A Taste of the Homeland

Traveling home from our Argentine Tango class on Sunday, I was deep in thought about what we had learnt that week. My mind was assessing the subtle nuances of tango music, the variations in decorations performed by ladies during an ocho block, and  pondering the intricacies of the molinete. Nah – I’m kidding you. I actually had the “everything is awesome” song from the Lego movie playing in a loop in my head. Alan was also very quiet while he drove, obviously deep in thought about something profound. In an attempt to escape from the song in my head I asked him to share his thoughts. Apparantly we had been passed by a van advertising “British Meat Pies and Pasties” and he was thinking about how much he would like a pasty. Gosh, we sure are one deep couple! Any time you’re looking for profound thoughts, we’re the people to contact.

Pies and pasties seem to have been an important part of Alan’s youth. He speaks fondly of Clark’s pies with their thick crusts and strangely coloured gravy. He also has a love of Cornish and Devon pasties. When we went back to the UK for my sister’s fabulous wedding  we got off the plane in Gatwick, took a train to London and bought pasties while we waited for a connection to take us up north. I was very happy to see that they sold cheese-free vegetarian pasties alongside the cheese and onion or meat varieties. I have to admit that the smell of cheese and onion pasties gives me mixed feelings. When I was small my Great Auntie Nellie (lovely woman – one of the nicest people I ever met) cooked cheese and onion pie when my parents took us to visit, followed, always, by jello and a can of evaporated milk. I loved Auntie Nellie, and I enjoyed seeing her, but afterwards I always felt sad and ill. It wasn’t until years later that a connection was made. Cheese and other dairy products disagree with me. The so-called “stress headaches” during my university years were actually cheese-induced migraines (that explains the red spots before my eyes!!) and the upset tummies were not psychosomatic – I couldn’t tolerate milk! Now when I smell cheese and onion my heart is warmed by memories of Auntie Nellie while my stomach churns at the thought of eating dairy products.

chester1 (Copy)                            chester2 (Copy)

Whenever we visit my mom we go into the lovely historic town of Chester to wander around the shops, usually stopping in a coffee shop mid morning then grabbing a pasty for lunch. They’re so easy to eat while wandering around the streets, looking in shop windows and exclaiming “HOW much?!” in our hybrid English-Canadian accents. Somehow they don’t seem to have made it across the pond to the land of beaver tails, poutine and tortiere (you’ll have to look those up if you’re not Canadian). So, the next day I took pity on my poor husband and made some pasties for him. I used wholewheat flour for a healthy, hearty crust, and veggie mince instead of the ground-up animal of his childhood.

Vegan Cornish Pasty

Pastry:

  • 2 cups wholewheat flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tbsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp water to make the glue
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine, well chilled
  • 6 – 12 tbsp ice water, as needed

Filling:

  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped or, if you’re a true Britt, 1 cup swede, finely chopped
  • 1 cup potato, finely chopped
  • 225g veggie grounds / mince, thawed if frozen
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 vegan “beef” stock cube, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp soy milk

To make the pastry: Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the margarine and cut it into small pieces. Use your fingertips to rub the margarine into the flour until it forms breadcrumbs. Handle it as little as possible. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and mix with a knife until it starts to form a dough. Don’t make it wet – you want something you can roll out later. Use your hands to form it into a ball then cut it into 6 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 15 – 30 minutes.

To make the filling, mix together the celery, potato, veggie grounds, parsley, thyme, stock cube, salt and pepper. Make sure none of the veggies are in chunks larger than your thumb nail.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll into circles about 6″ across. I put a large bowl on top and trim them into a nice round shape. Divide the filling between the 6 circles of pastry, placing it on one half of the circle. Use your finger to apply the flour-glue to the edges then fold the pastry over the filling to create a half-moon. Press the edges together then fold them up to make a secure packet. Cut 2 small slits in the top and brush lightly with soy milk.

Heat the oven to 425’F / 220’C / Gas 7. Put the pasties on a baking tray and cook for 45 minutes until golden. Eat hot or cold, sitting down or wandering around.

cornishPasty (Copy)And what was Alan’s  reaction to the labors of his wife? “Wow! These are really good! Are they actually vegan?”. I rolled my eyes. I love him too much to fill his body with saturated fat. He thought they were so good that he ate one before we went out to a restaurant for a vegan dinner on Monday, “just in case he didn’t like the food”. And I had one when we got back home afterwards.

