauce. I asked our guide if it was something I could eat. “Yes”, he said. “It’s desert beans” so, after getting confirmation that it was dairy-free, I took a sizable helping. I thought it would be a pleasant relief to eat something other than yellow dhal or eggplants, but as I sat there chewing on the twig-like beans in a focused manner I realised how wrong I had been.

Since getting home, I’ve played with green beans of the Canadian variety and served them alongside chick pea or lentil curries, and nobody has asked me if I accidentally cooked some twigs I found buried in the snow. The flavour takes me back to the deserts of India and makes me smile.

Rajasthan Desert Beans

If you don’t use refined oils, cook the spices briefly in 2 tbsp of boiling water instead of the coconut oil, stirring constantly so they don’t stick and burn.

  • 2 tbsp oil (I like to use coconut oil)
  • 2 pinches asafoetida (hing)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4  tsp mango powder (amchoor)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp crushed dried red chillies, or to taste
  • 4 cups green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup water

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the hing and stir round then add the cumin seeds, garam masala, salt, coriander, mango powder, turmeric and chillies. Fry briefly then stir in the green beans, fresh coriander and raisins. Mix well. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how soft you like your beans. Serve hot.

If you want a more authentic experience, scour your local Indian grocery store for dried desert beans. Soak them in water for 8 – 10 hours then drain and rinse well. Boil in plenty of water for 2 minutes then drain before using in the recipe.They will be twig-like.

DesertBeans (Copy)After eating this dish, retreat to your tent under the stars and lie on your camp bed dreaming of your adventures. Get up well before dawn, eat a hearty breakfast of dhal and rotis then head off on the next step of your journey, pausing to watch the sun rise over the desert. And maybe pray that the next place you stop at, unlike all the previous hotels and camps, has both a shower and hot water.

Karen 🙂

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Mice, Men and Molasses Cookies

Today’s blog is posting itself while I’m away from my desk, hopefully travelling along the Rhine, glass of wine in one hand and a vegan snack (or two) in the other. I’ll be taking a novel or two on my journey with me, along with a selection of informative writing / publishing guides which I’ve put onto my i-pad. I’m not intending to work while I’m away, but you never know. It’s best to take some serious reading material with me, just in case. Or, as sometimes happens, to give me something to read if I happen to hate the novels in my backpack.

I belong to a couple of book clubs, one of which I make it to every time and one of which I seem to miss more often than not due to circumstances beyond my control. I find this very annoying when I’ve slogged my way to the end of a book I hate, such as “Outlander”. It was a huge relief when the book finally ended – had it been a movie I would have watched it on fast-forward, but unfortunately my book’s pages would only turn  as fast as my fingers could manipulate them, which wasn’t as fast as I would have liked. I speed-read a few chapters, but even so I felt as if it couldn’t end soon enough. I’ve also recently endured “To Kill a Mockingbird” (hated it), “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” (my choice, and I hated it), and “Body Surfing” (hated that one too!). On a more positive note, my book clubs have led me to delights such as “The Lace Reader”, “The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society” and “The Lace Makers of Glenmara”. I was even introduced to “Anne of Green Gables”, which wasn’t part of my British childhood. We had a laugh discussing it after one of our members realised she’d got a copy of the book intended for grade 4 kids instead of the full version. It had a lot of good pictures in it 🙂

So why would I read a book I hate? Well, to be honest, it’s partly to avoid eye-rolling and lectures from my fellow book-club ladies in the small group I attend. I can get away with missing out chunks of a novel if it’s a big group, but when there’s only four of us we really all need to read the book in order to have a good discussion. Although, admittedly, at our last meeting the discussion was very brief and went along the lines of “Who chose this book? What on earth were you thinking?” We’d just finished reading “Of Mice and Men”, and we all hated it with a passion. Dead puppies, dead women, a friend shooting his fellow traveler in the back of the head….this book had it all! Yes, I know it’s a classic, much loved by English teachers everywhere, but it wasn’t exactly an uplifting story. I finished it the day before the meeting and felt so……..soiled…….as a result that I had to bake cookies. As in, I HAD to bake cookies. No choice. And when they were baked, I ate 4 of them fresh out of the oven. I hope this doesn’t become a habit! I’ve seen the book club lists for the next few months, and there are a couple of potential cookie-bake-novels on the list. I can only hope that “Remarkable Creatures”, which I’ve chosen for October when my mom will be visiting from the UK, doesn’t turn out to be one of them, or I’ll have a bit of apologizing to do…. along with some baking 🙂

If you’re in the middle of a book you don’t like, promise yourself that you’ll bake a batch of these cookies when you get to the end. It will make it so much more enjoyable.

