Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I'll be in Madison, WI tomorrow- who has suggestions for what I should do?  My friend Brandon and I will go to the Green Owl and Monty's Blue Plate Diner.  And Willy Street Co-op, of course.

Anything else I should be sure to visit?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Laundry Time!

I'm pretty picky about the products I use (had you noticed?) and laundry soap is no exception.  I've been using Seventh Generation "Free and Clear" laundry soap for years and really like it.  But when there's an option to make something just as good- or better- myself, I have to at least give it a try!

So when my buddy Morgen successfully made her own laundry soap, I was inspired.  I used this recipe and it was really easy!  It can be a little tricky tracking down a couple of ingredients you'll need, but all are available online if you can't find them locally.

First, the soap.  I used Dr. Bronner's soap because, really, what can't this soap do?  It claims to perform nearly any cleaning task and I like the almost nonexistent fragrance of the baby soap.  You'll need to grate the soap, so make sure you have a good grater handy.

Next you'll need washing soda and borax.  I got the borax at Mississippi Market Co-op.  I'm pretty sure most of the co-ops sell this one.  The washing soda was harder to track down.  After about 8 phone calls I found that none of the hardware stores carried it, but a Cub Foods grocery store did.

When you melt in the soap, be sure to stir frequently.  This was kinda fun...and smelled really nice and clean!

In the end you've got 2 gallons of laundry soap!  Super exciting!  This is the cheapest soap I just have to see how it performs...

***Updated to add that this laundry detergent rocks!  My clothes are clean and have no scent to them!  Now all I need is a big 1/4 cup ladle to scoop it into the washer...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Breakfasts and My Favorite Gift

Wow- This week flew by, filled with relaxation and goofing off...and good food!

Mike and I spent Christmas morning together before the kids came over.  We ate a rockin' breakfast and then I worked a jigsaw puzzle while he played banjo- fun!

Breakfast was spicy roasted potatoes, scrambled tofu topped with avocado and home-canned garlicky tomatoes, and roasted portabello mushrooms.  And I had an organic mimosa- a super rare treat.

I think my favorite Christmas present might be the stainless steel drinking straws that Mike got me.  I prefer drinking nearly every cold beverage from a straw, with the only exception being carbonated drinks (then it's glass bottles, all the way).  But plastic is nasty and I end up washing and reusing them so many times that I worry about the plastic degrading and leaching more nasty endocrine-disruptors into my food.  Perfect solution- Stainless steel straws!

Here's Billie Cat enjoying the sunshine while I mix up a breakfast milkshake.

A couple days ago my friend told me about a savory bread pudding she whipped up for dinner and I couldn't stop thinking about how good it sounded.  Usually bread pudding sounds totally disgusting to me- soggy bread, raisins, eggs and too much sugar.  But savory bread pudding opens up new doors.  Delicious doors.

Spinach, morel and sundried tomato bread pudding

Spinach, Morel and Sundried Tomato Bread Pudding

1/2 cup dried tomatoes (I used home-dried cherry tomatoes)
1/2 cup dried morel mushrooms
Boiling water
12 oz. firm tofu
1 1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black salt (if available)
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
4 cups stale crusty French bread, cubed
2 large handfuls baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Lightly grease a 9x9 inch glass baking pan.  Pour boiling water over the dried tomatoes and mushrooms in a heat-safe bowl.  Let soak for about 10 minutes or until rehydrated.

In a bowl, puree together the tofu, milk, mustard, salt, black salt, thyme and garlic.  Take a little taste- it should be garlicky, a little mustardy and plenty flavorful.  If not, adjust as needed.

Drain the tomatoes and mushrooms. Chop them into bite-sized pieces if needed.  Add to the tofu mixture and stir to combine.  Add bread crumbs and spinach and stir until they are completely coated.  Dump everything into the baking dish and smooth out the top.

Put in the oven and bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes.  Serve hot!  This will keep in the refrigerator and is super easy to cut a slice and pop in the toaster over for a quick and rich breakfast.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Maybe it's the cold weather, but we've been cooking with more chilies lately.  For brunch yesterday I cooked up some leftover beans and rice and topped it with a peppery tofu scramble and some jalapeño sauce, similar to the one they serve at the Seward Cafe in Minneapolis.  The tofu scramble had roasted red peppers, fresh green peppers and onions- So Christmas-y!

The jalapeño sauce was just minced jalapeño, salt, lime juice, and vinegar.  It was super tangy and hot and Mike and I love this stuff over tofu scramble.

Today Mike sounded so sad when he realized that all our our garlic chile sauce from this summer was gone that I made some more from our dried chile ristra

I just winged it, so I think you can, too.  

Hot Sauce
About 30 small dried red chiles (cayenne or Thai)
Nearly boiling water
1 clove garlic

Soak the dried chiles (stems removed) in just enough nearly boiling water to cover them for about 20 minutes.  Reserve the soaking water.  Place the soaked chiles in a blender with 1 clove garlic, about a tsp. of salt and a splash of vinegar. Pour in about 1 cup of the chile soaking liquid.  Blend until almost smooth- I like to have a little texture from the seeds left in the sauce.  Then taste (carefully!!!) and adjust the salt and vinegar to your liking.  If you like a thinner sauce, add more of the soaking liquid.  I ended up adding all of mine and filled 2 8oz. bottles and a 2 oz canning jar with sauce.  Refrigerate.