Karen 🙂

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FOK 26: Faking It

In my pre-vegan dairy-free-as-veggie-as-I-can-get days I occasionally enjoyed eating shrimp. I only ever ate them if they were served sans legs, shells and heads, and I couldn’t touch them if they arrived “intact”. Talk about being in a state of denial! It was a bitter-sweet day when I realised that I was too repulsed by the thought of eating an animal to actually buy them anymore. My shrimp days are long gone, but I have to admit that sometimes I miss them. However….I recently discovered Paradis soy seaweed faux shrimp, which look like shrimp even though they don’t taste like them (as far as I can remember). They’re not exactly health food since they’re obviously processed morsels, but they’re vegan and low fat, and – bonus – the texture is pleasant if they’re not over cooked. I’ve tried another brand of faux shrimp which was best described as “bouncy” and really didn’t help when I wanted a non-shrimp shrimpy fix.

Tonight was one of those nights when I wanted something quick and easy for dinner, and I knew I had some faux shrimp lying around. It was really cold and grey outside today, so something nicely spicy was called for. Hot and sour faux-shrimp with steamed brown rice and sautéed Chinese greens made me happy, without the need for any real shrimp to be harmed.

Here you can see Sparta and Ms. Bigglesworth pretending not to be interested in a shrimp shaped cat toy:ShrimpCats (Copy)If you avoid processed vegan proteins (I’m eating fewer of them than ever before) use firm tofu instead of the shrimp bits. It tastes just as good and is probably better for you.

Hot Sour Faux Shrimp

  • 450g / 1 lb faux shrimp, thawed if frozen (or firm tofu)
  • Marinade:
  • 3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or sake
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed dried red chillies, or 2 – 3 tsp Chinese chilli paste, or to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup vegan stock
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or sake
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegan Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 3 tbsp of the stock
  • To Cook:
  • ½ – 1 red onion (depending on how much you like onion), thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained
  • To serve: steamed short-grain brown rice or brown rice noodles

Toss together the faux shrimp (or tofu), rice wine, ginger, garlic, chillies and sesame oil (if using) and set aside. Mix the sauce ingredients together, keeping the cornstarch separate. Set aside. Put the red onion, garlic and red pepper in a frying pan or wok with a couple of tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium high heat for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft but not browned, adding more water as needed to stop it from sticking. Stir in the snow peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the beansprouts and faux shrimp and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir continuously while the sauce thickens slightly as it boils – it should only take a minute or two.

hotsourFauxShrimp (Copy)

This was just what I needed, although Alan found it a bit hot for his tastes after I threw in quite a lot of crushed chillies. He may teach kung fu and train in krav maga, but when it comes to spices he can be such a wimp lol. If you have tender taste buds go easy with the chillies and add more at the end as needed.

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

Tempeh:

  • 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 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 forksoverknives.com, 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!

tofu_mash (Copy)

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.

camping2 (Copy)

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.

tempehAndMash (Copy)

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.

Thug_tempeh (Copy)

Italian Herbed Tempeh (Modified from a recipe at forksoverknives.com)

  • 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 🙂

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 6: Mission Impossible?

Good morning, Ms. Jennings. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the addition of green edible items into your diet. As always, should you or any of your Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape/disc will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck.

Challenge accepted!

I know that to some people it might seem odd that a long-term plant-eater should have problems getting enough greenery into her diet, but in my case it’s true. I’ve never been a fan of the green stuff. I’d like to blame it on my British upbringing, citing overcooked cabbage and soggy brussel sprouts, but unfortunately I can’t do that. My mom is a great cook. Perhaps instead I can blame the expectation by society that a vegan eats nothing but salad, and my determination to fight against cultural stereotyping? Or perhaps not. The truth is that I’ve always seen greenery as a bit of an unnecessary decoration when it comes to food. And salads, let’s be honest, can be really boring for someone who doesn’t like creamy salad dressings, drizzling oil on their food, bits of crunchy dried pig or pieces of congealed cow secretions. I share my life with another saladphobe, so there’s never really been a reason for me to change my ways. Until now. I want to eat more greens (and more whole foods, and less fat) in the hope of maybe, just maybe, shaving off the weight I put on recently. Thank you Rajasthan 😦  Greens are a good source of nutrition and are low in calories. For those mathematically inclined, here’s a little equation for you. Greens = Good.

Back on day 3 I made myself a rather expensive avocado and kale berry smoothie, which was definitely green, but as yet I’ve not had the urge to make another one. Maybe after I’ve been to Cosco with a friend and bought some cheaper frozen green I’ll try again. The other thing is, it’s feckin’ cold up here in Canada, and the thought of a cold smoothie really doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings. Having said all that, I had a roasted brussel sprout salad a couple of days ago for lunch, which was OK. Not exactly filling, and not something I would rush to do again, but it wasn’t awful. On a rather personal note, it did give me quite a lot of gas. Fortunately I work from home, so only the cats and I suffered!

roast_sproutsTonight though, I’m “going green” big-time. Herby baked falafels, avocado coriander dressing, kale massaged with a blob of tahini (I’m still trying to get excited about that one and failing), all served with Israeli couscous. That sounds pretty green to me!

Good and Green Falafels

  • 2 cups lightly packed parsley
  • 1 cup lightly packed coriander
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Enough water to enable your blender to make a thick paste. Try ¼ cup and add more if needed. Don’t make it too wet.

Put everything in your blender and process until smooth. Transfer heaped spoonfuls onto a baking sheet – you should get about 16 balls. Heat the oven to 375’F and bake the balls until browned on top. Serve with green dressing:

Avocado Coriander Dressing

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ – ½ cup water as needed

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Add more water if desired if you want it thinner. I actually tossed the Israeli couscous with the sauce before eating it.

GreenPlateAnd my next mission? Getting my hubby to eat it 🙂

Karen

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FOK Day 5: Bring on the Breakfast!!!

When I first started this 30 day “Forks Over Knives” all of 5 days ago, my biggest question wasn’t “How am I going to cook without oil?” but rather “What am I going to eat for breakfast?”. If the truth is to be told, it wasn’t an issue of changing my regular breakfast into something healthier but more of actually planning breakfasts in the first place. It’s hard to stick to a meal plan if you don’t actually have one! For years my breakfast has consisted of grabbing a bit of this or a bit of that. Maybe a cookie or two if that’s all I could find. Or a bowl of white rice if I could be bothered to cook it. Or some toast with vegan margarine and a pile of sugar-filled peanut butter on a good day. I don’t eat eggs, I loathe oatmeal, I avoid jams and jellies like the plague and I hate few things more than a milky bowl of cereal regardless of what type of plant-based milk it’s made with. I don’t particularly like pancakes. I hate the smell of waffles. I’ve never liked cheese, anything that smells like cheese, or anything that tries to be cheesy, whether it’s vegan or not. I used to munch on dry mini-wheats until I found nasty things in the ingredients. I’m not a fan of fruit (too much acid first thing in the morning), there’s no way I’m going to eat a yoghurt (soy or coconut – no way). Bananas and I have an on-again-off-again relationship. I don’t like to cook before I start my day, and left-overs are usually either taken to work by my lovely hubby or designated as “lunch”. Breakfasts are an on-going struggle! I need to eat before I exercise, which I try to do 5 mornings a week, and I’m often back from the gym before many people have even thought about heading off to work. Reading back over what I’ve written is making me smile. It makes me sound like a fit, toned exercise-fanatic instead of the somewhat portly, mostly lazy lady that I am lol.

I started my 30 day eating plan by making a large bowl of mixed berry crisp, which I munched my way through steadily until it was all gone. I’ve now made an apple version using regular oats instead of ancient grains, and omitted the seeds to cut back on a few calories. My intention is to have this alongside either a smoothie or something cooked for the next few mornings.

appleCrisp (Copy)

Today I was very proud of myself as I whipped up a tofu scramble with veggies, making extra for the lovely man I share my life with. After reading a few recipes I settled on this combination of ingredients based on what I had in my fridge:

Tofu Scramble

  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tbsp water (more as needed)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (it still smells like a gym bag to me!)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 cups baby spinach, washed
  • Vegetarian bacon bits (optional, and not necessarily the healthiest choice?)

Thinly slice the tofu then use a fork to turn it into crumbles. Saute the onion, pepper, garlic and crumbled tofu in a small amount of water for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the soy sauce, yeast, turmeric and spinach, reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes, adding a drop more water if needed and stirring frequently. Sprinkle with veggie bacon bits if you like. Serve on wholewheat toast or wrapped in a wholegrain tortilla.

tofuScramble (Copy)Alan and I both enjoyed our breakfast. I’m told it tastes nothing like egg, which is fine by me, and neither of us know if the texture resembles scrambled egg, but it was tasty and nutritious. I didn’t particularly enjoy cooking first thing in the morning, and I don’t like having a dirty pan in my sink before my day even begins. Today it threw my mojo off sufficiently for me to abandon a yoga class and go swimming later instead. But I have a cunning plan. If I can get Alan hooked on tofu scramble then maybe, just maybe, he will get the urge to cook it in the mornings, making extra for me! Or perhaps a more successful plan would be to cook a ton of the stuff, pop left overs in the fridge and just nuke it on the following days. Either way, we’ll be eating this again. I can change the veggies, add a bit of curry powder, mix it with left-over brown rice if I have any, and play with the basic recipe to my heart’s content. Always assuming that someone is willing to wash a frying pan before 8am. Which, I have to admit, isn’t me!

If you have a quick, easy, tasty, cheap breakfast idea which doesn’t involve bananas, oatmeal, soaked chia seeds or milky things, I’d love to hear from you! Comments and recipes are always welcome.

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 4: Feeling Down in the Mouth

Yesterday I had a jolly good rant about the cost of trying to eat green things up here in the frozen north. (Now, thanks to the lovely people in the Plant Based Diet Facebook group I know I can make cheaper smoothies using frozen kale and berries from Costco!) I had planned to cheer myself up with a complicated dinner involving Israeli couscous (oh – wait – is that made from WHITE flour? Better check…..), baked falafels, coriander relish and more. However, a trip to the dentist left me feeling less than happy and unwilling to put much effort into dinner. Fortunately I had pre-prepared a roast pepper and tofu pasta sauce, modified from a recipe in Thug Kitchen’s book, planning to eat it tonight before popping out to the theatre. Best laid plans of mice. Anyway, it was quite tasty, if a little hotter than I think it should have been. It didn’t require much effort to eat, which was a real bonus last night. Here’s what I did:

Roast Pepper and Tofu Pasta

  • 2 red peppers, roasted in a 425’F oven until blackened (about 45 minutes – 1 hour)
  • 2 yellow peppers, roasted for use at the end of the recipe
  • 2 tomatoes, roasted with the peppers
  • 1 block regular (semi-firm tofu, drained)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (first time I’ve ever used this. Is it supposed to smell like a gym bag?
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I will use ½ tsp next time)
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Wholewheat pasta (I used spelt pasta)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, cut into thin strips

When the peppers and tomatoes are nicely roasted and blackened, tip them, along with any juice, into a large bowl and cover to keep the steam in. When they are cool, slide the skins off and discard. Put the red peppers, tomatoes and juices, tofu, yeast, the first 4 garlic cloves, vinegar, salt and pepper flakes into a blender and process until smooth.

Put the pasta on to cook. Most brands of wholewheat pasta seem to take 10 -12 minutes, but read the packet for instructions. When the pasta is 5 minutes away from being ready, put the yellow peppers, zucchini and remaining 2 cloves of garlic in a frying pan with a splash of water. Stir over a high heat for 4 minutes then add the tofu sauce. Heat gently until it just starts to bubble, stirring as you go. Mix in the fresh basil, toss it with cooked, drained pasta and eat.

 tofu_pastaSauce (Copy)

Today for breakfast I polished off the last of my berry crisp which, I have to admit, I’m now a bit tired of. It’s been great not having to put any thought into breakfast for the last few days but now I’m ready for a bit of a change. Tomorrow I might try a tofu scramble wrapped in whole wheat tortilla…if I get myself out of bed in time to make it before heading off to the gym! I’ll let you know how that goes!

On another note: a potential distraction from my 30-day plan arrived yesterday when hubby brought home the mail. It’s a wonderful “care-package” sent to me by my brother and his lovely lady back in England, containing an assortment of British chocolates. There’s enough in there to last us for months, but they’re going to have to wait 3 weeks before being sampled. Alan received a big talking-to from me along the lines of “You say you want to lose weight, so for the rest of the 30 days toe the line and let’s see what happens”. At the end of the 30 days we’re both free to either go back to our old way of eating, or stick to the wholefoods-no-oil-no-refined-sugar plan or, more probably, find a comfortable spot somewhere between the two. But until then our lovely gift will have to sit untouched.

So far I’ve not really felt deprived of anything on the FOK diet, replacing my white rice and pasta with whole grains and cutting out the empty calorie snacks, but I know that sooner or later I’m going to want a pack of chips or a cookie. I suspect Alan may crack on the cookie issue before I do. So, as a pre-emptive measure I’ve spent some time today reading what folks on the plant based diet Facebook page are making for sweet treats, and then I hit the kitchen. My pantry is stocked with sucranat (an uprocessed sugar), maple syrup (because I’m Canadian), unsweetened apple sauce, canned pumpkin, unsweetened chocolate (I’m finding the idea of unsweetened chocolate a bit scary!), wholewheat flour and other healthy goodies. I’m accustomed to baking without eggs, but not using slabs of vegan margarine in my baking is new for me. Many of the recipes I’ve looked at contain bananas and / or coconut in some form or another, which is a big downer since Alan and I like neither bananas nor things which taste of coconut. I found a recipe for something called “peanut butter fudge”, which I got very excited about until I read the ingredients. More like “coconut fudge” if you ask me 😦

Anyway, I eventfully settled on 3 recipes to try, all from forksoverknives.com. I made the Double Chocolate Cakes, without the frosting. Pumpkin Bean Bars with cocoa, and Wholesome Oat Snackles. They were all fairly simple to make, but I was grateful for my recent purchase of a Vitamix blender to help me along the way. And I have to admit that as I mixed up the ingredients I whispered a little prayer. “Oh god, please don’t let them taste as healthy as they look”.  cakes (Copy)

The double chocolate cupcakes are quite tasty. I used the batter to make 6 rather than the suggested 12 because the only cupcake pans I have are the extra large ones. They’re moist and chocolatey, but I will have to tell Alan that they’re muffins because they are definitely not light fluffy cupcakes and I don’t want him to be disappointed. I will probably make these again. However, I’m not such a fan of the pumpkin bars – they have too much of a banana taste for me, although the recipe does say that they will taste more of pumpkin spice tomorrow. I’m not an immediate fan of the texture, but I think I could eat a slice of this after a workout at the gym and feel virtuous. And as for the snackles…they’re OK for a healthy snack, but if I was in the mood for something more “treat” like these wouldn’t do it for me. I replaced the raisins with pumpkin seeds, added the optional sugar, and threw in a few extra dairy-free chocolate chunks. They’re crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. If I make them again I might try squashing them onto the baking sheet and making them more cookie-like.

So, all-in-all, I don’t think it was too bad for a first attempt at whole grain / no oil baking, but I need to hunt for some actual “cookie” recipes for next time I bake. I’ve hidden the yummy treats sent to me by the lovely Britts to help Alan and I to stay on track, and I also bought some pretzel sticks for us to munch on when we get the urge for something salty. Today is only day 4, and I’m determined that neither of us will slip off the plan this early in the game! Wish me luck!!!

Karen 🙂

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FOK Day 3: The True Cost of Being Healthy?