 Ginger Farthings

This is my mother’s recipe, and it must have been around for quite a while. Farthings were legal British currency from 1707 until 1960 and were worth one quarter of a penny.

  • ¾ cup vegan margarine, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Vegan replacement for 1 egg (I used 1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water and left for 15 minutes)
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour (use 1 cup wholewheat and 1 cup unbleached white if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • extra sugar for coating

Heat the oven to 325’F / 160’C / Gas Mark 3

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy then beat in the egg and molasses. Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger together then add to the butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Take teaspoons of the soft dough and shape into balls. Roll them in sugar and place on a non-stick baking sheet 3” apart. Bake for 10 -12 minutes or until golden brown with a cracked surface. Cool on a wire rack.

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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. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! 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.

Hormones? Or Herbaceous Hallucinations?

I hate gardening. I’d rather sit in the dentist’s chair than squat next to a patch of sodden earth ripping weeds out by their roots. Assuming they actually are weeds in the first place. How can I tell? They all look the same to me. And, quite honestly, I think if a plant can be bothered to grow in my garden it should be allowed to stay, at least for a while. After all, the vast majority of things I’ve personally planted over the years have shriveled up and died, so if a plant is willing to grow why should I dig it up? “But it’s a weed!” people cry, as if that makes a difference to whether or not I can be bothered to dig it up. I prefer to use the term “native species”, or say “I like the look of wildflower gardens”, but we all know that I simply hate gardening.

At my last house I had a great, self-sustaining, perennial garden. When we first bought the house a friend took me and my credit card to a garden center, put plants on my cart then later placed them in my garden. “Plant that one there” she ordered. I did as I was told. “Cover the soil between the plants with mulch and leave them alone” she barked. Again, I complied. And 15 years later I had a garden full of overgrown, misshaped shrubs surrounded by a thin layer of well-rotted mulch filled with weeds. But it worked for me. I had plants to look at instead of just a mass of grass (moss and dandelions), and it required no effort at all on my part. Hurray!

So why am I sitting here covered in a thin layer of garden grime wondering if I’ve officially gone mad? Is it middle age hormones playing with my ability to think straight? Or is it something more deeply rooted (play on words here!) such as an overwhelming need for fresh herbs when I’m cooking?

We moved into our current house at the end of the summer last year. The front garden has an assortment of plant-like things which seem to be capable of looking after themselves with little or no effort on my part. The back yard is a sea of moss, dandelions and tiny pretty purple low-growing things surrounded by patches of grass, with no flower beds in sight. Great! Talk about low maintenance! But the side of the house had a mass of weeds, mints and dead things, which even I rolled my eyes at. Good heavens – what a mess! And so, in a fit of blind enthusiasm, last week I set to digging it all up to create an herb garden. I grumbled as I dug. I whined as I ripped up deeply buried roots. I complained bitterly as a mosquito bit me. And I did a good impersonation of the Wilhelm scream when a spider ran up my arm. I did not have a good time! But then I stepped back and looked at what I had achieved, and felt a certain smug satisfaction. There was a long rectangular patch of earth devoid of dead plants and weeds. Success! Stage 2 was to order a big bag of earth to be delivered to my driveway, which my hero-husband helped me transport to my freshly-dug garden. Stage 3 was to buy an assortment of annual and (hopefully) perennial herbs and embed them in the soil. Next came a layer of gardening fabric (I have no intention of weeding. Ever.), a drip-hosepipe on a timer (No, I don’t intended to stand out there, surrounded by mosquitoes and black flies, spraying water around) and a layer of mulch. And there it is! My very own low-maintenance herb garden! And did I enjoy creating it? No I did not. I hated every frickin’ minute of it. But hopefully the plants will last long enough for me to harvest a bunch or two to put into my dinners. In fact I think I might make pasta with rosemary-garlic tofu tonight. Or not. Damn! I didn’t plant any rosemary!!!!!!! Never mind. I’ll wait until something dies then plant some rosemary in the resulting hole. Sigh.

