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Monday, June 19, 2017


Best Blog Tips

It's been a long time since I last blogged.  I guess I just needed a break.  I'm happy to say that some inspiration is returning and I've been playing around with veganizing some more Peruvian recipes.  (In case you're new here, my father was Peruvian and I still have family there.)

My Abuelita's (Grandmother) house in Miraflores, Lima (it is now a restaurant).

My late father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina
The Urbina Family in Lima, Christmas 1954; Abuelita in the center, my father in the back row on the far right, standing behind my mother; my sister Karin on the far right in the first row, on the floor; and I am just behind one of my little cousins, who is third from the left on the floor.

Peruvian food is delicious and colorful.  It is a heady mixture of the cooking and foodstuffs of the indigenous people, the invading Spanish, African slaves, and immigrant from Italy (the second largest European group in Peru after Spanish), China and Japan.  I've veganized a number of Peruvian recipes on this blog and in workshops, but still have a long list to get through. (If you type "Peru" in the search bar of this blog, all of my Peruvian food posts will come up.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to find Peruvian ingredients outside of large cities, so it's not unusual for me I have to improvise, while striving to preserve authentic flavor. (I live on a little island off of Vancouver Island on the West Coast of British Columbia.) I do my best and try to stock up on authentic Peruvian condiments, etc. when I make one of our infrequent trips to Vancouver.  

Anyway, on to the recipe! Peruvians love seafood, and the following recipe is a vegan version of a well-known and popular Peruvian rice and seafood dish.  (Rice was brought to Peru by the Spanish, by the way, and is served at almost every meal, often in the company of the indigenous potato!)  I hope you enjoy it!

Printable Copy

Serves 4
This makes a satisfying light supper on its own, or an excellent side dish for a more elaborate meal. I use less fat than they would in Peru, by the way.

1-2 tablespoon olive oil and/or vegan butter
about 24 vegan "scallops"-- made from mushrooms, tofu or gluten-based "Sea Meat" **(See below recipe for making mushroom scallops; see this page for how to make tofu scallops, and see this page for how to make my "Sea Meat" scallops.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 tablespoons Peruvian aji amarillo paste (See Notes at end of recipe for where to purchase and also a possble substitute.)
1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels (In Peru these would be large white kernels, but I use North American yellow corn kernels.)
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced small
1 cup thawed frozen green peas (or thawed shelled frozen edamame [green soybeans])
2 cups "Sea Stock" (vegan "seafood" broth-- see recipe below)
1/2 cup dry white wine, OR 1/4 cup Pisco (Peruvian grape brandy) or dry sherry
3 cups cooked long-grain rice (This can be a white rice such as basmati or jasmine, or a brown version of either one, or converted/parboiled rice.)
1 cup EACH diced red bell pepper and orange bell pepper
salt to taste
For Serving:
chopped fresh cilantro, or Italian parsley, or a mixture of mint and basil
lemon or lime wedges

First of all, heat the vegan butter and/or oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet.  Add the "scallops" and saute until they are lightly browned.  Remove the "scallops" from the pan and set aside.

Add the next 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until softened.  Stir in the aji amarillo paste (or substitute).  Add the diced carrots, peas, wine and "Sea Stock". Cook, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is somewhat reduced.  

Add the cooked rice and the diced peppers.  Toss well and keep cooking, uncovered and stirring now and then, until the rice has soaked up some of the liquid. Taste for salt and add as necessary.  Stir in the sauteed "scallops".  Heat briefly and serve sprinkled with cilantro or alternates, with wedges of lemon or lime to squirt over the rice as desired.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 400 calories, 101 calories from fat, 11.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 423.6mg sodium, 729.9mg potassium, 62.5g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 11.1g sugar, 10.5g protein, 11.8 points.

You can use my Tofu "Scallops" (recipe at this link), or my "Sea Meat" (gluten-based) "Scallops", recipe at this link), 

or Mushroom "Scallops":

Making Mushroom "Scallops":
Many recipes these days call for using thick slices of stems of King Oyster mushrooms  or King Trumpet mushrooms.  They are expensive and very hard to find where I live, so this is what I do:
I use large ordinary white mushroom caps, or even cremini mushrooms, stemmed, and cut out rounds with a small biscuit cutter. (PS: I use the scraps for mushroom soup.)

Then scrape off  the gills with a grapefruit spoon.

And peel off the brown skin (if you are using cremini mushrooms) with your fingernails (it comes off easily).

Aji Amarillo (the dried version of aji amarillo/Peruvian yellow pepper is often called aji mirasol):
In the USA you can purchase Aji Amarillo Paste in many Latin American food stores, or online Latin American food purveyors, or on
In Canada, it's overpriced on, but, if you live in a large city you can probably find a Latin American food store that carries it, or order it online from this Vancouver store chain.  
A substitute might be a Jamaican Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce mixed with pureed roasted large yellow bell peppers (Scotch bonnets are "fruity" like aji amarillo, but much higher on the heat scale!)

Yield: 4 cups
This is a handy recipe for vegan “sea-meat” recipes.

