Pumpkin Pancakes!

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by
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Fall is here in Colorado. The leaves are absolutely gorgeous this year and slowly turning all sorts of yellows, oranges and reds. The temperature is dropping gently day by day and I find myself eyeing the new shipment of apple cider gallons at my local grocery store. But you know as well as I do that the seasons can’t officially change until there is some measure of celebratory eating engaged. And pumpkin is the star when autumn comes a knockin’.

My son recently brought home a school menu with a recipe for pumpkin pancakes on the back. We all agreed that it sounded good so I whipped them up, substituting the butter, eggs and milk as necessary. The result was liquid-like batter that cooked into bland, blah-looking patties of boringness. No one cared much for them, and I might add that the amount of actual pumpkin in the recipe was questionably low for something named “pumpkin ________.” So I made my own, and they won the taste-off later that afternoon by a landslide. I found that the batter was hard to work with, though, so I made more batches until I got it right. In the end, I found the right dry ingredients/liquid proportions as well as the right combination of spices to bring out the pumpkininess perfectly.

So after making batch number four, we all win! Pumpkin pancakes for everyone!!

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Pumpkin Pancakes (click on the title for a printable version)

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup oat flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1/16 t. (a pinch) ground cloves
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. fine sea salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 c. oat milk (or veggie-based milk of your choice)
3 T. pure maple syrup (or agave syrup)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 c. canned pureed pumpkin

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients and then add in the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Set aside. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl using a wire whisk. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Preheat a griddle or a large stovetop pan to medium heat over a large burner.

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, pouring the wet into the well previously created and mixing from the center out. Do not over-mix, but make sure that the dry ingredients are incorporated. The idea is to pull the batter together with as few strokes as possible. (over-mixing will produce flat and fluffless pancakes)

Spray your heated surface lightly with cooking spray and, if it smokes a little or immediately shimmers, you are ready to pour batter. If the oil has no reaction to the pan, wait a couple minutes for it to get hot enough before pouring.

Pour pancakes, well spaced, and wait to flip until the edges begin to look dry. Cook until both sides are browned. If the cook surface is as hot as you are used to when cooking pancakes, you are likely to burn these. There are more sugars in this batter due to the pumpkin puree and they need to cook low and slow. Medium heat is best.

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These babies will help you savor the season, and get all warm and toasty on chilly fall mornings. Throw the extras in the freezer for quick, to-go breakfasts all week. Syrup is always king, but in our house these pancakes are most loved with apple butter on top.


2 Year Anniversary!

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by
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It has been two years to the day since I took meat, dairy and added salt, sugar and fat out of my diet. (For the one-year anniversary update, click here) I wanted to be in it for the long haul because I believed it was healthy, but I honestly wasn’t sure how far I would get. Turns out, I’ve had no problem maintaining veganism, or rather, the avoidance of meat and dairy, but I have begun to have a problem staying true to the “whole-foods” part of my lifestyle.

Adapting my lifestyle to a plant-based diet required ingenuity and dedication. Everything had to change and there was little in the way of educational support in the mainstream sources I was used to relying on. It required determination as well; socially speaking, I was nervous moving forward. Would people ostracize me or assume I was part of some commune cult? (Mm, not most people…) Overall, though, my fears were unfounded. This lifestyle, once over the “what-to-eat-hurdle,” has been highly sustainable and straightforward. It is actually a fairly common lifestyle and the numbers of plant-based eaters is climbing so quickly that restaurants and grocers everywhere are beginning to offer acceptable options for this uprising of customers. I run into like-minded people on a regular basis, and if people around me aren’t plant eaters, they’re likely eschewing corn syrup, gluten, or processed foods in general (or all of the aforementioned). People across America are now eating for their health, and not for their taste buds. I’m definitely in good company.

My journey, though, has taken some backslides. I have learned a lot and want to report back to you, my valued reader, what I have learned after two years of whole-foods, plant-based eating. I think I should start by explaining why I have a stomach ache right now.

Today is October 1st; Count Day. The day the government uses the attendance at every school to determine the funding each school will get for the year. That means if Little Timmy is absent, the school will not get paid to facilitate Little Timmy’s education and funds from other students (all in a collective “pot” anyway) will need to be spread thinner to cover the exclusion. It’s so important that most schools will actually beg students to come to school sick just to get the funding they deserve. It’s SO important that schools bribe children. With donuts. (at least ours does) Two of my kids attend a bribery-by-donut charter school and one is home schooled. That means that we had to have our own count day at home so my homeschooler wouldn’t feel left out. That meant…

I had to buy a box of donuts.

I had to buy a box of donuts.

I had to buy six donuts because we found this new donut shop (Amy’s Donuts) that has rave reviews (well deserved!) and that my son has apparently seen from the overpass every time we have passed it for the last two years and has filed it away to ask me to take him there as soon as an occasion arose. And far be it for me to go to such a creative donut shop and not get some amazing creations to share with the family later!

Top left to bottom right: cotton candy, apple something-or-other, zesty lemon, pumpkin pie on glazed, fluffer nutter, and chocolate jalapeño.

Top left to bottom right:
cotton candy, apple something-or-other, zesty lemon, pumpkin pie on glazed, fluffer nutter, and chocolate jalapeño.

You can see why I wanted to buy enough to share: I had to try them all! Once home, I picked out the glazed donut with pumpkin pie smeared all over the top and promptly ate it. And now I have a terrible stomach ache. (I have to say, though, it was delicious.)
It’s funny to me that I even CONSIDERED buying donuts for the family when I have been in the throes of overhauling what our diet has become. A couple of weeks ago I finally began to associate my tiredness, headaches and leg cramps with the decline of my nutritional intake. I realized that there was a direct correlation between the processed foods and poor carb choices and these symptoms. I looked at our monthly menu and verified that I had, in fact, began to eat more like a traditional vegan and less like someone trying to cut out added fats, sugars, salts and processed foods altogether. (To clarify; a vegan is typically someone who avoids animal products but does not necessarily pay attention to the overall nutritional value of the foods they do ingest)
Let’s look at my menu for the previous month:
september_menu
Out of 31 meals (34 slots, but two were blank and one said “leftovers”) the following patterns are present:
Nine meals were planned around regular wheat pasta. Seven included the highly processed vegan “meats” that are abundantly available in stores but still high in fat and sodium. Two revolved around an entire bag of store-bought tortilla chips. I fried hash browns in oil to go with green chili one night. We had fried okra once as well as several rounds of store-bought sweet potato tots, which are fat-heavy so they can be baked crispy.
Here’s what gets me the most, though: ELEVEN of thirty-one included hamburger buns, hot dog buns, flatbread, tortillas, or pizza crust. Those are carbs that I feel are unnecessary to have at that rate, partly because of the meals I ingest for breakfast and lunch. Let’s say there are 90 meals in a month: 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners. Every breakfast I eat has morphed from All-Bran cereal with fruit and coconut milk to pancakes or toast. Every lunch I eat has morphed from hummus, veggies, and a salad to a soy sauce-soaked tempeh sandwich on two slices of bread. That means out of 90 meals, 71 include bread items. That’s too high. Carbs are GOOD. But they should more often be in the form of healthy, unprocessed grains and beans. My diet, and my family’s, has turned bread-heavy.
All of those monthly menu statistics are what caused me to realize that the change in how I felt coincided with the change in how raw and veggie-laden my meals were. Taking out the abundance of raw veggies and unprocessed grains had taken away my antioxidants and healthy carb fuels. I don’t like feeling sluggish. I don’t like having headaches. So last week I re-watched the film that started it all: Forks Over Knives. It was a great reminder that processed foods are denser in calories because of how the ingredients are dehydrated, powdered, and concentrated. How our stomachs don’t know we’ve had enough calories because part of our digestive warning system depends on the stomach being stretched until it’s filled, and when you put calorie-dense foods in your stomach until it’s filled, you are far exceeding your body’s caloric needs. This would explain why I had gained 8 pounds over the last two months as my diet had slowly digressed. After watching the movie, I was convinced that I needed to overhaul my diet again. I know what to do this time and don’t have to worry about where to look for recipes! I just have to clear my house out again. This time, instead of clearing out meat and dairy, I have to get rid of the sodas, tortilla chips, crackers, pre-packaged foods, and vegan “meats.” To further prove my point- I have just finished a week of eating whole foods with very few processed carbs and I already lost the 8 pounds I had gained. Pretty amazing.
So take heart, dear reader, and know that the battle for our health is something we all fight with every day. I guess the key is paying enough attention to know when a once-in-a-while indulgence has become a staple. And having self control when passing awesome donut shops.


The Camping Vegan

Posted on: July 11th, 2014 by
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What foods do you think of when you think of campfire cooking?
I totally think: hot dogs, S’mores, foil-pouch beef and veggies, bacon and eggs, skewered meat of any kind, and cold cuts for lunch. This was my camping cuisine repertoire pre veggie-based lifestyle. But I had to reinvent how to feed my family over a campfire pit in the woods if we were to survive our June camping trip. I wanted our meals to be satisfying and healthy (and meatless and dairy-less) while also being easy to cook and having sturdy ingredients that could be transported and kept for a couple of days without getting dented or bruised. We looked forward to a seven hour drive and had to live out of a cooler for three days so I didn’t want too many ingredients that had to be kept cold. Some of the preparations I made at home in my kitchen alleviated the anxiety of prep-work at the campsite. I packaged my meals in grocery bags with labels written on in thick, black marker: “Thursday Dinner, Friday Breakfast, Friday snack, etc.” One morning we simply had cereal for breakfast so we wouldn’t have to start a campfire to cook something lengthy when our goal was to get to the lake to fish right after dawn. That bag contained a shelf-stable box of oat milk and a box of cereal. Simple! Plus I left all of the bags in our van to keep the scent of food away from bears. So when we set up camp we didn’t have to mess with the food hardly at all. Some stuff was in the cooler, but I wrote those items on their prospective “meal bags” so I would know what to grab before even having to think about it.
I’ve shared a little about my organization and thought processes, so now for a couple of recipes that worked so well I just have to share!

Fruit Pies:
These babies were something I had as a kid when camping with my family. We owned a long-handled sandwich press for grilling sandwiches over an open fire. You would just put a piece of bread in each side of the press, put a spoonful of some kind of filling on one side (in this case, fruit pie filling), push the two sides together and lock closed. After holding it over the fire for a while, you could open it up and easily pry out a golden-brown gooey sandwich. I do not own such a convenient device these days, so I had to improvise.
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The bag for this snack-time delight simply contained a can of pie filling, a can of olive oil cooking spray, and a loaf of bread. The loaf of bread will only make about six servings (2 slices per sandwich) but the can of filling contains enough for almost double that. Although more expensive, I found that the blueberry pie filling from Comstock does not contain corn syrup even though their cherry filling does. (Of course my kids voted for cherry anyway!)
First things first: I hope you brought a can opener! (I forgot one on my first-ever camping trip with my husband and I vividly remember trying to open a can of Spaghetti-O’s with a sharp rock and then slurping the pasta and sauce out of a jagged hole) Open the can of pie filling and pour it all into a large plastic cup or baggie or something you have on hand. Then cut off the bottom of the can as well and rinse the can out well. (To avoid calling bears to your site, why not leave zero residue and just lick the can clean?) Set can aside.
Bring out the all-important cooking spray and spray the table-facing side of a piece of bread. Plop a spoonful of pie filling in the center of the bread (I know it’s tempting, but don’t use more than one spoonful or crimping the bread will be difficult) and cover with another slice, which you will spray the top-side of once placed on top of the filling.
Now use the emptied, hollow can as a cookie cutter and cut a circle through the bread, around the filling. Use your fingers to further crimp any spots that are trying to leak out filling.
Once you have made enough, set them on a cookie sheet that has been heated up and is sitting over your campfire. Flip once until golden brown on both sides. Serve and enjoy!
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My kids LOVED these! They thought I was an absolute genius!
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Macaroni & Cheese:
Use this link to grab the cheese sauce recipe: Mac & Cheese – Vegan Style
Now here’s how to do this EASY: Make the “cheese” sauce as per the recipe at home. Blend it up and put it in a plastic bottle. I used an old washed-out ketchup bottle. Store in the cooler. Pre-cook the macaroni noodles to a little firmer than you would want to eat them at. Rinse at home with very cold water and store in an airtight gallon-sized freezer bag in the cooler.
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You can see my emptied plastic bottle on the table next to the cold noodles. Other ingredients we brought were for some gooey sandwiches: block “cheese” and bread.

Now once you are at the campsite, all you have to do is shake up the bottle of sauce really well, and then pour it into a pot that you then place over the campfire embers.

Stir over heat until thickened.

Stir over heat until thickened.

Stir with a whisk until thickened and then throw in the cold noodles and store with a long spoon until heated through. Ta-daa!!!
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This recipe always makes my kids happy!  But to have the little campfire flecks mixed in and that smokey smell from the burning wood, it was even more special.

This recipe always makes my kids happy! But to have the little campfire flecks mixed in and that smokey smell from the burning wood, it was even more special.

Grilled Cheese:
No recipe needed!
This was an easy accompaniment for the mac & “cheese.” I grabbed two slices of bread and sprayed the outside of each piece with olive oil cooking spray.
grilled_cheese1
Then I put slices of Daiya-brand “cheddar cheese” in between the two slices and threw the sandwiches on a pan that was already sitting over the fire, heating up.
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A few minutes on each side or until golden brown, and you have ooey-gooey-melty sandwiches!

Oh, baby!

Oh, baby!

Root Veggie Stew:
This meal was a real “put some meat on your bones” dish, so to speak. I did not prep this stew before leaving our house. I could have cut all the veggies up beforehand, but I knew that the white sweet potatoes would start to turn that nasty brown and they would have to sit in a bag for two full days before we had this meal. So in this case, I ended up peeling and dicing on the small countertop provided to us in our rustic yurt.

You can see all of the peels and veggie ends that are sitting on the paper towel in the foreground.  I brought along a lot of extra gallon-size freezer bags and stored the cut veggies in one, only to use the same bag to bring home our leftover stew home with us.

You can see all of the peels and veggie ends that are sitting on the paper towel in the foreground. I brought along a lot of extra gallon-size freezer bags and stored the cut veggies in one, only to use the same bag to bring home our leftover stew home with us.

The stew contained 3 medium-sized new potatoes, 1 large white sweet potato, 1/2pound of  baby carrots, a large handful of fresh green beans, a turnip, an onion, and an entire head of garlic- each clove peeled but kept whole. I also brought a jar of concentrated veggie bouillon syrup, salt & pepper, and about a half-cup of flour in a baggie. (no need to measure anything- we’re camping!)
About two hours before dinnertime we built the fire and got it going. Then I went inside to do the prep work while the kids ran circles around the yurt. Literally. Because a yurt is like a big circle tent.

All the veggies are cut up!

All the veggies are cut up!

After the fire was hot, we filled our pot about halfway with water from the nearby pump and I whisked in the flour and veggie bouillon before adding the bag of veggies. Then I covered the pot with foil in order to cook the veggies without much loss of water due to evaporation and put the whole thing over the fire. Occasionally I pulled back a side of the foil to stick in a long spoon and stir the pot. Without stirring once in a while, the flour will settle to the bottom and you will have a thick burnt dough on the bottom and soupy water on top.

After a while the pot began to bubble over a little so I loosened one edge of the foil to allow the steam to start escaping.

After a while the pot began to bubble over a little so I loosened one edge of the foil to allow the steam to start escaping.

I’m not sure how long it took to cook because we were having fun playing outside, but it was surprisingly fast- I remember that. After the pot had bubbled over and then sat for another ten minutes, I pulled out a carrot, tasted it, and it was cooked through! It probably took about a half hour over the fire, but that’s a guess.

Lookin' in on the stewy goodness!

Giving a stir and lookin’ in on the stewy goodness!

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All we had to do to serve it was call the kids back to camp, spoon it into bowls, and throw a roll on top of each one. Everyone loved it and it filled their empty bellies just the way a mommy likes.

Mmm, Stewy!

Mmm, Stewy!

Campfire Cinnamon Apples:
Okay, people; this is the good stuff. The stuff my childhood memories are made of. The stuff that makes kids sit around the campfire looking longingly into the embers, waiting, drooling…
I grew up with these lovely baked delights. We had them on almost every camping trip and they were always my favorite- maybe besides roasted marshmallows, anyway. My parents would stuff green apples with cinnamon candies and butter, wrap them in foil and cook them in the embers of the fire until they were soft but not mushy. Firm enough to hold their shape but filled with a sweet red-candy sauce. (drooling)
My husband has an allergic reaction to the Red-Hots, and we don’t eat butter or added fat anymore, so I had to change the recipe a bit. I decided to simply fill the cavity of the apples with all natural cane sugar and some cinnamon powder. I wasn’t sure how it would work…

Step #1: Take the stickers off your green apples.

Step #1: Take the stickers off your green apples.

 

Step #2: Use whatever tool you have on-hand to core the apples without breaking through the bottom.  This takes mad skills, yo.

Step #2: Use whatever tool you have on-hand to core the apples without breaking through the bottom. This takes mad skills, yo.

Step #3:  Fill with sugar mixture.  I used turbinado sugar and had it pre-mixed with cinnamon in a baggie.

Step #3: Fill with sugar mixture. I used organic brown sugar with turbinado sugar and had it pre-mixed with cinnamon in a baggie.

Step #4: Wrap in a square of foil, closing the top carefully so that no liquid could leak out, but also so it's not too hard to open when it's hot off the fire.

Step #4: Wrap in a square of foil, closing the top carefully so that no liquid could leak out, but also so it’s not too hard to open when it’s hot off the fire.

Step #5: Place the apples right next to the embers of your fire, being careful to rotate them halfway through cooking time, which is about an hour.

Step #5: Place the apples right next to the embers of your fire, being careful to rotate them halfway through cooking time. Full cooking time is about an hour, up to an hour and half.

We went for a hike nearby the campground while our apples sat and cooked. We made sure there were no open flames when we left; just lots of embers. When we came back, we turned the apples and played around a little more before opening them up for a late dessert.

The baked campfire apple!  Filled with what turned out to be a cinnamon caramel sauce.  Delicious!

The baked campfire apple! Filled with what turned out to be a cinnamon caramel sauce. Delicious!

They are hot, so be careful cutting!  But if you don't cut them, they don't cool down fast enough to eat right away, and, after all, that's the most important thing.

They are hot, so be careful cutting! But if you don’t cut them, they don’t cool down fast enough to eat right away, and, after all, that’s the most important thing.

Cut in half one way...

Cut in half one way…

...then cut in half the other way.  Note the ooey-gooeyness that flows out!

…then cut in half the other way. Note the ooey-gooeyness that flows out!

A Campfire Cinnamon Apple, ready to serve.

A campfire cinnamon apple, ready to serve.

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Conclusion:
I can do it! I can eat all year in a way that is more friendly to nature, and still do so when communing with nature from a tent or cabin in the woods. Veggies aren’t scary or hard to plan meals with. I just had to be prepared and enjoy cooking with the flexibility since open-fire cooking is more unpredictable.  And it all turned out yummy, so there was nothing to worry about!

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Baked Falafel

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 by
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I recently shared a recipe for tabbouleh salad in which I mentioned how well it goes with a falafel-stuffed pita. (Mmm!) Did you think I would leave you hangin’? I’m a public (domain) servant, so here’s the recipe for baked falafel balls:

Baked Falafel Balls (click on the title for a printable version)
Makes 30-36

Ingredients:

1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour (or chickpea flour)
4 Tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. plant-based milk

Chickpeas, AKA Garbanzo Beans, AKA Food of Heaven Above

Chickpeas, AKA Garbanzo Beans, AKA Food of Heaven Above

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

In a small heat-safe bowl, add the bulgur and pour the cup of boiling water over it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit until softened and water is absorbed.

The cooked bulgur wheat.  This ingredient can be found pretty readily either in a package from Bob's Red Mill in your grocery store or in bulk at a natural food store.

The cooked bulgur wheat. This ingredient can be found pretty readily either in a package from Bob’s Red Mill in your grocery store or in bulk at a natural food store.

Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients (except for the garbanzo beans) into a large food processor and process until well-mixed. Once you have a uniform mixture, add in the garbanzo beans and process until a paste-like mixture forms.

In a large bowl, mix the paste with the cooked bulgur by hand using a wooden spoon or spatula.

The ready-to-form falafel paste.

The ready-to-form falafel paste.

Form balls from the mixture that are each about a tablespoon in volume. Place each ball on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The falafel balls will not expand while baking so they only need to be spaced 1/2” – 1” apart.

The falafel do not have to be very far apart on the sheet, but some distance allows them to cook faster.

The falafel do not have to be very far apart on the sheet, but some distance allows them to cook faster.

Spray lightly with cooking oil spray if desired (I skip this step and they still bake up wonderfully!) and bake on a middle rack in the oven for 30 minutes before checking and turning. Bake for another 10 minutes or until desired tenderness. The longer you bake, the more dry they will get inside- and about 40-45 minutes total baking time seems ideal.

Baking in the oven.  While this is happening, you can cut up some tomato and cucumber to accompany the dish.

Baking in the oven. While this is happening, you can cut up some tomato and cucumber to accompany the dish.


The finished falafel balls.

The finished falafel balls.

Though they will look cracked around the outside, they are cooked and perfect on the inside.  They are also really healthy and haven't been dunked in oil to get fried!

Though they will look cracked around the outside, they are cooked and perfect on the inside. They are also really healthy and haven’t been dunked in oil to get fried!

Traditional (but dairy-free) version of falafel pita with tzatziki sauce.

Traditional (but dairy-free) version of falafel pita with tzatziki sauce.

My new favorite way to eat falafel is wrapped in flatbread!

My new favorite way to eat falafel is wrapped in flatbread!


To Make Patties Instead: Add 2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal that has been pre-soaked in 1/4 cup water in with the garbanzo beans. While stirring cooked bulgur in, also stir in 3 Tbsp. uncooked rolled oats. Makes 6 bun-sized patties, or if you want them thicker, 4 patties. Serve with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts (if desired) and tzatziki sauce on a whole wheat bun.

A patty makes a very good Greek sandwich.  We love the burger version as much as the ball version.  Plus forming 6 patties is less time-consuming if you are in a rush.

A patty makes a very good Greek sandwich. We love the burger version as much as the ball version. Plus forming 6 patties is less time-consuming if you are in a rush.

Falafel burger!

Falafel burger!

About the recipe…
This recipe is amazing served Greek-style; place a few falafel inside of a pita and stuff some cucumber and tomato slices in there as well. Drizzle with a tzatziki sauce of your choosing (vegan version available here) and plate it next to some fresh tabbouleh salad!


Tabbouleh

Posted on: March 7th, 2014 by
2

(update: this recipe was revised April 22, 2014 after I made the salad differently and got even BETTER reviews from my friends and family!)
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This salad is one of the best sides in all international cuisines! I love serving tabbouleh alongside a soft pita filled with falafel balls, lettuce, cucumber slices and tomato slices. Tabbouleh is a salad, which, at least in the American interpretation, is based on a grain. The grain is bulgur wheat, and it is available in bulk at natural food stores or even at your grocery store chain packaged by Bob’s Red Mill. The rest of the ingredients are easily found in your grocer’s produce section, and the salad itself can be prepared very quickly. The hardest part is chopping up the fresh ingredients- the rest is just mixing stuff together in a bowl. Easy. Make sure to allow some time for the tabbouleh to sit and marinate before serving. If it’s going to be eaten at dinnertime, make the recipe mid-morning if possible.