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When my plants get big enough to be harvested I’ll be drinking hot lemon balm tea while hunting for the “nut loaf with fresh herb stuffing” recipe sent to me by my great-auntie-Nellie back in the 80’s to show her support of my no-meat diet. She found it a bit odd that someone would turn their nose up at a steak and kidney or cheese and onion pie, but she mailed me veg-based recipes anyway, many of which used fresh herbs. I’ll be thinking of her this summer while looking fondly at my plants. As a bonus, Alan has planted a variety of vegetable seeds in his allocated spot, which he will be responsible for weeding. It looks like we’re in for a tasty summer!

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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. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! 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.

Supplements?

I’m not posting a blog today. Instead I’m posing a question to my followers (I’d appreciate comments) and folks in my social media networks. What dietary supplements do you take? And what diet do you identify with most – omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, raw food, paeleo or something else? I’m looking to get answers from “regular” folks, not mountain climbers, body builders or marathon runners, who have very specialised needs.

So peeps, what pills are you popping?

Answers will help me write a pill-popping blog in the very near future, so watch this space!

Karen 🙂

Strange Things Heard at the Expo

Last weekend I had the pleasure of working at the Kathy Smart “Living the Smart Way” expo here in Ottawa. Kathy is a local-girl-gone-big, with a book, TV show and goodness knows what else under her wing. She promotes healthy living but, in all honesty, I can’t recommend Kathy’s book – the vast majority of the recipes contain eggs, dairy, meat or fish. She has a lot of gluten-free recipes, which makes her of interest to me as my youngest son has a severe gluten intolerance, but in my opinion she make some pretty big claims which I have trouble swallowing, such as flushing out belly fat using cranberries. I do agree with her on one thing. She makes a very good point when she says “Only you can take control of your health. No one can do that for you.”

I love working at large events, meeting a huge array of interesting people from a variety of backgrounds. I participated (as a vendor) in a large number of indoor and outdoor art shows when my kids were small, but since they grew up and left home I’ve let this slip out of my life. Sometimes I miss it, and sometimes it’s a relief to not have to stand there for long hours waiting, hoping, dreaming of the next sale. Wondering if the next person I speak to will be friendly, or rude and smug. People attending art and artisan shows can be quite brutal in their comments, seemingly forgetting that they are talking to someone who has invested many, many, many hours of work into each piece of their art or craft, and for whom it has often taken a huge act of courage to participate in a show. I’ve seen an artist quietly crying behind her booth after someone told her  that her artwork was utter crap “and my 4-year old could do better”. I’ve seen another fabulous artist answer the question of “How long did that piece take for you to make? It’s really overpriced..” with the cost of an art degree, the price of supplementary night-school classes, and the number of years it had taken her to get her art to where it is today.  Art is very subjective – one person could love a piece while someone else sees no merit in it. But creating art takes time, patience and passion, and artists should be treated with the respect they deserve.

But I digress! I was happy to work at a large event last weekend without the stresses and strains of being a vendor. On Saturday I helped people sign up for Kathy Smart’s on-line community group, and on Sunday I had the joy of telling people about the up-coming veg-fest in June while manning (personing?) the table for our local vegetarian association. When I asked people if they were vegetarian-ish I got a huge range of answers. The ones which made me happiest, of course, were “Actually, I’m vegan.” Fist-bump time 🙂 Others (mostly men) guffawed and said they might sometimes have a piece of lettuce with their steak. But everyone (apart from the guy who might have had a puff of something earlier) was friendly and receptive to the idea of attending an event showcasing plant-based, cruelty-free products. I saw none of the self-righteous anger I’ve sometimes seen exhibited by omnivores when talking to a vegan. The times, they are a-changing.

One of the fun things about talking to happy-non-confrontational-omnivores was hearing some of the reasons why they “could never be vegan”. There were the obvious comments of “I could never give up meat, it tastes too good.” “Come to Veg Fest and try some meat alternatives! You never know, you might like them :)” and “I just love cheese too much. I couldn’t live without it”. “Have you tried the Zengarry cashew “cheezes” on the far isle? They’re really good!“. Later, while wandering around after my shift at the table ended, I saw some of the people I’d talked to carrying Zengarry cheeze products which they’d purchased. One of them waved at me. “They’re really good!” she yelled. Happy days indeed. Strangely enough, my hubby doesn’t like Zengarry cheeze. He says it tastes too cheesy. Sometimes you just can’t win lol.

