20 December 2010

EASY: Making Sauerkraut the Crabby Way.

Before I start on the kraut, remember my post about the big tin of broad beans?  We bought 8 more tins!!!!!  (Also, the giant 2600g tin of broad beans cost £1.29, not 99p like I mistakenly said before.  But still a fabulous bargain!)  Lots of delicious Ful Medames in the future!

Okay, kraut time.  My first batch, the kind I made in the same way I make kimchi, turned out splendidly (my toddler practically wresteled me for it whenever I dished some up and it's all gone now!), but I thought I'd try an easier way.

Kraut and Kimchi:  Good Friends

I've read you can make sauerkraut just by shredding cabbage, coating it in salt, and packing it into a jar.  In my experience, the cabbage doesn't make enough of it's own brine, so I top it up after letting it sit overnight.  And that's it.

Here it is in a little more detail:

  • Finely shred cabbage and its stem and coat in non-iodised salt.  (I trim the bottom of the stem and take off any gnarly-looking bits first.)  
  • Pack everything into a jar (toss in some caraway seeds or juniper berries or fresh dill if you are feeling fiesty), leaving about a half-inch gap at the top and let it sit (salt-wilt) overnight.  
  • Top up the jar with brine (1 tbsp of non-iodised salt per cup of water) the next morning, leaving about a half-inch gap at the top. (You will notice some water has leached out of the cabbage.  If you taste the water, you will notice it is nice and salty.  (You don't actually have to taste it, you can just take my word for it.))
  • Let it ferment in your refrigerator (or your kitchen if your kitchen is just as cold as your refrigerator -- mine is at the moment!!)

Pink Sauerkraut!

Recently, I've made 3 jars of sauerkraut with purple cabbage.  One of the jars has already started to ferment and it is delicious (as well as being very pretty). I added caraway seeds and a few juniper berries to the 2 other jars, which haven't fermented as much yet (this has nothing to do with the spices, I made them a few days after I made the first jar).  I'll let you know how they turn out!!

Next time, I'm going to try adding shredded carrot to my kraut.  I heard it ferments easily and tastes nice with the cabbage, so I'll let you know about that, too.

ETA:  The Scarecrow brought home some fresh dill yesterday.  I think I'll start another a batch with that and the half-cabbage I have hanging out on the cutting board.  :D

10 December 2010

(Don't look now, but I think the dinner is watching us.)

Don't look now, but I think the dinner is watching us.

Polenta-stuffed butternut squash with marinara sauce.  And it's gluten-free! 

The scarecrow scarfed it down in about a minute.  I'm not exaggerating. 

08 December 2010

Bad Casserole

We didn't go grocery shopping last week and by yesterday, we were out of nearly everything.  Saturday, I'd made an entire bag of red kidney beans (we like beans -- I should do a post of everything you can do with a giant batch of beans), but all that was left by Tuesday was bean and tomato broth with a few scraps of bean, corn, and tomato.  I roasted a butternut squash (and let Baby!Crafter feed himself some -- he loved it!) and a few cloves of garlic.  I blended everything up and threw it in a casserole dish with some salt, chopped celery, brown rice, buckwheat, marjoram, sage, and olive oil.  I baked it.

Bad casserole.

I'm not going to lie, this was a bad casserole.  Mediocre, at best.  But bad casseroles can be saved.  I made béchamel sauce (unsweetened soy milk + equal parts flour and margarine scroll down for the recipe and some variations) with parsley.  The béchamel sauce turned out really well and when I drowned the casserole in it, the casserole wasn't too bad.  Toddler!Crafter really liked it -- he is not a picky eater by any means, but I don't think he would have gone for the bad casserole without the béchamel -- and was running all around saying "béchamel" over and over.  My husband said the casserole was "not bad" (believe me, he would have said it was bad if he thought it was).

This morning, there was a little leftover casserole and no béchamel, so I put some marinara sauce on it.  The casserole was actually pretty good that way!  

The moral of the story is rather than serving something that tastes like cardboard box (or worse), jazz it up with some sauce!

On the upside, my Fiesta Casserole (inspired by the latest episode of Nigella Kitchen) was a big hit!

Fiesta Casserole

02 December 2010

Homemade Sauerkraut Update

Remember how at the end of this post, I mentioned I made sauerkraut?  I tried some today and it is fermenting quite nicely.  It has taken so much longer to ferment than kimchi (because of the kind of cabbage used), but now it really smells like sauerkraut.  It tastes very mild -- I think it needs to ferment a lot more (and I think I will use more salt in the brine next time -- only I would think sauerkraut isn't salty enough!), but it is really nice. 

Sauerkraut Sammich!

I made a fried sauerkraut sandwich -- onions, paprika, and sauerkraut fried in oil or marg; best served on rye.  It was really good, although I was a little heavy-handed with the oil.  I am used to cooking for 3 and not just for myself!  ;p

Baby #2's Long & Overdue Birth Story (Slightly Vulgar!)

With BabyCrafter nearly 7 months old and starting to show an interest in solids, I thought I'd better post his belated birth story!  (Baby #1's birth story is here.)

Big Momma & Baby Crafter right after the birth!!
4 May (Excerpt from an email I sent a friend that morning.):

So, I might be in very early labour. I've had a few really wimpy and not that painful contractions and I pooped (that is a serious sign -- I'm not kidding). So, of course, ToddlerCrafter wakes up in the other room and Scarecrow, who was up late, comes into the bedroom so I can take care of ToddlerCrafter and he can go back to sleep. He gives me a funny look because I'm playing Klondike solitare on my iPod (his family call it Patience, which is hilarious to me for some reason, so I make a point of calling it Klondike, but it's that standard solitaire like the one that comes with Windows).