6 cups hot water
10 medium dried shiitake or Chinese black forest mushrooms
1/2 oz dried kombu seaweed
2 teaspoons light miso
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetarian “oyster” sauce (see recipe and info on commercial brands below)
1 teaspoon salt

Simmer the mushrooms and kombu, covered, in the water for 30 minutes. Strain in a colander. Save the mushrooms for another dish, if you like. Discard the kombu. Stir in the miso, vegetarian “oyster” sauce, and salt. Dissolve thoroughly. Strain through a fine sieve. Refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup): 18.6 calories; 6% calories from fat; 0.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 318.5mg sodium; 75.3mg potassium; 4.3g carbohydrates; 0.6g fiber; 1.5g sugar; 0.7g protein ; 0.3 points.

Chinese oyster sauce is a favorite flavoring, thick, rich-tasting, and slightly sweet. I use the vegan version frequently to coat plain tofu for use in stir-fries and fried dishes instead of chicken, and, of course, it’s essential in some Chinese dishes. As well, it can add rich flavor to homemade seitan/grain meat. If you can’t buy it, it’s easy to make a very acceptable substitute (see below).

You can find commercial vegetarian versions, made with mushrooms, in some Asian groceries and large supermarkets (and online, including at amazon). Sometimes it is labeled “vegetarian oyster sauce” or “mushroom oyster sauce". It is also marketed as “vegetarian stir-fry sauce” (Lee Kum Kee brand-- a very common one). It keeps for a long time in the refrigerator. However, it can be difficult for people in some areas to find, so I am giving you a recipe for a homemade version.

Makes 18 liquid oz., or about the same as a commercial bottle

NOTE ON MUSHROOMS: For the dried mushrooms, you don’t need expensive shiitakes—just use the inexpensive dried Chinese mushrooms (or Chinese forest mushrooms) that are easily available. Snap off the stems and discard them, then grind the mushrooms to a powder in a DRY, clean blender or coffee/spice grinder.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
6 tablespoons ground dried Chinese mushroom (see note above)
6 tablespoons Chinese brown bean sauce or paste
OR use 5 tablespoons mild brown miso + 1 tablespoon water
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 generous tablespoons brown sugar,
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in
1 tablespoon cold water

Blend all of the ingredients EXCEPT the dissolved cornstarch in a blender until as smooth as possible. Pour into in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling over high heat.  (IMPORTANT: leave the plastic cap out of the center hole in the blender lid and cover it with a folded towel, so that the hot liquid doesn’t explode.) Add the dissolved cornstarch and stir until thickened. Cool and store in a covered jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Since it is quite salty and sweet, it should keep for several months.

NOTE: You can, alternatively, microwave the mixture, with the cornstarch, in a medium bowl and cook on 100% power for about 1 minute, then whisk. Repeat until thickened and store as above.


Thursday, May 11, 2017


Best Blog Tips

What do I mean by "cruelty-free"?  Read on...

**NOTE: This is an amalgamated, revised and updated version of my two previous posts on making this easy and delicious homemade vegan Butter-y Spread.

Some of you may know that I devised a palm oil-free (and coconut oil-free) vegan "butter" (which I call "Buttah") back in 2012.  I devised it as part of my plan to eliminate palm oil from my diet for environmental reasons and also for the animals harmed in the growing worldwide industry. (You can read all about it here and the printable recipe is here.) "Buttah" is a solid product which can be used in baking and as a spread, or for cooking. Though I use it sparingly, we love it and it has been a hit with vegans and omnivores alike.

Here's the "but" part-- My "Buttah" is made with oil and cocoa butter (organic and steam-deodorized so that it doesn't smell like chocolate).  It only needs a small amount of cocoa butter compared to liquid oil (which makes the fat profile healthier than most spreads). But cocoa butter, and especially organic and fair trade cocoa butter, is getting more and more expensive and the steam-deodorized organic block type that I have purchased in the past is getting hard to find.  With our low Canadian dollar, it is really expensive!

I have some of that cocoa butter left and I will use it for "Buttah" to use occasionally in (and on) special baking.  (I use oil- sometimes frozen-- and much less than most recipes call for, in my pie crust.) But I wanted a spread for toast or pancakes, and no commercial vegan spread that I can find does not contain palm oil or a derivative or two.   

One day it occurred to me that I should try the old method (which I believe originated with Seventh Day Adventist vegans many years ago) of making a vegan mayonnaise by drizzling oil into some soymilk while blending, then adding the appropriate seasoning. Evidently, the natural lecithin in the soymilk enables the oil and soymilk to coagulate into a creamy, spreadable mass.  (I had made this in the past, but now use my very lowfat vegan mayo, which can be made with only 1/4 cup oil for a slightly-over-2-cup batch, or with 1/4 cup of certain nuts instead of extracted oil.)

So, I tried making a "butter-y" spread using that method, adjusting the flavoring, of course, and adding a bit of liquid lecithin and vegetable gum powder to make it less apt to separate. It worked! This new spread looked to be a winner-- a.) inexpensive, b.) quick and easy to make, c.) keeps well, and d.) tastes yummy, with a good mouthfeel. 

