Monday, April 16, 2018


Best Blog Tips

Yikes! It's been almost a month since I last blogged!  I'm afraid that I've been a bit preoccupied with changing my diet, cooking and lifestyle somewhat after a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. (You can read a bit about this in this blog post.)

1.) I have stepped up my exercise, for one thing, and, 2.) learned the difference between Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load-- see for an explanation and food lists.  (For me, the Glycemic Index/Load type of diet makes more sense than the currently-popular Keto Diet, even the vegan version of it. )

From the above link: "The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers–the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. So a low GI food will cause a small rise, while a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike. A list of carbohydrates with their glycemic values is shown below. A GI of 70 or more is high, a GI of 56 to 69 inclusive is medium, and a GI of 55 or less is low.

The glycemic load (GL) is a relatively new way to assess the impact of carbohydrate consumption that takes the glycemic index into account, but gives a fuller picture than does glycemic index alone. A GI value tells you only how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. It doesn't tell you how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. You need to know both things to understand a food's effect on blood sugar. That is where glycemic load comes in. The carbohydrate in watermelon, for example, has a high GI. But there isn't a lot of it, so watermelon's glycemic load is relatively low. A GL of 20 or more is high, a GL of 11 to 19 inclusive is medium, and a GL of 10 or less is low."

It's a slog finding scientifically accurate, up-to-date and readable material on this subject, but here are a few more helpful links, if you are interested (not necessarily oriented to vegans):

3.) I've also been educating myself about "resistant starch".  If you haven't heard of this, check it out-- it's a game-changer!

And finally...

4.) I rarely make desserts anymore, except for those special occasions, so I've also been studying how to lower the sugar content (even of "natural" sweeteners) in desserts (and that can affect the structure of baked goods, by the way), and which sweeteners might fit best with my needs, in terms of flavor, health, availability and cost, among other factors

I'll write more about this in another blog post, but one of the sweeteners I'm using (with caution, of course!) is dates.  For a simple explanation, see
"Unlike processed sugar (i.e. white sugar, brown rice syrup, cane syrup, and corn syrup), Medjool dates won’t spike your blood sugar levels. Because of their high fiber content—12 percent of your daily fiber per serving—your body breaks them down slowly, giving you a sustained release of energy without the dreaded sugar crash." 
(PS: I've been using Deglet Noor dates, but have even successfully used compressed dates meant for baking to make date paste.)

But, remember-- you want to keep that fiber, so use whole dates (as in my BBQ sauce recipe below), or a homemade date paste, rather than a date syrup. To make Date Paste: puree 1 cup pitted dates with 1/2 to 1 cup hot water (depending on how thick you want it) in a high-speed blender or food processor until a paste is made. Keep refrigerated.


Printable Recipe

Makes 10 buns
High-fiber and protein rich beans, whole wheat flour, high soluble-fiber-rich oat flour, and a bit of high-protein vital wheat gluten serve to lower the glycemic load of this recipe-- but it doesn't mean you should "pig out" on it.  Serving size matters!

NOTE: These could also be made into hotdog buns.
You can double the recipe, but no need to double the yeast if you do.

1 cup rinsed and drained canned or cooked white beans OR yellow split pea puree
(NOTE: If the split pea puree is very thick, add about 2 T. water to it.)
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
ADDITIONAL: (NOTE: If you are on a no-fat, no-oil regime, try using either unsweetened smooth applesauce or aquafaba [liquid from cooked or canned chickpeas] instead/)
2 Tbs oil
FLOUR MIXTURE-- mix together:
1 cup whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground or whole-milled
(NOTE: You can use sprouted whole wheat flour if you have it.)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup oat flour (I just grind oatmeal in a dry blender.)
2 Tbs vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
soy milk or Starch Glaze (see below)
raw sesame seeds, or poppy seeds

Puree the beans or split pea puree with the 1/4 cup water.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, or your food processor bowl, or your electric mixer bowl, mix together the 3/4 cup warm water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for a few minutes.  Add the pureed beans or yellow split peas and the oil.

If you are mixing by hand, stir in the Flour Mixture a bit at a time, until it is a knead-able dough.  Turn out on a piece of baking parchment or silicone mat and knead until you can form a smooth ball.