There are many really good movies available, with scientific research to support them, documenting the health costs of eating an unwise diet. We all know that the health of the West has declined as meat and dairy consumption has risen, coupled with a notable decrease in exercise as a whole. So “why don’t people eat better”? Please note: this question is being presented by someone who shuns salad, has eaten more white rice than almost anyone she knows, and managed to put on weight in India by eating every deep fried item on the menu. Wandering around the grocery store yesterday armed with my “eating better” shopping list, I began to understand why some people might believe grabbing a package of ground up cow might be a good option for dinner. I firmly believe that it would be a bad choice, for so many reasons, but it’s cheap, can be really easy to cook (throw it in a pan with some tomato sauce) and plop it on some white pasta. I’m sometimes guilty of doing the vegan equivalent with a can of beans (Hey! Look! Beans are cheaper than cow!), a jar of pasta sauce and, yes, white pasta. Cheap and cheerful.

Last night I was feeling slightly more inspired than that and served up a modified version of Mexican Stew http://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/mexican-rice-soup/. This is what I used:

Mexican Stew

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegan stock
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice, added at the end and warmed through

mexican_soup (Copy)

Today, picking up the items from the “Forks Over Knives” meal plan I created for the week, I was stunned by how much a week’s worth of fruits and veggies cost me. I had a couple of luxury items in my cart – preserved lemons, 2 loaves of quinoa bread and some spelt pasta, but the remaining $75 was nothing but plant food. No beans, no grains, no soy milk. Just plants. I think next week’s menu plan will be somewhat influenced by this week’s bill! More sweet potatoes ($3:17 for 2 large ones), apple crisp instead of berry crisp ($3 for 4 apples) and more bananas ($1 for 4 ). Fewer green veggies at $3 – $4 a bunch, which melt down to nothing when cooked or put in the blender. But wait a minute……I’m supposed to be eating MORE greens on this self-created 30 day FOK trial. I’m somewhat conflicted right now.

Still, I promised to make myself a green smoothie today, and I’d better enjoy it given the cost:

Berry Avocado Green Smoothie

  • 1 avocado (1 cup) $1:60
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries: $3:75
  • 1 bunch (2 cups) spinach: $2:99
  • 1 cup water (I didn’t want to spend the money on coconut water at this stage) $0

Total: $8:34. For a home-made green smoothie. Yikes!!!!! Perhaps it’s time I moved somewhere that’s not covered in snow for what seems like 14 months of the year? Or I could have a glass of orange juice, which is much cheaper! The question is, did I enjoy over $8 of smoothie enough to do it again? Was it really $8 worth of “good for me”? Honestly, living up here in the frozen north, I think the answer to both of these questions has to be “no”. I need to rethink this if adding more greens to my diet is going to work out for me long-term, especially in the colder months. I have to admit that it was a lot better than I expected, and it was very smooth and rich thanks to the avocado, but I have to find a cheaper way of doing this. Perhaps next time I’ll try half a banana instead of the avocado, and search out a cheaper alternative to berries. Wish me luck.

green_smoothie (Copy)It looks like roast veggies might be a viable option for lunches, if I buy inexpensive ones, plan ahead and actually get them into the oven. I also need to think about having some brown rice or other grain with them – my body cried out for carbs yesterday afternoon after my $3 lunch of half a cauliflower ($1.99), quarter of a bottle of hot wing sauce (bought ages ago so I don’t know the cost), 2 baby crunchy cucumbers ($0:75) and a home-made peanut butter dip. It was my own fault that I didn’t have a tortilla with lunch – I just couldn’t be bothered to go and find one.

Today for lunch I’m having roasted brussel sprouts ($2:86) on kale ($2:99) massaged with a blob of tahini, with a sliced orange ($0:97), as seen on a recipe a friend shared on Facebook. That’s nearly $7 for lunch. And I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but it was a lot more effort than I’m used to at lunchtime. I could have eaten a bowl of ramen noodles for a lot less effort and money. But at what cost to my health? Or I could eat that left-over bowl of lentil soup I have in the fridge (I’ll be eating that tomorrow!), but it doesn’t help me to get more actual green vegetables in my diet, which is one of my goals during this challenge.

If I, as a long-term vegan, am struggling with this, I can understand why some people find moving from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet totally overwhelming. It takes effort. And planning. And, yes, it might cost more money. But, in terms of health, I truly believe that a whole wheat loaf is worth more than a white loaf. Hummus is worth more than a slice of congealed cow’s milk, and a green smoothie is worth more than….? It must be worth more that something! Let me work on that one.

Karen 🙂