I think the strangest conversation I had was with a lady who owns a holistic / nutritional consultation business and had a booth at the show. She’d tried being vegetarian for a couple of weeks but realised that she couldn’t do it because of her blood type. She asked me mine – I’m O+. “But you’re not a vegetarian?” she asked. “Yes I am. I’m also dairy free and egg free.” She was starting to look worried. “But you’ve not been doing it for very long, have you?” “Getting on for 30 years….” It transpired that she also has O type blood, and “that’s why she can’t give up meat”. She had one last attempt at supporting her comments. “Do you find that you’re really tired and sluggish all the time?” I laughed. “Do I look tired and sluggish?” She had to admit that I did not. With a big confused frown on her face she picked up leaflets on how to eat a healthy plant-based diet, took the info card on veg fest and went back to her booth. Hopefully to reconsider her views on blood type based diets and to think about the health benefits of eating a balanced vegan diet.

The eating-for-your-blood-type diet was very popular a few years ago, and the book sold millions of copies. It was debunked in 2014 when a scientific researchers found that the theory behind the diet is not valid.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172246.htm
Theory behind popular blood-type diet debunked Source: University of Toronto.

There are many, many diets and supplements claiming to be the only way to loose weight, get fit, build muscle, gain energy, detoxify, cleanse, rejuvenate, fight aging and live forever while looking like a 20 year old. I’ve got some bad news for you. We’re all going to get older on a day-to-day basis, and we’re all going to die of something. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life chasing a rainbow looking for a pot of eternal-youth at the end of it. I’d rather eat a healthy, balanced, easy, stress-free diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based proteins and wash it all down with a glass or two of wine every now and again. Why don’t you join me? It’s a nice way to live. It’s not the “Kathy-Smart” way, but I think it’s the smartest way 🙂 Eating “the vegan way” is healthy and delicious, and here’s a nice little soup to prove it:

Zucchini and Basil Soup

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces (about 3-4 cups)
  • 1 leek, cut into thin slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegan stock
  • Salt if needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions to garnish

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the zucchini, leek, garlic and celery over a medium high heat for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in the coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until everything is tender. Process half the soup using a hand or countertop blender until smooth then mix with the remaining chunky portion of soup. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the basil and serve topped with green onions.

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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. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! 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.

Jumping on the Pulled-Pork(less) Bandwagon

Pulled pork, I’m sure, didn’t exist in my pre-veg#n days. Growing up in England I never encountered the stuff, so obviously never tasted it. When I moved to Canada it popped up regularly at pot-lucks, alongside the ubiquitous slow-cooker meatballs in barbeque sauce – which I’ve also never had. I never gave the matter much thought until recently. About 6 months ago I started getting posts in my facebook feed about “pulled jackfruit”. It seemed that anyone who was “someone” was riding the pulled jackfruit bandwagon, posting recipes on this latest, greatest vegan food, sometimes as if they had personally invented the dish. I know somebody, somewhere, had the idea first, and I really wish I knew who it was.

Anyway, the bandwagon rolled along merrily for a while in Canada and the States and then slowed down somewhat. I didn’t buy jackfruit, and I didn’t make pulled-anything. Buth this week I’ve started getting posts from people over the pond in the UK about pulled jackfruit, and I thought “If it’s good enough for the Britts I’ll give it a go too.” So, one trip to the international isle of a grocery store later I was ready to cook. I’ve looked at many recipes, from very complicated multi-ingredient ones to “open a jar of BBQ sauce and cook the jackfruit in it” ones, and hummed and haa-ed. I based my attempt on a recipe found at moreveganblog.com, but I tweaked it to make it more husband-friendly. I don’t remember ever eating anything cooked in BBQ sauce, but I do know that my hubby (the fussy eater featured in a previous blog) doesn’t like the taste of it meatballs cooked in it. He doesn’t like anything acidic, or anything which tastes of tomatoes. So I’ve improvised a bit to create something which hopefully resembles BBQ pulled “pork” without being too authentic. Although, as I said, I’ve never had it so I don’t know what it tastes like! Wish me luck!

Husband-Friendly Slow-Cooker Pulled-Jackfruit Bandwagon Recipe

I made this in the slow cooker so that if it didn’t turn out well I hadn’t wasted a lot of time and effort on it! If you prefer, toss it all in a pan and simmer it on the stove for 30 minutes or until tender.