If you are using a food processor, dump in the Flour Mixture and process until it forms a ball on top of the blade.

If you are using a mixer with a dough hook, add the Flour Mixture, turn on the machine and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a medium to large oiled bowl, cover and rise in a warm spot for about an hour, or rise, well covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, shape into balls and press down into flat shapes with the palm of your hand, making the center of the bun a bit concave.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover and let rise until nicely rounded on top, for about 1 hour. Do not over-rise. (If the dough is cold, you may have to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.)

When the buns are about half-risen, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Glaze the tops of the buns with soy milk or Starch Glaze, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and switch the buns from the baking sheets to cooling racks.  Cool thoroughly before using or storing.  (They can be frozen.)

(If you can't use corn or wheat starch, see this article or this one.)
In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 c. cold water with 1 tsp. corn or wheat starch.  Stir over high heat until thickened and clear.  This glaze can be used instead of an egg white glaze.


Printable Copy

Makes about 3 cups
High-fiber dates subtly sweeten this sauce, and the acidic tomato products, mustard and vinegar also lighten the glycemic load. (See info about dates as a sweetener in the text above.)
I've been using this delicious  sauce instead of ketchup!

Blend until smooth:
1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine (can be non-alcoholic)
6 oz. tomato paste
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I prefer Costco's Kirkland brand)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
8 large-ish soft dates, such as Medjool or Deglet Noor, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 T. (or more to taste) Chinese Chili Garlic Sauce (See Note and photos below)
1 T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. EACH:
onion powder
garlic granules
smoked hot paprika
liquid smoke
black pepper to taste

Scrape into a microwave-proof 2 qt. batter bowl and microwave for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. OR, scrape into a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Cool and pour or scoop into a Mason jar.  Twist on the cap and refrigerate. This will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

This product is easily available in supermarkets and Asian grocery stores or online.  Here are two common brands-- Huy Fong foods, Inc. and Lee Kum Kee:


Thursday, March 22, 2018


Best Blog Tips

It's not so nice out now, but last week we had some sunny, warmish days-- enough to make me think of making a hearty salad for lunch instead of a soup.  It was almost shopping day, so I studied the contents of my refrigerator and freezer for what needed using and/or what was available, colorful and tasty.  I already had some of my staple low-fat balsamic vinaigrette made (see recipe below), so I kept that in mind as well.

So, here's what I came up with on short notice. It was easy to throw together and a hit with my husband (and also fed us for two lunches).  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!


Serves 4

1 lb. slender fresh young green beans
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 medium onion (whatever kind you like-- I used a white one), chopped
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen sweet corn kernels
1 cup red grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
about 1/2 cup Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below) or similar type of vinaigrette
1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite vegan Parmesan substitute (I used EarthIsland/FollowYour Heart)

Pick over the green beans, removing stems, and cook until tender, but not limp.  Cook them however you prefer-- they can be steamed, microwaved (in a tiny bit of water in a covered casserole), or brought to a boil just covered in water on the stove, then simmered for a few minutes, u ntil done to your liking.

Drain the beans in a colander and run cold water over them until they cool off a bit.  Leave in the colander to drain further.

Saute the onion in the sesame oil until they are softened and a little browned around the edges. set aside.

Spread the corn kernels on an oiled baking sheet and place about 4" under your oven's broiler.  Broil until they start to char a bit, toss them a bit with a spatula and mound them up a bit in the middle of the pan and broil for a few minutes more.  Set aside.

When everything is ready, toss the green beans, onion and corn together in a medium-sized serving bowl with the sliced grape tomatoes and salad dressing.  Divided between serving bowls and sprinkle each serving with some of the cheese.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 204 calories, 34 calories from fat, 4g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 172mg sodium, 458.7mg potassium, 29.9g carbohydrates, 5.8g fiber, 5.4g sugar, 8.3g protein, 5.2 points.