So I am all, "Scarecrow, honey, I think I'm in very early labour." And he is all, "okay, try not to get me up before 11:30."
"But I'd be so much more comfortable in here on the air mattress in the sleeping bag."
"You can bring the sleeping bag into the living room."
"I thought that since this was the morning and not the middle of the night like last time, you wouldn't have to take a nap. We could hang out together in the living room or you could take care of ToddlerCrafter and I could lie here in bed where I'm comfortable and warm."
"Well, you could get me up in an hour instead of two hours, but you don't sound that convinced right now."
*sigh* "Fine. Just remember the last time I went into labour, you took a big long nap after showering and there was no hot water and I had to use the kettle just to have a lame tepid bath."
"Okay, but try to let me sleep in until 11:30 if you can."
"Fine. I'll get out of the sleeping bag after this contraction."

If this is labour -- and it might just go away or be a false alarm -- then I'm lucky because it's coming on slowly and it's not the middle of the damn night like the last time. And I'm hungry, so I think I'm going to make hash browns because if I am in labour and it starts really coming on, I won't be able to (or want to) eat and then as soon as I pop, I'll be ravenous. I can't even begin to describe the carnal hunger of post-labour. So, breakfast.

Scarecrow came in the room at about 10:30 asking if I still thought I was in labour. Yeah, but I told him he could go back to bed. "You can wake me up anytime, I might not be sleeping," he said.

Here I am in labour timing contractions and just hanging out watching tv and -- hang on -- contraction -- okay -- feeding ToddlerCrafter a banana and checking my email. I even washed my hair. I need to wash my armpits (I noticed that while washing my hair) next and actually use deodorant, now that I've located mine again.

The really good news for me? The baby is facing the right way (my back). I can feel both his feet through my stomach. Brilliant -- that means no back labour. All that lying on my left side and sitting with my pelvis tilted forward has paid off. Or maybe he was going to turn the right way anyway.

There is so much I've forgotten. I remember nursing ToddlerCrafter (nursing through a contraction is something else, let me tell you). Washing my hair between contractions. Telling Scarecrow I'd phone the birthing centre after I finished watching this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It all happened so fast once the ambulance arrived. I went by myself because ToddlerCrafter wasn't allowed in the room during labour and I don't do babysitters (no offense to those who do). My contractions were about 4 minutes apart and under a minute in length, but I am a 40 minute ambulance drive away from the birthing centre.

Why an ambulance? Well, I don't have a car. I could phone a taxi, but midwives and nurses have both told me not to do that out here in the country. Even the ambulance guys said not to do that. The midwives forbade me to take public transport, as well.

The ambulance arrived and Scarecrow and ToddlerCrafter walked me out. I bring a backpack full of stuff. The driver remembered picking me up when I had ToddlerCrafter! No, Mr. Nice Ambulance Man (the one in the back with me, not the driver) , I don't need gas & air. Thank you for your advice on how to huff it when I change my mind later at the birthing centre. Mr. Ambulance Man and I chat about how he likes hiking and my husband likes hiking. How he says I ought to just bite it and get a car and a driving license.

We get to the birthing centre at about 10 past 5 in the PM. I walk in, have a mild contraction, they escort me to the lovely birthing suite.  
http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/mediaassets/images/cmu_vol_come_see_recovery_room_800.jpg -- this is a picture of my birthing suite! What you can't see is the en-suite bathroom with a huge bath and a bidet (seriously, a BIDET!!!). They check the baby's heart rate and my BP and say I can just hang out and do whatever I want. No vaginal exam is needed just yet. Do I want the birthing pool? It takes 30 minutes to get started and fill. I said the bath would be fine. Have I eaten? Good. The midwives are lovely and make me toast and tea. My contractions are starting to get a bit rough, but I don't want the gas and air just yet. I get in the bath and drink the tea. Lovely. The contractions are suddenly getting way harder very fast. I ask for gas & air. It's lovely. Suddenly, it's not so lovely because the contractions are horrible. I ask how far along they think I am because if I am not far along (the contractions with ToddlerCrafter were this bad just a few hours in with miles to go before I gave birth), I might wuss out and ask for a morphine jab (I never did). It's pethidine. Whatever. "Patient asks for cervical exam," mumbles the midwife, as she writes in my notes. She helps me out of the tub and back to the bed. She gets the mouthpiece for the gas & air from the bathroom and attaches it at the head of the bed. I huff. Everything is spinning. The contractions are fast. YNGGG!--POP!!!! My waters popped! (That didn't happen with ToddlerCrafter.) There is water everywhere. "I think her waters just broke," a midwife says to another midwife who has just come in the room. "...Thbbbleyyy...didpthblttt..." I try to say, during a contraction. Spin...spin... I'm sitting up in the bed. They look at my vagina.

"Well, I think your baby will be born around 7pm." A midwife says.
"What time is it now?" I whimper. She moves out of the way. I see a clock on the wall. A quarter to 7. "That's the best news I've heard all day." Whimper. Spin...spin... Huff. YNGGG!! My body is pushing. It's not the uncontrollable urge to push like they always say. I am not pushing. My uterus is doing it all for me. Which is actually good because pushing can be a bit scary. "Why does my back hurt? Do I have back labour?" I call out. Spin...Spin...
"It's just cos the baby's so low. Don't worry." one of the midwives says reassuringly. Spin...spin... Huff. YNGG!!
"Should I push on my side or something? What should I do to get it out faster?" They say to push on my side if I want, but after one push, they say I might as well just go back to sitting up. I agree. I'm not actually sure when this happened.
"My thigh is cramping!!!" Once I explain which thigh, one of the midwives gives it a massage. The pain melts away.
"Am I crowning yet?"
"NO! PUSH!!" They chorus.
Spin...spin... Huff. YNGG!!
I look between my legs. There is a head. "That's a head!!" I mumble helpfully. "OH MY GOD!"
I know what this means. One more push and he's out. And out he flew. The cord was only wrapped around his neck once (it was twice with ToddlerCrafter).
I thought they said he was 6lbs 10oz, but I checked later and he was 6lbs 13oz, just like ToddlerCrafter.

