Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mashed Potatoes & Mushroom Gravy

I had purchased a lot of mushrooms at the farmer's market and knew that mashed potatoes & mushroom gravy were going to be on the menu.

The following recipe is a recipe I found in the book Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran and Adair Moran.  It is a recipe from Ann Crile Esselstyn, wife of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.  I love how creamy these potatoes can get!

The mushroom gravy recipe is from Ann Esselstyn as well, and is in her husband's book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Oh-So-Good Mashed Potatoes
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
Potato cooking water (or nonfat soy milk)
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
small pinch of cayenne pepper

Cut potatoes into medium sized chunks and boil in a covered pot for about 10 minutes (until soft). Drain potatoes but save the potato cooking water (place a bowl under the strainer).

Put potatoes in a bowl and whip up with a hand mixer. Add a little bit of the potato water, mix. Keep doing this until you have your desired consistency. You will probably use more potato water than expected. Add nutritional yeast, pepper, garlic, cayenne and mix until evenly distributed. If you run out of potato water and need your potatoes to be creamier, use regular water or soymilk.

Easy Mushroom Gravy
1 onion chopped
vegetable broth, wine or water
3 garlic cloves minced
1   10 ounce box of fresh mushrooms sliced. (I like to slice and then cut in 1/2)
2 cups filtered water
2 TBSP whole-wheat flour
1 TBSP miso, low-sodium tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos  (I use miso, less sodium)
2 tablespoons sherry (optional)
Black pepper

Stir fry onion over medium heat, adding broth, wine or water when necessary to prevent burning. Allow the onion to brown a little and then scrape the pan, add liquid and let it brown some more. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a minute, then add garlic. Stir often and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add veggie broth, wine or water as necessary to keep from burning.

Add 1 cup water to mushrooms, stir and continue cooking.

Mix the whole-wheat flour and miso in the remaining 1 cup water. Stir well, then add this mixture to the mushrooms and keep stirring. Add sherry (optional).

Continue cooking until the gravy thickens up. Add pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat until serving.

I did not take pictures when this was all finished. I forgot :(

Main Street Vegan has been a really enjoyable and informative read for me. I am about half way through it. I purchased it on my Kindle a little while ago.  The recipes in there are great (there is one at the end of each chapter).  I love my Kindle but I like hard copy books as well, especially if they have recipes. That way I bring the book right in the kitchen and not have to worry about getting it wet/stained.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pear Butter

I made my third batch of pear butter this past monday. Such a great treat for fall and winter!

There are a few pear trees down the street that we have been picking the pears and making them into pear butter. We used to use a soccer ball to get the pears down. Our neighbor was kind enough to let us use his picking tool (with a catching basket) this past time.

Our Loot:

Then I peel/chop the pears and put in a large pot on the stove on med/low heat.  I stir every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.  Once they are soft, I use an immersion blender to puree the pears.  Previously, I used a food processor (pureed the chunks before putting the pears on the stove) but I have found the immersion blender to be less work (less dishes to wash!).

Action shot:

Next, I add spices.  In this past batch I only added 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon.  John likes less spice.  The previous two batches I have used other spices. One batch I added sugar (I was new to canning and thought I had to follow the recipe perfectly to prevent spoiling.  I later found out that pear butter does not need any extra sugar. I am happy because I hate adding extra sugar especially when fruit is sweet enough!)

Other spices that are really nice to use:  orange peel, ground cardamom seed (only a little of this! 1/8 teaspoon or less), fresh grated nutmeg, apple pie spice, whole cloves (I crush them one by one and add to taste).

I keep the pear puree cooking on the stove on low and stir every 10 minutes or so for a few hours. I want the puree to reduce down.  I like my pear butter thicker so I reduce to 2/3 the original volume.

Then the canning part. If you are trying this, please read the operating instructions for your canner, different canners have different processing methods/times.  I had water bath canned the previous batches and wanted to try pressure canning. Here I pressure canned 2 quarts and one pint.

A friend of mine told me yesterday that Ball Jars contain BPA (lids).  I am going to call them to confirm this. If true, I will be hunting for a BPA/phthalate free option for my canning.

I love to snack on this fruity spread. It is delish, on a piece of homemade bread with a little coconut/soy-free EarthBalance.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Broccoli Cheesy Soup

I made this last night. It is getting colder outside and I thought some nice warm soup with garlic bread and a salad would be nice.

This recipe is based off of the "Broccoli Cheese Soup" recipe from Of There Ye May Freely Eat by JoAnn Rachor. I really like this recipe because it is simple and you can add ingredients or keep in simple. Also, a lot of whole foods are used. 