This is a good basic dressing for many types of salads. 
Yield: 1 1/2 cups  Servings: 12
1 serving= 2 tablespoons

1  cup Fat-Free Oil Substitute for salad Dressings OR aquafaba (unsalted chickpea broth from canned or home-cooked) 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar (I like Costco's kirkland brand)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt

Whisk, shake, or blend the ingredients together well, bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 50 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 175.5mg sodium, 12.9mg potassium, 2.6g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, less than 1g protein, 1.5 points.


Monday, March 5, 2018


Best Blog Tips

I apologize heartily for having neglected this blog in the past few months, and for not writing a post for over a month!  There's been a lot going on lately, on top of which, DH and I are just getting over a very long and uncomfortable cold (not the flu this time, but not fun!).

One thing that is taking up a lot of my time has been a diagnosis of pre-diabetes!  I almost fell off my chair when my doctor told me this.  It may be an inherited tendency-- we don't know.  So, I've been working up my exercise regime, which I had not been keeping up as well as I should have (especially while sick), and spending much of my time poring over books, websites, and charts to do with the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load, and tailoring my already-pretty-good vegan diet to this advice:


"The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Also known as "blood sugar," blood glucose levels above normal are toxic and can cause blindness, kidney failure, or increase cardiovascular risk. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. Low GI foods tend to foster weight loss, while foods high on the GI scale help with energy recovery after exercise, or to offset hypo- (or insufficient) glycemia. Long-distance runners would tend to favor foods high on the glycemic index, while people with pre- or full-blown diabetes would need to concentrate on low GI foods. Why? People with type 1 diabetes and even some with type 2 can't produce sufficient quantities of insulin—which helps process blood sugar—which means they are likely to have an excess of blood glucose. The slow and steady release of glucose in low-glycemic foods is helpful in keeping blood glucose under control.

But the glycemic index of foods tells only part of the story. What it doesn't tell you is how high your blood sugar could go when you actually eat the food, which is partly determined by how much carbohydrate is in an individual serving. To understand a food's complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly the food makes glucose enter the bloodstream, and how much glucose it will deliver. A separate value called glycemic load does that. It gives a more accurate picture of a food's real-life impact on blood sugar. The glycemic load is determined by multiplying the grams of a carbohydrate in a serving by the glycemic index, then dividing by 100. A glycemic load of 10 or below is considered low; 20 or above is considered high. Watermelon, for example, has a high glycemic index (GI) (80). But a serving of watermelon has so little carbohydrate (6 grams) that its glycemic load (GL) is only 5."

So, I'm not making desserts these days, getting used to my morning latte without a teaspoon of brown sugar, using a few dates in my oatmeal instead of sugar on top (dates have alot of fiber, which counteracts the sugar in them), learning about resistant starch and low glycemic grains, and experimenting with making low GL bread with them (adding some bean flour, or okara [soy pulp] from my soy milk making, and/or some vital wheat gluten flour helps, too)

Who knew that converted/parboiled rice carries a lower glycemic load (GL) than brown rice and has? (The process creates resistant starch while protecting most of the nutrition of the whole grain rice.) We are loving parboiled basmati rice! (Here's a fairly simple explanation of resistant starch.)  And my beloved semolina pasta is low GL, especially if cooked al dente and then refrigerated. The resistant starch remains when reheated. Ditto for potatoes. Buckwheat, oats, bulgur wheat, rye and quinoa are also good choices.
We already eat lots of vegetables and fruits and protein-rich legumes, soy products, and seitan, and a pretty low-fat diet, so I don't have to change much there.

Anyway-- I have alot to learn, but I've lost 6 pounds without really trying to and we're eating well.  I hope to have some good new recipes for you soon.  In the meantime, here are some old favorites from two of my older cookbooks.

Thanks for your patience!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 4
(From my book, "Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen: All Vegan Recipes", Book Publishing Co., 2000)
Corn is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you thick of Chinese cooking, but, when it was imported from the Americas, the Northern Chinese took to it readily.  This soup, which often contains chicken or crab in its non-vegetarian incarnation, is extremely popular, even at formal banquets, but it's inexpensive, quick and simple to make.

6 ounces smoked tofu, cut into small dice (You can sauté the cubes in a bit of oil to brown, if you like, but that's optional.)
4 cup low-salt vegetarian "chicken-y"  broth (such as Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken broth paste)
14-15 ounces canned creamed corn (this product contains no dairy ingredients)
1 cup frozen petit pois (baby peas)
1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
pepper to taste
1 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. cold water
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 Tbs soy "bacon" bits OR 2 T. chopped vegetarian "ham" 

Mix the broth, creamed corn, peas and soy sauce (and the optional soy "bacon" or "ham" at this point, if you're using it) in a medium pot or saucepan.  When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook gently until the peas are barely tender.  Add the smoked tofu, pepper to taste, and dissolved cornstarch, stirring.  Simmer until the soup thickens, then drizzle the sesame oil on top and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 177 calories, 41 calories from fat, 4.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1249.5mg sodium, 240.5mg potassium, 28.9g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 6.5g sugar, 10g protein, 5.3 points.


Printable Copy

Serves 4

My Peruvian father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina, loved Japanese food, so he took us to Japanese restaurants fairly often when we were growing up in San Francisco.  It was always such fun to watch the kimono-clad server quickly make the sukiyaki right in front of us. This is my vegan version. 

(From my book, 20 Minutes to Dinner, Book Publishing Co., 1997)
All you need is a pot of steamed rice to go with this wonderful Japanese classic.  If you have a large electric skillet, you can cook this at the table in true Japanese style.
NOTE:  If you do not have shirataki noodles (clear Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam), substitute Asian rice vermicelli, or bean thread noodles (also called "cellophane" noodles, made from mung beans), which have first been soaked for 15 minutes in warm water.  If none of these is available, substitute 2 c. fresh bean sprouts.

Shirataki Noodles
**Have all of the ingredients arranged in piles on a platter when you begin to cook.

1/4 c. Japanese soy sauce, or tamari (or  soy-free alternate, see note below)
1/4 c. honey, sugar, or alternate
1/2 c. water
2 T. dry sherry or mirin (Japanese rice wine)
Soy-Free Soy Sauce or Tamari Replacement: Substitute this mixture tablespoon-for-tablespoon for the soy sauce called for if you have a soy allergy. 
**Mix 3/4 c. water, broth or mushroom soaking liquid mixed with 1 T. EACH yeast extract paste (such as Marmite), soy-free gravy browner (like Kitchen Bouquet), and salt.  This replaces 15 T. (slightly less than 1 c.) of soy sauce.
**To replace some of the complex qualities that a good fermented soy sauce or tamari supplies, use some dry sherry or Japanese mirin wine, and/or mushroom broth or concentrate as some of the 3/4 cup liquid in the recipe.

Sukiyaki Ingredients:

For a soy-free version, omit the tofu and either use 1 1/2 lbs. seitan,  OR  use the 8 oz. seitan called for and double the amount of mushrooms
1 lb. regular medium-firm tofu 
8 oz. seitan, very thinly-sliced 
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut in half (or you can use thick slices of portobello mushrooms, or whole criminis) 
10 oz. cleaned spinach leaves, sliced 1" thick
1 (8 oz.) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
1 bunch green onions, cut into 2" lengths OR 1 large white onion, sliced
2 to 4 cups fresh, cisp bean sprouts
1/4 lb. dried shirataki noodles, soaked in warm water 15 minutes (see Note above for substitutions)

**(Put a pot of  rice of your choice on to cook before starting the recipe.  Short grain white rice is the Japanese choice, or you could use short grain brown rice, if you prefer.)

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and set over low heat while you prepare the ingredients.

Heat a large heavy skillet or large electric skillet (my choice).  Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally and brown the halves on both sides in the hot pan.  Remove from the pan and slice the pieces about 1/2" thick.  

Place the sliced tofu, seitan, mushrooms, spinach, and bamboo shoots (and the white onion, if you are using it instead of the green onions) in separate piles side-by-side in the hot pan and pour the sauce over it all.  

When the sauce is bubbling and the spinach begins to wilt, turn everything over carefully, not mixing it together.  Make room for the green onions and soaked noodles (and/or bean sprouts), and cook for a few more minutes, until the spinach and mushrooms are cooked and everything is hot. 

Serve immediately with steamed rice, dividing the ingredients equally between bowls.

Nutrition Facts (without rice)

Nutrition (per serving): 434 calories, 63 calories from fat, 7.8g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1190.2mg sodium, 1330.1mg potassium, 66.9g carbohydrates, 7.7g fiber, 22.8g sugar, 31.2g protein, 12.9 points.


Saturday, January 27, 2018


Best Blog Tips

My Lowfat Vegan Mayonnaise, utilizing peanuts, sunflower seeds and/or sesame seeds
Peanut and/or Sunflower Seed and Tofu Ricotta 
Lasagne made with my Peanut and Tofu Ricotta

After almost 11 years of blogging, I must be getting lazy, because I found myself doing fewer and fewer blog posts every month, and then... nothing new, for about a month and a half.

But, in the last little while my interest has been sparked again. 

My current interest is in cutting way down on the amount of  oil and expensive (and potentially ethically and environmentally suspect) tree nuts that I use in creamy vegan mixtures, such as sauces, cheeses, mayo, ice creams, spreads, etc.. My reason is only peripherally due to the fact that we are trying to lose some weight.

I know that nuts are good for us and I will certainly use walnuts, pecans, etc., in baking for special occasions or for our weekly treat, but it has bothered me for some time now that so many cashews and coconuts are used in vegan cooking these days.  (Oh, and don't forget about almonds!)

It's not that I have anything against cashews per se, but, to quote from this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?(worth a read): "Cashews are a little trickier. They’re light on the land, providing wildlife habitat and preventing erosion, but the processing stage is much more intensive. Cashews grow primarily in Vietnam, India, and northern Africa, but most are shipped to India for processing; there, workers shell the nuts by hand, sometimes exposing their skin to burns from the caustic oils inside. (Check out this detailed look at the system.) And that’s nothing compared to the human rights abuses suffered by some cashew processors in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Fortunately, there are some Fair Trade cashews to be had, and I’d go for them whenever possible."  Here is an article about the treatment of cashew processors in India.

Note from me: They, of course, are more expensive than non-Fair Trade. (And organic does not necessarily mean fair trade as well.)

The other tropical nut that is over-used in vegan cooking lately (in my opinion) is the coconut.  I won't go into the nutrition debate here, but there is an animal cruelty issue with coconut products, as well as human and ecological issues. The following is from an article entitled "Are coconut products bad for the environment?":

"...The use of coconut oil grew 780 percent between 2008 and 2012, and the demand for coconut water jumped 168 percent between 2010 and 2013. And if an informal survey of my local yoga-goers and farmers market-shoppers is any indication, the boom is still going strong. So what kind of impact are we having?

The first consideration: Everyone’s favorite hairy-on-the-outside, succulent-on-the-inside fruit (sorry, kiwi) comes to us from the tropics — Indonesia, most often, plus the Philippines and India, and to a lesser extent, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. So unless you’re currently lounging on an idyllic beach — you lucky so-and-so — that coconut product was shipped a considerable distance to reach you, with all the transportation-related carbon emissions that entails. Locavore eating it’s not.

Then there’s the growing of the trees themselves. Fortunately, coconut farming isn’t linked to the kind of deforestation that makes palm oil so devastating to local ecosystems. But those lovely coconut trees can still be grown in a monoculture, which hurts tropical biodiversity and soil quality.

And finally, there’s the human rights side of things. As with other cultivators of the tropics (those who produce chocolate, cashews, and coffee, to look just at the Cs), coconut farmers very often toil in terrible poverty — as high as 60 percent of them in the Philippines. Coconut water alone sells for a couple of bucks or more per bottle, but the farmers behind it make as little as 12 cents per coconut. Kind of a bitter system, huh?"

See also

Apart from the above concerns, there is the animal cruelty issue I mentioned above. I urge you to read the following and be an informed consumer:

See this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil.

See photographs at this article

"Life in chains: Heartrending pictures of caged Indonesian monkeys being sold to coconut farmers"

Published earlier this year, the most comprehensive article I read, Pay Coconuts, Get Monkeys, gives us an idea  of what life is like for these monkeys, how valuable they are economically, and how legal loopholes enable trainers and “zoos” to essentially get away with animal abuse and neglect.