I cannot believe what an easy labour it was. They hand me the baby. "Oh my god. Oh my god." I think about how BabyCrafter doesn't look like ToddlerCrafter. He doesn't have my ears. He has my mouth, though. I check his palm for the simian line. It doesn't look like he has it. "I love you two!" I say to the midwives. I feel dazzled. They exchange a glance and kind of ignore me. One midwife runs off to make me toast and tea. I cut the cord myself after it's stopped pulsating. Same thing with ToddlerCrafter.

I nurse BabyCrafter. ToddlerCrafter just latched right on, but BabyCrafter has no idea what he is doing. I work with him. He is kind of getting the hang of it, but is no boob-champ like ToddlerCrafter was. Later that night, I will hear him loudly nursing the air.

At some point during all this, they give me the gas & air one last time, so I can pass the placenta. It slides out and looks like a liver on a string. My uterus is cramping and contracting like a mo-fo. I am still nursing. They dial Scarecrow and I tell him about the birth. "I was only here for an hour and 40 minutes or so before I popped!!"
We put a hat on BabyCrafter. A funny red and blue one I made when ToddlerCrafter was a baby, but it was too small for ToddlerCrafter. They giggle at it. "It's cute!" they say. "Like a little Tam O'Shanter!"

I think I have to pee. I don't know. BabyCrafter goes in a bassinet. They help me hobble to the toilet, we are kind of also holding a gigantic disposable square pad-thingy because of the blood. I swoon right before I hit the toilet. Whoops! A hunk of blood falls out of me and lands on the floor with a gigantic SPLAT! It looks all chunky and coagulated. There is so much, it is everywhere. I slump onto the toilet. The midwives look HORRIFIED. Everything starts to black out and my ears start ringing. My whole body is tingling. They ask my permission to jab me to stop the bleeding. Of course! Phew, for a minute there, you looked all grey. We were really worried! They talk about whether or not I need an IV. Suddenly I am ravenous. They get the wheelchair and wheel me back to bed. I start devouring granola bars and guzzling gatorade from my backpack and chatting cheerfully. The midwives relax. Maybe you don't need an IV after all.

Long story short, because of my quick recovery from the haemorrhage, I get the feeling they fudged the amount I actually bled out so I could still have my next baby at that birthing centre. "Promise me you will get the jab next time, okay?" I promise, explaining I'd heard it would make me feel nauseous, which is why I hadn't wanted it. But it's better than bleeding to death. I am tired for days after from bleeding so much.

That night, I had my last night-of-the-living-acid-reflux that had plagued me all during my pregnancy. The midwives introduced me to Gaviscon for my next pregnancy. There's not much more to say, except they kept peering at my vagina (in a funny and polite way, to check the bleeding). I remember being in the bath and they were by the baby outside in the suite, whispering. "Hey, guys? All that whispering is making it REALLY hard to eavesdrop on you." They laugh and come into the bathroom.

Scarecrow comes the next day with ToddlerCrafter and snacks. I eat cheerily. ToddlerCrafter is fascinated with BabyCrafter. Everything is lovely. I am tired like crazy. We go home.

Toddler & BabyCrafter at home.
ToddlerCrafter gave the baby a big kiss
as soon as they met!

01 December 2010

Bye-Bye MoFo!

I missed the ending of VeganMoFo -- BabyCrafter had (minor) surgery and we had to stay overnight.  It is hard enough to sleep in a hospital, let alone a ward full of crying kids.  When they brought BabyCrafter out after his surgery, they cheerily said, "bad news, Big Momma, he pooped!  And you get to change his diaper."  He pooped a TON!!  I cleaned him up and then he breastfed like a champ and fell asleep.  After he woke from his nap, his colouring returned and he was back to his usual cheery self.

Post-Op Reggie
Post-Op Pooper Sleeps Peacefully

The Scarecrow (my husband) and ToddlerCrafter came to visit and ToddlerCrafter and I celebrated the end of VeganMoFo with a nice vegan dinner in the hospital's canteen.  Baked beans, chips (chubby fries to you yanks), and a nice lentil soup.  A bargain for only £2.10!  ;p

Speaking of BabyCrafter, I need to post his 7 month overdue birth story!  It's a long one, even though my labour was shorter than when I had ToddlerCrafter.  I'll post that next.

On a food note, I think I fancy more ful medames.  With the last of the giant tin of fava beans.  I should have bought another tin -- I am crazy about beans.  I need to make some more kimchi, too -- I finally found more napa cabbage.  Also, my first attempt at sauerkraut (mentioned at the end of the kimchi link) seems to be a success.  It is sour and tart, but still on the mild side.  I'm going to eat some, but let the rest of it ferment a bit more.  My next attempt at sauerkraut will be the salt-and-cabbage-in-a-jar-method.  Where you pack salt and cabbage in a jar and just leave it to do it's thing.  I'll let you know how that method compares to my previous attempt.

I'll leave you with this photo I snapped at the hospital.  I am not a fan of clowns.  It's bad enough the kids are sick, but then they have to deal with clowns, too!  ;p

Dr. CousCous is my favourite.
Dr. CousCous is my favourite

28 November 2010

Egyptian Breakfast

I've blogged about Ful Medames before.  It's the traditional breakfast in Egypt and the breakfast Big Momma & the gang this morning.  Fava (broad) beans, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and spices.  Served with pitta (although we didn't have any -- it's still good served neat).*  I used tinned tomatoes and frozen fava beans (from that giant tin I mentioned earlier).  It cooks up really quickly.

Ful Medames

I fried garlic, freshly ground cumin and coriander, chili flakes, thyme, and ginger in a pan until fragrant.  Then I added the frozen fava beans and stirred them around until they thawed.  Then I added tinned tomatoes and salt and cooked everything until it started to get a little pasty.  I served and topped it with coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley.  It was so good, I licked the plate!