Broccoli Cheese Soup:

3 1/2 cups filtered water
1 2/3 cups raw, organic, chopped carrots
1 1/2 cup raw, organic, chopped potatoes
4 cups of fresh, organic, chopped broccoli  (chop into small pieces)
1 onion cut into chunks
1/2 cup raw, organic cashews
1 teaspoon sea salt

Lightly boil the carrots, potatoes and onion in the water until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Put the cashews, salt, and broccoli in the pot with the veggies and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Stir to make sure broccoli is getting cooked. Use an immersion blender to finely ground everything into creamy goodness.  If you don't have a hand held immersion blender, in stages put the ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend very well. If mixture is very hot make sure to have it cool down before putting in a glass blender.

Cookin' up the veggies:

After I blended with immersion blender:

Make sure to blend really well. It took a while for me with the immersion blender, but the smoother it is, the more cheesy it tastes. 

Some modifications I made:
I used about 3/4 teaspoon of salt vs 1 teaspoon
We had run out of potatoes so I had to use sweet potato for half of the chopped potatoes
We had some left over quinoa from the night before so I stuck that in too- approximately 3/4 cup
Some organic cilantro leaves for decoration

It is a great fall and winter dish!

I Tried to Make My Own Conditioner

I read a Do-It-Youself article on an intensive conditioning treatment and was inspired. So I tried it. I mashed up an avocado and mixed in some coconut milk, coated my hair with it, waited 10 minutes, and showered. It took 3 lathers to get the globs of avocado out and the entire shower was a mess! All that lathering most likely negated any moisturizing benefits of the avocado/coconut milk mixture.

I am smiling in this picture because I don't know of the pain that is ahead of me (scrubbing chunks out of my hair and having to clean the bathtub/shower). Oh the innocence...

It was a learning experience for sure.  For a deep conditioning product, I recommend Giovanni Nutrafix Hair Reconstructor. You can get it for a great price on  I hand typed the ingredients into EWG's Skin Deep Database before buying it and it got a great score of "2".  I really like it! *

For a DIY everyday conditioner, I've tried an apple cider vinegar rinse (1 TBSP ACV with 3/4 cup water) and that seemed to soften my hair really well. I was really surprised, because I have thick, wavy, very long hair.

* I am not paid by any company. All my product reviews are based on products that I have purchased and tried myself (or samples I have picked up at a store).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dehydrated Mango

Kroger was running a special on organic mangos, so I bought 6 of them. I put a few of them in different dishes, but with three of them, I decided to try dehydrating them. It was really simple. I had never used a dehydrator before and I was surprised how intuitive it was!

Peel & compost organic peelings. Slice into 1/8- 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Place on dehydrator tray. ( I actually dehydrated 3 mangos. Each mango fit on one tray. You can see the other mangos on the other trays beneath).

I flipped my mango pieces over after about 3 hours. Make sure to rotate trays too! Every few hours I would stack them so the top would go to the bottom, middle to top, etc.

They ended up being really dry. Next time I will take an hour off the dehydrating time. They are a great snack though! Yum.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Peach and Tomato Pasta

Sadly, summer is coming to an end here in Tennessee. This recipe is a summer time favorite in our home- fresh organic peaches, organic "sweet 100" tomatoes from the garden, home grown basil, garlic. My mouth is watering just typing those ingredients!

A few years ago I was given a free 1 year membership to Better Homes & Gardens. I rarely found things that I liked in there but this recipe is a nugget of GOLD. I have changed it slightly (John and I both don't enjoy olives, we like less peaches, different kind of spaghetti, more garlic, and olive oil)

  • 12  ounces capellini 

    4  cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon organic olive oil

  • 1 pint organic grape tomatoes or sweet 100's

  • 3 medium size peaches, pitted and sliced or coarsely chopped

  • 1/3  cup chopped organic basil leaves

  • 1/4  teaspoon salt

     1/ 4  teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/8  teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Toasted slivered almonds 
 Prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the spaghetti cooking liquid. Drain spaghetti and return to pot; keep warm.

 Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes.  Add peaches. Cook 5-10 minutes more or until peaches are soft, stirring occasionally. I take a potato masher and mash the tomatoes. I leave about 1/4 of them still whole. Stir in basil, salt, and peppers; heat through.


3. Add peach mixture to cooked spaghetti along with reserved spaghetti cooking liquid. Toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

(I forgot the almonds in this picture!)

Here is a link to the original recipe.  I have also had this over zucchini noodles (spiralized zucchini) instead of capellini.

Craigslist Armoire & Re-usable Baby Wipes

I found this Armoire on Craigslist the other day and ended up buying it. I am using it to store Athan's cloth diapers and diapering items. It is solid wood and looks great in our yellow room! I really love the shelving/cubbies behind the doors in the middle.

I have been making homemade wipe solution and cut up two old baby blankets to use for wipes.  I wash these along with Athan's diapers in the washer.  I got the re-usable wipe idea from Farrah's Blog. If you haven't checked out her blog, it is awesome!  I have changed some of the ingredients slightly (I use an EO of Tangerine, Chamomile and Lavender).