Early on in the piece a man called Noi Petchpradab, who has been training macaques to harvest coconuts for thirty years, was interviewed and discusses daily life for these working monkeys: "When they are not working, the animals are chained to tree stumps, which Mr. Noi said is due to their aggressiveness. They are given three daily meals, consisting of rice mixed with Lactasoy milk."

The article also goes on to say:

"Due to their ability to work for long hours, the macaques are capable of collecting 600-1,000 coconuts per day, compared to only 100-200 for humans. On a few occasions, he admitted, the monkeys are so tired they faint.

This practice will surely continue as long as there is both a market for coconut oil and consumers who are ignorant to the fact that this is even happening. Also, there will always be an economic incentive for people in these areas to use monkeys as performers as long as tourists are willing to spend money to visit them."

So, what about the domestic favorite, almonds?? See this article: Here’s the Real Problem With Almonds  and this one: The Problem With Eating Almonds That No One Is Talking About "If you care about the drought in California, you might want to read this."

What to do?  Yes, we  could use macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts.  But these nuts can be beyond the average budget even if they are grown in North America (especially the last two).  

I have not really researched macadamia nuts-- we think of Hawaii first, but they are native to and grown extensively in Australia. Organic macadamias sell for about $25 lb Cnd. 

I have used Brazil nuts because, according to this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?: "What about those exotic nuts you mentioned? Brazil nuts, grown in – wait for it – Brazil’s Amazon, actually support the rainforest because they don’t grow well without their natural, diverse ecosystem around them. Cultivating them, then, gives locals an economic incentive not to slash and burn.

"Hazelnuts are a dream to grow: long-lasting, hardy, erosion-blocking, and requiring no pesticides. You can find US hazels, mostly from Oregon, and that’s a good bet because of child labor issues associated with Turkish hazelnuts."  But, again, not for everyone's budget in the long run.


So, what's my solution, one that will allow me to make rich-tasting, creamy vegan dishes even on a tight budget and while trying my best to avoid humanitarian and ecological pitfalls?

Peanuts and seeds!  
They are inexpensive, easy to find, grown in North America, and chock full of nutrition and good fats. I have only just begun my kitchen explorations, but have produced a few delicious items so far, so read on, if you are interested.

I'd love to hear what you think, and/or any recipes you've come up with.


(You can use them alone or in combination.)

Raw Hulled White Sesame Seeds

Raw Shelled Sunflower Seeds
Unsalted Dry-Roasted Peanuts

Other possibilities? North American-produced organic hulled hemp seeds and/or pumpkin seeds are other possible choices, but they are also fairly expensive when compared to the three choices above, and can lend a greenish hue to your finished product.

Printable Copy


Makes 3 1/2 c.
Adapted from my book “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen”.

This mixture is very similar to the creamy full-fat ricotta used in 
Italy.  It's so creamy that you can use it as a spread on bread, or as a filling for crespelle (crepes), or in desserts.  NOTE:  Most vegan ricotta recipes that I have seen contain herbs.  This puzzles me because the ricotta that I grew up using in San Francisco was plain.  You could add herbs if you wanted, but it was used as-is in lasagne and in desserts, too. (No, that's not a typo: "In Italian, lasagna refers to one sheet of pasta and its plural form, lasagne, refers to the dish with several layers.")


2 (12.3 oz.) boxes extra-firm silken tofu, crumbled (OR 2 lb. medium firm tofu, pressed down to around 24.6 oz. and drained)
1/2 c. shelled chopped dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, OR raw shelled sunflower seeds (OR 1/2 & 1/2)
2 T. + 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

In a food processor, high-speed blender mix about 3 cups 
of the crumbled tofu with the soaked,drained peanuts or sunflower seeds, the lemon juice and salt. Process until they are very smooth.  Then crumble in the remaining tofu and process again in bursts. The resulting mixture should be mostly smooth, but with a little graininess-- it doesn't have to be like cream cheese.

Scoop the "Ricotta" into a plastic container and refrigerate.  It firms up when chilled.

More recipes using seeds and/or peanuts instead of nuts:



Saturday, January 20, 2018


Best Blog Tips

Why am I writing about making vegan "bacun grease" when I advocate eating pretty low-fat?  Well, I do try to use as little fat as I can, but I'm not a totally "no-fat" cook and the tastier the fat, the more flavor you get even in a small amount-- which is why a little good olive oil or roasted sesame oil goes a long way in a simple dish. This fat packs even more of a punch, so you don't need much of it to really satisfy some of your pre-vegan cravings. (No-- I wouldn't spread it on toast, but you might, and I hear that French toast is yummy when browned in this type of cooking fat. )

Uses?? Here are some ideas: Scrambled tofu; as the fat in gravy; in bean dishes and BBQ dishes; rub on the outside of baked potatoes before baking; to cook hash browns and potato pancakes; on steamed or sauteed greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage; as the oil in fried rice & vegan "warm bacun dressing"; to saute mushrooms and onions; to grease the pan for making cornbread.

You've probably heard of the commercial vegan version of this, and I'm aware that there are  quite a few copycat versions online. However, from a quick peruse, most, if not all, utilize coconut oil. I have a jar of organic, fair trade coconut oil in my pantry, but it's going to last me a long time because I use it mostly for making my homemade Cake Release.

**Why don't I use coconut oil in this recipe**? Please read this blog post to learn about the dire environmental and animal issues involved in the massive coconut oil production that feeds this relatively new fad of using coconut oil in everything. (I always thought this obsession with coconut oil was too good to be true, and it is, but the environmental and animal issues are so sad and unnecessary.)

And then there are the
 nutritional concerns: If you used coconut oil instead of the cocoa butter and vegetable oil, the fat profile would be high in saturated fat: 1.76 g mono unsaturated fat, 1.54 g polyunsaturated fat, 8.33 g saturated fat  (for 1 tablespoon)
Comparison, per tablespoon, with my version, which is high in the healthier fats:
12.4g total fat, 5.7 g mono unsaturated fat, 3.24 g polyunsaturated fat, 2.7 g saturated fat

"But, I thought that coconut was the healthiest fat and has all sorts of healing properties!" you say. Not so fast! 
I know that many vegans check out the videos of health and nutrition by Dr. Michael Greger, author of "How Not to Die", and I'd like to recommend that you check out his videos on coconut oil usage:
(See also his 4-part series on oil-pulling, which starts with this video-- links to the other 3 parts are below the video.)

Anyway, bottom line, this is so easy and inexpensive to make, tastes so delicious that you don't need much of it, and has so many possibilities for flavorful cooking, that I hope you will give it a try!

Printable Copy

Yield: 18 tablespoons
CAUTION: Don't melt "Bacun Grease" at high temperatures-- it burns easily.  After you add it to the pan, use medium heat at most and don't walk away.  After you add and mix with the food you want to sauté, you can turn the heat up a bit.  It depends on your stove (my large burners are super-hot), so you'll have to use trial and error with your stove.

Oil Mixture:
1/4 cup (2 oz.) melted steam-deodorized cocoa butter, either wafers, or small chunks
 (should be pale or light-beige-y yellow, with no chocolate odor)
1/4 cup toasted Chinese sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil (you could use high-oleic safflower or sunflower oil instead, if you like)
1 tsp soy or sunflower lecithin
1/2 to 1 Tbs your favorite vegan "Bacon Bits" (see below for commercial ones or homemade recipes)
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 Tbs dried onion flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp liquid smoke (I used 1/2 tsp., but you might prefer 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Place the cocoa butter in a microwave-safe 1 qt. pitcher (Pyrex) and microwave on High for about 5 minutes, or until melted. OR place the cocoa butter in the top of a double boiler and place over simmer water until the cocoa butter has melted.

Add the sesame oil, canola oil and lecithin to the melted cocoa butter. Blend the mixture with an immersion blend until a bit foamy. It will not thicken at this stage.

Add the Additional Ingredients and blend with the immersion blender for 30 seconds or so.

Use a spatula to scoop the mixture into a 1 to 2-cup wide-mouth canning jar and place in the freezer. Every 10 minutes or so, stir the mixture to keep the Additional Ingredients suspended in the mixture. You may have to do this 3 or 4 times before it is firmed- up enough so that the "Bacon Bits", etc. stay suspended in the mixture.