But I wanted to also make a soy-free version for anyone allergic to soy, so I tried it with almond milk and also with a low-fat coconut-based unsweetened creamer, and it didn't work as well, simply because only soymilk contains the lecithin that seems to be the key to thickening this product. However, with slightly more lecithin and vegetable gum (guar or xanthan), which I included to keep it it from separating so easily, it worked out reasonably well.

However, I then decided to try using solid coconut oil in place of 1/4 of oil in an attempt to make the spread a bit more solid and less apt to separate. It was definitely an improvement!

Truth to tell, I prefer not to use coconut oil very often, despite the craze for it, because of the saturated fat. (No, I am not convinced that saturated fat is good for us! See this article and this one, and also this column from vegan RD Ginny Messina.) There are also many concerns with coconut oil producion, of which most people are not aware.

Photo from this article
We vegans try to "do no harm".  But, when the "developed" world goes crazy for a particular product, it often has a huge impact on the farmers who raise it, the soil and other aspects of the environment, deforestation, loss of habitat for and endangerment of indigenous species of animals, etc., without any real improvement in the lives of the producers on the ground. This is the certainly case with palm oil, which now replaces hydrogenated fats in so many items worldwide, as well being used in cosmetics, cleaning products, etc.  (See the end of this page for more info on the palm oil problem.) And now there are even harmful effects being seen from our addiction to avocados-- for more about this issue see this articleand thisand thisand this, and lastly, this one.  But we also need to be aware of the coconut issue. Please read the info in WHY CRUELTY-FREE COCONUT OIL? at the bottom of this post.  And see this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil. Silk and So Delicious brands use cruelty-free coconut products.

Enter my friend, Brenda Wiley. She told me that she has been making my Butter-y Spread recipe with cocoa butter instead of coconut oil, making a more solid mixture that doesn't separate if not frozen. Since my recipe calls for only 1/4 cup of the solid fat, the price of cocoa butter is not such a cost issue as it is with the larger amount called for in my "Buttah" recipe. (Only 1/3 the amount of cocoa butter is used in this recipe compared to the "Buttah" recipe, which is why the more solid "Buttah" is better for certain kinds of baking.)

I used cocoa butter in my last batch of Butter-y Spread (see photo above) and it works beautifully-- no need to keep it frozen. I have added this option (noting the weight of the cocoa butter before melting) to the recipe below. Thank you, Brenda!

(NOTE: Because we try to keep our fat intake reasonably low, we don't always use a butter-type spread on toast, etc.  Often, we simply use low-sugar jam or my low-fat "Corn Butter", or a low-fat vegan "cheesey" spread of some sort.  But, sometimes a thin film of "buttery" goodness is a good thing. This new Butter-y Spread contains 84 calories per tablespoon ( about the same as in my "Buttah", compared to about 100 for dairy butter or Earth Balance.)

The Butter-y Spread made with liquid oil and coconut oil: soy version on the left, and the non-soy version on the right, frozen so that you can just scrape some of the spread off the top. It's best to keep this frozen so that it doesn't separate.

CLEANING YOUR BLENDER CONTAINER AFTER MAKING YOUR "BUTTER-Y SPREAD": My friend Brenda Wiley said that she had a heck of a time cleaning the greasy blender container after making this.  She was using Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap, which I also use as an all-purpose cleaning product, but not for dishes.  She said she had to wash the container about 3 times. I have not had this problem, and, no, I do not use Dawn!  I use Nature Clean Dishwashing Liquid (I like the Lavender & Tea Tree Oil one  -- there's an ingredient list at the link) and very hot tap water and have never had a problem.  (Nature Clean is a sulphate-free Canadian product and you can buy it online or in most supermarkets and drug stores in Canada.) Before I add the soapy water to the greasy container, I rinse out as much of the greasy residue as possible with hot tap water, using a bottle brush in the corners.  I dump that out and add more hot water and a generous squirt of the dishwashing liquid.  I scrub the inside with the bottle brush and rinse with more hot tap water.  
I looked online for some US products that looked similar.  This looked like a good one, and the price seemed reasonable: Natural HomeLogic Eco Friendly Liquid Dish Soap, Powerful & Pure Non-Toxic Cleaning | Plant & Mineral Derived.  It's available on amazon and their website gives you other locations.  If you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comment section-- thanks!

New version of Butter-y Spread made with liquid oil and a small amount of cocoa butter (instead of coconut oil) for a more solid texture and no separating.  This works well with either soy or non-soy versions.

BRYANNA'S NEW, EASY PALM OIL-FREE VEGAN BUTTER-Y SPREAD (Soy & Non-Soy versions; made with liquid oil and a small amount of either coconut oil or cocoa butter)
© Bryanna Clark Grogan 2017.   All rights reserved.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

This is an inexpensive, delicious and easy-to-make butter-y spread to use on bread, toast, muffins, etc., in sauces on and cooked vegetables.  It may not be firm enough to use in place of butter or solid margarine in some baking-- though it may work if used in a frozen state. Originally, I added just a small amount of coconut oil to the liquid oil so that it firms up better. Refrigerated, the non-soy version is softer than the soy version. Refrigerated, the soy version is similar to a tub margarine in consistency. Both may separate a bit in the refrigerator after a few days, but can be stirred back to smoothness. Frozen, both are firm and can be scraped with a knife to use on toast, etc.)  
In my last batch, I used melted cocoa butter instead of coconut oil and that makes a firmer product, with no separation.
Instead of soymilk, use Silk or So Delicious Coconut Creamer (Original), which are both cruelty-free, or you can use a creamy sort of plant-based milk that has a pleasant taste. (Rice milk is too thin).  NOTE: Silk and So Delicious brands use cruelty-free coconut products. 