1/2 cup organic olive oil
1/2 cup Hugo Naturals Tear-Free Shampoo and Baby Wash Chamomile and Vanilla
15 drops of *Mother & Child Essential Oil (contains Chamomile, Lavender, Tangerine and Coconut Oil)

Put in a bottle that can be shaken & shake it! Then I remove the top and put a little less than 1 tablespoon of the mixture in  an old wipe container (I used my Swaddlers container).  Next, I pour about 2 1/2 cups of filtered water in my Swaddlers container and swish it around.  To use it, I soak 2-3 pieces of cut up blanket and ring out. Use like regular wipes but put in the diaper pail after use.  The concentrated olive oil, shampoo and EO stays under the sink with a top on it until I need to replenish.

* I purchased this at a local store called Aromatones. They specialize in high quality essential oils and essential oil combinations.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Raw Beetballs

I made these the other day with my husband. The recipe is from Vegnews Magazine the October issue (page 78) by Gena Hamshaw. I have indicated which items we used that are organic (the original recipe did not specify organic or not).

1 1/2 cups chopped o. Portabello mushrooms
2 TBLS apple cider vinegar
2 TBLS o. tamari
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 2/3 cup o. sunflower seeds, divided
1/2 cup shredded, raw  o. beets
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a medium size bowl add mushrooms. In a small bowl mix together the vinegar, tamari and maple syrup. Pour over the mushrooms and marinate for at least 2 hours. I kept stirring them every once in a while to make sure all the mushroom pieces were soaked in the marinade.
In a food processor, process 1 cup of the sunflower seeds until finely ground. Drain the marinated mushrooms and add to the food processor with the sunflower seeds you just ground up, beets, garlic, oregano, nutritional yeast, salt & pepper, and the remaining 2/3 cup of sunflower seeds. Process until combined.  

Place mixture in the fridge for an hour. Remove and shape into 2 inch balls.  John and I shaped the balls & placed on a cookie sheet before refrigerating, that way the shape really solidified. 

 We used our favorite pasta sauce on top.  I had mine with zucchini noodles (raw zucchini spiralized) and John had his with angel hair pasta.  

I enjoyed the beetballs raw but I really liked them cooked. The next day I placed leftovers in the oven at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes total. I flipped them over around 25 minutes and baked for 10 more minutes.  Athan loved them cooked too!

Next time  I would grind up 1 1/3 of the sunflower seeds and leave only 1/3 for the second processing. I like the finer ground sunflower taste.

Flame Retardants

I was driving around this morning, running errands and listening to NPR. The Diane Rhem show was on.  At times, it was frustrating to listen to the show (some of the guests were impolite and the moderator had a hard time with keeping order) but it brings up a great point- mandated flame retardants in our furniture.

Im not sure if this is true, but it was posted under the comments section of the web page:
"Dr. Ross represents an organization that appears to receive chemical industry funds. If the show wanted that perspective I wish they got someone who was more upfront about their inherent conflict of interest."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baba Ganoush!

I made some baba ganoush this afternoon. Our neighbor brought over some extra eggplants from her garden and I figured I would cook them up for a tasty treat.

This recipe is based on a recipe from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson (although I have made some changes).  I do not use yogurt in my baba ganoush.

5 small eggplants (the skinny ones, I think they are a japanese variety)
4 gloves of garlic, slivered
1/3 cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

The original recipe calls for 2 TBSP of mint, minced. I have never made it that way because my husband is not a big fan of minted baba ganoush (he likes it plain).

Preheat over to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make 3-4  deep cuts in the eggplant and place the slivered garlic pieces inside.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 40 minutes. I like to flip them over at 25 minutes so that they are baked more evenly.  Allow to cool. Remove the eggplant skin & compost (if using organic eggplants).

Transfer the eggplant flesh and garlic to a food processor or blender. Add the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste. Process until smooth. 

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the mint. Serve at room temperature. 

The bowl below is how much was left after John and I ate most of it.  We probably ate about 2/3. So nom-tastic!

I highly recommend the cookbook Vegan Planet. I received it as a present at my wedding shower and I use it ALL the time.  I also bought a copy for my sister & she has been enjoying it as well.

Our Garden

I wish I had taken pictures of our spring garden, when everything was lush, green and abundant.  I took these pictures a few days ago. It is just past the peak of summer crops here, but I planted some fall crops (spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, kale) a few weeks back. Hopefully those veggies will be producing soon!

Parsley Patch up near the house:

Marigolds (to help protect my tomatoes from bugs):

Lettuce growing in the shade of my pimento pepper plant:

Pimento Peppers:

Red Runner Beans:


Our garden is on the left, enclosed with bricks: