August 2016 Cooking Class – Cooking with Lentils

August 15, 2016

Our August cooking class focused on lentils. Lentils are little powerhouses of nutrition. Full of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are many different kinds of lentils, each with different properties.

I generally use red, green and black lentils. I love the red lentils for soups as they dissolve into the broth for a hearty, filling dish. Green lentils hold together better when cooked and are great for soups, stews and dishes where you want a bit more texture. And black lentils are very firm once cooked.  Cook up a batch of black lentils and leave them in the fridge. Add them to any dish your are cooking or sprinkle them on salads, or rice for an extra boost of protein and visual interest.

For the class we made a soup using red lentils and lentil-rice balls using green lentils. Of course the class also included a green smoothie and a dessert – apple crisp. I hope you will give the recipes below a try and enjoy them.

A big thank you goes out to Shirley who facilitated the class for me. I took an unfortunate tumble off my bicycle and am not getting around well right now. Shirley did not have time to pre-test my recipes and made them first time for the class. Thank you for taking on the challenge Shirley.

Our photographer, Michael, is away on vacation, so no pictures. I know a recipe is better with pictures, so I will try to add them later after I make these recipes again.

Kale Smoothie

This is my basic go to smoothie and I make it at least once every week. It follows the basic smoothie recipe from The Raw Family, 2 cups greens, 2 cups fruit, 2 cups water.

  • 2 cups kale
  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 cups water

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Red Lentil and Carrot Soup with Coconut

I have been making this lentil soup for years. Its from a cookbook my mother gave me, 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson. I have adapted it slightly over the years. I love this soup even in the hot summer months. The red lentils dissolve into the broth so even those who don’t like lentils will love it.

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 Thai chillies, fresh or dried (optional)
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or white balsamic vinegar

Rinse lentils under cold water and set aside. Place all ingredients except coconut milk and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a slow cooker or large pot. If using, leave chilli pepper whole for a slightly spicy soup, crush for more spice.  If using a slow cooker, cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. If doing on the stove top, bring to a boil and simmer slowly until lentils are very well done and partially dissolved in the broth. If using whole chilli peppers, remove from the soup.

Add coconut milk and lemon juice (or vinegar) and it’s ready to serve.

Lentil Rice Patties or Balls

This Forks Over Knives recipe makes a great patty, ball or loaf. I have adapted the original recipe to add a bit more spices and flavorings. Its great as a burger or in a sandwich. If using the balls to top spaghetti or with gravy or a sauce, heat the balls separately in a frying pan. Don’t heat in the sauce as they will not hold their shape.

Don’t forget to add the oats when the rest of the mixture is quite hot as I find this helps bind the ingredients together well. You can use a food processor to partially mash the ingredients into a finer texture but it is not necessary. Just chop your veggies fine and mash everything together well.

  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ cup brown-green lentils
  • ½ cup short-grain brown rice
  • 2 tsp dried poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 5 medium white or brown (cremini) mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 large rib celery, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp freshly minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves)
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh sage leaf (or 1½ teaspoons dried, rubbed sage)
  • 1 tsp dried  thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh minced)
  • ¾  tsp dried ground rosemary (or 1 ½  teaspoon fresh minced)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh minced)
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (regular contains anchovies)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
  • 2- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (or to taste)

In a medium saucepan on high heat, combine water, lentils, rice, poultry seasoning, and granulated onion. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer, and cook covered for 45 minutes. When done cooking, remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes with the lid still on. (Prepare your remaining ingredients while the rice and lentils are cooking.)

In a medium skillet on high heat, add 1 tablespoon of water. When the water begins to sputter, add the chopped onion, mushrooms, and celery, and cook stirring for about 3 minutes, adding water just as needed to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and cook stirring for an additional 2 minutes, until the vegetables have softened (adding water as needed). If you’re using dried herbs, stir them in with the garlic (if using fresh herbs, add them in next step). Remove from heat.

In a large bowl combine the oats, tomato paste, nuts, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and if you’re using fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano) add them now as well. When the cooked vegetables, and rice and lentils have cooled for about 10 minutes but are still very warm, add them to the bowl and  until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Adjust seasonings to taste (vinegar, soy sauce, spices).

If desired, place the mixture in a food processor and pulse just blended but still chunky.  Shape into patties or balls. Fry in a frying pan until crispy on both sides. Or bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until crispy. Also good as a loaf (bake 1 hour at 350).

Apple Crisp

Right now local apples are plentiful and this recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook is a great way to use them up. It is low in sugar and fat but super tasty. I have adapted the original recipe slightly to add more apples. I love this recipe for an easy dessert and then the leftovers for breakfast.

Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows has a new cookbook coming out in September 2016, next month. You can pre-order your copy of Oh She Glows Everyday from Amazon. I have mine ordered and one for each of the kids too. I love every recipe in her first cookbook.

Filling:

  • 10 to 12 heaping cups of apples, chopped but not peeled
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder or corn starch
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Toppiing:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup thinly sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 11 by 9 inch baking dish with coconut oil, or line with parchment paper.

Make filling. Place chopped apples in a large bowl and sprinkle arrowroot powder on top. Toss well to combine. Add the sugar, chia seeds, cinnamon and lemon juice and combine well. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth top out evenly.

Make topping: Place all ingredients in the same bowl you used for the apples and combine well. Sprinkle evenly over the apples in the prepared pan.

Cover dish with foil and poke a couple air holes in the foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the apples are just fork tender. Uncover dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more until topping is nicely browned.

Serve hot or cold, your preference. Great with a scoop of vegan ice cream or Whipped Coconut Cream. (Check out this step by step tutorial for making Whipped Coconut Cream by Oh She Glows) Leftovers are great for breakfast.

 

Bonus Recipe

We did not make this recipe in class, but its another great lentil soup recipe that I hope you will try. Its from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows Cookbook (I told you I loved every recipe in  the book and I meant it). I adapted it slightly to increase the veggies. The best part about this soup is the delicious broth, I love the spice mixture.

Red Lentil Kale Soup

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 – 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large handfuls of destemmed kale, chopped very fine (or spinach)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat oil. Add onions, garlic, celery and carrots and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the spices, stir to combine and sauté for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes with their juices, broth and lentils. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper, discard bay leave. Stir in kale and cook for about 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Sauerkraut

August 14, 2016

Sauerkraut is a form of fermented cabbage. It is a good source of fibre, vitamins A, C, K, and B, as well as iron, manganese, copper, and calcium. But in its raw, unpasteurized form, it is also full of beneficial probiotic bacteria and great for your gut. Buying unpasteurized kraut can be expensive; however, it is super easy to make at home. At a minimum, all you need is a jar, a head of cabbage and some salt.

1_CabbageI have been making my own sauerkraut for a couple of years. Generally, I buy one head of organic cabbage and it makes about 1 quart of kraut. When we have finished that jar, I buy another head. This summer, however, I have three beautiful heads of organic cabbage in my garden.  I planted six cabbages – one died and two were eaten up by cabbage butterflies. That leaves three for kraut.

3_Ingredients

 

Traditional Ukrainian sauerkraut uses only cabbage and salt. However, I like to make mine a bit more kimchi-like. I add daikon radish, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic and hot chili flakes to mine. The recipe is pretty basic and the following is what I used for my last batch.

Darlene’s Sauer- Chi

  • 3 medium heads green cabbage, shredded finely
  • 1 daikon radish, peeled and shredded
  • 3 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
  • 3 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 3 tbsp shredded fresh ginger (peeled first)
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 teaspoons salt
Shredded cabbage, daikon, carrots, onions, garlic, chili flakes, ginger and salt
Shredded cabbage, daikon, carrots, onions, garlic, chili flakes, ginger and salt

Save a couple of outer large leaves of cabbage and set aside. Shred the rest finely, a mandolin works best if you have one. If not, traditional kimchi uses a coarser cut of cabbage anyway. Use the mandolin as well to slice your onion thin. Shred your carrots and radish (I used the large hole grater). Place all the veggies in a large bowl and add chili flakes, finely shredded ginger and minced garlic. Add salt. They generally recommend 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of veggies. Start with a smaller amount and then you can add more.

 

 

 

massage until liquid starts to release
massage until liquid starts to release

Using your hands, massage the veggies, salt and spices. As your work the mixture, liquid will release.

 

 

 

 

Ready
Ready

Keep massaging the mixture for about 5 to 10 minutes. The volume of veggies should reduce by about a half and there will be lots of liquid. Taste the mixture and adjust for more salt if needed.

 

 

 

1 gallon crock
1 gallon crock

8_In crockPlace the sauerkraut mixture, along with the liquid in a large jar or crock. I used a crock this time, as I was making a larger batch. However, if you are doing only 1 head of cabbage, a large jar works well. Be sure there is lots of room left in the jar after you put the cabbage and liquid in as it bubbles a bit while it ferments and can overflow the jar. Its a good idea to place the jar in a large plate or bowl to catch any drips.

cover with leaves
cover with leaves

The veggies tend to float to the top of the liquid, so place the reserved large leaves on top and press the kraut down so that it is all covered by liquid.

 

 

 

 

 

saucer on top of the cabbage leaves
saucer on top of the cabbage leaves
weight down saucer
weight down saucer

Place a weight over the large leaves to hold them down under the liquid. I used a small crock and placed a saucer on top with a large jar of beans as a weight.

 

 

 

Make sure the mixture is packed down well and remains covered by liquid.

Let the mixture sit at room temperature (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), out of direct sunlight, undisturbed for about 1 week. If you are using a jar, either leave the lid off or open the jar daily to let the gases escape. If necessary, cover the jar or crock with a cloth or cheese cloth to keep out insects and dust.

12_Day 4Its also a good idea to put a container under your jar or crock to catch any excess liquid. As the kraut ferments it will produce more liquid. The weighted jar on top will sink further into the crock and the liquid will rise. On day 4 of my ferment, the liquid was within an inch of the top of the crock.

After the week is up, taste the kraut and see if it is to your liking. If not, let it sit for up to 2 more weeks, tasting periodically. The longer it sits, the more sour it will become. I generally leave mine 7 to 10 days. Once it is ready, pack into jars and place in the fridge.

Fermented cabbage products can be used as a side dish for any meal, just as you would serve pickles. They are also a great addition to a sandwich or wrap. I love sauerkraut on my burgers instead of pickles. In order to preserve the natural probiotics, do not heat the kraut, but serve at room temperature. If you find the kraut too sour, rinse the kraut in water and squeeze out the liquid before eating it.

Fermenting is a great way to preserve cabbage. I remember my mother, of Ukrainian ancestry, making a large 5 gallon crock of sauerkraut every summer when the cabbage was ready in the garden.  We stored the crock in the cold room in the basement and enjoyed sauerkraut all winter. Unfortunately, we generally ate the kraut cooked, so missed out on the probiotic goodness.

For a more detailed explanation of the fermentation process and other alternatives for veggies and spice,  Michael Pollen, the author of Cooked is a great resource.\

August 21, 2016 Update

13_finishedIts now one week since I started the kraut, tasting time. It is incredibly good. Just the right amount of sourness for me. Its a bit on the spicy side but will make a great side to any meal. The three heads of cabbage made three quarts of finished kraut.

I packed the kraut into sterilized quart jars. Since I am not pasteurizing the kraut, it will need to be kept in the fridge.

Looks good, tastes great.

 

Baked Potato and Hummus

July 23, 2016

Baked potato and hummus

Baked potatoes are one of my favorite foods; unfortunately, they are usually served topped with loads of butter and sour cream. Since a baked potato and salad are our go to supper, I have been experimenting with various whole food plant based toppings. This white bean hummus is hands down my favorite hummus and my favorite baked potato topping as well. Its super creamy and you won’t miss the butter on your potato. Serve with a big green salad and you have a complete meal.

baked potato 2During the summer, I like to bake my potatoes (and sweet potatoes as well) in the slow cooker. No need to heat up the oven. It takes between 3 to 4 hours to cook on high, depending on your slow cooker.

ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet and Spicy White Bean Hummus

  • 1 ½ cups baked sweet potato pulp
  • 2 cups cooked white beans (or one can)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • juice of 1 ½ to 2 lemons
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • ground sea salt, to taste
  • 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (start with less, season to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or 1/8 tsp chipotle chili)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake a large sweet potato, or 2 small ones, until tender. You can bake it whole, or peel and cut in cubes and place in a covered baking dish. It will take 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size. Once done, peel off the skin if you baked them whole. (or you can bake it in a slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours)
  2. Places all of the other ingredients into a food processor except cayenne.
  3. Blend well, adding a small amount of water if needed for processing. Taste, add salt and cayenne to your taste (I like it with about 1 tsp cayenne)
  4. Serve with crackers, pita wedges or raw veggies or as a topping on a baked potato

Adapted from Cookie and Kate.

 

 

July 2016 Cooking Class – Cooking with Cashews

July 17, 2016

Today’s cooking class focused on quick, easy and delicious company meals sure to please every palette. Summer in Manitoba is short, so you want to enjoy every minute of it. When company arrives, you want to be able to whip up a delicious plant based meal without spending all day in the kitchen. Try out this delicious plant based menu –  Beet Green Smoothie, Fettucine Alfredo, Greek Salad and Cherry Cha Cha dessert.

(Pictures to be added later)

Beet Green Smoothie

Manitoba gardens are bursting with fresh greens. This blueberry beet green smoothie is so delicious they won’t even realize there are greens in it. And it has a lovely purple color.

  • 2 cups beet leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 orange, pealed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 banana, peeled and frozen
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Greek Salad

  • Red pepper, cored and diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Red onion, diced
  • Add greens, if desired

Creamy Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 4)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Soak cashews for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Drain cashews and place in a blender with the remaining ingredients, except salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust as desired, add salt, pepper, more lemon. Refrigerate. Will last for several days in the fridge and is great on all kinds of salads. (Note: add a teaspoon or two of vegan Worcestershire sauce and some nutritional yeast to turn it into a Caesar Dressing. Adding ketchup and relish will give you a great Thousand Island)

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups chunked cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened cashew milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 2 clove garlic – chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak cashews in water for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain.

Steam cauliflower until tender.

Transfer cauliflower to a blender.  Add drained cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, mustard. Blend until the sauce is totally creamy. Taste and adjust as necessary –salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, etc.

The sauce will thicken as it sits. Thin with water if necessary.

Serve over fettucine pasta and sauted veggies (ewe used red pepper, carrots, mushrooms, onions and peas) for a delicious Fettuccine Alfredo

Cherry Cha Cha or Blueberry Buckle or Peach Perfection

for the filling:

  • 6 cups fresh or frozen fruit (pitted cherries, blueberries, peaches, etc)
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • sweetener (agave, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, sugar), to taste
  • 3 tbsp corn starch (or arrowroot powder)

for the crust:

  • 1 ½ cups almonds
  • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup packed, pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the topping

  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • sweetener (maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup, honey or sugar), to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Place coconut milk cans in the fridge, right side up, for at least 24 hours.

To make filling: place berries in a large saucepan with lemon. Heat over medium heat. Fruit should form its own juice, but add a tablespoon or 2 of water, if necessary at the start to keep it from sticking to the pot. Bring mixtures to a boil. Simmer gently until fruit is tender. Taste the syrup and add sweetener until just sweet enough. Mix corn starch with ¼ cup water in a small bowl until smooth. (Note: need about 1 tbsp corn starch for each 1 cup of liquid. Increase if the fruit is very juicy) Add cornstarch/water mixture to the simmering fruit and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and cool.

To make crust: In a food processor, process almonds with salt until a fine flour forms. Add shredded coconut, dates and vanilla and process until mixture starts to stick together. Press evenly into the bottom of a cake pan or spring form pan. Refrigerate while making the filling.

To make the topping: Open the bottom of the chilled coconut milk with a can opener. Pour off coconut water and save for another use (drink or use in a smoothie in place of water). Open the top of the can with a can opener and scoop out the chilled coconut cream and place in a mixing bowl. Whip coconut cream until smooth. Add vanilla and just enough sweetener.  Keep in fridge until ready to use.

To assemble dessert: Spoon chilled filling over crust. Cover filling with coconut cream topping. Sprinkle toast coconut on top. Chill until ready to serve.

July Challenge

Your July cooking challenge – try cooking with cashews.  How about a Cream of Mushroom Soup, Macaroni and Cheez, Creamy Mushroom Gravy or even Cashew CheeseCake?

Your July education challenge – watch Cowspiracy, PlantPure Nation or Forks Over Knives.

 

Blenders

June 12, 2016

A blender is a key element in my plant based kitchen. Green smoothies are whipped up daily, so I need a blender that can last. And a cashew cream sauce requires a good blender to produce a smooth texture. Many, many years ago we purchased a VitaMix blender (3600 Plus). It turned out to be a really good investment. We paid around $600 for it, but it lasted for 35 years.  That’s a lot of smoothies and banana ice cream.

Broken Blade/Drive Shaft
Broken Blade/Drive Shaft

Sadly, my VitaMix bit the dust. The motor is still in fine working order but the blade shaft broke. Try as we might, we could not find a replacement part. They don’t make them anymore. Coincidently, the day after mine broke we found another, exactly the same, for sale on Kijiji. However, they wanted $200 for it. Given mine just suddenly gave up the ghost, I wasn’t ready to shell out that kind of money for another that might quit the next day.

Besides the VitaMix, I have had several other blenders over the last 35 years, all of which I picked up at garage sales. I have burned out a couple of Osters, 4 Betty Crocker personal blenders and a Magic Bullet.  To say I am hard on blenders is an understatement.

We did our research into what to buy. The units we considered were:

  1. VitaMix – I still consider the VitaMix to be the Cadillac of blenders. However, they also come with a %500 to $600 price tag. These power blenders use 1,500 watts of power.
  2. Blendtec – Also a very good blender. I use one of these for smoothies at the cooking classes. They have a smoothie button, just push and when the machine stops the smoothie is done just right. However, these also have a $500 to $600 price tag and use 1,500 watts of power.
  3. Ninja – my all have Ninja’s and love them. I like the design with some of the blades higher up on the shaft. I have used Kelsey’s Ninja for making green smoothies and found that they didn’t blend the greens as finely as I would like. I usually made a big green smoothie then finished it off to smooth consistency in the individual cup blender.  Also, there are a lot of plastic parts in this unit which worries me given how much use it would get. The Ninja is one of the new power blenders, using 1,500 watts of power.
  4. Waring – in our research we came across a review for a Waring commercial bar blender. After further research, we liked what we read and decided to give it a try. At only $150 on Amazon it was affordable, but a major reason for choosing a Waring MBB518 was that it only used 550 watts at peak. (We are off grid and during the winter, there are days when we did not have the power for the VitaMix)
35 year old VitaMix and new Waring MBB518
35 year old VitaMix and new Waring MBB518
Waring MBB518
Waring MBB518

Waring blenders are designed for commercial use and I am hoping this means they will stand the test of time – lots of green smoothie action. It has only 2 speeds, high and low – what more do you need? I like the glass container and the small compact motor unit. I have been using mine for a few days now. Three smoothies and a cashew cream sauce later and I love the machine. The container is much smaller than my old VitaMix (about half the size), and its much quieter too.  However, it has no problems making a smooth smoothie or sauce and powers through the frozen fruit like a pro. I think the smaller size helps.

The real test will be time.

August 11, 2016 update

I had used the Waring blender for just over a month and loving it. With the smaller container, I had to make 2 batches to feed both of us, but it did a super job blending them up nice and smooth. I really loved it for cashew creams, which is where the small container really shines. But then suddenly, it stopped working. We were on a green smoothie week and I guess it didn’t like making 6 to 8 smoothies a day. The motor runs but the blades do not turn under a load. The good news is that it is covered by a warranty so its been shipped off to Ontario. In the meantime, I am back to using the old Oster, carefully so as not to burn it out as well.

The day the Waring died, I checked VitaMix on line and found they had a sale on Certified Reconditioned units (sale on to September 30, 2016). These reconditioned units usually sell for $429 but are on for $319. We decided that perhaps the VitaMix is the best bet for our heavy blender use family. The units come with a 5 year warranty (Waring is 2 years) and free shipping. As a bonus, shipping is free if you need to return it for warranty work (cost me $20 to mail the Waring back). I purchased the extended warranty for an additional 3 years, for a cost of $99.

The drawback with the reconditioned units is that you don’t know exactly what model you are getting. It can be one of four C-series machines – Professional Series 500, 6300, 6500 or Total Nutrition Center 3.  However, I am not that picky and anxiously looking forward to it arriving. Will keep you posted with what I got and how it performs.

August 15, 2016 Update

My Vitamix has arrived! As mentioned earlier, its a reconditioned unit so you don’t know which one you will get. I got a 6300. It retails for $599 and I got it for $319. That’s a great deal.

I was super excited to try it out. Made myself a green pudding for dessert – 1 cup water, 3 tbsp chia seeds, a couple slices of fresh ginger, 2 cups parsley, 1 frozen banana and 1 cup frozen pineapple. Used the smoothie setting on the blender and voila – a totally creamy dessert pudding.

raspberry ice creamKen just came into the kitchen to ask if there was anything for dessert. I said “Green Pudding”. He turned up his nose just as I turned the page on the Vitamix cookbook I was reading. I said “how about a peach sherbet?”, which was on the cookbook page. Of course he said yah! No frozen peaches in the house but he did find raspberries. I used 1 cup almond milk, 1 frozen banana (for sweetness) and 1 cup frozen raspberries. OMG, I am in love with this machine. I used the frozen dessert setting and the tamper and in no time at all, super creamy and the consistency of soft serve ice cream. I used my old Vitamix for frozen desserts, and it did a good job. Better than any other blender I have used. However, it was no contest with this Vitamix 6300. I love the pre-set settings. The blender starts out slow and gradually increases in speed and then automatically stops.  I see lots of frozen desserts in our future.