See WHY CRUELTY-FREE COCONUT OIL? at the bottom of this post.

Frozen non-soy version made with a small amount of coconut oil
If you use coconut oil in the non-soy version, use 3/4 tsp. guar gum and 1 Tbsp. sunflower lecithin, but it's not necessary to use the larger amounts of these if you use cocoa butter, no matter which type of milk you use.

Ingredient List:
1/2 cup soy milk (I used Silk Organic Original-- have not tried it with homemade soy milk yet)  (see recipe intro for non-soy version)
1/2 Tbs soy or sunflower lecithin
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum
3/4 cup neutral tasting oil
1 1/2 oz.(44g) steam-deodorized cocoa butter, melted to make 1/4 cup OR 1/4 cup cruelty-free coconut oil, melted (see brands here)
Important Note: I melt the cocoa butter or coconut oil  in a small cream pitcher in the microwave for a couple of minutes at medium heat. If you prefer, place the pitcher in a small saucepan with hot water and heat over medium heat until it melts. Either way, remove carefully using a potholder. You can add the neutral oil to this and use the little pitcher to pour the mixed oils into the blended mixture with more control and no spilling.

NOTE: Use organic, fair trade cocoa butter, if you can.  If you live in the USA, this is a reliable vendor with decent prices--Chocolate Alchemy.
Affordable prices are harder to find in Canada, so you might want to try using an organic natural, UN-deodorized cocoa butter, which is cheaper, from a health food store [wafers or chunks].  It's such a small amount that it may not make a difference. Online,  this one is a good price and this one, too, if the shipping is by Canada Post.

Pour the milk and the lecithin into a high-speed blender container, add the lemon juice, salt and xanthan or guar gum, and place the cover on it, with the central cap off.  Mix the liquid oil with the melted cocoa butter or coconut oil together in a small pitcher (like a cream pitcher)-- see Important Note at end of Ingredient List. Turn the blender on to Low speed and pour a thin stream of a mixture of the two oils slowly into the milk until all of it is used up.  (When I say “slowly”, that’s what I mean-- a slow steady stream, but NOT drop by drop.)

Increase the speed of the blender to High. Blend for a short time, just until it thickens to the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise.

Use a small silicone spatula to scoop the mixture into  one or two shallow glass refrigerator containers with lids, or a larger butter dish with a lid. Scrape as much of the blended mixture out of the blender container as you can. Smooth the top.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before using. You can also freeze it, or freeze it until the mixture is firm and then refrigerate.
Makes 24 Tablespoons

Nutrition Facts (Serving size: 1/24 of a recipe/0.5 ounces/1 tablespoon.)
Calories 84.17, Calories From Fat (100%) 84.04, Total Fat 9.45g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Monounsaturated Fat 4.2g, Polyunsaturated Fat 2.24g, Trans Fatty Acids 0g , Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 41.29mg, Potassium 7.01mg, Total Carbohydrates 0.2g, Fiber 0.07g, Sugar 0.13g, Protein 0.15g , Vitamin A 0.02IU, MyPoints 2.46 

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."

Photo from this article
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."

More articles:

Monkey being sold in Indonesia; photo from this article

Tourists photographing monkeys made to perform; photo from article in Bangkok Post

Monday, May 8, 2017


Best Blog Tips

You may have noticed that I don't post many dessert recipes.  That's because, though we're not "on a diet", we are of a certain age and need to "watch our weight', as the saying goes.  So, we generally only eat desserts at other people's tables, or when we have company. And I try to go easy on the fat in my dessert recipes, without ruining the texture and flavor of the dish.

We had dinner with some old friends last week, and I brought this pie for dessert.  It's actually a recipe (slightly altered) from one of my old cookbooks, Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause (not my biggest seller I must say-- due to the anti-sot hysteria of the last decade or so).  The filling is a richer version of the Tofu Chocolate Mousse in that book.

Our hosts (not vegans) LOVED this pie!  It's really a winner-- easy to make, and so silky, creamy delicious. It's a low-fat as I could make it, but certainly lives up to expectations!

Printable Copy

Yield: 1/ 10" pie; 10 servings
Easy to make and richly delicious without excessive fat. NOTE: Nutrition facts are for the pie without the whipped creme topping. See Tips below for calorie and fat counts for toppings.