Twist on the lid and keep in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how often you plan to use it.

Nutrition (per tablespoon)-- high in the healthier fats: 114 calories, 109 calories from fat, 12.4g total fat, 5.7 g mono unsaturated fat, 3.24 g polyunsaturated fat, 2.7 g saturated fat,  0mg cholesterol, 29.9mg sodium, 18.7mg potassium, 1.1g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, less than 1g sugar, less than 1g protein, 3.3 points.

Copyright: Bryanna Clark Grogan All Rights Reserved 2018


from Vegan Supply in Vancouver, BC  and  in bulk in Canada from; and widely available in the USA (in bulk, as well):


Friday, January 5, 2018


Best Blog Tips

This is my first blog post in a month!  I've been taking a bit of a rest from blogging in the last few months, but am feeling more inspired since the New Year.

My husband, who was born and raised in Quebec City, has been requesting that I make the sort of French-Canadian baked beans that he was used to back home in Quebec, but vegan, of course.  And no brown sugar or molasses; just real Canadian maple syrup for the sweetener. The Quebec version of this common North American meal is also not quite as sweet as what I grew up with in the USA. 

I hope you'll enjoy this as much as we did! It makes alot, but leftovers can be frozen.

Just in case you wondered:

1.) We like ours with just a green salad or cooked greens, and crunchy artisan bread or cornbread. Braised cabbage would be a great as a vegetable side dish, too.

2.) Some good vegan sausages or sliced vegan “ham” or vegan “bacon” alongside would be good.  Or seitan “ribs”, perhaps?

3.) Leftovers are great as “beans on toast” or baked bean “Sloppy Joes”.

4.) Try them on top of split baked potatoes, or split baked sweet potatoes.

5.) Coleslaw makes a good side dish with baked beans.

6.) Pickles on the side?

7.) Heat leftover beans with chunks of veggie hotdogs or spicy vegan sausage.

8.) Corn on the cob!

9.) If you like beans for breakfast, serve with some scrambled tofu and hash browns.

Printable Copy (Includes Chili Sauce recipe)

Serves 10-12

4 cups (about 2 lbs.) dried small white beans or navy beans (which are also called white pea bean, Boston bean, Yankee bean or fagioli, depending on where you live), 
(Other possibilities are cannellini beans--also called white kidney beans or fazolia)-- OR Great Northern beans OR marrow beans)

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup real maple syrup (preferably the darker kind-- Grade B)

3/4 cup bottled chili sauce (the spicy, sweet-ish sauce-- Heinz makes it), or use a favorite tomatoey BBQ sauce, or the easy homemade recipe* at the end of this recipe)

2 tablespoons Chinese toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon mustard powder (such as Coleman's or Keen's)

1 tablespoon fine salt

OPTIONAL:  1/4 cup of vegan “bacon bits” or 1 cup of chopped vegan “ham” or “bacon” of your choice

Soak the beans in lots of water overnight.  

The next day, drain them in a colander.  Place the soaked beans in a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a fitted lid. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 1 hour. After an hour, if there is not about a 1/2-inch of water over the beans, add some to that level

Turn your oven to 300°F.  (I use my counter-top oven for this job-- saves energy.) While it heats up, add the remaining ingredients to the pot of beans and mix gently to distribute evenly.

Cover and bake for 4 hours.  Check after 2 hours and add some water if the mixture looks too dry.  (Do the same when they are fully-cooked.) You don't want the beans swimming in liquid, but you don't want them to be dry either.

Makes about 11/2 cups

This sauce is great baked on top of a vegan meatloaf, and it can also be used in homemade Thousand Island Dressing, on burgers, vegan "ribs" and "hot dogs". 

6 oz. can of good-quality tomato paste (I used Kirkland organic.)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup golden syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce (here's my homemade recipe)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. EACH ground cloves, garlic granules or powder, and chili flakes
a few grindings of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together well in a 1-quart saucepan.  Bring to a low boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until thickened (almost the consistency of ketchup-- it will thicken  a bit more as it cools).  Keep in a jar in the refrigerator.