*  That's a way of serving booze, not improper use of an adverb.

Crabby Kiwi Muffin & Parsnip Weaning

I thought I'd share with you an old muffin!fail.  Like I said, I am a pretty good cook, but am mediocre to the end when it comes to bakery-type stuff.  I tried making kiwi muffins with all this leftover kiwi I needed to get rid of.  I used a blueberry muffin recipe.  I didn't like them.  This one didn't like me:

This muffin has a face. And it's glaring at me.

BabyCrafter is almost 7 months old and occasionally has been grabbing at my food and drinks.  He likes drinking from my cup, so I thought he might be ready for solids.  Last week, we tried pumpkin and he was horrified.  Yesterday, we tried steamed parsnip.

He picked it up and tried a nibble.

Then spit it out and gagged a little!  :D

By comparison, ToddlerCrafter was stuffing his face at 5.5 months.  I think I rather prefer BabyCrafter's later weaning.  Breastfeeding is just so easy -- I do all my blogging and internet surfing with BabyCrafter on the boob.

26 November 2010

More Vitamin D Musings...

I wrote so much as a response to a comment from my earlier post on nutrition, I thought I'd add some citations and post it here:

From what I gather, D2 and D3 are both converted into the same chemical, but D3 has a longer half-life than D2. In large single-doses, D2 (ergocalciferol) doesn't hang around as long as D3 (cholecalciferol -- vitamin D3 is made from cholesterol -- http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Vitamin-D.html), but if you are taking a daily dose, they are equally effective: 

(This is an article by Jack Norris -- I like him because he always cites his sources.)

It's okay to take vitamins!
A bottle of kidney beans is no substitution for a bottle of vitamins.

This is a very long paper that says D3 is still more effective and potent and discusses a wide variety of reasons (although it seems to indicate in some cases they are equally effective):


The biggest problem is that more and more people lead predominantly indoor lifestyles and don't make enough of their own D3 from the sun -- without supplementation, it is incredibly difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone (whether from fortified foods or non-vegan sources http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/tc/getting-enough-vitamin-d-topic-overview). 
The second biggest problem (which is not applicable to people in more equatorial regions) is that it is incredibly difficult (and in some regions impossible) to get enough UVB exposure in the winter -- from what I gather, once you are further north (south for our antipodean* friends) than a certain latitude, the sun's rays are coming in at too low an angle (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2839537). 

* And everyone else in the southern hemisphere...

Some people say it kind of sucks having to rely on supplements to get enough vitamin D, and I see where they're coming from. However, I think it's pretty cool that we are advanced enough to have supplements and are able to lead predominantly indoor lives without compromising our health. (I still try to spend time outdoors in the summer, though!) :D

Any questions?  Did I miss out on an important citation?  Let me know!

P.S.  I know there are a lot of wikipedia skeptics out there, but wiki has a great article on vitamin D (full of citations) that has a great section of the health benefits of vitamin D -- it boosts your immune system and can help reduce the risk of cancer.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D

24 November 2010

That's a Lotta Beans!

Long story short, we got a 2.6kg can of broad (fava) beans for 99p.  (We also got a 3kg can of crushed pineapple in juice (hopefully pineapple juice, they didn't specify) for 99p but that's another story.)

The Scarecrow, Baby Crafter, & the big tin-o-beans.  

2.6kg of beans might be a big commitment to some, but not for me.  The Egyptians are really into their fava beans, too, (see my post on Ful Medames) and eat them for breakfast and use them in falafel instead of garbanzo beans.

Anyway, I chopped a leek into sticks and fried them in sunflower seed oil until they were nice and tender.  Then I added some minced garlic and freshly ground coriander and cumin.  I added some tomato paste and stirred in some basmati rice.  Then I threw some fava beans in there, shook some soy sauce on, and called it a day. 

Broad (Fava) Beans and the Gang

I like the eyes on these fava beans.  It's like they're looking at me. 

22 November 2010


You know how at the end of all of Nigella's cooking shows, you see her sneaking off to the kitchen late at night, having a little snack?  I totally do that.  So when you read my food blogs, just imagine me sneaking off to the kitchen for more food at the end.  Today, I'm making kimchi fried rice with the leftovers.

(After already finishing off the leftover veggie chips with some leftover salsa.)

Chloe stuffs her big fat face!

ETA:  I also had 2 small chocolate-covered minty things, a couple small pieces of dark chocolate, and two digestive biscuits. 

I like to eat.

Veggie Chips and Garlic & Rocket (Arugula) Fried Rice

Continuing with the theme of orange and tan-coloured food, dinner today was veggie chips (roasted swede (rutabaga) and parsnip, inspired by another VeganMoFo-er) and Garlic & Rocket (Arugula) Fried Rice.  The rice was cooked in a stock I made of veggie scraps this weekend. 

 Veggie Chips

This meal was inspired by my need to get rid of some of the older veg in my house.

Garlic & Rocket (Arugula) Fried Rice

20 November 2010

Nutrition Ramblings.

You probably didn't know this, but I am kind of nutritionally-obsessed.  Partly because knowledge of that kind of thing is useful in a health-related sense, partly because being vegan means I have a lot of nutrition-based discussions with a wide variety of people, but mostly because of my scientific enthusiasm.  I read the Manual of Nutrition, which is really interesting (and a good reference).  I got an older copy on Amazon for £2.76 after shipping.
I really like Jack Norris's blog:  http://jacknorrisrd.com/, which I find to be less biased and more accurate than other sites.

Corn on the Cobbb.
You find all kinds of crazy shizzle on the internet...

I've read a lot of inaccurate information about nutrition from various sources (regardless of their stance on vegetarianism), though.  For example, I've read on a few sites (and even in a book) that nettles and sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin D, but I have yet to find any actual sources to back this up (the sites never seem to cite any sources relevant to this).  I have, however, read amazing tales of vitamin D being present in mushrooms that have been exposed to UV rays and these tale-tellers pretty much always cite their sources.

What I'm saying is it's always a good idea to double-check your 'facts' -- you don't want to get pwnd in a nutritional debate....

Pumpkin Marmite Penne

Yes.  Pumpkin Marmite penne.  Based loosely on the lovely Nigella's Spaghetti with Marmite.  I melted some margarine in a pan and added some Marmite and some of the starchy pasta water.  I stirred it.  I added some pumpkin and mushed it up.  Then I added the pasta.  It sounds weird, but it is fantastic. 

(I am embarrassed to admit I also added mock chicken that I bought on a whim from Asda.  I'm not really a fake meat kind of gal, seeing as I never really liked meat when I was a meat-eater anyway, but I saw it and thought I'd give it a try.  It's dry.  My toddler thinks it's tofu.  Future versions of this dish will not include mock chicken.)

Pumpkin Marmite Penne

As I type, my toddler and I are devouring this.  I sprinkled my son's with nutritional yeast because he thinks pasta with nutritional yeast is fancy and studies show he is more likely to clean his plate and less likely to throw any on the floor. 

Okay, now my toddler has passed out in his high chair.  Probably because the food was so good.


As usual, I am busy chasing the rugrats, so I thought I'd better make this post a quickie!

I did not used to be a big fan of sandwiches.  I didn't care much for PBJammins growing up and fake-meaty sammiches don't do it for me either.


But I have found a few sammiches that I quite like.  Fried sauerkraut and onions (a friend called me a "nasty!  A nasty vegan, but nasty in a good way!" for eating that) on toasted rye with a smear of mustard is nice.  I like pecan butter and unsweetened jam (strawberry or blueberry) -- kind of like a PBJ.  Avocado, onion, and nutritional yeast is good (side note:  mix nooch + mustard --> amazingly delicious sammich spread, I learned that from a sandwich at a Seattle market).  Pan-fried portabello mushroom (with garlic and herbs) and rocket (arugula to you yanks) is divine.  Cucumber and/or tomato with red onion, salt, and pepper (great with a side of black olives if my toddler doesn't snitch them all).

But my favourite sandwiches (at the moment, at least) are hummous.  My variations are endless, behold:
  • rocket (arugula) or watercress
  • red or green onions
  • jalapeños (pickled or fresh)
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • avocado slices
  • olives
  • thinly-sliced radishes
  • thinly-sliced bell peppers (I prefer green, but everybody else seems to like red the best)
  • tabbouleh  
  • roasted veggies
  • sprouts!  (Thanks for reminding me to mention sprouts, TNT!)
I think you get the idea.  What kinds of sammiches do you like?  How do you eat your hummous?  Most importantly, what else should I try on my hummous sammiches?

17 November 2010

Ghetto Hummous

I just finished making sweet potato hummous.  It's pretty good.  I didn't feel like using a food processor, so I just mashed some leftover garbanzos with one of the beaters from my hand mixer.  I threw in 2/3 of a sweet potato, squeezed in juice of half of this lemon (I just used the hand mixer beater to juice it -- by cramming it in the lemon-half and twisting it back and forth) that had been sitting on my cutting board for a few days.  Then I chucked in a tbsp or so of tahini.  And I added salt.  Then I stirred everything up.  And put some of it on toast.  With pickled jalapeños. 

Check out my fabulousness and try not to be jealous of my mad culinary skills:  

Sweet Potato Hummous

My tablescape was totally inspired by Panda With Cookie, in case you were wondering. 


I was going to make a big curry how-to, but I've been busy with the rugrats!  :D  In the meantime, here's some curried food pr0n we've been eating this week.

Sweet potato, pumpkin, and chick pea curry.

Sweet potato, pumpkin, and chick pea curry.  Lunch today.  It's very orange.  I learned to love sweet potatoes by having them in curries.

Mix in Rice

Pumpkin, leek, carrot, tomato, and chickpea curry.  Lunch (and dinner) on Monday.

The rugrats beckon!  I must go play with one and boob the other.  Yes, I just used boob as a verb.

15 November 2010

The Spice of Life

I'm working on a curry post, but my wee kids need extra attention today, so here's a quickie.  Check out my herbs and spices. 

The Main Spice Shelf

This is the main shelf.  It's got a ton of bay leaves, two different kinds of dried chilies, chili flakes, cayenne pepper, white, black, and Sichuan peppercorns, white and black sesame seeds, a few different curry spice blends, herbs, tamarind, Kaffir lime leaves, whole nutmegs, star anise, brown and green cardamom (don't substitute one for the other, they taste completely different), cloves, cassia sticks, and a bunch of other stuff, including this jar of fake cheese powder that I bought on a whim ages ago (I am not a fan of imitation cheese (I don't like real cheese, either), but it had some kind of weird novelty value at the time, I guess).

But wait, there's more.

Jars of spices and dried herbs

Dried lemon thyme, dried sage, dill, ajwain seeds, cumin, coriander, anise seeds, delicious and pungent black nigella seeds, more dried thyme, powdered ginger, dried limes, and fenugreek.  There's also a big tub of paprika (but it's not in the picture -- doh!).  The dried limes and nigella seeds were the hardest for me to track down.

And more:


All the stuff I couldn't fit in the main shelf.  Mostly overstock and extra bags of this and that. And some Hungarian saffron, which isn't saffron at all.

I buy all my spices and most of my herbs from Chinese and Indian shops and the Asian/Middle-Eastern section of grocery stores (and the Latino section when I lived in PDX).  Basically, you are usually going to get ripped off if you buy spices marketed toward white people. 

I should show you my tea shelves next!  ;p

14 November 2010

Kimchi Jjigae

Y'all know I love kimchi.  And soups and stews.  So, of course, I love kimchi stew, aka kimchi jjigae.  I also love how jjigae is spelled with two j's.

Kimchi Jjigae!

Traditionally, kimchi jjigae is a stew with old (very very ripe/fermented) kimchi and a bean paste or chili paste.  I don't have either of those pastes on hand (I need to remember to pick up some the next time I hit up See Woo), but I find my versions to be quite satisfactory.  And by quite satisfactory, I mean delicious!!

Fry onions and carrots in oil until the onions start to turn clear.  Add garlic, ginger, and chili (I used a jalapeno in this case, but any chili or chili flakes are fine) and fry for about a minute.  Add mushrooms (I used oyster in my most recent version, but a wide variety of mushrooms will do), tofu, and whatever other veg you fancy adding and give it a good stir.  Add water. 

Bring to a jolly boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Cookin' up the stew!

Turn the heat off, stir in some soy sauce, miso,* and kimchi (don't add them when it's boiling because it will destroy the lovely bacteria and enzymes and stuff (you know, stuff)), a splash of kimchi juice (from the jar) if you're feeling daring (I am!), and add a splash of toasted sesame oil if you're feeling really feisty!

Pour into bowls and top with chopped green onions and fresh cilantro.  (I forgot to add these, doh!!  It was still delicious!  I had 3 bowls.)

Kimchi Jjigae!

Here's a different version I sometimes make:
Fry onion, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper in oil until onions are clear. Add water, shredded carrot, and tomato paste. Boil, then simmer for a bit. Add soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and kimchi. Simmer a bit more. The soup will be a bright fiery red.

Eat it, pausing every so often to blow your nose.

*  This is the miso I use:


11 November 2010

On Bread and Birthdays.

I'm pleasantly surprised at the amount of November birthdays on the VeganMoFo blogroll.  I've seen at least 3.  It's my turn today.  I'm a hefty 34, but let me assure you, I don't look a day over 33.  I don't ever do anything for my birthday -- I'm making up for my youth, when I was greedy and sometimes kind of annoying about my birthday.  People are finally starting to catch on about my lack of enthusiasm.  I got a birthday card and teabag from Yorkshire Tea and my husband surprised me with a wee bottle of Chimay beer.  He got it at the grocery store yesterday.  What else did he get at the grocery store?  I'm glad you asked.

He missed the train after hiking yesterday (we won't get into why, but it's funny) and as a result, ended up with a bounty of reduced-price bread and produce. 

Bargain Bin Bread

This is about 2/3 of the original bargain bin bread bounty.  We've frozen some and scarfed down the rest.  Since most of the day has revolved around bread, I thought I'd make a list of things that go well with "the staff of life."

  • fruit 
  • vegetables
  • hummous
  • salady stuff
  • olives
  • beer
  • chocolate
  • soup*
  • dahl and other delightful curried sauces
  • sammich-type stuff
  • extra-virgin fancy-pants olive oil and the vinegar of your choice
  • margarine
  • tea
  • coffee
  • pickles
  • wine
  • mustard
  • ETA:  Crabby Ful Medames
  • Help a sista out here, I can't think of anything else!!!
(My husband likes it with Branston pickle, which is vegan, but I think it's gross.  Hummous and olives are probably my favourite.)

Here's a gratuitous post of the frugal fruits and value vegetables he scored.  Those bags of wee oranges were 10p a bag!

Frugal Fruits & Value Vegetables

My favourite kinds of bread are rye (any kind of rye is a friend of mine) and sourdough.  I've made bread a few times, but it always tastes yeasty..  My soda rolls are much better, although still nothing to write home about. 

I know this isn't the most exciting post (not post with the most!), but they can't all be zingers!  I think my post tomorrow shall be about kimchi jigae.  Souuuuup!*

*  I have a real knack for soup.  Seriously.  I have some weird amazing special ninja skill where I can taste soup and replicate it.  I make up for this by not being able to make any bakery-type stuff without a recipe.  This came in handy with this hot & sour soup I had at some citrus noodley place in San Francisco and this one sour tomato soup I had at a veggie restaurant in Lithuania (that was so good at Lunch, I went back for dinner and there was this Latvian bland playing and they spoke in English between songs because they didn't speak Lithuanian) -- it had pickles and black olives in it!!!  It was amazing and weird AND I can make a great imitation at home.

10 November 2010

Bodacious Borscht (and a wee confession...)

First, the confession -- I ate all the leeks in the curried veggie fried rice!  That was my dinner today, but my husband has the camera and he is out hiking, so I'll have to do a curry post on another day. 

Meanwhile, from the Crabby Vaults, may I present, Bodacious Borscht:  

with beetroot

I can't believe this is the only picture of borscht I have!  (That's a lame glob of soy yoghurt in the middle of the borscht, BTW.)

Anyway, here's what you need:

  • Shredded beetroots (I use 4-8 pre-cooked plain -- no sugar or vinegar -- they are easy to shred, otherwise if you use fresh ones, cube them)
  • tin of chopped tomatoes (optional, but highly recommended)
  • chopped onion (I chop it into 1/2-hoop slices)
  • 2-4 shredded carrots (or just choppped, if you don't have a food-processor to shred them for you)
  • 1/2-1 head shredded or finely chopped white or green cabbage
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 chopped and rinsed leek (optional)
  • lemon juice
  • red wine (optional)
  • cider vinegar (any vinegar, but cider is my fave)
  • dill (fresh is best, but dried will do)
  • 2 bay leaves (per giant pot)
  • salt
  • several black peppercorns or a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • oil
  • margarine (non-hydrogenated)
  • water
  • optional: celery seed, chopped parsley, vegan yoghurt or vegan sour cream

  • Plop a TBSP or so of margarine and a glug of oil (I use grapeseed because it has a higher burning temperature) in the bottom of a pot and heat.
  • Toss in your shredded carrots and onions and fry 'em until they are nice and mushy
  • Toss in the celery, cabbage, and leek (if you are using a leek), stir them around for a couple minutes.
  • Toss in the beets and add water, juice of 1/2 to one lemon (might as well toss the lemon in, too, just take it out before serving), a few glugs of red wine, and a couple glugs of cider vinegar (take it easy and do a few taste tests during cooking if you are worried about it being too sour)
  • Stir
  • Toss in the tinned tomatoes
  • Stir
  • Add the bay leaves (remove before serving.  or not.), dill, salt, peppercorns, and any other spices you fancy throwing in (like the aforementioned optional celery salt).  But please, be generous with the salt and dill.
  • Stir
  • Cook for 1 & 1/2 hours on a low simmer.

Serve hot or cold, optionally with a dollop of vegan yoghurt or vegan sour cream and a dash of dill or chopped fresh parsley.

This is enough for a honkin' big pot of soup. I usually skip the parsley and use a lot of dill.  Also, I've seen some versions that omit the tomato, some versions that add potato (I didn't like this one as much, personally), some versions that blend it all up, and some versions that strain everything and just make a dark broth.  They are all pretty delicious.

09 November 2010

Beans & Crabby Kale Stew

I'm eating this now.  It's a lazy, easy dish.  Just put it on the stove in the morning and leave it alone to cook until it's ready for lunch!  Also, it's fat-free.  Not on purpose or anything.  That's just how this recipe rolls, yo.

Bean and crabby kale stew

Soak beans (pinto, black, or black-eyed) overnight.  Drain.

Boil a pot of water with beans, coarsely chopped onion, and my Crabby Cajun Blend (recipe follows) to pot.

You want to boil everything for as long as it takes for the liquid in the pot to get nice and thick and opaque.  The beans should soften and start to crumble.  Once they are crumbly, it is safe to add soy sauce or salt.  Do NOT add salt before the beans are soft or they will NEVER get soft.  (This also seems to apply with tinned tomatoes.  I mean, the beans won't get soft, the tomatoes already are.)

Stir in some chopped kale.  Let it wilt and get a little less tough (you still want it to be chewy -- well, at least I do).

Big Momma's Crabby Cajun Blend:
  • Jalapeño or chili pepper of your choice
  • Bay leaf
  • Fresh sprigs of thyme
  • Equal parts garlic and ginger  (I just put in a whole clove (or more) of garlic and after an hour or so, smoosh them to smithereens with the back of a spoon)
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Oregano
  • Dash Turmeric

You can apply this spice, beans, and greens* combo in a ton of other ways.  Use greens instead of kale and add a cup of coconut milk for a tasty dish.  Add a tin of tomatoes!  Stir in some rice and make burritos.  Add more water for soup and less water for dip or burrito fillings.  Forget the greens and add sliced bell peppers.  Add chopped okra and make a gumbo.  Go crazy.  Add potatoes.  Eat it with nachos.  You get my drift.

Southern-style black-eyed peas, greens, 
potatoes, and tomatoes. 

*I like to do a little chant for my toddler to get him enthusiastic about food.  Okay, he already is, I'm just a ham:
Rice, beans, and greens, everybody!
Rice, beans, and greens, come on!
Rice, beans, and greens, everybody!
Rice, beans, and greens, come on!
--We got the rice,
--We got the greens,
--We got the beans and all the in-betweens!
I said-a-rice, beans, and greens, everybody!
Rice, beans, and greens, a-come on!
ad infinitum.

08 November 2010

Pseudo-Thai Curried Veggie & Rice Wraps


Wraps are pretty cool because they don't make a big mess -- you don't need utensils and your plate won't get very dirty -- if you're careful and lazy, you don't even need a plate.

I made these for lunch today:

Fry finely-sliced carrots and coarsely sliced onions in oil until the carrots get even orangier (unless you are using exotic purple carrots, in which case, I don't know what to tell you) and the onions start to get translucent (I used red onions, which are actually purple, but you get my drift -- anyway, use whatever onion suits your fancy).  Add ground cilantro & cumin, and chopped fresh ginger, garlic, & chili (I won't wave the finger of shame at you if you use powdered ginger, but you don't know what you're missing!  Also, I used a jalapeño pepper, but those nifty finger or birds-eye chili peppers are good, too.  Or you could just use chili flakes.  Or powder.)
Fry for no more than a minute and then add sliced bell peppers.  Toss, stir, or fold (your choice!) everything, so the veggies are covered in oily spices.

Veggies, oil, spices

Add coconut milk, tamarind pulp, lime juice, and soy sauce and give it a big ol' stir.  If you don't have any tamarind, just skip it.  That's a shame, because tamarind is really tangy and sour with the teeniest splash of sweet, but I understand that it is hard to get in some places (and by some, I mean predominantly white -- which brings me to another tangent -- you can get cheaper herbs and spices and a wider variety of them if you buy ones that are not marketed toward white people -- Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, you get the idea...).

Add coconut milk, tamarind pulp, lime juice, and soy sauce

Once your sauce starts to thicken, add some rice.  Stir everything together. 

Add the rice

I forgot the cilantro!!  Anyway, plop your veggie-rice mixture onto a warm tortilla wrap (I warm mine by putting them right over the pan for about 30 seconds and letting the steam from the food soften them up), toss on some fresh chopped cilantro (use the stems, too, they're tasty), wrap your wrap, and stuff it in your mouth.  Repeat, until you are out of wraps and/or veggie-rice mixture. 


Plate those babies up.  Daintily garnish with a big fat half of a lime.  If I am really hungry, I will secretly eat a wrap in the kitchen before bringing the wraps out, so it doesn't look like I got more wraps than everybody else.

07 November 2010


Okay, this VeganMoFo post is a total cheat* because I don't think I will be able to finish the blog I've been writing today, but here are 3 gazpacho recipes:

Grandma Peggy's Not-So-Secret Gazpacho Recipes

When my (late) maternal grandmother found out I was going vegetarian, she clipped and copied some veggie recipes for me.  The gazpachos were the first in the small series -- I had never even heard of gazpacho until I got these recipes from her.  It's cool that she was so supportive (she was pretty supportive when I went vegan, too).  She even introduced me to quinoa ("pronounced KEEN-WA," she wrote on a box). 

Okay, here's a bonus recipe.  Check out my Moroccan Couscous article in Tension Magazine (click the link, not the photo):



*  It is totally NOT out of season, however, if you are living in tropical climates or the southern hemisphere.

06 November 2010


A friend of mine posted a lovely blog about making gravy for her husband, even though she didn't exactly know how to make gravy.  The gravy she made was actually spot on, but more importantly, her blog made me want to blog about gravy.

Sweet potatoes, sage & onion 
cous-cous, and gravy!

Your basic gravy components are fat, flour, liquid, and salt.  You can jazz it up by adding herbs and spices and veggies and such and you can skip the fat (and salt) altogether, but let's just start with the fab four.

While I have made many a gravy using liquid fat, traditionally gravy is made using a solid fat.  I use a non-hydrogenated margarine ('Pure' -- the sunflower oil one).  The flour is usually white overly-processed wheat flour, but I have used whole wheat flour and I've seen gluten-free variations that use stuff like cornstarch, arrowroot, rice flour, and even xanthan gum.  The liquid is usually water or stock, but in some instances, I use unsweetened soy milk (more on that variation later).  The salt is obviously salt -- I use sea salt.  Proportions of the ingredients can vary depending on how rich or runny or thick or salty you want the gravy to be (I like really thick gravy on the salty side).

Another common ingredient is what I will call the browning agent.  In the US, this is typically either Kitchen Bouquet (recommended by my maternal grandmother and for the record, this is my preferred browning agent) or Gravy Master (recommended by my sister, who was kind enough to ship a bottle of each to me, since I can't find them here in Scotland) -- these are kind of like a condensed caramalised vegetable stock. (That's the best description I can come up with, okay?)  ;p  You might consider these 'cheats,' but I like to think of them as adding a little kitsch.  I mean, check 'em out:

Optional kitsch

Other browning agents you can use are Braggs Amino Acids (which I have not tried -- I don't know where to find them around here!!), Marmite, and Soy Sauce.   I'm sure there are more examples (please leave any ideas in the comments!), but those are what I came up with off the top of my head.  I don't particularly like using soy sauce in gravies (unless it's for an Asian-themed dish) and some people are a little weird about Marmite.

So, if you want to jazz your gravy up a bit more, you can also add herbs (sage and thyme seem to be the more common ones, I've also seen parsley -- more on that later), spices (like freshly ground pepper or a dash of cayenne), vegetables (like onions, shallots, or leeks) and even mushrooms.  Mmmmm.  Mushrooms.  Oh, yes, and dry sherry, dry white wine, dry vermouth, or Shiaoxing rice wine, if you're so inclined -- add these when you add the liquid.

So, here's a little how-to.  The gravy in the photos has onions and lemon-thyme:

Melt your margarine in the pan:

Melt the margarine

Sautee any veggies and toss in any herbs and spices (you may choose to add herbs and spices later, but I don't):

Frying the onions

Add flour.  Typically, the fat:flour ratio is 1:1, but it can vary, and honestly, I never measure them.  If you're not using a wheat flour, your ratio will probably not be 1:1.  The photo for this is a little blurry because I was in a hurry -- you don't want the flour to burn.  I just toss it in and stir because it mixes up really quickly:

Add the flour

Now add the liquid.  I am using a nice stock I made from the tops and tails of these comically tiny carrots we grew in our garden and some chopped carrot that I was boiling for my toddler:

The vegetable stock

Again, typically, people use about a cup of liquid per 2 tbsp of flour, but I eyeball it.  Add the liquid in installments, stirring it in whilst everything blends together nicely -- the flour will thicken and once the gravy starts looking a little too thick, add a bit more liquid.
Add the salt and browning agent -- salt to taste, but for browning agents, I'd suggest 1/4 tsp (just a few drops, really) per cup of liquid.
Hang out, stirring your lovely gravy, letting all your flavours blend together.  Have a little taste and adjust your seasonings, if you fancy.  Behold, now you have graaavy:


Now, a quick recap and some variations:

Easiest most basic gravy:  2 tbsp margarine, 2 tbsp flour, 1c water or stock,  1/4 tsp browning agent, salt to taste.

  • Béchamel sauce:  substitute unsweetened soy milk for the water or stock.  (Chef Cat Cora made a variation of this with Chinese 5-spice powder on Iron Chef America one time.)
  • Southern-style gravy:  pretty much the same as béchamel, although it usually has black pepper and a bit more fat.
  • Parsley sauce:  My mother-in-law made this.  It's a béchamel sauce with fresh parsley, but when I asked her what it was like, having never heard of "parsley sauce," she said it was "like cheese sauce only with parsley and not cheese."
  • Creamy Leek & Sage:  Béchamel with leek and sage.  I like this on veggie casseroles.  
  • Non-fat gravy:  Skip the fat, make a paste with flour and a little water, and start with that.  (You probably want to skip the onions in this, but if you don't, boil them in a little water until they turn clear and add the onions and the water you boiled then in at the same time you add the liquid.)
  • Low-fat mushroom gravy:  Fry finely chopped mushrooms (and onions, if you like) in a little oil -- add a splash of water to encourage the mushrooms to release their tasty juices.  Once you have a pan full of nice mushroom juice, make a paste with flour and a little water, add that to your pot, and work from there.

Okay, you get the gist -- the variations are endless!!

What are your favourite gravy recipes?  What do you like to put gravy on?