Note: This is not a recipe for canning!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cranberry Fun!

Friday I scored several free bags of slightly mushy Wisconsin cranberries from the co-op.  I initially had cranberry jam/jelly in mind, but I still have way too much jam to make any more.  Yet.

So instead I threw together an improvised cranberry ginger soda and a batch of gluten free cranberry-ginger-walnut muffins.  I LOVE how pretty the cranberry soda looks and after a few days, I'll let you know how it tastes.  You'll notice that we re-used a Fentiman's bottle this time- It's because we got a bottle capper!  We always thought the bottle cappers would be really expensive or complicated, but it means that we can bottle smaller sized bottles to give away and that we can re-use bottles instead of ever buying new ones.  So it will definitely save us money in the long run.

The muffins turned out pretty tasty.  They're not strongly flavored with any one thing, but a combo of citrus, nuts, cranberries and ginger.  Oh, and they're as sweet as cupcakes because I pretty much just swapped a few ingredients from my stand-by GF cupcake recipe!

Cranberry Muffins
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1.5 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup nondairy milk
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Whisk together the millet flour, rice flour, starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger.  In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugars, vanilla, OJ, milk and zest. Add the liquid/sugar mixture to the flour and stir until thoroughly combined.  Fold in cranberries and walnuts.  Spoon batter into liners until about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 minutes or until the cakes are solid and golden colored.  Allow to cool a couple minutes in the pan, then remove from muffin tin to cool completely.  Store in an air-tight container once they are fully cooled.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Well, the pantry challenge is over!
It pretty much ended on Thursday at lunch time when I was so sick of the same curry that I went downstairs (at the co-op) and bought some of the deli's soup for lunch.  But it wasn't until today that I did a real grocery shop for food to take home.

I was a bit worried that I'd end up spending about $300 on groceries today and un-do all the savings I've had by doing this challenge.  But with my 20% employee discount and $10 member coupon, I only spent about $150 to restock my kitchen (including buying a $20 bottle of flax oil and 3 bottles of organic canola oil because I had a coupon).  Pretty good!  I tend to spend about $100 a week on groceries, so I basically cut my spending in half by forcing the family to eat all the foods that we usually overlook in the pantry.

I'd post up some pictures of the yummy brunch I made this morning, but I think Mike has the camera- So it'll have to wait.  Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed roasted portabello mushrooms, homemade crackers and pickled dilly beans.  And almond milk.  It's nice to have fresh foods in the house again!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Quick Gift

Super quick, super easy gift!

Herbal Bath Salts
Here's what you'll need per gift:

1 half-pint canning jar
1 cup epsom salts
About 6 drops of essential oil (I used rosemary and then lavender separately)
A pinch of the herb whose oil you chose

Pour about 1/2 of the salt in the canning jar.  Add the drops of essential oil and a pinch of the herb that corresponds.  Fill with remaining salt and screw on the lid.  Shake the jar until the herbs are distributed throughout and the scent is fairly pungent when you open the lid.

Done!  (Easy to mix up for yourself right before a bath, too)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Make Ahead Meals- Curry and Mexi-Bake

As my pantry items dwindle, it's becoming even more important that usual to make meals and ingredients ahead of time.  Mike ended up buying some rice last week because he had to make dinner quickly for the kids on Friday- I can't really blame him.  He didn't really sign up for this pantry challenge.  I pretty much just imposed it on him.  But we agreed that if there are pre-cooked grains and beans ready to use, he won't be tempted to shop.

This week's theme is boring pantry ingredients made interesting with spices and home-canned fun ingredients. I've planned a curry and a Mexican themed casserole.

I found a 1/2 box of Alter Eco brand Fair Trade Ruby Rice in my pantry today.  I thought I was out of rice about a week ago, but found this, some arborio rice and some sushi rice in little bags.  Since I also had some more lacinato kale frozen out in the garden, some canned jackfruit and a couple potatoes, it seemed like I could throw those all together to make a curry.  Everest makes an amazing jackfruit curry that I've ordered the past 3 times I have gone there, so if mine is half as good as that one, I'll be happy!  The spices I used are: cumin seed, mustard seed, fennel seed, turmeric, garam masala, salt.  For the sauce I used some dehydrated coconut milk, a jar of home-canned tomatoes and a jar of home-canned harissa.  So far it smells good...

The casserole consists of a layer of polenta (the last of it!), a layer of mashed pinto beans and a layer of home-canned tomatillo salsa mixed with an extra can of tomatillos.  The beans are seasoned with garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, epazote and Mexican oregano.  And salt.  Can't forget the salt.

I'm starting to wish for some oil now.  I have a smidge of coconut oil and a bottle of sesame oil left.  No more canola oil, olive oil, local sunflower oil or grapeseed oil. Wonder what popcorn will be like popped in sesame oil???