1 cup unbleached sugar
7 Tbs strong liquid high-quality coffee, preferably espresso
9 Tbs unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup (6 oz.) dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
24.6 oz extra-firm SILKEN tofu-- that's two 12.3 oz. boxes.
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 pinches salt
3 Tbs rum, or a liqueur or flavored Italian syrup (used for special coffee drinks)-- coffee, chocolate or orange liqueur flavors
NOTE: You could use the grated zest of 1 large orange instead of the liquor or syrup, if you prefer.
One pre-baked and cooled 10" pastry crust (my standard lower-fat vegan recipes here and here) or your favorite crumb crust (I prefer the pastry crust).
For Chocolate-Banana Creme Pie, place sliced ripe banana over the crust, spread on half the chocolate filling, another layer of banana, and then the remaining filling.

Place the silken tofu, vanilla, salt and liquor or syrup (or orange zest) into a large food processor or high-speed blender. Set aside. Now, mix the sugar and coffee in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until dissolved. Lower the heat to medium or medium-low and stir in the cocoa until a paste forms. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the chocolate mixture into the food processor or blender, on top of the other ingredients. Process until VERY smooth.

Spread the mixture evenly in a pre-baked and cooled 10" crust of your choice (you may have a bit leftover for tasting).  Chill thoroughly.

Before serving, top with your favorite non-dairy creamy whipped topping, such as So Delicious CocoWhip! or (in Canada) Gae Lea Real Coconut Whipped Cream. Both products are delicious and much lower in fat and calories than whipped canned coconut milk. (See Tips below recipe for calorie and fat counts and website links.)

Nutrition Facts (See Tips below for topping suggestions & links, and calorie/fat content of toppings.)
Nutrition (per serving without whipped topping): 296 calories, 91 calories from fat, 10.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 248.8mg sodium, 282.4mg potassium, 42g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 21.4g sugar, 9.1g protein, 8.8 points.
(This was calculated using regular Mori-Nu Extra-Firm Silken Tofu.)

Whipped Toppings:
So Delicious CocoWhip! contains 60 calories and 4g fat per 1/4 cup.

Gae Lea Real Coconut Whipped Cream contains 30 calories and 2g fat per 1/4 cup.

According to this pretty standard recipe for whipped canned coconut milk, 1/4 cup contains 126 calories and  9.4g fat, 8.4 of those saturated.


Monday, May 1, 2017


Best Blog Tips

This recipe is from one of my older cookbooks, Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause.  I don't know why I haven't posted the recipe before-- it is one of our favorites, especially for potlucks.  I prefer it to your run-of the-mill Shepherd's Pie. It's not heavily seasoned, but a bit more exotic.  The filling mixture is actually a type of picadillo, a traditional Spanish hash of sorts, consisting of ground meat, spices, tomato, vegetables, and quite often raisins and sliced olives.  Latin American countries and even the Philippines, each have their own versions.

I hope you will enjoy this version as much as we do!

Printable Copy


Makes one full 9 x 13" casserole; serves 6 to 12, depending on appetites
This is one of our favorite winter dishes and my husband often suggests that I make it for potlucks or for bringing a dish to a dinner party.  From my soy foods cookbook.

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
6 cups commercial vegetarian "hamburger crumbles" (I use 3 pckgs. Yves "Ground Round")
NOTE: I think this works best with a commercial hamburger replacement, but you could substitute ground "beefy" seitan, OR an equal amount of reconstituted textured soy protein (TVP) granules, flavored as you like them, OR a combination of cooked brown lentils (not mushy!) and sautéed chopped mushrooms, with a splash of soy sauce.
1/ 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, well-drained
1 cup leftover vegetarian brown gravy (your own, or see this recipe. [If you prefer, use 1/3 cup unbleached white flour in place of the oat and bean flours.])
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. sliced pitted green olives (plain or stuffed with pimiento)
6 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and chunked (about 1" square-ish)
approximately 1/4 c. soymilk or other creamy non-dairy milk (you may need a bit more)
salt to taste
paprika (can be smoked)
breadcrumbs and/or Parmesan substitute (we like Go Veggie!)

You can boil the potatoes if you wish, but these days I steam them to preserve nutrients.  You can either steam them in a basket over boiling water, or you can put the metal tray in your Instant Pot, add 1 1/2 cups water, add your chunked potatoes and pressure cook them for 4 minutes, using the quick release.

Drain the potatoes and mash or rice the potatoes well. Add the soymilk and stir with a spoon. Add salt to taste. Cover and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large heavy seasoned skillet or seasoned stir-fry pan/flat-bottomed wok over medium-high heat and stir-fry the onion, garlic and green pepper until the onion has softened.  Add the "hamburger crumbles" and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and place in a 9 x 13" casserole or baking pan.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling and sprinkle with soy Parmesan and/or breadcrumbs, if you wish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  Cut into rectangles to serve, plating it with the filling on top.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/8th of casserole): 394 calories, 36 calories from fat, 4.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 806.2mg sodium, 1994.1mg potassium, 65.5g carbohydrates, 11.8g fiber, 9g sugar, 29.7g protein, 11.3 points.