Will update the post after I have had a chance to put the Vitamix 6300 through its paces.  And also on the repair progress on the Waring.

 

Plant-Based Travel Through Ireland and Scotland

June 11, 2016

We have just returned from a bus tour through Ireland and Scotland.  This type of trip is highly organized and most of the meals are provided as part of the package. As my first bus tour, I had no idea how they would be able to accommodate our dietary needs. In our group of 36 travellers, we started with 2 plant-based (my husband and myself), 1 vegetarian, 1 celiac and 1 dairy free.  By the end of the tour, we were 3 plant-based, so I guess the plant-based meals were appealing.

The tour was arranged through Transat Holidays and they took care of the dietary restrictions. Since traditional Irish and Scottish food is animal protein heavy, I was expecting to eat more than a fair share of ‘chips’ (French Fries). I was pleasantly surprised with the variety and tastiness of the meals. Every pre-organized meal had a vegan option for us.

A full Irish breakfast was included in the package. A full Irish breakfast was generally eggs, several breakfast meats (included blood sausage, or black pudding, in Northern Ireland), grilled tomatoes, cereals, breads, and fruit. The vegan option were great; usually baked beans, potatoes, grilled tomatoes, toast, fresh and dried fruit. Never a problem leaving full after breakfast.

Lunch was generally on our own. Sometimes they were at a pre-organized venue specially designed to cater to bus groups. And they always had a vegan option, though often not noted on their menu, you had to ask for it. But at least they were all familiar with the request and were able to accommodate. These venues were well organized to get large groups in, fed and back out touring in short order. Their menus were generally simple with few options but the food was always very tasty and hot. I am not sure how they do it but the food was always served very hot. We never had a luke warm meal.

Arranged dinners were quite elaborate three-course affairs. A starter, a main and dessert. Since our dinners were often later in the evening, these were heavy meals to consume. I appreciated that the vegan options were lighter; a fruit plate or salad for a starter, rice or couscous and veggies for the main and another fruit plate for dessert.

About half of the dinners were on our own, which gave us the opportunity to search out a pub meal or local vegetarian restaurant.

We were really grateful for the wonderful meals. Sometimes we ended up eating a bit of dairy (Irish Soda Bread is usually made with buttermilk) and the meals were not whole food (white rice, oils). But we were able to get a goodly amount of fruit and veggies so we were happy.

So it is totally possible to travel plant based, and you don’t have to live on salads to do it. The important thing to remember is that if there are no options on the menu, ask. We would just ask for a plant based option and took whatever they offered.  You might be surprised at the tasty meals you will get.

Some of my favorite meals included:

Johnnie Foxs Tavern in Dublin – the veggie option was Colcannon Soup and a delicious bean stew. They even made a special vegan and gluten free birthday cake for the group so that everyone could enjoy it.

Mushy Peas and Chips – my favorite pub food.

2016_5_Galway juiceGalloway Street Market – Whole wheat samosa, curry and fresh squeezed carrot, ginger and apple juice. This was our first indication of a growing plant-based community in Ireland and I enjoyed chatting with the vendors.

 

 

 

Connaght Hotel in Galloway – Detox Salad with tofu and edamame beans

Jacksons Hotel in Ballybofey – I had a delicious roasted veg with baked potato. I got the meal by mistake as it was intended for the gluten free person; however, they quickly made her another and I enjoyed this simple tasty meal.

Green Smoothie – I was ecstatic to find a green smoothie on the menu at the little deli in Derry just outside the entrance to the old walled city. I was definitely missing my daily green smoothie and the glass of kale, cucumber, celery and pineapple goodness went down real well.

2016_9_Belfast_Raw Food Rebellion1Raw Food Rebellion in Belfast – this was our first long stretch of free time during the trip. Tired of souvenir shops and site seeing, we hopped a local bus in search of this gem we found on the internet. Our efforts were well rewarded as we found our best meal of the trip.