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Tabbouleh (click on the title for a printable version)

Ingredients:
1 cup dry bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/8 cup sliced green onions (white and light green parts only)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper to taste, if desired

The chopped ingredients waiting to be added to the soaked bulgur.

The chopped ingredients waiting to be added to the soaked bulgur.

Directions:
First, pour the bulgur wheat into a small bowl and then pour the boiling water over it and leave to soak, covered, about 30 minutes.

Stir together the lemon juice and garlic and, once the bulgur has finished soaking up all of the water, add to the bulgur.

To a large bowl, add the bulgur mixture and then add and gently combine the remaining ingredients. Leave to sit in the fridge for at least four hours so that the flavors can meld. Fluff with a fork before serving if needed.

Bam! Wasn’t that easy? This dish is often served soaked in olive oil. You can add a couple tablespoons if you wish but I am here to tell you that it’s not necessary and you can save yourself the fat. Feel free to change the ratios of ingredients to suit your tastes. This dish should be a bit tart and full of earthy green flavors. You should be able to taste explosions of tomato and mint in each bite. Adding salt will bring out the flavors but be careful not to overdo it.

A big bowl of tabbouleh, too early to serve as it hasn't marinated yet.

A big bowl of tabbouleh, too early to serve as it hasn’t marinated yet.

Tabbouleh served next to falafel pitas.

Tabbouleh served next to falafel pitas.


Kids Snack: “Dog Food”

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by
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I was recently sent a recipe by my sweet niece Aubrey. Aubrey is 12 years-old and probably thinks it’s *totally* awesome to eat a snack that looks like something you would feed your dog. Well, I agree. So after making a few minor changes to the recipe in order to streamline the process, I ended up with this:
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It IS awesome. And delicious! And vegan!

“Dog Food” Recipe (<-- click on title for printable version)

First, collect your ingredients:
1 12.8oz box of rice cereal squares, 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips, 2 cups of your go-to powdered sugar, and 2 three-foot-long sheets of wax paper laid out on your clean countertop.

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This store-brand version of rice squares was cheap and had no milk ingredients.

Then, melt together the chocolate and peanut butter over low heat in a small pan on the stovetop.

That'll make you start drooling like a dog!

That’ll make you start drooling like a dog!

While that’s gently melting, pour your cereal into one ginormous bowl or two large bowls. It’s a LOT of cereal and with stirring it gets really easy to make a mess if you have too much cereal in one bowl.
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Once the mixture in the pan is melted through, pour it over the cereal and mix with a long-handled wooden spoon.
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When all of the cereal appears to be evenly coated in the chocolate mixture, pour it out onto the wax paper in a single layer.
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Dust the cereal with the powdered sugar. I find that this is easiest with an actual powdered sugar duster (which I have in the cupboard but forgot about when I got much more inventive with the sieve) or a fine-mesh sieve! Tap the sugar-filled sieve over the cereal to evenly coat. Use all of the sugar, even if the coating looks thick.
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Once coated, pull up the sides of the wax paper to kind of “roll” the cereal around just a little to help coat all surfaces.
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Pour back into the bowl to gently stir if you need to coat the powdered sugar more evenly.
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Once evenly coated, you will have “dog food!”
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We stored ours in a gallon-sized bag. If only half full, the bag can be used to shake the cereal around in to finish the sugar-coating process if that sounds easier than the bowl-stirring method.
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If you wash your puppy dog’s bowl with soap and water really well, you can serve up this snack like I did so your children just stare at you for a moment wondering what to do. : )
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Sweet & Thick Baked Beans

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by
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I woke up this morning to the second day in a row of cancelled school for my kids due to frigid temperatures. It’s not snowing or windy or anything. Just so bitterly cold that we are advised to stay indoors. So of course I got to baking right away! And then I thought about dinner, and about you, my loyal reader, and I thought it was time for some baked beans.

These are old-fashioned baked beans! Baked all day in your oven, intoxicating aromas wafting through your house starting around lunchtime, and you still have to wait until evening for the beans to be ready to eat. The good stuff. And bonus: your oven is on ALL DAY. So your house stays really warm and toasty!