Thursday, April 13, 2017


Best Blog Tips

I've been sick with the flu and bronchitis for a month-- hence, the lack of blogging.  However, I am on the mend and interested in cooking again.  I had a yen for pizza the other day, but I really didn't want to heat up the oven for a long period of time at high heat for just two little pizzas.  I remembered reading about pizza cooked in cast iron pans on the stovetop in a bread baking book, so I thought I'd give it a try. Now I'm hooked! (And you will not have to buy a $200 stovetop pizza maker!)

You can make the no-knead dough the day before or a week before and the cold dough will be easy to handle. I've never made pizza so fast and with less fuss and bother than this, and I have made alot of pizza in my time.  It's perfect for 2-4 people.

And I love that I don't have to have the oven on for so long-- saves energy.

Printable Copy

This method may take a bit of adjustment, depending on your stove burners.  I have an electric stove and the burners tend to be VERY hot, so I was not going to heat the pans any higher than on medium heat. (More details below.) It's also worth remembering that cast iron heats faster and retains heat longer than a pizza stone.

NOTE: If you have time to do a trial run with one piece of dough , it might be helpful, so that you can see how the dough responds to 3-4 minutes cooking on your particular burners (with the lid on the pan), and then you can adjust the heat accordingly.

So, when you are ready to make pizza....

1.) Have your toppings ready
(and you want to go easy on the toppings): I saute some thinly sliced onions, peppers and mushrooms, and a bit of vegan sausage, thinly sliced, and then I use Daiya mozza shreds (but use any kind of vegan melty cheese you like) and a bit of Go Veggie! soy parmesan. For the sauce, use whatever kind you like.  If I'm in a hurry, I just use some bottled tomato passata with basil and add a bit of salt and garlic to it.

2.) Measure out the dough (see info below and recipe links) and have your rolling-out set-up ready and waiting.

3.) Now pre-heat your skillets: I use well-seasoned cast iron skillets. I have read that you can use a heavy stainless steel skillet as well, and I would think that you could use a carbon steel skillet, too, since you can actually season both of those pans just like cast iron. See the end of the blog post for how to season all these types of skillets.
The first time I made the stovetop pizzas, I heated my pans at medium heat for 5 minutes on the two largest burners (#5 for the front one, and #4 for the back burner, which is very hot).  It worked okay, but the bottoms burned a bit.  The second time, I turned the front one to #4 and the back one to #3, which worked better.) PS: I didn't grease the pans at all.

You can heat the pans while you roll out the dough.

WARNING:  I use silicone hot handle covers on the handles of my skillets, but you will still need really good oven mitts when moving these hot pans around.

4.) Move the top rack of your oven to about 4-5 inches below your oven broiler and turn the broiler to high. You will be quickly broiling the top of the pizzas after stovetop cooking.

5.)  I used 6 oz. of cold dough for each personal pizza, rolled out to fit an 8-inch cast iron skillet.  The no-knead dough should be fresh out of the refrigerator (after at least an all-night stay) and will need a good sprinkling of flour all over before rolling out on a piece of baking parchment or a silicone mat.

I used the no-knead version of my 3/4 whole wheat flatbread dough, or you could use my 100% whole wheat no-knead flatbread dough-- both doughs will keep refrigerated for a week or two. Or use your own favorite dough.

6.) Quickly place the rolled-out dough into the hot pans.  Quickly spread with some of your sauce (dump about 3 tablespoons in the center of the dough and spread it outwards in a circular motion with the back of a soup spoon), top with a small handful vegan cheese shreds, a sprinkle of vegan parm and a handful of your toppings.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil from a squirt bottle, if you like.  Cover with a lid and let cook for about 3 more minutes.

NOTE: If you are making 2 more pizzas, you can roll out the dough during this cooking time.

7.) Lift the lid and check the bottom of the dough-- it should be lightly browned with maybe some dark spots.  If it's burning, the heat is too high-- you might want to move the pan off the heat for the last bit of cooking.

8.) Finishing off: now, you can slightly brown the top and melt the cheese thoroughly by moving the pans from the stovetop to the top rack of your oven, under the broiler. 1 or 2 minutes under the broiler should do it-- watch carefully.

Remove the skillets to the stovetop again and use a large spatula to move the pizzas to racks or plates. Repeat with more dough, etc, if you are making a couple more pizzas.


Instructions for seasoning a carbon steel skillet here, here and here.

Instructions for seasoning a stainless steel skillet
here and here.

Instructions for seasoning a cast iron skillet

If your cast iron skillet is really a mess
, here is one way to restore it. If it is a rusty mess, it needs to be stripped and re-seasoned. I had an old pan like this and I did not want to use lye or oven cleaner to scrub it.  I used the self-cleaning oven method described at the beginning of this article. This treatment stripped it right down to the grey iron. Then I did thorough oven-seasoning-- rub oil on all parts of the pan, including the handle; make sure there is no dripping oil; bake at about 350 degrees F for 1 hour; cool completely; repeat 3 more times. This may seem excessive, but you can do it when you are baking something at the same time, and the pan was like new!

To keep your cast iron pans well-seasoned, after cooking, add some HOT water to the pan (do not use cold) and let them soak for a few minutes.  Then clean with a scrub brush (no stainless steel scrubbers, please!).  Anything is stuck, use the edge of a plastic (not metal) dough scraper or the special polycarbonate pan scraper that Lodge sells for this purpose.