We also just ran out of nutritional yeast and are almost out of regular sea salt.  I have plenty of Hawaiian pink salt and other fancy salts to use, though.  I might have to break down and buy salt and oil in order to use up the rest of my beans and grains, though!  Since I've made it 2 weeks, now I'm wondering if I can do 3 weeks.  But I might go crazy before then because I just used the last of the cumin.

I'll take some pictures of these dinners plated, because the photos of them packed away in their Pyrex containers are less than appealing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just a Little Bit...

I broke my pantry challenge a lil' bit. Not a lot, just a lil' bit.

But it was for a good cause!  (As long as cookies and cake are a good cause... and I firmly believe that they are).

A friend of mine planned a vegan cookie swap a while back and I couldn't bring anything half-assed,  thrown together from the little bit of cornmeal, oat flour and tapioca starch that I have left. I needed white flour.  And sugar- I was out of both.  So I purchased the flour, sugar, Earth Balance and craisins I needed for my cranberry pistachio shortbread cookies. Nothing practical for dinner, I promise.  (My buddy Sarah can vouch for me.)  And now look at the amazing cookies I'm bringing home!!!  Adorable gingerbread people, Magical Coconut Cookie Bars (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar), Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Cook's Illustrated), and TWO kinds of Mexican Wedding Cookies/Snowballs/Russian Tea Cakes.  Plus, I have several slightly-too-browned cranberry shortbread cookies left at home.  It's nice to have friends who bake!

Tomorrow I'm bringing a cake to a Yoga Day event for the Iyengar Association.  We decided on a Citrus Spice Cake with cream cheeze frosting. I also had to buy a few ingredients for this, but I figure that's exempt from the pantry challenge because this is for a job, not home consumption.  Here it is naked:

I'm using the Golden Vanilla Cupcake recipe from VCTotW and added orange juice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and orange oil.  Yum!  I'll try to remember to get a final picture and "inside shot" tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Back to our regularly scheduled programming: Pantry Challenge Day 14!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Pen Pals Rule

This right here is why pen pals are super awesome...especially my pen pal.

My West Coast twin sent me a "Cali-love care package" that blew my mind.

LOCALLY GROWN bananas, persimmons and avocados!!!!!  Oh, how amazing that sounds on this cold week!  And after a long, long day it was so much fun to come home to this package filled with produce grown by small farmers that she knows, artwork and Uncle Eddie's cookies!

Can't you just feel the Cali love?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 10- Pantry Challenge

I'm pretty amazed at how much food I have left in my pantry.  And in my fridge.  Here are some of the tasty foods we've eaten this week without grocery shopping:

  • walnut-bean-millet balls over brown rice with tomato-peach glaze
  • curried yams and collards over millet
  • TVP tacos with homemade corn tortillas
  • rice crispy treats
The tacos were Mike's idea because he always craves corn tortillas, but all the ones around these parts have preservatives- nasty!  I found about 3/4 of a cup of masa harina in the pantry, which was just enough to make tacos for our lunch- Hooray!

The rice crispy treats have an interesting story.  I brought too many boxes of Sweet & Sara marshmallows (yes, it's possible) on our camping trip in August.  On the way home one package got a little wet in the cooler and it made the marshmallows really gooey and weird.  But I couldn't throw them away, so they sat in my fridge for a few (4) months.  When I was cleaning our fridge a couple nights ago I examined them and decided that they were probably still safe to eat...and I had a 1/2 package of brown rice crisp I had to make some rice crispy treats!

I had one for breakfast this morning and now the kids are enjoying them with some hot limeade (a.k.a. hot water with bottled lime juice and maple syrup!)

So we're definitely not hurting for any food yet even though I have 10 empty bulk jars sitting on a shelf.  I'm taking this opportunity to clean my bulk jars, something that doesn't happen too often.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 6- Pantry Challenge

I'm pretty sure it breaks the pantry challenge rules to go out to lunch, but since I get to make the rules I'll say that it's allowed today.  Mike justified it by pointing out that we practically live at the co-op, so eating lunch there is just like eating at home.  I had a really rockin' panini with tempeh, portabello mushroom and avocado!

Tonight I finished up some seitan noodle soup and decided to bake some cookies.  I've had a canister of Dagoba Xocolatl hot chocolate with chilies and cinnamon in my pantry for waaaaayyyyy too long. Like from back when Dagoba wasn't owned and ruined by Hershey's (Most of their dark chocolate bars now contain milk...Same with Green and Black's since they were bought out by Cadbury).  I'm all for some fair trade, organic hot chocolate, but I found that I prefer mine without chilies or cinnamon.  So I dumped the last of my millet flour and sugar together with hefty dose of this mix and some other cookie-type ingredients and got some pretty wild cookies.  They look like lumps of coal, but taste like spicy chocolate goodness.