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Sweet & Thick Baked Beans
(click on the recipe title to be taken to a printable version)
Makes about ten 1/2 cup servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: Allow 12-13 hours

Ingredients:

1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
9 cups water (or 5 cups water, 4 cups veggie broth)
1 cup of your favorite beer (a medium-bodied brown ale works great)
1 pound dry navy beans (2 cups) (no need to pre-soak, but do pick-through and rinse)
1/2 cup all-natural brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp. liquid smoke
4 tsp. brown (deli) mustard
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

Place a single oven rack in the very bottom of your oven and remove all other racks to make room for an oven-safe Dutch oven or stock pot. Preheat to 350 degrees.

On the stovetop, pre-heat your oven-safe stock pot to high. Add the onions and carefully dry sauté. To dry sauté, initially wait 2 minutes before stirring to allow caramelization to begin, and then once stirred, watch carefully and stir often, most likely lowering the temperature to medium-high to avoid burning. Once the onions start to turn translucent, add the garlic, stir for ten seconds, and then add the 9 cups of water and/or veggie broth, being careful not to get burned by the released steam.

Scrape up the browned bits into the liquid, and carefully add the beer, taking care not to let it foam up too much. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well and dissolve the sugar and molasses. Bring to a boil.

Immediately turn off the heat to the stovetop, cover the stock pot with an oven-safe lid, and place in the oven. Bake, covered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. (If you do not have an oven-safe lid, try covering with thick aluminum foil)

This is about what you'll see after you are well into the uncovered baking time.  It takes a loooong time for all of that water to get absorbed or cook off.

This is what you’ll see after you are well into the uncovered baking time. It takes a loooong time for all of that water to get absorbed and cook off.

Bake for 9 more hours, uncovered. Stir occasionally. 2 hours before the time is up, begin periodically testing the beans for doneness. They should be tender and have an almost creamy interior.

About the recipe….
This recipe takes almost no time to prepare, but a lot of time to wait for! It’s worth it, I promise. This recipe pairs well with Boston Brown Bread, a steamed cornmeal and molasses quick bread.
Your stock pot will get very dirty and have lots of cooked on gunk from the cooking process. If it’s a non-stick pot, clean carefully. If it is stainless steel, scrub with a wire pad for a fairly easy clean-up.
*I have successfully doubled this recipe in my 8 quart stock pot.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and it warms your belly on a cold, wintery day!


Simple Peanut Butter Dip

Posted on: January 30th, 2014 by
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A quick and easy snack for the kids: Peanut butter and apples.

Isn't this a cute little cup of yumminess?

Isn’t this a cute little cup of yumminess?


Any creamy peanut butter mixed with your favorite dairy-free yogurt will make the base of the dip.

Any creamy peanut butter mixed with your favorite dairy-free yogurt will make the base of the dip.

I used:
1 part peanut butter
to
1 part non-dairy yogurt (I found that the vanilla-coconut yogurt was sweet and kept me from having to sweeten the mix)

To that base (tinker with the proportions if you desire) you can add some dry sweetener, cinnamon, or vegan marshmallow cream to fancy it up a bit. Though we found that it was quite delicious without any further additions.

For another fruit dip idea, try mixing vegan cream cheese substitute (or vegan marshmallow cream) with high-quality strawberry jam.

Enjoy!


Buffalo Wings

Posted on: January 29th, 2014 by
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Football-watching food: Wings. Duh.

However, traditional buffalo wings contain… (I know. You’re thinking “buffalo.” But that is incorrect.) …chicken. And chickens are happier running around eating bugs and seeds than they are being pan-fried. But you may be on this veggie diet to shed a few pounds and stay healthy, so you are more concerned about avoiding the greasy skin & fat-covered morsels that are chicken wings. So let’s find a win-win and cook up something that’s veggie-based and fits the meatless mantra we’re all here to share.
Good news! I have found a pre-made solution for excellent wings that requires almost no effort.

Step one: Buy Gardein buffalo wings in the frozen section of your local natural foods store. (Safeway and King Soopers are starting to carry items like this as well now)

Step one: Buy Gardein buffalo wings in the frozen section of your local natural foods store. (Safeway and King Soopers are starting to carry items like this as well now, but they cost more than at Vitamin Cottage.)


Step two: Fry them on a very thin spray of cooking oil in a hot, pre-heated pan.  They cook pretty quickly.  Turn once to brown well.

Step two: Fry them on a very thin spray of cooking oil in a hot, pre-heated pan. They cook pretty quickly. Turn once to brown well.


Step 3: When they are heated through (remember, they are not raw meat and so cooking is just for browning and heating) turn off the heat and throw in some Frank's brand wing sauce.  Or use the sauce that comes with the wings if you like the flavor.

Step 3: When they are heated through (remember, they are not raw meat and so cooking is just for browning and heating) turn off the heat and throw in some Frank’s brand wing sauce. Or use the sauce that comes with the wings if you like the flavor.


Step 4: Throw in a bowl and serve!

Step 4: Throw in a bowl and serve!