Dry the pan thoroughly.  Rub a little oil all over the inside of the pan.  Rub it in well and don't leave any excess oil.  Place over low heat on the stove for 5-10 minutes.  Let it cool and store.

PS: You do not need to use an expensive oil like flax oil, or even coconut oil.  Your favorite neutral smelling/tasting oil will do just fine.


Saturday, March 18, 2017


Best Blog Tips

This will be a short little post.  I have posted this recipe on Facebook a couple of times, but never here on my blog.  I thought it was about time to post it here.

As a vegan, I just didn't eat honey for a long, long time.  It's not that I crave it, but every so often there's some recipe that just needs it, or it sounds comfy to stir some into tea with lemon when you have a cold.  So one day, I experimented with various syrups and combinations, and this one was our favorite.

Printable Recipe

Makes 1/2 cup—multiply as needed

Closest I’ve come to the real thing.
Check out the photo below for the brands I used and the color of agave syrup I used. You can use your favorite brands, but I think the more caramel-colored agave syrup is best in this recipe.

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

Hint: Very lightly oil the inside of your measuring cup and the syrups will more easily pour out.

Mix the ingredients together well and store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

It firms up a bit after a few hours of chilling.

PS: One could infuse this mixture with lavender or whatever flavor of honey you liked "back in the day".



Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Best Blog Tips

You may have already read my first blog post on making soy yogurt-- a small batch cultured in jars-- in the Instant Pot at this linkIf not, you might want to check that post out anyway, for why I use soymilk, whether or not you should be wary of soy, what kind of soymilk I use, etc..

After having many failures with making soy yogurt, I finally had success using the Instant Pot and that's what that blog post was about.  But on the Facebook Group "Instant Pot Vegan Recipes" there was a discussion about that blog post  and one commenter (whose name I cannot recall and I could not find that particular thread on this popular group) wondered why I bothered making it in jars and why I bothered heating some of the milk up, since the Instant Pot would bring it up to temperature anyway.  I thought it was very covenient having it made in the jars and I had had some failures previously making it right in the Instant Pot insert, so at first I dismissed the idea.

However, I thought about it some more and it made sense to make a larger batch right in the IP insert and not to have to heat up any of the milk.  So, I thought I'd give it ago-- if it didn't work, well then, we would have smoothies all week.  I was afraid that the yogurt would thin out or separate while transferring it to the jars after it had set, but, again, I thought it was worth a try.

It actually worked quite well. The Instant Clear Jel (or Ultra Gel) used as a thickener keeps it stable.  But the yogurt was a bit lumpy and then you had to transfer it to the jars and clean the insert. So, I've been experimenting again. 

My goal was to make a nice creamy, non-lumpy, tasty and tangy soy yogurt with minimal ingredients, minimal fuss, and consistently good results. I preferred not to have to heat up the soymilk first (and, with ultra-heat-treated [UHT] soymilk off the shelf, you don't need to!), and I wanted to avoid using a thickening agent that 1.) needed to be cooked before adding to the soymilk, and 2.) added a starchy taste and/or odd mouthfeel to the yogurt.

I believe that I have succeeded in reaching my goal with this revised recipe of mine, and I hope you will try it, and give me some feedback.

Before I give you the new recipe-- Do we really need to use a thickener?
I've read so many blog posts and FB post and comments about making vegan yogurt and I scratch my head at how some people produce a soy yogurt so nice and solid with no thickeners at all. I have come to the conclusion that soy milks and other plant milks are vary in some way so that some of them thicken without help, and some don't.

I have experimented in the past with cornstarch, tapioca starch and agar powder (each by itself, and then various mixtures of the above) as thickeners and didn't really like the consistency or mouthfeel of any of them, alone or together with another. I also didn't want to have to cook anything in the procedure.  Instant Clear Jel (not regular Clear Jel, BTW) or Ultra Gel proved to be the answer to making nice creamy yogurt that will hold its shape without having to cook it before adding to the yogurt mixture.

And what kind of soymilk?
I use 
organic soymilk, original style, ultra heat treated; in a Tetra Pak carton. The brand I use is PC Organics Fortified Soy Beverage, Original, a Canadian brand-- I prefer "original" to "plain". But brands and tastes vary, so you will have to experiment with brands available in your area to see which brand you like.  Some folks claim they have had success with Silk from a refrigerated carton, but I have not.  ALWAYS use soymilk from an unopened carton, whichever brand or type it is, to avoid contamination.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 2 quarts
Slightly revised on May 12, 2017-- no need to heat anything or use a strainer!
What are the  savings from making your own soy yogurt? It costs me about $4.50 Cnd (about $3.40 US on March 14, 2017) to make 2 qts (8 cups) of yogurt, plus about 1/2 cup extra. When we were buying soy yogurt it cost us about $5.00 Cnd for 3 cups!