 

 

 

2016_9_Belfast_Orange Chocolate Cashew CheesecakeThe chef indulged us by offering a tasting of each of the menu items – Roasted Tomato Soup, Malaysian Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry, Raw Pad Thai, Roasted Chickpea Caesar Salad, Mighty Mexican Sandwich and Rebel Tacos. Combined with fresh made Kombucha and an Orange Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake and we were in heaven. If ever you find yourself in Belfast, be sure to check this place out.

2016_9_Belfast_Raw Food Rebellion

 

2016_9_Belfast_SlumsSlums in Belfast – after our large lunch at Raw Food Rebellion we had not planned on having dinner; however, we ran into the new vegan on the trip and decided to join her. We opted for a simple Indian restaurant, with vegetarian options, close to the Europa Hotel called Slums. You get a bowl meal with your choice of rice, protein and veggies. Loved the eclectic décor – corrugated metal sheeting, chip board and funky benches. I opted for pampodums and chutney.

 

 

Luna Rosa in Glasgow – Not a vegetarian restaurant but they served a delicious risotto.

Taco Manzama in Glasgow – Located in the train station in downtown Glasgow close to The Jury hotel, they offer vegan options. Ken had a Tofu burrito bowl and I had a Mushroom and Eggplant Taco Salad. Very tasty and we enjoyed people watching in the station as we enjoyed our dinner.

2016_11_Edinburgh_Baked PotatoThe Baked Potato in Edinburgh – Another vegetarian gem we found on the internet. Located just spitting distance off the Royal Mile is was super convenient while sightseeing. It was just a little hole in the wall that served Jacket Potatoes (baked potatoes)  with a variety of toppings. They have only one table with bench seating, but it was great for mixing with other tourists. We met a nice couple from Portland who were celebrating their 10th anniversary.

2016_11_Edinburgh_Haggis Baked Potato and SamosaKen opted for Vegan Haggis Samosas and I had a Jacket Potato with Haggis topping. I think if the rest of the group could have tried this haggis they would have loved it as the meat version was not a hit with anyone. This haggis was a combination of veggies, oatmeal and nuts (maybe lentils too but not sure). Will be trying to replicate this one as it was a great topping for a baked potato. They even had a Cherry Tiffan for dessert. Delicious.

Whole Food Plant Based Cooking – Eliminating Oil

May 19, 2016

Five years ago, my husband and I watched the documentary Forks over Knives, and we both decided that, going forward, we wanted to adopt a whole food plant based diet (WFPB). For the previous 30+ years, we had been following a vegetarian diet, eating some eggs, fish and yogurt.

The transition to a solely plant based diet was easier than expected. I finally felt like I had found the way I was meant to eat. What I ate aligned with my values and I felt great. Eliminating eggs in baking was an exciting challenge and I loved learning how to cook all over again.

The transition to a whole food diet was another challenge. Although we seldom ate processed food, eliminating oils in our diet was a challenge. Oil is a processed food product – all the nutrients removed, leaving only the high calorie fat.  (see this Forks Over Knives link for further info) And although I don’t believe in calorie counting, I do believe in making calories count; and teaspoon for teaspoon oil offers little but calories. So for the last five years, I have been working on cutting back.

Salad dressings are loaded with oil. Kind of ironic that when you increase start eating more veggies you can also add loads of refined oil to your diet through salad dressings.  But I was amazed to find so many great tasting oil free salad dressings.

Eliminating oil in stir fries is something I have been avoiding for the last five years. I have read about dry frying or adding small amounts of water or broth but always assumed it was difficult and would result in a less flavorful product. However, that is not the case. Recently, I recommitted to eliminating oil and began dry frying. It’s not difficult at all.

A good non-stick pan helps but is not essential for frying veggies without oil.  I found the best results cooking on a lower heat. For some reason, garlic seems to stick, so I don’t add it until later. I generally start with onion, then add other longer cooking veggies like carrots, peppers, mushroom and celery. To finish up, add the quick cooking veggies like kale, spinach, peas and broccoli along with the garlic and spices. If things start to stick, a tablespoon of water or broth will usually loosen things up.  If you are adding rice or quinoa to the pan, adding tamari, soy sauce, water, broth or a sauce will hep.

An unexpected bonus of being oil free, is that the stove is void of oil spatters.

I am continuing to experiment and move towards removing refined oils from my diet. As I perfect the technique, I will update previous blog posts with oil-free options.