Here are the staple things I've run out of so far:
Tofu, tempeh
Basmati rice
Millet flour
Wheat gluten
Earth Balance (tragedy)
Lemon juice, lemons
Gluten free pasta
Canola oil
Soy yogurt
Almond milk

Plenty of dry beans, millet and condiments left, though.  Plus other weird odds and ends like water chestnuts and sour cherry preserves.  Next week should be interesting!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 4- Pantry Challenge...And Oyster Crackers

I'm pretty much out of "convenience" foods now.  No more tofu or tempeh.  No more pasta.  Tonight I made use of a can of chickpeas (now it's on to dry beans), some garden tomatoes and some dried garden cherry tomatoes in a stew.  Yep- That's right.  Garden tomatoes in December in Minnesota.  These green 'maters were late bloomers on the kitchen table but are now red and tasty.

Sauteed onions, jalapeno, cumin seed, fennel seed, coriander and mustard seed simmered with dried cherry tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and chickpeas.  

I found a box of oyster crackers that I had forgotten about in my pantry.  I got them as a sample from the co-op and never ate them.  Every year my mom makes some amazing seasoned oyster crackers...but they use powdered ranch dressing mix and most oyster crackers have hydrogenated oils- yuck!  These crackers have clean ingredients (They're Olde Cape Cod brand) and I used a mix of spices that tastes like ranch dressing mix to duplicate my mom's recipe. I think this would be good with pretzels or other crackers, too.

I need to have a disclaimer before this recipe to say that it is not low fat.  Or even medium fat.  I don't recommend making a habit of pouring oil over your crackers, but once a year it's freaking awesome.

Almost Like Mom's Seasoned Oyster Crackers

1 8 oz. package of oyster crackers (I think a 12 oz. package could still be well seasoned by this recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried dillweed
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Pour the oil into a large plastic resealable bag.  With a mortar and pestle, grind together all the spices/herbs, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Dump into the baggie with the oil.  Add the crackers and seal the bag. Gently toss the crackers around in the oil and spices until they are all coated.  Remove any air from the bag and reseal.  Let sit overnight and then eat so many of these that you feel sick.  Then lick the bag.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 2- Pantry Challenge

Not much time for bloggin' because Sons of Anarchy season finale is tonight!

Today I had a grilled cheeze for brunch- made with some day old free bread and the "colby" cheeze I made yesterday from the Uncheese Cookbook.  Ridiculously good, by the way,  I also ate pickles.

For late lunch I had leftover split peas and rice, almonds, craisins, candycane Jo-Jo's, and some vegan gummy bears that were free samples.

For dinner I had Mike's brown rice special- brown rice, tofu, kale from the garden.

Here's lunch for tomorrow:

Nearly the last of the leftover GF stuffing, some smoked tofu, pickled beets, butternut squash dip, a satsuma mandarin, craisins, and almonds. Yum!  It's like a sampler platter!

I'm teaching until late tomorrow, so I'll update again on Thursday with the pantry challenge progress.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 1- Pantry Challenge

Today was tough- Not because I was tempted to buy food to eat today, but because it was the last day of the November sales at the Co-op.  I REALLY wanted to "stock up". Except I'm already stocked up.

For example- The tea I tried to justify buying yesterday is a really good deal.  But I have about 10 varieties of tea already in my cupboard, including 3 that I just bought this month.  Kinda ridiculous.

Here are some photos to illustrate my point (Not pictured: canning pantry, tea/spice shelf and freezer):

Pantry Left

Pantry Right

Fridge...With Hannah trying to get into the crisper 

It's kind of a mess.  I hope that by the end of this challenge I'll have a much more organized pantry and fridge!

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast- Water, satsuma orange, almonds
Lunch- Leftover risotto, pickled beets, 2 Peppermint Jo-Jo's
Snack- Water, Rye crackers, cashew cheese
Dinner- Crockpot brown rice and split peas with tomato chutney and soy yogurt raita

Tonight's dinner was totally easy.  I just threw some brown rice, split peas and water into the crockpot to soak last night and then turned it on high when I left for yoga this morning.  Then after work I found it all cooked (okay, really a bit overcooked) and added tons of cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, garlic, fennel, turmeric, garam masala and salt in hot oil.  That's it!  It was really yummy- especially with tomato chutney and yogurt.  We all agreed that nearly anything would be delicious with those condiments, though!

I'm certainly eating pretty good...We'll see how I'm doing in a week.  I'm not sure how long my pantry challenge should last, but I think it should be at least 7 days.  I did 13 last time, so maybe that should be my goal...But I don't want to commit to that!  I'm thinking about taking my checkcard out of my wallet as a reminder to myself, though.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pantry Challenge Time!

Uh oh.  It's that time again.  My pantry is overflowing and I overspent my grocery budget this month by $182.  I admit to grocery shopping for entertainment on at least 4 occasions this month.  Time for a pantry challenge!!!

Last November I did the same thing.  Maybe there's just something about November that makes me ignore my grocery budget?  Probably my hibernation instincts kicking in.

Anyways, I have split peas and brown rice in the crockpot soaking right now.  My lunch is packed, so there's no excuse for buying lunch at work tomorrow.  Next I have to decide if bread and/or kids lunch stuff is an exception to the pantry challenge rule or not.  Probably not.

And I might need an exception to stock up on the Yogi Teas that are on sale this month.  Wish me luck!  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Next Holiday, Please

I'm going to be really annoying and promptly follow a Thanksgiving post with one about Christmas/Solstice.  I hate it when one holiday is barely over and people are already rushing to prepare for the next.  But... I'm making a conscious effort to be more festive this year, so I'd better not put it off for too long.

We usually don't decorate for holidays or make too much of a big deal about them, aside from making and eating a lot of food.  Don't get me wrong- we celebrate.  We just don't spend money making it look like we celebrate.  For example, I don't buy wrapping paper EVER.  I reuse the stuff other people buy or make my own out of paper bags or newspaper.  I just can't spend money on something that will be quickly ripped to shreds.

Last year we didn't get a holiday tree- I thought it was much more practical to not get a tree than to go out and buy one, only to then compost it a few weeks later.  But, honestly, it made me sad to not have a tree or other decorations up.

This year I'm going to try to do a little more holiday stuff. So today I went to a garden store and bought a little bunch of winterberry branches and some stems of  ??? with cool with yellow pods on the top to go in my vase on the table.  As I was browsing around, I was  tempted to buy bunches of evergreen boughs and wreaths, but they were so expensive!  I don't think I can spend $40 on a wreath.  But as I was standing in line, I realized that I have 3 different evergreen trees in my yard and the same grapevines that the wreaths are made of.  And pine cones.

So I went home and clipped some boughs and then tied on a ribbon that someone must have bought to wrap a present for one of us (because I didn't buy it!)

Then I ripped down some grapevines from the fence and wrapped them to make a wreath.  I love the bare branch wreaths the best.  I wove in a couple of different evergreen branches a pine cones, too.

Maybe not quite as perfect as the professionally made wreaths, but this will do.  I'm pretty pleased with myself-  I did a little decorating and didn't have to feel silly about buying a bunch of stuff for the compost bin!

Anyone have any other ideas for DIY decorations?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Staples

This year I didn't make anything super new or fancy for Thanksgiving.  I've kept it pretty low-key for my own sanity and also because I really just wanted the food that my family has always made for the holiday (veganized and gluten-freed, of course!).  I didn't even make a fake turkey or tofu or any "main dish".  Here's the menu for the 7 of us- I'll list the items and give you pictures first and then ramble on and on about a few of the dishes and give some recipes for those of you who are interested.  This might be the longest blog post ever.

Pickled beets, baby gherkin pickles, olives with herbs de provence

Cornbread Dressing
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Spinach Casserole
Marinated Portabello Mushrooms

Cranberry-Ginger Preserves
Caramelized Onion-Miso Gravy
Pumpkin Pie pie cracked open like the Grand Canyon.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

For me, stuffing/dressing is what really makes Thanksgiving... Thanksgiving.  I mean, family and gratitude are important, too.  But the dressing is really important!  My meemaw has always made cornbread dressing, so I just use a gluten free cornbread with her basic recipe, which I've gleaned from just watching her over the years.  The measurements aren't really so important here- That's the beauty of it!  Last year I promised that someday I'd give you the recipe, so here it is (too late for this year, though!):

Meemaw's Cornbread Dressing (veganized and gluten-freed)
In this batch, I used 1/2 cornbread and 1/2 store-bought GF bread that I had in my freezer for way too long.  So dig around in your freezer- maybe you have some, too.  Dressing is all about using up leftovers!  Otherwise, you can use a double batch of cornbread.  PS- Meemaw doesn't use chopped nuts in her dressing, but I really like it.

1 loaf of gluten free bread (I used Food for Life millet bread)
1 batch of Mary Frances' cornbread, cooled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped and dry toasted
1 Tbsp. dried sage (at least)
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1 quart of vegetable broth (homemade or made from bouillon)

Start by toasting the gluten free bread.  Roughly chop the bread into cubes and then lay them on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350, or until toasty and dry (This makes it ready to absorb the yummy broth you'll be dousing it in).  Throw your dry bread cubes in a 9x11 inch glass baking pan.  Crumble the entire batch of cornbread in to pan, too.  The pan will be very full with bread, but don't worry.  It condenses when you add the liquid and smash it down.

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil until it ripples.  Then add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are lightly browned and mostly translucent.  Then add the celery and garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes or so.  Dump all the onions, garlic and celery into the pan with your bread.  Also add the chopped, toasted pecans, sage, poultry seasoning and salt.

Return the pan to the heat and then deglaze the pan with the quart of vegetable broth.  Be sure to scrape up all the delicious little bits of onion off the pan.  Then remove from heat.

Now use your hands to mix up the bread, cornbread, vegetables, herbs, nuts in the baking dish.  It might get messy!  When thoroughly combined, smash the dressing down with your palms.  Last, ladle broth over the dressing, cup by cup.  I used nearly the entire quart.  You want the dressing to be moist to the touch, but not floating in broth.

At this point, I usually refrigerate the dressing until the next day because I like to make this in advance.  But you could bake it right now.  Set the oven to 350F and bake, covered, for 40-50 minutes.