  • 2 20oz cans of jackfruit in brine or water, not in syrup
  • 1/2 meduim onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed dried red chilies
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 cup vegan stock
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • salt to taste (if needed)
  • 4 fresh bread rolls to serve (mine were made with pumpkin so they’re a bit yellow)

Drain and rinse the jackfruit then cut off the hard central core and remove the seeds. Put everything except the salt and bread rolls into a slow cooker, turn it on and leave it for 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Take the jackfruit out, pull it apart using two forks and return it to the slow cooker for 5 minutes. Serve on sliced fresh bread rolls and hope that the hubby will like it!

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And the verdict is in. He liked it! It reminded him of BBQ ribs (yuk) and previous encounters he’s had with pulled pork. It wasn’t too acidic for him and he went back for seconds! So that’s it – I’m now officially on the pulled-jackfruit bandwagon! And for my next trick….Chinese-style BBQ jackfruit on steamed rice. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Karen 🙂

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The Vegan Stoner

As mentioned in a blog last week (you’ve read it, of course) I spent my birthday this year sitting in Jamaica with a drink or two in my hand. It was fabulous 🙂 I sampled a whole load of cocktails I’ve never had before, but since they had names like “Bob Marley” or “Shane’s Special” I have little hope of recreating them at home. Admittedly by midweek I was adding the word “virgin” at the beginning of my requests for a drink (that means “without alcohol” for those of you even less well educated on the matter than me), but I certainly had some flavourful good experiences. I might buy my youngest son a cocktail shaker for his birthday (spoiler alert!) so he can make me something exotic when I go to visit him in Toronto….although he’s a poor student so I might have to take my own ingredients with me. Or maybe I should just buy myself one and get him and his friend Crackers to teach me the art of bartending next time he comes back for a visit…

This is a Bob Marley 🙂

bobMarley (Copy)Alcohol wasn’t the only recreational drug available at the resort in Jamaica, but it was the only legal one. Every now and again a herby aroma wafted over the beach or pool deck, which could usually be traced back to a group of 4 older-than-me Americans chilling out nearby. They were very friendly and chatty, and one was extremely sun burnt. I suspect he’d had a puff or two before putting on his suntan cream and then just forgot about it. The source of their herbal products (taken for medicinal purposes perhaps? I bet that sunburn hurt!) was easy to find (and hard to avoid!). The resort beach was fairly short, and at the end of the beach was a wire fence, through which we could see numerous locals miming smoking and waving at us to go check out their wares.

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If you’re now waiting for a tale of how much weed I bought and how much it cost, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Yes, I was born in the 60’s (OMG!), and yes, I was a vegan hippy type in the 80’s, but I’ve not really done the drug-and-alcohol-thing. I didn’t have my first alcoholic drink until I was in my 20’s, and my doctor has me labelled as a non-drinker even though I do actually have a drink now and again. Being drunk has never appealed to me (I tried it and really didn’t like it), and the whole “doing drugs” thing just isn’t my cup of tea. I tried weed once, fell asleep and woke up 11 hours later, and haven’t touched the stuff since. “So what’s the point of this stoner blog?” I hear you cry. Read on! All will become clear!

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Shortly after I got home I received a lovely birthday gift from someone who shall remain nameless so that I publicly call him a bit of a stoner. And a bit of a vegan. It’s a book (not written by him) called “The Vegan Stoner Cookbook” by Sarah Cornique and Graham I Haynes. It’s small, it’s simple, and it has lots of hand-drawn cartoon pictures of the ingredients for each recipe – and there’s never of lot of ingredients. It’s full of very simple recipes for “beginners and slackers”, and it made me smile. I’m not a stoner, a beginner or a slacker, but I just LOVE cookbooks 🙂 There are some recipes in there which looked interesting, so I decided to knock up a batch of the fresh baked granola bars and see how it worked out. I’ve tried lots of recipes for such things, and not all of them were successful. Some refused to stick together, others flatly refused to get out of the baking pan and others tasty kinda funky. But these stoner-vegan bars looked fairly simple, and the ingredients had enough sticky stuff to make me believe they just might work. So, I got stoned (joke! it’s a joke!), carefully measured everything out and popped it in the oven.

Fresh Baked Granola Bars
(from “The Vegan Stoner Cookbook” by Sarah Cornique and Graham I Haynes)

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (I used 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup molasses)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 3 cups oats (I used 1 minute oats)
  • 1 cup trail mix (I used a mixture of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds)

Melt the peanut butter and maple syrup then mix in the applesauce, oats and trail mix. Press into a greased baking pan (mine is square) and bake at 350’F for 30 minutes or until golden.