Ingredients (only 3!):
The Milk:
8 cups (2 x 946 mL) UHT organic soymilk,  original style-- use UN-opened cartons (ultra heat treated; in a Tetra Pak carton-- I use PC Organics Fortified Soy Beverage, Original, a Canadian brand-- I prefer "original" to "plain".)
The Starter:
1/4 cup commercial or homemade soy yogurt with live culture (I have used "Nancy's Cultured Soy" with success), OR 1 tsp. dried vegan yogurt culture OR powder from 2 probiotic capsules (live, nondairy)
The Thickener:
6 Tbs Instant Clear Jel-- DO NOT use the regular Clear Jel meant for making jam and pies (I understand that you can substitute twice as much Cornaby's Ultra Gel, which is easier to find in Canada. Instant Clear Jel is available in Canada only from baking supply wholesalers but it's carried on for US customers. Ultra Gel is available in Canada from
For information about these thickeners, see

an Instant Pot with yogurt-making function 

a blender
measuring spoons (1 tsp./5 mL; 1 Tbsp/15 mL)
1/4 cup/50 mL measure (if using yogurt as the starter)
a small, flat silicone spatula (the kind for scraping out bowls)
Four 1-pint (2 cup/16 oz. or 500mL) widemouth mason jars with lids 
(Make sure that the jars, with lids, are 4 3/4"/12cm to no more than 5 1/4"/13cm tall.)
One 2 qt./2L Pyrex batter bowl 

        (NOTE: You may have a little yogurt mixture left over, so have a small shallow bowl handy to accomodate that. I used a small, shallow dessert bowl that holds about 3/4 cup/177mL. The top INNER circumference of the bowl I used is 4 1/8"/10.5 cm and the height of the bowl is 1 1/2 "/3.8cm. It fit nicely atop the jars in the center and the IP lid easily attached. See picture below-- yes, the lid really does fit over this nicely!)

1.) Sterilize/scald all equipment with boiling water, including the blender jar and lid.

2.) Pour 1 carton of the soy milk, straight out of the newly-opened carton, into the blender. Add the vegan culture powder/probiotic powder OR yogurt first, and then scoop the Instant Clear Jel or alternate onto the center of the milk so that none of it clings to the sides of the blender container. (I make sure that the Instant Clear Jel is in the center of the jar so that it gets sucked down immediately into the vortex of the blender. This seems to effectively eliminate lumps in the final mixture and I no longer have to use a strainer.) Blend for several minutes at low to medium speed until well-combined (high speed will cause too much froth), with NO perceptible lumps, but not excessively frothy(This blending is necessary because the Instant Clear Jel clumps easily if only whisked in or blended with an immersion/stick blender.)

3.) Pour this yogurt mixture into the batter bowl/pitcher and add the remaining carton of soy milk; whisk briefly but thoroughly (or, better yet, use an stick/immersion blender for this last blending). 

4.) Pour it carefully into the 4 prepared jars, right to about 1/4"/.635 cm from the top of the jar. Secure the lids, but NOT tightly. (The yogurt will settle and sink about another 
1/4"/.635 cm down when it is refrigerated.) If you have a little of the mixture left, see the Note highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the Equipment List above.

5.) Do not use the little rack that comes with the Instant Pot-- it will raise the jars up just high enough to cause a problem with the lid.  Place the jars right into the Instant Pot insert (topping the jars with the little dish of extra yogurt mixture right in the center, if you wish-- see photo above).

6.) Secure the lid on the Instant Pot, open the steam vent and press the Yogurt function button.  Set the time.  I like a fairly tangy yogurt, so I set it for 10-12 hours if the starter is a new one and 9-10 hours if the starter has been used a few times, depending on how long I've been using the starter 
(it gets tangier with age, and then weakens, by which time you need a new starter). You can taste it after about 8-9 hours and add more time if need be.  Remember that it will also get a little tangier as it cools in the refrigerator. (I make yogurt before I go to bed and let it culture overnight, which leaves the Instant Pot empty for daytime duties.)

7.) When it's done, it should be thick and creamy. Remove the jars carefully and secure the lids more tightly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

9.) Save 1/4 cup for the next batch (use within a week or two), until you judge that the starter is weakening. (Weak starter may cause the yogurt to curdle, separate, and/or be lumpy or runny, and the taste may be not as tangy. If this happens, use the results for smoothies and, next time you make yogurt, start with powdered vegan starter, probiotic powder or newly-purchased soy yogurt.)

10.) If your yogurt looks as if it has separated and/or curdled in the jars, and perhaps has overflowed a little, taste it.  a.) If it's nice and tangy, that probably means you have over-fermented it and next time set the timer for less time.  b.) If it is not tangy enough, that probably means that you should use a new starter next time. c.) Either way, don't toss it out!  Scald a small whisk and slim silicone spatula, and rinse off and scald the jar lids again.  Whisk the yogurt right in the jar with the scalded whisk, until smooth and creamy. Wipe the rims with a paper towel and screw on the newly-scalded lids. Refrigerate as usual.

PS: If you ever see pink liquid in your yogurt, throw it out.

Servings: 16 to 17

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving): 57 calories, less than 1 calories from fat, 2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 26.1mg sodium, 160mg potassium, 5.9g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, 3.2g sugar, 3.2g protein, 1.4 points.