Another recipe that we ALWAYS have at Thanksgiving is Spinach Casserole.  Here people would call it "Spinach Hot Dish".  But that doesn't sound nearly as good to me.  Usually it calls for cottage cheese, Velveeta and eggs.  This adaptation is a little different from the original, but very close in texture and flavor.   The tofu takes the place of both the cottage cheese and the eggs.  The cashew cheese stands in for the Velveeta.  Some corn or tapioca starch replaces the little bit of wheat flour normally in there.  The kids chose this as their favorite dish out of everything I made!

Spinach Casserole (veganized and gluten-freed)
4 10-oz. bags of frozen organic spinach, thawed
1 batch of vegan cashew cheese (just whizzed in the food processor, not drained or baked)
1 lb. of firm tofu
1/2 cup Veganaise
2 Tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch

It's really important to get all the liquid out of the spinach after it thaws.  So wrap it up in a dishtowel and squeeze it like crazy.  Or press it in a strainer.  Just do something to get all the liquid out- You're not making spinach soup.

Add the tofu to the food processor and give it a whizz until it's all pureed together with the cashew cheese.  Taste it and add a little salt if it isn't delicious.  Then add the Veganaise and cornstarch and whizz it some more.  Then combine the spinach with the "cheese" and load it into a glass baking dish.  I used a 9x9 inch one and it worked well.  Bake covered for about 40 minutes and then put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the top is browned.  You can also put this in a crockpot and let it cook on high for a couple hours.

For dessert, I was talked into making a Pumpkin Pie.  I hate pumpkin pie and always have.  That gelatinous texture just grosses me out.  And Mike didn't want pumpkin pie "with a twist" (a.k.a. chocolate added or made into cheesecake).  He wanted regular ol' pumpkin pie.  But gluten free and vegan.  Now gluten-free pie crust has been my nemesis.  I've been okay with using GF cookie crumbs for a crust, but have never really made a traditional pie crust that worked.  Thankfully, the Gluten-Free Girl posted a pie crust recipe just a couple days ago.  So I tried that one...sort of.

After making up the dough I realized that I not only intentionally subbed different flours for nearly every one she called for and used egg replacer, but I also left out a main flour ingredient- the almond flour.  Just left it out.  Or at least I think I did.  I'm not completely sure, though, because I was watching a House MD marathon while baking, so maybe I subbed another flour and don't remember.   Somehow, the dough still looked great and rolled out very nicely, though!  I didn't make 2 crusts with it like I was supposed to because I used a large Springform pan to bake my pie.  Because I lost both my pie pans a few years ago and never bothered to replace them.  And also because Alton Brown says that he always uses Springform pans or tart pans for all his pies.

Anyways, the crust worked great and I filled it with this pumpkin pie filling because I liked that it was called pumpkin pie but used a whole container of cream cheese.  So then I could techically make the plain ol' pumpkin pie Mike wanted, but still get something a little different from that dreaded gelatinous orange stuff.

Just in case the pumpkin pie sucked, I made a cake.  My mom's chocolate bundt cake rocks the whole world because it has chocolate chips in it.  So I made the "Lower Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake" from Veganomicon and just subbed 1 1/3 cup millet flour, 2/3 cup tapioca starch, and 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum for the 2 cups of flour in the recipe.  The only other change I made was that I made was to add about a cup of chocolate chips to the batter and then to bake it about 10 more minutes than called for in the recipe.  Yum!!!

And for the record, I thoroughly enjoyed both the pumpkin pie and chocolate cake.  I can't say I hate pumpkin pie anymore.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Rice Dish Ever

Thanksgiving Day is a little weird at our house because we never celebrate on that day.  Our celebration is on Friday.  But I still wanted to cook something special, even if it was just for myself!

So I cooked up the Fennel Breakfast Risotto from Vegan Brunch.  I used roasted red peppers instead of fresh and added artichoke hearts to it.  I didn't change anything else about the recipe, though (pretty unusual for me).  And now that I've tasted it- I'm so glad I didn't change a thing.  It is totally amazing.  I ate this for every meal today.

I got a good amount of food prepped today for our gathering tomorrow.  Tomorrow I'll finish typing up some recipes for ya'll.  Here's what's on the menu so far:

Assorted pickled vegetables (beets, asparagus, green beans)

Cornbread Dressing
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Spinach Casserole
Cranberry-Ginger Preserves
Caramelized Onion-Miso Gravy
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Bundt Cake

I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This week is my 17 year anniversary as a vegetarian!

Seventeen years ago my 6th grade English teacher randomly assigned me to the "pro-animal rights" group in a debate assignment.  Our group decided to eat vegetarian for the week of the debates to show dedication and, thus, a good grade.  But then our group's debate got pushed back until after Thanksgiving.  I decided to stick it out over the holiday.

As I learned more and more about not just the ethics of eating meat, but also the environmental and health benefits of a meatless diet, I couldn't imagine eating meat again.  And after surviving Thanksgiving dinner in Texas as a vegetarian, I figured that I could do this long term.

It's funny that after blogging for 3 years I don't think I've ever written about why I became vegetarian/vegan (or maybe I have and I just forgot?).  Last week a friend asked why I was vegan and it really made me stop and think.  I used to say that I became vegetarian for health, environmental and ethical reasons.  But when it comes down to it, I think ethics is why I don't eat meat.  The health and environmental reasons are compelling, but really- Eating one bite of meat isn't going to ruin my health or kill the earth.  But I still wouldn't do it.

My rationale is that it's not right for me to eat meat because I couldn't kill an animal for food.  I just don't think I could do it.  It would ruin me emotionally.  Hell, I can't even watch Bambi or Old Yeller.  And if I can't kill an animal myself, I shouldn't do it.  Now, that doesn't mean that it's not right for you...This is just my philosophy.

As for the dairy and eggs- I could probably milk a goat after its kids have eaten or raise chickens for eggs myself.  And I know there are some farms that are super sustainable and respect their animals more than those huge CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations).  But after 7 years of being vegan, I know that I don't really NEED those foods.  I'm admittedly less dedicated in spirit to the vegan diet than the vegetarian diet, but I'm okay with that.  My health has improved so much since cutting out these foods that it makes sense to keep it up!

So that's my story...and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gluten Free Dumplings aka Potstickers

I love a good challenge.  So when my coworker/friend Darci challenged me to make a gluten free vegan version of the Kimchi Dumplings from the new Robin Asbell book, The New Vegetarian, I couldn't say no.  Plus, it's kimchi inside of a dumpling.  Come on-  It's got to be amazing.

I did put it off for a week, though.  I just figured that they're fall apart and be a real pain in the rear.  But then I found this GF vegan dumpling dough recipe from Jill Elise over at Hey, that tastes good!  It works!  And it tastes good!  And it wasn't any more of a pain than making wheat-based dumplings!  Success!

The dough was surprisingly easy to work with- as long as it stays moist and you flour the crap out of your counter top and rolling pin.  Look how pretty these are!

Before steaming

Robin's filling recipe was really awesome- I know cooking the kimchi kills all the good bacteria in it, but it's worth sacrificing some of your fermented cabbage for these little dumplings!  I think I liked them best just steamed, but Mike really liked them best pan-fried.  Either way, we dipped them in a tamari/rice vinegar/sesame oil/chili garlic sauce/ginger concoction and they rocked.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week's Make Ahead Meals

I didn't do as much prep work for this week's make ahead meals...And I really should have.  Tonight was the first night of basketball practice, AKA crazy night.  From now on I need to plan on a dinner that is ready in about 15 minutes or just give in and get Chipotle!

For tonight I had a special request for dinner: baked potatoes.  The kids are nuts about the baked potatoes at grandma's house, so I found out what she does special.  The secret is to rub onion salt all over the outside of the oiled potato before baking.  Then mix in Earth Balance with the center of the potato after baking.  Sounds like a winner!  What's that?  You don't have onion salt?  Me neither.  You can just mix onion powder and salt or you can chop an onion and then rub salt in the juices.  Or dehydrate your own onions, pulverize them with a mortar and pestle, and then mix them with salt.  I took the first option.

On the side we're having the Tangerine Baked Tofu and the Roasted Masala Brussels Sprouts from Veganomicon.

So here's how you can make this ahead:

  • Prick the potatoes with a fork, rub them in olive oil or Earth Balance, and sprinkle them with onion salt.  Wrap in foil and put in the fridge until ready to bake the next day.
  • Mix up the tofu marinade and add tofu.  Marinate in the glass baking dish that you'll use to bake them in the next day.
  • Mix up the cornmeal/spice blend for the sprouts.  Wash and trim the brussels sprouts and store in a container you can use to mix them up with the spices and oil the next day.  
  • On dinner night, put the potatoes in first- they can take up to an hour.  Then add the tofu after about 15 minutes.  Last, add the sprouts about 20 minutes later. 
Sorry for those who don't have Veganomicon.  Let this just be reason 8,265 you should buy it.  And this meal still takes an hour to cook, but the dinner night prep time is very little.  So you could put stuff in the oven while doing math homework with the kids or cleaning the house or during commercial breaks while eating ice cream in front of the TV.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Co-op Booty

This week I got to visit both the Wedge Co-op and Lakewinds Co-op's Chanhassen store. Yippee- That means buying fun, new or hard to find products that I don't really need, but really want to try!

Here's the haul:

Let me show you a little more:
Pure Market Express Lemon Tart. Holy moly. I probably wouldn't make a habit out of paying $7.99 for a dessert, but ... well, maybe. This totally raw dessert is rich and tart- but not heavy or greasy or overly sweet. It's perfect. I hear their other desserts and entrees are pretty rockin', too. This is from Lakewinds Co-op.

Anyone who hasn't tried South River miso should go buy a jar right now. For real, this is the best miso ever. It's in glass jars. It's unpasteurized. And the company is super cool- I get their newsletter and they send yummy recipes and info about miso. My favorite has always been the garlic and red pepper variety...But this dandelion leek variety rivals that. I ate kind of a lot just with a spoon.
Pomegranate molasses. I've needed some for ever and after seeing a really awesome recipe for tofu with pom. molasses and walnuts, I think I need this. Got it at the Wedge.

I don't usually spring for fancy raw foods products, but I was told that this would "blow my mind". And how can you resist organic, raw pistachio pesto? This stuff is intense- it's rich and packed with flavor from olives and sun-dried tomatoes. I wish I could taste the pistachios more, but I'm excited to find all the uses for this stuff. So far I've been spreading it on crackers and thoroughly enjoying it.

I admit bias towards Silver Spring products. Mike is in a band with someone who works at the production plant, so we've sampled darn near every product they make. And I get to hear stories about giant tubes that transport organic horseradish and tamari valves getting clogged and such- Fun! (to hear about, not to actually deal with, I'm sure). Someday we'll get a tour! I extra like their products because they're cheap, tasty, local and organic- Win, Win, Win, Win.

Spices!!! I depend on the Wedge Co-op for various spices and herbs that I can't find at other stores. Sassafras, sarsaparilla, smoked paprika, and black cumin seed- hell yeah!

These Ines Rosales tortas are rockin'. I've never really had anything like them before- They're crunchy, but soft. Like big not-too-hard crackers made with lots of tasty olive oil. I've had the savory-sweet one with anise and olive oil and now this one with rosemary. The anise one is more unique, but both are really good (but pretty heavy on the fat content- these are no diet food).

I think plenty of people know about Uncle Eddie's cookies, but I don't have a steady hook-up for them and they're mighty addictive. So I was super happy to see them at Lakewinds! I think my favorite is the oatmeal chocolate chip.

That's all!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


About 4 days ago I was watching something on TV and saw some commercial for nachos. The commercial was pretty effective because I've been craving nachos since then.

My goal was to make nachos loaded with everything I ever want on nachos- No wimpy little chips with cheese that leave me wishing for more.

These were loaded with:
Whole Grain Milling Company organic corn tortilla chips
Taco style TVP
Melted nacho Teese
Green onions
Tofutti sour cream

I never imagined that leftover nachos were possible...But I made WAY too many for 2 people. I'm actually eating the leftovers right now, at 9am, for breakfast. Yum!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chocolate Chestnut Pumpkin Cake

When I saw Kathy's recipe for Chestnut Chocolate Cake with Cinna Pumpkin Cream Frosting, I knew I had to have it. I've had a can of peeled, roasted chestnuts in my pantry for about 11 months. And chocolate chips and pumpkin are on sale at the Co-op. Oh, and it sounds freakin' amazing.

I did change the recipe to make it gluten-free, though, because it's so sad to see the look on my sweetie's face when he learns that he can't eat something I've just baked.

You should go to Kathy's site "Healthy. Happy. Life" to get the original recipe and the recipe for the frosting. I messed up the frosting recipe, but I thought the cake was so darn good it didn't even need it!

Chestnut Choco Cake
1 1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch/flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup melted vegan buttery spread
1/2 cup canned organic pumpkin
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup vanilla soy creamer
1 cup vanilla soy or hemp milk
Batter Fold in:
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup roughly chopped chestnuts

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease with spray oil, a casserole dish.
3. Add all dry tea cake ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
4. Add in the wet ingredients. Stir until well blended. You should have a fluffy dense batter. It will not be of liquid consistency.
5. Fold in the chopped chestnuts and chocolate chips.
6. Pour batter into casserole dish. Smooth out batter to edges with a knife or back end of a spoon. Drizzle better with a bit of maple or agave syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt. (Or pour into mini muffin tins!)
7. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a light brown crust forms on the edges and the cake begins to pull away from dish. (Mini muffins only bake for 15 minutes).
8. Pull cooked cake from oven and allow to cool.
9. When both the cake and frosting have cooled, you can frost the cake. Sprinkle with leftover chopped raw pecans. Slice into squares.
10. Serve cool. Store in fridge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Make Ahead Meals- Baked Penne

Baked pasta dishes are so easy to make in advance. I'm sure it'd be just as easy to just have pasta and sauce for a quick weeknight meal, but there's something extra rich and comforting about baked pasta.

Tonight we're having gluten-free baked penne with tofu ricotta. Here it is before baking:

It's super easy! First, cook up your gluten free pasta. I used Tinkyada brand GF pasta in a penne shape, but any type would work.

Then prepare a batch of tofu ricotta. You can use the recipe from Veganomicon or just wing it. I just threw a few cloves of garlic, a block of firm tofu, lemon juice, salt and parsley in the food processor.

Before you strain the pasta, pack a bunch of baby spinach in the strainer. Then it'll partially cook while you strain your hot pasta through it.

Then mix everything together (ricotta, spinach, pasta) in a big glass baking dish.

Top with 2-3 cups of tomato sauce (I used some home-canned sauce) and some fresh tomatoes if you have them around still. My green ones from the garden are slowly ripening and I had enough to top this dish. I think I'll add some grated cashew cheese just before baking it tonight. Anyways, put this in the fridge until you're ready to bake it.

Bake at 350F, covered in foil, for about 20-30 minutes or until warmed through. If topping with cheeze, just finish in the broiler for a minute or two to melt it.