And the result? Well…….they stuck together AND they came out of my well-greased pan without complaining. They were tasty and crunchy and chewy….and kinda dry. I’ll be crumbling them up and using them as a topping for fruit crisp later on in the week. I think I made a mistake when I just used seeds instead of a trail mix, which usually contains dried fruit. When I make it again I’ll be tossing in some raisins and finely chopped dried almonds, or maybe a chopped fresh date or two.

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The book is a quirky addition to my rather extensive cookbook collection, and I’ll be knocking up some chocolate peanut butter squares next time I have some chocolate in the house. The mochi sandwiches and monkey bread look like they’ll be quick and easy sweet treats for feeding to visitors. There’s also an egg-free quiche which I suspect maybe the subject of a later blog – but I’ll have to find someone to feed it to first. The last time I tried quiche was over 30 years ago so I have no idea what it’s supposed to taste like!

If you’re looking for a gift for a vegan student (regardless of whether or not they’re a stoner) or someone who wants to be vegan but is a bit timid in the kitchen, check out “The Vegan Stoner”. It might be just what they need.

Karen 🙂

A Totally Corny Blog

April in Ottawa. It sucks. Like, really sucks man! Facebook friends (who won’t be friends for much longer if they don’t stop gloating) are sharing recipes for strawberry shortcake using fruit from their local strawberry festival, and picking fresh mangoes off their backyard trees. They’re posting annoyingly perky comments with pictures of salads and chilled soups. Meanwhile, outside my window, the snow falls in gentle, beautiful flakes, (I’m trying to be positive – work with me!) blowing prettily in the wintery air, making my garden look like a fairy tale wonderland. The leafless trees cast slim shadows on the fallen crystals, creating a magical landscape of light and darkness. I sit here at my desk, gazing out at the wondrous scenery, thinking “Why the heck did we move here of all places? Feck, feck, feck.”

For those of you living in sensible locations, let me explain about winters in Canada. The season is divided up into 7 stages as follows:

1. Shock. This takes place in October when the little trick or treaters wear snow suits over their costumes, or have extra-large costumes which they can wear over their snow suits. Yes, we often have snow as a Halloween treat 😦
2. Pain. Get out those snow shovels, and make appointments with the chiropractor, physiotherapist and massage therapist. And, if you slip on the ice and break something, you might want to take a trip to ER while you’ve got your snow suit on.
3. Anger. The season of good will and peace on earth? I don’t think so – especially when the relatives back in England talk about the lovely walk they had after their Christmas dinner. We don’t usually take an after dinner stroll when it’s -35’c with a windchill. Bah humbug.
4. Denial. Friends pack their bags and fly away to Cuba / Jamaica / Mexico / Anywhere-but-here, pretending winter won’t still be happening when they get back. Meanwhile the hubby goes to work when it’s pitch black outside, and comes home in the dark. We might as well live in a cupboard under the stairs with the lights turned off.
5. Depression. Will it never end? There’s no point in doing anything. Taking a bath starts to look like a viable alternative to driving to the pool at the gym. Ottawa holds “Winterlude” with ice sculptures – as if that makes things better!
6. Acceptance.  Winter. Will. Never. End. Might as well get used to it and go skiing once before the hills close after March break.
7. April. Yes, it’s still feckin’ snowing. And then it rains. And then it snows. And I hate everyone who mentions picking fresh strawberries in their garden.

To combat all the happy posts about fresh fruits and salads, I’m sharing what we had for dinner last night. It’s thick and hot and slightly spicy. It’s the kind of food to eat in April in the land of never-ending-winter. But I know that someday, suddenly, summer will arrive. I’ll just have time to go to a “how to make a herb garden” seminar, take a brief trip to Germany, buy a few herbs, then watch them shrivel and die in the frost a few weeks later. Ottawa. Gotta love it.

Corn and Veggie Chowder

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups corn (I used frozen)
  • 5 – 6 small potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups vegan stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp crushed dried red chilies (or cayenne powder)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed to a paste with 3 tbsp water
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the celery, carrot, onion and garlic over a medium high heat for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Add the corn, potatoes, stock, coconut milk, paprika, chilies, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 – 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and boil for 5 minutes, stirring, until thickened slightly. Using a hand blender or a countertop blender process half the chowder until smooth. Leave the other half chunky. Serve topped with green onions.

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It’s just what I needed on a cold, snowy April day. And to those of you who live in sunnier climes…I’m trying not to hate you right now 😉

Karen 🙂

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