Yay! Wings!
Now get some vegan ranch dressing from the natural foods store to dip them in and you’re all set. Easy-peasy.

Variation: Gardein, the same maker of the wings shown above, also makes fabulous breaded “chicken nuggets.”
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This year, to mimic the fried coating on restaurant wings, I am going to bake up a batch of these and coat them, once crispy, with the wing sauce. I may also use the Buffalo Wings-style nuggets, dredge them in flour, salt and pepper, and then deep fry them to see if it is even more authentic. But that’s more for the benefit of science; we prefer low-fat cooking and deep frying really doesn’t fit that description.
: )

I have shared three ways to make meatless buffalo wings this Sunday… Cook up whichever fits your craving and enjoy the game!


Beauty of a Fruit Platter

Posted on: January 28th, 2014 by
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It’s the week before the “Big Game!” Are you drooling over the thought of the food more than the game itself? Me too!!! (Okay I totally get that I may be in the minority. I like football… alright. It’s just that I like food WAY better.)
This year the Broncos have made it to the final game, and I’m here in Colorado watching this absolute fervor unfold. Every day it gets stronger… Pretty soon I think we will see people dancing on their rooftops shirtless in the sub-freezing weather. I’m just sayin’.
The important thing is that I have a huge buffet of tasty appetizers ready for my family. And the one to start it off, as always, is the fruit platter. Fruit is the kids’ favorite healthy snack and it adds so much beauty to an appetizer layout; it’s a must. So today I am going to share the best presentation ever with you! This is courtesy of my momma-in-law, who taught me how to make a “fruit bowl” eye-popping.

Buy your fruit. You will need a fresh pineapple, but the rest is up to you. The idea is that everyone will pick the fruit chunks off with toothpicks so buy things that you can easily chunk or make toothpick-friendly.

How to create the presentation:

Quarter the pineapple lengthwise, but take care to leave the stem intact.  I find that by laying the pineapple on it's side and cutting upward the stem, you can just pull a sharp knife through it with little resistance.  Then chop the bottoms off of each quarter.

Quarter the pineapple lengthwise, but take care to leave the stem intact. I find that by laying the pineapple on it’s side and cutting untoward the stem, you can just pull a sharp knife through it with little resistance. Then chop the bottoms off of each quarter.

You will need to take the tough, fiber-like center out by slicing it off of the edible fruit.

You will need to take the tough, fiber-like center out by slicing it off of the edible fruit.

Cut the fibrous center out carefully near the stem so that you don't remove the leaves.

Cut the fibrous center out carefully near the stem so that you don’t remove the leaves.

Now slice underneath the fruit to remove it from the outer skin.  You will leave the fruit resting in this place- don't remove it- just free it.

Now slice underneath the fruit to remove it from the outer skin. You will leave the fruit resting in this place- don’t remove it- just free it.

Also free the fruit from the stem by making a cut downward into the outer skin.

Also free the fruit from the stem by making a cut downward into the outer skin.

Make 2 lengthwise cuts through the loosened fruit to prepare it for being cut into chunks.

Make 2 lengthwise cuts through the loosened fruit to prepare it for being cut into chunks.

Now cut width-wise into bite sized chunks.

Now cut width-wise into bite sized chunks.

In a large casserole dish or   on a platter if you have one, arrange the pineapple for presentation.

In a large casserole dish or on a platter if you have one, arrange the pineapple for presentation.

I used kiwi on my fruit platter; cut off the top and bottom and then thinly slice the skin off with a knife.

I used kiwi on my fruit platter; cut off the top and bottom and then thinly slice the skin off with a knife.

Cut kiwi into chunks.

Cut kiwi into chunks.

Add to the fruit tray by sprinkling around liberally.

Add to the fruit tray by sprinkling around liberally.

If you can get a good deal on some fresh berries, they really brighten things up.  Here I have added red raspberries.

If you can get a good deal on some fresh berries, they really brighten things up. Here I have added red raspberries.

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

Some cherries I found and washed well.

Some cherries I found and washed well.

This is the finished fruit platter!  Yummers!

This is the finished fruit platter! Yummers! Note that other fruits that work well are: grapes, orange segments, mangoes, and strawberries, to name a few.

As the “token vegan” (as my husband was just recently called) in our circle of friends, we always endeavor to bring fruits and veggies to parties and get-togethers. We know there will always be a shortage of such things and also that people expect them and enjoy them, so they aren’t just for us. I will leave you with a picture of a pretty veggie tray that I brought to a party recently. I found radishes and all kinds of goodies for it. But usually I just stick to the usual suspects: broccoli, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.

This tray had all the basics, but also cucumbers, celery, yellow cherry tomatoes and radishes.

This tray had all the basics, but also cucumbers, celery, yellow cherry tomatoes and radishes.